MELBOURNE, Australia – The national Women’s Australian Football League made history over the weekend with the inaugural rounds taking place on the continent.
This may not seem historic at first, but when you consider the history and sacrifices that were made to get to this point, you realize how significant it is.
Let me give you a little history lesson to begin with. Although the men’s Australian Football League has existed in one form or another for 159 years,
women have never had these opportunities. Until now.
The journey to a national league for women began in 2013, when the first exhibition match of the best female footballers from across the country took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Two teams representing two of the Victorian clubs from the Australian Football League faced off in that match.
Since then, the support for women’s footy and for a national league has grown. Finally, two years ago, the Australian Football League Commission did something about it and announced that there would finally be a national competition.
\The original goal was to have a league by 2020, but Gillon McLachlan, the chief executive officer of the Australian Football League, announced that the goal had been changed to 2017.
In mid-2016, the first announcement about the structure of the new competition was made, with the naming the eight clubs that would be competing in the inaugural season. Further steps, such as the draft and fixture release, came in the subsequent months and it all culminated in the first round of matches this past weekend.
The first game was on Friday, and was between two clubs that have been rivals for a long time in the men’s competition, Carlton Blues and Collingwood Magpies. Collingwood was never in the match, though, as the Blues side dominated from the outset.
They were originally going to play the match at Collingwood’s home ground, but when the Australian Football League realized that a bigger than capacity crowd was expected, they moved the match to Carlton’s home ground, which is larger.
This proved to be a good move, as it became a lock-out crowd early on in the evening, which means they had to physically lock the gates and not let any more spectators inside. Even so, there were still long lines of people trying to get into the ground. This is a testament to both clubs and the interest in the new competition.
Saturday saw two matches take place, one in the Western suburbs of Melbourne and the other in the heart of Adelaide. In Adelaide, a smaller but still healthy crowd of 9,000 saw the home side the Adelaide Crows register a comfortable win over their less fancied opposition, the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
The Giants were never in the match, not even registering a goal on the scoreboard until well into the second half.
Meanwhile, game three of the weekend saw a match between two teams that began the match as flag favorites, Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs. Like in the previous two matches, the Bulldogs on the home side dominated, beating Fremantle comfortably. This game saw a near capacity crowd, which continued the trend from the previous matches.
Sunday‘s one match rounded out the weekend, and it took place in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions. In wet conditions, it was the Lions who took the four points in an upset. The game actually had to be delayed just before half time due to a lightning storm, and the Demons were looking like the more dominant side before the interruption.
After the interruption, the Lions dominated and ran away with the match, taking a 15 point win.
So as you can see, the first round of the new women’s football season was a roaring success. The crowds were massive, the television ratings were high – on par with the men’s matches – and the matches were good quality contests.
The scores weren’t high, but there are many factors, such as nerves, that probably affected the scores. There’s a good chance that the scores will increase as the season goes on.
Alyce Collett is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
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