Ballarat’s Bree White always dreamed of playing AFL and more than two decades later her dream was realised as she pulled on the Collingwood guernsey in the AFL Women’s competition.
The AFL Women’s format arrived in timely fashion for the 35-year-old who has played football all her life.
In her junior days White would boundary umpire in local matches, but on the occasion that Dunnstown, where her brothers played, fell short on numbers she would jump at the chance to fill the void.
However, as the years rolled on and she got to the age where mixed teams were not applicable the only football on offer was representing her school – Loreto College.
Once she turned 18 she joined St Albans in the Victorian Women’s Football League.
The hard-running midfielder never thought the opportunity to play in front of crowds of 20,000-plus and thousands more on TV in a national competition would arise.
White said she had goosebumps as she ran out for her first AFLW match against Carlton.
“It was pretty crazy…(I had) goose bumps,” White said.
“We couldn’t really predict what was going to happen…there was a lot of interest in the lead-up and I think the timing has been really good, the fact that people are hanging out for a bit of footy at this time of year.
“Getting to run out through the banner and having the team song and once you head out the crowd just erupted. Last weekend just blew us away with the crowd sizes and the interest.”
White said it was fantastic to see the opportunities now on offer for young women who want to play football. She believed the women’s game had been growing over the last few years, but the introduction of the national game will rapidly increase that growth.
White, who was also a national under-23 cricketer, praised Ballarat’s youth girls competition for providing a flourishing competition for the next generation of women’s footballers.
“Women’s football over the last five years has really started to build this momentum. As a kid growing up all you wanted to do was play AFL footy, but there wasn’t that pathway or the opportunities.
“But to be able to get that (now) and have the support of the AFL and Collingwood and then for the public to come out and support it as well – it was pretty special. Definitely something I won’t forget for a long time.
“But there wasn’t the same systems that are in place now. I know in Ballarat now the youth girls is going really well and they’re starting to filter into senior teams. It’s great to see that if girls want to play footy they can. That’s the real positive thing for me.”