For former championship representative volleyballer Lauren Spark, running out onto Whitten Oval in front of a ten-thousand strong crowd was something so unbelievable that it didn’t hit her until after the match, when her and her Western Bulldogs had secured their first win of the inaugural AFLW Season.
(The Western Bulldogs players sing the song in the rooms. PHOTO: Change Her Game)
‘That was ten thousand people!’ She exclaimed with wide eyes and huge smile. ‘Oh my God!’
It took the Dogs some time to settle into Saturday night’s game and relax the nerves but once they did, they took full control of the ball, defeating Fremantle by 32-points.
‘It took me almost the whole first quarter to get my breath back and soak it all in,’ Spark said.
‘We settled into the pace of the game, it was all a bit frantic to start with, but absolutely amazing when a couple of our smaller forwards got onto those balls and were able to run into open goals - just the roar of the crowd was unbelievable’
The Daughters of the West certainly put on a show for the fans who were lined up at the gates over an hour before they were due to open, pressuring the Club to let them in early.
The excitement was palpable and while Whitten Oval had seen packed stands before in last year’s exhibition match between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, this match had a very different feel.
For Spark, this time around, the season and working towards a premiership is the focus.
‘We’ve obviously been working a lot harder knowing that it’s not just the one game anymore it is looking at eight matches – and hopefully a Grand Final!
It’s been a different build up, we are looking ahead as well and you can feel that it’s different. The pre-match, the warm-up, running out with more people cheering. And through a banner! It’s a lot bigger with points up for grabs.’
The Bulldogs had already been touted by the media as the team to take out the AFLW Premiership Cup and with a win now under their belt, the expectations will continue to grow for this team. Spark is well aware of the hype and says her and the team are using that external noise as motivation.
‘You can’t shy away from the media at the moment, its everywhere. It’s in the papers, it’s on the TV, it’s on social media and even the opposition captains have voted us in as the favourites. And we like that, we’re thriving off that and I think tonight showed that we’re up there. We’re proving that we are one of the teams to beat so we’re enjoying all that.’
Next week will see the Bulldogs take on Adelaide back at Whitten Oval on Friday night. The Crows enjoyed their first victory over the GWS Giants by 36-points at Thebarton Oval on Saturday afternoon in the wet but Spark says her Bulldogs are up for the challenge of Chelsea Randall’s Crows.
‘We managed to catch a little bit of that game and I’m not too familiar with a lot of their players so this week we’ll spend a bit of time on researching those girls and checking up on some footage but I think we’ve got a lot to take out of our game. Our run and carry is something we pride ourselves on so hopefully we take that into next week as well.’
With a win for both of these teams in round one and arguably two of the best forwards in the competition in Randall and the Bulldogs’ Katie Brennan, this will be a match not to be missed.
AFLW Round Two:
Friday, February 10
Western Bulldogs v Adelaide Crows
VU Whitten Oval
Saturday, February 11
Carlton v GWS Giants
Collingwood v Melbourne
(Saturday's times and venue are to be confirmed)
Sunday, February 12
Fremantle v Brisbane Lions