This weekend marked the first games of the inaugural AFL Women’s Competition, so we packed our bags and headed to Melbourne, keen to show our support for the Lions. I was wearing two hats, one as a Board Member of the Brisbane Lions, and the one I also shared with Stuart, Sascha and Sam as Support Partner through our Epic Pharmacy Women in Sport initiative.
We’ve had the chance to get to know many of the girls in the lead up to the season, and have been so impressed with the work ethic and commitment they bring to their football. Like their counterparts at the WBBL Brisbane Heat, they all juggle their sporting careers with work or study commitments, but having been given the opportunity to play at the highest level they’ve embraced that and given it their all.
This weekend football supporters also showed their willingness to embrace a female competition, turning out in force to watch. Once the Friday night reports of a lock out at the Collingwood/Carlton game started coming through it was clear that attendances were going to be well up on expectations. That pattern continued over the weekend, with all of the grounds being filled at close to capacity with TV audiences to match.
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, despite the location in the far outer Eastern suburbs and the lack of easy public transport options, the only thing that looked likely to threaten another big crowd was the storm clouds that were also rolling in. None of those things had any significant impact though, and another 6500 people turned up for the final match of the first round, taking the total attendance numbers for the round to over 50 000.
There were no shortage of Lions fans in attendance, and their roar when the girls ran out onto the ground was fantastic. Sascha and Sam also got the opportunity to personally experience it as they were invited to represent Epic Pharmacy and run out with the team alongside a number of young relatives and friends, and both of them were blown away by the chance to be part of something so significant.
After a windy first quarter conditions deteriorated dramatically, and I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a wetter game of footy – I’ve definitely never been to one that’s required the players come off due to the risk of lightning strikes! But the Lions didn’t let that phase them, they settled into their game plan and displayed some excellent skills in very very challenging conditions. Supporters were soaked to the skin, and while there were definitely some early departures I don’t know that too many Lions fans were amongst them, as from the start of the third quarter we could definitely smell a potential victory in the air!
The longer the game went the more confident the girls looked, and the scenes when the siren went were just fantastic. They belted out the song while still on the ground, giving everyone the chance to join in and sing along with them, and despite being cold, wet and exhausted made sure to take the time to thank the supporters who were equally wet and cold before heading into the rooms.
It was such a special weekend to be part of, and we were reflecting as a family afterwards that by the time our kids have kids of their own it will no doubt seem just as strange to them that there hasn’t always been a Women’s AFL competition as it does to our kids that we used to take pictures with cameras and not see the results until the film came back from being processed…. The weekend would have been special regardless, but it was certainly the cherry on top to have the Lions come away with the four points and we can’t wait to see what the rest of this historic first season brings.