Ice in her veins. The Clutch Queen.
Georgie Prespakis produced a clutch moment that Jamie Elliott would be proud of when she converted a set shot in the dying stages of the match to win the game for the Cats.
The moment wasn’t without controversy however, as Prespakis was awarded a free kick after the umpire deemed Monique Conti’s tackle on Prespakis too dangerous.It came after another dangerous tackle earlier in the match saw Geelong lose the hard-nosed Rachel Kearns to a serious shoulder injury.
She was electric in her debut season, but all signs point towards her taking another step forward in Season 7.
The Calder Cannons product played all ten matches last season, becoming an established member of Geelong’s on-ball brigade.
She averaged 13.3 disposals and 6.8 tackles but if her performance against the Tigers is anything to go by, those numbers will skyrocket in Season 7.
She finished with 16 disposals, eight tackles and Geelong’s only two goals.
She provided one of the highlights of the round when teammates flocked towards her after she booted her first AFLW goal in the third term and then again when she kicked the matchwinner.
What makes Prespakis so outstanding for a youngster is her calmness and composure around the contest.
The long-sleeved superstar is fast becoming one of the most exciting midfielders in the competition and is forming a formidable midfield trio alongside Nina Morrison (23 disposals) and Amy McDonald (24 disposals).
PAINFUL INJURY TO KEY CAT
Rachel Kearns suffered a gruesome injury early in the contest, after a huge Beth Lynch tackle.
Kearns landed awkwardly on the point of her shoulder and was seen writhing in pain immediately afterwards.
Trainers rushed out to her quickly and the green whistle was required to ease the pain of Geelong’s Irish product.
It is likely that the Lynch tackle will come under MRO scrutiny given the severity of the outcome and the motion of the tackle.
Richmond debutant Eilish Sheerin was perhaps the most damaging player in the first term.
The rebounding half back amassed seven disposals and three inside 50s and was the catalyst for Richmond’s transition from defence to attack.
Sheerin finished the match with 19 disposals, five marks and four tackles in what looks to be a big tick for Richmond’s recruiting department.
The 29-year-old was drafted with pick 58 after her scintillating performances in the AFL Sydney competition over a number of years.
Sheerin was overlooked in the 2020 draft after suffering an ACL injury but her body of work since saw the Tigers take a chance on the dashing half back at the most recent draft.
Her elite athleticism and versatility are set to be crucial assets in Richmond’s push up the ladder this season.
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RICHMOND’S MIDFIELD MIX
Richmond have been crying out for a support cast for superstar Monique Conti for several seasons now and they are certainly on their way towards establishing that.
The Tigers recruited Grace Egan from Carlton over the off-season, and she had an immediate impact in her Tigers debut, amassing 17 disposals.
Highly touted youngster Ellie McKenzie (15 touches) is developing nicely and has all the attributes of a budding superstar, whilst Sarah Hosking looks set to have an outstanding season too after tearing up the track in the preseason.
Hosking had 16 possessions to half time and finished with 22, along with seven marks and seven tackles.
“We are getting that continuity and building that depth in our midfield,” said Hosking at half time.
With the likes of Meg Macdonald waiting in the wings as well, the Tigers have a plethora of options to choose from through the midfield in Season 7.
BOWEN’S ON FIRE
Mikayla Bowen made the move from the West Coast Eagles over the off-season and looms as an astute pickup for the Cats in Season 7.
In the third term, an impressive chase down tackle on Tigers gun Sarah Hosking ignited the Cats, who turned up the heat on the Tigers thereafter.
Bowen’s willingness to take the game on seemed to turn the tide for the Cats, who struggled to energise the ball in the first half.
Alongside intercept queen Meg McDonald, Bowen’s 16 touches on the wing helped the Cats to force repeat entries and ultimately break down the Tigers tight defence.
CATS 0.1, 0.2, 1.2, 2.3 (15)
TIGERS 1.0, 1.4, 1.4, 1.5 (11)
BOLCH’S BEST: Cats: Prespakis, Morrison, M. McDonald, A. McDonald.
Tigers: S. Hosking, Sheerin, Seymour, Conti.
GOALS: Geelong: Prespakis 2. Richmond: Seymour.
INJURIES: Cats: Kearns (shoulder). Tigers: nil.
UMPIRES Heffernan, Dore, Compton-Robins.
VENUE GMHBA Stadium.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3 G. Prespakis (GEEL)
2 N. Morrison (GEEL)
1 S. Hosking (RICH)
Ugly clashes add to Dogs-Giants rivalry
When GWS Giants’ defenders fall asleep on Sunday night, they’ll see a blonde ponytail and taped shoulders, such was the immense pressure of Gabby Newton in the Dogs’ seven-point round one win.
After missing season six following a dual-shoulder reconstruction, former No.1 draft pick Newton filled the gap left by defector Bonnie Toogood with aplomb.
While the Northern Knights’ product doesn’t yet have the same impact in the air, her work at ground level is elite.
It was highlighted by a bone-crunching tackle in the second quarter – in which Newton kicked two goals – at the top of the Dogs’ goalsquare.
