AFLW Round 1 – Melbourne v Brisbane: First Impressions
Melbourne v Brisbane
4.05pm, Sunday, 5th February
Casey Fields, Cranbourne
First impressions are important. It’s why I employ a strict “lights off” policy when people are meeting me for the first time. Ultimately, first impressions will decide what percentage of Round One’s impressive turnout lend further patronage to next week and beyond.
Many retrospective analyses of the weekend’s games will be generously seasoned with words like “groundbreaking” and “historic” and others more qualified will document the trails blazed by these pioneering women and, doubtless, do a finer job than me.
Be that as it may, all I would say is, as happy as I am for the players themselves, it’s fledgling parents the nation over that I am happiest for. Those parents who will never have to face being stared down by a pig tailed princess with grazed elbows and a knee length jersey, pouting up at them and demanding to know: “But WHY can’t I play for Collingwood?” It is every bit as historic and groundbreaking a day for them. Even for those that don’t know it yet.
First impressions of the Lions chances this season from tipsters, media and self-ordained experts alike are less than flattering.
Brisbane were, along with GWS, at longest odds to win the premiership coming in to this round. I was, of course, deeply offended as I fumbled awkwardly for my phone to call my bookie.
Brisbane had recruited well. Zeilke, Ashmore, Virgo and Frederick-Traub are quality footballers. Tayla Harris, well, Tayla Harris doesn’t so much kick a football as punish it, so it surprises me that Brisbane are rated little chance to win today against their more celebrated foe.
First impressions of today’s venue are confronting. I’ve never been to Cranbourne and what I have just witnessed has encouraged me to keep it that way. Vertical rains and hurricane winds make for appalling footballing conditions, although I trust the region can expect a bumper rice crop for the year.
First impressions of what level of physicality this competition will offer are off the chart.
The entire round is played at a frenetic pace with a level of physicality that has decimated a few ancient stereotypes. The first quarter contact by Melbourne’s Richelle Cranston on Jamie Stanton is guaranteed to draw tribunal scrutiny and may well see the league’s first suspension.
Don’t be fooled, as I was. These fierce combatants may outwardly project the smiling visage of a whitegoods salesman but it is pure subterfuge. They hit every bit as hard as the boys but, if nothing else, at least if you are rendered semi-conscious in a tackle, the last thing you’ll remember seeing is a comforting smile.
I imagine it to be something akin to being run over by a gelati van. Sure it’s painful, but at least you can enjoy the soothing melody that accompanies the experience.
Melbourne are stronger around the contest. The work rate of Paxman, O’Dea and the much lauded Daisy Pearce around the stoppages is relentless but Brisbane’s defensive pressure on the ball carrier affords them little space to create opportunities up forward.
Deep into the second quarter, fashionably late and uninvited, lightning announces itself to the patrons. This leaves only locusts and a plague of boils unticked on my Things to See in Cranbourne brochure. Wiser heads prevail and all are sent scurrying into the search for shelter, bringing a momentary halt to proceedings.
The break proves vital to the Lions, slowing Melbourne’s momentum and allowing Sabrina Frederick-Traub to snap an athletic goal around her body immediately following the restart.
In a tough, low scoring affair two deciding factors will swing the game Brisbane’s way.
The first is a beautiful synergy between the Lion’s back six, in particular Sam Virgo, Leah Kaslar and Sharon Randall. They meet Melbourne’s forward fifty thrusts with a regimented precision that belies the short time they have played together.
The second, simply put…discipline. Two fifty metre penalties, both resulting in goals, the second to Kate McCarthy deep into the final quarter, would make the task insurmountable for the Demons. Not even the skewed, pro-Melbourne commentators, who did everything but stand on the mark and shout abuse could get their favoured Demons home after that.
First impressions tell me that a long and successful future beckons for Women’s football. There will be naysayers, if not this week then sometime soon but if year seven woodwork taught me anything it’s that it is easier to tear something down than it is to build it. However, the foundation is there and it’s solid.
I might be too hairy around the chin to ever properly grasp the full significance of what this weekend meant but I pledge that the occasion is not lost on me.
Reflecting now on the weekend that was, I’m not sure I can ever remember a time where I have been so proud of my code. I just want to ruffle its hair and pinch its cheeks I’m so damned proud. Yes, I nodded agreeably at the lengthening of the shorts that immediately followed the Warwick Capper years but this is a whole new level of proud. Something vastly more meaningful.
First impressions allow me to conclude that for a very long time to come, every cute little request from an upwardly beaming Olivia, Jessica or Fatima pleading: “Can I please be a Magpie, a Giant or a Lion?”, can now confidently be met with these wonderful words: “Yes sweetheart. Yes you can.”
Melbourne 0.3 1.4 1.4 1.4 (10)
Brisbane 0.0 2.0 2.1 4.1(25)
Melbourne – Grierson 1
Brisbane – Campbell, Frederick-Traub, McCarthy, Gibson 1
Melbourne – Paxman, O’Dea, Pearce, Mithen, Cordner
Brisbane– Virgo, Bates, Kaslar, Gibson, Ashmore
Umpires: Guy, Rodger, Pell Crowd: 6,500
Our Votes: Virgo (B) 3, Paxman (M) 2, O’Dea (M) 1