The Tigers took out the four points in convincing fashion to open their 2022. (Photo: Richmond AFLW/Twitter)

As the Tigers began to take over 2022's AFLW season opener in the second half, a finely crafted ball movement system backed by hard running came to life.

It was a completely new look Richmond side that registered the club’s highest ever score to get the 2022 AFLW season off to the perfect start.

The Tigers beat their previous best score by a solitary point, in which they scored 9.6.(60) to claim their first AFLW win last season against Geelong.

Fans need to look no further than the midfield to start giving the credit, with blistering ball movement on display after shaking off the rust early.

After what was a fairly scrappy and contested game for the first seven or eight minutes, once the goals starting flowing, so did the Tigers.

They were as clinical as an AFLW side has ever been out of the contest, winning the ball out of the source and running it straight up the corridor.

No one player was more crucial to this than Monique Conti, who put her hand up to show the competition just why she’s been tipped as a best and fairest favourite.

Her ability to find space where there is none and utilise her pace to break away and deliver the footy with precision time after time was on show at Frankston, causing headaches for a depleted St Kilda midfield.

The 22-year-old dual All-Australian finished the game with a career-high 29 disposals, nine clearances, and six tackles.

“She wins all of our shuttles and our running, her workrate has gone to another level. That has to give her confidence,” coach Ryan Ferguson told media post-game.

“We know she can play the game… run all day, get inside, get outside, tackle, but also win the ball. To have that backing and her consistency and her training in certainly helps.”

More AFLW News

Why Mon Conti can rise even higher in 2022

How does Fremantle find its scores in 2022?

AFLW 2022: Who’s taking the next step?

Key to this ball movement was Richmond’s outside running players, in particular Tessa Lavey and Maddy Brancatisano.

Brancatisano rotated along both half forward and through the centre bounce and was influential in both, amassing 13 disposals, laying three tackles and making three clearances.

On return from the WNBL, having last played for the Bendigo Spirit on December 22, Lavey didn’t look like she’d missed a moment of pre-season, her gut running never wavering from the first siren to the last.

She was one of Richmond’s best, finishing with 19 disposals, two marks, and two clearances.

“I was really proud of the way we did it,” Ferguson said.

“St Kilda came out hard, we knew we were going to be in an arm wrestle the whole time. We did have confidence that if we stuck to our game, played our role, each and every one of us… that eventually we could break it open.

“I was really proud that we were able to stick to our game.”

Ground level dominance

When the game was its scrappiest in the first half, the Tigers showed that they could play that game style too, converting plenty of half opportunities around goals in play.

St Kilda was keeping the ball locked inside 50 throughout the first half, and while the Tigers couldn’t break through, they didn’t have to worry with the likes of Sarah D’Arcy behind the ball.

After breaking out as a defender last year, she collected four marks to start the season, along with three apiece to Kate Dempsey and Rebecca Miller.

But fighting hard at ground level was where those early conversions came from.

Meagan Kiely, Christina Bernardi, Tayla Stahl, and Stella Reid all perfectly executed snaps out of the pack or around their body, in what was a clinically efficient 10.1 scoreline for the Tigers.

The pressure shown by the forward group inside 50 got them to that point, laying 12 tackles inside 50 to the Saints’ seven. This was an 11 to four deficit at half time, cooling off as the Tigers faced less resistance and were able to hit up leads directly out of centre bounces.

This played right into the hands of Courtney Wakefield, who was at her high-marking best as the spearhead of the Richmond forward line.

She finished the game with six marks, one less than her equal career-best, and kicked two goals for the first time since the club’s first win over Geelong.

Supporting her was captain Katie Brennan, getting her own season well off the mark with two goals of her own. Brennan’s impressive leads were matched only by her tackling pressure, laying six.

She had a particularly sweet moment with debutant Emelia Yassir after she assisted Brennan’s second goal, getting the whole team around the young Calder Cannons product.

While Yassir only registered seven disposals, she showed promising signs of a player who can both set up scores and kick her own as she adjusts to the top level.

“We just asked [debutants Stella Reid and Emelia Yassir] to just play a really simple game,” Ferguson said.

“It didn’t matter about output or goals, it just mattered about their effort, their liveliness, their energy. I thought we fed off [the energy] of all of our first gamers.

“Everyone that came in showed what we valued in them when we recruited them.”

The Tigers forward line could have functioned even better had fellow tall Christina Bernardi been able to bring down the ball, struggling to hold onto marks early.

Ferguson had an injury worry in the last quarter after ruck Poppy Kelly was assisted from the ground by trainers, but assured that there was no major damage.

“She seems to be okay,” he said.

“I don’t know if you saw her game the way I saw her, but she was so aggressive and so powerful. We’re rapt to have acquired her.”

Richmond faces its next challenge in premiership favourite Melbourne in its first home game of 2022.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

About Author

Leave a Reply