ST KILDA’S inaugural AFL Women’s season saw the newcomers bring football back to Moorabbin in 2020, and very nearly ended with an unlikely finals berth. Led by a trio of co-captains in Rhiannon Watt, Kate Shierlaw, and Cat Phillips, the Saints notched two very impressive wins on the way to a 2-4 record, combining experience with some incredibly talented youth in a promising maiden campaign. We take a look at some of those key individual performers, and delve into the highs and lows of St Kilda’s season in the latest edition of our 2020 reviews.
RECORD: 5th (B), 2-4, 90.6%
R1: lost to Western Bulldogs by 25 points
R2: lost to Adelaide by 13 points
R3: defeated Melbourne by 5 points
R4: lost to Fremantle by 1 point
R5: lost to Carlton by 21 points
R6: defeated Richmond by 39 points
Pitched against five inaugural AFLW clubs in its eventual six games, outsiders would be forgiven for thinking St Kilda would be the expansion side to find the going most tough this year. But that was far from what eventuated as the Saints very nearly overcame reigning premier, Adelaide before trumping Melbourne for their first-ever win, and later giving the undefeated Fremantle an almighty scare in a one-point loss. Throw in the 39-point smashing of Richmond where the Tigers became the first AFLW team to be held goalless, and there was a wealth of positives to be drawn from the season for St Kilda.
SEASON HIGH: Knocking off Melbourne for win number one
This was a result no one truly expected, even after the Saints got within a quarter of overcoming Adelaide the week before, and there was no better way to claim a maiden AFLW win than on home turf. It made the result of this low-scoring slugfest all the more sweeter for the Saints, who proved too accurate in front of goal with their 3.1 (19) outgunning Melbourne’s 1.8 (14). Overcoming any established and finals-bound team would have been impressive, getting one over the hardened Melbourne side really proved St Kilda’s ability to compete.
SEASON LOW: Letting it slip against Fremantle
From a soaring high to a heart-breaking low, all the confidence from St Kilda’s win in the previous week fell just short of carrying it over the line against a fearsome Dockers outfit. After snatching the lead in the third term and bringing it into the final break, the Saints found themselves two goals clear thanks to a beautiful Molly McDonald snap. But just as quickly as she became the would-be hero, McDonald’s brain fade gifted the Dockers a 50m penalty and the chance to draw level, before they pinched the last-minute victory.
FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:
Georgia Patrikios (15.7 disposals, 1.8 marks, 3.3 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 2.7 inside 50s)
You would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive first-year player than Patrikios, even in the face of the competition’s prosperous youth. ‘GP’ hit the ground running on debut against the Bulldogs with her 18 disposals earning her a Rising Star nomination and capturing the attention of fans everywhere. It helped form the base of a terrific year, where the Calder Cannons graduate led St Kilda for disposals, metres gained, and clearances.
Olivia Vesely (15.2 disposals, 2.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.8 inside 50s, 1 goal)
Another first-year player who stood tall under enormous responsibility was Vesely, who became a key support for Patrikios through midfield. There was plenty of hype surrounding last year’s VFLW Rising Star winner, and she delivered in spades to stamp her name as a certain starter for the Saints each week. The 20-year-old’s consistency saw her earn an AFLW Rising Star nomination in Round 4, for her 18-disposal performance against Carlton.
Tilly Lucas-Rodd (13.2 disposals, 2.3 marks, 2.3 tackles, 1.5 rebound 50s, 76% efficiency)
Lucas-Rodd was one who built on the promise shown in her three seasons at Carlton to fully justify the second chance awarded to her at the elite level, becoming a key member of this exciting St Kilda side. A VFLW best and fairest and team of the year member, Lucas-Rodd is a gritty utility who has adapted well to a more defensive-based role with the Saints. At 23 years of age, her rate of development means there is plenty of scope for even more improvement.
Rosie Dillon (13.3 disposals, 1.2 marks, 5.8 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s)
The Saints would have been chuffed with their selection of Dillon in last year’s draft at pick 24, as the 2019 Hawthorn VFLW best and fairest hit the ground running upon entering the elite system. A hardened midfielder who loves the contest, Dillon had a terrific back-end of the season where she averaged 17 disposals across her last four games while also keeping up her impressive tackle numbers. A shrewd recruit who combines well with the outside class of Patrikios.
Alison Drennan (12.4 disposals, 1 mark, 4.4 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 1 inside 50)
One of the Saints’ best AFLW snares was Drennan, who donned the red, black, and white once again after turning-out for the VFLW side. The former-North Melbourne midfielder is again one who loves the contest, and built into the season well after missing Round 1. Leading from her midfield post, Drennan added great value to the diverse and hard-working St Kilda engine room across her five outings.
Caitlin Greiser (9.7 disposals, 2.7 marks, 1.3 tackles, 3.2 inside 50s, 10 goals)
‘The G-Train’ was nothing short of spectacular in her maiden AFLW campaign, finishing second in the competitions’ goalkicking charts (10) while leading her side for score involvements and inside 50s. A true, traditional centre-half forward, Greiser’s lead-up work was hard to beat, and her booming boot made her a threat from all angles within 50 metres of the big sticks. With multiple goals in four games, the Round 3 Rising Star nominee is one to watch.
Molly McDonald (9.5 disposals, 3.5 marks, 2.2 tackles, 1.7 rebound 50s, 1.3 inside 50s, 2 goals)
The pre-listed Saints draftee went above and beyond in justifying that status in her debut senior year, turning out consistent showings across all six games for her side. Rotating between the forwardline and midfield, McDonald continued her happy knack of finding the goals as displayed at Under 18 level, while also showing great poise on the ball. Impressively, the outside mover also led her side for marks this year (21).
Looking back, the Saints perhaps exceeded expectations in a memorable first season at the top level, bringing football home to Moorabbin and giving their fans something to cheer about. Their two wins were of high quality, while a couple of tight losses could have gone the other way and afforded a finals berth. The most exciting thing about St Kilda’s future is its youth, with a number of Under-21 talents shining brightly already.