SUPPORT for the fledgling NAB AFL Women's competition has been significant, so it was no surprise when hundreds of people took up an invitation for a kick-to-kick session with some of the new competition's stars on the MCG on Tuesday afternoon.
More than 750 footy fans of all ages – from grandparents to newborns – were given the chance to live out fantasies and run, walk or crawl (in the case of some) on the MCG turf as part of a family-friendly AFL event to mark International Women's Day.
There were footballs flying left, right and centre, with many fans taking the opportunity to emulate some of the game's newest heroes. There were attempts at Tayla Harris-like pack marks, pinpoint foot skills mirroring those of Demons captain Daisy Pearce and even a couple of pink helmets, reminiscent of the one worn by dashing Adelaide defender Heather Anderson.
Carlton ruck Alison Downie, one of several AFLW stars on hand at the MCG, said it was great to see the broad support women's footy had received in the first year of the new competition.
It was a new experience for Downie and other players in attendance, with fans clamouring for photos and autographs on anything and everything, from footballs to footy jumpers.
Downie said she was still coming to terms with the new-found attention.
It feels a little bit weird," she said with a big grin as she dodged a wayward football.
"One day you're just a regular person and the next you're a role model for so many young kids."
In 1977, the United Nations proposed March 8 as a day to recognise and celebrate the achievements and importance of women in society.
Each year, a particular theme is allocated to the day. This year's is 'Be Bold for Change', which is especially meaningful to the first wave of trailblazing AFLW players.
To mark the occasion, parts of the MCG were bathed in purple, the colour of choice for International Women's Day because it represents gender equality.
Purple will also feature on promotional materials, the AFLW website and at venues leading up to and during this weekend's AFLW matches.
"Change is possible. The AFLW has proven it," said Tanya Hosch, the AFL's general manager of inclusion and social policy.
"The AFLW has changed the landscape not just for footy, but for sport in general."