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Fierce and proud: Being the Bulldogs’ runner has helped me get women’s footy

“Fierce as f–k!” That was the line I heard bellowed from amongst the Western Bulldogs’ AFLW pack last Friday night.

I still don’t know who said it, but it had a guttural brilliance to it. Last week, the young women of the Bulldogs gathered in a small room within the changerooms away from everyone else, took their jumpers off (so I’m told), turned on some late ’90s pop and turned it up to 10 (I could hear) and then danced (I assume).

Ellie Blackburn and Kirsten McLeod celebrate as the final siren sounds on their win over the Blues.

Ellie Blackburn and Kirsten McLeod celebrate as the final siren sounds on their win over the Blues.Credit:Getty Images

Football clubs are circles within circles, I used to inhabit that inner core, but not anymore. My role these days is working closely with the leadership group during the week and runner on match days. It’s a fascinating perspective. Once the song ended, I learned that the players each took their jumpers in their hands and ceremonially put them back on. The jumper, footy’s great symbol of camaraderie and history. The dancing was complete and the battle against Carlton was about to begin.

As the players emerged from the disco, the anticipation was palpable, it was then that I heard the war cry, “fierce as f–k!” It sent a shiver up my spine, in the best possible way. Bursting out onto the ground to the applause only a home crowd can give, but a quick photo with the opposition team (arm in arm of course) saves the intensity from bubbling over. From there, a quick warm-up of run throughs and handballs is all completed with rainbow flags dotted in the outer, amongst the team colours, waving high in the evening breeze. It was Pride round and there’s not a whiff of tokenism. Diversity, inclusion and the fight to be who they want to be, sexually or otherwise, is something the players have lived. The bruises are just under the surface, the pride splashed across their faces. If you can’t change emotional gears quickly in the world of women’s footy at the elite level, you could be left flailing.

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