AFLW Round 4 – Western Bulldogs vs Carlton: Heroic! Historic! Anarchic! It’s the first ever AFLW Pride Game!

Western Bulldogs vs Carlto
Friday February 23, Whitten Oval, 7.05pm



“At first I was afraid, I was petrified. I kept thinking I could never live without you by my side. But then I spent so many nights just thinking how you’ve done me wrong. I grew strong. I learned how to get along.” – Gaynor and queer folk everywhere.


There are rainbows everywhere. On the umpires’ socks. On the players’ jumpers. On t-shirts, bags, and badges. On flagpoles, on the field, on signs and even on a little kid’s shorts.


The goal umpire’s little flags are rainbow flags. Kate Shier-Law’s mouthguard is rainbow coloured. I am wearing a Doggie’s Pride jumper. This is the first ever AFLW Pride Match.


Even before the first bounce, there’s celebration in the air as thousands flock to watch how the Daughters of the West will cope with the loss of their magnetic leader, Katie Brennan, hard on the heels of ACL injuries to top draft pick Izzy Huntington and the very skilful Daria Bannister. The LGBTI+ community is at Whitten in numbers to mark the occasion – and to get behind the Bulldogs after the Club – from the CEO, to the captains of the teams right down to the cheer squad threw their support behind a Yes vote in last year’s postal survey.


The Carlton AFLW playing roster – Darcy Vescio and Brianna Davey and many others including leading Blues fan groups, led the way in campaigning for equality. Blues officialdom declined to take a stand, instead choosing to issue a mealy-mouthed statement waffling on about a commitment to equality while failing to take a side in an issue about… equality. None of that was the fault of the Carlton players or the many, many Blues fans at Whitten for the Pride Game. Here we are, on a magnificent night – all footy fans together for what promises to be a ripping match.


Jackie Lynch and her partner Kate at the Pride Game.


There is a good old-fashioned 5-goal wind blowing across the ground toward the Barkly Street end. The Dogs, led by Ellie Blackburn, joined with the Carlton team to run through a beautiful joint banner. The guard of honour features the Bulldogs Pride coterie.


With the game underway, it is clear that while the Dogs have come to play, the Blues were off the boil.  First blood is to Bonnie “Turn Around Bright Eyes”* Toogood after the Dogs hassled and tackled their way to a free. Hannah Scott signalled her intent early, laying out Reni Hicks with a bump they felt back in Parkville. Moreover, pressure specialist Angie Gogos won two holding the ball decisions in the first quarter alone on her way to an 11-tackle game.


Cometh the second quarter – cometh the ice woman. Brooke Lochland wrote herself into AFLW history, kicking four goals in the second on her way to a league high of 7 in one game. I’m hoping that this famous footy moment from the former speed skater will lead to a rush of I, Tonya/AFLW memes*.


Lochland’s big night out was a combination of guile, speed, skill and a fanatically committed Bulldogs unit who dominated the game with pressure, possession and harder running. One telling moment had Lochland running on to a perfectly placed Kirsty Lamb kick and sprinting away from her opponents for the easiest of goals. Lochland’s heroics were ably supported by the crash and bash stylings of Bonnie Toogood who kicked three of her own. By the end of the second, the Dogs had kicked six, while the Blues were yet to trouble the scoreboard – a scoreboard, incidentally which failed to name the Bulldog’s opposition for almost half of the game, ironically leaving a blank space next to the 0.0.0.


Deep into the third, Lauren Arnell made Carlton’s coaching staff look a bit silly for dropping her for rounds 2 and 3 by kicking all of Carlton’s score for the night. Arnell was typically determined and clever; her second goal was all class. The Hosking twins worked very hard and Maddy Keryk threw her body around. Nevertheless, it was a dirty night for the Blues women. Libby Birch absolutely smothered Darcy Vescio, the Carlton star kept to three possies. Hannah Scott was having none of the Blues doing anything without her say-so and conversely Emma Kearney was doing whatever she wanted whenever she wanted to do it, with Ellie Blackburn not far behind her.


In the second half, the game turned into a romp – a parade of Pups even, as the Dogs younger brigade built on the work of the senior players. Bonnie Toogood had a terrific night and Monique Conti span and danced her way around players as she pushed the Dogs forward. Indeed, Contki Tour*** was unlucky not to finish the game with a couple of six-pointers herself. Another Pup, Ash Utri had her best game for the Dogs with 18 possies and Jenna Bruton popped up with a ripping, tumbling goal from very long range. Champagne football! Take that AFLW haters!


