By Anthony Wingard
The Brisbane Lions AFL Women’s team have suffered their first regular season loss in competition history against the Western Bulldogs at Southpine Sports Complex on Saturday.
In sweltering conditions; the thermometer exceeding thirty-seven degrees, the Lions were unable to claw back a run-away second-quarter by the ‘dogs; eventually falling to a 5.3 (33) to 3.6 (24) defeat.
After failing to lose a game in 2017 and with their recent triumph in the Grand Final rematch over Adelaide in Round 1, Craig Starcevich’s team were yet to taste the agony of defeat in home and away fixtures – the Grand Final loss the only blemish on their record. Until Saturday.
The loss was contrived after reigning number one draft pick Isabella Huntington asserted dominance, and life, into the game. After taking two contested marks inside fifty, she converted both to give the Bulldogs a nine-point lead before Hannah Scott and Jenna Bruton extended the gap before half-time.
Despite a fast start in both quarters, it was a goalless first half for the Lions, who mustered just three behinds before the main break. Whilst Brisbane appeared rushed in the hot and windy conditions, the Bulldogs were happy to chip the ball around, manufacturing offensive stanzas through patience over hastiness.
The game’s tempo lifted in the third quarter as Brisbane attempted to come from behind. A crafty goal via Jess Wuetschner from the boundary line – the only goal of the term for either side – gave the home side a slither of hope; clawing the margin back to 16 points at the final break.
Another dominant start for the Lions in the fourth term was capitalised by an Ally Anderson goal but Aisling Utri responded for the Bulldogs in under two minutes, all but sealing the game for the away side.
Brisbane fired back almost immediately through Jess Wuetschner, making her the equal all-time Lions’ goal scorer, but the result was already beyond question.
The Bulldogs’ nine-point victory aided the team in remaining perfect on the season, sitting equal first on the ladder; with only percentage separating them with Victorian rivals Carlton and Melbourne.
Unfortunately, though, the win wasn’t without casualties, with Huntington rupturing her ACL just minutes after her second quarter brilliance. Tracking back toward goal, Huntington outpaced Lions’ stopper Kate Lutkins before her knee buckled and injury struck. She’ll now miss the remainder of the season.
Kirsty Lamb (20 disposals, four marks) and Emma Kearney (18 disposals, nine tackles) topped the ball winners for the Bulldogs, while Emily Bates (21 disposals, five marks) and Ally Anderson (16 disposals, six tackles; one goal) were among the best for the Lions.
For Brisbane, the team now sits at the middle of the table with a 1-1 record and another loss could spell the end to their aspirations of returning to the Grand Final.
Brisbane Lions head coach Craig Starcevich lamented his side’s sluggish attitude in the game.
“I thought we were a bit lethargic all day,” he told lions.com.au
“It shouldn’t take a bit of soul searching at half-time to work out where your attitude is.”
“It wasn’t terrible, but there’s some work to do.”
After falling the Bulldogs on Sunday, Brisbane face another challenge in Round 3 against an undefeated Carlton team which boasts former Lion Tayla Harris, who defected to the Blues in the off-season.