Eastern Warriors break new ground

The Eastern Warriors celebrate their first ever home match of competitive non-contact football. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Marcus Uhe

Saturday morning saw history made for the Eastern Warriors non-contact women’s team, in the form of a maiden competitive home match against Port Melbourne at Edinburgh Reserve in Springvale.

The team, comprised of seasoned veterans to newcomers to the sport, played Port Melbourne as part of a triple-header of AFL Masters Victoria Metropolitan Superules Football League Over 35 Women’s football.

Non-contact Over 35s Women’s football is a concept two years in the making, having grown out of ingenuity and creative thinking from the Warriors, eager to accommodate female footballers in a modified version of the sport.

The Warriors are the only Masters side in the South Eastern suburbs between Mordialloc and Box Hill to offer a women’s team.

“The Women’s Masters over 35s contact footy started four/five years ago and we originally had a contact team,” club volunteer Matt Devenish said.

“We ended up getting women along who were a bit older, hadn’t played footy before, and we were struggling to field a contact team, so we dropped out of that.

“Last season or two, we’ve had a lot of women stay on, we’ve had some new women come on and they’ve enjoyed playing non-contact footy, but there’s been no other teams to play.”

Fuelled by the love of the game, the lack of opponents meant the Warriors women travelled across Melbourne, from Werribee to Footscray, Mordialloc to Preston, Port Melbourne, Altona and more, to play in exhibition games amongst themselves before matches in the AFL Masters Over 35 Women’s competition.

The intention was to plant a seed of imagination into the minds of onlookers, and in 2024 that determination bloomed in the form of Port Melbourne’s team.

The non-contact game replaces the tackle with a double-handed tag, with the game played on smaller fields and with less players on the field at once, in a similar vein to AFL 9s.

Devenish is hoping that Port Melbourne’s team is just the beginning, hoping for more teams to embrace the concept, as his club has.

“I think there’s eight Masters clubs that have an over 35s women’s team and for other clubs that don’t have a women’s team, it’s probably an easier way to get someone involved in footy when it’s non-contact,” he said.

“Either the club’s that have already got a women’s contact team, they might have people on the fringes not getting a game, or if they put in a women’s team it gives them a way of recruiting more women into the club, and for other clubs that don’t have a women’s team, then maybe a non-contact team is a better place to start.

“Even now that they’ve got opposition, no matter who kicks a goal and no matter what team they’re on, all players on the field cheers, they just enjoy it.”