Collingwood has shored up its top-two hopes with a comprehensive 46-point win over an embattled St Kilda on Saturday.
Led by small forward Aliesha Newman (two goals in the opening four minutes and three overall), the Pies were switched on from the opening bounce in the 8.11 (59) to 2.1 (13) win at Victoria Park.
By quarter-time, a whopping eight St Kilda players had yet to touch the ball, including influential forwards Kate Shierlaw, Caitlin Greiser and the usually busy Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Jayde Van Dyk.
Inclusion Jess Matin had provided a rare highlight, converting a tough set shot from an acute angle for her first AFLW goal.
Led by Georgia Patrikios, Tyanna Smith and Hannah Priest, the Saints lifted their intensity in the second term – forcing the Pies to over-handball and tie themselves in knots – but struggled to pierce its forward 50.
As the game progressed, the Pies spread the ball with much more purpose, showing greater composure in the face of some fierce St Kilda tackling.
The Saints finally broke through for the second goal via Jacqui Vogt in the final term, finding some rare overlap run before the former Victory defender converted.
Brianna Davey (23 touches) was outstanding all around the ground, with the Saints having no match for her physicality and marking ability, while the ever-industrious Britt Bonnici (29) and Jaimee Lambert (21 and seven tackles) found plenty of the footy.
Patrikios was nearly a lone hand in the midfield, producing an incredible 29-disposal, nine-clearance game with 529m gained, while McDonald was next-best with 15 touches on the wing.
The match also marked the first time a Collingwood and St Kilda side had met at Victoria Park since the infamous Nicky Winmar match in round four, 1993.
Collingwood debuts new-look backline
Last week Collingwood lost two important defenders in Jordy Allen (foot) and Lauren Butler (hamstring) to season-long injuries, so all eyes were on the Pies' backline to see how they'd structure up against the Saints. All-Australian defender Ash Brazill was a handy inclusion after just over a year out with a torn ACL, while it appears hard-nosed midfielder Ebony O'Dea is the other piece of the puzzle. Brazill finished the game with ice on her leg, but with the game in the bag, it was just precautionary.
At this time of the season, percentage is especially vital for teams in finals calculation. The Pies now cannot drop out of the top six, and had entered the match with a percentage of 195.9. Thanks in part to two fearsome goal-saving tackles by Ruby Schleicher as the Saints pressed in the third, Collingwood's percentage now sits at 217.0, and the team is in first place halfway through the round.
What's next for the Saints?
Coach Peta Searle was thrilled with the effort and intensity her side brought for all four quarters, particularly on the inside of the contest, but the Saints struggled to get deep and effective inside 50s. There's no doubt the loss of the 2020 VFLW season due to the state's COVID-19 lockdown has hurt the Saints badly, with Searle saying she took the opportunity to trial Tarni White in the middle and even gave Alice Burke a run against Bri Davey.
"We were pretty happy with that. We were looking for a response after last week (loss to Brisbane) … and we felt got that today. The girls' intent was pretty positive from the start and we did overdo the ball a bit today and made a few mistakes, but we did it with intent." – Collingwood coach Steve Symonds
"Coming on the back of last week, there were certain things we wanted to work on, we wanted to stay in the fight, and we did that all day. We couldn't question their effort and intensity and want. Our pressure rating was above two for most of the day, so I felt like we made Collingwood earn it. Another thing I was impressed about was Bri (Davey), Bonnici, Lambert all ran around getting 20+ possessions, so for our midfield to be -1 in clearances was a real positive." – St Kilda coach Peta Searle
Collingwood faces an early taste of finals action, taking on Adelaide at Norwood Oval on Sunday, while the Saints will be hoping for a win, up against the Eagles at Mineral Resources Park.
COLLINGWOOD 3.3 4.6 6.1 8.11 (59)
ST KILDA 1.0 1.1 1.1 2.1 (13)
Collingwood: Newman 3, Molloy 2, Lambert, Layton, Lin
St Kilda: Matin, Vogt
Collingwood: Davey, Lambert, Bonnici, Newman, Schleicher, Layton
St Kilda: Patrikios, McDonald, Smith, Priest
St Kilda: Nil
Crowd: 2228 at Victoria Park