St Kilda has spoiled the Western Bulldogs' Whitten Oval homecoming, defeating the Dogs by 18 points.
In the first game at the newly redeveloped home ground, the Saints not only ruined the party, but dashed the faint hopes the Dogs held of making successive finals series, now sitting 0-5.
It's the second straight win for the Saints after a 0-3 start to the year, Nick Dal Santo's side starting to build some nice form at the mid-point of the season following the 8.6 (54) to 6.0 (36) win.
Jesse Wardlaw started her day in the AFL Grand Final parade as last season's leading goalkicker, and kicked off the evening game in style, booting two goals – the second her 50th career goal - in the first 10 minutes while playing in the ruck.
The Saints ended up kicking 3.1 from their five inside 50 entries in the first quarter, the Bulldogs steadying as the quarter progressed to trail by 13 at the first break.
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Alice Edmonds' first career goal – coming in game No.31 – saw the Dogs take the lead for the first time, having shaken off their slow start.
But St Kilda, full of confidence after last week's comeback victory over Collingwood, weren't deterred, pulling clear in the third term and holding the lead until the final siren.
Both teams' backlines struggled to contain their opponents at times – although Katie Lynch and Maddie Boyd took a number of nice marks deep in defence for their sides – but it made for a free-flowing entertaining game with plenty of goals, for the most part.
The fourth quarter meandered to a close with plenty of back-and-forth play, but no score.
St Kilda skipper Hannah Priest led her side well through the midfield, with strong support from Georgia Patrikios.
Once again, it was a one-woman show for the Dogs with Ellie Blackburn playing the starring role. De Berry, Izzy Pritchard and Kirsty Lamb had moments of strong play, but weren't able to run alongside Blackburn for four quarters.
The Western Bulldogs were playing without key forward Celine Moody (shoulder), with Rocky Cranston coming in for her first game of the season and playing as an undersized key forward, supporting Bree McFarlane and Edmonds when resting forward.
Flipping the magnets
After a 0-4 start, the Bulldogs needed to try something different. Coach Nathan Burke had been forthright about the issues plaguing his forward line last week and sent Gabby Newton to centre-half back. Kirsty Lamb started forward, but pretty quickly moved into the midfield where she was one of the side's best in the first half. McFarlane provided ruck support in the absence of Moody.
Saints click into gear
After turning over nearly a third of their team, it was always going to take a few weeks for St Kilda to find its feet in 2023. What would be most pleasing for coach Nick Dal Santo would be the variety of goalkickers. Wardlaw was superb, but once again both Nic Xenos and Darcy Guttridge bobbed up, with Ash Richards and Nat Exon also kicking truly. The Saints averaged 30.7 last year (boosted by two big wins over expansion clubs), and scored 54 on Saturday night.
The Western Bulldogs are back at VU Whitten Oval, hosting an improving Carlton on Friday night. St Kilda has its own home match, facing Hawthorn at RSEA Park on Saturday afternoon.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 5.0 6.0 6.0 (36)
ST KILDA 3.1 6.3 8.6 8.6 (54)
Western Bulldogs: Edmonds 2, Pritchard, Lamb, Cranston, Berry
St Kilda: Wardlaw 3, Exon, Xenos, Lambert, Guttridge, Richards
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Edmonds, Lamb, Wilcox, Lynch
St Kilda: Priest, Wardlaw, Patrikios, Lambert, Richards
Western Bulldogs: Nil
St Kilda: Nil
Crowd: 2,807 at VU Whitten Oval