Bonnie Toogood and the Western Bulldogs broke through for a maiden AFLW premiership in a gripping grand final win against Brisbane.
In a rainy contest at Ikon Park, the Dogs scrapped to an early lead and had enough left in the tank to see off a late Brisbane charge, holding on to win 4.3 (27) to 3.3 (21).
Toogood, a former Mansfield netball star, only managed four disposals, but drew plenty of attention by inking the number three on her boots, in honour of captain Katie Brennan who was controversially suspended from the grand final.
It completed a stellar year for Bulldogs, who had topped the season with a 5-2 record, while it sentenced the Lions to a second grand final loss in as many years.
In round one AFL action, Cobram’s Esava Ratugolea debuted in a thrilling win for Geelong, with the Cats knocking off Melbourne by three points.
Ratugolea struck early with a goal in the first quarter and his teammates came from everywhere to congratulate the youngster.
He finished with eight disposals and five marks, while Mooroopna export Clayton Oliver started the year where he left off the last, with 28 touches.
In a wet and wild contest in Cairns, Kyabram premiership player Nick Holman made his debut with the Gold Coast Suns.
He wasted little time making an impact, recording a game-high 13 tackles as well as 13 disposals, as his Suns beat North Melbourne by 16 points.
He got plenty of help from Mooroopna’s Jarrod Harbrow, who had 23 kicks for the Suns.
Kangaroos duo Jy Simpkin (Mooroopna) and Shaun Atley (Rochester) found the ball well, with 22 and 19 touches respectively.
Benalla boy Tom Rockliff struggled to meet his usual prolific standards with just 12 possessions, but snagged a goal on his Port Adelaide debut.
Echuca’s Ollie Wines starred with 28 disposals, as did Deniliquin’s Todd Marshall with four huge goals.
Katamatite’s Tom Clurey had 16 disposals as the Power thumped Fremantle by 50 points.
Goulburn Valley export Jarman Impey made a positive start at new club Hawthorn with 18 touches, while teammate Daniel Howe (Rennie) racked up 20 possessions as the Hawks comprehensively beat Collingwood.
Tallygaroopna’s Steele Sidebottom did his best to keep the Pies in it with 31 disposals and a goal.
Kyabram’s Brett Deledio had 18 touches as his Greater Western Sydney Giants towelled up the Western Bulldogs by 82 points.
Caleb Marchbank (Benalla) was influential in defence as his Carlton side pushed Richmond to its limits in the season-opener.
He had 19 touches and six marks, but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers stormed home for a 26-point win.