COLLINGWOOD’S Caitlyn Edwards knew the AFLW was going to be a hit when she ran on to the field for the competition’s opening game.
A capacity crowd of 24,500 witnessed the historic inaugural game at Princes Park, with many more locked out.
Edwards said although Collingwood lost, the game itself was an incredible and surreal experience.
“The most I’d ever played in front of before was 5000 or 7000 before an AFL match; down at a regular match we wouldn’t even get 50 people,” she said.“It was incredible, I found myself at times going ‘wow’, looking at the crowd.
“We lost the match, but it was still exciting to see women’s footy had won that day.”
Since the season finished, the 20 year-old Thornlie product has juggled her time with East Fremantle in the WAWFL and Palmyra in RugbyWA’s women’s competition.
She said the AFLW’s professional manner had been an enormous step forward for women’s sport, both on and off the field.
“Playing female sport, you’re used to not getting the best of the best, there are still times at rugby we still don’t get change rooms to go into,” she said.
“But everything (in the AFLW) was a step up. The warm up, the preparation, having five or six physios or trainers to strap you up and rub you down before the game and being able to have a full time fitness coach and sport and conditioning coach.”
Edwards said while it was great to see women’s sport in the limelight, the increased media attention was at times a double-edged sword.
“I saw a lot of what happened to Moana Hope, she had a lot of good media, but what comes with good media is the negativity if she doesn’t perform,” she said. “She was able to handle it really well and she’s one of the best in the game for sure, but she was carrying a bit of an injury throughout the season.”
The rising defender played every game of the inaugural season, but admitted there was a lot of room for improvement ahead of next year.
“I really want to step it up and really focus on my footy once rugby season ends here, I want to focus on my fitness a lot more and work on my kicking and marking.”