Cats Media and Club Vice-President Bob Gartland sat down with the first ever female captain of the Geelong Cats, and asked her what it was like leading the Cats out in 1954.
Audrey Cope was Geelong’s first female captain, playing in 1954 wearing a borrowed pair of socks and guernsey. The match took place at Kardinia Park and was umpired by the great Reg Hickey and Bernie Smith.
“Reg Hickey gave a decision on running with the ball, he was on the half forward flank, and the girl was running across the goals down the other end,” Cope explained.
"We got rid of him at three quarter time, we’d had enough of him... he was never where the ball was!”
With enough teams to create a league the women were enthusiastic but there wasn’t as much motivation from family members for the girls to take the field.
“There was no real encouragement, and part of that stemmed from our mothers who thought it wasn’t lady-like,” Cope said, “The teams were there, and if you asked them to play, they would play.”
She recalls teams such as ‘Jack Collins’ Commercial Cuties’ and ‘Whitten’s Wonders’ that used to impress the crowds in curtain raisers or half time matches.
Looking at the AFL Women’s competition today, she is impressed by the overall management of the league and just how good the players are.
“It’s a great thing there’s an organisation behind them to push them to better efforts,” Cope said, “The women who are playing today are well-trained, skilful and they’ve got a tonne of talent, it’s obvious there’s talent there.”
“Our 1954 team would’ve tried, but I don’t think we could’ve kept up with them.”
Cope represents the early beginnings of women’s footy in Australia and is proud to see how the game has evolved to welcome professional female athletes.
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