With Georgina Fowler wheeling around and about to rebound for the Giants, Newton flew in from nowhere to lay the perfect tackle and catch the Giant cold.
The 20-year-old went back and gave the Bulldogs a massive lift with her first goal in the big time, before adding a second just minutes later.
Newton finished with 12 touches, nine tackles and two goals.
CORA THE SCORER
Cora Staunton continues to prove age is just a number, kicking her 50th AFLW goal of her career.
The star Irish import, who kicked 18 goals and missed the league’s goalkicking award by just one major in season six, was at it again for the Giants.
The 40-year-old kicked two memorable goals at key moments for GWS.
In the first quarter Staunton used her experience and size to get rid of Isabella Grant – who is half Staunton’s age at just 20 – collect the footy, run around the boundary onto her right foot and kick the goal.
Not satisfied, Staunton outdid herself with a silky snap in the second quarter to keep the Giants within touching distance of the Bulldogs.
Staunton ran onto the ball in the forward pocket, about 40m from goal and running towards the boundary line. She snapped across her body, judging the kick to perfection as it bent along the grass and through for the goal of the day.
Tait Mackrill is bound to come under MRO scrutiny after a swinging arm narrowly missed the head of Bulldogs’ skipper Ellie Blackburn.
A spicy opening half had the tension at Ikon Park high, but in a moment of madness tempers boiled over as proceedings turned unsavoury.
A vicious Blackburn tackle on Mackrill clearly got under the Giant’s skin and with the Bulldog lying on her back a swinging arm from Mackrill appeared to narrowly miss Blackburn’s head.
The fist instead came down on Backburn’s chest, which might save her from suspension.
The distasteful feud carried on as just minutes later Mackrill took an unsuspecting Blackburn out off the ball with a heavy hip and shoulder, which resulted in a 50m penalty.
Pepa Randall is set to come under MRO scrutiny for a sling tackle in the opening quarter of a ferocious contest at Ikon Park.
The contest was hot early with fierce tackling pressure a feature of both sides’ games, but an overzealous moment looks set to sideline the 26-year-old for a week.
The Dogs got off to a hot start through All-Australian Kirsty Lamb, and with Richelle Cranston bearing down on goal halfway through the first quarter the Giants needed someone to make a statement.
Unfortunately for Randall, her tackle on Cranston was a textbook, two-motion sling to the ground.
It left the Dogs’ forward sprawled on the turf holding her head, but she was able to get up and take her kick.
However, under the strict interpretation of potential to cause injury, Randall looks set to miss the Giants’ clash with Brisbane next week.
BULLDOGS 1.0, 3.2, 5.4, 6.5 (41)
GIANTS 1.1, 2.1, 3.4, 5.4 (34)
Bulldogs: Newton, Blackburn, Brown, Lamb, Cranston, Pritchard.
Giants: Parker, Staunton, Mackrill, Stack, Dallaway.
Bulldogs: Newton 2, Moody 2, Lamb, Cranston.
Giants: Staunton 3, Doyle, Parker.
INJURIES: Bulldogs: Nil. Giants: Nil.
Lions make statement in crushing win
THE AFLW has the full complement of 18 teams in its seventh season with four new shiny expansion clubs but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Brisbane has been an AFLW heavyweight since day one and the tried and tested star power at the Lions got the job done yet again at the Gabba on Sunday.
The Lions started their quest for a second flag with a 49-point victory over Fremantle with ball magnets Emily Bates, Alexandra Anderson and Isabel Dawes in the thick of the action while excitement machines Courtney Hodder, Jesse Wardlaw, Orla O’Dwyer and Greta Bodey kicked two goals each.
Brisbane’s enviable depth was on show as was the understanding built by having a large and established playing core.
Brisbane flexed its muscles in the second term with three unanswered goals to set-up a 19-point halftime buffer that came on the back of a 23-7 advantage in inside 50 entries.
The Lions were briefly challenged in the third term but senior coach Craig Starcevich urged Brisbane to “maintain the rage” at the last change and they did just that, kicking away to their third-highest AFLW total ever.
Brisbane’s Lily Postlethwaite was playing for first AFLW match in 553 days after suffering an ACL injury in Round 4, 2021. She missed the club’s premiership tilt in 2021 and all of the 2022 season.
However, her comeback was short-lived as she left the field in the first quarter after crashing to the turf awkwardly following a contest for a ground ball. She was assisted from the field by trainers and went straight down into Brisbane’s rooms.
Postlethwaite – who worked her way back into the AFLW after starring for Maroochydore in the QAFLW – will go for scans to assess the severity of the injury.
The Dockers already had their backs to the wall with an under-strength line-up courtesy of injuries and off-season departures ensuring five debutants were blooded against Brisbane.
Fremantle then lost Jessica Low (concussion) and Janelle Cuthbertson (broken nose) after a sickening head clash.
But the visitors did not throw in the towel after Brisbane kicked six-straight goals across the second term and start of the third quarter.
The Dockers hit back hard with three unanswered goals to Megan Kauffman, Hayley Miller and Aine Tighe to make a game of it again. However, Brisbane re-asserted their authority on the contest soon enough to put the visitors to the sword.
BODEY, YOU BEAUTY!
