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A Giant weekend of women’s sport

Ashleigh Went

It’s an exciting time to be involved in women’s sports – particularly in Canberra, where this weekend the Giants national super netball and women’s AFL sides will have their first home games in the ACT.

Just ask Jessica Bibby or Ellie Brush, two of the local GWS Giants players set to play in a history making AFLW match this Saturday at UNSW Canberra Oval.

It marks an interesting time in Australian sporting history – both for players who, more often than not, have transferred skills from another sport, as well as spectators, especially young women who until now haven’t had a female role model in football.

“It’s just amazing how far women’s sport has come in that as a kid I had no idea that girls played footy – or that you even could” says Ellie.

“It gives me goose bumps seeing those young girls in their team’s jerseys turning to their parents and saying ‘one day I want to play for GWS or Canberra United’ or whatever it may be, and now they actually can do that.”

Having recently retired from a record-breaking career in women’s basketball (having played a staggering 394 games), Jess Bibby counts the ability to inspire young women as one of the most rewarding aspects of her profession.

“For me as a basketballer, it’s rewarding to see little girls running around with a basketball jersey and a ball tucked under their arm, trying to be the best basketball player they can be.”

It’s been a tumultuous season for the Giants. One of the challenges of the inaugural season of AFLW has been training athletes who’ve come from a variety of backgrounds playing other sports. This, combined with the need for the five Canberra players to travel to Sydney weekly for training, has resulted in a rewarding yet exhausting season.

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Image via www.facebook.com/GWSGiants

“It’s been an enormous challenge,” says Jess. “Really exciting and enjoyable, but I’m absolutely looking forward to the finishing line on Saturday night.”

In addition to playing on a physically larger playing field, Jess has had to learn the sport itself.

“I don’t understand the lingo, I’ve never done any of the drills before, mentally I’m having to be switched on the whole time. It’s quite exhausting.”

Ellie concedes that there’s work to be done in respect to athletes having to spend so much time driving to and from Sydney – a task that does their bodies no favours in terms of recovery.

“We’re very much over the trip up the Hume. There was always going to be teething issues with this first season, it’s part of the growth and learning. Once we’re in Sydney and training with the girls, it’s been a fantastic experience.”

There’s been an enormous level of support, both from fans, spectators and the club itself.

“We’ve been really welcomed by the men’s AFL side and the board,” says Ellie, “we’re made to feel as supported as anyone in the organisation. I can’t say enough about the culture and professionalism within the Giants.”

Public support, however, rarely comes without opposition. A number of journalists and members of the public have drawn comparisons to the men’s AFL, saying that the AFLW falls short in terms of entertainment or performance.

“Men’s Aussie Rules football is 150 years old,” says Jess Bibby. “If you go back 20 or 30 years, it definitely was not the spectacle it is today. Those journalists that are writing those stories forget that. All they see is the ultra professional, elite environment the AFL guys are privileged to be in.”

“We’re dealing with one year of AFLW where the girls are still part time, they’re still learning. You can only imagine how incredible it will be five years from now, if the league continues to grow and built in the way that the men’s has.”

Following a loss to Collingwood last weekend, the Giants are excited to take on the Western Bulldogs at UNSW Canberra Oval on Saturday.

“Especially of the back of a bit of disappointment from the game on the weekend, we’re glad we’ve got another one this weekend to be able to show that that’s not the sort of team we are,” says Ellie.

“It’ll certainly be a tough game against the quality Bulldogs outfit – when they turn it on, they’re a force to be reckoned with. We’ll really have to come at them firing and play our best.”

You can show your support for the GWS Giants this Saturday 18 March. Entry to the game is free, with the first bounce at 7.10 pm.

Catch the Super Netball at the AIS arena this Sunday 19 March. The Giants Netball are taking on the Adelaide Thunderbirds, from 1pm.Tickets available here.

Feature image courtesy of www.facebook.com/GWSGiants

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author

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