Richmond have overcome an early deficit to win a thrilling first AFLW Dreamtime game against Essendon at ETU Stadium in Port Melbourne.
The Tigers held out a surging Bombers by two points – 3.8 (26) to 3.6 (24) – in a clash that was on the line right into the final minute on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon.
In such difficult playing conditions elite players came to the fore, and that was certainly the case with Richmond on-baller Monique Conti, who continually inspired her teammates.
Conti had 15 possessions and laid nine tackles. And she kicked a telling goal from a brilliant snapshot near the boundary line early in the third quarter to what was the most difficult end to score, given the breeze.
It seemed the Tigers had done enough to win with a six-point lead at three-quarter time and kicking to the southern end with the wind in the last term.
But Essendon threw everything at them in a bid to snatch a late victory. When Bomber Amber Clarke’s quick kick bounced through the unguarded goal, it cut Richmond’s lead to just one point with 68 seconds left.
At the crucial centre bounce, significantly, it was Conti who won the ball and the clearance to spear a pass to Sarah Hosking that virtually iced the game.
“In that situation, we know they’re going to do anything to get the ball down (their end), so I’m just glad I took it (mark),” Hosking said.
“We know Essendon is a fourth quarter side and they pile on the scores. So, we knew they were going to come back and to our credit we held them out. It was a great contest.”
Hosking had played a critical role in the Tigers’ triumph too, limiting Essendon’s brilliant midfielder Maddie Prespakis to just 11 possessions while collecting 14 touches herself.
Crucial to the contest was how each team would best use the southern end.
Essendon had the chance first and took an early lead when Bonnie Toogood goaled after a high tackle, but that was their only scoreboard success with the wind despite a lopsided 11-1 inside-50 advantage.
Richmond players made better use of the breeze at their backs, particularly with Conti bursting from the centre several times to drive them deep into attack.
Courtney Wakefield twice marked at the top of the goalsquare and each time converted from close range to propel the Tigers into the lead on an afternoon when goals were rare.
Richmond ruck Gabby Seymour’s 25 hitouts set up centre takeaways and the Tigers were well served by the rebounding work of Eilish Sheerin, with 20 possessions, and Tessa Lavey (13) across half-back.