GREATER Western Sydney has survived an almighty scare in torrid conditions at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday, narrowly overcoming AFLW newcomers Gold Coast in a trying battle.
With heavy rain sweeping across the state of New South Wales throughout the weekend, the Giants got the better of a hard-fought slog that saw just two goals kicked for the afternoon.
GIANTS START WITH A WIN Full match coverage and stats
The hosts had to wait more than half the game for their first goal, but Aimee Schmidt's major midway through the third quarter proved enough to secure a tense 1.3 (9) to 1.2 (8) victory.
Alyce Parker was the architect of the slender one-point win, with the midfielder among the best to win 22 disposals and lay five tackles in a thoroughly influential display.
Her willingness within the contest proved crucial late, as the Giants held their nerve to secure a season-opening win.
While the Giants did the majority of the attacking early, the Suns looked just as dangerous on the counter. Brittany Perry kicked the club's first ever AFLW goal, as the visitors claimed the lead at the first change.
It proved a crucial buffer, as the expected rain soon began to tumble over Blacktown. That subsequently brought a scrappier and more contested clash, making it easier for Gold Coast's inexperienced back six to hold firm against a wave of GWS attacks.
The result was an entire half of frustration for the goalless Giants, before Schmidt eventually broke the deadlock when she registered her side's first and only goal for the afternoon 11 minutes into the third term.
It swung the momentum of the match, with a tiring and youthful Gold Coast side suddenly unable to transition the ball as effectively as it was throughout the opening stages of the clash.
A scoreless final term then ensued, with the Giants retaining a narrow one-point margin for over a quarter of football to secure a valuable victory.
It was over when…
When the Giants finally hit the scoreboard through Aimee Schmidt, it was hard to see a way back for the inexperienced Suns. The visitors had just eight inside 50s for the match, compared to 27 for their opponents, and looked tired towards the latter stages of the game. Despite being only being a point down, scoring to reclaim the lead was always going to be incredibly difficult given the conditions.
Five minutes of madness
It would have been five minutes of madness at the death for Alicia Eva. Speaking after the match, the Giants captain revealed she thought her side was one point down – not one point in front – at the close of play. Eva said she was screaming at her teammates to get the ball forward as quickly as possible in the final seconds, before realising her error.
It was Alyce Parker. The teenage ball-magnet was everywhere on Saturday afternoon, relishing the wet conditions in Blacktown. Having genuinely challenged Madison Prespakis for the NAB AFLW Rising Star award last season, Parker – like Prespakis also showed on Friday night – looks to have taken her game to a new level this season. She won 22 disposals and laid five tackles in a best on ground display.
Work in progress
The depth through the midfield of the Giants could mean a positional change for Jess Dal Pos this season. Having spent the majority of her career in the midfield, Dal Pos was shifted to a defensive role on Saturday and looked assured across half-back. She finished the match with nine disposals, with her kicking a class above in the wet conditions.
"There was a bit of unknown in terms of what the opposition was going to bring, but outside of that it's just another game. It's good to get a result in round one, which is new for us. The girls have afforded me a lot of firsts in my career over the last few years, one of them being today – winning a game and kicking one goal. It's not ideal, but we'll take it." - GWS coach Alan McConnell.
"What a great starting point. Every time we play, we learn a little bit more about ourselves. I say that inside the group and player to player, so they know what they're capable of. In that situation, one point doesn't define your effort." - Gold Coast coach David Lake.
Greater Western Sydney heads south to face North Melbourne in Launceston next Saturday afternoon, while Gold Coast sets itself for its first ever AFLW home match at Metricon Stadium against Richmond on Saturday evening.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.1 0.2 1.3 1.3 (9)
GOLD COAST 1.0 1.2 1.2 1.2 (8)
Greater Western Sydney: Schmidt
Gold Coast: Perry
Greater Western Sydney: Parker, Zreika, Privitelli, Eva, Tully, Staunton
Gold Coast: Stanton, Virgo, Yorston, Dunn, Ahrens
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Gold Coast: Nil
Official crowd: 1540 at Blacktown International Sportspark