Deep in the last quarter, I am sure all of Whitten Oval googled “What’s the highest AFLW score?” followed with a quick look at AFLW winning margins. The Doggies took both of these records during this huge win. A few people probably even started to figure out the percentage boost to the Dogs might expect – a vital statistic in such a short season.


The Dogs ran, spread, and passed the ball around. They smashed the Blues in uncontested marks, indicative of the players’ commitment to the short passing game. In Brooke Lochland, the Dogs may have found the small forward they have been looking for. The Blues really missed Bri Davey – along with Dani Hardiman and Katie Loynes. Tayla Harris was also out, suspended for a punch. Still, it is not as if the Dogs were at full strength either. The Blues lack of midfield grunt and class stood out like Emma Kearney’s white scrunchy – blindingly obvious if you know what to look for.


The final siren goes and the Dogs celebrated. So did we. The girls gather to sing the song. They give debutant Kim Rennie the traditional (and kinda terrible) Gatorade shower. The Blues women look utterly deflated. This is the Bulldogs night. Hannah Scott, who is an out and proud player, looks thrilled. Katie Brennan hobbles over in her moonboot to embrace her team. High fives and hugs everywhere.


The Pride Game was for everyone who loves footy and hates prejudice. For me, it was a way of putting an emphatic full stop on that stupid postal survey. The survey that delivered so much pain to so many people. That horrible ballot on whether or not adults can marry the person of their choice. That crappy vox pop on human rights. But also, that amazing “Yes” campaign. That outpouring of support from millions of Australians. That eventual statistical, political, social and everlasting victory over the forces of joyless, narrow-minded bigotry. This was not just about the right to marry – it was another step on the road to human freedom and dignity. In addition, it was almost all worth it just to be able to see the pained look on Tony Abbott’s face when he attended his sister’s same sex wedding. That was pretty sweet.


I know that we have many battles left to fight. The prejudice faced by our trans and non-binary gendered folk is real and devastating. The AFL needs to get it together to welcome transwomen (and trans men) to play the sport they love. Hannah Mouncey is leading this fight and I cannot wait for her victory. The pride we feel in our community is a force to be reckoned with. All of this was in evidence at Whitten Oval on Friday night. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re drinking fancy beer.


When I get home and take off my new Bulldogs Guernsey, I see this word emblazoned on the back: YES.


The Western Bulldogs have been amazing. They know the culture they want. That’s a massive thing for me and makes me feel like I truly belong.”  – Hannah Scott, Dogs Defender, Legend.


“Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I. I will survive.”  – Gloria Gaynor and queer folk everywhere, again.


Pride Game – the teams get ready


WESTERN BULLDOGS    1.4         6.8      8.9      12.14 (86)

CARLTON                                0.0      0.0      2.1      2.1 (13)


Western Bulldogs: Lochland 7, Toogood 3, Blackburn, Bruton

Carlton: Arnell 2


Western Bulldogs: Brooke Lochland, Emma Kearney, Hannah Scott, Ellie Blackburn, Libby Birch

Carlton: Jess Hosking, Sarah Hosking, Lauren Arnell

Crowd: 8987


*AFLW Nickname Watch

**Tonya Harding was, of course, a figure skater. Nevertheless, I am sure she had to go pretty fast, right?

*** AFLW Nickname Watch


About Jackie Lynch

North Melbourne fan by birth, but Bulldogs for the AFLW and Darebin Falcons for the VFLW. I am a high school teacher in the Mighty West and a parent of two kids. Other interests include history, reading, running slowly and the Facebook Page Shit Brick Fences of Melbourne.


  1. Kasey Symons says

    Wonderful report Jackie, it was such a great night at WO and you’re right, there is still a long way to go with many things in the AFL and AFLW space in terms of acceptance but this was a good step in the right direction. Thanks for writing!

  2. Great report Jackie.
    “For me, it was a way of putting an emphatic full stop on that stupid postal survey” – so true. I hadn’t positioned the game like that, I think I’ve tried to forget that horrible opinion poll ever happened. A great way to finally bury it for good.

  3. Good stuff Jackie.

    Watching “Riot” on Sunday night was a good reminder that nothing changes without struggle and representation.
    Last Friday’s scene would have been unthinkable until recently.
    Much respect and thanks to those agitators for progress.

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