It’s Friday night before the big game. The undefeated Brisbane Lions host the exciting Adelaide Crows
at the Gabba in Brisbane on the Gold Coast tomorrow. But I’m not going to get into the shambolic scheduling or Grand Final venue mystery here. It’s time to file some happysnaps and happy thoughts about the inaugural AFL Women’s season. I guess this is the last ‘Grand Final Eve’ we’ll have without a replay of the previous season’s premiership decider on FTA TV. This is the first, after all.
This is not a review of each of the 28 games played to date, nor a preview of the big game tomorrow – there are wiser footy heads than mine who can steer you in the right direction if that’s what you’re looking for. This is a snapshot of why the eight weeks of AFLW was so much fun for me. I could just leave the brilliant First Dog on the Moon cartoon here as Dog has nailed it. But I don’t barrack for the Western Bulldogs.
There was an upside to the 9 December fixture release … the season launch was barely 8 weeks away. In between times, I was home for Christmas in Perth so my beloved and I made the trek to Freo Oval to watch the Fremantle Dockers train as often as we could. The trips were usually after a spell at the beach and often ended with ice cream. It might have been summer in W.A. but it was never as hot as the games I watched in the opening and closing rounds here in Melbouren. Sheesh. Anyway, back in January I did my best to get to know the Freo playing list and snuck in an interview with coach Michelle Cowan for Chicks Talking Footy. The other Chick fortunate to have her club in the AFLW, Bec, lined up Adelaide coach Bec Goddard. I’m not sure if this was when CTF Bec first dubbed AFC Bec the “magical-unicorn-fairy-princess” but I’m pretty sure it was the beginning of a beautiful (possibly one sided) friendship. The Crows played the Dockers in Darwin in a scratch match that would prove to be the first of two games the Crows lost in the N.T. this year. Unfortunately the result was reversed when the premiership points were up for grabs in round four. Freo was a pre-season fancy for the flag for many. I dared to dream the women would kick off the trophy collection at
Fremantle Cockburn* but it was not to be. Onward and upwards. Getting to watch the squad train and play has been loads of fun. How good is footy? Seriously.
I had a ball (pardon the pun) at the season launch and grabbed some interviews at the Captains Call.
I was at the Collingwood v Carlton opening game at
Olympic Park Oval Princes Park. It was fabulous. I met a young couple, Tim and Jo (at her first game of footy) on the way to the ground. I suggested they share the free AFL(W) Record. The young vendor said “Oh, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty!” I wasn’t so sure about that. A couple of hours later the AFL CEO was apologising to fans who couldn’t get in. Oversubscribed. Just a tad. I had Mardi Gras flashbacks of the wall-to-wall RHI crowd waiting for Kylie to take the stage. The heat from the 25 000 + crowd came in waves and the atmosphere was delightfully celebratory. Darcy Vescio stole the show. What a night!
The next day was super hot, Melbourne style. Urgh. The kick to kick that I’m sure would have accompanied the launch of A Footy Girl’s Guide to the Stars of 2017 had to be taken inside. Only Collingwood Ruck Chick, Emma King, was allowed to play with the ball inside. We all know those rules.
The Western Bulldogs enjoyed their first game of the season. I felt like the only Docker waving the purple flag at Whitten Oval but as Ross Lyon says: feelings are not facts. It was a great night anyway. The queue for a happy snap with Susan Alberti was longer than the line to buy beer. Or icecream. All night. I attempted my first match report.
Fremantle’s first home game was a narrow loss to eventual minor premiers Brisbane. The third game was even closer; the first drawn AFLW game of 2017. In the mean time, Angela Pippos launched Breaking the Mould: Taking a Hammer to Sexism in Sport at the MCG and Clare Wright gave a fabulous speech. On the way to the launch I walked past the statue of Ron Barassi. As I walked past, a young girl of 9 or so ran past and glanced up at the bronzed RDB. I smiled at the thought of another Melbourne FC legend who might have a statue on the Avenue of Awesome outside the G one day. It’s not difficult to imagine Daisy Pearce in that place. I hope she gets to play an AFLW Grand Final on the MCG before her brilliant career ends.
My IWD celebrations rolled into the weekend as Fremantle won their first game.
Collingwood played GWS at Olympic Park on the Sunday morning of the long weekend in Melbourne. It was a high scoring game made even more enjoyable because of the friends I watched with. Sharing the game (including footy cards and inflatable oversized hand) with my mates’ 12 year old daughter was enormous fun. We shared stats and opinions and she collected autographs and anything else offered. Which, for the record, included free apples, gum, posters and … quinoa. I guess Collingwood know what they’re doing!
It was yet another hot day at the footy for the last round. I went to Casey Fields which seemed to be a long way from anywhere and reminded me of the dry north of Perth: no hint of water. I’d heard it was ‘windy’. Yet another quirky element of old ‘suburban’ style football; grounds with a grandstand on one wing and open to the elements on the other. Casey Fields is the same, with big trees, really big trees, down one end and seemingly endless open sky at the other. It was bloody hot. Melbourne kicked 10 goals straight before beating Fremantle by 54 points. Melbourne 11.4 (70) Fremantle 2.4 (16). They just needed the Pies to beat the Crows to make it to the GF. If only …
The first season of the AFLW ends on Saturday 25 March, 2017. The competiton has been fantastic. The players have been available in so many ways: TV, radio, print and myriad digital platforms. Thanks to the girls and women who helped build, shape and lobby for a national Aussie Rules league over the many many years. And to the women of AFLW 2017 – thanks. It was awesome.
*let’s never speak of this again.