Courtney Gum of GWS and Elise O’Dea of Melbourne in action during the AFLW Round 1 match.Skipper Daisy Pearce and forward Richelle Cranston have stood tall as Melbourne clinched a gripping six-point win over Greater Western Sydney in the opening round of the AFLW competition.
The lead changed hands three times during the final quarter at Casey Fields on Saturday but it was the Demons who hung tough to win 7.3 (45) to 6.3 (39) against the luckless Giants, who claimed the wooden spoon in the inaugural AFLW season in 2017.
Pearce had 13 of her 19 possessions after halftime and Cranston booted a team-high three goals for the Demons.
“(Pearce) just competes all day and she’s so critical with her leadership onfield,” said Melbourne coach Mick Stinear.
“The last quarter epitomised what we want to be about as a team.
“The way she started that last quarter with real intent and she inspired the rest of the girls to do what they did.”
After racking up eight early disposals, Demons midfielder Karen Paxman went off with a back injury, which was later diagnosed as spasms.
GWS opened the scoring through the impressive Jacinda Barclay.
The visitors led by nine points at halftime and five at three-quarter time as an upset loomed.
But it was Melbourne – and particularly Cranston – who stood tallest in the fourth quarter before a crowd of 5,100.
Cranston kicked her second goal to start the final term and then slotted her third at the 15-minute mark.
Phoebe McWilliams kicked three of the Giants’ six goals.
Barclay, captain Amanda Farrugia and 36-year-old Irish recruit Cora Staunton were also among the better players for GWS.
“I think (Staunton) got lost a couple of times on running patterns, but it’s not surprising when you’re trying to learn the game in eight weeks,” coach Alan McConnell said.
“She hasn’t had a full pre-season, she missed the first two weeks because her team went all the way through to an All-Ireland final.
“But we’re so glad we have her. She brings something to the team.”
Melbourne return to Casey Fields next Saturday to take on reigning premiers Adelaide while the Giants host Carlton at Drummoyne Oval in Sydney on Friday night.