Our much-awaited round one clash took place at Boss James Reserve vs East Malvern. The girls had been training really well in the lead up and there were lots of smiling faces as they arrived at the ground. The enthusiasm of the group was shining through as footies were flying everywhere in the rooms before the game. The light rain that had started to fall was not noticed by any of the girls who were keen to exit the changerooms for a warm up outside. I’m sure that there were some butterflies floating around as our newly formed girls team finalised their preparations before the first bounce. Sienna showed her bravery after getting hit in the head with a wayward ball in the final moments of the warm up.
Jasmyn, Tara and Hannah all joined us just before the umpire bounced the first ball. They had put in a four-quarter warm-up by playing in the mixed game immediately before ours.
Lily and Jazzey were appointed our captains for the day. East Malvern won the toss and elected to kick to the Bluff Road end of the ground, which was offering a clear advantage of one to two goals due to the strong breeze.
Game on! Our team plan was nice and simple – have FUN, keep your feet, tackle strongly and run into space when we have the ball. I must say, all 13 girls who pulled on the Rovers jumper did all of those things and much, much more.
We started with Jazzey, Jasmyn, Audrey H and Jessica in the midfield. They were under clear instructions to work extra hard and run to give us first use of the ball. We dropped Sophie back to the last line of defence and she was superb and well supported by our other defenders – Lily, Sienna and Tara. Our forwards were looking really lively and Hannah, Bianca, Tess and Audrey P were all running into space for the whole first quarter. Our girls looked like a well-oiled machine when the ball was won out of the middle and kicked long to Hannah who marked strongly at centre half forward. Hannah has good hearing, as she responded to my loud call of “BIAAAANCAAAAA” and hit her lace out with a great pass at the top of the goal square. Bianca then proceeded to slot the goal and joined an illustrious group of AFL and AFLW players who kicked a goal with their very first kick. Well done Bianca!
We went into our quarter time huddle after a positive first term. Our girls were commended for their great running and tackling effort, and we were all looking forward to kicking with the breeze in the second quarter. Mids went forward, forwards to back and backs to mid – sounds easy right?? I am sure that we will master the changeover of wristbands by next week! The team was instructed to kick the ball where possible so we could get the ball up forward to utilise the scoring end. The highlight of the second quarter was the long goal that Jasmyn kicked. I am sure that it went every bit of 40 metres! Jazzey also slotted one through the big sticks and we were right in it as we went into the main break.
Poppy added more experience to our side after arriving at half time following a last-minute purchase of some new boots after her others had vanished that morning. Everyone was buoyed by the fact that we now had an interchange. The girls had to work extra hard in the third quarter to defend the swift ball movement that the East Malvern girls had started to implement. Everyone was working overtime and we had some great defensive efforts during the term. We were often getting two players to contests and were wrapping up the opposition in some great tackles.
Audrey H, Jessica and Jazzey had worked themselves right into the game and a highlight of the quarter was the run and bounce Hannah had much, to the delight of the Rovers faithful. Jasmyn was doing a superb job stopping many attacks as the East Malvern girls pressed hard. Poppy was knocked down with the ball hitting her in the head after a wayward kick, but showed true grit to stay out on the ground until we eventually took her off early in the last quarter.
We were advised that we were four points down at the last change and there was a real feeling amongst the girls that they could get the job done. Our forwards headed to the Bluff Road end but were told by someone that we were kicking the other way and all sprinted to the other end. Suddenly our backs became forwards and the coach’s box was thrown into chaos.
East Malvern were onto the fact that we were coming home with the breeze and made it difficult for us to go forward for the whole last quarter. The ball spent the bulk of the time in our forward line and our girls continued to try everything to score a goal. After numerous points, we all held our breath as Hannah had a shot at goal. The crowd roared as one as the goal umpire signalled a six-pointer only for it to be correctly overturned by the field umpire as the ball had been touched.
In the end, despite the best efforts of all of our girls, we went down in a thriller. I must say that I was really proud of every single one of the 13 players who took to the field for us. Some of the experienced girls in Jasmyn, Hannah, Audrey H, Tara, Poppy and Lily served us extremely well with tireless efforts all day. Lily and Jazzey were great captains for us. However, it was fantastic to see the smiles on the faces of our girls playing their first ever game of AFL in Bianca, Jessica, Audrey P, Tess, Sophie, Sienna and Jazzey. Our team is a great blend of experienced and new players, and I am sure that as we continue to get more training sessions under our belt that they will all blossom as a team. All of the girls look to be really enjoying the training as well as game day and the plan will be to keep making the whole AFLW experience as wonderful as possible for every single one of them.
Bring on Beaumaris next week!!
Sean Brady – U10 Girls Coach