WEST Coast has burst from the blocks to start its fourth AFLW season, storming home to win an entertaining clash against Port Adelaide by 12 points at Mineral Resources Park on Saturday.
Winless in opening round matches through their short history in the competition, the Eagles came from behind against the impressive Power to win 6.4 (40) to 4.4 (28).
EAGLES v POWER Full match coverage and stats
They kicked four unanswered goals in the final quarter to overturn a two-goal deficit, turning the match on its head after the Power looked like winners in their historic first AFLW game.
The Eagles will hope it marks a turning point in their development after three disappointing seasons, winning their second match in the past 13 clashes and appearing a much-improved outfit.
Aisling McCarthy was the star with 18 disposals, six clearances and a critical final quarter goal that got the Eagles rolling.
Captain Emma Swanson led the Eagles magnificently as usual with an equal game-high 21 disposals (13 contested) and a game-high seven clearances, while young star Bella Lewis (16 and six tackles) was also excellent.
The Eagles had six separate goalkickers in a balanced performance, kicking the third highest score in their history.
The win came at a cost for the Eagles, however, with experienced midfielder/forward Kellie Gibson suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury during the first quarter.
The Adelaide premiership player and former Docker booted the opening goal of the game when she veered to her right and slotted an excellent set shot from 40m on an angle.
After the next centre bounce, however, the 26-year-old went down innocuously off the ball and needed to be helped from the ground by two trainers in a cruel start to the season.
After the Eagles built a 13-point lead, the Power went on a run of their own and looked like becoming the first expansion team to win its first game since North Melbourne and Geelong entered the competition in 2019.
They kicked four unanswered goals across the second and third quarters, with spearhead Gemma Houghton a lynchpin in attack after crossing from Fremantle.
The Eagles needed a team-lifting moment at the start of the final term and McCarthy provided it, baulking around two Power players and swinging onto her right foot to snap a brilliant running goal.
Kate Bartlett sealed the win late in the game when she marked at the top of the goalsquare, ending a brutal fourth quarter full of big contests and hard tackles that the Eagles had the better of.
McCarthy the magnificent
It was the moment of the game and the goal that set West Coast alight. McCarthy put her head over the ball in the pocket and won a contested ball, powering free and then leaving two Power players in a tangle as she snapped on the run to kick the first of West Coast's four final-term goals. The Irish star was fantastic all day and stood up in the moment that mattered.
Mixed day for star recruits
After crossing from Fremantle, star forward Houghton was everywhere to start the match and a constant threat. She grabbed a piece of history at the start of the second quarter when she kicked the first AFLW goal in Port's history, marking at the top of the goalsquare and converting her set shot. Adelaide champion Erin Phillips was quieter in her first Power game, starting in the centre square and heading to half time with just two disposals. She battled through a corked leg and some heavy attention to finish with 10 and three clearances.
"We knew that she (Erin Phillips) is a quality player and we couldn't let her get away with too much today. So to Ash's credit, she put the homework in, she watched tape, she had conversations with the coaches. So credit to her to get the job done and it helped us get the victory today." - West Coast coach Michael Prior
"Footy teaches you some pretty harsh lessons. In the last quarter we lost contested possession and we gave away nine free kicks, and we also turned the ball over in positions where you're pretty much asking to get scored against." - Port Adelaide coach Lauren Arnell
Port Adelaide plays its first AFLW game on home soil, taking on the Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval next Saturday. The Eagles hit the road to take on Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
WEST COAST 2.2 2.3 2.4 6.4 (40)
PORT ADELAIDE 0.2 2.3 4.3 4.4 (28)
West Coast: Gibson, Humphries, McCarthy, Western, Schmidt, Bartlett
Port Adelaide: Houghton, Tahau, Mules, Moloney
West Coast: Swanson, McCarthy, Lewis, Roberts, Sedunary
Port Adelaide: Dowrick, Yorston, Houghton, Mules, Moloney
West Coast: Gibson (knee)
Port Adelaide: Nil