Georgie Prespakis entered the contest against the Tigers without an AFLW goal to her name. She chose the perfect time to remedy the situation, scoring twice, including one in the final minute to secure victory.
The first quarter saw a debutant for the Tigers influence the game. 29-year-old Eilish Sheerin, playing her first-ever AFLW game, led the team in disposals at the break.
Sheerin’s first involvement was a tackle inside her defensive 50 in the opening minute that won a free-kick for holding the ball.
With both teams withdrawing either one or two wingers into defence, attacking opportunities were rare. Neither team was able to get the ball deep inside their attacking 50 consistently.
Halfway through the quarter, Richmond finally broke Geelong’s lines, Sheerin sending the Sherrin into space for Gabrielle Seymour to collect inside the goal square and finish easily.
Although Geelong led the teams in entries into the forward 50, its possessions existed on the periphery.
The second quarter saw Richmond continue to apply pressure. Four consecutive set-shots inside 50 for the Tigers resulted in four behinds.
Courtney Wakefield had two set shots from a similar location in the right forward pocket. However, the right footer sprayed the attempts left and right respectively.
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In such a low-scoring, defensive contest, with opportunities hard to come by, there was a sense that Richmond’s profligacy in front of the goal would haunt them.
However, Richmond’s newly formed midfield was able to prevent Geelong from generating any meaningful offence.
Highlighting Richmond’s dominance through the centre, Geelong midfielder Amy McDonald, who racked up 10 disposals in the first quarter, didn’t get a single touch in the second. Still, the 10-2 lead looked shaky.
A Tale of Two Halves
A tactical adjustment played huge dividends for the Cats after the half. Chloe Scheer, traditionally used as a forward, started the second half in midfield.
Geelong immediately looked the better of the two teams playing out of the clearance. Attacking zone entries were still rare, but Geelong finally got a kind bounce to put themselves in the goal-scoring column.
Georgie Prespakis picked the perfect moment to score her first-ever AFLW goal.
After McDonald’s kick inside-50, Jacqueline Parry deftly handballed to Prespakis who took a swift glance at the goal before a quick low shot. The ball bounced kindly and between the sticks for six.
Sheerin was noticeable for the Tigers throughout the second half, racking up 19 possessions and 16 interceptions during the match.
Meanwhile, Prespakis led all players on the ground with eight tackles. Geelong started turning the screws, leading in every statistical category except for the scoreboard at three-quarter time.
As the final quarter continued, both teams persisted in dropping players back from the wings into defence. Geelong had an opportunity deep inside the attacking 50, but Sheerin made a desperate tackle to deny the attempt.
With time winding down, Geelong needed a combination of luck and a hero to overturn the deficit. Claudia Gunjaca made two vital interceptions to thwart Richmond clearances, and the ball came to Prespakis.
Prespakis was adjudged to have been illegally slung in the tackle and awarded a free kick 35 metres out, directly in front of the goal with less than a minute left.
Prespakis made no mistake in doubling her tally; the kick had plenty of distance, travelling 50 metres.
Richmond tried valiantly to equalise, but the siren sounded with the ball just outside their attacking 50.
The loss was going to be bitter to either team in such a close contest. The defensive strategy was surprising as each team scored eight goals in their last preseason contests.
Both teams can take positives from the match. Geelong will be pleased with the form of Prespakis along with Nina Morrison and Amy McDonald in the midfield, the latter of whom were tied to lead all players with a tremendous 24 disposals.
Meanwhile, if Richmond had hung on to win, the story would have been AFLW debutante Eilish Sheerin, the 58th pick in the 2022 AFLW draft.
Sheerin did not look out of place and dominated sections of the game. A good case could be made for her to have been named best on ground in the event of a Richmond victory.
The Richmond midfield has some pundits predicting a finals appearance for the team. Grace Egan (17 disposals), Sarah Hosking (22 disposals), and Monique Conti (23 disposals) showed good connections at times.
As the team gets more games under their belt, expect them to continue to improve their chemistry.
Geelong, meanwhile, will be thrilled to start their campaign with a win and send their fans home from the cattery in good spirits.
Next up for the Tigers is a tough matchup hosting the Adelaide Crows. The Cats will face a wounded Fremantle Dockers side, mauled by the Lions in their season opener.
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