AFLW Round 2 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: Strong and Warm and Wild and Free
If You Stick Around I’m Sure That We Can Find Some Common Ground
I missed the opening night of AFLW last week, instead, spending the evening a few Blighty-after-the-siren torps west of the crowded Princes Park, sprawled out on the grass along side Mrs Swish watching the Hoodoo Zoorus. Unlike fellow attendee Smokie Dawson (how was your yiros, cobber?), I didn’t watch the game on replay, settling for the highlights the next morning.
Of course, the real action was at Thebbie, but having a Light Ice with our neighbour (the one who “never liked that Lew Hoad”, as she told us the other week) won the battle for my afternoon attention. I was home in time for glimpses of the third quarter, seeing Erin Phillips’ star turn.
More glimpses of the Dogs v Docks, reinforcing how much love and support there is for the AFLW. Who knew? Plenty, it seems.
The real clincher was the Casey clash, 6000 punters in the wet, somewhere east of, geez, I dunno, where is Cranbourne anyway? Again, I watched it in the background as dinner was prepared, rather than in lie-on-the-couch-give-it-my-full-attention mode that I usually give footy.
So was I serious or was I just watching out of a sense of duty or perhaps curiosity? I’m really not sure yet. But I’m especially pleased for the people whose spirits have been elevated over the past week.
We’ve always been a netball family, the three Swishters racking up more than 500 games between them for our local club. The eldest did a season of Auskick when she was six or so, and we took her to a handful of Crows clinics where she wore her tricolours proudly alongside the other offspring of the 90s Adelaide to Melbourne brain drain. But netball won out, at a club formed by the mother of two current AFL players.
Number two was happy to have a backyard dob too, but nothing formal.
The youngest Swishter has been an enthusiastic member of her high school’s lightning carnival girls’ footy teams; this year she hopes to get a kick or two to add to her half a dozen tackles and dozen and a half red and blue bruises, not to mention the skin rashes from the hand-me-down boys woollen jumpers they were gifted in their early years.
What does it all mean?
I’m Getting Weighed Down With All This Information
Onto this week. I’d pencilled in the Round 2 Dogs v Crows game when the draw came out, not knowing whether I’d be interested enough when push came to shove. I asked my regular footy partner (#3) if she wanted to go. She’s got a big Year 12 ahead of her, so I wasn’t sure how keen she was to troop out west on a Friday night instead of reading 1984 for the third time this year. (Why read it when you can live it? #MinistryOfTruth)
She said yes, but in that teenage tone that is often reserved for the affirmative response to questions like “Do you want another serve of my tuna mornay?” or “Is it OK if we listen to this Dexy’s Midnight Runners CD while I drive you to dance class?”. Somewhere on the continuum from No Way to Whatever. But I’d misread her. She really, really wanted to go.
I Prefer It All To Be Out In The Open
We hit West Footscray station around 7pm, a quick walk down Cross St revealing that we weren’t in Ormond any more. My favourite sight was the debonair gent wearing Birkensocks, as I dubbed his sandals and shin high foot covering get up, in a good way.
We scanned the terraces for a Crows merch tent, on the hunt for one of those Bunji designed jumpers, but drew a blank.
The Pie-Girl, whose bogan credibility rating plummeted to 0.4Uggs when she declined a shift at the Guns N’ Roses gig on Tuesday, decided that the grass declivity at the Anakie Fairy Park end looked a good place to sit. In the end, we settled on the terracing a few rows back from the behind post.
I realised that was the first time Bridget had been to a footy ground other than MCG or Docklands, hence the allure of the outer. It had been roughly two decades since I had taken her big sister out here for a pair of Crows games against the Dogs and the Roys.
We were soon joined by the man behind the Footy Maths Institute, then Footscray’s favourite son Gigs zoomed past (no prizes for guessing which shirt he was wearing). The proprietor of The Holy Boot’s Football Emporium (and the lesser half of the Dad and Mog Footy Podcast) was next to come past.
Mr Maths asked me how the crowd vibe compared to my SANFL experiences. I told him that it had the same look and feel. It did on the surface, but as I later concluded, there were some key differences. I asked His Mathsness where he thought his Tiges were going to finish this season. I won’t reveal the exact answer, but he is expecting a long winter. He also revealed that his modelling has Collingwood on the rise and Footscray on the slide; we dubbed this the Travis Effect.
The teams ran out to cheers all round, the needless confetti cannon producing neither oohs nor ahhs.
The Doggies had their earlier practice shots at our end. I noted that their kicks seemed to have a different velocity through the air, not spinning as often as I had expected. This meant that gravity took over earlier and many set shots either tailed off or dropped short. Was the ball too light? My years in the right forward pocket helped me spot a crumbing opportunity or two.
As I write, there are already a brace of incisive articles on this game here, so I’ll just add some observations.
Classy Passes v Rash And Hasty
Adelaide was far better drilled than the home side. Their kick outs were very well structured, often resulting in chains of clean possession into their half of the ground (including one coast to coast major).
Two perfect front and square crumbed Adelaide goals was further indication of this, especially when contrasted with the Dogs’ lack of composure when the goals loomed.
Mr Maths shrewdly observed the tightness of the Crows defence, generally outnumbering the locals at and around the ball.
The overall impression was that the visitors had more collective footy smarts, the home side appearing reliant on individual performances. It was as if my mob had an extra month or so together on the track.
The crowd hummed with conversations, especially during the first half. It was as if thousands of micro-gatherings were taking place rather than the Us v Them barracking I’m used to. I’d be interested to know what it sounded like half a mile away. There certainly wasn’t much “Baaaaall. Yeh. Booooo. Maggot” crescendo.
After half time, the crowd turned more of its attention to the game itself and became more vocal. But the general vibe was supportive rather than combative. Anger was absent, replaced by anticipation and appreciation.
On field skirmishes broke out more than sporadically. After years of netball watching, I wasn’t accustomed to it.
Your Laws Do Not Apply To Me
I then realised that this footy is unique. At last, girls and women can play a sport that doesn’t shackle their desire to kick, run, catch, hit or be hit. They are now free from zones, have no rules to prevent stepping, have no offside restrictions, opposition bodily contact is inevitable.
We Can Be What We Want To Be
The winners gathered on the outer boundary and strolled clockwise around the perimeter, sharing their excitement with the fenceside fans. The TV people grabbed my preferred Tex for an interview. As the players near my spot on the fence, they were beaming with the joy of succeeding, not the relief of having not lost.
This stuff is really enjoyable. It’s pure. It’ll get even better. Don’t compare it to the blokes, if you do, then you just don’t get it.
And Bridget loved it too.