AFLW Round 1 – Melbourne v Brisbane Lions: Drowned on and off the field
Sunday 5th February 2017 5.10pm
I invited my cousins to the footy. Family matters kept Deborah from the game, but her husband Alfred, a mad Melbourne man, was seduced by my whispering that it could be a chance to see a Melbourne win. We drove to Cranbourne East, spotted the enormous queue for the car back, chucked a u-turn, and parked in a different area.
Getting out of my car, we spotted something you don’t see every day. A horse on a suburban front yard. The rider was chatting to a resident. The horse was eating grass. She came over to for us to pat her horse, and of course, photos were taken. The rider’s been waylaid by a birthday party for an Indian child, and many kids got to ride this peaceful giant, just cos this lady was an awesome woman and the horse was kind and gentle.
So that right there, that told me it was going to be an unusual day.
As will all the other AFLW games, people were flocking to the ground over an hour earlier. We were asked by drivers stopped at the lights, “What’s happening?”. “Women’s Footy,” we said. All the signage was there at Casey Fields. Melbourne v Brisbane Lions. Here we come.
We settled on the wing, the opposite side to the stand, along the fence. Happy. People have been so happy this weekend. Laughing. Joyful. Alfred’s footy friends Chris and Marcus found us. It was Chris who introduced Alfred to footy so many years ago, and got him interviewed by Martin Flanagan. Chris still hasn’t forgiven Alfred for not mentioning his name in the article Martin wrote. A work friend indeed. Chris holds a friendly grudge.
There are footy jumpers of every colour – Essendon, Carlton, Richmond as well as Alfred’s Melbourne one. People came for the footy, regardless of their teams. At the toilets, I talk to a young woman and her mum. The sixteen year old plays footy in Werribee, close to Footscray. She’s a Brisbane supporter and so happy to have made the trek. A good 80-minute drive. I imagine she dreams it could be her one day out on the field.
Nicole next to me at the fence was a diehard Bomber, but she told me her great-grand mother was a religious Melbourne supporter so her crazy Essendon family allowed her to support Melbourne in the AFLW just for that. Her man, Tristan, was only here to be with Nicole – under relationship obligation he says.
The game had a scrappy start. The wind was ferocious and the tackling continued as in all the weekend games. The hunger for the ball was magnificent. Melbourne fail to make the most of their two attacks on goals, which will prove to be costly. Lions create more history – no scores in the first quarter.
The wind has picked up, if it was possible, and the rains came. The umbrellas and ponchos and coats now colour the boundary line, and the crowd in the small shelter behind are having fun with our security guard. He has completely stuffed up his light plastic poncho. To the degree that he can’t work out where to put what. The crowd are into it. I finally call him over and at least help him get his head covered. I get a cheer for my efforts.
The lights come on as the bodies crunch. A free for Brisbane is converted by Shannon Campbell and Brisbane Lions celebrate. Daisy Pearce bursts from the crowds twice, both times kicking straight to the opposition. It was that kind of day for the Dees. Jasmine Grierson finally kicks truly, putting the Dees ahead.
The footy gods put a stop to that, with a lightning flash ending the quarter prematurely. The umpire blew the whistle and players and umpires left the field. The skies opened in protest and it pissed down. The sensible people began leaving. That left us idiots and fools. Suddenly, even Alfred had huddled under the scant shelter behind, and what crowd was left gave a hearty applause and cheer when our hapless security man finally got a replacement rain cover and put it on correctly. He may have even hammed that up for our amusement, and it worked.
The players returned after an early ½ break, to maybe 2000 left of the 6500 attendees. The second quarter remaining minutes were played out after the players warmed up. Brisbane’s Sabrina Frederick-Traub goaled around her body. Impressive. They attack again through Leah Kaslar and it goes out of bounds.
Third quarter seems Brittany Gibson put through a beauty and in such a low scoring game, Alfred rightly predicts his Dees are done.
Almanacker Ebony finds Alfred and I and joins us on the boundary. We are all sodden. Not cold. Just really wet with a capital W. Alfred’s heart is broken a little more when Brisbane’s Kate McCarthy goals from 50 metres out.
The Brisbane Lions prove sturdier in this stormy weather, and are the only interstate team to have won away from home this weekend.
From Friday night’s opener until this afternoon, the attendances, the interest, the TV coverage, the papers, the radio, the chat between people, has been around the women’s game. Talk about a massive explosion.
I discover later that Foxtel has the women’s game on a continuous loop. If you’ve missed a game, you can catch up over and over again. And see me on the opposite side of the ground, first in a red sun hat, and then in a yellow poncho, then later, with an umbrella too.
There is a soggy walk home, and comfortable drive back to our part of the world, and a quick change into jammies. What a great weekend for football. I wonder if Alfred will ever listen to my whisperings again.
Melbourne 0.2 1.4. 1.4 1.4 10
Brisbane Lions 0.0 2.0 2.1 4.1 25
Goals: Melbourne: Grierson
Brisbane: McCarthy, Campbell, Gibson, Frederick-Traub
All points go to every player and umpire for effort.