AFLW Round 6 – GWS Giants v Western Bulldogs: Fridge & Dally & Burrito & Cora & Gummo & Erin & Barr & Alicia

 

For those of us Sydney Giants supporters used to travelling to Canberra, this night felt a little different.

 

It wasn’t the crammed quarters to which we are familiar. Absent was the multiplicity of scarves indicating the state from which the attenders had come before settling into their APS role. This was a night for just Giants and Dogs supporters. And it felt great.

 

I had come prepared for the evening. Inspired partially through the birth of a Tshirt design out of Pepa Randall’s Burrito incident, I thought I could design my own tshirt, but in black. I thought of various designs until I remembered the style a few years ago that involved Helvetica font, names and ampersands.

 

The author, taken by a newly drafted cheer squad member

 

Coming up with the five names was tough. I decided to go with nicknames for the most part. Fridge is obvious, for Amanda Farrugia’s toughness as a player and leader; Jess Dal Pos has been the driving force of our midfield from day one – and kept on going, no matter how dysfunctional the rest of the team was. Burrito is already iconic, Cora Staunton is incredible to watch (and is apparently known as just “Cora” in Ireland) and Courtney Gum has been an incredible player from day one – and has a great Marxist nickname.

 

People seemed to like the shirt, which was cool. I just like the idea of people in a club’s community coming up with ideas to support AFLW teams with our own ideas, not just with standard club merchandise. Gives a club some character.

 

As for the game, I didn’t know what to expect. We knew of Emma Kearney and Brooke Lochland as well as the Bulldogs’ excellent percentage and place on the table. But at least this time we were to see what the new McConnell coached Giants were capable of doing on a dry track – a first for this season.

 

The opening of the first two quarters did not bring a good sign. The Bulldogs scored within the first minute of both quarters, much like the Crows did the 4th Quarter of the draw at Blacktown. The Dogs continued that momentum deep into the first quarter, threatening to tear away like they had before this season. This was, however, the new Giants, the tough momentum stoppers, the tenacious around the stoppages team. In the thick of things – again – were Gummo, Dally, Burrito and Alicia Eva, the player with the silky skills imported from the Pies.

 

I had watched that first quarter from the stands, wanting to see the bigger picture. But then in the second quarter, I took myself into the cheer squad bay for the first time in the year (largely because there are seats in the Manuka bay). It was like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes. Michael Shillito was ringing out the cheers and powering through his Pepsi Max bottles. It’s not footy season without his rounds of “Here Come the Giants”, “There’s another fine piece of Victorian umpiring” and “How Wide Do You Want the Goals?”. We weren’t as big a crew as usual, but we were loud and passionate.

 

One thing I have discovered sitting in the cheer squad bay, as opposed to being in the stands, is that one can feel the momentum shift on a more visceral level. I can’t see the patterns or ball movement as clearly, but there we (the collective) can feel the pace of the ball movement more keenly – and have felt it often during the mens’ season.

 

In this second quarter, we could feel at that level that something remarkable was happening. We could see how the Giants were really working together to get the ball down the field towards us at what was becoming an exhilarating pace.  It was an exciting shift.  And it was in this second quarter that we saw Cora do what was score the goal of the season so far.  She brought all of her Gaelic football experience together in an an amazing ducking and weaving run that left her opponents and in her dust. It was Cora’s best and most scintillating work of the competition so far. From behind the goals, her lighting in a bottle movement was electrifying.  At that point, we could feel the bonding process that was happening within this side.

 

The second half just picked up where the first one had left off. This time, however, it was for Gummo to rise and become even more dominant than in previous games. She was everywhere, in everything, and launched a goal from outside the 50 that had us jumping out of our seats. Dally and Eva were tenacious and classy in their supporting roles. Cora never gave up. Tanya Hetherington has come through as a vital, solid, dependable cog in the defence line. The marks were being clunked, the fast moving handballs were moving the team forward swiftly and we could see this team clicking and rising together to heights unreached before by this team.

 

They were a team, not just a set of names connected by ampersands.

