27/02/2024

GWS won its first game of AFLW season seven. (Photo: GWS Giants/Twitter)

The GWS Giants used their running game to devastating effect on Saturday, running the Swans ragged at the SCG.

After losing their first two games, new coach Cam Bernasconi’s game plan is starting to bear fruit, as the club won its first match of season seven.

Putting a frustrating start behind them, the team’s ability to stick to the process was pleasing for the first-time senior coach.

It was a particularly impressive response after all three of Pepa Randall, Tait Mackrill and Chloe Dalton mid-week were unavailable due to injury, going in with significantly less experience.

“Losing three players to season-ending injuries and going zero and two [to start the season], the pressure builds, the walls close in a little bit,” Bernasconi said post-game.

“I’m so proud that with the girls we stuck to our game plan. If you play like that for four quarters, you get to sing the song.”

Bernasconi singled out the three new players inserted into the line-up for praise, including debutants Meghan Gaffney and Zarlie Goldsworthy.

Goldsworthy started her AFLW story by kicking two goals. Her second goal broke the team’s highest score record, previously of 56 points.

The Inner Sanctum spoke to Goldsworthy post-match about her first win as a Giant.

“I had a couple of chances in the first half, but to kick it in the third quarter from that pocket where my family were sitting was special,” she said.

“It was a huge win for the girls and a huge relief considering the last couple of weeks we’ve had.”

Goldsworthy is a cross-code talent, having previously played for the Matildas’ junior program. She said her football background has influenced her kicking style.

“My style of kicking is very much ‘around-the-corner’, which is how I would kick a soccer ball. So when I’m going for distance I tend to hook it a bit.”

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Sydney started the match strongly with an early territorial advantage. However, the team could not kick a goal to capitalise, settling for a pair of behinds.

The Giants quickly settled in their 50th AFLW game as a club, showing composure playing the ball out of defence, and kicking four unanswered goals.

Former first-overall draft pick Nicola Barr kicked two of those goals in her first game back after missing time recovering from a knee injury she sustained in the offseason.

To Sydney’s credit, the team responded in the second quarter with one of its best sequences of the season. Patient build-up play from the back up the left flank led to Alexia Hamilton kicking her first-ever AFLW goal.

However, it was a rare bright spot for the Swans, as GWS’ match fitness advantage continued to pay dividends.

Sydney eclipsed the Giants in the hit-out department 32 to six for the match but couldn’t take advantage.

Alyce Parker, Alicia Eva, Madison Brazendale, Emily Pease, Tarni Evans, and Goldsworthy bossed the midfield for the Giants, negating Sydney’s ruck supremacy. Pease and Eva amassed five clearances each.

GWS’ comfort in running with the ball manifested itself not only on the scoreboard but through its handball disposals. The Giants more than doubled the Swans handball output, 113 to 55, and piled on scores to run out 47-point victors.

Despite the disappointing results, Swans coach Scott Gowans emphasised the process-driven approach for the team in its inaugural season.

“We try not to focus on the scoreboard,” he said.

“I say that to the girls all the time, but it’s tough. I never mention the score at breaks, I talk about what we are trying to learn.”

One of the bright spots for the Swans was Alexia Hamilton’s first-ever AFLW goal.

Hamilton spoke to The Inner Sanctum after the match and talked about how special it was to get on the board with this group.

“We have something really special here. It was super special kicking that goal next to my sister [Cynthia] and with this team,” she said.

“We’ve been working on using the outside more in training for the last few weeks when the corridor is closed. We want to use the speed we have on the wings a bit more.”

Hamilton had previously been involved in the AFLW at Gold Coast and North Melbourne but made the move to Sydney for the club’s inaugural season.

She spoke on the difference between being at an established club and being in an environment where everything is being built from scratch.

“Everyone is so energetic. We’re an expansion team, but when we get some experience with ball movement, come Round 6, Round 7, we’re only going to get better,” Hamilton concluded.

The GWS Giants next play West Coast Eagles at Giants Stadium, while the Sydney Swans head to Alberton Oval to take on Port Adelaide in a battle of expansion franchises.

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