The first weekend of the AFL Women’s competition provided capacity crowds, low scores, plenty of intensity and a rare lightning delay.
It was far from perfect but that mattered little to the players living their dreams or the supporters who trekked out to suburban grounds to watch them.
More than 50,000 fans took advantage of free entry and attended the first round of games, vastly exceeding the AFL’s expectations.
The first match, a Friday night clash between traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood, had originally been scheduled for the Magpies’ 7000-capacity Olympic Park base.
The league opted to move the game to Carlton’s much-bigger home ground at Princes Park in case attendance proved better than expected.
It still wasn’t enough.
A remarkable 24,500-crowd packed in to see the Blues, helped by four goals to future star Darcy Vescio, claim a 35-point victory.
It was reportedly the highest crowd ever for a women’s sporting event in Australia outside of the Olympic or Commonwealth Games.
The game was officially declared a lockout midway through quarter-time with about 2000 people still trying to get in, prompting a public apology from AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan.
But it was a good problem for the league to have.
There were more big crowds on hand to witness Adelaide’s 36-point home win over Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs’ 32-point triumph over Fremantle at Whitten Oval.
Fans also turned out in dreadful weather to see the Demons face Brisbane on Sunday, although few could have predicted the mid-match lightning delay that sparked the Lions’ victory.
The likes of Vescio, Bulldogs’ midfielder Emma Kearney, Adelaide’s Erin Phillips and Melbourne’s Daisy Pearce displayed their star quality and there was no doubting the all-round physicality.
But it wasn’t always champagne footy, with the losing side restricted to one goal in each of the four matches.
However Bulldogs coach Paul Groves – who admitted to occasionally being preoccupied about the attractiveness of the game – called for patience, saying the competition would evolve over time.
“We’ve just got to let it play out,” Groves said.
“It’s going to be a completely different-looking game style once these girls play more and more footy at this level.”