If ever you wanted evidence of the impact the AFL Women’s competition is having, simply look at Abbie Dare.
The Round 6 NAB AFL Auskicker of the Year nominee from the Lane Cove Cats captured the attention of the nation after her half-time interview with Channel Seven’s Hamish McLachlan at the Adelaide Oval last Friday night.
When asked who her favourite AFLW team was, the GIANTS Recruits member simply replied, "Amanda Farrugia from the GIANTS".
Young Abbie’s appreciation for the GIANTS’ AFLW captain started in early December last year at North Sydney Oval.
Abbie and her dad approached Farrugia, who was watching a WBBL match with teammates, to ask for an autograph.
Instead, Farrugia wrote Abbie a letter telling the young girl to ‘follow her dreams’ and to ‘never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you are a girl’.
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Since their meeting, Abbie has been enthralled by the GIANTS' AFLW team and the greater competition.
Abbie turns her barbie dolls into GIANTS and other AFLW stars - including Carlton’s Taylah Harris - and as a result of her interactions with the GIANTS at games and on a visit to the club, she has started playing Auskick.
Thanks Abbie and Emma for dropping past before training today!@AliciaEva2, @taydavies4 and Delma Gisu had a blast having a kick with you!— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) February 26, 2019
The next gen is already looking the goods #NeverSurrender #GenW pic.twitter.com/YNiyxHshP5
Abbie is symbolic of the extraordinary growth in women’s football across the country.
She’s just one of thousands of young females who have been influenced by the GIANTS and the first three AFLW seasons.
Female participation in women’s football in New South Wales and the ACT alone has grown rapidly, with a 61 per cent increase in participation in 2017 (the year AFLW was born) and another increase of 51 per cent in 2018.
The AFL Sydney competition has exploded. In 2016, before the AFLW competition started, there were just two women’s divisions with 15 clubs supporting 17 teams.
Now, in 2019, there are four divisions with 19 clubs supporting 35 teams.
While the 2019 AFLW season didn’t go as well as the GIANTS were hoping, 21 members of the squad have recently re-committed for 2020 and emerging ruck Jessica Allan has joined the club after a trade from Adelaide.
The GIANTS will also be represented in the VFLW competition this year, giving greater opportunities for NSW players to get exposure at a higher level. The VFLW season gets underway later this month.
After telling the nation that her favourite team is “Amanda Farrugia” on @7AFL last night, Auskicker of the week Abbie was reunited with her hero tonight at the SCG.#NeverSurrender #SydneyDerbyXVII pic.twitter.com/5eDf0Wfxpw— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) April 27, 2019