Every AFLW side turned out for their first competitive hitouts of 2019, as the ten teams set to contest the third season of the league largely showed their fans have a lot to look forward to.
Newcomers North Melbourne-Tasmania are early flag fancies and their efforts to overcome a Daisy Pearce-less Demons outfit by posting an accurate 9.2.56 to the wayward kicking Melbourne’s 4.10.34 showed just why they are a side to watch.
Talismanic former Magpie, Moana Hope was among the goals all day at Cranbourne, kicking two of her own whilst dishing off several more to teammates in an encouraging performance.
Despite the 22-point margin, the foundation club was never outclassed and led early – poor performance in front of the big sticks punished the Demons, but the Kangaroos were deserving winners.
Princes Park hosted a wonderful display of suburban football, with a sizeable (largely pro-Carlton) crowd in attendance to see the Blues host the debutant Cats.
After getting out to an early 11-point lead, the navy blue defenders more than held their ground against a Geelong forward-line that found it hard to hit targets beyond the midfield.
Despite missing high-profile recruit and skipper Mel Hickey, the Cats boasted exciting draftee Nina Morrison and former Giant Phoebe McWilliams, both outstanding from the mid-point of the second quarter to turn the match around. McWilliams was especially impressive with a bag of four majors and some big marks inside forward 50.
With Darcy Vescio sitting in the coaches box, Bri Davey took up her crumbing forward position with ablomb, also kicking four goals. While the Cats had more legs and hit the Blues where it hurt – via the scoreboard and hard tackles – the contest was tight until the final moments; the result a two-point win to Geelong in a game that didn’t deserve a loser.
"You shall not pass." - Madison Prespakis, probably. ⛔️— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) January 20, 2019
In her first outing in the navy blue, the young gun couldn't have been more impressive. #BoundByBlue
A machine-like performance from the big improvers of 2018, Greater Western Sydney, illustrated that not only do they have the pre-season number of powerhouse Brisbane (who the Giants also defeated this time last year) but also that the Amanda Farrugia-voiced drive and desire to push for the ultimate glory is seemingly a squad-wide phenomenon.
Having added Yvonne Bonner to their Irish import stocks, the County Donegal LGFA star was impressive on her first outing in the orange and charcoal. It was a whole-ground effort from GWS, with Pepa Randall fastidious in defence and Cora Staunton deadly in attack alongside many others.
Straight after yesterday's practice match win, @_nicolabarr takes us on the team bus to gauge the mood and hear from some of the game's stars.— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) January 20, 2019
Ballarat played host to a raucous crowd of mostly happy Western Bulldogs fans in the evening, with a dominant Dogs display through the midfield curtailing a spirited young Collingwood side.
This was a fantastic game of football & the second game of the day to end in a single digit score differential. After the Bulldogs rested some of their better players for the last phase of the game, the score perhaps flattered the Pies, but there was still a lot to like about the biggest club in the land; newbie Sarah Rowe and veteran Celia McIntosh provided highlights.
FT: Dogs win!— WesternBulldogs AFLW (@BulldogsW) January 19, 2019
🐶 5.5. 35 ⚫️⚪️ 4.4. 28
Finally, the Adelaide Crows flew to their sometimes home of the Northern Territory to take on Fremantle.
The 2017 premiers weathered the Dockers best efforts to snatch a rare Top End victory, with the margin 20 points at the final siren.
The Crows didn’t need four quarters of heroics from Erin Phillips to start the year off on a positive note; the superstar only took to the field after half-time in a short-but-effective cameo.
In place of Phillips, Dayna Cox and Ange Foley did the engine-room’s heavy lifting.
While the smorgasboard of quality games surely whet the appetites of AFLW followers everywhere, there were some distinct lowlights on the injury front.
Blues star forward Tayla Harris was helped from Princes Park after an aerial collision only to rejoin the team post-siren with her shoulder iced; hers the first big name casualty on a ferocious day’s play across three states/territories, unfortunately it wasn’t the last.
Livewire Bulldog and 2018 league leading goal-scorer Brooke Lochland also failed to play our her side’s match with Collingwood, leaving the ground in pain in with a potentially severe leg injury – a season-jeopardising proposition in the short AFLW season.
Adelaide too was beset by the curse, with tall timber Rhiannon Metcalfe and Jasmyn Hewett afflicted with a knee and ankle complaint respectively.
With the trials of players like Izzy Huntington and Sam Virgo well documented, we can only hope for positive diagnoses for these women as the AFLW continues to grapple with the spectre of soft-tissue, concussion and other impact injuries.