The rainbow flag will be out in force around the country this weekend as the entire NAB AFLW competition celebrates the League-wide annual Pride Round.
Held from November 3-5 across round 10, it will be the fourth occasion the competition will hold a round dedicated to celebrating and supporting diversity and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ communities in our great game, as well as acknowledging their contributions to the strength and growing success of the league.
For GIANT number 4 and proud rainbow community member Katherine Smith, the annual fixture is her favourite round of the year.
“I absolutely love it,” she said.
“Regardless of whether you are a part of the rainbow community or not, it’s a round that celebrates inclusivity to our great game. And footy is the best game in the world.
“If you feel comfortable and included to come to footy then we’ll have more people there watching and more people playing.”
Women’s football has been breaking barriers for many years and continue to lead the way in this space.
“The AFLW has such a great impact on the wider Australian community,” Smith said.
“I think in terms of equality in women's sport and the advancements there and just our ability to maybe touch on some topics that haven’t previously been brought up.
“I feel like women’s football does a great job of keeping up with how and where the world is heading and it’s exciting that we can promote and celebrate the rainbow community.
“The AFL is a huge part of Australia and the fact that we are now saying that the AFL accepts everyone no matter who you are is massive thing and I think its super powerful. Hopefully in years to come it only gets bigger and better.”
For the 25-year-old, she’s been fortunate enough to experience the inclusive nature of women’s football from a young age.
“I came out when I was 12 and I was blessed to be a part of so many football communities growing up,” she said.
“Just being around a community that accepted you could love who you wanted to love was huge being so young and that allowed me to feel comfortable and share how I was feeling.
“It was accepted that if you had a boyfriend that was okay, if you had a girlfriend that was okay, it didn’t matter.
“It was an environment that made you feel like you were cared for.”
As the code progresses for women across all levels of the game, the GIANTS defender said she loves how inclusiveness has been embraced not only at the top level but grassroots.
“You see local competitions having their own pride round these days – it's fantastic,” she said.
“I think it’s the fact that a girl and boy growing up is now seeing that AFLW is a safe place to be who you are.
“Whether they are a part of the rainbow community or not they are accepted for who they are within our great game.”
The GIANTS – alongside all 18 AFLW teams – will wear a specially designed Pride jumper this Saturday, with other at-match initiatives including a rainbow Sherrin, Pride goal umpire flags, as well as rainbow themed 50-metre arcs.
The GIANTS will don a similar design to last year, with Smith already in the process of creating a new design for 2024.
No matter what the design, it’s the representation that means so much to Smith and as she pulls on the jumper on Saturday, she’ll take an extra few seconds to celebrate the occasion.
“It makes me just feel really proud,” she said.
“I’m proud of the League. I'm proud of the AFL for progressing in the eight seasons.
“I'll definitely have an extra little buzz in my step running out on game day.”
The GIANTS will take on Port Adelaide in Pride Round on Saturday at Alberton Oval at 3:05pm EDT.