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AFLW Round One – Carlton v Richmond: Blues come away with a mature opening win in Richmond’s valiant debut

Tayla Harris gets a kick away during her team’s strong opening round victory against Richmond. She was an aerial presence all night

There was an edge of excitement around Ikon Park tonight.

Despite having almost 10,000 less people packing into the ground compared to that fateful night where Carlton and Collingwood squared off in the AFLW’s first ever match, the expansion of the league caused a genuine buzz around Melbourne.

With heavyweights Richmond joining the competition, their unknown potential fuelled excitement as they came up against 2019 Grand Finalists in Carlton.

Playing with a slick game plan full of maturity from younger stars, the Blues fired an early warning shot to the AFLW with a brutal 34-point win over the inexperienced Tigers.

From the get-go, it was evident that the standard of play had increased from previous years – the precision of short passing was tidy, the strength at the contest was enthralling and the contested marking from star players in Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick stood out in smoky conditions.

With a point to prove after last year’s harrowing loss in the big dance to Adelaide, Carlton started off with a buzz. Securing the ball quickly inside their forward fifty, they tested Richmond’s young defence throughout the entire first quarter. In inspiring fashion, the likes of Akec Makur Chuot, Phoebe Monahan and Gabrielle Seymour all worked together to hold out the surging Blues.

Their effort to restrict Carlton to only a scurry of points appeared to lift them into quarter time with some confidence, but a late goal from Blues’ skipper Katie Loynes gave Carlton just reward for their first quarter dominance.

The crowd continued to build outside Ikon Park pre-game, resulting in a strong crowd of around 15,000 (AFL Photos)

Richmond had an open opportunity to level proceedings early on in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Carlton’s intensity around the contest and clever ball movement kept them ahead of the game. Taking their one goal lead into half time, the likes of Tayla Harris and Darcy Vescio were further cementing their status as premier players in the competition. Harris’ breathtaking contested marking constantly split the game open, while Vescio kept finding space and using the footy creatively in her spurts through the forward line.

The third quarter was where the Blues really put the foot down. Motivated by the ‘Premiership quarter’ and the allures of what they had missed out on in 2019, Carlton lit a fire under themselves and slammed on goals. Madison Prespakis put her best foot forward to show her amazing ability that saw her win the AFLW Rising Star award in 2019. If tonight was anything to go by, her game in the midfield is continuing to evolve; not only was she as tough as a bull, she was also deceptively elusive and efficient via foot.

By three-quarter time the match was all but over – Richmond were fighting bravely yet couldn’t consistently crack through Carlton’s settled midfield and defence. Struggling to make inroads into their first ever game, the last quarter became solely about pride.

In a time where the fledgling outfit were yearning for their recruited stars to stand up, ex-Bulldog Monique Conti excelled in her midfield role. Looking assured by hand and foot all night, she weaved her way through despairing Carlton missed tackles each quarter. Connecting with the likes of captain Katie Brennan and Christina Bernardi, the star-studded midfield finally managed to effectively find Frederick. With her booming boot sending the Sherrin through the big sticks, the Tigers had their first ever goal that they richly deserved.

When it rains, it pours. Only minutes later Richmond had a second goal through an athletic and agile effort from Courtney Wakefield. Only consolation goals in terms of the match, the brace of goals meant much more for the Tigers – they had a step in their stride that can take them into next week.

Satisfied with the opening round victory, Carlton co-skipper Katie Loynes paid credit to the vigour and intensity brought by Richmond. “They were so tough, we just had to stick in there”, she said.

Blues’ coach Daniel Harford was complimentary to the standout performance from young star Prespakis. “She had a heavy tag all night and was still able to perform – it was a very mature effort,” he said.

Madison Prespakis celebrates her goal on a night where she starred through the midfield (Fox Sports)

In a landmark night for the AFLW, a strong performance and a hopeful effort from a debuting outfit gives the competition impetus to produce its best season yet. The standard of competition has lifted once again, and the Blues have staked an early claim for Premiership favouritism.

RICHMOND     0.0    0.2     0.2     2.2     (14)
         1.5    1.8     5.9    6.12     (48)

Frederick, Wakefield
Loynes, Vescio, Walker, Harris, Prespakis, Downie

Conti, Makur Chuot, Bernardi, Monahan, Wakefield
Carlton: Prespakis, McEvoy, Moody, Plane, Harris, Loynes, Gee

2 thoughts on “AFLW Round One – Carlton v Richmond: Blues come away with a mature opening win in Richmond’s valiant debut

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