On Friday February 3rd, 2017, Aussie Rules Football changed forever.
There were twenty-four and half thousand people packed into the stands at Princes Park in Melbourne that night.
And when the siren sounded, and the ball was thrown into the air for the first time, they erupted, their roar an expression of their passion, of their joy, of long-held dreams realised.
Women have been playing football for more than 100 years. The first recorded game was played in Perth in 1915. More games followed, albeit sporadically, until state based leagues began launching from the early 1980s. The first, the Victorian Women’s Football League in 1981.
In 2010, the league commissioned a report into women’s football, a series of exhibition matches starting in 2013 grew from that report.
It was the success of those exhibition matches that encouraged the AFL to bring forward their plans for a national women’s football league and so the AFLW was born.
There are thousands of stories from that inaugural season. Feats of strength and skill and endurance, both on field and off. Tales of resilience and determination, of dreams dashed and rebuilt. But their genesis was that warm Friday night in February when thirty-two women clad in the navy blue of Carlton and the black and white stripes of Collingwood took to the field.
The First Friday in February will take you back to that night, reliving that first AFLW game and all that it meant through the memories of women who were there.
They each have a story, their story, of that First Friday in February.
That first Friday in February was the beginning of something enormously significant. But it was also the continuation of something that began more than 100 years ago.
The stories shared here are mirrored in thousands of women who walked through gates at grounds around the country and became witnesses to the beauty that was the inaugural season of the AFLW. A ground-breaking, life changing, historic first season that will long live on in the memories of those who were there.
This project has been encouraged and supported by some wonderful people, a big thank you to Fiona Blair, Brunette Lenkic, Helen Walpole, Fi Murphy, Neve Mahoney and the many many others, too numerous to name, who assisted in big ways and little ways to help bring these stories to life.
None of this would have been possible, however, without the truly excellent women who were so generous with their time and with their stories. To Jan Cooper, Yvette Andrews, Shannon Power, Jo Blaik, Aisling Grey, Olivia Grey, Sue Alberti AC, Ella McGregor, Fiona Blair, Titian Brady, Bronwen Scott, Marissa Lordanic, Brooke Pereira, Katie Wykes, Adrienne O'neil, Paula Hunt, Janet Graham, Danae Gibson, Alyce Johnson, Lucy Watkin, Rebecca Lobo and Brenna Krajcer, Phoebe Venables, Claire Jenkin, Sarah Black, Sally Tanner, Angela Pippos, Polly Fletcher, Yvette Wroby, Kylie Maslen, Kate O'Halloran, Emma Race, Dr Kate Seear, Ashleigh Cochrane, Helen Walpole, Fiona Newton, Bec Dahl, Susannah Mott and Krista Woodroffe.
All pictures supplied by Robert Keeley
Celebration - http://www.purple-planet.com
A New Beginning - Bensound.com
Deep Blue - Bensound.com
The First Friday in February is supported by a grant from RMIT University.