AFLW Round 1 – Carlton v Collingwood: This was no exhibition match

Carlton vs Collingwood

7.40pm, 3 February
IKON Park, Melbourne

Kasey Symons


I never grew up wanting to play football. I pretty much hated sport. PE class at school was a challenge and to this day I cannot stand going to the gym. Who am I kidding? I don’t go to the gym.


I was born to be a spectator.


I rocked up to Princes Park about hour before bounce down on Friday night’s first game of the inaugural AFLW Season to get a decent spot and lucky I did as a 24, 000 strong crowd packed the ground early, forcing the AFL to lock the gates and turn away many fans. Perhaps 2000.


Gil himself even stepped out to the concourse and apologised to the punters (mental note everyone – get to AFLW games early!).


I watched the two teams run through their warms-ups in the summer evening as I counted down the clock – it was still around 25 degrees with the sun bearing down. It looked sweaty out there.


As the crowds piled in, I wondered how many of the thousands of women coming to watch this historic event were looking at that scene in front of me with slight pangs of jealousy or regret – wishing that they had the chance to be out there rather than relishing being in the stands like myself.


The game started and the hairs on my neck didn’t settle until the final siren. When Jasmine Garner kicked the first goal at the eight-minute mark, my mate said to me, ‘You’ll never see that again,’ The first goal, of the first game, of the first season of this competition. How amazing.’


Carlton responded quickly with a Darcy Vescio special. A Captain’s goal from Lauren Arnell followed. Then another to Vescio out from the back of the pack before the first break.


I wasn’t sure who to cheer for but I quickly got on the Blues bandwagon as the continued to dominate, keeping the Pies to the single goal for the game and poster girl goal-snagger, Mo Hope out of the contest.


I watched these women running around, playing this game I have loved to watch my whole life and for a moment I got it, why some women have wanted to be more than spectators and be out there on the ground, slapping the Sherrin on their boot. These women made it look like wicked fun.


I wonder if I had seen women play when I was younger I would have been more interested in playing the game, because after the game – all I wanted to do was grab the footy and act out Vescio in front of goal like my brother used to do when he was pretending to be Matthew Lloyd.


But the future of football is not for me, it’s for all of the young girls who went along to the game with their favourite female player’s number painted on their cheek and on the back of guernseys. They can watch these athletes and make the choice. They can do whatever they like, and that’s what matters.


The Blues put the Pies away in the season opener of the inaugural AFL Women’s season in a highly physical contest. It set the tone for a season full of pressure, x-factor and the capacity to bring together football fans in an entirely new way. The best part of it was, that this was no exhibition game. This was for premiership points and we have another three games this weekend to enjoy, as well as a whole eight round season.


We are all going to see some pretty special things – maybe even special enough to motivate me to bounce the footy around.



CARLTON                  3.0    4.1    6.1    7.4  (46)?

COLLINGWOOD        1.2    1.4    1.5    1.5  (11)



Carlton: Vescio 4, Arnell, Davey, Jakobsson

Collingwood: Garner



Carlton: Davey, Exon, Vescio, Jakobsson, Arnell, Keryk

Collingwood: D’Arcy, Chiocci, Barden, White 

FAlmanac banner sq


About Kasey Symons

Kasey Symons a writer and PhD Candidate at Victoria University. Her research is focused on gendered issues in sports cultures (primarily AFL) at a fan level. Kasey is a born and raised Victorian who barracks for the West Coast Eagles and yes, she knows that is weird.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Excellent stuff Kasey. Perfect report . It was a first of the first on so many levels… radio, tv coverage, in all papers, websites … the love is being shared and reflected. Crowd was wonderful last night… no boozy people, all ages and there to watch history being made. Thought Pies were not as clean in their passing and too Moana Hope dependent. They will come screaming back next week. Also for their home game, crowds were predominantly Blues. The Pies girls needed their Collingwood army…and perhaps President!

