AFLW Round 1 wrap: Vescio stars as Blues rookie coach gets perfect start

Showdown bragging rights belong to Adelaide as its star recruit won the Showdown Medal.

A spectacular performance from Carlton star Darcy Vescio sees the Blues’ new AFLW era under a rookie coach begin in thrilling fashion.

Check out all the results and news from Saturday’s AFLW Round 1 action.

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Adelaide Crows 8.10 (58) defeated Port Adelaide 4.4 (28)


Showdown bragging rights belong to Adelaide again after star trio Niamh Kelly, Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff fired the Crows to a hard-fought 30-point win against Port Adelaide in Saturday’s season opener at Norwood Oval.

With Erin Phillips starting the season in fine form, the plucky Power held a surprise three-point lead at half-time, but wilted in the warm conditions in the face of Adelaide’s second-half onslaught.

Kelly’s starring role saw her awarded the Showdown Medal as best player afield.

Niamh Kelly of the Crows wins the Showdown Medal. Picture: James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The Crows piled on six unanswered goals after the restart to seal the win before Hannah Ewings broke that run with a superb goal from long range late in the last quarter.

Crows coach Matthew Clarke was delighted with the second-half display by his charges, who he felt showed praiseworthy composure to adjust during the half-time break with Port leading by three points.

“I was pretty comfortable with how we’d played, to be honest,” he said.

“We gave up three scores, but all of them had components of our errors in them.

“We’d missed some fairly easy kicks over the top to free players, but that happens in high-pressure situations.

“We’ve had a really strong preseason, our fitness is through the roof on metrics from other years, so we were really confident that we’d run the game out well.

“It’s too early to tell, but we certainly aspire to be amongst the top end.

“I thought today’s game was of a really high quality, but the way (the season) shakes out is yet to be seen.”


With hard-tackling skipper Chelsea Randall setting a physical tone early, Adelaide’s Irish connection did the damage on the scoreboard.

The wayward Crows registered the first three points of the game before former Eagle Kelly guided through a set shot from 30m out.

Randall marked strongly and set up Adelaide’s other Irishwoman, Yvonne Bonner, who finished with two majors, to run into an open goal and put her side up by 15 points at the first break.

“Niamh’s game was outstanding and then for Yvonne to hit the scoreboard was great,” Clarke said.

“She hasn’t played for a while, so for her to get out there and have an immediate impact is really pleasing.

“It’s an absolute bonus for us really.

“She came onto the list as an injury replacement and since she’s arrived she’s worked tirelessly and deserved to have a good day today.”

Port had four more inside 50s in the first quarter, but didn’t manage a score with last season’s Rising Star winner Ewings and high-profile recruit Janelle Cuthbertson part of a group of nine Power players to register one possession or less in the opening term.

Despite the early score line, Power coach Lauren Arnell would have been pleased with the pressure her charges were able to apply on the Crows, who committed too many uncharacteristic handling errors in the first half.


Port managed just three behinds in a 60-point drubbing by Adelaide in last season’s inaugural Showdown, but the visitors exploded into action with three goals in the second quarter.

Two-time Crows leading goalkicker Ash Saint (nee Woodland) kicked one goal against the Power in that first crosstown clash at Adelaide Oval and she was the catalyst for Port’s second-quarter revival in her first game for her new club following her off-season switch.

Adelaide fans let Saint know all about it when she missed everything from a close-range set shot in the first quarter and she returned the favour when she slotted her first goal for Port, proudly grabbing her jumper and gesturing to the crowd.

She repeated the dose soon after when she booted a superb goal from a tight angle to give her side a three-point lead at halftime.


The Power led the inside 50 count 27-13 at half-time, but in the club’s second season its inexperienced players couldn’t go with their more-seasoned Adelaide opponents who unleashed a withering burst after the break.

The rampant Crows went inside their attacking 50 14 times to the Power’s four in the pivotal term where they kicked 3.3 to one behind.

The Power finished marginally in front for inside 50s for the match (38-37), but the Crows celebrated a second Showdown win in as many attempts with a rare goal from Marinoff celebrated wildly by the crowd of 8,720 fans at the Adelaide home game.

“Obviously, it was a significant improvement on last year, but we’re still disappointed,” Port coach Lauren Arnell said.

“At half-time we’d played some pretty good footy, especially in that second quarter, but the third quarter let us down.

“There are a lot of positives.

“The message for our team is that the longer we play our style of footy, we do think we can beat any team, we just need to play it for four quarters.

“You’ve got to play four quarters of your best footy to beat teams like the Crows.

“It was pleasing to see that we could do that for maybe two-and-a-half quarters.

“There’s definite growth in our group, but immediately after the game it’s a bit frustrating.”

Carlton’s Darcy Vescio celebrates as the final siren sounds. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

Carlton 5.4 (34) defeated Gold Coast Suns 4.8 (32)


A spectacular performance from Carlton star Darcy Vescio has ensured the Blues’ new AFLW era under rookie coach Mathew Buck has begun in thrilling fashion at Princes Park on Saturday with a two-point win over Gold Coast.

