ST KILDA'S much-hyped AFLW debut was upstaged by a ruthless Western Bulldogs outfit as football returned to RSEA Park in stunning style on Sunday.
Gates were closed with capacity at 8000 in the second term as fans enjoyed a carnival-like atmosphere in the first top-flight match at Moorabbin since 1992.
DOGS DOWN SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
The Dogs shot out of the blocks with five first-half goals, including three in the first 10 minutes, before the clamps were applied, running out 6.3 (39) to 2.2 (14) winners.
In the absence of vice-captain Brooke Lochland, Bonnie Toogood was involved in everything in attack early, kicking two first-quarter goals and applying immense forward pressure.
Dog Danielle Marshall, the first USA-born player in AFLW, who stumbled across AFL on ESPN, etched out her own slice of history by kicking a goal with her first kick in the opening term with a smart snap from a pack.
The Dogs' ruck stocks suffered a blow in the opening quarter with Celine Moody limping off with a left ankle injury.
While she failed to return, it had little impact on the Dogs' clearance dominance (27-19) as Kim Rennie and Marshall moved into the middle to relieve Moody's duties, while Ellie Blackburn (17 disposals) was again prolific.
The Saints increased their physicality to match the Dogs' standards in the second half, but it was far too late.
Teenager and No.5 draft pick Georgia Patrikios was a clear standout for the home side with six tackles and a game-high 18 disposals.
In a further setback, Saints utility Nadia Von Bertouch limped off in the final quarter and was sent immediately for scans with a suspected ACL.
Did you see that?
American pioneer Danielle Marshall didn't have to wait long to make her mark, kicking the Dogs' second goal with her first ever AFLW kick. Hailing from Phoenix, the 28-year-old soccer convert read the ball well off a pack deep in attack and snapped truly.
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Molly McDonald's first goal late in the opening term. The speedster took a mark just inside 50m before playing on and converting on the run, sending the Saints fans wild.
Sign of the future
Fans will get plenty of joy watching young guns and 2019 NAB AFLW Draft top-10 stars Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios go head-to-head in the future. Patrikios (pick No.5) played the entire match through the midfield to collect a game-high 18 disposals, while the No.1 pick was busy with 11 touches.
Work in progress
Former No.1 draft pick Isabel Huntington's move to defence reaped immediate reward as she led the formidable Dogs backline. After starting her career in attack and suffering two ACLs, the 20-year-old looked assured and composed intercepting across half-back. She sent a scare through the Dogs' camp, finishing the game on the bench as she was assessed for concussion.
"In the first 10 minutes, we were jumped. Our defenders lost touch, we weren't quite physical (enough), it wasn't quite lift and death. We had 11 debutants, it's a step up." - St Kilda coach Peta Searle.
"We knew this would be a big occasion, it's historical for the Saints being back at Moorabbin. We had to control between our ears and make sure we ready to play and we did." – Western Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke.
"It's an indescribable feeling. You've worked this hard, moved over the other side of the world… to kick a goal with I think my first kick, I don't think you could write the script any better." – Western Bulldogs American Danielle Marshall.
The Saints travel to Richmond Oval in Adelaide to face the Crows on Sunday at 4.40pm ACDT as both sides look to kick-start their season. The Dogs return to the Friday night lights, hosting Melbourne at VU Whitten Oval from 7.40pm AEDT.
ST KILDA 1.0 1.1 1.1 2.2 (14)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.1 5.1 5.2 6.3 (39)
St Kilda: McDonald, Sedunary
Western Bulldogs: Toogood 2, Marshall, McCarthy, Hunt, Lamb
St Kilda: Patrikios, McDonald, Vesely, Priest
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Lamb, Toogood, Huntington, Scott, Rennie
St Kilda: Von Bertouch (knee)
Western Bulldogs: Moody (ankle), Huntington (concussion)
St Kilda: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Crowd: 8000 at RSEA Park