AFLW Round 1 – St Kilda v Western Bulldogs: A sad coach, a proud dad and happy Sainters in a crackerjack game




by Braham Dabscheck


St. Kilda v Western Bulldogs

7.10 PM Friday 29 January

RESA Park, Moorabbin.



Hallelujah, the footy is back; what a relief. The Saints took on the Dogs on a Friday night at Moorabbin in the second game of the AFLW’s fifth season. Covid 19 had put a premature end to the 2020 season just as the Saints were getting into their stride. There was bad news for the Saints with Nicola Xenos,  a superb athlete with an uncanny ability to read the play who had an excellent 2020, was ruled out for the season with an ACL injury to her left knee. Hopefully, she will have a speedy recovery and wont be too bored (maybe she can complete some education).


Prior to the game the players and umpires formed a circle in the middle of the ground with a minute’s silence to commemorate the death of the Giants’ Jacinda Barclay.


The game had an extra dimension with Alice Burke playing her first game for the Saints via the father-daughter rule with Nathan Burke, a Saints’ legend, who played 323 games from 1987 to 2003. She was given the number 3, the same number he wore for most of his career (he started with 48, moved on to 29 before obtaining Brownlow Medalist and Premiership player Ross Smith’s number). The complication here was that Alice’s dad was coaching the Dogs! As one would expect with a current Saint and a former Saint this did not cause any ructions in the Burke household. After the final siren sounded, with the Saints victorious by nine points, father and daughter hugged, he whispered something in her ear (apparently it was not a dad joke even though he is a dad and was born on 6 February – this is a very subtle in joke) and then congratulated other Saints and commiserated with members of his team.


This was a highly entertaining and closely fought game. In the end it was the Saints’ midfield players and tackling that was the difference between the two sides. The Dogs won the inside 50s 33 to 20 but experienced trouble in converting this forward pressure into goals. In Ellie Blackburn they have one of the best players in the League. She kicked two outstanding goals, especially the  one in the last quarter which brought the Dogs to within two points with 4 minutes 37 seconds left on the clock. They also have two classy forwards in Isabel Huntington and Bonnie Toogood.


The Saints won the clearances 30 to 18, tackles 64 to 53 and disposals 211 to 173. They were more efficient going forward, with five of their eight goals being kicked from the goal square. Georgia Patrikios, Tarri White and debutant Tyanna Smith dominated the midfield. Catherine Phillips was solid in the back, with Kate McCarthy and Caitlin Greiser a dangerous small and big combination up front. The G-train had a relatively quiet game for her; watch out as the season progresses. In Peta Searle the Saints have an astute coach. Team play is already more fluent and coordinated than last year. Part of her strategy is to have the bigger, more clumsy girls at either end of the ground (out of the way unless one is needed in the clinches to counter a big opponent) and have the quicker smaller players where the action is.


The game started with the play going from one end to the other. The Saints kicked a goal in the first passage of play with a mark and a 50 meter penalty to Greiser. The Dogs responded with a classy snap by Toogood and a running goal by Blackburn. The Saints came back with two, the first by Kate Shierlaw following a fast break out of the center by McCarthy and a mark and another 50 meter penalty to Patrikios. The Dogs got a third on the siren following a strong mark by Huntington.


The Saints dominated the second quarter, with Patrikios coming to the fore. She was involved in two goals, following stoppages in the forward line; the first to Smith, the second to Darcy Guttridge with a snap off her wrong (right) foot. The third was following a tackle by W-League convert Jacqui Vogt, another debutant wearing Big Carl’s famous number 10. Where did she learn to tackle, such things aren’t allowed in soccer? The third quarter was more of an arm wrestle with both sides down on their fluency. Blackburn dominated proceedings for the Dogs in this quarter; though they were only rewarded with one goal as the siren sounded following another strong mark by Huntington.


The G-train kicked her second goal early in the last after a strong mark and playing on. She has a certain arrogance which befits a power forward. The Saints were up by 14 points. The Dogs came back quickly with a goal from Toogood following a strong lead. The Saints defence was holding on. Then Ellie Blackburn grabbed the ball on the boundary line and headed off to the goal square and kicked her second. The Dogs attacked again. Things looked dicey. Somehow, the Saints held on. They strung a series of passes along the grandstand wing and a kick from the half forward flank went over the back for Darcy Guttridge running into goal and putting it through with her (right) left foot. A good win, a top game; a memorable game for a sad coach, a proud dad and happy Sainters.


Kangaroos next Sunday.


Go Saints.



St. Kilda   3.0   6.0   6.2   8.3 (51)

Western Bulldogs   3.3   3.5   4.6   6.6 (42)



St. Kilda: Greiser 2, Guttridge 2, Shierlaw, Patrikios, Smith, Vogt.

Western Bulldogs: Blackburn 2, Huntington 2, Toogood 2.



St. Kilda: Patrikios, White, Phillips, Smith, Greiser.

Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Lamb, Huntington, Toogood, Hunt.


Crowd: 2,523.

Umpires: Ray Chamberlain and Mister X.


Our Votes: Patrikios 3 (St. Kilda), Blackburn 2 (Western Bulldogs), White 1 (St. Kilda).



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