Many people have doubted the AFL Women’s competition since its inception.
Its crowd-drawing capabilities were questioned; its on-field entertainment value was debated -- it was just another ‘experiment’ by the AFL.
But from what we saw in the stands and on-field this weekend, it exceeded expectations and proved the doubters wrong (well most of them, there’s always going to be the stubborn and misogynistic few out there).
On Friday night, not many knew exactly what to expect.
When I rocked up at Ikon Park to watch the first AFLW match in history, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
People stretched about the stands as far as the eye could see, and there were large ques waiting outside the ground.
There had been warnings before the match of a sell-out, but not even the most idealistic of minds at the AFL were expecting that – even with free entry and their earlier change of venue from Olympic Park to Ikon Park.
As the national anthem was sung, there was a finals-like atmosphere about the ground, as the anticipation and the enormity of the match began to sink in.
The excitement and adrenaline of the fans was matched by the first contest in the match, with the ferocity and competitive nature of these hungry women put on display.
After a first half full of fantastic skill for players who have been professionals for only a matter of months, Gillon McLachlan’s apology to fans ‘locked out’ of the stadium signalled a sell-out at Princes Park.
A crowd of 24,500 turned out on Friday night and over 50,000 in total for the entire weekend to watch Women’s AFL; a remarkable achievement for a competition in the making -- an even greater achievement considering 6,500 turned up to Casey Fields in bloody Cranbourne East yesterday to watch a slogfest in the pouring rain!
These 50,000 were treated to some quality football (besides the majority of the Melbourne vs Brisbane game, but that is to be expected with extreme weather conditions) from these emerging footballers making their name in the game.
Yes, there was your fair share of errors amongst the highlights, but that is to be expected.
This is just the start of a growing brand, and its skill level and talent pool will definitely improve in time.
I don’t know anyone who was alive to see the inaugural VFL season, but I imagine there would have been a few dropped marks and clangers in 1896 as well.
And besides, Carlton’s Darcy Vescio - who set Ikon Park alight on Friday night – has far more talent than the benchwarmers and keyboard warriors criticising the game from the comfort of their couch.
All in all, the first weekend of the AFLW completion was a rousing success, and as much as we hate to give the AFL credit for things, we must tip our hats to them for having faith in what would have been considered a pipe-dream three years ago.
Now all we have to do is continue our support, and watch the AFLW brand continue to defy our expectations.
An AFLW Grand Final at the G? Now THAT would have been out of the question six months ago.
Now, it remains a very possible reality.
Dan is a footy, cricket and Richmond tragic - finding himself emotionally detached from footy for unknown reasons.