  2. Kasey Symons says

    Thanks Yvette :)
    I will remember last night for the rest of my life!
    Very interested to see how the Pies recover to go into next week and if Mo can fire up, and yes, we definitely saw what Mr. McGuire’s priorities were. Am I surprised? Not at all.

  3. Well done Kasey. And well done Melbourne. What a wonderful crowd, proving once again that this town is the sporting capital of Australia – by miles.

  4. Excellent report, Kasey.
    I was at the Hoodoo Gurus twilight show just down the road at the zoo. But when I got home I watched the replay of the match. Loved it.

  5. bring back the torp says

    First class report.

    “They can watch these athletes and make the choice. They can do whatever they like, and thats what matters”.

    “In a highly physical contest”.
    The heavy congestion & flooding made it too physical -and, potentially, dangerous.
    For the AFLW & AFL,. we need to go back to two on the bench only, NO interchange -only subs (the ORIGINAL reason Sheedy & the AFL promoted interchange was to replace injured players -not for tactical rotations.
    Players can have their rests in the pockets. Fatigue is normal & expected in sport. Eliminate interchange, refreshed players wont be able to do continuous sprints up & down the ground after about 1-1 1/2 qtrs.

  6. Equally dangerous for men and women BBtheTorp?

  7. bring back the torp says

    Yes, equally dangerous for men and women -which is why I wrote above “..For the AFL & AFLW, we need to go back to two on the bench only, NO interchange -only subs…”.

    Barassi, Sheedy, Parkin, Pagan, Jeans, Matthews, Bartlett, Healy & other experts have, at times, all complained about congestion -& its effects on the game from a purely aesthetic viewpoint. Fans like to see free-flowing, long kicking, contested high marking, one-on -one style football -and full forwards regularly kicking bags of goals

    The AFL’s own commissioned expert, Prof. Norton from SA, provided a preliminary Report to the AFL about 3 years ago on congestion. He advised there was a record number of bumps & collision injuries, due to the heavy congestion -& suggested interchange reductions be introduced to reduce congestion & injuries ie allow natural fatigue to slow the players down & restrict flooding. Players are heavier, stronger, faster than ever -& are therefore hitting much harder, & more often.

    The WB in 2016 in one game did an AFL record of 155 tackles in one game (for one team).

    Apart from the good Professor, any year 9 student knows the old Physics equation: Force = Mass x Velocity. Because AFL & AFLW players are having so many rests on the bench, when they come back onto the oval, they are sprinting further, for longer -&, therefore, can arrive at more contests, and hit their opponents harder & more often. The unlimited interchange is an OHS issue, causing more injuries from excessive numbers of tackles, bumps, & collisions.

    Why haven’t we heard more publicly from Prof. Norton’s studies, who is still employed by the AFL?

    For 90 years, players simply rested in the pockets, two subs. only who could not be rotated. Up until 2000, average number of interchanges was about 30 per team per game. After 2000, interchange numbers exploded, and congestion started becoming a massive problem (even Demetriou famously & publicly complained about Sydney’s ugly flooding game style in 2004. Chief Commissioner Fitzpatrick has also in recent times said he want to see more attractive, less congested football).

    Why have the NRL reduced interchange to 8 per team, from 10 -& speculation it will be reduced further? (Hint -NRL want more, quick little blokes who can survive in the game -why?)

    Why don’t RU & soccer have interchange, only substitutes?

    Why has the AFL in the last 2 weeks secretly trialled in practice matches involving St Kilda, Sydney, & Geelong, the U 18 TAC Rule to prevent congestion ie each team must ALWAYS keep 2 players in their forward 50 mtr arcs? But its Charter, for the Rules Commitee, says players should be able to run anywhere on the field.

    The AFLW will be played in summer, in sometimes very hot (over 28 degrees) and/or humid (think about Brisbane!) conditions. Tom Wills wrote in 1858 that our code of football was a winter game.
    Do we really believe it is good that AFLW players are expected to continuously sprint up and down the ground to flood -on the world’s largest sporting arena? How will the inevitable sweaty hands & foreheads & extreme exertion from sprinting in these conditions affect their skill levels & concentration?

