Nice oneOPINION THE AGE
Fierce and proud: Being the Bulldogs’ runner has helped me get women’s footy by Bob Murphy
February 11, 2021
“Fierce as f--k!” That was the line I heard bellowed from amongst the Western Bulldogs’ AFLW pack last Friday night.
I still don’t know who said it, but it had a guttural brilliance to it. Last week, the young women of the Bulldogs gathered in a small room within the changerooms away from everyone else, took their jumpers off (so I’m told), turned on some late ’90s pop and turned it up to 10 (I could hear) and then danced (I assume).
Football clubs are circles within circles, I used to inhabit that inner core, but not anymore. My role these days is working closely with the leadership group during the week and runner on match days. It’s a fascinating perspective. Once the song ended, I learned that the players each took their jumpers in their hands and ceremonially put them back on. The jumper, footy’s great symbol of camaraderie and history. The dancing was complete and the battle against Carlton was about to begin.
As the players emerged from the disco, the anticipation was palpable, it was then that I heard the war cry, “fierce as f--k!” It sent a shiver up my spine, in the best possible way. Bursting out onto the ground to the applause only a home crowd can give, but a quick photo with the opposition team (arm in arm of course) saves the intensity from bubbling over. From there, a quick warm-up of run throughs and handballs is all completed with rainbow flags dotted in the outer, amongst the team colours, waving high in the evening breeze. It was Pride round and there’s not a whiff of tokenism. Diversity, inclusion and the fight to be who they want to be, sexually or otherwise, is something the players have lived. The bruises are just under the surface, the pride splashed across their faces. If you can’t change emotional gears quickly in the world of women’s footy at the elite level, you could be left flailing.
As the siren sounded to commence play, I found myself wondering whether my brief involvement with a charity football match, the Community Cup, had better prepared me for a role in women’s
footy than 18 years in the AFL system.
It took me two full years as assistant coach of the Rockdogs to fully grasp what was happening in those teams. In the first year, the coach (singer, Paul Kelly) gave a speech that traversed far and wide, but included thanking Elvis Presley and the opposition. I’d never heard anything like it.
Male and female players laughed and joked as they stretched old or weary limbs, some were enjoying a pre-game beer and a few others passed a rolled cigarette to one another. It seemed to relax their nerves a bit. I’d never seen that before a game of footy, either. It certainly felt like a throwaway game of footy at that point, to me at least, but that was until the jumpers were presented to each of the players and the feeling in the room dipped like a seagull.
Tears were shed, hugs were shared and you got the hint that for some, life had been a hard road. Maybe footy hadn’t always been open to them in one way or another. They clung on to their team jumper as if they would never let their jumper go. It took a little while, but I began to understand that for them, the build-up to a game can be both frivolous and desperately serious from one moment to the next.
I now look back on the bulk of my career at the top level and shake my head at the wasted energy in the build-up to a game. A lot of faux scowling.
Some people don’t get women’s footy, which is fair enough, but I don’t understand why some people seem scared of it. When turning the channel is an option, why do some people feel the need to turn up the volume of hate on social media?
‘Women’s footy only adds to the great quilt of Australian Rules football, it doesn’t take a thing.’
My close-up vantage point is a privilege. They just try so damn hard. My emotions dip and swing like that seagull all the time. Last season one of our players was dusting themselves off from a heavy hit to the face and calmly asked me, “are my teeth knocked out?” There was not a hint of panic in her voice. These girls are tough. Every year the skills improve, like a thread count, and eventually it’ll be silk. Women’s footy only adds to the great quilt of Australian Rules football, it doesn’t take a thing.
What’s that you say? It’s draining funds from the league’s coffers? Give it time, friend. There’s a chasm between cost and investment. $10 entry this season has deterred few. I have often wondered, having observed the visceral passion from the reborn suburban grounds, just how much money the competition would bring in if it was a $10 minimum?
Those that get the deeper meaning of women’s footy really get it and if they had the means, might pay more than a tenner. If you’re still on the fence, just take a look at the players’ faces when a goal is scored this week. There’s nothing professional or blase about the reactions. It’s a primal roar of euphoria and defiance against the doubters. Every single time.
At this year’s season launch for the BulldogsW, the players walked a red carpet with a family member before receiving their jumpers. Again, there was pop music, more dancing and a sense of aching pride from everyone in the room. This game wasn’t always open to them. Long after the official ceremony, I was struck by how the majority of the players held onto their jumpers. Two hands, clenched fists, but careful not to crease the fabric and held close to their hearts. It seemed to be an unconscious thing, but it spoke volumes about what it means to them. Fierce young women. Very, very … fierce.
Bob Murphy Former Western Bulldogs captain and Age columnist
When he first started off post-career, I'll be honest in saying he really came across as pretty cringe. His writing just had an air of pretentiousness and his interviews were awkward.The man can write
What amazes me is how fast the game is improving. The girls are part-timers and show so much toughness, determination and grit. Plus the girls skills levels are improving enormously and in such a short time. also the kicks are getting longer. keep it up girls, and don't listen to the knockers. I doubt they would ever play against you because you will we deservedly smash them, both footy wise and not to mention physically. Some people... GO GIRLS YOU MAKE US PROUD!!!yes we do need to post more articles about Our AFLW team girls do play for and represent our club
big bruuuuce should have taken a pay cut for the whole team
Our players are going to take a 5.5% pay cut this year.
Will Collingwood follow suit? Treloar’s situation could get messy
Our players are going to take a 5.5% pay cut this year.
At least one life-long fan (who may also be a BF-sometime poster) has been doing some detective work from that video, and identified the great man's house. I imagine Granty can deal with stalkers though - maybe position Liber Snr, Jose and Dima outside as security. Or Southern, Kretiuk and Clay.
If I were Treloar, I'd take a larger % cut at the Dogs, then refuse to take one on the money owed by the Pies, just to dig the knife in a little further....Will Collingwood follow suit? Treloar’s situation could get messy
I would laugh at Collingwood if Treloar did thatIf I were Treloar, I'd take a larger % cut at the Dogs, then refuse to take one on the money owed by the Pies, just to dig the knife in a little further....
He'd still end up at the same point, we'd be better off and the Pies can b*tch about it all they want....