Despite yet another defeat, Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson said his players believed they could win. “I think it was a sign that we do think we’re onto something. The girls have real trust in our game and in each other and for long periods of time we were right in the contest,” Ferguson said.
Compared to some of the frightful hidings they copped in 2020 – a season that ended in the sacking of coach Tom Hunter – this was not a horrendous performance from Richmond, who competed well for extended periods and trimmed the margin to a goal at half-time.
But a lack of polish inside 50 from the Tigers, combined with the Lions’ defensive grit, wore Richmond down, with Brisbane kicking clear with a two-goal-to-nil third quarter, extending the margin to 20 points by the final change.
Playing predominantly forward, Richmond skipper Katie Brennan threatened to have a huge say in proceedings. Her aerial prowess was evident but Brennan was let down by poor finishing and was denied a first-quarter major with one effort touched off the boot.
After several frustrating moments for Brennan, the Tigers finally kicked their first of the game – to the Punt Road end no less – when Courtney Wakefield banged one home during the second term.
Lion Cathy Svarc locked down on Tigers star Monique Conti, limiting the former Bulldog to just 12 disposals. Ferguson said coping with a tag was the next step in the young gun’s progression.
“I’ve had a chat to Mon about she can work through those things individually but also our development as a team,” Ferguson said.
“We’re probably not even quite there yet where we can start to pay attention to the detail really. We’ll get there. We can certainly help her out a bit more.“
Making her AFLW debut, fomer Australian rugby representative Courtney Hodder buzzed around the Lions’ forward line and used her pace to jag an early major. She might have been shaded for goal of the day honours though by teammate Tahlia Hickie, who bombed away from beyond 50 metres during the third term. Helped by an accomodating bounce, Hickie kicked a memorable first major of her AFLW career.
Looking out for No.1
As well as being able to showcase their home ground, the Tigers also had the opportunity to present No.1 pick Ellie McKenzie to the world. The former Fitzroy junior didn’t dominate but neither did she look overawed. Of Richmond’s half a dozen new faces though, it was former Melbourne defender Harriet Cordner who arguably made the biggest difference. Cordner’s big frame and sure hands in defence helped settle a Tigers defence that looked all at sea at times last season.
KING, GARNER LEAD WAY AS ROOS STAMP THEIR AFLW FLAG CREDENTIALS
North Melbourne smashed the Cats 11.5 (71) to 1.3 (9) in the early game on Sunday, picking up where they left off in 2020 when they were denied the chance to win the flag due to COVID-19, following five wins from six home-and-away matches.
The home side went goalless for three quarters before finding their sole major of the day through Aasta O’Connor with two minutes left on the clock, such was the one-sided nature of the round one contest.
The Cats started physically but lacked the polish of the Roos, who had three goals on the board at quarter-time, all three through ruck Emma King.
By the final change, the game was sewn up, with North Melbourne boasting a 52-point lead against a scoreless Geelong outfit.
“Glad to be back playing footy in front of a crowd. We absolutely just loved it out there today,” star Roos midfielder Jasmine Garner said post-game.
“Obviously it’s been a long time since we played footy. Our last game in round six last year was against Geelong here. They got the jump on us early in that game.
“We just knew we wanted to start well and be hard at the contest. We’re just glad to be back playing footy.”
“Just the depth in our team – our backline is so reliable, our forwards and our mids, everyone’s put in the hard yards and it’s shown today.”
King reigns supreme
The Cats had no answers for North Melbourne tall King, who was so dominant in the first term it was as if there were two of her.
She gave first use to her rovers at the stoppages, but also managed to push forward and kick three goals in the opening 15 minutes, leaving the Cats in her wake.
King finished the day with six kicks, four handballs, 30 hitouts and three majors.
The Cats managed just 16 hitouts to North Melbourne’s 38 for the day.
Cats’ scoring woes
Geelong went into the match as underdogs and were completely outplayed.
Young midfielder Olivia Purcell was the Cats’ standout in the 62-point loss, amassing 17 disposals and seven tackles in a tough day out.
The day was further soured when full-forward Maddie Boyd left the ground after copping a knee to her elbow early in the match.
The home side simply lacked the experience and class of their opponents, who were much more efficient with the ball going forward.
The Cats had 25 inside-50s to North Melbourne’s 27, but could only take six marks inside their forward arc compared to the Roos’ 12.
Roos stars lead the way
It’s no surprise to see North Melbourne’s talented midfielders atop the disposal list.
Emma Kearney led the way with 22 touches from Ashleigh Riddell (20), while Ellie Gavalas starred with 19 disposals and three goals.
Garner was also tough to stop, finishing with two goals from 18 disposals.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter
Damien Ractliffe is the Chief Racing Reporter for The Age.