NORMALLY, you associate Goal of the Year contenders with Brisbane’s Courtney Hodder. But it was her Lions teammate Greta Bodey who produced the showstopper. With the Dockers pressing hard late in the third term, Brisbane needed to arrest Freo’s momentum.
The settler was a stunner from Bodey who kicked a beautiful running banana kick from deep inside Brisbane’s forward pocket. With no angle to work near the boundary line, Bodey’s perfectly executed shot sailed through the posts where most of the 3,421 spectators were assembled.
LIONS 1.1 4.3 8.7 11.10 (76)
DOCKERS 1.1 1.2 4.2 4.3 (27)
LIONS: Wardlaw 2, O’Dwyer 2, Bodey 2, Hodder 2, C. Svarc, Smith, Conway
DOCKERS: Mulholland, Tighe, Kauffman, Miller
LIONS: O’Dwyer, Bates, Anderson, Dawes, Bodey, Wardlaw, Hodder
DOCKERS: Bowers, Miller, O’Driscoll, Runnalls, Tighe
3: Orla O’Dwyer
2: Emily Bates
1: Isabel Dawes
Bombers score emotional win in AFLW opener
The Hawks came out all guns blazing, and it looked for all money they would kick the first goal of the game.
But after a strong Daria Bannister mark on the half-forward flank the Bombers had their chance.
Enter Jess Wuetschner.
The former Brisbane Lion roved a massive pack of players 20m from goal, spun onto her left foot and snapped perfectly, dissecting the middle of the big sticks to take her slice of Essendon Football Club history as its first AFLW goalkicker.
Eight minutes later the Hawks had their first goalkicker and there wasn’t a dry eye in Marvel Stadium.
After losing her mum to cancer two-weeks ago, Sophie Locke had shown immense courage just to be playing.
It was fitting that she should be Hawthorn’s first AFLW goalkicker after bravely standing under a high ball with two Bombers closing and winning a free kick at the top of the goalsquare after being cleaned up.
As the Sherrin sailed through, the 21-year-old pointed to the sky as brown and gold jumpers mobbed her.
Jasmine Fleming may be Hawthorn’s best player.
The number two draft pick showed she has the grit and grind to match it with the toughest inside midfielders, but the class to provide drive on the outside.
The 17-year-old finished with 11 disposals, 228m gained and three clearances.
Essendon’s second draft pick, Paige Scott, slotted into the big time as though she had been there for years.
The 18-year-old from the GWS Rebels took no time announcing herself on the big stage, flying high to take a huge pack mark in the first quarter to help the Bombers get off to the perfect start.
Regarded as a player with extraordinary x-factor coming into the draft, Scott followed up her spectacular mark with a wobbling set shot that somehow managed to sneak through for her first career goal.
While the mark and goal will help fill the highlight reels, it was Scott’s drive forward that impressed those in red and black, not wasting her 16 disposals to finish with 281m gained.
NEW COLOURS, SAME CLASS
Despite sporting heavy padding on her left leg after a nasty pre-season corky, Maddie Prespakis was at her industrious best after crossing from bitter rivals Carlton.
Prespakis, who won the competition’s best and fairest award in 2020 at just 19, was clearly hampered by her injured quad, but that didn’t stop her work on the inside.
The 21-year-old lifted her side in the third term as the Hawks came hard at the Bombers, collecting nine disposals for the quarter.
Prespakis finished with a game-high 26 touches, 408m gained and six clearances.
Hawthorn skipper and former Saint, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, enjoyed a breakout season at Moorabbin earlier in the year and she carried her red-hot form into her first game in brown and gold.
Without much experience around her, the 26-year-old kept her side in the game at times, and finished with 16 disposals, eight tackles and five clearances.
TOOGOOD FOR COMPETITION
Bonnie Toogood was a barometer in her time at the Western Bulldogs and following her switch to the Bombers she looks ready to announce herself as the best key forward in the competition.
The 24-year-old made the All-Australian squad earlier in the year but following a standout two-goal performance the Bombers’ co-captain looks as though she’s taken her game to another level.
Toogood was instrumental in connecting Essendon’s ball movement from defence, playing as a true centre-half forward and clunking three contested marks — the most on the ground.
But when she had time to set up closer to home, Toogood’s forward craft came to the fore, finding space and leading her opponent to the footy.
Toogood finished the game with 15 disposals, seven marks and two goals.
BOMBERS 2.1 3.6 4.9 7.11 (53)
HAWKS 1.2 2.2 4.3 4.3 (27)
Bombers: Toogood, Prespakis, Scott, Marshall, Vogt.
Hawks: Lucas-Rodd, Fleming, Smith, Cunningham, Stephenson.
Bombers: Toogood 2, Wuetschner, Scott, Marshall, Prespakis.
Hawks: Barbakos 2, Locke, Perkins.
12,092 at Marvel Stadium
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JAMES MOTTERSHEAD’S VOTES
3 B. Toogood (ESS)
2 M. Prespakis (ESS)
1 P. Scott (ESS)
No. 1 draft pick’s shattering setback
Sydney Swans coach Scott Gowans confirmed debutant Montana Ham will be undergoing scans for an injury to her knee.
