The AFLW has opened a gargantuan of opportunities for women in the Aussie rules domain.
From grass root levels to top tier athletes and even the juggernaut of media presence, the AFLW has given beginners lineage to start playing the game.
Cass Smith is one of these women.
Smith started training with West Brunswick FC last November.
The club belongs to the Victorian Amateur Football Association. The competition is comprised of 40 teams in the first women’s season; four teams come from the VFLW and the first three rounds are graded into four different levels.
Smith said a lot of her motivation came from the initiation of the AFLW.
“I was into the hype of AFLW. Seeing women being able to play at the highest level is so inspiring,” Smith said.
“I wanted a new challenge. Last year I ran a half marathon and checked that goal off. This year I wanted something more team based.
“Running for two hours alone can be pretty lonely.”
Coming from an athletic background and experiencing her own successes, Smith thought footy would suit her nicely but was nervous about the start.
“I was so scared because I knew what terrible people I grew up around and I thought ‘I have no skill base for this’ so I was terrified of making a fool of myself,” Smith admitted.
This could not be further from the truth. She found the club to be welcoming and supportive.
“It is amazing. One hundred percent different to what I thought it would be.
“All the men are welcoming. We do our warm-ups together, mixed gender. Everyone is supportive and helpful.
“Nobody cracks it at you for making a mistake, they help you learn where you went wrong.”
Smith admitted skills would be her biggest challenge and found fitness to be something of a test as well.
“I thought I was so fit because I ran for two hours but nah, not for footy. Its stop-start. So now I’ve modified my own running training to incorporate this.
“I’m terrible [at skills] but I keep trying. I am improving though!”
Aside from the physically of the game and club, Smith was also excited about the social awareness the club absorbed.
For International Women’s Day, the club had an initiative to give tampons to homeless women, “and this was aimed at the whole club not just the women. I feel really lucky to have found my club,” Smith said.
Smith played her first match this month and described it as “intense”.
“I’m so bruised from our first practice match. It’s fast. I don’t know what I thought but it’s fast.
You have to learn to not say sorry, because I did mean to bump you. I’m not sorry, opposition, for playing hard.
“Even though at the end you’re exhausted, you feel the thrill at having completed something. Even if you’ve got a lot more to learn.”
Playing her first match, Smith realised tackling was her “hands down” favourite part.
“I am vicious. I love to smack my body into something else. I have no fear and I am good at it.
“I never would have picked myself for this but I mean, I am short, scrappy and mouthy. I should have known I would fit a tagger or defensive role,” she said.
Smith would definitely recommend playing the game to others saying.
“It’s fun, a challenge but you’re so supported by your teammates.
“Women often miss out on social inclusion, especially in sports; we can be more than mums in the canteen, let the dads do that for a change!”
Smith is one of the truly inspiring women to pull on the boots and play the game at club level, and it is exceptional to see her jump into the game and tackle all the challenges and thrills it brings.