The first ever game of AFL Women’s was a landmark occasion, helping to bring the women playing Aussie Rules football out of the shadows.
In its inaugural season in 2017, the AFLW spearheaded a major movement to boost the profile of women’s sport and provide an outlet to the talented players that have been lost to other sporting codes.
This movement meant that girls who grow up loving the game of Aussie Rules football could play for their favourite AFL club. It drove up participation rates for local football clubs, and the domino effect of the league can already be seen with some of the competition’s latest draft pools.
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The third of February 2017 marked the first ever AFLW game which took place between Carlton and Collingwood. The first ever captains for the sides was Lauren Arnell for the Blues and Steph Choicci for the Magpies.
The traditional rivalry between two Victorian juggernaut teams of the AFL men’s league were now going to play for premiership points decided by the women.
The highest attendance for the year was at this opening game with 24,568 people. Spectators were locked out of Ikon Park as the stands heaved with the capacity crowd.
Victorian Police cited safety precautions for the lockout and the crowd set an all-time record at a stand-alone women’s sports event.
Most of the fans that attended had to stand and an apology was issued by AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan after disappointed fans were unable to gain access to watch the match. From the outset, the AFLW had proved it wasn’t a suburban competition.
The Blues defeated the Magpies in this fixture by 35 points with Blue Jasmine Garner kicking the first-ever AFLW goal.
Star Blues forward Darcy Vescio said after the game “I think every girl who was out there tonight will just cherish that moment for the rest of their lives”.
Darcy Vescio announced themselves to AFLW’s newest fans with a best on ground performance including four goals and a handful of marks. The first two goals they kicked in the first quarter gave the Blues an early lead.
Another player that was unveiled was Brianna Davey, a former Matildas goalkeeper who played off half-back. She kicked a goal and had 26 disposals.
A 15-point lead was enjoyed by the Blues at half-time and they never looked back despite a great game by opposing captain Chiocci.
Five years later and there are currently 14 AFLW teams in the competition with the Hawthorn Hawks, Essendon Bombers, Sydney Swans and Port Adelaide Power to join in 2023.
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