I heard something on the AM radio yesterday morning that made my neck tense.
It wasn’t another erectile dysfunction ad or a pre-paid funeral plan. Instead, this old mate announcer sighed and said:
“There’s no AFL on in Melbourne this weekend.”
Catch up, mate. Because not only was there an AFL game, but there was a history-making one, broadcast live on Channel Seven, across the ABC and on Triple M. A game that subsequently smashed the TV ratings. And a game that I went and saw in the flesh because I had to see it for myself.
The AFL Women’s All-Star match.
The best female players from across the country, divided into two teams: the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons. In 2017 there will be a league of eight clubs (but there are no fully-formed teams yet as the player draft is in October). So this blockbuster was a taste of what we will see from the first actual women’s league next year.
It was in an atmosphere that rippled with so much excitement that I had to whip out the phone and live stream what I was seeing.
ICYMI, there were mascots and those giant crepe banners they run through and the smell of hot chips in the air and it was everything football should be. But the question on everyone’s lips was: will the people come?
Oh yes. The people came.
Over 6000 people, actually. And it was little girls, little girls everywhere I looked.
I could see them. They sat on the hill in the drizzle and cheered and clapped. They nestled into the stands with banners and streamers, screaming the players’ names. They hung off the fence – some wearing jerseys over dresses – so close to the players that they could almost touch them. Young families and couples, weather-worn oldies, even a few famous footballing faces in there among the fans.
— jocelyn pies (@jocelynseip) September 3, 2016
And… the people watched at home.
Did they ever. Forget the glass ceiling; this is the glass TV getting smashed. It was the biggest Saturday night of year for Channel Seven; the game outperformed all Saturday night home and away AFL matches in Melbourne this year. The audience peaked at 1.05 million with an average of 746k nationally. Boom.
The players were all that and a bag of hot chips.
Holy smokes, these girls can play. They were like greased lightning out there. I was stunned at the speed and skills and hustle on display. It was rough and hard and jaw-droppingly athletic. Big hangers, long bombs, tackles that made my pelvic floor feel weak.
The best bit? Tayla Harris booted a long bomb for 55 metres. Second best? Moana Hope punted six goals and bowed to the crowd. Yas queen.
The Fitzroy Under 10s team completed my life.
Nine year old Violet summed it up when she told me, “The boys have always been playing… but it’s not just a boys’ sport.”
— Monique Bowley (@moniquebowley) September 4, 2016
And their coach told me she was ‘thankful’.
Samira Heale says, as a mother and a coach, female footballers are brilliant role models.
“They [the junior players] are all about footy so seeing this direct link from what they are doing is just fabulous,” she said.
“I think it’s going to do great things on all kinds of levels for young women. From body image, to what they can be successful at in sport, and generally. ”
Just no one mention the song…
At the final siren the Bulldogs, who trounced the Demons, blared out their victory song “Sons of the West…” and “You can beat the boys of the Bulldogs breed.”
Boys. Oops. But hey, we’ll get there.
So to all the players, coaches, officials, umpires, admins, volunteers, fans, and little girls; we’re with you. We’re excited. And hopefully next year people won’t say “There’s no AFL on this weekend.” They’ll know better.