AFLW - a moment in time.

Friday February 3, 2017 is set to become an auspicious day as the largest sporting code in Australia rolls out its national women's competition. While it might take years to fully comprehend the scale of its impact on women's sport in this country; there is little doubt that the launch of the AFL Women's competition is a landmark occasion in Australian sport.

To capture the significance of this moment in time, we spoke to some women's sport advocates - and game changers in their own right - about this historic occasion.

Mary Konstantopoulos - Founder of Ladies Who League

What are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the people of Australia getting to know (and falling in love with) the talented women who play AFL. At the moment, most people are able to name Daisy Pearce and Moana Hope, but by season's end, I can't wait to hear people talking about women like Emma Swanson, Stephanie Chiocci, Nicola Barr, Chelsea Randall and Jess Cameron. What I am most excited about though is the next generation of little boys and girls who will grow up thinking it is simply the state of play that both men and women can play AFL at an elite level in this country.

Player to keep an eye on:

In terms of a player to keep an eye on, I simply cannot go past Jacinda Barclay from the GWS Giants. Jacinda is an athlete in every sense of the word. This woman led the Chicago Bliss to Legends Football League in grid iron last year and in 2010 her pitching was a major contributor to Australia winning silver at the 2010 women's baseball World Cup. Now Jacinda tackles a third sport, AFL and I can't wait to see her agility, power and athleticism translate into women's footy.

Angela Pippos - Journalist, Presenter, Author, MC

What are you looking forward to?

Where do I begin? I cannot wait to see the players test their bodies to the limit (and change perceptions about women, football and physicality!) I'm super-excited about the broader benefits of AFLW to society. These footballers are strong and healthy role models for girls and women. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. It’s vital for girls (and boys) to see women in a variety of roles – elite footballer included! For me, AFLW is about more than football. It's about equality, fairness and respect. And, of course, as a passionate Adelaide Crows fan I'm very keen to see the Adelaide/NT partnership in full flight.

Player(s) to keep an eye on:

Having spent six months filming Stephanie Chiocci, Moana Hope and Tayla Thorn for my documentary League Of Her Own I'm emotionally invested up to my ears. Those three will have my undivided attention. I'll be keeping an eye on Ebony Marinoff too!

(Adelaide co-captain Chelsea Randall in action on the training track. PHOTO: AFL Photos)

Emma Race - Co-host of The Outer Sanctum

What are you looking forward to?

I'm thrilled to be here, in this moment, to witness the inaugural AFLW competition. I'm actually pretty emotional about it. The wait is almost over!

Player(s) to keep an eye on:

I expect massive things from Darcy Vescio who is already a superstar but I think she will rise to the occasion. Karen Paxman was so impressive last year I can't wait to watch her play for the Dees and Chelsea Randall for Adelaide is a stand out that will impress with her strength and experience.

Anna Harrington - Journalist at FOX Footy

What are you looking forward to?

I’m incredibly excited to see what kind of depth is uncovered in women’s footy, given all the teams have now had a full pre-season together and know the way each other play – which isn’t something the exhibition games have been able to offer in the past.

I’m also really looking forward to seeing how the 16-a-side dynamic works – it should make for really exciting, free-flowing footy come the season proper. One thing I’m also looking forward to checking out is how the athletes who have crossed from other codes cope with full-blown contested footy. But above everything else, I can’t wait to see full boutique stadiums full of supporters and young kids – both girls and boys – who’ll get to see some amazing athletes and role models ply their trade and will hopefully be inspired to believe they can achieve whatever they want to as well.

Player to keep an eye on:

Chelsea Randall - Adelaide

Why? On her day, I genuinely think Chelsea is the best player in the competition. She's super-versatile and can play up forward or even through the midfield. She stands out because of her athleticism and superb contested marking ability. Chelsea’s also really tough and courageous and has a good combination of strength and pace. One of the most dynamic and exciting players in the competition and I’m sure she’ll be a fan favourite.

Hannah Massingham - Co-founder of WomenCANplay

What are you looking forward to?

I played lots of sport growing up, but I never played footy - not cause I wasn't interested but there just wasn't an opportunity readily available. So to me, the inception of the AFL Women's league adds another very important layer that women and girls can now experience. When sport is so important to communities, it is integral that the other 50 percent of the population can be included in this and reap its benefits.

So, what am I most excited about? I'm excited for the social change and the accessibility of a sport that has positively impacted so many lives. On a more granular level, I am excited to see the fans and especially the young girls who can cheer on their new heroes, who now have visible examples to emulate and aspire to be. I'm in my late twenties, obsessed with AFL since a very young age and for the first time, I am lacing up the boots and joining a footy team - and it's the incredible AFL Women's players that I can thank for that.

Player to keep an eye on:

Akec Makur Chuot: her story of moving to Australia from South Sudan, where she'd previously been shunned from playing sport just because of her gender, is incredibly inspiring. As soon as she arrived she immersed herself in sport and now she can represent her club at a national level! I can't wait to see her smile light up the field!

A special mention must also go to my two favourite code switchers playing for GWS - Jess Bibby and Ellie Brush. I want to follow their journey giving footy a go! As a basketballer, I am keen to see how the skills transfer.

Danae Gibson - Co-host of Chicks Talking Footy on JOY 94.9

What are you looking forward to?

I love that the AFLW is a national league with four clubs from Melbourne (although I would have liked to see North Melbourne included in the first season) and clubs from Queensland and N.S.W. I'm looking forward to the S.A./ N.T. combination but I am most excited that as a Western Australian, I'll get to see my team play twice in Melbourne!

Fremantle play the opening round game against the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval and the final round game against Melbourne at Casey Fields. I'm keen to watch all of the games of course, but I'm thrilled at the chance to see them live twice ... and who knows ... perhaps the Dockers will be back in Melbourne to play in the Grand Final! I know every club supporter wants to make the GF but I'm not sure those who support clubs other than GWS & Freo would really understand how much I would love the first silverware in the Dockers trophy cabinet be the AFLW 2017 cup.

Players to keep an eye on:

I'm a fan and certainly no AFLW expert but I was able to watch some of the pre-season training, and loved the talent and tenacity of the entire playing group. Captain Kara Donnellan is obviously brilliant. Demi Okely is great. Hayley Miller is exciting. Dana Hooker is a champ. Gemma Houghton, as they say, could be anything. I can't wait to see Kirby Bentley. Okay, I'll stop now before I list them all. It's an exciting list for an exciting time. I'll be especially keeping my eye on Gabby O'Sullivan and Lara Filocamo, they both have grunt 'n' go!



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