VFLW – Hamilton Pride Game 17/06/2017

Source: vfl.com.au

 

 

The undulating landscape of dry grass and new emerging growth clothe the fields as they sweep up to and away from the road approaching Hamilton. In fact, this has been the landscape for the last hour or two but the sun has been slowly descending so to emphasize the haziness of the dry grass.  The rock formation of Gariwerd, aka the Grampians, suddenly appears as we round a bend. The ancient lava a signpost indicating our destination is drawing near. Then we, my wife Danielle and I, make our way through the outskirts of Hamilton and in to our accommodation. We unload our bags and wander off along the wide streets of the town. Most of the shop windows feature the colours of the rainbow in differing designs and creativity. My favourite is the bookshop. Its window is the most subtle as it uses book covers for their hues arranged as the prismatic spectrum. Many more are decorated and it sets a mood of community and positivity.

 

There is a VFLW football game in town tomorrow between the Darebin Falcons and Melbourne University Women’s Football Club. It is being played so far from both team’s home in support of the Gay? That’s ok! campaign. Charles Beaton is the driving force behind the campaign and todays match. His twin brother Lachlan came out as gay when he was 27. He endured 15 years of hating himself in silent agony thinking he was not normal and that he would not be accepted by family, friends and his local community. When he came out he found he had more support than he expected and especially from his twin and his footy club in Melbourne, the Uni Blacks.

 

In 2015 the first Pride game was held between Uni Blacks and the Collegians at Melbourne University to show support for gay pride and promote acceptance in the football community. It was a success and the Hamilton Pride game follows on, not only with women’s footy, but in regional Victoria. An area where mental illness, self-harm and too frequently suicide claim members of the LGBTQI community. Only a small number of male footballers have come out, none at AFL level, and generally after their playing career has ended. This is in stark contrast to the women’s game where many players are openly gay, and that’s very OK. The focus is on football as it should be.

 

As the girls warm up on Melville Oval, Hamilton, the sun shines brilliantly upon them but the mid-June air keeps temperatures to a minimum. It is a perfect, sunny winters day and the crowd, that is similar in size to the big game of the year on Anzac Day, are rugged up with everything that might insulate them, jackets, scarfs and beanies. Either in team colours or rainbows or whatever they have that is as bright and as multi-coloured as possible. Within a minute of play Darebin captain Elise ‘Junior’ O’Dea scores the first goal of the match. By half way through the first quarter Darcy Vescio has kicked two goals as well; the Falc’s blow out to 19 points before the Mugars respond with two goals to Kate Shierlaw, 19 to 12. Even at this stage every passage of play and each possession is crucial. Early in the second quarter Emma Kearney kicks the only goal for this stanza, Mugars trail by 1 point. As the half time siren wails the Mugars have a skinny lead of 2 points. Dan and I breath out and relax; the pace of play hasn’t even allowed us time to breathe.

 

As the third quarter starts the sun is now low over the stand on the western side of the ground. The skills seem to have fallen away in the game but not being able to see what is happening can’t help. A few minutes into the third and Darcy Vescio kicks her third goal. Falcons by 4 points. Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney run up and down the middle, bump shepherd and smother. Aasta O’Conner uses her body to stop Mugars wherever they are in play and Jess Dal Pos marks the ball even if she can’t see until it rests in her hands in front of her nose. Half way through the third quarter Brooke Lochland kicks a goal, Mugars 27 to 26, this score will remain until the final break.

 

The final quarter starts and the low scoring trend continues as the Falcons manage a couple of behinds before Darcy Vescio kicks her fourth goal to give the Falcons a small lead of 34 to 27. Each play remains pivotal and every forward entry presents danger or hope. The siren mercifully sounds the end and the Falcons have hung on to win 5 4 34 to the Mugars    4 4 28.

 

After the game, the girls all shake hands and offer each other three cheers but then unusually gather as one group for photos in their Pride rainbow jumpers. The unity between the rival teams is a genuine celebration of identity and a community given a platform on which to be role models. Just as Daisy Pearce, who didn’t play today, posed with groups of young girls is the face for women’s football, many of these women are proud to say “Gay, that’s Ok!” and hopefully open the door for young people to truly be themselves. This statement is pivotal in the bigger cities still and essential in regional areas.

 

In the week leading up to this match at Hamilton a father concerned for his son’s welfare finally had a chat. After months of depression, anxiety and absence from school his son could speak about what was happening. The father wasn’t prepared for the answer when he asked “Are you gay?”, his son said “No, I’m trans.” The father was stunned but his family and school supported his now daughter who is happy and back to school and succeeding. The simple demonstration of love and acceptance can truly be life changing.

 

The girls playing in this match were proud to be role models just as they would have loved to have had similar heroes to look up to when they were younger. Generational change within society and attitudes will no doubt make life easier for thousands of people coming out and finding acceptance from outside and within. It may have ben one game of football with a message but so long as that message is heard by those that need it, it will have been a win.

 

Melbourne Uni 2.0-12 3.3-21 4.3-27 4.4-28
Darebin 3.1-19 3.1-19 4.2-26 5.4-34

 

 

MELBOURNE UNI

Goal Kickers: K. Shierlaw 2, B. Lochland, E. Kearney
Best Players: E. Kearney, A. Saundry, N. Stevens, L. Spark, K. Hay, D. Edward

DAREBIN

Goal Kickers: D. Vescio 4, E. O’Dea
Best Players: A. O’Connor, M. Hickey, J. Dal pos, E. O’Dea, E. Oliver, E. Marinoff

 

 

About David Jacobson

My Nanna knitted my Teddy Bear a Bulldog jumper with matching shorts but that was a long time ago. I have now, finally, been to a Preliminary Final that I enjoyed.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    This was a very enjoyable article David. The drive down, the background to the game and the game itself.

    Well played.

  2. David Jacobson says:

    Thanks a ton Mark!

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