Wanted ASAP: an AFL Women’s season that runs as long as the men’s. That’s Harriet Cordner’s big picture wish for the competition she feels has been better embraced this year than any to date.
The 2021 Tiger recruit who debuted in the AFLW’s inaugural season, playing for Melbourne, has told The Originals podcast that tears were shed in the Richmond rooms last Sunday.
>> LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW IN THE PODCAST BELOW
Not because the team had just won its first match at the Tigers’ iconic Punt Road Oval headquarters - Richmond’s third win from its last four AFLW outings. But because the Tigers’ game on Friday against the Western Bulldogs is their last in an extraordinary year.
The Originals: Series 2, Episode 8 - Harriet Cordner interview
Written and presented by award-winning journalist and author, Sam Lane; subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify
With Richmond not qualifying for finals - which run for three weeks in the AFLW’s fifth season - it all feels finished too soon.
Nine home-and-away matches, in Cordner’s view, is not nearly enough.
“There were actually a few tears,” the 28-year-old says, sharing backstage-pass insights on the latest edition of The Originals to her team’s post-match last Sunday.
“It is just really sad to think that you sort of dedicate so much of your life for this five month period ... where you’re on a bit of a roller coaster, really, the emotions and the highs and the lows.
“It’s almost scary to think that this time next week we won’t be coming into the club for training.
“I think it’s a really hard feeling to process.
“The thought of not coming into the club next week is really daunting, I think, and waiting another six months to starting all over again.”
Asked to table her number one wish for AFLW, Cordner responds: “A 22-game season next year.
“We play everyone ... we have a full-blown season where we don’t have to juggle this that and the other, and go on the roller coaster of I’m committing four nights a week and then I’m doing absolutely nothing (in the AFLW off-season), we just get it all.”
A veteran of the AFLW having played since 2017, Cordner said it was challenging to watch the AFL move heaven and earth to insure that the men’s full season was played in 2020, complete with a finals series and premier.
By contrast, the AFL women’s competition was abruptly halted in the relatively early days of the global coronavirus pandemic. AFLW players were invited to vote on whether a 2020 AFLW grand final should be fast-tracked so that a premiership side could be declared, or roll the dice on continuing with the remaining home-and-away rounds scheduled.
Ultimately the players voted to continue with the original fixture - Cordner says she was among the majority. But while she felt very strongly about it at the time she now feels having a 2020 AFLW premier would be preferable. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has spoken with similar lament and effectively apologised, publicly.
“I think it does all feel like a bit of whirlwind and that we had to make this really quick decision on the fly. We also probably also didn’t really understand the complete implications of it in the moment,” Cordner says of the uncertain time where AFLW players were asked to vote last year.
“I think watching what happened in the AFL men’s space was hard because it felt like, after what we had been through, we had sort of been put to the side in a sense, and to think that that season (2020) didn’t have a conclusion really, it didn’t have any closure, and that anything and everything was done for the AFL men’s season in what we were facing ... I don’t know if frustration’s the right word, but it was just hard to watch, I think, as a player in the competition.
“I just wonder if there are people that watched that happen, and thought ‘how unfair’, and ‘that was wrong’, that have now gotten behind the competition that perhaps wouldn’t have, in that way.”
Cordner also discusses, in depth, what feels like an empowering move from Melbourne Football Club where her family name is legendary. She underlines that she loved her time as a Demon, her teammates and her coaches, but that she somehow felt “stuck” because of her football lineage.
“It added pressure that wasn’t about me just competing in this new sport,” she says.
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