AFLW Round 5 – GWS v Melbourne: This time, a win
GWS v Melbourne
5.05 pm, Friday 3 March
Blacktown International Sportspark, Sydney
Living in Melbourne, my year is divided into two seasons – not the six seasons identified by Indigenous Australians, and not the four seasons imposed upon us by European sensibilities. Melburnians have two seasons: daylight saving time and eastern standard time. Daylight saving time brings a need to make the most of the warmth and the daylight hours, and to do this we must timeshift our lives. January sees work, school and university timeshifted by weeks. Technology sees television recorded to be watched at a more convenient time. A warm night sees any sense of urgency dissipate in favour of time spent lingering outdoors.
And so, at 5.05 pm, on Friday, I’m not at home on the couch ready to watch footy. I’ve timeshifted my plans and I’m headed into the city for an after work catch-up to be followed by a trip to the movies to re-visit the lives of Renton et al. who were much-loved characters from a long time ago. But I’m not out of touch with the game; the wonders of wearable technology mean that a score check is just a flick of the wrist away. When we head to the movies, I know the result: the Giants have upset the Demons.
Coming into this weekend’s game, the Giants were still without a win after coming agonisingly close to breaking the duck against Fremantle a couple of weeks ago, while Melbourne needed a win and a big percentage boost to stay in touch with ladder leaders Adelaide and Brisbane. In the lead-up to the game, no one expected the Giants to win – at least no one except for the Giants themselves. Earlier in the week I’d watched the edited highlights of Phil Davis addressing the women’s team. The theme of the talk was how to build strength from adversity and I suspect that the parts that were omitted may have been very illuminating. How did the message go from being well-intentioned advice to something the women truly believe and something that would help them get their first win?
On Saturday morning, after the canine companions have been walked and after a visit to the new chooks next door to give them some left over vegies, my usual tasks are timeshifted. I’ve got a game of footy to watch.
In stark contrast to Melbourne’s sunshine, the waterlogged Blacktown oval sits under dark rainclouds. With the game underway, the play is congested with the slippery ball making skills hard to execute. Melbourne seem to have a lot of the ball but are unable to do much with it. The Giants score the first goal after a string possessions – the cleanest ball movement of the quarter so far – sees the ball taken out of defence, up the ground and through the goals from the boot of Barclay. This is teamwork at its best and lifts the Giants while the Melbourne players continue to struggle in the wet conditions. The second goal to the Giants is kicked off the ground by Schmidt on the goal line and the Giants go into quarter time 12 points up having restricted Melbourne to just one point.
The second quarter gets underway and it’s scrappy congested footy that is reminiscent of the play in Round 1. The television coverage makes it hard to see how much rain is falling, but it’s very wet underfoot, so wet that water splashes up as the players’ footy boots hit the ground. Melbourne manage two points while the Giants don’t add to their score. But it’s during this quarter that I realise that women’s footy is beginning to feel normal. I can recognise players, not by the numbers on their jumpers but by the way they play and their roles in the team. I know it’s Dal Pos clearing the ball out of packs of player, I know it’s Farrugia staying calm deep in defence and I know it’s McKinnon working tirelessly in the ruck.
After I’ve fast forwarded the half-time break, the Giants seem re-energised in the third quarter. Beeson goals for the Giants and then Phillips goals for Melbourne. And this is where I’m glad I checked the scores last night. There’s no need for me to get nervous, I can sit back and relax. The Giants’ defence repels Melbourne’s attack for most of the final quarter, but as they have done all game, the defenders hold firm. And with a little luck from the wayward kicking of the Melbourne forwards, the Giants had won the contested footy and won the contest.
The jubilation after the final siren showed just how much this win meant to the Giants: a win against the odds, a win borne out of playing to the conditions, and a win from digging deep and never surrendering.
GWS: 2.1 2.1 3.1 3.2 (20)
Melbourne: 0.1 0.3 1.4 1.9 (15)
GWS: Barclay, Schmidt, Beeson
GWS: Dal Pos, Swanson, Williams, Collier, Barclay
Melbourne: Paxman, Pearce, Mithen, O’Dea
Umpires: Geddes, Garroway, Barr
Votes: 3 Dal Pos (GWS), 2 Swanson (GWS), 1 Paxman (Melbourne)