The No. 1 draft pick of the season went down in the final quarter when she crumbled under a smother attempt with less than five minutes remaining at North Sydney Oval.
The midfielder was able to exit the field with support of physio staff however looked to be experiencing severe pain.
Despite this, the head coach said the 18-year-old was “in high spirits”.
“We know it’s a knee,” he said.
“It’s a hard one to tell, the way it happened with the way that the St Kilda player fell across.
“They (the physio) couldn’t even give me an indication.”
Gowans said he felt Ham had a “very good” defensive game although believed she could have offered more offensively.
“I thought she probably was a little too safe at times, there were a couple of opportunities to fend off, which is actually her go to and take the grass and she didn’t do it,” he said.
“She’s going to be a really good player.”
SYDNEY’S HISTORIC MOMENT
The 27th of August will be written into the history books as one of the game’s greatest moments for footy in Sydney.
The sea of passionate Swans fans which filled the stands and lined the fences on Saturday night, will have Rebecca Privitelli’s first goal, and the celebration that followed, ingrained in their hearts forever.
The 8264 fans who ventured to North Sydney Oval were up standing for what felt like every tackle, goal and mark on the night.
Scott Gowan’s inaugural women’s squad, which featured 11 debutants from all over the country, showed promise heading into the historic expansion season, despite overall being outclassed by the experienced St Kilda side.
The Saints now have their first win of the season under their belt, with a 29-point victory.
FORMER RUCKS FACE OFF
From the first siren, it was clear spectators were going to witness an intense ruck battl, with former GWS Giants teammates Erin McKinnon (Saint Kilda) and Ally Morphett to take the taps for their sides.
McKinnon, at just under 190cm, demonstrated her skill and experience after having five previous AFLW seasons under her belt.
While youngster Morphett put up a good fight, McKinnon out-muscled and outclassed the 18-year-old.
St Kilda’s first goal of the night for Stevens can largely be attributed to a 30m kick from McKinnon.
St Kilda coach Nick Dal Santo will have been very pleased with the club’s decision to acquire the 23-year-old in a trade for the season.
Swans head coach Scott Gowans said he was impressed with the fight his young ruckman put up against McKinnon.
“They had a great battle I thought tonight, Erin’s a really good player,” he said.
ST KILDA’S BIG GUN RETURNS
St Kilda star Georgia Patrikos made her highly anticipated return to the AFLW after having the sixth season off as a result of the league’s vaccination policy.
The midfielder proved unstoppable across the ground, slotting right back into the competition with ease.
The 21-year-old led her side on disposals on Saturday night, with 17, showing class and composure.
Another Saint, who fit seamlessly back into her No. 24 jumper was Clara Fitzpatrick.
An original member of the Saint Kilda 2020 expansion side, Fitzpatrick had to leave Australia in 2020 to head back home to Ireland during the peak of the Covid pandemic, not being able to return to Victoria for 18 months.
Finally, after two seasons off due to a third ACL tear and VISA complications, the 31-year-old returned in full swing locking in a total 11 contests.
11 SWANS DEBUTANTS
The Sydney Swans welcomed an astounding 11 debutants into the side for the season launch, with all 11 slotting seamlessly into the competition.
The rookies were presented their red and white guernseys on Friday night, in an emotional pre-match ceremony.
The group included Montana Ham, Aimee Whelan, Molly Eastman, Cynthia Hamilton, Ella Heads, Sarah Skinner, Eliza Vale, Lawson Tavan, who joined the Swans as a replacement player for Alice Mitchell who unfortunately has sustained a torn ACL and co-captain Lauren Szigeti.
All eyes were on the season’s No. 1 draft pick, Ham, who sure met spectator expectations on the night, not letting the pressure rock her confidence before her unfortunate setback.
The 180cm midfielder proved exactly why she was one of the fan favourites heading into the match, with her 11 and powerful tackles.
Despite a powerhouse performance from players on both sides with AFLW experience under their belt, some of the youngest members of each squad particularly shone on the night and stole the spotlight.
For Saint Kilda, Jessica Matin at just 19-years-old, used her previous season of AFLW experience to lock in her side’s fifth goal of the night, causing trouble for the Swans backs.
For the Swans, who had five players on the field under 20-years-old, Montana Ham and Cynthia Hamilton, both 18-years-old were crucial for the Swans on the night, with Hamilton slotting her side’s third goal of the night and Ham banking a total 11 disposals.
PRESSURE WAS ON
In his post-match press conference, head coach Scott Gowans said the atmosphere on the night was “amazing”, although potentially hindered rather than helped his side at times.
“You could hear it up in the coaches box, over 8000 people, it’s a great result not only for Sydney but for AFLW,” he said.
“The crowd definitely helped, I think the problem was from a coaching perspective that it also put perceived pressure on the players so a lot of them said in the rooms that it almost felt like a cauldron and the noise, they couldn’t hear each other, so that’s what they’ve got to get used to and that’s what they all want, but a lot of them haven’t experienced that yet.”
The head coach said the squad were feeling low following their loss however identified opportunities for growth and improvement going forward, which he said spectators should expect to witness going forward.
