Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - News - Karen Hunt

SHE would have pre­ferred to be on the field, but watch­ing the first AFLW grand fi­nal from the stands with foot­ball roy­alty was the next best thing for for­mer Bridgetown girl Holly Bousignac.

At­tend­ing the fi­nal last year with hus­band Flo­rian and her friend Jake An­son, Holly found herself in­vited to sit with AFLW league founder and am­bas­sador Su­san Al­berti.

“For me, be­ing able to sit with Su­san Al­berti was a re­ally, re­ally spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence,” Holly said.

Few have done as much for the women’s game as The Footy Lady – as Mrs Al­berti’s 2017 bi­og­ra­phy is en­ti­tled – but Holly has been an am­bas­sador too, at a grass­roots level.

As a young girl Holly Greatwich, as she was then, be­gan kick­ing a footy around with her dad John and el­der brother Bruce and grew to love the game.

She played for the Bridgetown Bull­dogs in 1998 as part of an 11 and under side – the first girl to do so, she be­lieves – and the fol­low­ing year con­tin­ued with the 13 and under side.

“I think the Bridgetown com­mu­nity tol­er­ated my play­ing foot­ball but it was sur­pris­ingly di­vi­sive,” she re­called.

Af­ter her fam­ily moved to South Aus­tralia, she co-cap­tained a se­nior girls team at Nu­ri­oopta High School which won the State cham­pi­onships in a match played at AAMI Sta­dium.

“The fi­nal was played as an Ade­laide Crows and Sydney Swans cur­tain-raiser,” she said.

When Holly’s work in the wine in­dus­try took her to Canada in 2007 she was at a hotel with other ex-pats watch­ing the AFL Grand Fi­nal when she was of­fered an­other op­por­tu­nity to play the game she loves.

She struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with Gee­long fan Jake An­son who had by co­in­ci­dence started a women’s AFL league, and was in­vited to try out for a side

con­test­ing the US cham­pi­onships.

“Iron­i­cally, the women’s game was es­tab­lished in the US and Canada for years and years be­fore the AFLW started,” Holly said.

While the Cal­gary Kook­abur­ras won the US Na­tional Cham­pi­onships in 2008, in­juries sus­tained at about that time be­gan to take a toll and Holly was forced to re­tire.

She has how­ever con­tin­ued her in­volve­ment with the game since her re­turn to South Aus­tralia.

Dur­ing last year’s in­au­gu­ral AFLW com­pe­ti­tion she wrote a cou­ple of re­ports that were picked up and pub­lished as part of The Women’s Footy Al­manac.

“My personal story about my life with foot­ball was ac­tu­ally se­lected to

be the grand fi­nale piece for the book it­self so that was very ex­cit­ing.”

Through writ­ing for the al­manac, she rekin­dled her friend­ship with Jake An­son, who had also moved back to Aus­tralia and taken on a role with AFL Queens­land.

“Through us getting back in con­tact on­line I ended up fly­ing over to watch the women’s grand fi­nal on the Gold Coast and stay­ing with him and his wife,” Holly said.

“It has been en­cour­ag­ing to see the women’s game take off in Aus­tralia since the AFLW was es­tab­lished, and the al­manac has been part of that.

“There’s re­ally been an ex­plo­sion of teams ded­i­cated to women and girls. The thing with the AFLW is that it has cre­ated a clear path­way for girl’s foot­ball.”

Holly Bousignac, sec­ond from right, pic­tured at last year’s in­au­gu­ral AFLW grand fi­nal with AFL Queens­land in­fra­struc­ture and plan­ning man­ager Jake An­son, hus­band Flo­rian Bousignac and AFLW league founder Su­san Al­berti.

Holly Greatwich, front right, was the only girl in the Bridgetown Bull­dogs ju­nior side in the late 1990s.

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