Fiona Hardy’s new middle grade novel How to Tackle Your Dreams follows Homer, a footy-mad eleven-year-old whose Mum has just made it into the AFLW. Here, Fiona shares what the women’s league means to her.

Back when I was a kid, my dad would buy a weekly train ticket to go into the city for work – but the ticket was also valid as a whole family pass on the weekends! So, we’d take the opportunity to go into Richmond to watch MCG games as often as we could. We’d also drive to the now-closed Waverley Park in Melbourne’s south-east to catch a game. Dad barracked for St Kilda, and I was a Geelong supporter, but it didn’t matter who was playing – we’d go to the footy even if we were just in the mood.

Those are really vivid, happy memories of times with my dad, usually just the two of us, screaming along at matches. He’d let me yell the absolute worst swears I knew (“YA MUG!”) and we’d be wrapped in our beanies and scarves, armed with a Footy Record that I’d pore over the whole game, and smashing down pies or pizzas as we watched. We never left a game early – even thirty seconds before the end I’d be sitting there saying to my dad, ‘It’s okay! They can still get four goals and win!’

I’d never thought about playing football, but I’m not sure if that was just because I’d never seen any girls play. Me and my sisters played netball, and I’d see the boys kicking around at school, but watching girls play wasn’t even on my radar.

Because I worked on weekends for so long, I never even made it to an in-person AFLW game until last year, when I finally switched to working weekdays. The first time I saw an AFLW game, Geelong wasn’t even playing – it was just a match I could make it to! It was pouring down with rain, and I was entranced. The moment the siren blew and those women ran out onto the field, I burst into tears.

Luckily, the rain meant nobody could tell.

It was so powerful – watching the game I’d loved my whole life, but played by women – and I spent that whole match feeling elated. The weather got so bad the rest of my family had to leave, but I kept standing there, one hundred per cent drenched, feeling like I was in a dream.

For me, having always loved the game so much, it seemed ridiculous that for all these years nobody in charge took up the opportunity to have MORE football – and more chances to watch people play! Having footy on more often is the best outcome for anyone who genuinely loves the game. To watch women play, and know that my kid won’t ever remember a time before AFLW – it’s the best feeling in the world.