The West Coast Eagles have kicked off the season with a bang after a 12-point win over Port Adelaide at Mineral Resources Park. The win means that it’s the first time since their AFLW inception the Eagles have won in round one.
While Port Adelaide was looking to make history by claiming their first win in club history, the West Coast Eagles were able to spoil the party.
The Eagles got out of the blocks early with slick ball movement which allowed for the ball to transition down end to end nicely.
Aisling McCarthy was given the role to shut down Port Adelaide captain Erin Phillips. The 26-year-old played the role to perfection, holding Phillips to 10 disposals while collecting 18 disposals of her own and a crucial goal in the final quarter. Eagles Captain Emma Swanson led from the front with 21 disposals.
Port Adelaide brought heat around the contest, winning the overall tackle count 92 to 56, with Maria Moloney (14 tackles) and Jacqui Yorston (10 tackles) leading from the front.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum post-match, Kate Surman said that pressure around the contest is something the Power pride themselves on.
“We’re a highly contested team, if you look at the midfield we’re just a bunch of little nuggets,” Surman told The Inner Sanctum.
“That’s very much the style of team that ‘Nomes’ [Naomi Maidment] has put together. Just a hotly contested team that just has a crack and if you’ve ever watched any of the men’s games, that’s how they play.
“It’s that real Port Adelaide style, so that’s what we’re kind of bringing as well, that real attacking hard approach on the ball so the old Port Adelaide way.
“Hopefully we can bring it even more next week because there’s a few little times we were lacking in that game, but for majority of the game, we definitely had a crack.”
Among the first AFLW players to pull on the teal strip, Surman was amazed by the support that the side got at the match.
“It’s pretty exciting, there’s a rich history at Port Adelaide and a lot of fans so it’s pretty cool playing an away game and the support we got was I think it’s probably more than what West Coast got. So that’s pretty huge,” she said.
“Particularly rolling into next week when it’s our home game, so I reckon even that just the amount of support you get is insane.
“To be one of the first 21 [players] is pretty wicked.”
Justine Mules was also one of the first Port Adelaide players to take the field in what was her 50th AFLW game. Mules was strong, kicking a nice goal in the second quarter along with collecting 12 disposals.
Surman said that from day one, Mules has played an important role in getting the team to where it is today.
“She’s a little ripper, she just brings the good vibes to the team and she’s always super positive and just up and about. That’s pretty much why we decided to put her in the leadership group because she just provides the good energy and the good vibe check and her knowledge from playing in three premierships is huge,” Surman said.
“So ‘Juzzy’ [Justine Mules], the best way to describe her is the vibe check of the group, the larrikin of the group which is really cool.
“She kicked the goal in her 50th, I’d like to say it was probably me that gave her the goal. I’m the one that laid the tackle that allowed her to get the goal, so her goal is my goal.”
Abbey Dowrick was strong in her AFLW debut, having 21 disposals for the match. Surman said that she’s going to be a future star of the Port Adelaide Football club.
“She’s a bull that kid like she’s going somewhere one day, she’s a quiet achiever but she gets in hard and her skills are amazing,” she said.
“She’ll definitely be a mainstay in the midfield going forward and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d get a Rising Star [nomination] if not this week, in the coming weeks.
“She’s definitely a classic Port Adelaide player but she’s got some finesse and she’s just a workhorse and she listens. I definitely think that she’s a future star of our team, if not a star now she’s a ripper.”
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Going into quarter time Port were down by 12 points and a second-quarter surge saw the game all tied up at halftime. The message at halftime from coach Lauren Arnell was to go back to Port Adelaide way.
“It was a super positive message. it was very much an even playing field at halftime, just kind of backing what we know,” Surman said.
“When we play the way we’ve been playing and what our roles are and the style of play, we do really well but what happens is when we kind of fall out of our style of play, we kind of lose it a little bit and I think that’s what happened in the last quarter.
“The third quarter we came out and we all played our roles and that’s how we ended up getting that 11-point lead. I think we fell a little bit in the last quarter just purely because they wanted it more than what we did.
“I think we just kind of got a little bit frazzled and didn’t probably know what to do when they had the momentum.
“It’s a good learning step for us, you’re going to lose at some point so why not make it round one and come back stronger in round two.”
There were plenty of positive takeaways for Port, as it showed what it is capable of at its best.
“For us as a group, we showed super amounts of positives and there’s a lot of growth in our group. So obviously one proper game down you can see that there’s moments of pure footy because we’ve got a really skilful team and a footy head team,” Surman said.
“You can see that we’re starting to link up a lot more and that’s going to allow us to move the ball easily and get the ball forward.
“There’s moments of glory but then there’s a few little silly mistakes that ended up costing us but in the long run, we’ll learn a lot from it. We can go forward to next week because there’s a lot to take out of it positive and negative.”
Port Adelaide will host the Western Bulldogs at Alberton Oval in the club’s first home game on Saturday Afternoon. While West Coast will head to the Sunshine State to take on Gold Coast to close out Round Two.
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