Women’s Footy – The Beginning Of A New Era
From Alex’s Blog, ‘Bulldogs Centre’
About eight months ago, I wrote a little article on my blog site Bulldogs Centre about how the women’s AFL was beginning to gain momentum.
It’s been said often: ‘What a difference a week makes’.
How about the difference eight months makes?
Since a brisk Sunday morning at the MCG when I went to watch Melbourne’s esteemed ladies team take care of a struggling Brisbane women’s team, I have begun to invest some serious interest in the women’s game and started taking notes of some of the other ladies who didn’t wear the colours of my beloved Western Bulldogs.
Eight months after that game was played, the very same teams will square off in the first round of the newly-created women’s competition. Only this time they will square off at a venue far less prestigious than the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Regardless of whether the two sides play off at the MCG or at Casey Fields, these two teams are making history. As a matter of fact, all eight teams will make history this weekend as the first ever women’s competition will take flight. Women of all backstories and previous sporting codes will represent one of eight AFL clubs this weekend, and the build-up to it all has far exceeded what many had been expecting.
Here we are, eight months later, with momentum going full-steam ahead towards Friday night’s blockbuster season opener.
Over the month of January, the AFL had scheduled practice matches that they did not advertise, but through one method or another hundreds and thousands of supporters attended practice games around Australia.
Approximately 2000 people attended the practice game between Carlton and Melbourne at Ikon Park, which saw the Blues run away with a six-goal final quarter flurry to smash the Demons by 43 points. This prompted the AFL to move the season-opening game between old rivals Collingwood and Carlton from Olympic Park Oval to Carlton’s training ground Ikon Park, which holds much more seating and therefore more opportunities for the general public to be a part of history.
I find it a fantastic move from the AFL to do this – a Friday night game between two teams that have a rich history and rivalry, but I was a little surprised that the game isn’t between the two clubs that got the ball that is the AFLW rolling – I am of course talking about Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
The two clubs played the first-ever AFL women’s exhibition game back in 2013 as a curtain-raiser to the men’s equivalent of the same match to be played later that evening. A month prior to the game a mini-draft was held between the two clubs that saw 50 of Australia’s talented female footballers drafted to either Melbourne or the Bulldogs.
I recall the night of the Ladies’ first game crystal clear, having arrived with family and witnessing the second half of that game on a frosty evening at the ‘Home of Football’. Whilst I’m not ashamed to admit I wasn’t impressed with the overall game that night, I do look back on that night with serious regret. If I was able to send a message to a 19-year-old Alex today, I would say something along the lines of ‘Give The Ladies A Chance’, simply because when I did start to pay attention two years later I finally understood, appreciated and got myself into women’s footy.
It was a cold August afternoon under the roof of Etihad Stadium, and I was preparing to go to watch the men’s Bulldogs team do battle with the Demons. As my father drove me, my cousin and my two younger brothers down to Etihad Stadium, the radio was tuned in to the women’s game and I was all ears.
Despite Melbourne kicking the first five goals of the game, the Bulldogs began to rally late, kicking two goals before half-time through a young woman by the name of Katie Brennan gave our ladies some hope. Brennan went on to kick four goals that day as the Dogs fell four points short of completing a sensational comeback, making it four losses in four games since the first exhibition match a few years back.
This past Monday I attended the season launch of the Western Bulldogs’ women’s team. It was a fantastic night, meeting new friends and finding myself in the same room as my old childhood hero, Chris Grant. When they came to announce the leadership positions for the Bulldogs this season, it was really no surprise to see the very same Katie Brennan named as captain for this unbelievably talented group of women who, in my opinion, can press huge claims towards a 2017 Women’s Premiership. Joining Brennan in the leadership group this year will be Ellie Blackburn, Hannah Scott and Nicole Callinan, all three of whom have unbelievable talent and leadership credentials.
I say I’m not surprised at Brennan’s appointment as captain in the nicest possible way, because as well as being a freakin’ talented footballer (2nd only to Mo Hope in goals in the VWFL last year), she’s also a natural-born leader and is as professional as professional gets in the AFL.
What I also found fascinating was an article published by The Age late last year about Brennan’s battle with bulimia when she was a teenager and how she fought to overcome it two years later. Brennan proves that not only does she show strength as a player and as a leader, but also possesses an admirable strength of character. Today, she owns fitness clinic kb.performance Centre in Coburg, is among the top female AFL players and has been appointed the first ever captain of her club.
On Saturday night, Brennan will lead the Western Bulldog ladies out onto the hallowed turf that is the Whitten Oval to play the visiting Fremantle Dockers team. Like the Dogs, Freo are expected to be up there at the top-end at the conclusion of the eight-week season.
I’ve made it my duty to attend this game on Saturday, and I have no doubt this game will fill up Whitten Oval dramatically. When it does, only then I will truly know for sure; We’ve Only Begun A New Era Of Footy.
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