AFLW Round 1 – Carlton v Collingwood: And so it begins
Carlton v Collingwood
7.45 pm, Friday 3 February
Princes Park, Melbourne
The cars crawling the streets of North Carlton in a futile search for a parking spot were the first hint that a bumper crowd was descending on Princes Park. As I joined the throng heading to the ground, my excitement increased the closer I got. I’d been hoping and waiting for tonight for a long time, and when I got into the ground and looked out over the oval bathed in the late afternoon sunshine, I truly understood that this was real: we have a national AFL competition for women.
It was a perfect night for footy. Warm summer evenings are filled with possibility and the growing crowd had an air of excited anticipation. The chatter was far removed from the quiet murmur preceding a regular AFL game. The ground was almost full when first Collingwood and then Carlton burst through their banners and ran onto the ground for the final warm up.
The opening bounce was met with a roar from the crowd that gave me goose bumps. We were finally underway. The early minutes of the game were congested as both teams played with great intensity. Collingwood seemed to settle first while Carlton struggled to get the ball out of defence. The first goal seemed to come easily for Collingwood with Jasmine Garner kicking truly after marking in front of goal. A couple of minutes later, Carlton replied through a free kick to Darcy Vescio who, in the fading evening light, was emerging as a star of the competition. The enthusiastic reception to both goals – in the crowd and on the field – showed just how much tonight meant.
Halfway through the first quarter we started hearing reports that the ground was full and the gates had been locked. The AFL’s decision to move the game was vindicated and the atmosphere inside Princes Park was electric with the crowd right behind the players. This was no meaningless exhibition match; this was the real deal with indignant shouts directed at the umpires if they missed a free kick.
The tackling pressure from both teams was ferocious, but Carlton lifted and found a way to move the ball freely resulting in three more goals before half time. Brianna Davey was unstoppable when driving the ball forward from defence and even chimed in for a goal late in the third quarter.
Comparisons between the AFL men’s and women’s competitions are unfair because of the great disparity in the opportunities and development of male and female players. In years to come, the women’s game will be different to the men’s game, but not worse. Tonight I can see the agility of the women shining through, and it’s clear that this will be a feature of the women’s game.
And then – all too quickly – it was over. The final siren sounded with Carlton winning by 35 points. After the first singing of Carlton’s song, no one wanted to leave, not even the Collingwood supporters. The score didn’t matter; we all got to see what we came for.
Heading back to the car, I was over the moon. I was happy that women’s sport had taken a huge step forward, happy that Australian girls can now aspire to play for an AFL club, and happy that I was there to see it begin.
Carlton 3.0 4.1 6.1 7.4 (46)
Collingwood 1.2 1.4 1.5 1.5 (11)
Carlton: Vescio 4, Arnell, Davey, Jakobsson
Carlton: Vescio, Davey, Exon, Jakobsson , Arnell
Collingwood: Barden , D’Arcy, Chiocci
Umpires: Annie Mirabile, Nathan Toner, Jack Spencer
Votes: 3 Vescio (Carlton), 2 Davey (Carlton), 1 Barden (Collingwood)