“The girls are pretty disheartened but I said to them don’t be disheartened, use it as a learning experience and that’s what this year is and I think you’ll see that as we go along,” he said.
“Our ball movement, we just didn’t take the game on enough and that’ll be our focus for next week.
“I think we were a bit safe tonight. they hesitated a bit too much which allowed St Kilda to get numbers behind them.”
SWANS RUNNING NOT GLIDING
Swans coach Scott Gowans said leading into the first round that his side’s primary focus in their three months of pre-season training was working on fast and efficient ball movement.
Something the Swans put into practice with quick disposals on Saturday night, hoping to catch the Saints off-guard.
Unfortunately on multiple occasions, rushed efforts from the women in red and white lead to poor decisions, particularly entering the forward fifty.
Despite this, debutant young-gun and first round draft pick Cynthia Hamilton made her present felt crashing packs and taking impressive marks.
DAL SANTO HAPPY WITH START
St Kilda coach Nick Dal Santo said he was pleased overall with his side’s performance on the night and excited moving forward.
“I thought it was a really combative game and a really competitive game, particularly early,” he said.
“I was really pleased with our pressure and our ability to stay in that for four quarters … that’s what we need to bring every week and add our layers of offence and defence.”
The former Saint said the crowd attendance was a positive sign for the growth of the game.
“It’s really pleasing to see,” he said.
“We know women’s football is growing all around Australia but to come up here, a fantastic boutique ground … it feels really special.
“I thought our girls handled round one, travelling and the crowd very well.”
SWANS: 1.1 2.1 3.1 4.3 (27)
SAINTS: 1.2 4.2 6.4 8.7 (56)
Swans: Newman, Ham, Lochland, Szigeti, Eastman, Sheppard, Stene, Tarrant,
Saints: Shierlaw, McKinnon, McDonald, Patrikios, White, Vesley, Xenos
Swans: Privitelli, Lochland, Hamilton, Skinner
Saints: Shierlaw 4, Xenos 2, Stevens, Matin
North Sydney Oval
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
TAMARYN MCGREGOR’S VOTES
Roos star puts AFLW on notice with electric start
Jasmine Garner has little left to prove in AFLW circles but she put the rest of the competition on notice with a brilliant season-opening performance on Saturday.
Garner was North Melbourne’s fire-starter in its home away from home in Tasmania, finishing with match-highs of 27 disposals and seven clearances as the Roos thrashed Gold Coast by 26 points.
The 28-year-old is already a four-time All-Australian and dual club champion but a premiership is still missing from her resume.
Garner, who was playing her 50th game, is hellbent on changing that and there will be an early chance to prove themselves against flag favourite Melbourne in round 2.
Her matchwinning ways in the midfield, along with ball magnet Ash Riddell, allow coach Darren Crocker the flexibility to station captain Emma Kearney at half-back.
Kearney stepped into that role in season six at the start of this year and picked up where she left off, gathering 17 touches in a typically composed display.
SUNS AVOID SCORING LOW
Gold Coast registered the first score of the day but went two quarters without adding to that tally as North Melbourne ran rampant in racking up a 39-point three-quarter time lead.
That left the Suns in danger of scoring the lowest total in AFLW history, which currently belongs to St Kilda with a two-point effort against Carlton last season.
An errant Kalinda Howarth set shot meant they at least matched the Saints, before Jamie Stanton then Howarth kicked truly to avoid that ignominy.
After a disappointing first three terms dominated by North, Gold Coast can take heart in how well it ended the match, particularly the ability to hold the highly rated Roos scoreless in the last quarter.
Tahlia Randall is going to be a problem.
The former Lion, who previously played down back and in the ruck, showed she could be useful in a new forward role for North Melbourne last season but went to another level on Saturday.
Randall got on the board with an accurate set shot in the opening quarter after a ruck infringement, before adding a second in the next term when she elevated to snatch a strong contested grab.
But she wasn’t finished, going on to slot a career-best third goal after juggling one of her four marks for the afternoon from a terrific Jasmine Garner pass.
WAS IT A MARK?
Debutant Sophia McCarthy has a generous umpire to thank for the opportunity to kick her first AFLW goal.
The No. 39 draft pick launched for a mark in the third quarter and was paid it despite her Gold Coast defender being in front and also wrapping her hands around the Sherrin.
McCarthy, who hails from Shepparton United and Williamstown, made the most of her luck to slot the Kangaroos’ sixth major.
SOMETHING TO WORK WITH
Irishwoman Vikki Wall has been in Australia for only three weeks but was straight into North Melbourne’s side for round 1.
Wall, who finished with nine disposals, is a Gaelic star in her home country and delayed her arrival in Melbourne to help her county team, Meath, win back-to-back All-Ireland titles.
She is a powerful athlete and didn’t look out of place in her AFLW debut, but might need to tidy up her kicking after two set shots in quick succession fell short just before halftime.
KANGAROOS 2.1, 4.3, 6.4, 6.4 (40)
SUNS 0.1, 0.1, 0.1, 2.2 (14)
McGOWAN’S BEST: Kangaroos: Garner, Kearney, Randall, M. King, Riddell, Bruton. Suns: Drennan, Rowbottom, Hampson, Howarth.
