WAGs “not a put down, but an acronym.”

Madeleine West defends the glam culture of Playing for Keeps and looks to deeper questions.

As research for her first season of 10’s Playing for Keeps, Madeleine West spoke to wives and girlfriends of sports stars to gain an insight into their lifestyle.

“I spent a lot of time chatting to women about the impact on their life,” she acknowledges. “What are the highs with the lows in this situation? Is it where you saw yourself and has it changed how you see yourself? Do you identify differently now that you are a WAG?”

The Screentime drama, which centres around a fictional Aussie Rules club, again sees a power pack of leading ladies portray the glam life and pressures of WAG culture -in a warts and all dramatisation.

But WAGs is not necessarily a derogatory term.

“Anything is a derogatory term if it’s delivered with sarcasm or with a sneer,” West suggests.

“If it’s used to malign, put down or belittle any of the women … then yes it’s derogatory term.”

“It’s all about context. If it’s used to malign, put down or belittle any of the women who don’t necessarily identify as WAGs then yes it’s derogatory term. But if it’s just used as a noun to describe a collective of women who happen to be engaged or in a relationship with or married to a professional sports person, I fail to see what’s derogatory.

“It’s not a put down. It’s an acronym.

“Many WAGs choose to live a normal life. The fact that they’re married to a footballer doesn’t mean that their own profile needs to be elevated. Likewise it’s enough for them to go to the games and have family and function as normally as possible.”

As tough girl Kath Rickards, the former Neighbours and Wrong Girl star enjoys the meeting of two worlds: sport and glamour.

“We are exceptionally good at creating relatable dramas, where it’s people who might be down the street from you or people who you might encounter in the waiting room. Or people who go to school with your kids. We’re very good at creating drama about people that we feel, ‘Yes you could be within my network,'” she explains.

“They’re living a lifestyle where a lot of women go ‘I’d like a bit of that.'”

“But this for me was very much a show about a subset of women that we see on Instagram, TV and glossy magazines. It’s aspirational. They’re living a lifestyle where a lot of women go ‘I’d like a bit of that.’

“So in that sense it’s got all the strengths of Sex And The City with the complications of being married to sportsmen playing what is the greatest game in the world.

“We’re talking about one of the greatest icons in terms of how we define ourselves, being Aussie Rules football, married to what what’s become an Australian obsession. And that is the vicarious gaze on Reality TV.”

“Kath is taking on Aussie Rules one shoulder pad at a time.”

This season also sees Kath join the board of the Southern Jets Football Club.

“Kath is taking on Aussie Rules one shoulder pad at a time. She’s about to become a serious power player, which means taking on a whole different raft of responsibilities and ostensibly changing who she is for a time,” she continues.

“With any luck we’ll see her return to her fabulous fold and become the Kath we all know and love, who is no-holds barred and just says it like it is.

“But she does have to learn how to toe the party line.

“Perhaps most desperate and most heartbreaking for Kath is she does become isolated from everyone who means something to her. Her marriage suffers. She’s isolated from the girl group.

“The role that she once played within them of the nurturer. The facilitator, the connector has been usurped by Maddy (Annie Maynard).

“We get to really dig deep into what it means to have power.”

“And she’s isolated from the board because she’s such an unknown quantity to them. She’s a woman. So in the aftermath of the #metoo movement this storyline could not have come at a better time.

“We get to really dig deep into what it means to have power.”

Issues of power are high on West’s agenda, in between her busy schedule as actress and working mother.  She has strong views on media, debate and matters intellectual.

“I’ve frequently co-hosted the Conversation Hour with Jon Faine, which I’ve really enjoyed because you get to talk more in the political sphere, rather than relying on everything ending with a one liner or a punchline. You’re able to actually free-form and dissect high ideas…. art, culture, talk about the intersection between the way we live our lives and our artistic sensibilities and the political implications. It just makes for a really interesting diorama when you’re having a chat,” she continues.

Joining her in series two are Cece Peters, Annie Maynard, Olympia Valance, Isabella Giovinazzo, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Jackson Gallagher, Kevin Hofbauer and George Pullar.

While viewers can expect another scandalous and bumpy ride, West maintains that Playing For Keeps draws upon the team culture of AFL, which differs from the UK’s Footballer’s Wives.

“The culture of Aussie rules football bleeds through this series”

“The culture of Aussie rules football bleeds through this series and so it’s a really interesting contrast to see a show that is about women -ostensibly for women- layered over the foundation of Aussie Rules.

“The culture of the football clubs the UK is quite distinct from Aussie Rules. Aussie Rules is very much steeped in the notion of the blue collar worker, the unity between suburbs that the communities that are fostered within each suburb.

“People identify entire clubs around those personalities. This is very much about the team. There’s the odd stand-out but you certainly wouldn’t say there’s anyone who’s being paid ludicrous amounts of money to play Aussie Rules.

“Everything turns back to the culture of the club. And I think there’s some really important messages in that.”

Playing for Keeps returns 8:40pm Wednesday on 10.

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