ELECTRIC forward Jess Wuetschner has led Brisbane to a nail-biting two-point victory over Greater Western Sydney in Sunday afternoon's NAB AFL Women's game in Burpengary.
Wuetschner kicked three of her team's four goals as last year's grand finalists eked out a 4.5 (29) to 4.3 (27) opening round win.
Brisbane trailed by seven points at half-time, but two goals from Wuetschner and one from Sabrina Frederick-Traub in the third term gave them some breathing space heading into the last.
It was a gripping final term.
FULL FIXTURE Check out when and where your club plays
Giant Cora Staunton made home fans nervous kicking her second goal late in the contest to draw her team within a point.
But Brisbane hung on, withstanding a final flurry from the visitors, with Shannon Campbell proving vital on the last line of defence a number of times.
The win was the perfect start for the Lions, who debuted four teenagers along with former Carlton skipper Lauren Arnell after the off-season departure of established quartet Kaitlyn Ashmore, Britt Gibson, Tahlia Randall and Jamie Stanton.
Wuetschner's performance was a carryover from a brilliant 2018 season in which she kicked 12 goals and was named an All Australian.
"She's just a very, very smart footballer," Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich said.
"She knows where to get, knows where to present, knows how to draw a 50m penalty when someone runs through her exclusion zone. All those things make her footy IQ pretty special.
"We're lucky to have her. She's very good and very dangerous for us."
Brisbane was well served by its starting midfield of Emily Bates and Ally Anderson (22 disposals each), and Nat Exon (15), helping to generate 30 inside 50s to 23.
GWS was relentless all game but couldn't capitalise on its clearance advantage (29-22).
Two-time under-18 All Australian Alyce Parker was terrific in defeat, finishing with 18 touches.
Did you see that?
It was a classic Kate McCarthy moment that wasn't. The Lions speedster loves a foot race and when Sabrina Frederick-Traub kicked it into her path late in the third term it looked like a goal coming up for the Lions. But alas, as McCarthy toed it ahead twice from the 50m arc, the siren sounded, just before she put the finishing touches on what would have been an exhilarating goal. McCarthy celebrated, then cursed her luck.
It was over when…
With GWS hammering the ball inside 50 in the final minutes, Brisbane's defence was resolute. Sharni Webb executed some bone-rattling tackles but it was a defining Shannon Campbell mark that iced the game. With a Giants snap heading towards goal, Campbell ran back with the flight at full pace – not knowing where the goals were – and took a sliding mark in the square.
There could be only one – Jess Wuetschner. In a game where both teams struggled to capitalise on their forward entries, the 2018 All Australian was a class above. She cleverly snapped the home team's first goal, then profited from a 50m penalty and a goal-line toe-poke in the third quarter as Brisbane seized momentum. Wuetschner continued to stamp herself as one of the most lethal players inside 50 in the competition.
One to watch
No surprises for Giants fans but Alyce Parker put in an eye-catching debut. The two-time under-18 All Australian – named captain in 2018 – finished with a team-high 18 disposals. Her left boot was penetrating and Parker was excellent in congestion.
"We were down and out a bit at half-time but fought back. The opposition are quality … they're going to be there when the whips are cracking at the end as well. To come up against someone like that in our conference early on, that's a good one to get." - Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich
"It's all good and well to be tough and hard and relentless but you've got to bring smarts with it as well. We worked hard enough to win but we weren't quite smart enough to win so we've got some work to do." - GWS coach Alan McConnell
The Lions make the longest trip in the game next weekend when they take on fellow first-up winners Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday afternoon from 3.05pm AWST. The Giants have a lightning quick five-day turnaround and take on highly fancied North Melbourne at Drummoyne Oval on Friday night at 7.15pm AEDT.
BRISBANE 0.1 1.2 4.3 4.5 (29)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.2 2.3 3.3 4.3 (27)
Brisbane: Wuetschner 3, Frederick-Traub
Greater Western Sydney: Staunton 2, Bonner, Bernardi
Brisbane: Anderson, Wuetschner, Bates, Campbell, Exon, Lutkins
Greater Western Sydney: Parker, Gum, Staunton, Beeson, Eva, Swanson
Greater Western Sydney: Schmidt (elbow)
Umpires: Burns, Baigent, Strubos
Estimated crowd: 2850 at Moreton Bay Sports Complex, Burpengary