It was a bittersweet day at Whitten Oval, as Hawthorn’s VFLW side made its long-awaited return to the field with a gripping display against the Western Bulldogs.
While the visitors were eventually overrun by a home side packed with AFLW-listed talent, the new-look Hawks (with all but three players making their club debut) gave fans of the brown and gold much to be buoyant about.
However, the outing was dampened when Captain Jess Trend limped off in the final term having suffered a suspected ACL injury.
It was a bitter blow for both player and team, with Trend among the most influential players on the ground in the opening half.
The 29-year-old will now undergo scans to confirm the extent of the injury, with an update to be provided in the coming days.
The game started as a tight scrap, with both sides adjusting to new structures and gelling with new teammates, following an 18-month hiatus from VFLW football.
The Bulldogs drew first blood, scoring back-to-back goals from set shots, before veteran Meg Hutchins sent a perfect set up kick inside 50, allowing Emily McIlvena to play on and dribble it through for the Hawks’ first.
The Dogs threatened to run away with it in the second term, having added another two unanswered majors to get out to a four-goal lead.
Led by the likes of Emily Gilder and Catherine Brown, Hawthorn’s defensive unit was standing strong, repelling many a Bulldogs’ forward 50 foray. However, the pressure was mounting; clearances continued to boomerang back as the home side locked it in their forward half.
It took the composure of Abbey Holmes to arrest the momentum, as she found fellow club debutant Jessie Williams lace out in the goal square, ready to boot the Hawks’ second.
The next 10 minutes of play was fantastic viewing for Hawthorn supporters, as the girls piled on a further two majors to trim the half time margin to one straight kick.
Jemma Owen sent through her first goal in the brown and gold, while Meg Hutchins finished another perfectly, as she so often does.
Unfortunately the goals would dry up following the main break, as the Bulldogs’ experienced line up proved too strong for the new-look Hawthorn outfit.
Northern Territory recruit Dom Carbone continued to work hard all day, with the youngster’s footy IQ and skilful disposal on show.
Jemma Owens mounted forward 50 pressure at every opportunity, laying two important tackles late in the game, while Jessie Williams continued to provide options and set up opportunities for her teammates.
The final siren sounded with the scoreboard reading 10.6.66 v 4.6.30 in the Bulldogs’ favour.
Despite the 35-point defeat, Bec Goddard’s side showed exciting glimpses of what could be, leaving fans eager to see what will unfold following a few more opportunities to gel as a playing group.
Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn
10.6.66 v 4.6.30
McIlvena, Hutchins, Williams, Owen
Carbone, Trend, Hutchins, Owen