It’s around midday Saturday at Eden’s footy oval, cars are parked up around the boundaries, and kids wearing red and white Whalers beanies swing on the railings.
The warm aroma of meat pies and hotdogs on the boil spills out of the canteen.
Adjoining the canteen are the white painted, brick locker rooms from the 1960s. The scratchy red galvanised door is shut, the pungent smell of Deep Heat wafts through the crack underneath. Inside, the Eden Whalers football team is preparing to claim victory over its opponent Narooma, hopeful for a spot in the upcoming finals.
The door crashes open and a small girl wearing a Whalers footy vest bounds out giggling. She is followed by her mother and newborn baby sister, who have stepped outside to sit on the bench and feed in the warmth of the mid-winter sun.
Inside, there is the usual before the game scenario, players getting ankles strapped, socks being pulled up and boots being laced. Today, however, at least for the next few hours, the rooms are the women Whalers football team’s change rooms.
The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. Children play around their mother’s legs, babies are passed around, chatter and laughter fill the air. Catherine Martino, who joined the Whalers mid-way through this season, said as soon as she joined the team she felt right at home.
“We have a strong bond,” says team member Nicole Crowe. “Even though our ages range from 14 to 45, we all have each other’s back on and off the field.”
Half-forward Kate Mitchell says she has more than likely made life-long friendships.
“I’ve met some pretty amazing girls through this team who I probably would never have crossed paths with.”
The Whalers joined the inaugural SCAFL women’s competition three years ago – and have won both premierships so far. This season they currently sit in second place on the table, leader Tathra and only slightly behind on goal difference.
The girls have the 2018 finals in their sights, but are realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. Women’s football is exploding all over the place and teams are becoming stronger and stronger.
“The top five is getting really close,” says Kamilla Grubesic. “It would be an effort amazing to get three out of three grand final wins, but that’s pretty hard to predict.
Tammy Whitford, who travels 110km – along with three other teenage girls – to be part of the team says playing women’s football is a dream come true.
“I’ve lived and breathed AFL through my dad for the last 25 years,” says Tammy.
“It was finally the women’s turn to have a crack three years ago. It was something I have always dreamed of doing. It is something I thought would never be possible. Let alone win two grand finals back to back.”
After the day’s win against Narooma the girls are just that little bit closer to another grand final.
Back in the change room, the women, accompanied by their children, arm in arm belt out the club’s official song. The door is wide open.
When asked where one can find the words to the anthem, Kate Mitchell’s face gleams with pride: “Get my daughters to teach you.”
- This Saturday, the Eden Whalers women travel north to take on Broulee/Moruya, 11.50am.