Ikon Park earlier this AFLW season. Image: @CollingwoodAFLW

Aussie Rules football returned to Victoria with the season opener of the AFL Women's competition and it did not disappoint.

As the ball was bounced at Ikon Park on Thursday night, the overwhelming feeling of normality swept across Melbourne.

Footy was back.

For the first time in nearly ten months, Australian rules football was back being played in Victoria in front of a crowd. A small one, but one no less significant.

Reduced capacity and physical distancing measures in place, but the appetite for the game clearly there as all the seats that were available on the night got sold.

As quickly as both Carlton and Collingwood ran out in preparation to do battle and open the season, they were quickly brought back together.

Linking arms in the middle of the arena paying tribute to the late Jacinda Barclay.

Fans stood for a minute’s silence to remember the foundation Giant who also played baseball and American Football.

A timely reminder that while Victorians missed having football on their doorstep last year, it is only just a game.

But the game moves on and goes from strength to strength. With every passing year, the standard keeps on moving up.

As the skills were put on display right from the very beginning. Intercept marks. Bone crunching tackles. Pinpoint kicking to find a teammate and the poise to stop and find a way through in traffic. All on show right from the first bounce.

Scoring was slow, but when it came, it came in a rush.

Collingwood’s dare and fast ball movement had Carlton rattled as it piled on the pain with four goals in a five-minute burst before half time, breaking the contest wide open.

But as is part of the mystique of Princes Park and a testament again to the growth and development of the women’s game, the third quarter breathed life back into the contest as the Blues finally hit the scoreboard and came storming back with a vengeance.

As the siren rang out at the conclusion of it all, Collingwood held on to record a six-point victory and continue to stake its claim as a contender.

But the 6712 strong crowd was left wanting more as it was treated, in the end, to a high quality game of Australian Rules football.

Football, you were missed.

We wondered when we would get you back in Victoria and what shape it would be in.

But the first dosage back in 2021 couldn’t have started off any with a great night, capacity crowd, and ever-improving competition that is AFL Women’s.

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