AFLW Round 6 – Triple Header and Masters of the World

 Vic v Country Masters Game:

 

A day of women’s footy was upon us. And I was meeting up with all my footy mates to once again experience a group going to a game.

 

When I arrived early, I sat in Aisle 37 where I usually sit with Uncle Bob, Gary and an assortment of friends for the men’s season of St Kilda. Today, the seats in front were filled up with family and friends of the AFL Masters Women already playing on the field. It was Country v Metro, and I probably knew some of the players out there but there were no lists.

 

The people in front of me knew them, and it seemed I was smack in the middle of the Country mob. (I found out later it was both mobs). It was noisy and joyous and fun. The stadium was filling up with North and Collingwood jumpers for the first of the double header AFLW games, and we were all watching two 10-minute quarters of total dominance by Country. Metro had the Big V shirts, which always makes me think of Teddy Whitten Snr.

 

Masters in play, family and friends in place.

 

Last year I interviewed a number of women who played for the Masters in last year’s inaugural season.  Sarah Loh, a mad Saints supporter and the CEO of Southern Junior Football League, now based at RSEA Park, home of the St Kilda Football Club, had been telling me that this was the new frontier in women’s footy.  Girls and women now had a pathway, but the Masters’ players were women who had played footy over the last 30 years or came to it after a lifetime of longing and yearning.

 

Like all good clubs, the connections and the spirit of the AFL Masters Women’s was something to behold.  Women were playing now from the ages 35-60+. And families were supporting it.

 

It reminded me of the article published on site last year from new Masters’ player Kelly Mountey from Queensland, who wrote about playing footy for the first season and looking forward to the special moment where in the next season she would run out with her daughters. https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/finding-the-extraordinary-in-womens-football/

 

We heard on the site from Bridget Ryan about playing Masters’ or Super Rules at Coburg last year too. https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/youre-playing-footy-arent-you-scared-of-being-hurt/

 

There was no tackling in this Masters, but ‘hug and release’ says Sarah.

 

Belinda Bowey ran out for the Big V, I later found out from Sarah.  I first saw Belinda playing for the Sharks in 2015.  She is their longest serving player at 300 games. She keeps thinking of retiring from Division 1 and 2, but is still there keeping up with much younger players.  Now she knows she can continue to play the game she loves.  She’s now one of the best Masters’ players.

 

Belinda is the twin of Saints past player Brett Bowey who played from 1988-94, 85 games and kicked 79 goals. He was a ‘small courageous player recruited from St Kilda City”.

 

Belinda didn’t get drafted to St Kilda, she played for the team created from the St Kilda City family and friends circle and others who responded to advertisement and word of mouth to start the Sharks. Until last year, the St Kilda Sharks were part of the VWFL, and have a long and proud history of women’s footy. Shark player and administrator, and media officer for VWFL Leesa Catto, was writing about women’s footy on www.footyalmanac.com from 2008.

 

I wonder what Belinda makes of the AFLW.  I wonder how she would have gone had there been a league she could have played in. That’s the story of the Masters.  The what if’s, the girls and women who were not going on from kicking footy with their mates, neighbours or siblings. Who didn’t just go on to naturally do what they wanted.

 

Belinda is a legend at St Kilda Sharks and continues to make her own story as she goes into playing for the Masters.

 

The game on Saturday had only over 40’s, and many of the women who played last year in the Masters Carnival were priority players in this game. Each team had 18 players.

 

Sarah Loh thinks that the Masters’ women is the true story of the times. Young girls now have a pathway. The Masters offers that to generations of women who never had that.

 

Sarah coached Vic Metro. She didn’t play.  She wanted others to experience playing on the Docklands surface and to enjoy the atmosphere. Kara Brooke from Tasmania coached the Country team.

 

Lisa Ropere (Coach Kiwi on her Twitter feed) plays a lot of NSW games and was playing for the Country team.

 

Brenda Arnell, nicknamed Junior, has a daughter Lauren who captained the first AFLW Carlton side. Brenda is 68 years young. She didn’t play in this game but was around supporting her team mates. She’s probably back to practice this week.

 

Lyn Smith played for Country. Sarah Loh believes she was the first women to put an ad in the Sun newspaper in 1975 looking for women to start playing competitive football.

 

The Masters had 6 Clubs in 2018, their inaugural year.  In 2019, there are already 10 clubs.

 

Sarah tells me Nicole Livingstone and Susan Alberti chatted at the start of the event to both teams. Nicole seemed to be blown away talking to the mature players and hearing their stories. Sarah intends to recruit Nicole to Masters’ footy. Knowing Sarah, Nicole better buy some boots.

