VWFL Semi Final – St Kilda Sharks v Melbourne Uni: Onwards and Upwards

St Kilda Sharks photo: Yvette Wroby

St Kilda Sharks photos: Yvette Wroby

  1. WVFL: St Kilda Sharks v Melbourne Uni Semi Final

North Port Oval, Port Melbourne

Sunday 11th September 2016, 11.50am

Onwards and Upwards

 

Women’s footy has jumped out of the stalls this year, after 100 years of near invisibility.

 

In the recently released book, “Play On: the Hidden History of Women’s Australian Rules Football” by Brunette Lenkic and Rob Hess, the authors give a pictorial and written record of how women have been playing footy and loving it.  According to the book, it is the first comprehensive history of women’s Australian Rules football, “and showcases the athleticism, hard work and resilience that has kept the women’s game alive.”

 

It is the next book on my “to read list”, after finishing Jan Courtin’s “My lifelong love affair with the Swans”.  Another great story, telling if from the mad fan perspective.  What a great reading treat I am having.

 

Back to invisibility. How can a league which has been going for a hundred years get so little attention?  I know I am one of the many who have not “seen” what is around us, but it’s a bit of a shock nevertheless that again, women’s history, like indigenous history, takes too long to be recognised.

 

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I only took notice the last few years, first attending the AFL women’s exhibition matches, and then in 2015, going to several matches of my chosen team, St Kilda Sharks.  I fell in love with the game all over again through the great women I have seen and met.  Through watching women out there toughing it out and playing to win.  I have stood on the fence and watched, as I did in my early days at Moorabbin.  I have had the wind and rain keep me company too. I see the crowds mostly made up of friends and families.  I have talked to committee people and presidents, players and families and I love the passion.  The stories.  The drive.  Women’s football is “pay to play”.  And for the elite level of women, this is soon going to change, and as more women play and upgrade their skills with proper training, support, funding and coaching, the fastest growing sports group will blossom in the future.  And it is so exciting.  For a fan like me, but more so, for all the women who put in so much work to have kept it alive and thriving. Women who just love kicking that footy.  Kudos to the AFL for recognising a good thing and taking it on and supporting it (at last). Kudos for the ABC having “Australian Story” about Susan Alberti and Moana Hope.  A must see program that says it all.

 

Last Sunday I went to see my first match (and the last for the losing Sharks) for 2016 (not counting watching several exhibition matches).  I saw familiar faces, Kerryn Ralph the President of the Sharks in her yellow runners gear, and past-player and committee person Leesa Catto. I have written about the Sharks in my book to be published in 2017 and look forward to getting more stories into the future.  I also know the other young Almanacker, Callum O’Connor whose sister plays footy, is now employed for the women’s game as a journalist (after posting some terrific articles about women and their footy this year on the Almanac site).

 

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On this warmish Sunday afternoon, Leesa kindly invited me to sit with the St Kilda Sharks mob, and so I was surrounded by red jumpers of the Sharks players and family and organisers, right behind the coaches and runners and physio’s, and the players resting. Next to a mother and sister of a player.  In front of a feisty bunch of young women who were sisters.  Leesa introduced me to two Geelong women, Jenny (Jenno) and Andrea.  They told me once they discovered women playing footy they joined in Geelong and now travel all the way to St Kilda to join this great community and footy team.  There are Shark players from Ballarat and Trenton too. Andrea always loved footy and played with the local kids, but when she was younger there wasn’t a pathway.  Jenno started playing at 32, proving it’s never too late.

 

The Sharks were being trounced on the field, and were outplayed most of the game. The crowd around me cheered encouragement, the coaches’ instructions, and the runners were busy all day.  The players tried their hearts out, and just like last year, the Melbourne Uni team killed off any hope of finals glory.

 

Even Moana Hope was having a poor day, the ball just wasn’t getting into the forward to her cleanly. Brianna Davey tried her heart out.  All the women on the ground were battling hard all day.  Some came off hurt, others exhausted. (Moana has been drafted to Collingwood, Brianna to Carlton.)

 

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Once my sister Denise joined me at half time, I went out to the ¾ time huddle and listened to the coaches try and rev up the team.  It was a tough ask.  The players looked stuffed.

 

In the last quarter, the sisters of Brianna were behind me, Steph and Holly and were making colourful comments about the rough play of opposition, and then apologised to me for their strong language.  Denise had just gone for chips, and I turned to them and said, “You can’t shock me.  My sister was in punk bands, one of them called ‘Thrush and the C….s’, so…..” They thought this was so cool and I had instant friends, and we chatted away.  The two young women and their friends could continue their commentary, and Denise encouraged them when she returned. I always hand out my card to keep in contact with great people I meet, and come Tuesday, got a lovely email from Steph.  The Sharks had a party post game and she wished she’d known so she could have invited us. The party was at their house.  Perhaps next time.

 

All afternoon I felt part of a community.  Part of the red, black and white. A Sharks supporter.  A football tragic.  A part of the family.  Though the game was disappointing for the Sharks, it was a solid win for Melbourne Uni.  Final Scores: Sharks 4.6 30 and Melbourne Unit 10.10.70.  A drubbing.

 

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The excitement about the beginning of a AFL league of women was palpable.  Onwards and upwards indeed.

 

We stayed and watched the first half of the Essendon v Footscray VFL game, and slowly the Sharks began to disperse.  The crowd had been good for the women’s game and was now revved up for the men.  It was a tough game, and we left at half-time to watch the rest at home (Denise) while I rested.  The Footscray boys triumphed and it made Denise happy.  We’d seen so many of the Western Bulldogs coming down to support their VFL team, we’d seen the gorgeous Bevo, and got great photos of both games all afternoon.

 

Topping off the day, we saw the Post-Modern Jukebox (Postmodernjukebox.com) perform at the Palais Theatre that night.  A great venue.  Magnificent music. And great company. Photography.  Footy.  Music. Family. Friends. Life can be great.

 

About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it’s about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.

Comments

  1. A great day and a great story, thanks Yvette..

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