THE WESTERN Bulldogs have withstood a barnstorming finish from Greater Western Sydney to make a perfect start to season seven at Ikon Park on Sunday.
Nathan Burke’s side led from the moment Kirsty Lamb kicked the first goal of the game inside the first 60 seconds, but could never put the game to bed until the closing minute when they held on to win by seven points in a dramatic final quarter.
After narrowly missing out on playing finals last season, the Western Bulldogs bank four crucial premiership points first up with the 6.5 (41) to 5.4 (34) win.
With new Greater Western Sydney coach Cam Bernasconi at the helm for the first time with premiership points on offer, Irish veteran Cora Staunton nearly hauled the Giants over the line to ensure the Dogs endured a nervous finish in ideal conditions for football.
Western Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn went head to head with Greater Western Sydney star Alyce Parker in an enthralling duel in the middle of the ground.
BULLDOGS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
The three-time All-Australian finished with 21 disposals, 10 contested possessions, eight clearances and six tackles, while Parker amassed 25 touches – the most on the ground – and six tackles in a brilliant display.
After spending last season on the inactive list due to two shoulder reconstructions, 2019 No.1 pick Gabby Newton played like someone desperate to make up for lost time.
The 20-year-old buzzed around inside 50, kicking two goals in the second quarter to provide a threat forward of centre and help the Dogs reach the main break with a seven-point lead.
Tempers flared late in the third quarter in a sign the practice matches are well and truly over and the real stuff is here. Tait Mackrill was in the thick of it, making her presence felt, before she was dragged off to cool off.
Parker broke the deadlock halfway through the final quarter to reduce the margin to one straight kick with less than nine minutes to play, after a brilliant individual effort from the two-time All-Australian.
But just when Parker looked like willing the Giants over the line, Richelle Cranston split a contest inside the Western Bulldogs’ attacking 50, followed up and kicked a brilliant goal off the ground that dribbled through to provide the red, white and blue with the buffer they needed.
Cora the scorer
The oldest player in AFLW history shows no signs of slowing down. Cora Staunton kicked three clever goals at Ikon Park on Sunday to start her fifth season in style. The 40-year-old was engaged in an entertaining duel with Isabella Grant – who is half her age – and experience won out. Staunton now has 50 goals next to her name, underling her significant contribution to AFLW. Only Darcy Vescio has more.
Tall targets star
They finished the game deep in defence to help hold on to victory, but Celine Moody and and Gabby Newton both provided key targets in attack for Nathan Burke in a major positive for the Western Bulldogs. The pair both kicked two goals each and could provide a lethal pairing in the coming months.
The Western Bulldogs head to South Australia to play newcomers Port Adelaide at Alberton Oval, while Greater Western Sydney hosts Brisbane at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 3.2 5.4 6.5 (41)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.1 2.1 3.4 5.4 (34)
Western Bulldogs: Moody 2, Newton 2, Lamb, Cranston
Greater Western Sydney: Staunton 3, Doyle, Parker
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Newton, Brown, Pritchard, Lamb, Cranston
Greater Western Sydney: Parker, Staunton, Mackrill, Dallaway, Eva
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Nil