SYDNEY - The Australian Football League Tuesday ruled a transgender player ineligible for the upcoming elite women's season due to the advantage her physical strength and stamina would have over opponents.
Hannah Mouncey, a former national men's handball representative, lost her bid to take part in the AFL Women's (AFLW) national draft on Wednesday, barring her from the 2018 season.
The league said it was guided by Victoria state's equal opportunity legislation, which provides an exception allowing discrimination on the basis of gender identity if "strength, stamina or physique is relevant".
"The subcommittee’s decision took into account the stage of maturity of the AFLW competition, its current player cohort and Ms Mouncey’s individual circumstances," the AFL said in a statement.
It said it consulted a variety of people, including the Australian Sports Commission, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex support groups and Mouncey and her management.
"We acknowledge Hannah's openness and cooperation," AFL manager for inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch said in a statement.
"She has contributed to a process which will substantially inform the development of the AFL’s transgender policy and procedure for future players at the elite level."
The AFL made history in 2017, bringing forward by several years the introduction of the semi-professional national women's league. It has been heralded by many as a pioneer for inclusivity in a traditionally male-dominated sport.
Tuesday's decision on Mouncey relates to the upcoming season only and the player is allowed to apply for draft eligibility next year.
"Every case will be decided on its own merits along with the individual circumstances of each future nominee," Hosch said.
Several clubs had reportedly shown interest in drafting Mouncey, who stands at 190cm (6 feet, 2 inches) and weighs 100 kilograms (220.4 pounds).
The amateur footballer said she would return to her local competition in Canberra this season "before hopefully being able to nominate for next year’s draft".
"While I am extremely disappointed with the AFL’s decision regarding my participation in tomorrow’s AFLW draft, I thank them for the genuine way in which they approached my situation," she said in a statement.
The AFL Players' Association, which worked with Mouncey throughout her draft bid, urged the AFL to put thorough guidelines in place to assist transgender players wanting to play at elite level.
"No athlete should face such confusion around their eligibility for an elite competition just days out from a draft," the players' representative group said in a statement.