AFLW fans couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2019 season as a pair of hard-fought contests saw Geelong and the Western Bulldogs emerge winners by the narrowest of margins.
Bulldogs defender Lauren Spark starred with 11 marks to hold off the Adelaide Crows and lift her side to a thrilling one-point victory.
Earlier in the day, the Cats’ held off a determined Collingwood in the final moments after coming from behind to secure their own one-point triumph.
HOW GOOD IS THIS!
— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) February 2, 2019
No.1 draft pick Nina Morrison was the star of that show, racking up a game-high 22 disposals, laying eight tackles and kicking the winning point for good measure.
Adding lustre to the Cats gritty triumph before an 18,000-strong crowd at their home oval was the fact several of their biggest names were sidelined – injured skipper Melissa Hickey, still recovering from a knee reconstruction, and suspended star recruit Richelle Cranston.
Despite the frustration the Pies’ narrow loss, supporters took comfort in the heroic efforts of tough onballer Jaimee Lambert and cross-code star Ashleigh Brazill, who plays AFLW and Super Netball for the club.
Lambert made an early bid for goal of the year with an audacious snap off the outside of her right foot in the third quarter, only minutes after hobbling from the ground having received a painful kick to the shin.
“She’s one of the toughest players at our football club,” said Magpies coach Wayne Siekman.
“She just gets up and goes again and gives her all.
“I reckon a lot of players in our team would look up to her and say ‘well that’s the model. If you want to be a really good footballer, hard and tough, you take Jaimee Lambert.'”
The Bulldogs, last years AFLW premiers, also came from behind after a slow start, inspired by Lauren Spark’s 11 marks and 14 disposals.
After the game, Spark modestly credited her teammates for making her look good.
“Obviously I’ve done that, but it’s the work around us that allows me to be able to do that, so there’s four other awesome backs out there with me at the time, and they’re the ones able to keep the others away so I can mark.
“I was fired up for this and to finally get a win against Adelaide was awesome.”
But the Bulldogs were made to earn the win.
Their back line was under the pump right up until the final siren, especially when Adelaide’s Jenna McCormick had the chance to put the Crows in front with just 32 seconds remaining on the clock.
“It was pretty stressful in the end there,” a jubilant Spark conceded.