GOALS: North Melbourne: Randall 3, Garner, Rennie, McCarthy Gold Coast: None.
UMPIRES Foot, Lopes, McIntee
VENUE Blundstone Arena
EAGLES DENY POWER HISTORIC AFLW START
West Coast kicked four goals to nil in the final quarter to ruin Port Adelaide’s debut into AFLW.
The Eagles are still trying to find their own way though and the 6.4 (40) to 4.4 (28) victory equalled the number of wins they managed over 10 rounds of last season when they claimed the wooden spoon.
And for the first time in their four seasons in the competition, the Eagles managed to get a win in Round 1.
They look to have taken a small step forward, finding a way to win having not scored a goal in the second or third quarters and falling as much as 12 points behind Port.
How much have they improved? It’s hard to tell.
It rained in Perth on Saturday and the Power is a bit of an unknown quantity, although one of the AFLW’s newest sides have managed to piece together a side of experienced players.
The 12-point win is also only the Eagles fifth ever win in those three and a bit seasons.
Still, the scoreboard is, on face value, a much better result than the Eagles could put together late last season.
West Coast won just won game last season, kicking 2.10 to beat St Kilda by two points.
But they conceded a massive 51.7 points per game across the season. That blew out to 73 points per game over the last four games of their season.
Goal scoring again seems an issue for the Eagles.
KELLIE GIBSON KNEE
West Coast’s win over Perth Adelaide was soured by the potential serious knee injury to forward Kellie Gibson.
Gibson’s day started really well, the former Fremantle Docker and 2017 Adelaide Crows premiership player kicked the first goal for the game, seven minutes into the opening quarter.
But her fortunes turned very quickly after the restart from her goal. She went to ground holding her left knee when running after the ball.
There was no collision with another player at all. She just pulled up short and went to ground.
She was helped from the field and didn’t return.
The Eagles found another goalkicker just five minutes later when Emma Humphries made the most of a free kick she earned 30m from goal.
Humphries is trying to cement her spot on the field at her third club after failing to do so at both Melbourne and North Melbourne.
West Coast found six separate goal kickers for the day.
POWER TO WAIT FOR FIRST WIN
Port Adelaide has arrived in the AFLW, but it has to wait for its first win.
There seemed to be big expectations of a Power win, as there was a lot of support for them at Mineral Resources Park, including club board members.
They were the first of the four expansion clubs to be in action in Round 1 and were on their way to victory when leading West Coast by 11 points at the last break.
They brought the aggression, winning the tackle count 92-55, led by 14 from Maria Moloney.
After a slow start, Justine Mules put the Power in front with her side’s third goal, just two minutes into the second half.
It was a great moment for the triple premiership player with the Adelaide Crows, who was also celebrating her 50th AFLW game.
Port wouldn’t have been the first expansion club to win their first game if they’d been able to hold on.
In 2019, North Melbourne beat Carlton and Geelong beat Collingwood. The Cats went on to play in a preliminary final.
However, in 2020, none of Gold Coast, West Coast, Richmond, or St Kilda were able to find wins in their debut games.
The Tigers had to wait until their 5th game of their second season (2021) and their 11th game overall before tasting victory, beating Geelong by 47 points at the Cats home ground.
HOUGHTON PORT’S FIRST GOAL
Port Adelaide was fortunate when Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton was looking for a fresh start that she landed at Alberton.
Her basketball background and friendship with Port’s new skipper, Erin Phillips, is reported to have had something to do with that.
Houghton took no time showing her skills off to her new teammates and fans.
Regardless of what happens with her career now, she will remain in the record books for kicking the side’s first ever goal.
The Power had to wait until six minutes into the second term for it to come. Ange Foley found Houghton in the goalsquare. She marked and kicked truly.
Houghton arrived at Port with 40 goals from her previous 46 games, two All-Australian selections and twice leading the Dockers goal kicking.
The former Docker doesn’t mind kicking a goal and doesn’t mind kicking them against West Coast.
Her best ever return remains the 5.2 she kicked against the Eagles in 2021.
That first goal was also a terrific moment for Foley, who was returning to the field having missed last season with an ACL injury.
Like the Power’s prize recruit, Phillips, Foley also won premierships at Adelaide (two) and captained the Crows in the 2021 Grand Final loss to Brisbane.
Phillips had a tough day out, finishing with 10 possessions and a corked thigh, having been closely tagged for most of the day by West Coast’s Aisling McCarthy.
EAGLES 2.2 2.3 2.4 6.4 (40)
POWER 0.2 2.3 4.3 4.4 (28)
ELBOROUGH’S BEST Eagles: Swanson, McCarthy, Sedunary, Hooker, Lewis, Roberts. Power: Dowrick, Yorston, Moloney, McGrath, Houghton, Mules.
GOALS Eagles: Gibson, Humphries, McCarthy, Western, Schmidt, Bartlett. Power: Houghton, Tahau, Mules, Moloney.
INJURIES Eagles: Gibson (knee). Power: Phillips (corked thigh).
UMPIRES: Johanson, Brown, Simmonds
VENUE Mineral Resources Park.
