AFLW Round 1 – Western Bulldogs v Fremantle: Making History: Heat Stroke 2, Goals 1
I grew up listening to footy on the radio and watching Saturday night replays on Channel 7. Kevin (Murray) and Bernie (Quinlan) were my heroes but never thought I could play footy like the boys. It was such an impossible dream I concentrated on calisthenics, badminton and playing lunch time soccer on the netball court at Nunawading High with Form Five (Year 11) boys. I thought that was pretty cool though I know mum was not impressed with my scuffed school shoes. I told mum they didn’t make footy boots for girls! Calisthenics 1 – Girls Footy 0.
Fast forward to 2017 and it’s Friday night on a warm February evening. I’m crawling around on my hands and knees, stretched out with paper letters and sticky tape, trying not to rip the crepe. What was I doing making a banner in February for a game of AFL? I was struck with the irony as I smiled and thought WOW – this was for the AFLW and it was just simply awesome! “Chicks” ruling footy in February seemed so unbelievable I was still pinching myself. But it was more than real and I would be part of the banner crew, raising the very first banner for the Fremantle Football Club’s Women’s Team at Whitten Oval on Saturday night for the opening round of the Women’s season. I was also going to be making history. AFLW 1 – Doomsayers 0.
It was HOT! At 5pm it still felt like 54 degrees. We were forced out into the middle of Whitten Oval to pole the banner. Crikey – it took forever as fierce winds, sunscreen application, drinks breaks and too many loo stops made the situation almost laughable (if it wasn’t so serious). We should have been inside or at least, in the shade. Bloody hell, even some of our crew were feeling woozy from the blazing sun. How hard was it going to be for the players? Sunburn 1 – Opposition organisers 0.
The ground was filling fast. Ground capacity was only around 12,000, so spots around the oval were at a premium. I noticed a different type of crowd. There were so many more families and so many more women and girls, proudly wearing their footy colours. It was great to feel the love for the AFLW. It was still bloody hot though at 7pm and the queue for the ice-cream van snaked back for an eternity. This was a first. Mr Whippy 1 – Bar 0.
It was time for the banner crews to strut their stuff. Both banners gave homage to the women who were making history. With a wind more like a hot northerly than a mild zephyr, a woozy crew member and a few ropes breaking away, our first banner just hung up there long enough for the girls to run through. The Freo Sister-ship had docked and they were raring to go. Sisters/Daughters 1 – Brothers/Sons 0.
The siren and whistle to announce the first bounce was almost silenced by the sounds of screaming supporters, excited about the arrival of women’s footy. This was going to be a juggernaut. I could not help but grimace as they fought for the ball with a hardness and determination that was surprising but expected at the same time. There was a driving passion to succeed. You could almost sense they were playing for all the girls and women in the past and present who had been told they could never play footy in the big league. The Present 1 – the Past 0.
The 1st quarter seemed to go far too quickly and I hardly had time to breath. Yes, the quarters were shorter by a smidgen but this did not make the game any less enthralling. I have to admit when No. 6 kicked the 1st goal for the Bulldogs I was a little disappointed. I wanted us to kick the 1st goal. Our women had been hiding out west all pre-season, ready to pounce, so was ecstatic when our No. 24 replied soon after. There was only one problem. I had no bloody idea who the players were. It was remiss of me (and very embarrassing) I had not studied the form but at least I knew No. 15 was our captain, I had just met No. 10’s parents (who had incidentally helped out with our banner) and thought my favourite player would have to be No. 12 as she had the same birthday as me. Names on Jumpers 1 – AFL’s “no-name” (and clueless) decision 0.
Freo’s defence was under pressure early in the 2nd quarter as the Bulldogs kept sending the ball forward with No. 7 for the Bulldogs kicking their 2nd goal. No. 12 for us in the backline made sure the ball was repelled on numerous occasions and a good 5 minutes had us manage several forward entries but 4 straight behinds found the Dockers still behind. No. 3 for the Bulldogs kicked a late goal so they led by 7 points at half time. Hard ball gets 1 – Holding the man 0 (nor am I mentioning our five behinds or us having 3 more scoring shots by half time).
The 3rd quarter started with No. 4 for the Bulldogs kicking a monster goal, whereas some of our stars and marquee signings were obviously suffering from jetlag. Thank god for the Bulldogs wayward kicking (6 behinds), although No 2. did slot through a late goal. There was not much spark from us but a great surge by the Bulldogs. They were being led by No’s 3, 5, 2 and 7, just to mention a few. They led at the last change by 25 points. Bulldogs leading 1 – Dockers 3rd quarter score 0.
At the start of the 4th quarter one of our crew had finally succumbed to heat stroke, which had also flattened Megan (our banner leader) earlier on in the first half. Having not kicked a goal since before what seemed like Christmas, it was now more important to check on Liz’s health and get her home. Nothing’s worse than feeling downright awful at the footy, especially when there was nowhere to lie down to try and escape the thumping head and general yuckiness. The only cure was a good spew and a cool night’s sleep. Unfortunately after our team had promised so much early on, there was no miracle, come from behind win. The Bulldogs looked more than good as they ran away with a 32 point shellacking! Heat Stroke 2 – (Docker) Goals 1, which coincidentally was the score line at the soccer derby between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City!
Though the final score told the story about the game, there was still plenty of aggression, contested footy and great skills shown by the women from both sides. This was no kick and giggle and they meant business, even if they had only been training together as a team since late October/early November. Two girls from the game did not escape the match review and will find themselves watching from the stands next week – No. 12 for us and No. 37 for them. Push & Shove 1 – Melee 0.
By the way, for our next game, I will be using my specially laminated flip cards (thankyou Liz) with all the players’ names, details etc. I may be flipping mad by the end but at least I will be up to speed with all our players. I can’t wait to cheer on Donnellan, Antonio, Hooker and Smith during the season and will keep a look out for No. 3 at Carlton, No. 13 at Adelaide and who doesn’t know Daisy at Melbourne and Mona at Collingwood, along with No’s 3 and 5 for the Bulldogs. The game is in good hands.
P.S – Megan and Liz have made a full recovery!
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.0 3.0 5.6 6.8 (44)
FREMANTLE 1.0 1.5 1.5 1.6 (12)
Western Bulldogs: Brennan 2, McLeod, Lambert, O’Connor, Blackburn
Western Bulldogs: Kearney, Brennan, Blackburn, Ernst, Lochland, McLeod
Fremantle: Donnellan, Smith, Houghton, Hooker
Western Bulldogs: Gogos (nose), Lochland (ankle)
Fremantle: Chuot (concussion)
Umpires: Cheever, Jankovskis, Toovey
Official Crowd: 10,100 at Whitten Oval
Votes: (3) Brennan, (2) Kearney, (1) Donnellan