AFLW: Dogs spoil Saints party, Pies prove a point
No Brennan, no Conti, no worries.
The Bulldogs might have lost their star power but there is no doubting that change suits the daughters of the west.
Led by captain Ellie Blackburn, the Bulldogs spoiled St Kilda's homecoming to Moorabbin and first foray into AFL Women's with a 25-point win at the Saints' mecca.
Former skipper Katie Brennan and ex-ballwinner Monique Conti might now be in yellow and black, but the new-look Bulldogs looked fresh with a change-up.
Like a new haircut, they moved with swagger and silk with a healthy dose of strength thanks to the likes of Hannah Scott.
New coach Nathan Burke promised in the pre-season that the team would not lose a game due to a lack of fitness on his watch, and the hard work looks to have paid off.
The Dogs' defensive lockdown in the third quarter proved a standout as the Saints desperately attempted to turn the tide, but their experience proved the difference.
Premiership player Bonnie Toogood has taken her game to a new level from last season.
SAY IT ISN'T SO
It was a day of casualties for the Dogs, who were a player down for the majority of the day after Celine Moody was felled with a right ankle injury early in the match.
The air was sucked out of Moorabbin when former No. 1 pick Isabel Huntington - who has managed just five games in more than three years at Whitten Oval after her second knee reconstruction - went down with what looked to be a knee injury in the final quarter.
She ran from the ground but did not play any further part in the game.
Thankfully, there were signs post-match she was affected by a head knock, rather than another knee issue.
HOLLER FOR A MARSHALL
The wonder of AFL Women's is plenty of firsts, and an AFLW match at Moorabbin wasn't the only one on Sunday.
Bulldogs forward Dani Marshall became the first American to play AFLW and made sure the occasion was marked with gusto, booting a first quarter goal to get the Dogs rolling.
Marshall, 29, first spotted Australian Rules in the sidebar of her YouTube account, watching a few videos and exclaiming "what is this sport?!".
She soon took it up, playing in the USAFL for the Arizona Hawks before last year biting the bullet and coming to Australia for a crack at the big time.
Signed as a rookie, the Coloradoan looked right at home and will be sure to have an impact this season.
YOUNG GUNS FIRE
It was the head-to-head battle of generation next as two of the competition's top four picks faced off.
And it was Saint Georgia Patrikios who drew first blood and took the points over No. 1 pick Gabby Newton.
Patrikios came to Moorabbin highly touted after a stellar national championships campaign for Vic Metro under now-Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke, and took less than 30 seconds to get her first look at the ball.
It wasn't her last, finishing with 18 touches and six tackles for the day.
BRINGING FOOTY HOME
The St Kilda faithful hadn't seen football at Moorabbin since 1992, and boy, did they make it worth the wait.
The capacity crowd of 8000 people was reached midway through the third quarter, forcing officials to close the gates.
In a further nod to the club's history, Molly McDonald booted the team's first-ever goal midway through the first quarter, 147 years after a man named McDonald was understood to have kicked the club's first-ever goal in 1873. Uncanny.
First goal feels. The first male player to kick a St Kilda goal at Moorabbin - McDonald, in 1873 (they think!). The first female in #AFLW? Molly McDonald! Wouldn’t read about it. pic.twitter.com/doYKSluweX— Lauren Wood (@LaurenHeraldSun) February 9, 2020
LAYTON'S IMPROVEMENT HAS PIES PRIMED FOR SUCCESS
Sharni Layton is the human face of the AFLW's improvement a year on from the 2019 season.
As Collingwood secured its only win in last season's final round at Victoria Park, the former netball star was an awkward gazelle very much finding her way.
As a new-look Collingwood side stamped itself on the competition as a legitimate finals aspirant, ruckman Layton was at the forefront.
Not the finished product, mind you, because like this fledgling competition there are moments for Layton where everything that could go wrong does.
But as the Pies stormed to a 5.8 (38) to 1.5 (11) victory over West Coast in its first AFLW contest there was Layton hauling in contested marks and kicking the sealing goal from a goal-square mark.
The haters will have a field day this round given a series of low scores and what is still a congested code that rarely breaks open into space.
But as former Diamonds defensive star Layton said after kicking the first goal of her career, the best of AFLW shows what it might one day become.
"I feel like I have improved a lot but still have a long way to go. I feel like I am confident when I am out there but then you only need one whack to the guts or decent bump so you need to be on your game. But I had a really great VFL season and the support of the girls to keep running to the right spots and keep gaining confidence with pack marks and that's what I have been working on.
"I was glad to do some of those things today. I wasn't stoked with my game but it was a good step moving forward.
"All I wanted was a goal last year and I couldn't get it. Today I was like, yeah, I will claim it."
Collingwood's AFLW side has never had a win before that did not have a hint of consolation about it, starting each season with a 0-3 record.
This time things are very different.
New AFL side West Coast kicked with a healthy breeze and an edge in aggression, star midfielder Dana Hooker kicking the game's first goal.
Yet this year Collingwood has enough star power to overcome those kind of sluggish starts.
Chloe Molloy, back from the foot injury that wiped out last year, kicked a beautiful curling set shot to take back the lead then dominated forward and loose behind the ball into the wind.
Captain Steph Chiocci was cool and calm in all the big moments, Bri Davey will be better for the run and Ash Brazill took up where she left off last year.
With Sarah D'Arcy leading hard and strong and Jaimee Lambert racking up touches in the middle and up forward, the Pies now have legitimate stars.
WHERE ARE THE LINE BREAKERS?
West Coast were far from disgraced in their debut contest, with indigenous forward Imahra Cameron (13 touches) a highlight with her breakaway pace.
It is a feature this competition sorely needs, because too few players break into space or break lines to clear the congestion.
There were just seven running bounces in total but 114 tackles in a game of about 70 minutes.
Perhaps competition boss Nicole Livingstone needs to jump on a plane to the Tokyo Olympics to poach some of our best female runners and turn them into footballers Mark Blicavs-style.
Cameron and indigenous footballers with her talent must be fostered to give this league a dynamic it badly lacks.