“We all know a few of the girls, how they play, and I guess we’ve got nothing to lose now so hopefully that gives the girls some confidence to go in and play good football.”
North’s Jess Duffin, 29, is one familiar face having represented Collingwood in seasons one and two – and is one of four Pies that switched to North this year.
“Coming up against Collingwood we know how they play and what they like to do. I think it’s going to be a really good contest,” said the forward-cum-defender, who’s the only player to have been nominated in the league’s team of the week every round so far.
“As Ash said, they’ve got nothing to lose and that’s kind of dangerous for any other side looking to play them.”
Since 7500 attended the first women’s Demons versus Bulldogs exhibition that preceded the men’s match at the MCG in 2013, Saturday’s double-header serves as another milestone in the progression of the women’s competition.
Bulldog Tiarna Ernst has unique recollections of the rivalry between the two pioneering clubs that then took place every year up to 2016, after she donned a Demons guernsey in 2015.
“The last exhibition I did play was here at this ground. I actually ruptured my kidney in that last exhibition match, so it brings back a couple of memories,” she said from Marvel Stadium, which will host Marvel-themed children’s activities on Saturday in a style similar to the recent AFLX.
“But they’re very fond [memories], and obviously it’s amazing to see the growth of women’s football to now have a women’s competition that’s so successful.”
Stuck two wins behind third-placed Fremantle in conference A, the Bulldogs need two convincing wins against Melbourne then Carlton, plus other results to go their way, to give themselves any chance of making the finals.
While Duffin may be feeding information to her North teammates on her old Collingwood colleagues, Ernst, 31, possesses a special variety of inside information on the Demons.
Ernst, an obstetrician, was a former colleague of Melbourne captain and midwife Daisy Pearce at Box Hill hospital, and more recently was one of Pearce’s doctors as she prepared to give birth to her twins in February.
“Unfortunately I missed the delivery, we were down in Launceston playing North Melbourne at the time, so I wasn’t there but I went and visited her shortly after in hospital,” said Ernst.
“I think she did actually think about trying to come to the game herself, although we need to make sure her two little kids are OK with that idea as well!
“She’s just excited that women’s football is succeeding, obviously with a bit of bias in hoping that Melbourne will get over the top of us, but I know she’s just excited for a successful event.”
Melbourne co-captain Elise O’Dea has stepped into Pearce’s leadership boots this season – although Pearce had been offering a helping hand – and she noted it was “no surprise” Pearce was “nailing it in terms of motherhood”.
Despite three wins that would have them first in conference B, the Demons are fourth in the more difficult conference A although their remaining rounds are intra-conference matches against the Demons then leaders Adelaide.
“That’s the conference system, we all knew we were getting into that. I don’t think any of those teams in conference B are any less worthy to be in finals contention,” said O’Dea, a top performer for the Demons once more this year.
“I think if we were good enough, we’d be in the top two and securing our spot in the finals. We just have to do everything we can to win this game and the next game.”
The double header will be broadcast live on Channel Seven, despite Seven’s recent decision to demote its other remaining AFLW matches to 7mate due to disappointing viewing figures.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.