The joy was palpable in the victorious Western Bulldogs rooms following Saturday night’s historic women’s all-stars exhibition match. After finally getting their hands on the Hampson Hardeman Cup, the significance of the night wasn’t lost on Bulldogs captain Steph Chiocci.
“It’s really exciting. It’s emotional. It’s been a long time coming and we’ve worked really really hard. It’s a credit to the girls because we united from the start and I think that’s really important in this game when you don’t get to train with each other.” Chiocci said.
While the electric Moana Hope stole the headlines with a spectacular six-goal haul, it was the Bulldogs defence that held firm from start to finish. Brianna Davey and Tahlia Randall proved to be excellent match-ups for Melbourne’s tall-timber in Sabrina Frederick-Traub and Tayla Harris, while Leah Kaslar kept the dangerous Chelsea Randall goalless. Add the experienced heads of Nicola Stevens and Chiocci, the Bulldogs were able to mount wave after wave of attack from defensive 50.
“We pride ourselves on our defence and we say it’s a team within a team. It’s great to be playing down there with those girls and they really do set us up from there and we rebound from 50 really well. But when you’ve got forwards who are clunking them and kicking them from the boundary it makes life a little bit easier.” Chiocci added.
Saturday night’s game was an incredible celebration of what has been achieved in women’s football so far, however, the focus now quickly shifts to the national competition in 2017. State based drafts for the eight women’s teams will take place on October 12 and the national women’s league will then take shape. For players like Chiocci, the future is a little uncertain, but certainly bright.
“I’m super excited. I didn’t think it would happen in my football career. I thought I would be too old by the time it rolled around. It’s a credit to people who have worked extremely hard behind the scenes to get the women’s game to where it is. I’m looking forward to draft night on October 12 to see where I end up and I’m sure the other girls are feeling the same way. I suppose once we get that opportunity we’ll take it with both hands.”