The Western Bulldogs opened their AFL Women’s season with a resounding 26-point win over Fremantle Dockers at Victoria University Whitten Oval on Sunday.
The Bulldogs produced a more direct playing style, were much harder at the ball and displayed superior skills, more than doubling the Dockers on the scoreboard and leaping to the top of the AFLW ladder on percentage after one round.
Bulldogs coach Paul Groves admits he and the coaching staff “over-coached” the team last season and wanted to see more of the players’ natural talent shine through in season two.
“I think I’ve heard every coach say that we over-coached them last year,” Groves said.
“Yes, you have structures, you have set-ups, but that’s a starting point and you play from there. We’ve got some girls with freakish ability.”
That freakish ability was on show for the 8500 crowd on Sunday.
Bursting the game open early was captain and key forward Katie Brennan.
Brennan was hampered by injury in season one and the Bulldog fans did not get to see the best of their marquee player.
She made up for it with a three-goal first half against the Dockers, leading the Bulldogs to a 34-0 half-time lead.
Brennan converted a long-range set shot into the breeze at the Geelong Road end, then used the wind to her advantage when hemmed up on the boundary for a set shot, getting some nice right to left swing to put the ball over the goal umpire’s hat.
Brennan was not finished there, goaling with a snap shot on the run in the second quarter.
“She presents really well and she’s strong,” Groves said. “She’s just a class human being, on the field and off field, as well. Her two goals into the breeze were phenomenal.”
Fremantle lifted a cog in the third quarter, kicking three goals to nil with the aid of the wind to trim to deficit to 15 points at three-quarter time.
But the Bulldogs steadied in the last quarter through goals to Bonnie Toogood and Aasta O’Connor.
The Bulldogs unveiled a new-look forward line, including the additions of first-round draft picks Isabel Huntington and Monique Conti.
Huntington, the No.1 draft pick, showed a clean pair of hands in the air and at ground level, while Conti’s courage, speed and elusiveness made her a hard match-up for the Dockers.
The smooth moving Ellie Blackburn was the Bulldogs’ leading possession getter with 23 disposals, while Emma Kearney had 18, Conti had 14 on debut and Brooke Lochland had 13.
The Bulldogs will play the Brisbane Lions at South Pine Sports Complex on Sunday.