Before joining the Knox Women’s Football team three years ago, 17-year-old Claire McKenna had no idea there were other girls who “lived and breathed” AFL like she did.
“As a kid you wouldn’t find me playing barbies at lunch, you’d find me on the oval getting muddy and kicking the footy with the boys,” she told Mamamia.
“Rather than a conversation over the latest princess you’d find me involved in deep conversations over footy cards. Nothing much has changed except now it’s not considered a ‘tomboy’ thing, the AFL have finally recognised that it’s normal for girls to play too.”
Claire said she is “over the moon” about the inaugural national women’s competition kicking off in February 2017, and was “filled with pride” the team she barracks for, Melbourne, was one of the eight clubs awarded a licence to play this morning.
Claire McKenna on the field. Source: Supplied
"Can't wait to support the Demons team in 2017 alongside the men. Big things are coming for AFL footy next year."
They'll be clashing with Collingwood, Carlton, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Adelaide, GWS and Brisbane in the lead up to the September 3 final.
"This day has been a long time coming," AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said while making the announcement, "the establishment of a national women’s league will provide a platform to inspire young girls to reach for the stars and provide another avenue for fans of Australian football to enjoy."
He described the launch as a "revolution" and judging by the enthusiastic responses coming from fans, players and the clubs themselves, his certainly wasn't an overstatement.
Courtney Ugle, 19, who's been described as an "AFL star in the making", said footy saved her after her father died and mother slipped into drug abuse.
"I’ve said this plenty of times that footy saved me, footy was my way out. I took my anger and frustration and hate — whatever I had inside me — out on the footy field," the Fremantle playing told NITV recently.
"As corny as it does sound, it did definitely save me."
Watch her tell her story to NITV (post continues after video):
Brianna Davey, who formerly played soccer for the Matildas and is drafted to the Western Bulldogs, described today as an "incredible day in history".
"Words can not describe the excitement, congratulations to all teams involved and thank you for giving every little girl who loves this great game a chance to play AFL," she wrote in an Instagram post.
Brianna Davey playing VFL. Source: Instagram
Melbourne's Daisy Pearce told the media this morning that while she was grateful for the chance to play at an elite level, "it's more about the little girls around us today that will grow up believing they can be footballers".
Here's some of the reactions from social media:
Now we know who's playing one question remains... Who are ya gonna barrack for?