AN INACCURATE North Melbourne has held off a tenacious Gold Coast, holding strong in the last quarter to win by 13 points.
The Roos would be relieved to escape with the four points in the 6.11 (47) to 5.4 (34) win, played under perfect conditions at the first AFLW game to be held at Arden Street Oval.
A tense last term saw North Melbourne kick three straight behinds and the Suns continually threaten, before small forward Daisy Bateman kicked her second and celebrated with a pumped home crowd.
Gold Coast certainly weren't overawed in the opening stages, despite North Melbourne coming off a whopping 56-point win last week over Richmond.
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The Suns brought what is quickly becoming their trademark fierce-tackling style, forcing the Roos into skill errors and converting their chances up forward.
Led by skipper Emma Kearney, North Melbourne responded after quarter time.
Jas Garner started forward and nearly had a major on the ball in the opening seconds; the Roos ultimately kicking 1.2 (through a Jess Trend goal) in the space of three minutes. They had pushed the margin to 15 points by the main break.
Kearney (26 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s) comfortably had one of her best games for the season. The skipper's gut running was a standout, often kicking off a scoring chain at half-back before being involved further on down the field.
She was well supported by Garner (29, 18 contested), Ellie Gavalas (20) and Jenna Bruton (12), while Sophie Abbatangelo – hard to miss with a big bandage on her head – caused havoc up forward.
Sun Kate Surman kicked the goal of the day at the start of the third, sharking the ball right out of Jasmine Grierson's hand and breaking free of the subsequent tackle before slotting a low kick from 40 metres.
It was the Suns' first since quarter-time, and was quickly followed by a Kalinda Howarth snap (her second), cutting the margin to just three points.
Coming up against her old side, Jamie Stanton (17 disposals) continued her fine season in the midfield in a four-quarter performance, while Howarth was a threat across half-forward and Lauren Bella shone in the ruck.
What just happened?
North Melbourne coach Scott Gowans said he would be having a chat to Sophie Abbatangelo after she gave away a crucial 50-metre penalty in the fourth quarter, gifting Lauren Ahrens her first AFLW goal. The Roo was caught holding the ball, and while it was a relatively late whistle from the umpire, she booted the ball away and Ahrens was brought straight to the goal-square and cut the margin to just four points.
There were two Gold Coast players who were more than familiar with the surrounds of Arden Street, with midfielder Jamie Stanton and key defender Ahrens having previous connections to the club. Stanton played for the Roos in 2019 before returning home to Gold Coast, while Ahrens played for VFLW side Melbourne Uni in 2018, under North coach Scott Gowans. Stanton finished with a team-high 17 disposals and seven marks, while Ahrens picked up a very handy 15 touches and a goal.
Look out, AFLW
She already has an AFLW best and fairest medal under her belt, but could Roos skipper Emma Kearney make her mark once again in the end-of-season vote count? Gowans said he had never seen her run better than she did against Gold Coast. After four rounds, Kearney is averaging 19.8 disposals, 4.5 tackles and three inside-50s, but it’s the amount of ground she covers with ball in hand that makes her so dangerous.
Welcome to Arden Street
While North Melbourne's VFL and VFLW sides (under the name of Melbourne Uni) have played games at Arden Street, the club's traditional home and administration base, the AFLW side had yet to host a game until Saturday. A redevelopment saw the Roos play their home games in Tasmania and Werribee last year, and the side relished the opportunity to play on its own deck. A healthy crowd of 3280 congregated around the ground under warm sunshine.
"For us, we take the four points. I still reflect back to last year when Fremantle got hold of us (in round seven) in a similar (contested) fashion, but today we were able to withstand it and I was pretty pleased with the result." – North Melbourne coach Scott Gowans
"Last week was challenge and response, and this week was challenge and response again. We won the second half, and what we do know about us is we keep coming. That's gold, when you're a coach, that's what your team is going to do. We're not here to make up numbers, trust me, and we'll keep making statements every week." – Gold Coast coach David Lake
It's shaping up to be one of the games of the season, with North Melbourne to take on reigning premiers Adelaide at North Hobart Oval on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Suns travel north to Mackay to take on Geelong on Friday night.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 4.5 5.7 6.11 (47)
GOLD COAST 2.1 2.2 4.3 5.4 (34)
North Melbourne: Bateman 2, Abbatangelo, Trend, El.King, Em.King
Gold Coast: Howarth 2, Ernst, Surman, Ahrens
North Melbourne: Kearney, Garner, Gavalas, Gillespie-Jones, Abbatangelo
Gold Coast: Stanton, Yorston, Ahrens, Bella, Howarth
North Melbourne: Abbatangelo (cut head)
Gold Coast: Nil
Crowd: 3280 at Arden Street