HAPPY DAIS! MIDFIELD HELPS DEES EXORCISE DEMONS
After stewing on a grand final loss to Adelaide for 139 days, Melbourne got the chance to turn the tables on Friday night and the Demons didn’t let the chance go begging.
The Crows trailed at every change at Glenelg Oval as the Demons’ high-powered offence got the better of the Crows’ vaunted whole team defence.
Melbourne’s lowest two scores last season came against the Crows, but in another classic contest between the competition heavyweights, Karen Paxman buried a few mental demons for her teammates with the final goal of an entertaining encounter.
It was a fitting end to the night for Paxman, who was part of an impressive midfield display.
Paxman (24 disposals), Eliza West (25) and Olivia Purcell (22) gathered plenty of the ball as the Demons came out on top of a 267-193 disposal count.
After soaking up some early pressure, Kate Hore got the ball rolling for the visitors with an unusual goal that nearby Crows were adamant was touched off the boot.
Hore gathered a loose ball deep in a pocket and did the team thing as she attempted to centre the ball to the top of the goalsquare over Chelsea Biddell’s desperate attempt to spoil.
Sarah Allan was left stranded by a cruel bounce that went over her head and Eloise Jones chased the Sherrin as it bounced another four times before trickling over the goal line.
It was just the pressure release Melbourne needed, Mick Stinear’s team leading by four points at the first break and 10 at halftime.
Biddell was in the thick of the action again in the third quarter when she vociferously appealed for a touched ball that was adjudged a goal.
This time it was Daisy Pearce who was on the right side of a close call, the skipper’s spectacular major in traffic extending the margin to 11 points at three-quarter time.
Anne Hatchard and Tayla Harris celebrated their 50th-game milestones and both played key roles for their respective sides.
Hatchard burst out of the blocks with nine possessions in the first quarter and was a constant physical presence around the ball.
The three-time premiership star finished with 24 touches and eight inside 50s.
Harris renewed hostilities with nemesis Chelsea Randall and the Adelaide skipper had the upper hand early, stopping Harris in her tracks with a bone-rattling tackle.
The star forward, who played eight games for Brisbane, 29 for Carlton and 13 for the Demons, had the last laugh of a tense first quarter when she intercepted an attempted clearing ball from Sarah Allan.
From just inside 50, Harris threw the ball on her right boot and sent through a superb goal.
Ash Woodland, the competition’s leading goal kicker last season, opened her account with the first major in a bright start for Adelaide.
She hit the scoreboard twice in the second quarter with her third major a checkside off her right boot that was straight from the top shelf.
Unfortunately for the home side, she accounted for all of Adelaide’s majors until Danielle Ponter recovered from a heavy hit in the final term to slot the only other goal of the night for the reigning premiers.
Next up, Adelaide heads to Melbourne to take on Richmond at Punt Road Oval on Saturday, while the Demons kick off Round 2 with an MCG curtain-raiser against North Melbourne ahead of the men’s qualifying final against Sydney on Friday night.
CROWS 1.0 1.1 3.1 4.2 (26)
DEMONS 1.4 2.5 4.6 6.8 (44)
Crows: Hatchard, Woodland, Randall, Thompson, Jones, Biddell.
Demons: Paxman, West, Hore, Purcell, Mithen, Hanks.
Crows: Woodland 3, Ponter.
Demons: Hore, Harris, Pearce, Hanks, Zanka, Paxman.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JASON PHELAN’S VOTES
3 Paxman (Mel)
2 Hatchard (Adel)
1 West (Mel)
Welcome to the new age of AFLW
The new era of AFL Women’s is officially underway.
As the competition on Thursday night heralded its new age – a complete league of 18 teams – one of the game’s oldest entities showed exactly why it will be feared in both the men’s and women’s game in coming months.
Collingwood and Carlton, the two sides that opened the league in 2017, cut the ribbon on the now “complete” 18-team competition at Ikon Park in front of more than 4000.
Magpie Chloe Molloy flagged before the game that the women’s outfit had taken inspiration from its men’s counterparts’ last-gasp efforts in recent weeks but a high-pressure game kept the Blues at bay.
Darcy Vescio, in their 50th game, booted a goal to celebrate but now faces a nervous wait.
The goalkicker is set to come under match review scrutiny for a bump on Collingwood All-Australian Ruby Schleicher in the first quarter, while Pie Eliza James could also be looked at for a heavy tackle on Daisy Walker.
It had been just 138 days since Adelaide held the cup aloft, but with a second piece of 2022 silverware on offer, Collingwood – which had its finals campaign derailed by Covid earlier this year – has shuffled its stars for a spark and it paid off.
Schleicher and Molloy in the midfield was one.
“We knew they were going to come out hot, and our method was if we can try to hit them with pressure and try to beat them in that area and then get it forward, we’ve got some really good kids up there who can put the scoreboard pressure on like we’ve seen,” Schleicher told 7 post-game.
“Our drive and our pressure out of the middle has been really strong so far.
“(The mix of midfield and defence) is pretty much my ideal situation … test myself and be back there with my lovely defenders.”
