Pies pumped for 'special' clash at Victoria Park

WOMEN have been part of the fabric of the iconic Victoria Park ground for more than 125 years. And on Saturday, Collingwood's AFL Women's team will play at the club's spiritual home for the first time.

Captain Steph Chiocci said the chance to take on fierce club rival Melbourne at the ground would be a genuine highlight for those involved.

"The fact it's at Victoria Park makes it that extra bit special," Chiocci said recently.

Collingwood's AFLW team played its home games in 2017 and last year at the Holden Centre (part of the broader MCG/Tennis Centre sporting precinct, where the club is now based) and IKON Park in nearby Carlton North.

The club called Victoria Park, in inner-city Abbotsford, its home from late the early 1890s.

The Pies played their VFL/AFL matches there from 1897-1999. The ground – which for a time was the third-largest League venues – later became a community facility and in 2010, the club's VFL team started playing home matches there.

The first women's football match was played at the ground last June, when the Magpies met the Darebin Falcons in round nine of the VFLW competition.

Despite only a short history of hosting women's football, Victoria Park has always welcomed female supporters.

Before the first game was even played at the ground, (a non-League match in 1892), a 'Ladies Pavilion' was installed as an exclusive stand for women.

Shortly after, a timber grandstand of 300 seats was built, and was the first of its kind at a Melbourne ground to include reserved seats for female fans.

The establishment of Victoria Park as the Pies' home went hand-in-hand with the family focused ethos then-club secretary Ernest Copeland hoped would foster an inclusive supporter base.

"Victoria Park was a place where men would feel no regret or shame to take their wives, sisters and lady friends," Copeland said of the ground in a club annual report.

Copeland, secretary from 1895-1923 and vice-president from 1924-25, is credited with keeping Collingwood afloat in a period of financial troubles. The club's VFL/AFL best and fairest award was named in his honour.

Kim Long is the first female chairman of club coterie, The Woodsmen, having been a member of the influential group for 16 years.

"When I was a kid I was in the Collingwood cheer squad, so I've certainly carried the history with me for a long time," said Long, a finance manager for a boutique Victorian vineyard.

Long loves seeing young girls supporting the club as she once had. The only difference is now, those girls can aspire to play football for the Pies at the highest level.

"There are some great stories about younger girls getting involved (in the AFLW team), even just on the sidelines, with applications from 13-year-old kids wanting to be water girls," she said.

Long said Victoria Park was still the "heart and soul" of Collingwood.

"It means a lot to the supporters and hopefully the (AFLW) girls will feel that as well," she said.

"We are going to have a great turnout … I think they'll have to shut the gates."

Midfielder Brittany Bonnici said the team was keen make a mark in its first appearance at the venue.

"We know just how much history Collingwood has and Victoria Park is a big part of that," Bonnici told collingwood.com.au.

"We're happy to be making a little bit more history there and hopefully (get) our first win."