All-Australian forward Caitlin Greiser has lifted St Kilda to a thrilling nine-point, opening-round AFLW victory over the Western Bulldogs.
One of the breakout stars of last season, Greiser picked up where she left off in 2020 by kicking three goals at RSEA Park on Friday night.
The Bulldogs defence had no match for the powerful 21-year-old as the Saints kicked the highest score in their short history – 8.3 (51) to 6.6 (42) – to secure the nail-biting victory.
The Saints were comprehensively beaten in the corresponding match last year, but held off the fast-finishing visitors this time around.
The Bulldogs narrowed the margin to just two points late in the final quarter, but Darcy Guttridge’s second goal with less than two minutes remaining sealed the result.
After rain fell in Melbourne all day, the sold-out clash was expected to be a scrap, but conditions eased and St Kilda’s speed stood out.
Both teams came out attacking in the first-quarter, producing a high-standard of football with three goals each.
But the Saints’ three-goals to none second quarter set them on the way to starting their campaign on the best note after registering just two victories in 2020.
The Bulldogs were wasteful when going forward, dominating the inside-50 count with St Kilda using their opportunities better.
Defender Tarni White also thwarted numerous Bulldogs entries with an outstanding display.
Greiser was well supported in the front-half by Tyanna Smith, first-gamer Jacqui Vogt and the classy Georgia Patrikios, who kicked a goal during an irrepressible game in the midfield.
All-Australian defender Isabel Huntington was thrown forward with success, kicking two vital goals for the Bulldogs near the quarter and three-quarter-time sirens.
It was a night of mixed emotions for Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke, who watched daughter Alice make her AFLW debut for St Kilda.
Burke is a Saints legend, captaining the club in a decorated 323-game career from 1987 to 2003, and he embraced Alice after the match.