Three consecutive goals from the Blues helped them open up a 23-point lead early in the final term, but the Suns weren’t done with yet and they proceeded to kick the next three majors to get back within two points with 3:34 left in the game.

The last of those goals was controversial as Carlton defender Vaomua Laloifi was penalised for holding Gold Coast’s Jamie Stanton in the marking contest 15m out from goal, when it appeared as though both players were grabbing hold of each other.

The Suns had the chance to hit the front with 58 seconds left, but captain Tara Bohanna hesitated and was ultimately penalised for incorrect disposal while being tackled 25m out from goal.

After being goalless in their last seven games last season, Vescio reminded the footy world that they are still a force to be reckoned with by booting a game-high three majors.

Gold Coast debutant Meara Girvin was thrown to the wolves with the big job on Vescio and she was duly given a baptism of fire.

Vescio’s second goal was the highlight. With the Suns threatening early in the second half, the Carlton forward produced some magic to keep them at bay by outmarking Girvin with strength in the forward pocket before converting a spectacular snap shot from an acute angle on the boundary line.

“Darcy is one of the great players at the Carlton Football Club and has been and will be when they decide to finish playing football,” Buck said post-match.

“It was nice to have a front-row seat to the Darcy show, to be honest … there’s no surprise to see Darcy come out and do what they do.”

Despite the tough initiation, Gold Coast coach Cam Joyce was proud of Girvin’s efforts on Vescio.

“We were really keen to give her the job,” Joyce said.

“I think she’ll learn a heap out of that today.”


Gold Coast started brighter, but couldn’t translate their early ascendancy onto the scoreboard and the Blues made the visitors pay by kicking the first two goals to lead by 13 points early in the second quarter.

Carlton’s ferocious pressure was overwhelming and they had a staggering 19 more tackles at half-time (47-28), before winning that stat convincingly 91-76.

Blues players sing the team song. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The ball lived in the hosts’ forward half for most of the second term, but they too failed to capitalise on their dominance and the revitalised Suns cut the deficit to six points early in the third period as the territory battle swung back in their favour, before a rollercoaster second half capped off a thrilling contest between the two sides.

Joyce was left to lament his team’s inaccuracy which ultimately cost them the game.

“We had 36 (forward) entries, we had 12 shots (at goal), outside of that I think we hit the behind post twice, we had one in the goal square where we got tackled,” he said.


In their bid to bolster their attacking options, Carlton took a strategic gamble by playing their All-Australian ruck Breanna Moody in the forward line, leaving Jess Good to shoulder the bulk of the ruck responsibility.

And it was a risk that paid off because although the Blues lost the hit-outs 30-40, they came out on top in clearances 28-25.

“(Gold Coast’s) Lauren Bella is a terrific ruck, and we knew that we’d have our hands full with her, but we backed Jess Good in,” Buck said.

“It was pretty much on Jess Good to see if she could hold up and I just thought Jess was outstanding today.”

It was a new-look Carlton side with five club debutants, including former Richmond defender Harriet Cordner and ex-Sydney back Gen Lawson-Tavan, as well as first-gamers Erone Fitzpatrick from Ireland, Marianna Anthony and Maddy Hendrie.

And what a debut it was from Anthony who looked extremely comfortable at the top level 14 disposals, 11 tackles, five clearances and a goal.

Blues captain Kerryn Peterson was missing from their backline due to a knee injury that will likely sideline her for the first three games, and despite the Suns finishing with far more inside 50s (36-25), the likes of Cordner, Vaomua Laloifi and Lawson-Tavan were pivotal in restricting the Suns’ scoring.

“She saved us time and time again,” Buck said of Cordner.

“She’s super strong in the aerial contest and gives us good bounce out of our backline.

“It was on our entire defensive unit to take care of the Kerryn Peterson hole, and Laloifi and Harriet Cordner are very experienced players in our group, and they just took charge of it today.

“I think Gen Lawson-Tavan … was outstanding as well today.”

Lawson-Tavan was added to the list only recently in place of Maddy Guerin who was placed on the inactive list as she continues her rehabilitation from an ACL rupture.

Charlie Rowbottom of the Suns. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images


The Suns’ line-up also underwent dramatic change with no fewer than seven new faces featuring against Carlton.

Off-season recruits Jordan Membrey (from Collingwood), Maddy Brancatisano (Richmond) and Clara Fitzpatrick (St Kilda) were joined by four AFLW debutants Alana Gee, Darcie Davies, Girvan and Irishwoman Niamh McLaughlin.

Three of those list spots were vacated by Serene Watson (St Kilda), Elle Hampson (Brisbane) and Courtney Jones (Richmond) who all departed the club this year.

Charlie Rowbottom continued to show what a star in the making she is, finishing with 25 touches (20 contested), 12 tackles, nine clearances and a goal.

Claudia Whitfort was also a huge performer for the Suns as she recorded 23 disposals and 10 tackles.

— NCA NewsWire

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