A MATURE performance from Brisbane has seen the Lions pull away to a 29-point win over Richmond.
The Tigers showed some promising signs of improvement off the back of their winless first season in 2020, but the Lions' fluid ball movement and domination of the middle led to the 1.6 (6) to 5.11 (41) victory.
TIGERS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
It was a gusty day at the Swinburne Centre, the first AFLW game at the venue, with the first goal not coming to the Brunton Avenue end until the fourth term via Dakota Davidon.
Brisbane made all the early running, controlling play across the middle of the ground and structuring well in defence, forcing Richmond into skill errors.
Captain Katie Brennan – who returned an inaccurate 0.3 – thought she'd kicked the Tigers' first goal in the dying seconds of the first quarter, but it was called touched off the boot from her set shot.
In the end, it was dynamic key forward Courtney Wakefield who atoned for last year's missed opportunity at Richmond's first ever goal, showing a clean pair of heels at 33 and good game sense to keep the ball in play and slamming the ball home from the square.
Cathy Svarc held Tiger best and fairest Monique Conti possession-less in the first quarter, and to just three at half-time, while topping the Lions' count at the main break with nine of her own.
The Tigers looked at their most dangerous when moving the ball quickly, but didn't catch the organised Lions defence – led by Kate Lutkins and Nat Grider – on the hop nearly enough.
It was a well-rounded performance from the Lions, who would have been thrilled with the performance of young cubs Belle Dawes (a career-high 21 touches, up from 12), ruck Tahlia Hickie, debutant Courtney Hodder and the ever-improving Grider.
Full-back Harriet Cordner (12 disposals, seven marks) starred on debut for the Tigers after crossing from Melbourne, while No.1 pick Ellie McKenzie (12 touches) showed plenty on the wing for the Tiger army to get excited about.
Lions forward Jess Wuetschner came into the season as competition's all-time leading goalkicker, but was named an emergency for this match.
"Jess is just on the improve. She had a fairly significant event (struck by lightning) this time last year, and she's taking her time to come good," coach Craig Starcevich said.
"She'll come good at some point, she's not going backwards, she's steadily improving, but we're in the position now where there's people ahead of her, for where she is right now.
"I'm sure she'll get back to some of the things she has done in the first four seasons."
Welcome back, Courtney
Brisbane rookie Courtney Hodder is returning to footy in 2021 after taking a few years off to focus on rugby union in Queensland. A highly rated junior, Hodder dominated at the level back in her home state of Western Australia before a broken leg halted her progress. Lining up in the forward 50, Hodder's electric pace was on show, kicking 1.2 from her nine touches.
New Tiger faces pack a punch
All the attention has been on Sarah Hosking and Sarah D'Arcy moving to Richmond over the trade period, and while the two performed well, it's Harriet Cordner who could prove to be the most important acquisition. The former Dee slotted in seamlessly into defence, taking composed intercept marks and settled the backline, which was often skittish last year. Her presence has also allowed the athletic Gabby Seymour to play as primary ruck, with usual first ruck Alice Edmonds named an emergency for this game.
Blink and you'd miss it
We rarely see goals kicked beyond the 50m line in the AFLW, but young Lions ruck Tahlia Hickie produced one for the ages in the midst of her lively third term. The 20-year-old seemed to intend to put the ball about 20m out, but with the wind at her back and a vacant goal-square, Hickie slotted a major from 55. Coach Craig Starcevich praised Hickie's game, saying her strong QAFLW season with Coorparoo was holding her in good stead for 2021.
"Pretty pleased, with all the obstacles of today's program, getting up early and coming down here and playing the game, and all the reasons you could come up with for not running out the game strongly, the players were terrific in the last quarter." – Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich
"I think we gave ourselves a chance to stay in the game for all of three quarters, a few moments here and there, up until three-quarter time, we were a few goals down kicking with a few-goal wind. I thought we gave ourselves a chance, but in the last quarter, maybe in their endeavour to take the game on, really try and run them down, we just rushed. A lot of learnings from the last quarter." – Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson
Richmond will once again face some windy conditions, facing Melbourne at Casey Fields late on Saturday afternoon. Brisbane will be hoping for two from two, drawn against a shaky Geelong at home on Sunday.
RICHMOND 0.2 1.4 1.6 1.6 (12)
BRISBANE 2.3 2.4 4.8 5.11 (41)
Brisbane: Bodey 2, Hodder, Hickie, Davidson
Richmond: Cordner, Dempsey, McKenzie, Seymour, Conti
Brisbane: Dawes, Svarc, Bates, Grider, Conway
Crowd: 988 at the Swinburne Centre
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