MELBOURNE supporters have been advised to get to Etihad Stadium nice and early for Sunday’s clash with the Western Bulldogs.
It might be their best chance to see the ‘red and the blue’ have a win at the stadium on the western fringe of the city.
The Melbourne men’s team, known as such for the purposes of this story, hasn’t tasted victory at the Docklands since 2007. But the women’s team won there last year and is aiming for back-to-back successes and a season’s sweep of the Western Bulldogs, after a hard-fought win at the MCG earlier this year.
The best 50 female players in Australia were drafted to the two clubs earlier this year. In some respects the two matches resemble all-star games because of the talent on display, but the Bulldogs didn’t enjoy lowering their colours last time and are keen to turn the tables.
Bulldogs ruckman Emma King admitted there was an exhibition feel to the first encounter and not quite the same edge as when playing for Western Australia or club football for the Coastal Titans.
“I didn’t take that result to heart as much, but this time it’s definitely changed. You know the players, you have a bond with them just as you would at your club,” she said.
King is a close mate of Melbourne on-baller Kara Donnellan, who was best afield in the clash earlier this year. They are club rivals, teammates for Western Australia but on opposing sides once again on Sunday.
The pair stayed together at Donnellan’s parents this week before going their separate ways on Thursday as the teams got together to prepare for the match. The text messages, phone calls and banter will resume at around 3pm Sunday.
“You have three days to get to know each other and then you go out and play the game,” Donnellan said. “It is a little bit different but it is another step up again in terms of speed, skill, fitness and game style.”
The women’s game is booming. There has been a huge increase in participation levels at underage level and an influx of elite athletes from sports such as soccer and basketball. The AFL is fast-tracking plans to introduce a national competition as soon as 2017.
“The standard is improving as we’re starting to recruit players from other sports,” Donnellan said. “They’re jumping on board to what is the best game in the world to play. It is really exciting to watch when it is played by elite athletes from other sports.”
They’ll be hard-pressed to play as well as Donnellan, who is known in the women’s game as ‘Juddy’. It stems from her first training session a few years back with the St Albans Spurs, before her move to Western Australia when, with her first kick, she hit coach Debbie Lee lace-out with a spearing pass, prompting an instant comparison to the dual Brownlow medallist, Chris Judd.
She met the real ‘Juddy’ one night when they found themselves queuing for a late-night kebab at the same food outlet and she has a picture of them together as a keepsake.
The historical aspect to Sunday’s game is that Channel Seven will televise it nationally. Both players said they hope it will push more young girls to take up the game.
“We want these young Auskick girls to dream of being like us. It is just the start of it and it will keep on growing, ” Donnellan said. “It is just so exciting to be part of.
QUEENSLANDERS IN THE MIX
Emma Zielke (Western Bulldogs)
Emily Bates (Western Bulldogs)
Leah Kaslar (Western Bulldogs)
Tahlia Randall (Western Bulldogs)
Tayla Harris (Melbourne)
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/emma-zielke-drafted-for-western-bulldogs-in-womens-afl-exhibition-20150423-1mrzas.html#ixzz3ilLM4A3X
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HOW TO WATCH THE GAME
The AFL Women’s match between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will be played at Etihad Stadium this Sunday from 12.35pm.
watch the match live on Channel Seven in Brisbane Metro area (refer to broadcast guide for regional information) or on your mobile or tablet at m.afl.com.au/womens or via the AFL Live app.
By Ashley Browne www.afl.com.au