AFLW Round 3 – GWS v Gold Coast Suns: Per Angusta Ad Augusta

As usual, the rain came tumbling down when the GIANTS women were playing at home. But for the diehards, not even the wildest weather will stop us. Finally, we were going to be let in.

 

Our GIANTS women have faced adversity in the last year. The gates were locked as they let a four-goal lead slip in last year’s quarter final; as the season was cut short.

 

Separated around the country as the pandemic shut our lives down. Unable to train together for many months.

 

Then as the pandemic clustered around Sydney over Christmas, they packed up their bags away from their homes and livelihoods to camp in Albury and Adelaide.

 

An Irish recruit, Brid Stack, joined them, only to go down in a trial game against the Crows; her AFLW career probably over before it started.

 

They travelled to Perth for the opening round against Fremantle, finding out at half time that a lockdown was being imposed in Perth. They got to their base in Adelaide, then flew home to a week of isolation.

 

At the last minute, they had a game; with the Crows making the trip to Blacktown. But in a bizarre health ruling, the game was ordered to be played behind locked gates; notwithstanding that 30,000 had attended the Big Bash final the night before. But alas women’s footy doesn’t have the same political clout as men’s cricket in these parts.

 

 

But the biggest tragedy, which cuts deep in the club, was the passing of Jacinda Barclay. Cinda had an illustrious sporting career, representing Australia in baseball World Cups and playing American football before making her mark in footy.

 

A much-loved team-mate to the GIANTS squad; and a fan favourite. Seemingly always with a smile on her face, and always having time for the supporters. But none of us knew what was really going on.

 

The first AFLW player to pass away. The first fallen GIANT, male or female. Cinda will never be forgotten at our club.

 

The sacrifices our women make to play at the elite level are enormous. Covid has played havoc with the AFL and the clubs’ solvency; but even taking that into account, it’s something our game hasn’t got right yet.

 

 

And the players had gone through all this without the supporters. We weren’t there. We weren’t allowed to be.

 

But finally in round 3, the gates were opened. Finally we could be there; not just to watch a game of footy, but for our players to see that they were not alone.

 

 

Most of the crowd elected to take the shelter on offer in the western grandstand. The Orange Army, the cheer squad, set themselves up behind the southern goals. It’s a familiar spot; but they weren’t going to see much of the play, with a stiff southerly buster sending the ball to the railway end consistently throughout the match.

 

But even with a small crowd, the atmosphere was pumping. The Orange Army was in voice, and in the grandstand there was a buzz of excitement. First gamer Georgia Garnett, who grew up not far away, had brought plenty of fans with her.

 

People watching. Noise being made. Such a contrast to the desolate scenes of locked doors that we saw on TV last week. This is what it should be.

 

And the players responded. The GIANTS were kicking with the wind; and goals to Taylah Davies and Alicia Eva got the home team to a handy lead. ‘Here Come The GIANTS’ came the roar of the crowd. After being away for so long, the magic was back.

 

 

Two unanswered goals in the first quarter. At three quarter time, it was still two goals to none. It had been a scrap, but no-one minded. To be back at the footy again after so long was enough. The colour and the atmosphere of the live experience can’t be matched.

 

If we’ve learned anything from this last year, watching so much sport with no fans in attendance; we’ve learned just how much having a crowd matters. Tarps and holograms and piped crowd noise doesn’t cut it.

 

 

The clock ran down. The Suns got a late goal, avoiding the ignominy of being held goal-less two weeks in a row. But this was the GIANTS’ day. And there was no shortage of passion as the song sounded out; firstly by the fans, and then by the players as they formed a circle on the field.

 

A win forged in adversity. A month in hubs, a week in isolation, a game in a desolate echo chamber. But finally they’d caught a break. Per angusta ad augusta, through difficulty to honour.

 

 

Who knows where the season will go from here. But if the GIANTS are in a position to challenge for the finals, coach Alan McConnell need only say one sentence, and the players will respond.

 

‘Do it for Cinda.’

 

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY     2.3     2.5     2.6     2.6     (18)
GOLD COAST                               0.0     0.1     0.1     1.2     (8)

 

GOALS
Greater Western Sydney:
Davies, Eva
Gold Coast: Stanton 

 

BEST 
Greater Western Sydney:
Parker, Beeson, Bennetts, Eva, Stephenson, Tully
Gold Coast: Drennan, Ahrens, Stanton, Levi, Surman

 

INJURIES 
Greater Western Sydney:
Nil
Gold Coast: Nil

 

Reports: Nil

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE

 

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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. John Butler says

    Michael, as you point out, the GWS women have endured a lot before they even got to play a game.

    I’m glad you got to see them live for this game. As to what the rest of the season holds, who can tell?

    Let us enjoy what we can, while we can. The efforts of the players deserve no less.

    Cheers

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