Carlton edge Cats in tight AFLW win
Carlton have their AFLW season off and running after a hard-earned win against a gallant Geelong at GMHBA Stadium.
The more-experienced Blues were pushed to the limit by the eager Cats before winning by 14 points, 4.7 (31) to 2.5 (17) in a defence-dominated contest on Saturday night.
The second-round win provided Carlton midfield gun Maddy Prespakis with family bragging rights over younger sister Georgie, the Cats No.2 pick in last season's draft.
Both were valuable contributors to their teams, with Maddy, the 2020 AFLW best and fairest winning, raking up 29 possessions and Georgie - at 18 three years younger - working hard for her 15 disposals before being forced off under the blood rule after a knock to the face in the last quarter.
It was the first time two sisters have played against each other in an AFLW game and the second time Maddy has thwarted the Cats - she ran up 28 disposals and a key goal in the Blues' win in the corresponding clash last season.
Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington was brilliant with 23 possessions, marshalling the defence with able assistance from Gaby Pound to nullify Geelong's scoring opportunities.
Geelong skipper Meg McDonald held Blues sharpshooter and AFLW leading goalkicker Darcy Vescio scoreless, but the Blues found enough options to continually edge ahead in the dour battle.
It was an intriguing tactical battle between coaches Daniel Harford (Carlton) and Dan Lowther (Geelong) with the former placing a spare player in defence and conceding midfield dominance to the home team.
Geelong played with plenty of energy at the contests, but were continually turned back despite dominating possession, particularly in the opening quarter.
The Cats rarely found a way past the reliable Harrington who mopped up so many ground balls inside the Blues' defensive half.
With such an emphasis on defence, it was always going to be difficult to score. And a goal from a mark to experienced Carlton forward Elise O'Dea finally got the scoreboard ticking over midway through the first term.
Geelong's admirable workrate was finally rewarded when Irish recruit Rachel Kearns booted the Cats' opening goal, aided by a 50m penalty early in the second quarter. It was Kearns' first goal in the AFLW.
Carlton edged ahead again late in the second term when Nicola Stevens marked running against the flight of the ball and kept going to goal at close range.
With only five points separating the teams, it set up a tense second-half duel.