'I've wanted this day for so long': Nerveless Saint shines on debut

IF YOU watched last Friday night's NAB AFLW clash between St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs and thought young Saint Tyanna Smith played with first-game nerves, then you were the only one.

The St Kilda debutant shone in her first appearance at the top level as the Saints held on to a nine-point win over the Dogs at Moorabbin.

Smith gathered 16 disposals and booted a crafty goal to make an instant impression, all the while showing why the Saints were so pleased to take her with a top-10 pick at last year's NAB AFLW Draft.

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Debutant Tyanna Smith and former Pie Darcy Guttridge on the scoreboard in the matter of minutes

The 18-year-old wasn't alone in experiencing her debut in front of a sell-out crowd and said she had tried to prepare as normal.  

"There was a fair few of us debuting and playing our first AFLW game. We really just tried to go out there and play for the team and not play as if it's our first game but just play footy and I think we did that," she said. 

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"I don't think you could tell if it was our first game or 10th game – we all just played together."

The Dandenong Stingrays product has impressed at RSEA Park since joining the club last October with pick No.6, and her skills, tenacity and class meant she seamlessly stepped into the Saints' midfield last week. 

"It was crazy playing my first game in front of a really big crowd for the first time. It was amazing to run out with such special girls and to get a win was even better for my first game," she said. 

"It's something I've dreamed of since I was a little girl so to prepare with the team we've had a really strong pre-season. It's been a dream leading up to it and I've just wanted this day for so long. 

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"I didn't know what to expect coming up against women for one of the first times. But I just tried to back myself as much as I could and just tried to take on the physicality." 

St Kilda's Tyanna Smith lays a tackle on Elisabeth Georgostathis during the clash with the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

After her under-18 season was wiped out last year by COVID-19, it had felt like an extra-long wait before Smith took the field for the Saints, who are in their second season in the AFLW competition.

The Saints had control of the contest against the Dogs for much of the night before a late Ellie Blackburn goal saw the Bulldogs get back within two points. However, St Kilda steadied with its own late major as it aims for an inaugural finals berth with Sunday's clash against North Melbourne the next challenge.

"In that last quarter when 'Blackers' kicked that goal I think everyone got a bit nervous. But we settled really well and controlled the game, so I thought it was a really mature win of us," Smith said.

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