It marked the perfect start to Collingwood’s season and its first outing with 17 competitors – with the four new sides in action from Saturday.
It is history unfolding in real time, according to Western Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn.
“It’s incredible,” she said on Fox Footy.
“It’s pretty historic, and I was a part of the captains day (last week) and when they got all 18 club captains together … to be a part of that historic photo … it’s incredible for the game.
“It feels whole now. The competition feels whole.”
AFLW: Blues star facing nervous wait over brutal bump
Darcy Vescio may have to wait until round three to play their 51st game after a moment of madness in the first quarter.
Playing their 50th game, Vescio is sure to attract the attention of the MRO after what could have been an ugly incident in the opening minutes of the game.
Not dissimilar to a controversial incident involving their fellow clubman, Patrick Cripps, Vescio chose to leave the ground, turn side on and caught their opponent high.
Schleicher bravely ran back with the flight of the ball, taking a courageous intercepting chest mark on the Pies’ 50m arc, before Vescio flew in late to deliver the hit.
There was a collective drawing of breath around IKON Park as the Collingwood superstar lay on the ground. But Schleicher, who has made her name as a tough as nails rebounding defender, fortunately got back to her feet to take the kick.
That may not save Vescio, however, with the AFL’s stiffer interpretation on high hits with the potential to cause injury, it’s likely Vescio is facing an initial one-week suspension.
Collingwood’s new-look midfield was firing on all cylinders as it showed a season without All-Australian duo Brit Bonnici and Bri Davey might not be as bad as thought.
Ruby Schleicher and Chloe Molloy moved into the Pies’ engine room from defence and forward respectively and were able to provide the mature presence around the footy Collingwood was craving at the end of their season six campaign.
Schleicher started in the centre bounces for the Pies before drifting behind the ball where she provided her regular consummate leadership and intercept skills, while Molloy proved a tackling machine, heaping pressure on the Blues’ prime movers.
The addition of young gun Imogen Evans and stints by defender Alana Porter and Tarni Brown proved the Pies’ midfield depth may no longer be a weakness as they shoot for premiership glory.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though, as Jaimee Lambert came from the ground late with a lower leg injury. Lambert pounced on a loose ball in the Blues’ forward 50 before being set upon by Madeline Guerin who laid a strong tackle.
But Lambert’s left leg became trapped underneath the tackle and it appeared to buckle before the 29-year-old grabbed at it and stayed down for more than a minute.
She was helped from the field by trainers and was sporting a hefty limp but returned late in the game to guide the Pies home.
BABY MAGPIE SHINES
It may prove to be one of the all-time steals if Imogen Evans’ debut was anything to go by.
Collingwood is crying out for midfield depth after losing All-Australians Brit Bonnici and Bri Davey to ACL injuries in season six, emerging star Mikaela Cann sidelined with a calf injury and relying heavily on Jaimee Lambert.
But Evans, 18, who captained the Gold Coast Suns’ academy, showed more than enough to suggest she can fill the void as the season progresses with a stellar debut where she looked as comfortable laying bone-crunching tackles as she did with ball in hand.
The highlight of Evans’ game was a sublime check side snap on the run in the second quarter to extend Collingwood’s lead.
She may come under MRO scrutiny for a tackle on the Blues’ Daisy Walker, however.
Evans ran Walker down in the middle of the ground, but as the Pies youngster dragged her opponent down it appeared Walker’s head hit the turf and play was stopped for a minute while she was taken from the ground.
It wasn’t a sling tackle, and no free kick was paid, which should help Evans.
TALE OF TWO GOALKICKERS
One hadn’t played footy for 543 days, the other was playing her first game in the big league.
Six-and-a-half minutes into the game the roar from IKON Park would’ve been heard from streets away as Carlton debutant Mia Austin slotted the first goal of Season Seven of AFLW.
The 18-year-old showed off her impressive leap as she flew over the top of the pack 20m from goal, clunking the ball above her head.
Austin, who played in the ruck at the Eastern Ranges, coolly went back and never looked like missing.
Jordan Membrey had waited a year-and-a-half to don the black and white again after suffering an ACL injury, but it took her just 10-minutes to make her mark.
Every Collingwood player on the ground flocked to the 26-year-old after she nailed the Pies’ first goal of the season, a set shot from 25m out.
Membrey led the Pies’ goalkicking in 2020, and will provide much needed class and polish around the sticks this season as Chloe Molloy makes a more permanent move into the midfield.
BLUES 2.0 2.0 3.0 3.0 18
PIES 2.0 4.2 5.4 5.6 36
MOTTERSHEAD’S BEST – Blues: McEvoy, Hill, McKay, Moody. Pies: Schleicher, Brown, Evans, Chiocci, Allen, James, Lambert.
GOALS – Blues: Austin, Vescio, Moody. Pies: Membrey, Chaston, Evans, Brown, Allen.
INJURIES – Blues: Walker (head). Pies: Lambert (leg), Moloney (concussion).
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JAMES MOTTERSHEAD’S VOTES
3 R. Schleicher (COLL)
2 T. Brown (COLL)
1 I. Evans (COLL)
Originally published as AFLW 2022: All the latest news, analysis fallout from round 1