A FINAL-MINUTE goal from Georgie Prespakis has seen Geelong squeak over the line against Richmond, winning by four points at GMHBA Stadium.
Cats forward-turned-defender Claudia Gunjaca took two strong intercept marks in the last minutes as Richmond attempted to clear the ball, before Prespakis was the beneficiary of a downfield free kick, which she duly converted from about 35m.
Prespakis had been awarded the free kick for a dangerous tackle, but appeared to also be the beneficiary of the downfield free, instead of the closest Geelong player.
Geelong had booted eight goals in its practice match win over Gold Coast, with Richmond piling on eight itself against Hawthorn, but scoring was few and far between in the torrid 2.3 (15) to 1.5 (11) result.
The Tigers had their opportunities to build a sizeable lead in the second term, but booted four straight behinds from set shots, two from Courtney Wakefield, one from Sarah Hosking and a fourth from Emelia Yassir.
Tireless Geelong midfielder Amy McDonald picked up where she left off last season, recording 10 disposals in the first quarter, but did not have another till the opening minute of the third term. She finished with 24 and seven clearances.
CATS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
Unsurprisingly, the Cats dominated play in the premiership quarter off the back of McDonald's work in the centre and skipper Meg McDonald patrolling the backline.
Usual forward Chloe Scheer had started the second half in the middle, and it seemed to unlock something for the Cats, with Prespakis delivering a low bouncing goal for the Cats' first.
The midfield battle looks set to be a mighty one for the next five years – Ellie McKenzie, Monique Conti, Sarah Hosking and Grace Egan up against Prespakis, Nina Morrison, McDonald, Julia Crockett-Grills and Mikayla Bowen, and there were plenty of individual highlights from some of the stars of the competition.
But both teams will want to work on their entries inside 50 after struggling to deliver the ball cleanly in the face of two strong defences.
Lynch scrutiny after Kearns injury
Geelong hardnut Rachel Kearns suffered a serious left AC joint injury after a Beth Lynch tackle in the first quarter. With Kearns needing the green whistle (a type of strong pain relief) while on the ground, the tackle should come under MRO scrutiny. The Tigers defender appeared to drive Kearns into the deck, before momentum carried Lynch on top of Kearns on the ground.
The Tigers have found one
Richmond only took one 18-year-old in the recent NAB AFLW Draft, instead looking for older players to strengthen particular areas on their list. Height and rebound out of defence were both issues, and 29-year-old Eilish Sheerin appears to have filled both needs. Recruited from AFL Sydney club Inner West Magpies, Sheerin looked totally unfazed in her AFLW debut, playing with dash and dare in her 19 disposals and a whopping 16 intercepts.
"It was pretty electric. We just needed the ball in our front half for longer periods, I thought Richmond did a great job all game intercepting our entries. Our entries were quite shallow at times and their defence held up really well. The message at three-quarter time was to get the ball inside 50 deeper to give us better chance to score. To have repeat entries was really positive for us, and for Prespakis to have her moment, it's something she's built on from last [season]. – Geelong coach Dan Lowther
"It was a tough one. One team was going to feel ordinary out of tonight, a tight tussle like that. I was actually quite pleased with our last quarter, I thought we were really strong and started to get some more territory and own the game a bit more. They did really well to fight back and keep the game alive, in the end, it was a 50-50 sort of moment. Probably the third quarter was where we lost it rather than the last," – Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson
Richmond hosts Adelaide at the Swinburne Centre in the first ever meeting between the pair, while Geelong travel west to take on Fremantle on its home deck.
GEELONG 0.1 0.2 1.2 2.3 (15)
RICHMOND 1.0 1.4 1.4 1.5 (11)
Geelong: Prespakis 2
Geelong: A.McDonald, Prespakis, M,McDonald, Morrison
Richmond: Conti, McKenzie, Sheerin, S.Hosking
Geelong: Kearns (left shoulder)