St Kilda has held off the Western Bulldogs to post a thrilling nine-point win in their AFLW season opener at Moorabbin on Friday night.
- The Saints kicked clear late in the match after leading by just two points during the fourth quarter
- Caitlin Greiser and Darcy Guttridge each kicked two goals for the Saints
- Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn impressed with two goals and 21 disposals
The Saints defeated the Bulldogs 8.3 (51) to 6.6 (42), with Melbourne’s downpour of rain earlier in the day having little effect on what was a free-flowing contest.
Twenty-four hours after Collingwood opened the AFLW season with a one-goal win over Carlton, the Saints became the second side to secure four competition points, although they were tested by the Bulldogs for much of the encounter.
The Saints could not have asked for a better start, with full-forward Caitlin Greiser taking advantage of a free-kick inside the attacking 50 to register the first major of the match in the opening minute.
The Bulldogs responded with back-to-back goals through Bonnie Toogood and captain Ellie Blackburn on their way to establishing an early eight-point lead but the Saints replied, first through Kate Shierlaw — following some brilliant lead-up work from Kate McCarthy — and then Georgia Patrikios.
Leading by four points, it seemed the Saints would hit quarter-time in front on the scoreboard but the Bulldogs goaled inside the final 10 seconds through Isabel Huntington to reach the break 3.3 (21) to 3.0 (18) ahead.
The second quarter was one-way traffic for the Saints, who opened up a 6.0 (36) to 3.5 (23) lead by half-time.
Tyanna Smith snapped a goal in her AFLW debut and Darcy Guttridge also picked up a major, while another Saints debutant and former Melbourne Victory W-League defender, Jacqui Vogt, added another to help establish a 13-point advantage going into the third term.
The two sides exchanged behinds after half-time and it appeared the Saints would go unchallenged until the Bulldogs struck just before the final change.
Huntington slotted her second goal of the evening from a set-shot inside the attacking 50 to cut the Saints’ lead to eight points, 6.2 (38) to 4.6 (30), giving the Bulldogs a massive lift heading into the fourth quarter.
The Saints restored the 14-point lead they held prior to Huntington’s score when Greiser used impressive physicality to mark and goal early in the term but the Bulldogs bounced back almost immediately through Toogood.
The Bulldogs full-forward took a mark on a short lead and kicked her second goal, before the visitors chopped the Saints’ lead to just two points courtesy of Blackburn, who played on after marking to the left of the posts and added another six-pointer with under five minutes on the clock.
But it was as close as the Bulldogs could get to the Saints, who iced the win in the shadows of full-time when Guttridge pounced on a loose ball near the goal square to kick her second major of the match.
Patrikios was sensational for the Saints with 23 disposals on top of her first-quarter goal, while Tarnie White was also effective with 18 touches.
Blackburn led by example for the Bulldogs with 21 disposals, in addition to her two goals.
The result provided mixed emotions for Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke, whose daughter Alice made her AFLW debut for the Saints.
Burke is a former captain of the St Kilda men’s team and played 323 senior matches for the club between 1987 and 2003.
He embraced his daughter after the full-time siren, as he congratulated her on the Saints’ triumph.