COLLINGWOOD has sent a warning sign through the rest of the competition, stunning early premiership fancy Carlton with a six-point win.
BLUES v PIES Full match coverage and stats
As crowds returned to the footy for the first time since March, the Magpies ran riot in the second term with a fierce brand of footy in the 5.3 (33) to 4.3 (27) win at Ikon Park.
Despite just one point being kicked in the first quarter, the players settled quickly compared to scrappy season-openers in the past, settling into a marking game and moving the ball up and down the wings.
It was a game of intercept defenders Charlotte Wilson and Ruby Schleicher (in a career-best performance) early, before Pie Aishling Sheridan finally kicked off proceedings five minutes into the second quarter, converting from a contested mark close to the square.
The Magpies were dominant out of the middle, leading clearances 13-6 at half-time, and Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey feasted on the rewards, holding the Blues to a goalless first half for the first time since round four, 2019.
Unsurprisingly, as Carlton began to gain ascendancy in the middle – through AFLW best and fairest Maddy Prespakis, a vastly improved Abbie McKay and Grace Egan – the goals came, with Nicola Stevens finally breaking the duck seven minutes into the third.
But the Blues – missing Lucy McEvoy (broken cheekbone), Brooke Walker (foot) and Gab Pound (finger) – had left their run too late.
Prespakis (18 disposals, 14 contested possessions, five clearances) picked up where she left off, while Britt Bonnici (22 touches) and Jaimee Lambert (a very clever 17) kept things moving for the Pies.
However, the win was soured after new Pie Aliesha Newman was reported for a dangerous tackle on Blue Mua Laloifi in the fourth term.
Carlton coach Daniel Harford said Pound is expected to return next week, while McEvoy is slated for a round three return.
Pie Sarah Rowe is battling a minor shoulder injury, and is looking likely to feature in round two.
Old friends reacquainted
After Collingwood key back Stacey Livingstone labelled Tayla Harris as "useless" when the ball hit the ground following their clash in round two last year, all eyes were on the pair. Harris got an early win, cleanly picking up a ground ball in front of Livingstone but didn't make an impact on the scoreboard, although she crashed plenty of packs. It wasn't the only battle worth watching, with former Blue Brianna Davey playing her old side for the first time, much to the enjoyment of Maddy Prespakis, with the pair tussling on the wing.
New-look attacks all round
Magpies coach Steve Symonds had teased the possibility of playing Chloe Molloy and Brianna Davey forward over summer, and pulled the trigger in the second quarter for an immediate reward. With Molloy in the square and Davey stationed about 20m out, the former kicked two while Davey's physicality and composure resulted in a goal against her old side. It wasn't the only fresh face in attack, with Jess Hosking causing plenty of havoc in Carlton's forward 50 in the third term.
Footy's finally back in Victoria
The last AFL game played in the state was in early July last year, and the last game played before crowds was an AFLW clash on March 13, 2020. But Thursday night marked a return to a form of normality, albeit with a few face masks in club colours floating around. And most wonderfully, it was remarkable for just how normal it felt. After months of lockdown, fans were able to bellow "BAAAAALLLLLL" to their heart's content.
"I think it is pretty straightforward to say (the game was lost in the second term), it wasn't even the whole second term, it was the last 10 minutes or so that was the difference. In the first half, the Magpies sat off us a bit, and tried to surge through to get the turnovers that way. So, we got our hands on the ball, but got caught in their little trap." – Carlton coach Daniel Harford
"We definitely want to be an attacking side, I know the last quarter we locked it up, but that's certainly not the brand we want to try and be. The girls, once they get their confidence up and start believing, away they go. We encourage a fast style of footy and we got going in the second quarter and started to look good, third quarter, Carlton came out and started squeezing us up pretty good, but we got through it." – Collingwood coach Steve Symonds
Carlton have a short trip to VU Whitten Oval to take on the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, the first game of Pride Round. Collingwood will host Gold Coast in its first home game of the season at Victoria Park.
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CARLTON 0.0 0.0 3.1 4.3 (27)
COLLINGWOOD 0.1 4.2 5.2 5.3 (33)
Carlton: Stevens, Vescio, Hosking, Harrington
Collingwood: Molloy 2, Sheridan 2, Davey
Carlton: Prespakis, Egan, Wilson, Hosking, McKay
Collingwood: Bonnici, Lambert, Molloy, Sheridan, Schleicher
Reports: Aliesha Newman (Collingwood) reported for a dangerous tackle on Mua Laloifi (Carlton) in the fourth term
Crowd: 6712 at Ikon Park