    Can heavy breasted women play in the AFLW, if they are constantly required to run up and down the oval (7km -18kms per game) -which the interchange & flooding game style demands.
    It is well known that elite middle distance runners are slim and small chested -as distance running can be painful (and possibly damage the breasts) for hbw. Do we want to eliminate larger body shapes from the AFLW?
    Serena Williams-type body shapes would be fine for the pre 2000, tradtional stay-at-home FF’s & FB’s.

  8. Steve Fahey says

    Well written Kasey. Your point re the number of young girls present and the (well overdue in my opinion) opportunities and dreams this competition opens up is very well made.

    I went with my daughter and one of her buddies. Business as usual for Collingwood games. What was remarkable for us was that my wife/Holly’s mum Sandra, who has as little interest in footy as anyone I know, came to her first game for about 8 years. We all thoroughly enjoyed both the occasion and the match, despite the result. There was a strong sense of history in the evening. And as noted, there was not a hint or aggression or angst in the crowd.

    The intensity of the contest was fantastic. The Blues were very impressive, their ball movement and overlap running were very slick. Vescio and Davey were outstanding. The Pies won plenty of ball and you couldn’t fault the effort but we couldn’t move it purposefully or quickly and as Yvette noted, insisted on bombing it to a usually outnumbered Hope. It looked a far bit like the Pies’ men 2013-2015, slow ball movement then bombing to an outnumbered power forward (Travis Cloke/Moana Hope) and allowing the opposition to play an extra defender without making that extra accountable or having an alternative plan. It was their first real game together so I’m sure there will be improvement, especially if they can maintain that level of effort.

    I’ll be back, and I think a lot of others will be too.

  9. jan courtin says

    Nice piece, Kasey. Looking forward to more write-ups, perhaps?

    BBtheTorp: I’m certainly no expert in heavy breasts – from a physical or psychological perspective – but I wonder how many kilometres Serena runs in her games, and for that matter, the many other top female athletes with decent sized breasts? Serena doesn’t appear to have her breasts strapped tightly, as I’ve noticed is perhaps the case with women playing footy; the strapping I assume is more to do with the physical contact.

    Which begs the question: What about men who have large dicks? Can they run as far as those who are not as well endowed?

    I would have thought that the weight overall of any athlete is what matters when “running up and down the oval”, (hence ruckmen are usually slower than the smaller guys) and that the size of women’s breasts doesn’t really come into it.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong!

  10. bring back the torp says

    If women are expected to flood in the AFLW (which is what we have seen in the initial trials & first 2 games) on the world’s biggest playing arena, then they might be jogging/sprinting for 7-18 kms.

    Female Olympic distance runners are slim. For a very good reason. Do you know any Olympic distance runners with a Williams-like body shape?

    Serena Williams would run nowhere near 7-18kms.

  11. Person with a large ..... says

    Jan, yes strapping is required for us types with “imposing” …

  12. Cat from the Country says

    Great story Kasey.

    Let’s get it right.
    We used to have 18 players on the field and the two on the bench were not interchanges, they were the 19th and 20th man.
    They only came on when someone was injured.
    Yes players rested in the pockets as back then there was no congestion, so they stayed around the pocket.
    Not all changes have been for the better

  13. Peter Flynn says

    BB The Torp,

    Force doesn’t equal mass x velocity.

    Momentum does.

    Force equals mass x acceleration.

    This is Newton’s second law of motion.

  14. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Onya Kasey !!
    I watched with my daughter and remembered the question she asked me 8 years ago: “Dad, can I play for Collingwood?” Now she can. Watershed moment in AFL history.

  15. BBTP- Thanks for taking such a interest in the body shape of women. I believe we’ve been subject to such interest since time immemorial. Perhaps just worry about your own breasts, ours are doing just fine.

  16. Paul Spinks says

    Good read, Kasey:
    I enjoyed this match from start to finish – the opening bounce was a cracker.
    I hope this energetic style of footy becomes a template for the women’s league.

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