 

Then came the last quarter, where the familiar anxieties came again for us in the cheer squad. This was the equivalent of an elimination final and this was close. We were there when Emma Kearney almost single handedly scored an incredible running goal in the 3rd quarter (even though it went over the sideline a minute before…). We knew the Bulldogs could score quickly.

 

But it didn’t happen. What did happen was that the Giants stood up for each other and kept on going, with Fridge scoring her second ever goal to seal the game. We in the cheer squad bay were delirious.

 

This was it – beat Brisbane next week and we could be in the Granny!

 

I can’t remember being as pumped as I was this time around. Perhaps it was because we were few in number that I decided to fill in the sound gap. More likely that I have really come to love the AFLW.

 

Manuka being Manuka meant that post match, the team area is open for anyone to see in. So we from the outside could see the team sing the song the second time. And it was great – even more so to see the hugs being passed around between the players and their families and friends.

 

 

Post match celebrations – photo by the author

 

The family of Nicola Barr, emerging from the room, saw my shirt, laughed and said it needed her name on it. I agreed – the shirt needed a lot more names on it. Certainly Barr, superstar ruck Erin McKinnon, Phoebe McWilliams (who Chris Dubrow, a fellow Almanacker calls “Sweet Sherry”), Ellie Brush, Jodie Hicks, Tanya Hetherington, Britt Tully… so many. But after this night, Alicia Eva certainly deserved some kind of immortalising.

 

But that wasn’t the end of this experience. Canberra provided some more time to celebrate and reflect.

 

Happy with the knowledge this wasn’t the end of the season we took off into the night and went to the beautiful Enlighten Festival held in the Parliamentary Circle – a place of lights, ideas and food.  It was great to go to open museums at night, where there were big crowds of adults and kids mingling. Inside the Old Parliament House – the Museum of Australian Democracy – they were asking people to write down on cards what their ideas of what various things meant to their lives – then put those cards in giant towers. The areas were Community, Kindness, Diversity, Courage, Trust, Hope and Curiosity.

 

Frankly, after watching the Giants team go from cellar dwellers to what they were in that game, I could have written on any of the cards. But I chose Community.  And I circled the Cheer Squad especially because they are ace people.

 

 

 

 

The Museum of Australian Democracy – photos by the author

 

This was a glorious end to a glorious night. I hope they run Canberra AFLW games during Enlighten again – it makes a trip to Canberra from Sydney even more enticing. The Festival also provided on the next morning a sunrise balloon spectacular, which gave me a great visual metaphor for the Giants’ season. The Orange striped balloon might have been slow to start in this league, they might not have caught the eye as vividly as other teams, but they are rising and could well rise to the top. And that would be great for the Giants’ community.

 

 

The balloons of March 10, taken by the author

 

 

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY    1.2    4.4    4.4   7.4 (46)
WESTERN BULLDOGS                2.2    3.2    4.3   4.4 (28)

GOALS
Greater Western Sydney: Hicks, Staunton, Dal Pos, Farrugia, Gum, Eva, Schmidt
Western Bulldogs: McLeod 2, Conti, Bruton 

BEST
Greater Western Sydney: Gum,Eva, Staunton, Barr, Hetherington, Farrugia
Western Bulldogs: Kearney,Blackburn, Lamb, Conti, Lochland, Scott

INJURIES 
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Nil

Reports: Nil

Crowd: 4,146 at UNSW Canberra Oval

 

About Mark O'Sullivan

A teacher, musician and GWS Giants Foundation Member

Comments

  1. Brilliant write up, Mark. I heartily agree that more fans should create their own gear rather than rely on official merchandise. I have a hand-knitted footy scarf.

    (And who knew that frogs fly bum first!)

  2. Yvette Wroby says:

    Thanks for the great story Mark. Love the cheer squad experience and then the museum. My eye caught the Saints scarf (well of course it did). What’s the story there? You made sure that your red, white and black was on view?

    Loved your t-shirt too, so creative and fun and it gets everyone talking.

  3. Georgina says:

    Great work Mark. Your shirt – and the win – made my night. Looking forward to Friday! Go Giants.

  4. Mark O'Sullivan says:

    Thanks all. And Yvette, it’s an AFLW Giants’ scarf. :-)

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