AFLW Round 1 – Western Bulldogs v Fremantle: Experiencing Unfamiliar Territory at the Western Oval

I still feel queasy every time I walk into Whitten Oval. It is not the natural habitat of a card carrying Swans man. I don’t even make it four metres into the Ground until I am reminded of the 2016 GF, via a montage on the big screen. Little Harry (aged 3) has been a Doggies fan since that day – threats to change my Will seem to carry little weight with my three foot tall Dictator. Oh well, at least it gives me the chance to see what this AFLW is all about?


Glorious sunshine belts down on the Dodson tribe as we make our way through the kiddie activities. I spy a few seats in the Alan Hopkins section of the grandstand – we reach the summit, only to find that 79% of the ground is hidden behind the new club HQ. Back down the stairs we head. Can you tell I don’t get to the Whitten Oval much?


A good crowd is building. Despite several warnings about getting lost in the crowd, Jack (my eldest, aged 5) storms ahead, oblivious to the fact that Mum and Dad are caught in the throng. A moment of panic. I move with speed I have not used since Bob Hawke was PM. We reunite and I deliver a spray that would have made David Parkin proud.


Finally we settle on the hill behind the sticks. I wander down to the fence to see Freo warm up. The skill level reminds me of every average Country footy training session I have seen or participated in. A dozen or so jets who always hit the target and the rest are slower, deliberate in their kicking actions and unsure. The ball hits the carpet a lot.


Unlike your average Country foot ground, there are no beer guts or stubbies being worn though. These are seriously fit athletes. I can only imagine what it must feel like to run on your toes.


Some light ‘entertainment’ breaks out on the hill. Old mate, most probably 5 VBs into his work and two of his mates are on their feet, mid way up the hill, as the game starts. Polite requests to sit down by a few polite souls nearby are ignored.


“I’ve been here since midday, so I am going to stand, so piss off”, old mate bellows.  Barbs are traded. At one stage, said gentleman claims a medical condition precludes him from sitting down. His medical condition shouldn’t account for him being an arsehole though. At one stage a nearby lady implores him to show some more ‘community spirit’. If this was 1986, some bloke in a flanno (and a packet of Winnie reds in his pocket) may have shown him some good old fashioned ‘western suburbs community spirit’ and taken care of him. Instead 3 security guards converge. My kiddies are getting uncomfortable. We head down the field, in search of better company.


Just before heading off we see Katie Brennan slot a majestic set shot goal from tight in the forward pocket. Absolute poetry in motion. The sweetest of sounds: Sherrin caressing Adidas. You will not see a better effort from the same spot all year.


Jack is on the lookout for Emma Kearney. Emma did an Auskick clinic with him last year, and has been a favourite ever since. Lucky for Jack, this girl knows how to find the pill. She seems to be wearing a heavy tag, but is doing it with aplomb.


Brennan is at it again, kicking one around the corner to start the second stanza. The crowd is latching onto the number 3. The Doggies are doing it in a canter. Harry is waving thundersticks with little care for the immediate safety of those around him.


The crowd is festive. It feels like December. The chat is light and easy and the Cans are warm by the time you get back to your viewing spot.


I sneak back to the fence for a closer look. Make no mistake, AFLW is a physical game. The players back into packs with reckless abandon and the tackles are laid with intensity. You can tell the girls who are recent converts to the game. They need more time and experience to work out how to protect themselves in the contest.


Freo start the third with more vigour and the score line closes. The Doggies keep just doing enough though to suggest they are not in any real danger.


The Dodson scallywags are growing weary. A few hours in the sun takes it out of little people who don’t eat the crusts on their sandwiches. We weave through the 8,000 odd punters and in no time we are back in the Palme Blue Camry, parked out front of the Plough Hotel. Thankfully the hubcaps are still on. We are back on the couch in nearby Seddon, for the final quarter.


Our first foray into the world of AFLW has been a success. It has been a good show. Great entertainment for the kids pre-game and a decent game of footy with 44 well tuned athletes giving it a red hot crack.


You can’t ask for more on a sunny Melbourne arvo.


Western Bulldogs      3.2     5.4     5.6     7.7  (49)
Fremantle                   0.0     0.0    3.3     3.5  (23)

Western Bulldogs: Brennan 3, Blackburn, Lochland, Toogood, O’Connor
Fremantle: Lavell 2, Sharp

Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Brennan, Kearney, Lochland, Lamb, Utri
Fremantle: Donnellan, Hooker, Lavell, Miller


Umpires: Guy, Young, Burns

Official crowd: 8,500 at Whitten Oval



About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Great work Craig. Intense having to shift to get better views and better company. And what a game to watch. You witnessed some Katie B magic and some of the Freo comeback. And you missed the crowds leaving. I just finished watching it on TV now, and it was mostly all Bulldogs with Freo stepping up to give themselves some pride. Can’t believe the Doggies are top of the ladder and a good percentage above Brisbane and Carlton. Such an interesting season.

    I can wear my Doggies AFLW membership with pride this week. Yeah

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Welcome to the Whitten Oval Craig. Lucky you living so close in Seddon and it’s no wonder your son barracks for the Bulldogs.
    I always felt the Dogs were disadvantaged not having their own AFL home ground in Footscray. With the VFL side and now the AFLW side playing there, it has been at least some compensation. We also have the Ballarat stadium now where we play a couple of AFL matches a year.
    I haven’t been as keen as some supporters for the AFLW, but they are starting to win me over. I think it is all the publicity about a Bulldog’s team after decades of being ignored as part of the VFL and then AFL competition. The Swans were treated the same when we used to share places in the bottom four on the ladder.
    So now I’m checking the fixture for the next AFLW Bulldog’s match and I’m looking forward to seeing my team run out again in the red, white and blue colours. Having a star forward and captain in Katie Brennan is also incentive to watch the Dogs play.

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