Double the Pride: 'It's really important that we're visible'

ROUND three will mark the first time two Pride Games have been played in the NAB AFL Women's season, with Melbourne and St Kilda joining Carlton and the Western Bulldogs in celebrating inclusion in football.

The Demons and Saints will run out of a joint banner on Friday night at RSEA Park, with the latter also donning a guernsey with a rainbow back, which the club's VFLW side Southern Saints wore last year.

WATCH IT LIVE How to follow the AFLW this weekend

Saints defender Tilly Lucas-Rodd, who was previously involved in Pride Games at Carlton along with her partner Brianna Davey, said it was the Saints women's turn to promote the cause, with the men's team having played in Pride Matches for the past five years. 

"It's really significant. I'm gay, so growing up I didn't have role models I could aspire to be like. I think it's really important that we're visible and people can see us and they can have those role models to look up to," Lucas-Rodd said.

Melbourne speedster Aliesha Newman, who could well line up directly against Lucas-Rodd in a battle of the smalls, echoed the Saint's sentiments.

"Creating an atmosphere where you can just be who you want to be is [important]. For myself, being gay as well, being open and having role models for the young boys and girls to look up to is really important," Newman said. 

Melbourne's Aliesha Newman and St Kilda's Tilly Lucas-Rodd speak to reporters on Wednesday

Newman also said forward Ainslie Kemp was in good spirits after suffering her third ACL rupture in the dying moments of last week's match.

"She's just one of those players who lift the room up when she's in there with her dancing and singing and whatever else she does. She's a great asset and she doesn't change her mentality whether she's out on the track or not," Newman said. 

Melbourne's win soured by suspected knee injury to key forward

00:44 Feb 14. 2020. 10:03 PM

Luckless Ainslie Kemp hobbles off the ground on the final siren

Saturday afternoon will mark the third time the Western Bulldogs and Carlton have come together to promote inclusion, with dynamic Blue and graphic designer Darcy Vescio designing the club's jumper in conjunction with teammates. 

The Dogs will also have a specially designed guernsey. 

"It's awesome to be able to continue these traditions and create our own. It's really important to create safe spaces at the footy and create spaces we'd like to be in as well. I'm just looking forward to getting out there," Vescio said.

Blackburn said the Bulldogs were proud to have hosted Pride Games in the past and it was a special moment for the competition.

"I'm sure both teams are eager to get another win on the board, coming off losses last week," Blackburn said.

"The football side of things will be tough, a hot contest out there, but the environment coming into the Pride Game is one of my favourite things to be a part of. I love the fact we get to shake hands before the game, walk out under the same banner and just show it's more than a game."

Darcy Vescio and Ellie Blackburn model the Carlton and Western Bulldogs' Pride Game guernsey

Blackburn also responded to comments made by former teammate Libby Birch, who spoke of cracks developing at the Dogs in 2019 in an interview aired during the half-time break of last week's Melbourne-Dogs clash.

The Bulldogs had an eventful period following a fifth-place Conference A finish in 2019, losing star players Monique Conti and Katie Brennan to Richmond, Birch to Melbourne and coach Paul Groves stepping down. 

"Someone mentioned it briefly to me. Libby's valid to her own opinion, and so be it. She's obviously left the club and is enjoying football at Melbourne. It's part of the game, players are going to leave, and players are going to make comments about their old club. 

"I can guarantee you there's no cracks in our playing group. If anything, the thing I love the most about our football club at the moment is I look around the room and all 29 of us absolutely love playing for the Western Bulldogs Football Club."