AFL WOMEN’S EXHIBITION MATCH
MELBOURNE v WESTERN BULLDOGS
SUNDAY 24 MAY, MCG, NOON
WHEN the first bounce happens in this year’s AFL Women’s Exhibition game – held at the MCG Sunday afternoon from noon – hopefully a burgeoning crowd of local footballers and football lovers alike get to see the women’s game take the big leap it truly deserves.
But for us in the south-east, we need to know something simple – who do we barrack for? We’re not all Dogs or Demons supporters, so the logical thing to do is to barrack for our own.
There are plenty of players running about out there for the Dogs and Demons respectively, but four in particular resonate close to the south-east as they’ve been part of our competitions and clubs for years. They might have scattered to all points of Victoria, and for one Western Australia, but they’ll all assemble on Sunday to do battle on the biggest stage ever assembled for women’s football in this country.
So let’s get behind the locals and barrack for Ellie, Katie, Kara and Hannah.
ELLIE BLACKBURN – Melbourne pick six (Melbourne Uni WFL)
Ellie has been part of the Demons’ line-up for the last three seasons and despite her de-listing last year, was brought straight back in to the line-up for this season.
The 20-year-old powerhouse from Endeavour Hills has been one of the Gazette’s favourites throughout her junior football journey. She’s playing for Berwick VWFL, Berwick Youth Girls, Vic Metro Youth Girls, Vic Metro senior side and her personal favourite – Beaconsfield Youth Girls capturing its first flag in her final Youth Girls match.
You name it; Ellie has probably achieved it within the representative female/girls football world.
All that eludes her is a VWFL premiership, but with her Melbourne Uni team flying at the moment – knocking off the previously unbeatable Darebin in a match earlier this year – even that may change as she adds another accolade to her packed-to-the-brim trophy case.
“I was pretty shocked to go that high up but I was sitting there and I was relieved in the end,” Blackburn said.
“Sitting there and hearing my name called out was a big sigh of relief, and I’m excited to be part of Melbourne again.
“It’s really good that we get the opportunity to play on both of the big grounds (MCG and Etihad Stadium) and, hopefully, show our talent and get away with a couple of wins.”
Earning the most disposals in last year’s winning campaign for the Demons, Blackburn’s is the story all up-and-coming female footballers should try to emulate – following a dream all the way to the big-time.
Hopefully in the future Blackburn will be able to play more than one or two AFL matches a year, but until the fabled Women’s AFL competition begins in earnest we’ll have to celebrate Blackburn as much as we can in forums such as the Exhibition match.
KATIE LOYNES – Western Bulldogs pick 9 (Diamond Creek VWFL)
THE highs and lows of football life are intertwined with the story of Katie Loynes. A former Berwick VWFL best-and-fairest winner, Loynes has seen it all in her extensive football career.
Loynes was re-recruited by the Bulldogs after gaining an initial selection in the first ever AFL Women’s match in 2013.
Only a couple of short weeks after that initial match – the high-point of Loynes’ career – she suffered another monumental set back.
Copping a severe knee injury – Loyne didn’t play in 2014 as she was relegated to the weights room to rehabilitate the troublesome knee.The hard work paid off as she returned to Diamond Creek for the start of this year’s VWFL Premier Division season and received a huge shock as she will return for the Doggies this season as the women’s competition expands to two matches this year.
“It definitely was a massive surprise, didn’t see it happening and I was just hoping to be drafted,” Loynes said.
“It was overwhelming, to be honest.
“It was just a long process – hoping to come back last year and that didn’t happen and I think being patient has proved to work in my favour.”
We can only hope the star midfielder – with a long-range bomb and good hand/foot skills across the ground – can get a good run with her health and is able to jot down 2015 for the right reasons into her football biography.
HANNAH SCOTT – Western Bulldogs pick 25 (Eastern Devils VWFL)
The last time we saw Hannah Scott in the local region she was holding aloft the premiership cup for Hallam Women’s Football Club after a muddy struggle against St John’s in 2012. It was the VWFL South East grand final and Coburg City Oval better resembled a bowl of chocolate mousse than a football oval.
None the less Scott stormed her way to the fall of the ball and took half the mud off the oval with her as the Hawks celebrated an incredible 14-point win over the JOCs.
It was an emphatic year for Scott as she swept the VWFL awards and accolades in 2012. Hallam best and fairest? Tick. League best and fairest? Tick. Best on ground medallist? Tick. Back-to-back Hallam premiership player? Tick.
“It’s been a pretty amazing year,” Scott said back in 2012. “It’s hard to put into words, back-to-back premierships, undefeated and then best on ground, and two best and fairest awards – I think it’s pretty humbling and I didn’t expect any of it so it’s been surprising for me.”
Scott then added a selection to the VWFL Academy and picked up a nod to play for Vic Metro as the accolades kept coming.
She switched soon after to Premier Division side Eastern Devils and made an immediate impact. Despite injury and the Devils recent form – Scott impressed enough to earn her place in the AFL.
Expect the in-and-under midfielder to be at the bottom of many packs and line up her forward team-mates.
KARA DONNELLAN – Retained from Melbourne’s 2014 list
It’s been a while since Kara Donnellan stepped foot in the VWFL.
Kara “Juddy” Donnellan, her well-used moniker earned through countless hard-ball gets under the packs like Carlton’s Chris Judd, has not been a regular part of the league for a few years after switching allegiance from Victoria to Western Australia.
A former team-mate of Loynes way back when at Berwick, before expanding her horizons and heading across the Nullarbor to Western Australia, Donnellan has been near the peak of the sport throughout her time at Swan Districts WFC.
Coming from Narre Warren Junior Football Club, state representation and a number of starring efforts on field made her an easy choice for Melbourne at the inaugural AFL Women’s Draft in 2013.
She expertly guided Melbourne to victory in 2014 and was influential enough to be retained by the Demons for this year’s match.
Donnellan is hard to catch, a superb kick and knows her way around a marking contest – both in the air or crumbing at ground level. There are few players finer than her in Australia at the moment and she deserves her AFL jersey just as much as any other.