The new AFL season approaches. It’s a time for most to get excited.
A lot of the attention from Sunday’s game at Moorabbin has been focused on the crowd. Naturally, a full house and a lockout are a great look for the growing AFLW.
But to focus solely on the crowd and the romanticism of St Kilda’s return to playing competitive games at the oval does the game itself a disservice.
That said, to not mention the crowd would also be a disservice.
Some 8000 turning up and having Moorabbin as the beating heart of St Kilda again cannot be a bad thing. The test will be to make sure these numbers are maintained.
But the game itself was one of two parts – the first quarter and the rest.
The Bulldogs, with only five first-gamers, quickly got on top. They knew the pace that the game was played at and pushed their advantage early.
Taking a four-goal lead into quarter time should really have allowed the Dogs to play the rest of the game on their terms, with little pressure. But this is not how the game unfolded.
After quarter time, the game noticeably evened up.
The Dogs no longer had the space in the forward 50 and the Saints were making the running. But with the wind blowing hard towards the pocket at the Nepean Highway end of the ground (and sometimes directly across the ground), scoring was always going to be an issue for an inexperienced side. The number of ‘out on the fulls’ on the broadcast side of the ground is testament to that.
Another problem for St Kilda was the final kick inside 50. With a gamestyle after quarter time based on getting numbers behind the ball, their forward line was too often empty when the midfield won the ball.
And even when there were players forward, the kick was rarely to anyone’s advantage. This will need to be worked on.
But St Kilda’s defence also held up under the Bulldogs’ pressure. With two marks each to Clara Fitzpatrick and Catherine Phillips, as well as a few to captain Rhiannon Watt behind the ball, many attacks were successfully held off.
But best on ground, by a long way, was Georgia Patrikios.
She set up the Saints’ first goal and was generally busy once she was released into the midfield, had a game-high 18 disposals, as well as five tackles – enough to get her a Rising Star nomination.
She will be central to this team, and indeed the league, in the coming years.
It’s now up to the Saints themselves to build on this start. A great crowd and a decent performance is a good start but that is not enough.
The team must continue to capture the interest of fans and more importantly create a winning culture.
Not only will this keep interest in the women’s game, it could even rub off on the men’s team!