I had planned to leave work early but I’ve been behind with things since I got back from leave three weeks ago and in the end I catch the 4.19 from Eltham. Among other things that have gone awry this year, my bike was stolen from a locked cage at work two weeks ago and it now takes longer to get home than it used to. I have a very strong feeling that if we’re not at the ground when the gates open at six, we won’t get in at all. And even if we do get there at six, maybe we still won’t get in.
It is Richmond’s first ever AFLW game, after all.
Both my daughters are coming and I think it’s the first time the three of us have been to the footy together since the Elimination Final in 2015. My younger daughter barracks for North and so all three of us went to that game. Whatever happens tonight, we will be happier than we were on that blighted, sunny afternoon. Not even the North daughter was happy that day – “You two were just so sad that I was sad too.”Embed from Getty Images
It’s close to six before we leave the house, so we definitely won’t be there when the gates open. But as it happens, we’re in good time. There is no queue – and still no admission charge – to get in and we find good seats at ground level. Despite its newness and the small suburban grounds it is played on, AFLW is cursed like the men’s game with corporate noise. We position ourselves between two speakers – they have one every fifty feet or so – and while the spruiking and loud music bother us, we know that it can’t be any quieter anywhere else.
By chance we find my niece, Terri, sitting nearby and she is soon joined by her Melbourne Uni footy mates. We fill in the time before the first bounce in the normal way – eating hot chips, chatting idly, trying to memorise players’ numbers.
The latter is a tough exercise but before the game starts, I have in my mind no.34, Makur Chuot, 3 Katie Brennan, 4 Monique Conti and 7 Lauren Tesoriero.
Soon after the game starts no.2, Phoebe Monahan, is added to this list. She seems to be playing at full back and our defenders have their hands full. Carlton are kicking to the end we’re sitting near and we see far too much of the footy.
Carlton score first with a point from a set shot and more missed shots and rushed behinds follow, all to Carlton, who lead 5-0. I’m glad it’s not soccer. Then Carlton get their first goal after Loynes wins a free for being held.Embed from Getty Images
The Tigers defend ferociously, however. The tackling, smothering, chasing and bumping is constant and nothing is easy for the Blues forwards. Phoebe Monahan is especially good for us. Razor Ray Chamberlain is umpiring and even he has to give us the odd free for holding the ball. But by quarter time he is clearly in the running for some sort of equal-opportunity award – he is as biased against our Women’s team as he is against the Men’s.
Yet even allowing for the umpiring, the Blues seem to have an edge over us. The ball rarely leaves their forward line and they have an infuriating habit of passing the ball to their team-mates who then pass it to another team-mate. We struggle in this area and many of our hard-earned kicks are turned over.Embed from Getty Images
Quarter time score: Richmond 0.0 to Carlton 1.5
The second quarter goes a lot like the first, only we see less of the action as Carlton are attacking the other end. But our attack seems to be getting somewhere until a promising move is turned back by a free kick for deliberate out-of-bounds. As if. Soon after that we have our first ever AFLW score when someone kicks a point. We all cheer loudly. Carlton rebound and soon have that point back. Then they get another point to go further in front. The Tigers attack again for a point and are threatening again when the siren goes. Of course.
Half-time score: Richmond 0.2 to Carlton 1.8
Our Gabby Seymour (28) takes a great mark in defence early in the quarter before Chamberlain gifts Carlton another shot on goal. Courtney Wakefield, our number 8, marks but misses everything from quite an angle. Carlton string some more passes together – how do they get away with it? – and kick another goal and it’s 3.8 to 0.2.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Darcy Vescio – who is still “Our Darcy” as she used to play for the Falcons at the bottom of our street – snaps but misses, luckily for us. But Carlton soon after win a 50, Harris marks in the goal-square and it’s 4.9 to 0.2. Yet another free to the Blues leads to another goal and at the last break it doesn’t look great for us, 5.9 to two points.
It must be said at this point that whenever Carlton kick a goal the electronic scoreboard bursts with a loud and obnoxious noise. It really would be a terrible thing if AFLW matches were ruined by having some crowd atmosphere. The powers that be are right onto it.
Three-quarter time score: Richmond 0.2 to Carlton 5.9
In the last quarter the Tigers are kicking to our end again. The ball is kicked long into our forward line, Sabrina Frederick takes a great mark and could it happen that we kick our first ever AFLW goal? Yes it can! Yes she does! And we erupt and we’re all chanting and cheering and all is right with the world.Embed from Getty Images
Carlton immediately reply but nobody cares.
The Tigers attack again, Wakefield keeps her feet in the traffic, weaves this way and that and goals and we erupt again. It’s been a tough night for the Tigers but they’ve never given up and have kicked two snags in the last term. And in fact, we’ve won the last quarter, which is the Richmond way.
It’s been a tough debut for our team but they can hold their heads high. Their tackling and chasing and attack on the footy have wanted for nothing. Even with Razor Ray at his worst they’ve won countless frees for holding the footy. But their kicking has let them down a bit and there have been some heart-breaking turnovers.
Carlton, on the other hand, showed how they made the Grand Final last year. But we’ll be better next week and the week after that.
And Footy’s back and we have an AFLW team now and all is good with the world.
Best players for me included Monahan and Makur Chuot who defended tirelessly and Wakefield and Frederick for taking their rare chances.Embed from Getty Images
The Maureen for best player
5 votes – Phoebe Monahan
4 votes – Akec Makur Chuot
3 votes – Christina Bernardi
2 votes – Courtney Wakefield
1 vote – Sabrina Frederick
The Kate Sheahan Shield for players recruited with AFLW experience [eligible: Burchall, Bailey, Tesoreiro, Frederick, Bernardi, Conti, Whitford, Ross, Makur Chuot]
4 Makur Chuot
The Peggy O’Neal Claret Jug for best AFLW first year player [eligible: everyone else not in above list]
2 Courtney Wakefield
The Kate Dixon Grip of Death for our top tackler
10 Sarah Sansonetti
8 Alana Woodward, Phoebe Monahan
7 Kodi Jaques