The Herald Sun said it took the step after receiving “vile” abuse directed at the athletes and journalists covering the sport, a problem that a handful of AFL Women’s stars have spoken out about.
“The least offensive of the comments runs to the tune of ‘get back in the kitchen’, and the worst cannot be repeated they are so objectionable,” Herald Sun head of sport Matt Kitchin added.
“It makes the environment so unpleasant that it makes perfect sense that readers wouldn’t want to engage with the stories.”
Kitchin said AFL clubs and players had appealed to the newspaper to turn off its comments, adding that one story had almost 300 comments of a “grossly sexist tone.”
The women’s AFL league was set up in 2016 to compliment the long-running men’s league, which is avidly followed in several parts of Australia and has been a national obsession for decades.
Since its creation, players have occasionally spoken about sexist abuse they have received online.
“Some take time out of their day to question whether trolls even exist, and whether commentary surrounding negativity is all just a big conspiracy,” the Herald Sun’s editorial said. “Trust me, we’ve heard and read them all. You’re not original.”