THE Fremantle Dockers AFLW team kicks off its season with a home derby against the Eagles tomorrow (Sunday September 3) with hopes the women’s sport juggernaut created by the soccer World Cup will flow on to the homegrown game.
Dockers defender Ange Stannett, whose partner is captain of the Perth Glory Women’s team, grew up playing soccer herself and says it’s was great to see the recognition the cup brought the players.
“When you’ve been involved in that soccer community, you know how good these athletes are,” Stannett said.
“It’s probably a bit of a catalyst for women’s sport in general in Australia.
“Hopefully it translates into fan engagement as well, for all codes.
“But I think we’re yet to see the product of that, as it’s only just happened.
“It’d be interesting to look back post-season in a few years’ time and see what that catalyst has done for our league as well.”
Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge also hopes the momentum kicks on, as she’d like to leverage bigger crowds to get funding from state and federal departments for the redevelopment of Fremantle Oval, where tomorrow’s game kicks off.
“I know the AFL has big aspirations to make the season longer and get more games every year, which means that they’ll need more second-tier venues like Fremantle Oval,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
Stannett says despite the awe Optus Stadium inspires, she’d play at Fremantle Oval any day.
“There’s something special about being in Freo, it’s almost like a personal connection.
“Even the fan engagement down here; people are closer to the oval and it’s in the heart of Freo.
“I think back to our first few seasons when we were playing here in summer, and although it was to play in, it was the most beautiful vibe.”
For this season, the Dockers have made a small step forward in their training season. Because they still don’t command the salaries of their male counterparts, most have jobs and have to train after work, regardless of how knackered they are.
But this year they’ve all got agreements from their bosses to have a day off where they can train alongside the men, which the club’s media head Tanya Armstrong says help build a team spirit.
Ms Armstrong says following the Matilda’s great showing in the World Cup, she saw an immediate jump in membership at the Dockers and says that’s unlikely to be a coincidence.
The big derby kicks off at Fremantle Oval at 3.05pm, and expect to see something a little different from Stannett this year, who’s likely to spend some time in the midfield.
by STEVE GRANT