REIGNING premiers the Western Bulldogs have won their second match for the season, comfortably accounting for newcomer Geelong by 18 points.
The Bulldogs struggled with scoring in the opening round, managing just two goals, but it wasn't an issue in their 5.4 (34) to 2.4 (16) win at Whitten Oval on Saturday night.
The Cats got off to a good start when key forward Phoebe McWilliams, playing her first game for the club after missing last week with hamstring soreness, duly converted a set shot from 30 metres.
But a three-goal second quarter from the Dogs, who were kicking with a considerable breeze, turned out to be the difference in the match.
Deanna Berry (wearing long sleeves on an unseasonably cool Melbourne night), Bonnie Toogood and Ellie Blackburn all slotted goals, the latter a whopping 45-metre set shot which just cleared 194cm Erin Hoare's outstretched hand.
After struggling in the clearances last week, the Bulldogs were cleaner around the ball, with Kirsty Lamb (17 disposals), Blackburn (19 and six tackles) and Ange Gogos combining well.
Monique Conti was dangerous off the half-back flank, while Hannah Scott patrolled the backline with confidence.
Even with the addition of McWilliams (who will be ruing several missed opportunities, finishing with 1.2), the Cats seemed to lose their structure up forward on occasion.
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Cats draftee Olivia Purcell (16 touches) was busy in the midfield alongside Renee Garing (nine and 11 tackles).
Two scoreless quarters, the second and fourth against the breeze, were costly for Geelong, which made its debut in the AFLW last week with victory over Collingwood.
Geelong ruck Aasta O'Connor finished the match with a right leg injury. It was initially diagnosed as a cork, but she will require scans for an official diagnosis.
Dogs ruck Kim Rennie had a head clash in the first quarter, but played out the game.
Not one for the highlight reel
Geelong ruck Aasta O'Connor has a reputation as one of the more fiery characters in the AFLW, but Bulldogs midfielder Ellie Blackburn – who's not afraid of a word or two either – was quick to get in the face of O'Connor after an embarrassing mistake. O'Connor, who won a flag with the Dogs last year before crossing to the Cats, saw a set shot literally slip her fingers when she dropped the ball running into goal. Former teammate Blackburn almost gave O'Connor a hug, she was so keen to remind her of her mistake. It came at a costly time too with the margin still at 16 points. She didn't play at all in the second half after suffering a right leg injury.
The Brennan factor
The Bulldogs now sit second on the conference A ladder with a healthy percentage of 157.6, but they'll be most pleased that they got the win without co-captain Katie Brennan firing. Geelong acting captain Bec Goring held Brennan well after her explosive performance last week against Adelaide. It leaves the Bulldogs with plenty of room for improvement, while young forwards Deanna Berry, Aisling Utri and Irish debutant Aisling McCarthy all hit the scoreboard.
Geelong's star No.1 pick Nina Morrison ruptured her ACL at training on Thursday night, just a few days after a best-on-ground performance in her first game. Her strong run-and-carry game and smart play was missed by the Cats against the Bulldogs, but fellow draftees Denby Taylor and Olivia Purcell showed promising signs for the future.
Raise the flag
Saturday night was the Western Bulldogs' first home game for the season and the club took the opportunity to raise the coral-coloured AFLW premiership flag from its 2018 triumph. In a nod to the future, coach Paul Groves and under-18 footballers Isabella Grant and Bridie Garlick (daughters of former players Chris and Simon) were involved in the presentation. Grant is a member of the NAB AFLW Academy and can be drafted as a father-daughter selection at the end of this year.
"Really pleased, you walk away with four points. They were really good with their set-ups and structures, and we couldn't get our game flowing, but again we found a way. We defended pretty strongly when they had momentum at different stages." - Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves
"The Bulldogs were terrific with the way they used the ball, particularly in the front half in front of goal. [They kicked] five goals straight and we missed a few of ours. You've got to take your moments. We competed for large periods of the game … we did a lot right, we just need to take our moments and make them count." - Geelong coach Paul Hood
The Bulldogs have a tantalising match-up against competition pace-setter North Melbourne at University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston on Friday night, while the Cats have their first interstate trip, coming up against Adelaide at Norwood Oval on Sunday.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 4.0 5.0 5.4 (34)
GEELONG 1.2 1.2 2.4 2.4 (16)
Western Bulldogs: Utri, Berry, Toogood, Blackburn, McCarthy
Geelong: McWilliams, Clarke
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Lamb, Scott, Conti, Berry
Geelong: Purcell, McWilliams, Garing, McDonald, Keryk
Western Bulldogs: Mackie (concussion, replaced in selected side by Smith)
Geelong: O'Connor (right leg)
Umpires: Heffernan, McGinness, Annand
Crowd: 8612 at VU Whitten Oval