Sport / Opinion

Footy is more than a game at the Brunswick Renegades

EMBARKING on the football field with the Brunswick Renegades wasn’t just about playing a sport; it was about fulfilling a dream and finding a community I never knew I needed.

Growing up in outback South Australia, where footy wasn’t the norm for girls, I observed the game from a distance as my parents weren’t particularly inclined towards team sports. While I actively participated in netball and basketball, the realm of team sports in our household ended there.

It wasn’t until high school that I truly became engrossed in watching AFL. Witnessing the ruthless nature of the sport, especially during the era dominated by the Tonys – Liberatore, Lockett, and Modra – captivated me. I was drawn to the game’s ruthlessness and unapologetic physicality during that time.

My journey took an unexpected turn when, at 19, I found myself working at the Port Adelaide Football Club during its peak.  I was there during the memorable year when they clinched the famous premiership, a moment forever etched in history by Mark Williams’ not-so-subtle ‘shove it up ya’ attitude, expressed through the iconic tie-choking gesture to Allan Scott. The success of the club fuelled my desire to play, but life led me on a different path, taking me to the UK for a two-year adventure.

Sasha Dougherty addressing her players during a Renegades match in 2023. 

Fast forward to 2016, the year I finally summoned the courage to join the local footy club.

I remember my first training session vividly. It was pitch black and I could not make out which player was the person I was supposed to be asking for. Finally the lights got switched on and I could see a a group of friendly faces that immediately made me feel included. From that moment, there was no looking back.

Club grew out of pub league

That club was the Brunswick Renegades, who stand as a testament to the enduring spirit of community, growth, and resilience.

Before the official formation of the Brunswick Renegades in 2014, Gillon Oval reverberated with the inclusive spirit of the Renegade Pub Football League. This league brought together individuals of all genders, laying the foundation for the flourishing women’s football community that the Renegades would soon embody.

In 2014, the Renegades took a bold step, joining the Victorian Women’s Football League and making a memorable debut. Climbing through the ranks, the team faced both heartaches and triumphs, reaching Grand Finals and navigating the challenges associated with the transition to the Victorian Amateur Football Association.

In 2017, at the age of 30, I played in my first footy season. Excitement, fear, and pride mingled as I embraced the challenge, relishing every moment, even the first tackle that left me on the grass gazing at the sky. Far from regret, I felt a resounding “Hell yes, I love this”.

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Now, with 50 games, numerous bruises, and countless laughs under my belt, I proudly stand as the head coach of the Brunswick Renegades. Taking over in 2023 from my mentor Leonie, I’ve coached in Juniors and served as an assistant/player coach. Despite varying results on the scoreboard, we continued the foundations Leonie built up, emphasising unity and skill development, shaping both a competitive senior side and a solid reserves team.

Alongside my mate Lauren ‘Loz’ Hagan, the Reserves coach, we’re eagerly planning the 2024 season.

The Brunswick Renegades have continuous growth, resilience, and a commitment to fostering the next generation of players. As they navigate changes, uncertainties, and the exciting prospect of junior talent joining their ranks in the future, the Brunswick Renegades remain a solid foundation, shaping women’s football in the heart of Brunswick.

The Brunswick Renegades aren’t just a club; they’re a community where everyone, regardless of skill level, is welcome. Reflecting on my journey, I see more than a progression from my country town experience to coaching; I see the power of footy and the unique camaraderie found in the heart of Brunswick.

The Brunswick Renegades are hosting a skills and open training morning at Wylie Reserve in Union Street, Brunswick West on Saturday, February 10. Beginning at 8am, it will including a session of tackling coaching with Malcolm Bangs and Michael Hagan. All welcome, including newcomers. For more details, email

Sasha Dougherty is coach of the Brunswick Renegades football team.

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