Sounding the siren for junior footy.

As the desolation of the Collingwood Grand Final loss washed over us at the MCG last year, along with the river of beers and tears, my daughter said to me, ‘Mum, I can’t WAIT til next footy season. I mean MY footy season. I can’t wait to play footy again!’

 

‘Footy’s back!’ A few weeks ago, this phrase caused some consternation, with AFLW supporters pointing out that footy had been back for quite a while, actually. But I’m throwing it back out there: it’s the start of the junior footy season for many young players this month. Across town, parents are signing up for orange duty and players are cleaning off, buying or finding their boots, whether it’s for practice matches or round one of the season.

 

Last year, our daughter began playing footy with the local Under 14s team. After her first game, in which she marked in front of goals and kicked truly, she came off the field, saying, ‘That was the best fun ever! I can’t wait for next week!’

 

I loved playing footy as I grew up. As the only girl in the neighbourhood, I loved the tackling, the hustle for the mark and the challenge of the unpredictable bounce. We played in a pack in the park next to our house, just a rag-tag bunch of kids, rather than a proper team. There were no places other than that for a girl to play in those days; well not that I knew of.

 

As for the notion of a girl playing football, my mother said to me recently ‘Oh, I don’t think you’d have been any good as a footballer, Anna. You’d have been hopeless.’ The words hit me like a gut punch. Really? Good or not, I would have loved to try.

 

These days, female football has grown to 26 per cent of all participation, ‘with 127,115 women and girls pulling on the jumper in season 2018’, according to AFL statistics. Apparently there are now ‘1,000 dedicated female club teams across Victoria’.

 

On my way to the first ever AFLW game at Ikon Park in 2017, as fans streamed through the streets of Carlton, a memory startled me: my first school detention had been for kicking a football on the oval when I was in Year 7. I was told it was ‘unladylike.’ I wonder what Tayla Harris, Carlton’s gun kick, would say to that? Or Erin Phillips, this year’s AFLW best and fairest?

 

The lock-out crowd at Ikon Park that night seemed to cheer every goal as a celebration. Never mind that my team lost. We were all side by side that night, the crowd of fans and the players caught up in the possibilities, the peripheral nature of women’s sport coming to centre stage.

 

Last year, we had two grand finals in our orbit. Collingwood lost the big one in the last couple of minutes, but our family still scored a 2018 footy club premiership–it was the first ever girls’ premiership win for my daughter’s junior football club, St Kilda City. While it’s not the highest level of footy competition in the land, it was a premiership win, and some history, setting down a story for the future.

 

This weekend’s practice games are extra special for us: our boy, injured in the last game of his U12 season back in 2014, is taking to the field again in the game that he loves. Four and a half years has been a long road back, but there’s a path there for him again, just as there is now a path for his sister.

 

Junior footy is back in April. Image (c) Lyndal Williams

 

Update: Arggghh, son injured at training. His return to the field will have to wait another few weeks.

 

About

Pies fan, sharing black and white days at the footy with my family. Observer and writer, with hints of nostalgia.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Anna,
    loved this piece. And the kicking style of your daughter is terrific. Now it’s your turn to shine in the AFL Masters where newbies and old footy players are gathering. Lauren Arnell’s mother is playing, at 65, she’s nicknamed ‘Junior’. It shows it’s never too late to prove your mother wrong!!

    I feel for your son, wanting to play and being injured would be no fun. I am a St Kilda Sharks fan, so i know that you will now have new facilities and some protection if you play junior games at the Peanut Farm Oval.

    Keep writing. You do that well too.

  2. Hi Anna, wonderful stories. What a great night that was at Princes(s for a night??) Park back in 2017. Good luck with your footy family. Lets hope detention for kicking the pill has been ABOLISHED for ever!

    Looking forward to more tales.

    cheers, Mick

  3. Fiona Kerr says

    Hi Anna, thanks for this piece. Your mum was wrong. There are 3 footballers in my house in u10s, u15s and o35s. None of us are very good at it, though the kids get better every year. But my 12 year old reminded me why we all play when she said “Playing footy makes me feel alive” , and I’m so glad we all have the opportunity to do it.

  4. Yvette, the idea of masters footy really does sound appealing! I may well check it out. Thanks for your comments. (I tried to email you last week; not sure if that worked, so commenting here.)

    Fiona, thanks for your supportive comments too! I love that footy makes your daughter feel alive.

    Mick, they better not give detentions any more. And all girls of course should have the school uniform option to wear shorts! Cheers, Anna

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