“Women’s footy was the winner on the day… we did our job in making it good viewing at home. It’s just an absolute dream come true. You’ve said I’ve done it four times, but every time I do it, it means so much to me. As a little girl growing up thinking I was going to play AFL and realising that probably wasn’t going to happen, to come out here and look down and see the AFL logo and see this red and blue jumper, a club that has really supported women’s footy and supported our cause, is a big thing.
But I get the most pleasure about things like we did yesterday. We did an all girls Auskick, a junior girls clinic, out at Gosch’s Paddock and to see those little girls looking up at us and thinking we’re their AFL heroes, that’s what means the most to me because they’re out there in the crowd today and they think they have a bright future in footy, which they do.”
– Daisy Pearce
I was 12 when I fell in love with footy. I fell hard and fast. My brother was watching a game one Friday night and I sat down beside him. For the first few minutes I watched on disinterestedly thinking about other things. And then I saw it. Chris Tarrant had leapt onto the back of another player, plucked the ball from mid-air and then came crashing down onto the ground. I gaped. How was that physically possible?
I spent the whole night trying to replicate that specky. I jumped onto the back of the couch, pretended to catch a make-believe Sherrin and then slid down onto the carpet. I did that again and again until my head began to spin and then lay on the floor breathless and laughing. It was a strange feeling that was inside me, one of wonder and excitement.
The following weeks I watched the footy diligently. I watched Ryan Lonie’s long kicks out of half back, I watched Rhyce Shaw dash and weave around opponents, I watched Anthony Rocca’s pack marks and I watched Leon Davis make the flight of the ball curve and bend in all different directions to find the goals. The more I watched, the more I knew the players, the more I knew the game, the more I fell in love.
My brother and I invested in black and white jumpers and a football, and every afternoon we tried to recreate what we had seen on television.
From the very first kick, I was hooked.
I loved the motion of dropping the ball out in front of me and making contact with my foot, I loved seeing the ball cut through the air, I loved jumping up and grabbing hold of it as it spiralled towards me, I loved diving onto the grass with my hands out in front of me. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was but it just felt right.
A day wouldn’t go by without having a kick. The footy came to school, on trips away and even to family functions. You could say I was happiest with a footy in my hands.
So if you asked 12-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you an AFL player in a heartbeat. And then I would have dropped my head, kicked the dirt and said, “it’s a shame I had to be the girl twin… if I was my brother I would be doing everything I could to become a footballer right now.”
Never would I have imagined women would one day be running onto the hallowed turf or playing at Etihad Stadium with a television audience of 500,000. If I had, I would have signed up to a local club straight away.
That’s why Daisy Pearce’s words after the Melbourne and Western Bulldogs exhibition match struck a chord with me. A decade earlier, I can guarantee you she would have been my hero. And while a professional career in football is well beyond me now, for other girls out there it is not: it is only the beginning.
There are many people who don’t think women’s footy is important. They question why we should have a professional league. But women live, breathe and bleed footy as much as any bloke. They love the feeling of taking a big mark or kicking a goal as much as any bloke. They love the game as much as any bloke.
The dream of playing AFL is a dream of both genders but a reality for only one. There is absolutely nothing wrong in doing all we can to change that.