AFLW Senior Coach Nick Dal Santo says St Kilda’s practice match against Carlton has provided an ideal footing leading up to Round 1, albeit with scope for improvement ahead of the season proper.
The Saints took time to get going at Ikon Park after conceding the opening three goals of the game, but steadied after the first break to bank a 6.10 (46) to 4.4 (28) result against their seasoned opposition.
Adherence to a new gameplan and the return to competitive football for several injured players – including Olivia Vesely, Rosie Dillon and Nicola Xenos – were among the positives, while Darcy Guttridge was arguably the visitors’ best following a pressure-driven display at half-forward.
“It was just good to get out and play some football to be honest,” Dal Santo said.
“We’ve changed a lot of things internally but you want to see how it transitions onto a football field, so there was a bit of a feeling of ‘let’s just see where we’re at’.
“I thought we fought hard. We gave up three goals to zero in the opening quarter, but if my maths is right we won the game after that point.
“Clearly that doesn’t cover up for the three goals we were down at quarter-time, but it was just nice to see some of the systems we’ve been putting in place (this pre-season) be executed for a lot of the last three quarters.
“All in all, I was pleased with a lot of things that we did, while being acutely aware that there’s still a lot of improvement to go.”
Guttridge was one of four goalkickers across the sweltering morning and was flanked well by fellow forward Isabella Shannon, who also hit the scoreboard in her sequel to a strong intra-club performance earlier this month.
Draftees Ella Friend (one half) and Ash Richards (three quarters) showed glimpses off half-back and the wing/forward line respectively, while Bianca Jakobsson and captain Hannah Priest stabilised the defence after a slow start to the match.
Friend – taken at pick No. 4 at this year’s draft – was managed in what was her first competitive hit-out in club colours, while Vesely and Dillon registered a half each following interrupted pre-seasons due to respective injury setbacks.
The Saints took the opportunity to shuffle the magnets and experiment with players in new positions, with the ruck pairing of Rhi Watt and free agent signing Leah Cutting also making its first appearance against opposition.
St Kilda will begin the 2022 NAB AFLW Season against Richmond at Frankston’s SkyBus Stadium on Friday 7 January.
CARLTON 3.4 4.6 6.8 6.10 (46)
ST KILDA 0.1 2.1 4.2 4.4 (28)
Guttridge, Matin, Richards, Shannon
More from Nick Dal Santo
“I was really impressed with Darcy Guttridge. The output is fantastic and the numbers will look really good for her, but her intensity and her attack on the footy on the opposition was exceptional.
“Isabella Shannon was probably similar with her attack and the combination of Rhi Watt and Leah Cutting for what they had to get out of the game showed some really pleasing signs.”
“It was really pleasing for her personally to be able to get through that half a game and pull up really well and then be able to go into the Christmas break with that under her a belt.
“She performed really well. She’s a competitive beast so when the ball’s out there to get she just chases after it as hard as she can.”
Ella Friend and Ash Richards
“It’s like all young players, you see glimpses and go ‘now I see why they’re a top-end draft pick’. Ella played in the backline and Ash played wing and a tiny bit half-forward, and both showed fantastic signs.
“We did rotate them and manage them carefully given the temperature and their first exposure to senior football, but we were really pleased with how they went and the improvement they’ve made in a small period of time.”