Having commenced her playing career in the W-League on just $500 a season, Canberra United’s Grace Maher is proud she’s played an influential role in the latest W-League Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The deal has delivered an increase to the W-League minimum wage – now guaranteed for all players at $17,055 – equity in workplace and high-performance standards across the A- League and W-League and an increase to the salary floor, encouraging clubs to invest in the women’s game.

“When I first started playing in the W-League at just 15, I earned $500 for the whole season,” Maher told pfa.net.au

“To think that players at that age or just coming in, they can now save and actually believe that they can make it as a footballer.

“In the space of my short career so far – this upcoming season will be my seventh in the W- League – I’ve witnessed such a big jump in standards and payments and a real progress in the women’s game. It’s been great for me and all the young players; prior to the minimum wage we didn’t think we could make a living or try to make a living off football.”

As a PFA Delegate and a member of one of the PFA’s CBA sub-committees during negotiations, Maher helped to bring the players’ vision for the agreement to life through a series of player-led meetings.

“It’s fantastic we’ve been able to secure such a long-term CBA. A five-year deal provides players with much-needed certainty and, especially for the W-League girls, it offers us some security which is great because we know what we are getting, and we can plan for [our futures].”

“The new deal has lifted the new minimum workplace standards which for the W-League is massive; to lift the standards and get some more common ground across all the teams is fantastic.”

The feather in the cap for Maher is the inclusion of an annual review of the agreement each season, allowing for flexibility in investment depending on how the game is progressing and whether the W-League is keeping pace with the opportunity of women’s football globally.

“One of my big pushing points was to have review triggers, which I’m super excited that they have been really incorporated into this new CBA,” Maher said.

“I believe that football in Australia is going to start growing, especially with this fantastic new Paramount+ (ViacomCBS) television deal, it’s been really exciting to see our work come out on paper and hopefully it sets us up well for the next few years.

“It’s great to have that option at the end of each year, especially knowing that there are a few trigger clauses that as the women’s game grows, and it is growing rapidly in Australia as we’re looking forward to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, there is more room to improve the CBA.”

During negotiations, Maher and players from across the A-League and W-League helped to devise what the relationship with the APL and clubs would look like.

“Any time you come to the table to negotiate obviously both parties are going to pull for what they want,” Maher said.

“But it was really important from our point of view as PFA Delegates, and on our subcommittee, that we were understanding that we are not trying to fight against the clubs, and although we are trying negotiate between parties, we wanted to take into account that clubs were really affected by coronavirus.

“With FA taking a bigger step back and APL playing a bigger role, I think it’s really helped rebuild the relationship between us and the APL. I think the APL were really good in meeting those needs of those players.

“For the players it’s fantastic to see that our requirements and our hopes for the league leading into the next five years have been put on paper.”