The first game of the inaugural AFL Women’s season kicks off tonight, with Collingwood and Carlton going up against each other at Ikon Park in Melbourne.
In the lead up to this history-making game, Women’s Health caught up with Collingwood player Moana Hope and Carlton’s Darcy Vescio to chat about them going head to head.
Off-field they’re mates. But tonight, it’s All. On. “I have so much respect for the women in the other teams, I think they’re amazingly talented footballers and I’m very close with quite a few of them. But when it’s football, it’s football, they’re not your mates anymore,” says Hope. “They’re the opposition and you’ve got to do whatever it takes to protect your teammates and win that game for them. Whatever it takes, you do.”
Both women feel amazingly privileged to be playing in the very first game of the very first season of the women’s national league. “It’s unreal,” says Vescio. “I keep saying that I feel like we probably don’t understand just how momentous this occasion is. We probably won’t see it for what it is until our playing careers are finished and we look back. I feel like I’m in such a privileged position and I just want to do the jumper proud.”
“If the AFL was a person, I’d hug them,” says Hope. “I guess I just normally stick with Gill McLachlan [AFL CEO] and Simon Lethlean [AFL's general manager of game and market development] for now because they’re running everything, and I’m extremely grateful for them doing all of this, giving women’s sport, women’s football, a go.”
At the official launch of the season this Wednesday, AFL CEO McLachlan said,
“From this weekend, eight proud clubs take to the field. And it will be football like we’ve always known it. There will be upsets […], thrills. Collingwood and Carlton supporters will still hate the sight of each other.
“But it will also be very different. This group of women players will create their own game. This is year one. One hundred and seventy-six women making their debut carry an extraordinary amount on their shoulders. I ask today that we give them time and space to grow into the elite footballers that we know they can be. We are here for the long haul.”
McLachlan also thanked the sponsors, particularly naming partner NAB, that have taken the leap of faith to support this new league.
Hope and Darcy are equally thankful for sponsor support. “Special K has just announced me and Darc as their ambassadors, and they’re sponsoring the AFLW. It’s pretty amazing that they’ve come on board,” says Hope. “I was talking to them yesterday, and to see that they actually really care. They’re not just jumping on board because AFLW is one of the hottest things, they’re jumping on board because they really want to get behind it and they’re really pushing to make a difference for women in sport.”
You can get behind these women in sport by tuning into the matches on Channel 7, FOX FOOTY, the AFL Live Official App and AFL.com.au – every game in the season will be broadcast live. And also by attending the games at the stadiums – for free! Find match locations at www.afl.com.au/womens/matches