 

Collingwood v North Melbourne

 

Marvel Stadium

4.45pm

 

By the time the first of the AFLW games was played, the gang had all gathered. Kate O’Halloran and Jacinta sat behind Denise and I, and Kirby Fenwick, Kasey Symons and Gillian Dite in the row in front. Danae Gibson made her way to join us straight from the Geelong Cats v Fremantle game with a victor smile on her dial. It felt like a Footy Almanac function. Denise and I met Kirby at the inaugural function for the Western Bulldogs AFLW team. The rest I have met through the Almanac. Kass joined us, who I know from the Twitters sphere of women’s footy space, as did Barry Webster.  We knew each other in the women’s footy space but hadn’t met. It was fun putting faces to names and stories.

 

From left to right, Danae, Kasey, Kate, Kirby (front) Jacinta, Denise, Kass, and Yvette.

 

The Masters women and families were all around us. There were Pies and North supporters. Before the game started, I went to fill up my water bottle, only to wait behind a man filling up six bottles.  I asked him if he was working with the Masters’ team, and he replied he was with the North Melbourne membership service outside the stadium. I responded by saying I was a new member, and I hadn’t received anything from the Club.  I found myself outside in no time receiving my choice of a cap or keyring. I took the cap.

 

Which I wore for the rest of the day. It felt weird. Now I was a member of Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne, as well as St Kilda Sharks and Southern Saints. This is only possible in women’s footy. And it’s what I love about the atmosphere and the supporters.

 

When the footy started, the crowd were up and about.  Dana Bannister smacked one through for North, as did Mo Hope. A quick accurate start. Darcy Guttridge and Emma Grant pulled it back for the Pies.

 

I notice my Shark Brittany Bonicci is wearing Emma Kearney closely.  She did so all game. North are 2 points ahead at the first break.

 

There are 4 points to North, they are pressing but it’s rushed through or players are run down. Daisy Bateman gets one for North. Brittany Bonicci starts a play that gets the ball to Sarah Rowe and she pulls the margin back. Jasmine Garner, who played with the Pies (and Sharks) lays a terrific tackle and goals. North are ahead by 12 points at the main break.

 

I chat with Barry Webster about the season. He’s a Doggie supporter, as is Kass. Come to think of it, most of us were, at least for the women.

 

Bateman starts North off in the 3rd, but Jaimee Lambert gets a free and keeps the Pies in the games.  This is certainly the best I have seen them play this year.  They look lively, but Jenna Bruton smashes another through, as does Kaitlyn Ashmore.  North are now 31 points ahead at ¾ time.

 

The last quarter Collingwood fight back. Darcy Guttridge and captain Stephanie Chiocci both kick truly.  But it’s not enough and the Pies are still winless. North don’t get the huge percentage boost they need, but the win is at least there’s.

 

I take off the North hat.  I don’t sing the song but those around me do.

 

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

Marvel Stadium 7.15 pm

 

The weirdest thing about the start of this game is that the boys song was played when the Western Bulldogs came out.  The stadium made a woops.  Someone made a woops.  It really grated, and it shows how used to the women’s version we are. ‘The Boys of the West’ just doesn’t cut it for the AFLW team.

 

The story of this match was in the first quarter. Western Bulldogs scored zilch, and Melbourne wasted opportunities.  They scored one goal through Tegan Cunningham and 4 points through Newman and others.

 

Katie Brennan scored first in the second quarter willing her Dog’s forward. Naomi Ferris followed her captain. Melbourne were not to be silenced. Karen Paxman, a standout in this game, goaled. Bonnie Toogood shoots for goal but it’s Aisling Utri who snaps it across the line. Aisling McCarthy goals and puts the Western Bulldogs ahead by 6 points at half time.

 

There is an arm wrestle in the third quarter. Kirsten McLeod starts the Dogs push, but Maddie Gay answers. Brooke Lochland’s attempt at goal is touched. Eden Zanker pulls one back for the Demons. There’s one point in it at the last break, and Melbourne are desperate to keep their finals hopes alive, again.

 

The last quarter is again a tight struggle to the finish line. Monique Conti goals.

 

The crowd are noisy.  There have been 10,612 people attend today.  You can hear them screaming in this tight match. Tegan Cunningham goals for Melbourne from a great mark. Melbourne supporters are up an about as the siren sounds, with Melbourne winning this game by 1 solitary point.  It’s enough. It’s a win.

 

As the Melbourne song is played, our mob for the day say goodbye.  It’s been terrific to catch up with all the writers and broadcasters and editors and supporters of women’s footy.  It’s terrific to be part of other conversations. To be at a decent stadium all day with good facilities, wi-fi and toilet in good nick. And the roof was closed so it was comfortable to boot.

 

There were other conversations, that will be covered on another day. And there is only one more week before finals.  AFLW will be over and done too quickly once again. Next year, the Saints will be in it, and it will be different again.

 

I head home happily exhausted. And footy-ed out.

 

 

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About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it's about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.

Comments

  1. “Footy-ed out?” I find that hard to believe.
    Great stuff, Yvette. Huge weekend of AFLW ahead.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Smoker I can’t believe you didn’t comment on me becoming a North supporter! And I forgot to add that one of Masters players in front was trying to recruit me. I said I was too old but Junior Arnelk our paid to that. So I have to stick to being completely uncoordinated as my reason!

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