AFLW Round 1 – GWS v Gold Coast: I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

 

It was so good to be back. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an off-season less than that one.

 

Partly the sense of unfinished business after last year’s Grand Final loss. Partly the lacklustre cricket season. But mainly day after day of extreme heat, smoke haze and national politics as toxic as the air we were breathing.

 

But what kept us going through the long, hot, dismal summer was the thought that footy will return.

 

The date had long been marked in the calendar. Saturday 8th February at Blacktown.

 

Promoted as the GIANT day out. Our women’s footy team would be playing. Our mens’ footy team and our netball team would also be there. One GIANT family. Three teams, two sports, one club.

 

It was wet, and the fan day was moved to the GIANTS Academy building. More people than I was expecting, it was jam-packed. The room was flashing with selfies and autograph ink was flowing. The rain hadn’t deterred the diehards, and it was noticeable how many kids were running around.

 

Great to catch up with players. And with fellow supporters. Old friends re-acquainted as we prepared for a new season to come. We had a taste of the ultimate footy experience last year, and we’re hungry for more.

 

We have new leadership this year. Stephen Coniglio is men’s captain. Alicia Eva is AFLW captain. Jo Harten takes the reigns for the netty. The AFLW team had left to prepare for the game, but Cogs and Jo were full of enthusiasm for the season to come.

 

And then it was time to head over to the oval. Footy time!

 

While the vast majority of the crowd settled in to the grandstand, a few of us Orange Army diehards set out cheer squad up behind the goals.
I thought we were looking the better side early, and got a few inside 50s; but could only manage a behind. The Suns were ferocious with their tackling, and although we were getting the contested ball we weren’t doing enough with it. And against the run of play, the Suns got a goal on the board.

 

Nicola Barr had a fan club not far from us, “The Main Barr”. Just too far away for me to notice it was Brandon Jack and Big-Dog Sam Naismith. But out little group had the run of the southern hill. One of our number was dressed appropriately for the occasion, in flippers and a snorkel as the rain intensified.

 

The Suns had the only goal of the first half; but the GIANTS came out strongly in the third quarter, setting up chance after chance only to be repelled by the resolute Gold Coast defence. But eventually the deadlock was broken, as Aimee Schmidt marked and kicked truly to give us the lead.

 

“Here Come the GIANTS” echoed around the ground. For a mainly open ground, Blacktown has a surprisingly good echo acoustic. I’d missed that chant so much since September.

 

But although it was a strongly pro-GIANTS crowd, there was some decent Gold Coast representation. Some had made the trip for a slice of history. Props to those who travelled.

 

The GIANTS led by a point at the last change, and that’s how it stayed. It was defensive, it was physical, It was tight and tense. The game was in the balance until the end. The rain tumbled down, but clean possessions were not just hard because of the weather, but because of the relentless physical pressure.

 

The stats showed Gold Coast landed 80 tackles, the GIANTS 55. This was a hard contest, no quarter asked or given. But in the end, the GIANTS hung on for dear life. We got the win!

 

The GIANTS had won most of the stats. The GIANTS were the better side and deserved the win. But Gold Coast kept fighting, kept scrapping. They’ll win some games this year if they keep showing that determination.

 

Gold Coast Suns as a club need a circuit-breaker, something that will turn their morale around and restore self-belief. And maybe that circuit-breaker is female.

 

But for us GIANTS, we’ll happily take the win. First time in round one in AFLW we’ve been at home, and the first time we’ve opened with a win.

 

And for those who knock the 9-8 scoreline and say that they don’t like AFLW; that’s their loss. If they don’t appreciate the physical intensity and defensive desperation on display, they don’t truly appreciate what happened.

 

But who does appreciate what happened are the kids having a kick to kick behind the grandstand. And the rapidly-growing number of females, juniors and seniors, playing the game.

 

And as we left the ground, the rain got even heavier. The fires of summer extinguished; the waves of a new footy season blowing in.
It was so good to be back.

 

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But I always thought that I would see the footy again.

 

 

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About Michael Shillito

GWS Giants foundation member and cheer squad member. It's been quite an adventure so far, and the best is yet to come.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says

    A love a little Janes Taylor. Nice report. Hopefully you will have some games where you are not treated to weather hell.

  2. John Butler says

    Great work Michael.

    I noted that Brandon Jack wasn’t phased by the scoreline. He wrote approvingly of the contest and the structures and discipline. Fans concentrate on the scoreboard, whilst the practitioners are more focused on the process.

    Cheers

  3. “And for those who knock the 9-8 scoreline and say that they don’t like AFLW; that’s their loss. If they don’t appreciate the physical intensity and defensive desperation on display, they don’t truly appreciate what happened.”

    Michael, truer words have never been written.

    And I admire your stoicism in the face of such terrible conditions.

  4. Earl O'Neill says

    Mick Malthouse would have appreciated that scoreline.

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