Match report: Cats edge Pies in historic debut

GEELONG'S No.1 draft pick Nina Morrison has become an instant hometown hero, kicking the winning behind as the Cats beat Collingwood by just one point in their first AFLW match.

The match was on tenterhooks for the final few minutes after Morrison missed a set shot, but the Cats prevailed to win 3.6 (24) to 3.5 (23) in front of 18,429 fans at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

It means the Pies are yet to win a first-round match, after losing both season-openers to Carlton in 2017 and 2018.

AFLW Match Highlights: Geelong v Collingwood

04:39 Feb 2. 2019. 7:19 PM

The Cats and Magpies clash in Round 1 of the AFLW

Sophie Alexander was a revelation up forward for Collingwood. Promoted from the club's VFLW team, the 25-year-old kicked the opening goal of the match, a 45-metre set shot. She also kicked two behinds in the opening term.

But Alexander's night ended early after a collision with teammate Sharni Layton when a stray arm collected her in the head. She was taken from the ground on a stretcher and later diagnosed with concussion, but was alert and talking in the rooms.

Collingwood missed the target she presented up forward, with a scoreless last term.

Geelong local Maddy Boyd, who top-scored on a historic night for the club, is now at her third AFLW club having played for Melbourne and GWS.

In nine games she was yet to kick a goal, but the 25-year-old will go down in the record books as the first Geelong player to kick an AFLW goal, courtesy of a 50-metre penalty given away by former Australian netball captain Sharni Layton for infringing the protected area.

After a slow start, the Cats sprang to life in the second term, former Dee Mia-Rae Clifford's hard running and pressure work rewarded with a goal, followed by Boyd's second.

Tough Collingwood midfielder Jaimee Lambert had an eventful third term, leaving the ground with what looked like a nasty right ankle injury before returning to kick a goal through a one-two with Sarah D'Arcy.

Geelong key forward Phoebe McWilliams was a late scratching with a hamstring complaint, replaced in the selected side by Georgie Rankin, and the Cats initially missed her presence up forward.

Morrison was explosive for the Cats off half-back and through the middle of the ground. Before the players sung the team song in the rooms, teammate Aasta O'Connor provided some instructions.

"Stand next to Nina if you want to make sure your photo's taken," she said, planting herself next to the young star.

Meg McDonald, who played for the Bulldogs in 2017, was a rock in defence for Geelong, while Renee Garing and Liv Purcell provided a lot of drive in the middle of the ground.

Lambert (17) was busy for the Pies, while key back Ash Brazill (16) was prominent in defence.

AFLW comes to Geelong

The Geelong faithful came out in large numbers for the club's first AFLW game, with a crowd of 18,429 packing out the shady portions of GMHBA Stadium. Players reported not being able to hear each other at times during the closely-fought encounter. Local Maddy Boyd received a round of applause returning to the bench after kicking her second goal. Some fans may have to brush up on the AFLW rules, with portions of the crowd seemingly unaware of the last-touch rule, booing a decision late that saw the ball handed to Pie Britt Bonnici, a correct decision.

Cats fans turned out in force for the club's first AFLW match

Backline answer under their noses

With Chloe Molloy ruled out of the AFLW season several months ago with a right foot injury, there were questions asked about who would fill the vital role as general of the backline. That was answered on Saturday night, with netballer Ash Brazill slotting in seamlessly in just her third match. She missed most of last year with a hamstring injury, but her reading of the play and strong hands in the air were a standout, especially as the game progressed. Stacey Livingstone, who also only played two games last year due to a shoulder injury, was also strong, while 18-year-old draftee Jordy Allen was lively in her first AFLW game.

The kids are all right

Several of the top juniors taken in the 2018 NAB AFLW Draft featured heavily in the first match of the season. Geelong's No.1 pick Nina Morrison (top of the charts with 22 touches) looked right at home from the opening bounce, playing off the half-back flank and floating through the middle. One passage of play saw her burst through several players, pass off to No.2 pick Sophie Van De Heuvel, who was promptly run down by Pie and No.6 pick Jordy Allen. Liv Purcell was lively, while Denby Taylor used the ball well with the few touches she had. Pies Mikala Cann and Lauren Butler rounded out the class of 2018 on the field.

New rules have an impact

Saturday night's match was the first time the new rules brought in to both the AFL and AFLW competition were used in an official capacity. Bringing the player on the mark back by a further five metres (to 10), saw defenders kicking in having the confidence to take the game on and attempt to clear the defensive zone. AFLW-only rules of bringing the boundary throw-ins in by 10 metres (marked by painted spots on the ground) opened up the play more and led to fewer secondary stoppages. Removing last-touch from inside the arcs was also a positive, with forward lines able to lock the ball in.

Say what?

"I'm better now. I think a lot of us were a bit nervous early. From a coaching point of view, there's not a lot you can control (late in the match), so you wait and see how it plays out. I'm pretty happy to get away with the win and pretty sure we'll be better for the run." – Geelong coach Paul Hood

"The last 60 seconds of the last quarter, and the whole second quarter (was where the game was lost). I thought the first 15 to 16 minutes of the first quarter we were completely on top, completely dominated the opposition. It just shows the importance of kicking goals and kicking straight. The biggest thing is we lost the contest by minus 22 in contested possession."  – Collingwood coach Wayne Siekman

What's next?

Geelong has a trip up the highway to take on reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs at VU Whitten Oval (where the Dogs will unfurl their premiership flag), while Collingwood hosts Melbourne in a historic affair at traditional home ground Victoria Park, the first AFLW match to be played there.

GEELONG   1.2 3.2 3.4 3.6 (24)
COLLINGWOOD   1.3 1.3 3.5 3.5 (23)

GOALS
Geelong: Boyd 2, Clifford
Collingwood: Alexander, D'Arcy, Lambert

BEST 
Geelong: Morrison, McDonald, Boyd, Garing, Purcell
Collingwood: Lambert, Brazill, Bonnici, Alexander, Grant

INJURIES 
Geelong: McWilliams (hamstring, replaced in selected side by Rankin)
Collingwood: Alexander (concussion), Lambert (right shin)

Reports: Nil

Crowd: 18,429 at GMHBA Stadium