AFLW Round 1 – Carlton v Collingwood: Witnessing History
As I start writing this, the Channel 7 AFLW Friday pre-game show has just finished. The Collingwood and Carlton teams have gone through their warm-ups and the crowd at Ikon Park is building. The AFL Auskick montages are playing, interspersed with images of the females that will become household names.
My footy story starts in a backyard in Oakleigh. At a young age, my dad taught me how to kick and mark a football. Even though I am right-handed, I kicked with my left-foot. Dad couldn’t work it out, but never tried to change it. He saw what I was capable of. He saw what I needed to improve and helped me to refine my skills. He never complained when I begged to spend another afternoon in the cold, having a kick-to-kick in the park.
Weekends in winter were spent at the ‘G’, or Arctic Park and even Whitten Oval. Some of my earliest memories revolve around watching the Dees play, joined by not only Dad but my Pa, my uncle and cousin. I loved the atmosphere. I collected Footy Records and fastidiously recorded the scores while matches were in progress. We often arrived early to watch the Reserves, eager to work out who wasn’t playing in the seniors or who had been promoted.
This weekend, there will be young girls going through the same routine that I went through when I was young. They will be dragging their parents to have a kick in the park, recording scores and putting on their footy scarves. However, while I grew up idolising names like Flower, Lyon, Febey, Tingay and Stynes, these girls will idolise names like Hope, Chiocci, Vescio, Pearce and Harris. They can now see females involved in the broadcast of games; hear from The Outer Sanctum and This Football Life, read Caroline Wilson and Tegan Higginbotham and see Sam Lane.
There is a pathway to elite football now that encourages females to be involved from a young age. Girls can dream of playing on the bigger AFL grounds around the country and now achieve it. The involvement of females in footy clubs at a local level is growing, with new teams recruiting and training from early 2017.
The game has started and my Mum has just sent me a message; ‘Are you liking what you are seeing?’ And what isn’t to like. The AFL has just declared it a lockout, which means a crowd of over 20,000. The tackles have been fierce, with all players going in hard. While Garner has penned her name in history as the first goal kicker in the AFLW, Vescio has kicked a few. The pressure from Carlton is intense.
One friend has sent a message that she got to the ground after the gates were closed, which is both frustrating and good. Another has sent the simple ‘Hmm, I wondering what you are watching?’ My phone is pinging with discussions of tactics, the pressure and commentary. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of praise for both the competition and the footballers specifically.
Now into the last quarter, Carlton are well in control of this match. Collingwood has gone inside fifty more positively, but Hope is well covered by the Carlton defenders. Ex-students of mine have got in contact to share their delight, hopeful of a closer match but loving the fact that they are watching AFLW on free-to-air.
This is just the start of something huge. And I couldn’t be more excited.
Carlton: 7.4.46 def Collingwood: 1.5.11
Carlton: Vescio 4, Davey, Arnell, Jakobsson.
AFL for starting the journey, the Melbourne crowd for creating a lockout.