Troy Thompson reporting for AFANA from Melbourne, Australia
It was the kind of evening that Melbournians love to go out and watch sport. A comfortable 73 degrees at the start of the match and it drew the crowd that this historic occasion deserved. Before the match started it became clear that the ground was going to fill to capacity as numbers continued to stream in as the match got underway. They were here to see the debut match of the AFL Women's League.
Princes Park just north of the city has a long footy history and particularly the local Carlton supporters relished the chance to relive over a century of matches against their arch nemesis Carlton. It seemed to matter little that it was women playing in their club's colors as professionals for the first time.
They were even more delighted when the Collingwood banner collapsed on one side before the team had a chance to run through it. Surely it was a sign of things to come. Of the great Carlton days at Princes Park.
The crowd with a fair balance of men, women and children were eager for the contest. They sang the national anthem with enthusiasm and chanted the countdown to the first bounce.
As expected the first few minutes were a close scramble. Collingwood's Tesoriero and Chiocci were made for this tough close in start as solid tackles, shepherds and bumps drew some early gasps from the crowd and made clean ball hard to find.
Chiocci the Magpies captain had the honor of the competitions first score of the match and the competition with a behind after she broke two tackles and her kick went wide. The first goal would come soon after as Meg Hutchins sent a long bomb into Jasmine Garner and she marked then kicked truly from the set shot twenty five meters out.
The Blues held their nerve though and Darcy Vescio came onto the scene to begin a display that would dominate the night, like some great key forwards of the past. She was awarded a free kick after being pushed in the back in the marking contest. The goal the followed was an easy kick from just ten meters out. The crowd behind the goals shielding their eyes from the setting sun was a sight not seen since the final quarter of the final matches at Princes Park many years ago.
Carlton quickly goaled again after a great tackle from Nat Exon caused another quick entry to the Blues forward line and Blues captain picked up the tap on from Vescio and snapped on her left for a major.
Collingwood tried to even up the fight but Carlton used numerical advantage in the back line to again run the ball forward. Again it was Vescio this time in the pocket snapping towards goal, with the ball falling in the square and a ball up resulting. Vescio moments later now in the square, contested the next ruck ball up and brought the ball down and kicked her second goal from point blank range giving the Blues a ten point lead going into quarter time.
During the quarter time break it was announced that the ground was full and the gates were now locked. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan made the announcement over the PA system and apologized. It has been reported he also went outside to personally apologize to those who were locked out. The numbers inside the ground were estimated at 25000 and the numbers outside the ground varied between 2000-5000.
Inside the ground not only were seats full, but wherever people could they stood and watched.
After another early arm wrestle in the second quarter it was the Blues that played the smarter footy. Their backline was well organized and they cut off Collingwood's forward thrusts. Tilly Lucas-Rodd missed a shot on the run from straight in front as their forward setup continued to look dangerous every time the ball came inside 50.
If things weren't going well for Collingwood they became worse when Emma Grant went from the ground with injured ribs and would not return for the rest of the match. The Blues defense continued to prove impenetrable as they spoiled, bodied out and cut off the Collingwood forwards. The much hyped Collingwood full forward was unable to have any impact as the Blues continued to use the ball well and clear the 50 time and again.
Finally, Sarah Last's run through the middle breaking tackles and evading three Collingwood opponents saw here emerge and send the kick forward to the leading Bella Ayre, she dished a handball over the top to Vescio who was in the clear to kick her third and putting the Blues out to a seventeen point lead.
If Collingwood were to get back into the match it would need to be now. They did wrest control of the ball for the final few minutes of the quarter but their high delivery to their forwards allowed the Blues to minimize the damage and restrict the Magpies to just two behinds. Collingwood's Amelia Barden had a chance to goal after the half time siren but her kick fell well short leaving her team fifteen points in arrears.
The half time break was a chance to reset but it was more of the same for both teams. Collingwood's midfield of Chiocci, McIntosh and Roden continued to press and win their share of the ball to go forward but Carlton held firm. Cameron managed to get a kick to Moana Hope but she could not convert the opportunity and as she marked and played on her low quick swung right of the goal post.
The next five minutes were really a stalemate until Brianna Davey receiving a quick handball eventually broke the deadlock and kicked the ball into the stands. Davey's dominance around the ground evident by her being the leading possession winner on the ground to this time.
Minutes later Vescio kicked her fourth goal and looked to have put the match out of Collingwood's reach when she kicked her fourth goal just before three quarter time. This time she roved a spilled ball inside 50 and got her left foot to the ball as she slipped, the ball bounce through the big sticks. Twenty points in this close match looked to much too overcome from a Collingwood team that had failed to look dangerous up forward all night.
McIntosh was moved onto Vescio in the final quarter and at times they double teamed the dangerous forward. Stevens who had been on Vescio moved to half back hoping to give the Pies some drive. But Collingwood still could not get anything going up forward. Even as Meg Hutchins drove the ball in long the Carlton defenders were up to the challenge spoiling once again.
Collingwood's injuries continued to mount up when Chiocci was hit in the face by an elbow from Katie Loynes and she joined Grant, Livingstone and Roden on the injury list.
On the counter punch for Carlton in the final quarter Vescio did not add to her goal tally but had her chances, and it was her team mate Jakobsson who showed her marking talents up forward and ultimately she kicked the final goal of the match from just 15m out.
At the siren it was Carlton with a 35 point win kicking seven goals for the match to Collingwood's one. Carlton's well organized set up in both their forward and back lines dominated and around the ground they held a solid advantage by being first to the ball.
Vescio's four goal haul only told part of the story as she was repeatedly part of most of the team's scoring opportunities. Collingwood's midfield worked hard and at times gave their forwards a chance but the delivery to the forwards gave them little opportunity to score. Moana Hope is not the first big name full forward at the Collingwood club to fail to live up to expectations, but they will need much more out of her if they are to have any chance at the AFLW title. Briana Davey was dominant all over the ground but Carlton showed they have many strings to their bow and will take some stopping in this competition.
After the final siren the Blues theme song was played over the PA, then the team sang the song on the ground, and then it played once more over the PA for good measure. There were thousands of happy Carlton supporters who had dreamed of this day where they could sing that song after a win at Princes Park who went home tonight very satisfied. After a prolonged session of crowd recognition from the players of both teams the public were allowed onto the ground for kick to kick. A real return to traditional values at their suburban home.
Carlton now look towards next weekend’s clash with GWS at Ikon Park and Collingwood will try to get over this quickly as they come up against a tough Melbourne team.
The AFL Women's league debuted strongly in so many ways tonight and this is just the beginning.
Carlton: 3.0 4.1 6.1 7.4 (46) Collingwood: 1.2 1.4 1.5 1.5 (11)
Carlton: Darcy Vescio 4, Lauren Arnell, Brianna Davey, Bianca Jakobsson
Collingwood: Jasmine Garner
Carlton: Davey, Vescio, Exon, Jakobsson, Arnell, Keryk
Collingwood: D'Arcy, Chiocci, Barden, White
Carlton: Natalie Plane (ankle), Nat Exon (corked thigh)
Collingwood: Emma Grant (concussion), Stacey Livingstone (shoulder), Helen Roden (left leg), Steph Chiocci (concussion)
Umpires: Annie Mirabile, Nathan Toner, Jack Spencer
Official crowd: 24,568 at Ikon Park, Carlton
Article last changed on Saturday, February 04, 2017 - 1:35 AM EST