IT WAS Maddy Prespakis' game on Saturday. Everyone else was just playing in it.
If Carlton was going to break its duck in the 2021 AFLW season, it was going to be up to Prespakis to get the Blues moving and that's what the superstar midfielder did against St Kilda at RSEA Park.
SAINTS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
Last year's competition best and fairest winner powered Carlton to a comprehensive 24-point win over the Saints, with Prespakis gathering 24 disposals and a goal in the 6.4 (40) to 2.4 (16) result.
It was billed as a battle between Prespakis and exciting young Saint Georgia Patrikios, but the Carlton 20-year-old was best afield with a dominant first-half display before receiving a close tag after the main break.
The win was crucial for the Blues, who entered the season viewed as a possible premiership threat after last year's barnstorming finish to the year but dropped their first two games.
Things looked headed that way again with Carlton kept scoreless in the first term, as the Saints broke the deadlock late in the quarter when Caitlin Greiser's smarts deep in attack saw her muscle her way into position and kick the only major for the quarter.
The Saints did most of the attacking with the early wind advantage, with nine inside 50s to four, but didn't break too far clear of the Blues, whose first-quarter scoring troubles continued.
But the Blues put the foot on the throttle in the second term, making best use of the breeze with three goals to take a 10-point lead into the second half.
Elise O'Dea started the run with the Blues' first goal, before Prespakis calmly slotted one out of a stoppage and Lauren Brazzale chipped in as well.
St Kilda target Kate Shierlaw enjoyed a purple patch in the third term as the Saints pressed, but Carlton's ability to kick two goals to one against the wind – including one set up by Prespakis – gave them a comfortable 15-point buffer heading into the last quarter.
A clever soccer off the ground late in the fourth term from Nicola Stevens, for her second goal of the game, sealed the Blues' win.
O'Dea's big day
The Blues would have liked to have two of Elise O'Dea, but the versatile 29-year-old did the jobs of a few on Saturday. The former Demon started in defence, helping mop up when the Saints dominated the game, and then shifted forward in the second term when Carlton had the wind and kicked the Blues' first goal. O'Dea finished with 21 disposals and was one of Carlton's leading performers in clearly her best outing for the club since last year's trade.
Carlton's first-quarter blues
Coach Daniel Harford had prepped the Blues for a big start after a shaky beginning to this season, and the Blues were solid against a strong wind at Moorabbin by keeping the Saints to just one first-term goal. But the Blues' own concerns with first-quarter scoring was again on show, with Carlton going scoreless in the opening term for the second time in three games, with their other first quarter only producing one goal. Look out if the Blues start to click early.
Rosie shines bright for Saints
Rosie Dillon was one of St Kilda's best across the clash, with the versatile midfielder collecting 14 disposals in a polished display. Dillon carried on from some impressive performances last year for the Saints and showed her tenacity at the stoppages as well as her poise by hand and foot on the outside.
"I had a chat to the girls at the end of last week and it was almost unrecognisable some of the stuff that we were putting out there from a team perspective so the focus was about trying to get that real chemistry through the week. We trained it enormously through the week so it would have been disappointing had we not come out and put on a good show today. Our shift in focus towards movement, defence and the team as well has paid dividends for us." – Carlton coach Daniel Harford
"We had the wind and kicked one goal so no [we didn't capitalise on it in the first quarter]. We had a couple of opportunities and scored points instead of goals and if you change them around it looks a lot different, doesn't it? Our ball movement in the first quarter wasn't where it needed to be. We needed to attack the goal line more and we didn't. That's something to learn from hopefully." – St Kilda coach Peta Searle
ST KILDA 1.1 1.2 2.4 2.4 (16)
CARLTON 0.0 3.1 5.1 6.4 (40)
St Kilda: Greiser, Shierlaw
Carlton: Stevens 2, Brazzale, Downie, O'Dea, Prespakis
St Kilda: Patrikios, Dillon, Priest, Lucas-Rodd, Shierlaw
Carlton: Prespakis, O'Dea, McKay, Hosking, Egan
St Kilda: Nil
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