IT WAS A season of promise from expansion side St Kilda, who aside from the very first 10 minutes of their campaign, never looked over-awed on the big stage.
The Saints unearthed a few gems from VFLW level, and while they sometimes lacked the polish to finish games, were a cohesive and well-disciplined side.
Over the next few weeks, womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams, kicking off proceedings with Adelaide and moving alphabetically from there.
Coach: Peta Searle
Leadership group: Cat Phillips, Kate Shierlaw, Rhiannon Watt (co-captains), Ali Drennon, Nat Exon, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Kate McCarthy, Jess Sedunary
2020 finishing position: Fifth in Conference B, two wins, four losses, 90.6%.
Best win: St Kilda 6.6 (42) defeated Richmond 0.3 (3), round six
St Kilda had set itself for this match against their fellow Victorian expansion side, and played the windy conditions to perfection. The Saints had a tight ground-wide defence and capitalised on Tiger mistakes, with Caitlin Greiser booting three goals.
Best individual performance: She came to the club as the player of the 2019 NAB AFLW under-18 championships, and Georgia Patrikios hit the ground running. Her round two game against Adelaide saw the classy midfielder record 18 disposals, five marks and four tackles against a quality opposition.
Club best and fairest candidates: Georgia Patrikios, Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Rosie Dillon, Caitlin Greiser
NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Georgia Patrikios (round one), Caitlin Greiser (round three), Olivia Vesely (round five)
Debutants: Rosie Dillon, Clara Fitzpatrick, Caitlin Greiser, Sammie Johnson, Poppy Kelly, Tamara Luke, Molly McDonald, Kelly O'Neill, Georgia Patrikios, Hannah Priest, Isabella Shannon, Olivia Vesely, Tarni White, Nadia von Bertouch, Nicola Xenos
Retirees: Emma Mackie
Star recruit (existing AFLW player): Delisted by Carlton, Tilly Lucas-Rodd had a strong VFLW season and then locked down a small defensive role at AFLW level. She averaged a career-high 13.2 disposals and was a strong leader in the backline.
Star recruit (open-age or draftee): Some people at other clubs have said if given the chance, they would have taken Patrikios with pick one. As it stood, the midfielder slipped to three in the Victorian portion of the draft (five overall), and her composure, foot skills and game awareness shone in her first season.
Unsung hero: After improving her fitness and a career-best VFLW season at Hawthorn, Rosie Dillon was given her first AFLW opportunity at 24. Despite standing at just 153cm, the inside midfielder was hard-working and damaging around the ground, feeding the ball to her teammates.
- For a new team (albeit one where two-thirds had played together at VFLW level), the Saints' disciplined team defence across the ground was impressive. At 2-4 and a percentage of 90.6, the Saints aren't too far off the pace at all.
- Rhiannon Watt didn't get a proper run at AFLW level behind Alison Downie and Breann Moody at Carlton, and 2020 saw the co-captain take full advantage of her opportunity. Ostensibly a ruck, Watt was employed all over the ground, and often bobbed up to intercept whenever it was needed.
What needs improvement:
- Caitlin Greiser looks likely to be a star of the competition for years to come, having taken out the AFLW leading goalkicking title in her first season, but St Kilda often battled to find other paths to goal. The Saints averaged 3.8 goals a match, ahead of only West Coast and Richmond.
- The loss of Kate McCarthy to a knee injury hurt, but the Saints needed some more players with genuine speed. Young draftee Nicola Xenos' influence on games did increase as the season progressed.
Season in a song: Livin' on a Prayer (Bon Jovi). The Saints are halfway there, and they'll make it, we swear.
Early call for 2021: A healthy percentage despite being behind on the win-loss ledger is a good sign for next season. Find a few more goals, and the Saints should be well and truly in the mix for finals.
Season rating: 5.5/10