THE WESTERN Bulldogs have kicked off their AFLW title defence with a nailbiting one-point win against a wasteful Adelaide at Norwood Oval on Saturday night.
The reigning premiers were pushed to the brink by the Crows, but ground out an important season-opening victory – 2.6 (18) to 1.11 (17) – in front of a crowd of 7830.
Bulldogs star Katie Brennan – who missed last year's Grand Final triumph through suspension – booted her side's only two goals of the game within three minutes in the second quarter.
Brennan's co-captain Ellie Blackburn was outstanding through the midfield with 18 disposals, receiving great support from Hannah Scott, Lauren Spark and Libby Birch.
The Crows were led by ball magnet Ebony Marinoff, who had a game-high 25 disposals and 10 tackles, while 2017 AFLW best and fairest Erin Phillips was influential with 18 touches.
The Crows were kept goalless after quarter-time, registering 10 straight behinds in the final three terms in new coach Matthew Clarke's first game in charge.
At the end of the day
The Crows' inability to turn their attacking raids into goalscoring opportunities cost them four premiership points. Adelaide missed a couple of easy chances, but give the Bulldogs' defenders credit for the pressure they applied.
It's easy to see Bulldogs co-captain Ellie Blackburn is a favourite among her peers to take out the AFLW's best and fairest award this season. The tenacious midfielder was absolutely everywhere and wore the signs of a tough contest in the sheds after the game.
Point of difference
Bulldogs star Katie Brennan was well held by the Crows defenders – especially Sarah Allan – for most of the game. But Brennan showed her class, bobbing up with two crucial goals in the space of three minutes in the second quarter.
One to watch
In a losing effort, Crows debutant Chloe Scheer proved she has a bright future with her quality work in attack. Scheer kicked the Crows' only goal of the game, but was unlucky not to have a second after taking an outstanding contested mark. Not bad for a 19-year-old who missed all of last year with a torn ACL.
"The external noise was that no one was really rating us, we haven't been included in any predictions, which I actually loved. We're probably not over-liked by quite a few teams, which is fine, the way we celebrate and the way we enjoy our footy. You don't listen to too much of it, but it does give you that kick along when you need it." - Bulldogs coach Paul Groves
"Ultimately, if you kick inaccurately, it's a result of the opposition's pressure and they had us kicking from areas where we possibly shouldn't have been." - Crows coach Matthew Clarke
It's the battle of two unbeaten teams when the Bulldogs host newcomers Geelong at Whitten Oval next Saturday night, 7.15pm AEDT. Meanwhile, the Crows hit the road eager to make amends when they take on Carlton at Ikon Park next Sunday afternoon at 4.05pm AEDT.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2 2.3 2.4 2.6 (18)
ADELAIDE 1.1 1.7 1.10 1.11 (17)
Western Bulldogs: Brennan 2
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Scott, Birch, Spark, Mackie, Brennan
Adelaide: Marinoff, Phillips, Rajcic, Hatchard, Scheer, Varnhagen
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Umpires: Broadbent, Bryce, McGinness
Official crowd: 7830 at Norwood Oval