AFLW Round 1 – Adelaide v Brisbane: Missing your jockey in a one horse town

Missing your jockey in a one horse town


Adelaide versus Brisbane

6.45pm, Saturday 3 February

Norwood Oval, Adelaide


Dave Brown


It’s often said that the comparative appeal of spectator sports in Adelaide is the ‘one horse town’ effect. Major cricket attendances in Adelaide are second only to Melbourne, comfortably beating Sydney, despite the Emerald City having 3.4 times the population. Similar lines could be drawn for footy attendances. Heck, we still get 30-40,000 for SANFL men’s Grand Final.


While I accept the basic one horse town thesis (i.e. that larger markets have a concomitantly larger range of leisure time activities available to them, combined with greater difficulty in accessing stadia means that on a per capita basis they are significantly less likely to regularly attend major sporting events), it is, not surprisingly, rather patronising to a culture of spectating which effectively saved the VFL and its clubs from going broke. But, hey, we’re used to that.


With a weekend featuring two BBL and one WBBL final (36,310 on Friday and 40,732 on Sunday afternoon), the Adelaide 36ers playing at the same time as the BBL final (7,336 in an 8,000 capacity stadium) and the Adelaide United men playing at the rectangular Coopers Stadium at the same time as the AFLW match (7,976 in attendance there) – for a one horse town, that poor nag is being ridden into the ground.


And then there’s Norwood, the beauteous Parade!


The Parade filling nicely 45 minutes from game time as seen from the Edwin T Smith Stand


The kids and I hustle through our Saturday swimming and grocery outings and manage to get to the Parade in time to catch the second half of the SANFLW Grand Final rematch between the mighty Redlegs and North Adelaide. Norwood has control of the match by that stage and run out a four goal win. In addition to the impressive form of Crows listed Marijana Rajcic (22 disposals, seven tackles and a goal), most notable about this game is the Norwood debut of former Opal and Olympic Silver Medallist, Jo Hill.


At 44, (yes, that’s right, 44) Hill admirably holds down the centre half forward post for the Redlegs. She must be the oldest state league debutant ever and is clearly one of the best movers on the ground. Norwood must be thrilled to be able to bring so much ability, experience and leadership into the squad.


As a junior representative game and a junior footy clinic follows (one of my charges from last year’s Ardtornish Primary Year 2/3 footy team is interviewed on the big screen), the Parade slowly but surely fills. First the shade of the 89-year-old Edwin T Smith Stand and then all parts of the outer. By game time the ground is effectively full. Sure 20,280 once filled the stadium in 1971 but in 2018 11,120 is pretty much a full house.


The make-up of the crowd is similar to last year’s AFLW games – diverse but heavily weighted towards the young and female. It positively burbles with excitement, particularly aided by the liberal distribution of those cardboard clappy-fan thingies (after the match, the lass collects about 30 of them. I have no idea what she intends to do with the blessed things). Noticeable this year is the number of tween and teenage girls wearing footy gear – not Crows gear (there were already plenty of them), but that of their local or state league club. The garb of participants, not just spectators.


The premiers enter the field to a rapturous reception


Soon after the premiership flag is raised on Norwood’s comparatively petite flagpole, Brisbane runs out to a muted reception, followed by a hero’s roar for the Crows. They are a big deal in this one horse town but it is immediately apparent that our jockey, Erin Phillips is missing. The additional (but already known) absence of defensive leader, Courtney Cramey is also of concern.


The Crows start the better kicking into a surprisingly persistent breeze but are unable to get a score on the board. Conversely, despite a clearly calf-strung right leg, Sabrina Frederick-Traub marks everything that comes near her. Far too big for the dour of defenders tried on her, Frederick-Traub’s 10 marks are double those of anyone else on the field. Sophie Conway grabs a goal on debut and the Lions lead 1.2 to 0 at quarter time.


With more to and fro, the Crows eventually, but briefly, break through Brisbane’s defensive structures, thanks in large part to the skilful possession and classy disposal of Ruth Wallace (also on debut). Eloise Jones (another debutant) runs onto a Varnhagen kick inside 50 for the Crows’ first, followed soon after by Wallace clearing a contest to bag her maiden goal.


