The AFL should take advantage of the NRL's absence during their trip to Las Vegas with blockbuster games in Sydney.
For the GWS Giants, their win against the West Coast Eagles in the AFLW last weekend may have been the best in their history. The margin of 28 points certainly suggests so.
But after a disappointing loss to North Melbourne the week before, for Bec Beeson and the rest of her Giants teammates, it was important to bounce back strongly.
“I thought our connection on the field and being able to share the ball around was a real stand out,” says Beeson.
“After that hard loss to North Melbourne we had to come together, and in the midfield meeting we had a few hard discussions about what we’ve done in the past and how we’re going to fix it. It was a strong week in the lead up to that game and it showed on the field.”
The Giants now head into Round 4 with two wins and one loss. That’s a positive start for a team that is yet to feature in an AFLW Finals series.
As the season is so short, only eight rounds in fact, each game is crucial, but for the Giants, this weekend’s game against the Brisbane Lions is considered pivotal to their finals chances.
So crucial in fact that Giants coach Al McConnell is calling it the team’s first ever ‘stand tall’ game. The impact of this game has not been lost on the players.
“There is a tradition in the men’s program of ‘stand tall’ games. These are games the teams have won in critical times of the season or against the odds,” says Beeson.
“This is our most important game in our four-year history. It will set up the rest of the season.”
What the Giants will hope will shine through in this game is the connection between the players that served the team so well in the win against West Coast.
This is something the squad has worked hard on this year. It can be a challenge in a state where the VFL team is only in its infancy and where so many of the players come from interstate to join the Giants family.
That means working hard on the field, but having fun off the field too – something you’ll know the Giants are very good at if you keep an eye on their socials.
Given how many players come from interstate, the one advantage the team has is that squad members become each others family away from home and spend plenty of time with each other away from footy.
Beeson comments on the laughs the team shares together, particularly McConnell who starts most meetings off with some kind of gag.
Fortunately McConnell hasn’t played a gag on Beeson, but she plans on keeping her head down just in case.
This light-hearted approach has also impacted Beeson’s football.
“In particular this year I have found more fun in football. I’ve played a lot of footy over the last couple of years, but I have had to learn how to find more enjoyment in footy as well as try and take some of that individual pressure off myself,” says Beeson.
But despite the competitiveness of footy and getting the results, Beeson is often reminded about the importance of the AFLW in giving young men and women visible female role models playing footy.
She had another reminder last weekend after the game against the West Coast Eagles when she had the chance to meet a young Giants fan named Aubrey.
“After the game we are given a footy and we get to pick someone in the crowd to give it to. Usually I try to find a young girl to give the footy to and Aubrey caught my eye,” Beeson recalls.
“It was a warm-hearted experience. You can make someone’s day by giving someone a footy and having a bit of a chat.
She probably went home and slept with that ball last night.”
For Beeson and many other AFLW players, they are playing footy because they love it. But given that the AFLW is only in its fourth season and seeing women being given the opportunity to play footy is relatively new, it means that these players are seen as role models and by virtue of playing footy, they are having a big impact on the next generation coming through.
“I don’t think you realise the impact you are having until you meet some of these young girls,” says Beeson.
“I work at the club and get to read a lot of the fan mail that gets sent to the club by our younger members. And the mail says things like ‘I watched you on the weekend and now I want to play footy like you’. We have the chance to make a real impact here and experiencing that impact is a beautiful feeling.”
“What we do is more than just a game. It’s not just about how you perform on the weekend. It’s about the broader impact you can have on society by playing sport.”