On an incredible afternoon at RSEA Park, the Saints were able to prove they were a class above their fellow expansion teams with a demolition job on Richmond. With the game played without spectators due to the anti-Corona Virus measures, there was an eerie feeling to proceedings but it did not prevent the home team from producing some of their best football. Leading from start to finish, they were able to restrict the Tigers to the lowest ever score in the history of AFLW.
With Cat Phillips winning the toss, the Saints were able to take first use of a considerable wind advantage to the South Road end of the ground. Dominating the clearance battle, and with clever use of the ball, they relentlessly attacked a Tigers team heavily on the back foot. From the earliest moments of the match, Caitlin Greiser made her presence felt in the Saints forward line. With Olivia Veseley winning the first centre clearance of the match, she drove the ball towards a strong lead from the G-Train who, despite not being able to take the mark, made poor Holly Whitford question her decision to drop into the hole in front of her.
The Saints spearhead soon made her presence felt on the scoreboard too, her two first-quarter goals the difference at the first break. While keeping Richmond scoreless would have pleased coach Peta Searle, her team’s inability to kick more than two goals after their domination of the quarter would have been of some concern. With a breeze that would prove decisive at their back, the Saints led the inside fifty count 11-1 after a quarter of footy. After similar wastefulness being costly against Adelaide, Fremantle, and Carlton it would have been the one negative from an otherwise faultless display.
With the ball again almost exclusively at the South Road end of the ground, the second quarter was a mirror image of the first with the Tigers in the ascendancy. In the face of this Tiger onslaught, the Saints backline stood tall. With Tamara Luke missing, it fell to Rhi Watt to quell the dangerous Sabrina Frederick. Relishing the challenge, the skipper rose to the occasion even if she was let down by some bewildering umpiring decisions. Richmond’s first score coming from a free-kick to Frederick with the key forward seemingly rewarded by the officials for being in the wrong position.
Another defender who stood tall on the day was Clara Fitzpatrick. Once again she mounted the case that she is the best Irishwoman in AFLW with a commanding performance across the halfback line. Whenever Richmond looked likely to mount a challenge the 29-year-old seemed to be in a position to intercept or break up the attacking charge. Given the weather conditions of the day, despite being held scoreless, the Saints were able to take a stranglehold in the match by limiting Richmond to just two behinds for the term.
The other pleasing aspect of the second quarter was the way in which they controlled the aspects of the game within their control. While the breeze offered Richmond an opportunity to even the inside fifty count, this did not prevent the Saints from maintaining their attack at the player and the ball. Their intent to uphold these standards was reflected in the fact that they led almost all statistical counts at half-time including both the contested ball and tackle counts. Despite winning the ball considerably more than their opponents, they still outworked them when they didn’t have the ball too.
The third quarter saw Greiser kick her third goal of the game and take the lead in the AFLW Leading Goalkicker Award. Also prominent were her fellow Saint Rising Star Nominees, Georgia Patrikios and Olivia Veseley. Patrikios has had a tremendous first season and must be one of the favourites, along with Greiser to take out the Rising Star. Her class was again on full show this afternoon as she stepped her way through traffic effortlessly on her way to 14 touches. Veseley’s clearance work was a feature, many of her 14 touches for the day setting the Saints on their way in to attack.
Despite the ball being forward of centre for the Tigers just once for the term, the Saints peppered the goals while struggling to land the inevitable knockout blow. Rosie Dillon continued her hard-working ball-winning ways, once again topping the team’s possession and tackle counts. Another whose efforts in the term were equally important was the returning Claudia Whitford. The former Demon took to her task of limiting the output of star Tiger Mel Conti with relish. Her hard work was epitomised in her second effort to lay two tackles within seconds to hold the ball up in the centre. It was an effort rightly recognised by the club as the Saints effort of the day.
Kate Shierlaw would ultimately kick the goal that broke the spirit of the visitors in the shadows of three-quarter time. Despite the Tigers having the benefit of the breeze in the final term, the 27-point margin was always going to be beyond them. Darcy Gutteridge and Nicola Xenos would get on the end of some quality play to kick goals in the last, to help take the margin out to 39-points by full time.
An afternoon that will be long remembered for a number of different reasons ended with the Saints recording their highest score and highest winning margin. They also inflicted upon the Tigers the unwanted record of the lowest ever AFLW score. Finally, after a season of maybes and whatifs they were able to put a team to the sword and register a scoreline befitting of their effort.
After spending the afternoon intercepting and breaking up Richmond’s attacking thrusts it was fitting that the games final act would be Fitzpatrick intervening one last time. Unfortunately the celebrations postmatch could not be shared with the St Kilda faithful who have been alongside them every step of their AFLW odyssey. While finals won’t be the final destination of this group this year, it has been an incredible ride watching them accept every challenge their inaugural season in the top flight has thrown up at them.
AFLW 2020 ROUND SIX
ST KILDA 2.1 2.1 4.5 6.6 (42)
RICHMOND 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.3 (3)
St Kilda: Greiser 3, Shierlaw, Xenos, Guttridge
St Kilda: Greiser, Fitzpatrick, Dillon, Veseley, Patrikios.
Richmond: Conti, Campbell, Monahan, Ross
St Kilda: Nil
St Kilda: Tamara Luke (Achilles soreness) replaced in selected side by Kelly O’Neill
Richmond: Kate Dempsey (ill) replaced in selected side by Sarah Sansonetti
Umpires: Wallace, Rodger, Jago