Ruth Wallace is worth noting. A W-league convert, she was a dominant player in Norwood’s SANFLW premiership in 2017 and even more so during the Adelaide Footy Women’s Division 1 season as leading goal kicker. Her grandfather a Wuthathi man from Cape York and her grandmother a Lardil woman from Mornington Island, Wallace also participated in Rob DeCastella’s Indigenous Marathon Project, completing the New York Marathon in 2014.


At 25, Wallace seems a ready-made AFLW player and it’s now up to the Crows to find the best way to use her. And, yes, smug alert: I was tweeting about her 12 months ago.


But back to the footy, the crowd’s pitch reaches a new register as the ever reliable Chelsea Randall is awarded a dubious mark but a correct 50 when the ball is piffed back at her Tom Brady style. With that goal the Crows take a 10 point lead at half-time. The umpiring across the game seems poor – players are repeatedly diving on the ball, taking out standing opponents’ legs (on two occasions receiving a high contact free kick), executing unpenalised sling tackles, and the interpretation of the last disposal rule is making a good rule, that will quickly become a non-issue, look bad.


Nonetheless, I catch myself regularly looking around at a full Parade. To be honest, until last year I never thought I’d see that again. As old and curmudgeonly as I may be becoming, this brings me great moments of joy. I’m not sure what it means for the future of this club or its ground, but it’s not nothing.


The second half does not make a Crows heart sing with joy, however. Brisbane reintroduce a lock on the Crows’ ball movement, forcing repeated turnovers, while able to link up effectively across the ground, finding players in sufficient space to execute the mark. With Perkins well-held and the best player in the competition out injured, it’s not clear how the Crows can move the ball forward with sufficient frequency and they don’t.


When the ever-dangerous Kaitlyn Ashmore kicks a goal lateish in the last quarter to put the Lions more than a straight kick in front, the wind is knocked out of the Parade. All that’s left to do, once the Lions take their celebration into the changerooms, is for families to go onto the ground for a kick and catch. A top way to cap off a top day in this one horse town, even if the Lions were far too good in the end.


Kick to kick as the Edwin T Smith overlooks


Adelaide              0.0          3.1          3.1          3.1          (19)

Brisbane              1.2          1.3          3.6          4.7          (31)


GOALS  Brisbane: Wuetschner 2; Conway, Ashmore.

Adelaide: Jones, Wallace, Randall.


BEST      Brisbane: Frederick-Traub, Lutkins, Zielke, Stanton, Ashmore, Wuetschner

Adelaide: Randall, Marinoff, Varnhagen, Foley


UMPIRES: Andrew Crosby, Trent McPhee, Cameron Dore              CROWD 11,120


OUR VOTES         Frederick-Traub (Bris) 3, Lutkins (Bris) 2, Randall (Adel) 1


About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Excellent Dave yes a full parade a sensational sight ( geez on some of the Crows face book pages the whinging just extraordinary re comfort blah blah give me character and history every time) As a experienced maggot I was disgusted with the umpiring the number of unpenalised sling tackles was incredible.The fact females haven’t grown up playing footy so don’t turn instinctively to protect themselves means it is even more important to pay the free kicks

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Thanks Dave,
    I felt I was with you all by your description of the game and the ground, and learned a little about the game and the people in it through your piece. thanks heaps

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Great photos and report Dave, The Parade looks sensational, further emphasising the point that Collingwood’s AFLW team should be playing at Victoria Park instead of the souless Holden Centre.
    As always, those Adelaide attendance figures for the various sports are super impressive.

  4. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the read and comments, all. The other thing that was grinding my gears, Rulebook, was players constantly being allowed within the protected zone, particularly behind the player. A number of players were run down from behind because there was a (non-following) player just a couple of metres behind them when they went to play on.

    Is VFL footy played at Vic Park these days, Luke? If so, presumably there’s little reason that it wouldn’t be up to AFLW standard. Although it by all anecdotes wasn’t the friendliest place for visitors, it would add something special and draw in many sentimental Collingwood fans.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Dave, Collingwood’s VFL team will play 6 home games at Victoria Park, with the rest at the Holden Centre. It’s a wonderful place to see VFL footy, and given that, unlike the Holden Centre, it has 2 grandstands and an actual atmosphere, would be an ideal AFLW venue.

  6. John Butler says

    Nice work Dave.

    It’s those young women in their various footy outfits who are the real story of AFLW, regardless of what happens week to week.

    It’s telling that the teams playing at grounds with a real football heritage are also drawing the best crowds (a certain shiny new stadium in the west excepted, of course).


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