THE INAUGURAL AFLW Pride Round has given an opportunity to every player in the competition to celebrate inclusiveness in football.
The previous three seasons have seen Carlton and the Western Bulldogs celebrate an annual Pride Game – with St Kilda and Melbourne joining last year – but 2021 marks the first time it has been extended to an entire round (if you are attending an AFLW match in Victoria and you are standing or unable to socially distance, the AFL says please wear a mask).
Carlton's Darcy Vescio, a graphic designer who has once again created her side's pride jumper, said the round was an opportunity to pay tribute to the integral role the LGBTQIA+ community has had in developing women's footy around the country, pre-AFLW.
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"The Pride Round is always such a special occasion for us girls. Bonnie (Toogood, Dogs forward) and I have been lucky enough to be part of the clubs who have had a Pride Game for four years now," Vescio said.
"Every time it comes, it's so lovely to see the shift in crowd as well. It's certainly the best game to come to in terms of the people who feel comfortable attending. We're able to represent ourselves, represent the women who built women's footy and celebrate people from all different backgrounds.
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"The strongest thing is to see yourself reflected in football, so for a lot of people, to be able to watch AFLW and to know the girls, to know their struggles, and to celebrate all the identities – it's hard to sum up what that means."
Toogood was on hand at VU Whitten Oval to help launch the round, and echoed Vescio's sentiments.
"As humans, we all want acceptance and love, and the Pride Game for us has been that, where people can be here, feel accepted," Toogood said.
"Now we have a round dedicated to it, it's really special, because as I said, we want love, belonging and acceptance. That's what we do here. I'm really excited for it and it's a great opportunity to celebrate everyone."
The Blues will don a jumper inspired in part by the competition's development and the growth of the players in that time.
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"I took the values and the concepts the girls brought to me in the previous year and did another take on it," Vescio said.
"It's essentially (based) on when you cut a tree and see the growth rings, it represents the growth we've had year on year; and as a collective, showing we are able to speak out more, we understand ourselves more and are feeling more confident in speaking publicly on things that matter.
"The growth rings are sort of like ripples, so it's the ripple effect in the community from the work we do in the community and the way we represent ourselves."
The Dogs are another of the five clubs – with some yet to be announced – who will don a special Pride guernsey this weekend, with theirs created by club graphic designer Natalie Gills.
"It was a bit of a different take this year, she did a lot of research and consultation with our Bulldogs Pride supporter group, so we could get a more progressive and [well-rounded] approach to this guernsey design," Toogood said.
"It has the colours and flags of all the identities within the LGBTQIA+ community and it's really cool. It's a really progressive approach to make sure we represent everybody."
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