Friday was a ground-breaking night for the Southern Football Netball League, as East Brighton and Oakleigh District launched the inaugural SFNL Women’s Football season under lights at Hurlingham Park.
The Vampires ultimately proved too strong for the Oaks, prevailing by 30 points in a high-quality contest. However, the result was largely a secondary concern, with the importance of the night transcending the boundary line.
A couple of hundred people were in attendance to not only watch the two teams create history, but see the league take a further step forward in its goal to become an all-inclusive community sporting organisation.
Speaking on yesterday’s The 5th Quarter, East Brighton star Luisa Marrollo said Friday night’s match gave women and girls the long-awaited opportunity to play the sport they love, and finally achieved equality with the men they’d envied for so long.
“It is (a childhood dream) for a lot of these girls,” Marrollo said.
“I was just so happy and I was just so excited. I’ve been training with East Brighton since about November last year, so it just felt unreal that it was finally the time… This is what I’ve been working to, this exact moment of finally running out onto the ground and playing an actual game.
“It just felt real, just like it would in men’s footy. It finally felt equal, like we’ve got what exactly all the boys have always been getting. I think that feels good.”
From an East Brighton perspective, the whole build up to the match was huge. The girls had a solid training session with the Vampires’ men’s team on the Tuesday night to help them prepare for the momentous occasion.
And it paid dividends, as the girls hit the ground running on the night, leading from start to finish in a comprehensive display that sees the club installed as early premiership favourites.
Marrollo, a former netballer, had played in several wins in her previous sporting pursuits, but admitted that nothing compared to the elation she felt after Friday night’s triumph.
“It was actually the best feeling ever. A lot of us had previously played other sports, I had previously played netball, but a win in footy is nothing like a win in netball. It’s a whole different thing,” she said.
“We’re very lucky, I think. Our team’s great because we’ve got a lot of diversity, and everyone’s got a lot of skills in different areas. I think that’s just why we work so well together as well.”
And it seems East Brighton are making concerted efforts to integrate both their men’s and women’s football teams and create a harmonious club culture. With both the women’s and senior men’s sides saluting over the weekend, members of both teams returned to Hurlingham Park on Saturday night to toast the club’s success.
“Yeah, we did (have a great party Saturday night), it was a lot of fun. A couple of the girls came down, and the boys were there too,” Marrollo said.
“I think that’s one of the most important things within your club is to make sure there is a bit of a relationship between the women’s footy and the men’s footy (teams) as well, and not keeping it so separated.
“It makes the club a whole and it’s just like a welcoming place, so we definitely celebrated together as a club.”