Richmond has started its season in the best way possible, waltzing its way to a 38-point win over an inaccurate St Kilda.
Star midfielder Monique Conti (29 disposals, nine clearances) was sublime throughout, while Courtney Wakefield and Katie Brennan commanded the forward line in the 10.1 (61) to 3.5 (23) win.
Storms had threatened the start of the game, but ultimately stayed away aside from a heavy sun shower in the warm-up, which led to a slippery opening stanza.
Richmond dominated the early part of the first quarter, but it was St Kilda who struck first, courtesy of an incredible bomb from 50 via Tarni White.
The Tigers clicked into gear in the second quarter, setting up their defensive wall across the centre line and taking full advantage of their inside-50 dominance.
St Kilda's forward line was badly missing key forward Kate Shierlaw (AFL health and safety protocols), with Bec Miller, Harriet Cordner, Sarah D'Arcy and Jess Hosking controlling the air in defence, however their disposal was left wanting at times.
A number of St Kilda shots in the second and third terms were touched on the line or just faded late, whereas at the other end of the field, Richmond was pulling out the most unlikely of snap goals.
St Kilda captain Hannah Priest and Tilly Lucas-Rodd were their usual industrious selves in defence, while White was a revelation in the midfield and Liv Vesely had a fine return to footy after a serious calf injury ruined her 2021.
Richmond recruit Poppy Kelly had a strong outing in the ruck in her first game against her former side, but her night finished early in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, while Emelia Yassir suffered a late head knock in a marking contest.
Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson said he believed Kelly had escaped serious injury.
St Kilda's new-look midfield
All eyes were on St Kilda's engine room without Tyanna Smith (ACL) and Georgia Patrikios (COVID-19 policy), and there was one player who rose above the others. Tarni White – who had played midfield as a junior in Queensland – made the switch from defence with ease, finishing the game with 14 disposals, 11 tackles and one extraordinary goal. Tilly Lucas-Rodd was also rotated between defence and the midfield to great effect, while Liv Vesely and Rosie Dillon battled hard.
Round one, three votes
This marked the first time star midfielder Monique Conti had devoted her entire pre-season to football, rather than splitting it with WNBL, and after just one round, it appears to have paid off in spades. Conti set the tone – albeit against an undermanned midfield – in the first quarter, recording an incredible four clearances to go with her seven disposals. Her control, decision-making and tenacity set her apart, recording 29 disposals and nine clearance by the final bell.
Both teams introduced a number of players in their round one sides. Poppy Kelly caught the eye with her aggressive attack in the ruck, while Jess Hosking worked her way into the game in defence nicely. Stella Reid snapped a beauty in her first game, Meagan Kiely slotted two from the midfield and Emelia Yassir provided plenty of zip. The Saints had just the three newbies, with ruck Leah Cutting showing some physicality, Lucy Burke had a tough debut in defence while former Tiger Alana Woodward had three clearances to go with her nine touches.
"We're clearly disappointed. We've had an enormous pre-season, as all teams have, and getting ready for one particular game. A lot of time and emphasis put into this game, and we just didn't execute. I thought the Tiges were fantastic, I thought their work around stoppages and contested work in general were really good, and clearly better than ours." - St Kilda coach Nick Dal Santo
"I was really proud of the way we did it. St Kilda came out really hard … but we did have confidence that if we stuck to our game, each and every one of us play our role, and played our game, that eventually we'd break it open." - Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson
St Kilda will jump out of the frying pan into the fire, taking on Collingwood at Vic Park, while Richmond has a similarly daunting task, hosting Melbourne at the Swinburne Centre.
ST KILDA 2.1 2.3 2.5 3.5 (23)
RICHMOND 2.0 4.0 7.0 10.1 (61)
St Kilda: White, Dillon, Matin
Richmond: Wakefield 2, Bernardi 2, Kiely 2, Brennan 2, Stahl, Reid
St Kilda: Lucas-Rodd, White, Phillips, Priest, Vesely
Richmond: Conti, Brennan, Lavey, Wakefield, Kiely
St Kilda: Nil
Richmond: Kelly (leg/ankle), Yassir (head knock)
Crowd: 3,324 at SkyBus Stadium