FREMANTLE has launched the new season as it finished a dominant 2020, kicking away from a brave Greater Western Sydney to win by 30 points on an afternoon of mixed emotions at Fremantle Oval.
The final game of the opening round started with a tribute to inaugural AFLW Giant Jacinda Barclay, who passed last year. It was also played in the final hours before a five-day lockdown starts in Western Australia because of COVID-19 precautions.
DOCKERS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
The Giants were competitive in a hard-fought opening half, but they couldn't go with Fremantle after the main break, with star forward Gemma Houghton kicking three goals to spearhead the 8.10 (58) to 4.4 (28) win.
The Dockers booted three unanswered goals in the third quarter in a ruthless burst of high-speed football, continuing their winning run after an undefeated 2020 season and showing they will be a force again.
Star midfielders Kiara Bowers (21 disposals and nine tackles) and Jasmine Stewart (15 and four clearances) gave the Dockers a midfield edge, while the backline was near impenetrable in restricting the Giants to two goals in the first three quarters.
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Captain Kara Antonio played a link role between the forward line and midfield and was critical in the early stages of the third quarter as the Dockers got rolling, twice setting up Houghton for scoring opportunities.
Crafty forward Sabreena Duffy made the most of half chances and was a menace inside 50 with her speed, kicking three goals as the premiership contenders put their array of scoring options on show.
Midfield ace Alyce Parker was immense for GWS, finishing with 29 disposals and seven clearances in a brilliant performance under significant opposition heat.
But the Giants lacked the depth of their opponents and couldn't handle the Dockers' sustained assault, with the home team laying 62 tackles to 39.
Fremantle's array of scoring options and the skill spread across the forward six makes the Dockers near-impossible to defend. Houghton is an improved player with a bigger tank, Duffy's speed is a weapon, and Gabby O'Sullivan's clean hands create opportunities. Add Kara Antonio's leadership into the mix now and you have a perfectly balanced attack that proved the difference on Sunday.
Parker's game in the midfield was sensational, finishing with a game-high 18 contested possessions from her 29 touches as well as seven clearances, also a game-high. She was a thorn in the Dockers' side in the first half but was forced into the defensive half in the third quarter as the Dockers made their move. One of the stars of the competition and a club champion at just 19, she should be even better in her third AFLW season.
Mikayla Hyde was a top up player for Fremantle's scratch match against West Coast two weeks ago, but things move quickly. On debut against GWS, she kicked her first AFLW goal after the Dockers linked up through the midfield and found her free inside 50. That scratch match a fortnight ago turned out to be an audition for a spot on the Dockers' list and Hyde grabbed her opportunity.
"No one picked us to win the premiership this year and we started 0-0 like everyone else. We knew we had to go out and re-prove ourselves and that helped today. But it's going to be doing it week-in, week-out against quality opposition." - Fremantle coach Trent Cooper
"I was pretty proud of our girls. It's been a rollercoaster number of months (with the passing of Jacinda Barclay) and an interesting day. In the end I don't think it had an influence on the result of the game and I was pretty proud of the way we managed that." - GWS coach Alan McConnell
FREMANTLE 1.2 2.3 5.8 8.10 (58)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.3 1.4 2.4 4.4 (28)
Fremantle: Houghton 3, Duffy 3, K.Antonio, Hyde
GWS: Schmidt, Beeson, Davies, Bennetts
Fremantle: Houghton, Bowers, Cuthbertson, Duffy, Stewart, K Antonio, O'Sullivan,
GWS: Parker, Beeson, Schmidt, Eva, McKinnon
GWS: Steane (TBC), Lister (concussion)
Crowd: 3,195 at Fremantle Oval
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