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Friday, May 26 2017 @ 05:01 PM ACST

Tough first day at the office for Duryea

Australia

Casey Fields at Cranbourne was the venue for 2 time AFL International Cup team of the tournament member Irish lady Laura (Corrigan) Duryea to make her professional footy debut. Representing Melbourne, she played the day at full back matching up on the very dangerous English born Sabrina Frederick-Traub.

Frederick-Traub is one of the Lions two marquee players - recruited from Perth - and at age 20 is a rising star of womens footy. Laura has settled in Australia now - making a career as a primary school teacher - that's where my family first came across her in our twin boys prep year. Laura then was relatively new to Australia and familiarising herself with our domestic code of football - now at age 33 she is a footy veteran - although the kicking style still gives a nod back to the Gaelic origins. Each an example of a less common pathway to a new and unexpected destination - playing on each other in the AFLW.

After the fanfare and excitement of the lock out at Princes Park on Friday night followed by strong attendances in Adelaide and out at Whitten Oval at Footscray - the roughly 6,500 attendees at Casey Fields raised the overall attendance for the weekend to 50,000. Granted there was free entry however that doesn't undersell the commitment of time and effort for people to attend and display their support for the AFLW. Alas the weather gods weren't so kind on Sunday afternoon as firstly the wind was blowing to the southern end and as the 1st quarter progressed the heavens opened. Before half time the lightning had driven the players and umpires from the ground - and many of the exposed fans beat a hasty retreat - thus thinning out the crowd for when play resumed.

Melbourne hosting Brisbane promised to be an interesting encounter. Womens footy in Queensland has been a quiet achiever in recent years. In 2015 the AFL reported that with over 71,000 female participants making up around 33% of overall Australian Football participants in the Sunshine State. Certainly at the junior level - Queensland have gained on the main states and in last years national Under 18s the QLD side played in division 1 against Vic Metro, Country and WA. Alas they failed to win a match however that included a 1 pt loss to WA, and going down to Vic country by 9 pts in the pool game and narrowing that margin to just 2 pts in the final play-off. I headed to the venue hopeful of the best overall contest for the weekend.




    Pre-game


Brisbane warmed up at the northern end - ironically in front of the Laura Duryea unofficial cheer squad. Brisbane themselves with Craig Starcevich and Daniel Merrett were looking pretty professional in their preparations with a lot of focus on blocking/screening and movement for forwards to present. Melbourne at the southern end under the charge of Mick Stinear. Back to the rooms momentarily.

Prior to running onto the field for the match - Melbourne unveiled their female character mascot - Daisy - bringing the footy club into line with for example the BBL cricket franchises with both a male and female mascot. Melbourne legend Ron Barassi was on the scene and looking delighted to be there - meanwhile final preparations made to the run through banner. Brisbane entered the field first - and then Melbourne - with Laura Duryea sporting the number 11 so famously linked at the Melbourne Football Club with the Irish. Lining up at full back on Sabrina Frederick-Traub provided a level of irony - the Irish head to head with the English. Frederick-Traub was born in England and only moved to Australia at age 7. Their tussle was one of the highlights of the match and but for the latter inclement weather may well have been a highlight of the weekend.




    The game


Melbourne seemed in control in the first term however were unable to convert - bad kicking as they say is bad football and 3 behinds at the first break was the sum total of their lead. The 2nd term saw the game step up - despite the weather turning for the worse. A fine diving effort on the goal line by the impressive Shannon Campbell to save a certain goal was followed up when she hit the board at the other end with the first major of the afternoon, benefitting from a 50 metre penalty - somewhat channelling the poise of Simon Black in the #20 for the Lions. Suddenly Brisbane were in front and the game was stepping up a level. Melbourne though fired back with a fine right foot goal in the wet to the northern end by Girerson. The Dees were back in front.

Ironically enough - half time came early due to a lightning and thunder light and sound display pretty well overhead - watching on there could be little surprise to see those on the field quickly make their way off. And so too did many of the fans make that call - already drenched it was a reasonable call on the basis of personal safety to call it a day. However - the match was far from done and after the 'early tea break' the umpires inspected the pitch and the contest was resumed. Perhaps it was the lack of a muddy centre wicket area, or the summer tropical stylings of the storm - we could so easily have been watching a game at Kedron, Zillmere or the like. From that point on the Lions took control of the game - especially by means of the scoreboard. In the remaining minutes of the 2nd quarter the Lions snared a crucial goal to take the half time lead. Unfortunately for Duryea it was her opponent - Frederick-Traub who snapped truly.

In often torrential rain the 2nd half saw the Dees fail to hit the scoreboard - meanwhile the Duryea and Frederick-Traub tussle continued. Duryea made a meal of an attempted play on from the kick in but was composed enough to regain the ball and head to the defensive side with the subsequent kick. However - Brisbane snared the 3rd goal of the game and as the rain pelted down the match was slipping away from Melbourne who hadn't adapted so well to the big wet. Another 50 metre penalty made a certainty of the Lions 4th and guaranteed a hard fought win for the visitors. Most certainly a 50 metre penalty is a gift too great to give - especially in those conditions.

The game had been tough - with only the one practice match under their belt - to hit the ground in round 1 it is unreasonable to expect anything but rusty skills, especially given the intensity of the tackling and defensive pressure. One can only wonder at the tired and battered players fronting up for work following such a game on a Sunday evening. For me and my family - even though we are North Melbourne supporters - for the time being, we're on the Red and Blue and following Laura and her team, and we certainly need to get to another game if for no other reason than in the hope that they haven't sold out of Laura Duryea badges again!!

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