AFLW wrap: Class prevails as Roos deny gusty Cats MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 08: Jasmine Garner of the North Melbourne Kangaroos in action during the round one AFLW match between the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos and the Geelong Cats at Arden Street Ground on January 08, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

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Geelong has sent a warning to its AFLW rivals by going within a quarter of a stunning upset against North Melbourne. Here’s how the Roos fought off the gallant Cats.

AFLW premiership contenders North Melbourne have survived a massive fright against wooden spoon fancies Geelong at Arden Street Oval on Saturday evening, scraping home by eight points.

The Kangaroos seemed to really struggle without their inspirational captain, and five-time All-Australian, Emma Kearney, who tested positive to COVID during the week, as they slipped eight points behind late in the third quarter.

The Cats, who were fielding six debutants, including reigning No.2 pick Georgie Prespakis, looked on the verge of one of the biggest upsets in AFLW history on the back of immense pressure.

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But three goals in a row from Daisy Bateman, Mia King and Kaitlyn Ashmore helped the hosts weather the storm and were ultimately enough to ensure them victory.

Ash Riddell stood tall in Kearney’s absence for North with a sensational performance that saw her register 35 disposals (22 contested), seven tackles and seven clearances.

Meanwhile, Prespakis made a very impressive debut for the Cats with a team-high 20 touches, 13 contested possessions and seven clearances as well as six tackles.

The result was further soured for Geelong with former Crow Chloe Scheer clashing heads with teammate Claudia Gunjaca in the third term, and co-captain Meg McDonald appearing to injure her left leg in the final quarter.

North’s new recruit Kim Rennie also had to be helped from the ground late in the last term after seeming to knock herself out after flying high for a mark.

CATS BRING THE HEAT

The Cats almost pulled off an unlikely victory thanks largely to their pressure, as they convincingly out-tackled the Kangas 65-51, with Amy McDonald (13), Rebecca Webster (nine) and Prespakis (six) leading the way in that category for the visitors. But ultimately, North’s domination of the ball (229-175) and contested possessions (103-92), as well as their edge in inside 50s (27-21), proved pivotal.

KING REIGNS SUPREME

With North trailing by two points early in the final quarter, they needed something special to spark them, and they got it from Mia King who engaged in a one-two with Bateman before drilling a ripper from 15m out to give North the lead back.

CROCKET-GRILLS KICKS A RIPPER

Julia Crockett-Grills kicked the goal of the day early in the third quarter when she roved the pack superbly and executed a magnificent dribbler on a sharp angle under pressure to put the Cats up by seven points.

CONTI BRILLIANCE LEADS TIGERS TO COMMANDING WIN

James Mottershead

A slick and sharpshooting Richmond banked the first points on offer in season 2022 of the AFLW on the back of a Monique Conti masterclass.

The 22-year-old owned the midfield as St Kilda and its rookie coach Nick Dal Santo sharply felt the absence of stars Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith.

Despite heavy downpours moments before the game, the opening quarter of the season was the best in recent memory and was highlighted by fearless attack on the ball and polished ball movement.

Stream every match of the 2022 NAB AFLW Season Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.

The arm-wrestle of a quarter ended with St Kilda taking the slenderest of leads into the break, but that was as good as it got for the Saints.

Jess Hosking’s first quarter since crossing from Carlton to play alongside sister Sarah yielded just the one touch of the ball.

Stationed in defence, the 26-year-old bounced back after her lacklustre start to become a pivotal rebounder for the Richmond defence and finished with 11 touches.

After quarter-time the Tigers flexed their muscle to outscore the Saints 49-10.

This was on the back of Conti (29 disposals and six tackles) and Tess Lavey (19 disposals) in the middle, and Courtney Wakefield, Meagan Kiely, Christina Bernardi, and Katie Brennan all kicking two goals and providing firepower up forward.

Best ever?

A thunderous storm that brought with it massive downpours couldn’t dampen the first quarter of the AFLW season.

A dim and dour affair looked to be on the cards as crowds dodged massive puddles on their way to the ground, but 20 minutes later they had been treated to an enthralling contest and footy appetites were satisfied once more.

The first goal of the season, a near-50m bomb, came at the eight-minute mark courtesy of the Saints’ Tarni White.

Meagan Kiely quickly replied for Richmond before Rosie Dillon restored St Kilda’s lead, kicking the game’s third goal in as many minutes.

A goal in the shadows of quarter-time to Bernardi capped off the hottest opening quarter of an AFLW season ever.

Conti stamps authority

Conti took no time to stamp her authority as one of the hottest players in the competition on the back of a breathtaking first quarter.

The 22-year-old midfield dynamo owned the midfield, and her disposal was a class above as she kept the Tigers pressing St Kilda’s defence.

Conti finished the quarter with a game-high eight disposals and three tackles, before building on her stellar game to collect 29 touches and six tackles.

Dal Santo heaped praise on Conti after his side fell to a 38-point loss. He said the Saints had tried different things to curb the influence of Conti, but nothing could stop her.

“We tried a couple of things,” Dal Santo said.

“It’s more than the numbers she has, it’s the impact. When she received the football even facing away from goal, she’s got that ability to cut and swerve and work her way through the defence and have an effective possession going forward.”

Saints’ midfield conundrum

The absence of two of the competition’s midfield guns was always going to be a tricky void for Dal Santo and St Kilda to fill.

And it proved to be the case as the Tigers had their way with the Saints around the ball, winning clearances 28-20.

There was a bright spark to come out of the game for the Saints, as Tilly Lucas-Rodd helped herself to a buffet of football, collecting 20 disposals for the game.

The 25-year-old had an average of 11 touches per game coming into the contest.

Dal Santo said his midfield, missing stars Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith, was outgunned by the Tigers’ engine room.

“I thought their work around stoppages and contested situations in general were really good and clearly better than ours,” he said.

“I thought their ability to overlap with handball to break the lines to get the ball into their forward half put a lot of pressure on us behind the football.

“I felt they were in control of stoppages and contested possessions and were a lot more threatening at times coming forward of the football.

“The uncontested possession on the back of that, I thought going forward, they had easier and better shots.”

One of the shining lights for St Kilda was the performance of Tilly Lucas-Rodd, who collected a team-high 20 disposals.

Dal Santo said he would leave the 25-year-old in the centre going forward.

The St Kilda coach said he expected Kate Shierlaw and Nicola Xenos to be back in his side’s line-up next week after missing through AFL health and safety protocols.

SCOREBOARD

RICHMOND 2.0 4.0 7.0 10.1 (61)

ST KILDA 2.1 2.3 2.5 3.5 (23)

MOTTERSHEAD’S BEST

Saints: Lucas-Rodd, Priest, White, Dillon.

Tigers: Conti, Lavey, Brennan, J.Hosking, Seymour.

GOALS

Saints: White, Dillon, Matin.

Tigers: Wakefield 2, Bernardi 2, Kiely 2, Brennan 2, Stahl, Reid.

INJURIES

Saints: Nil. Tigers: Kelly (ankle).

VENUE: Skybus Stadium

CROWD: 3324

Originally published as AFLW 2022: All the latest news, results and injuries from Round 1

Read related topics:Melbourne

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