Darebin Falcons vs Northside Lions
Victorian Metropolitan Superules Australian Football League
Darebin v Northside’s Arnell Cup celebrates Brenda Arnell who played in Northside’s inaugural women’s team and Lauren Arnell, Falcons Premiership player, captain of Carlton’s inaugural women’s team, Brisbane Lion Premiership player and inaugural Head Coach at Port Adelaide.
For Darebin, Lauren Arnell is recognised for her outstanding contribution and dedication to the Falcons, a life member of the club. For the Over 35’s, her contribution can also be seen on a broader scale. As many fans will say, attending the first game at Princes Park in February 2017, or the experience of being turned away at the gate of the officiall locked out game, the moment was electrifying.
That night, that photo of Lauren in the dugout, ready to lead out Carlton to that first ever game of AFLW- iconic! When I saw that Come and Try Day for the Over 35’s, I immediately thought of that moment, and wanted to be a player, wanted to be in a team
Currently in Port Adelaide as Head Coach, Lauren reflected on what were the expectations for women’s football from that first match in 2017.
Everyone involved at the time had some sense of the gravity of a national women’s competition and the excitement for those playing in the top tier state leagues around Australia. There was some coverage around AFLW “stealing” elite athletes from existing national and international sports but no one could have predicted the immediate impact on female football at all levels in Australia. There’s been such a huge increase in participation across the country and, importantly not just in junior ranks!
Indeed watching the women play made some of us feel a bit sad for our own lack of opportunities in our youth, but inspired others like Jill Chalmers to advocate and create space for women to play as an older athlete. Jill wrote up flyers for attracting players to get together and form an over 30’s competition, and at an AFLW game, she recruited Brenda Arnell on the spot.
My Mum came to watch me play for Carlton at Whitten oval in the first ever AFLW pride game. She tells me there was a small number of women handing flyers out to anyone who looked over 30. Being 68 at the time, Mum was instantly eligible and to their surprise, very interested!
Brenda was part of history in that first year, generous and articulate in the media, sharing her story to inspire women to join the O35’s competition, to learn how to play football as a new sport and to be part of new teams in these men only spaces. She brought a sense of occasion, as well as an inspiration to players who were starting a new sport for the first time as an older athlete.
I took my kids to watch many of the AFLW games in those first 2 seasons. Then I had the chance to join Coburg and I played with Junior. Being part of this team felt such a joy for us all to have found each other, and the game as players. In the change rooms celebrating with our families after our first ever win, my young daughters were absolutely delighted to see Lauren there, (as was I!) It felt like real change was happening for my girls, and for me.
When Darebin entered the O35’s competition in 2019, the Arnells gave both clubs another moment of history. Round 10 Coburg v Darebin playing at Werribee Football Club, Saturday 10 August, 2019. There was a notable player transfer written on the Coburg game day team sheet.
I’d completed my first season with Brisbane Lions and was in Melbourne for work over the winter. The opportunity came up to play alongside Mum and so that morning I played VFLW for Darebin in Williamstown and then jumped in the car a bit further west and pulled on the Coburg jumper with Mum. It was a very emotional day and I’m so grateful Brisbane allowed me to do that while I was in contract and the game was against many of my Darebin premiership team mates. It’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played and something I’ll remember forever. It was emotional for me to see the level of care and love shown to Mum within two football teams.
The Arnell Cup is played in that spirit, with a celebration of two players who continue to be part of enormous changes. Coburg is now known as Northside but still the Lions in the familiar red and blue. Both clubs are delighted that Brenda will be able to travel to Melbourne for the 2023 Arnell Cup, which will be played at Darebin for the first time.
And for the future?
And for the future?
Yes, booming participation does bring that challenge in infrastructure- like pressure on change rooms and ground availability- but can also create more opportunity for more people. As well as that, I’d love to see the spirit of over 35s continue with high scoring and pure enjoyment for our game alongside sportspersonship and healthy competition for everyone involved.
Round 4’s fixture for the Women’s Over 35’s Football is a commemoration of the impacts on the game by these two remarkable players, a shared sense of history between Northside and Darebin Over 35’s teams, and a celebration of change.
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