ON PAPER, it looked like an easy win for Adelaide.
The reigning premier up against an embattled Brisbane, which had finished second-last on the combined AFLW ladder in 2019.
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Further to that, the Lions were decimated, having lost a whopping 17 players to other clubs over the preceding three off-seasons.
Eleven of the 17 featured in the club's Grand Final sides in 2017 and 2018, and in total, 155 games of experience were lost from the side in 2019, a huge number for what has previously been a seven-week season (now eight).
But Brisbane defeated Adelaide, and though the 13-point margin may not indicate it, won comfortably.
Players who have left Brisbane directly for another club:
- Tayla Harris (Carlton, left end of 2017)
- Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne, left end of 2018)
- Brittany Gibson (North Melbourne)
- Nicole Hildebrand (Collingwood, now delisted)
- Tahlia Randall (North Melbourne)
- Jamie Stanton (North Melbourne, now Gold Coast)
- Lauren Bella (Gold Coast, left end of 2019)
- McKenzie Dowrick (West Coast)
- Nat Exon (St Kilda)
- Sabrina Frederick (Richmond)
- Tori Groves-Little (Gold Coast)
- Leah Kaslar (Gold Coast)
- Kate McCarthy (St Kilda)
- Paige Parker (Gold Coast)
- Emma Pittman (Gold Coast)
- Sam Virgo (Gold Coast)
- Jacqui Yorston (Gold Coast)
Adelaide had a number of high-profile players sidelined through injury (Erin Phillips, Chelsea Randall, Courtney Cramey, Deni Varnhagan, Rhiannon Metcalfe) but 13 of its 21 had played in the 2019 flag.
The Lions fielded seven debutants while the Crows had six first-gamers, with both sides also playing a new recruit each (Rheanne Lugg and Courtney Gum, respectively).
So how did Brisbane do it?
Crow Anne Hatchard may have set an AFLW disposal record with 35 touches, but the Lions were ferocious around the contest.
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Despite leading the entire match, the Lions actually recorded 10 more tackles than the Crows, with Breanna Koenen (nine) and Sophie Conway (six) leading the way.
The Lions had less of the ball than the Crows but were much more effective in their decision-making in sometimes soggy conditions.
Efficiency inside 50
50% from 20 entries
25% from 32 entries
In the absence of Leah Kaslar and Sam Virgo (both Gold Coast), newly reinstated skipper and usual midfielder Emma Zielke was a calming influence in defence.
Of the additions to the side, University of Queensland's Dakota Davidson – taken with pick No.60 in the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft – has seemingly come from nowhere to become an important structural player for Brisbane.
The 24-year-old has previously played for the Lions in the QW Winter Series, and with Sabrina Frederick having moved to Richmond, is filling an important role as a focal point in attack. She crashed packs and made her presence felt around the ground.
Draftees Cathy Svarc, Lily Postlethwaite and Belle Dawes all provided some dash over the weekend, and dynamic forward Sophie Conway picked up where she left off after returning from a torn ACL.
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It's only round one, but with four points in the bank and a healthy list, signs look a lot brighter for Brisbane than its goalless practice match against GWS suggested.
Other observations from the round:
- One AFLW footy ops manager remarked over pre-season that managing injuries would go a long way to making finals this season, and Adelaide have already been forced to bring in the cavalry. Train-on player Rachelle Martin, the younger sister of fellow Crow Hannah, made her debut on the weekend. She actually wore her sister's No.6 against the Lions, with the latter ruled out of the season due to a torn ACL.
- Melbourne's win over North Melbourne should become more important as the season progresses. Each club was fixtured two cross-conference games, one against a team who finished in the upper half of the ladder, and another against a "weaker" opponent. The Dees have now recorded a win over their tougher match-up, with Gold Coast to come in round eight.
- Both Collingwood and Greater Western Sydney will carry some rare momentum into round two, with the two sides having never recorded a win in round one in their previous three attempts.
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