FOOTY fans can celebrate after receiving their first footy-fix of the year at the weekend — and it did not disappoint.
Friday night marked an historic occasion in footy with the opener of the highly-anticipated women’s AFL league providing fans their first taste of the game since the 2016 season.
Just shy of one million people (896,000) tuned in to watch the event, a further 24,568 filling the sold-out Ikon Park, which was promised to be an epoch by almost every media organisation around.
There was no denying the hype surrounding the inaugural season given how much coverage it received and people were subsequently left with huge expectations for the coming seven rounds of women’s sport.
The pressure was then put on women’s AFL to deliver a style of play which matched the current game and warrant its return in 2018.
The game was aired at the Sports Club where I spend my weekends working and I was amazed by the number of eyes fixated on the screens as patrons enjoyed their first taste of footy for 2017.
As in all sports there is often a lull between seasons when games aren’t being played and the media tries their best to fill the void with stories about potential draft picks and player movements — or the occasional drug scandal.
And this off-season there was quite a bit to choose from in terms of AFL features.
The Western Bulldogs claiming their first flag in 62 years was the gift which kept on giving for sports journalists and Essendon couldn’t seem to avoid the spotlight, producing another bombshell when former coach James Hird made headlines once again over a suspected drug overdose.
However the biggest story of the summer was the formation of the women’s league as the preface to the AFL season.
And the build-up for the round one clash between old rivals Carlton and Collingwood was well and truly justified.
There was plenty to be excited about during the actual game as the women showcased a brilliant display of athleticism and skill, taking knocks as hard as the men’s game and bouncing back for the next tackle.
The commentators on the ground were equally as professional in their approach which raised the standards once again to match that of the AFL.
The game ended in the Blues thrashing of the Pies with the result all but decided by half-time and the weekend continued with Adelaide thumping GWS, Western Bulldogs punishing Fremantle and Brisbane Lions thwarting Melbourne.
On a side note, if the Bulldogs happen to become premiers it would mean three flags in as little as six months for the red, white and blue.
The league has begun as a good way of delivering more live games to fans during the year and I can only hope the newly established AFL Goulburn Murray and AFL Central Victoria women’s leagues, which Echuca Football Club has entered a senior women’s side, will deliver a similar quality.
My thought is it will eventually become another type of women’s sport like W-league in soccer or the Women’s National Cricket League and secure its own fan-base as the other leagues have.