Alyssa Bannan celebrates a goal during round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

IN THE highest-scoring round of AFLW in the competition's history, star players came to the fore and teams unveiled prized off-season recruits. 

Melbourne, North Melbourne and Geelong all showed off their attacking prowess, while the Swans nabbed their first ever AFLW win in a nail-biting Sydney Derby.

Each week Gemma Bastiani will look at a key talking point in each game in this handy wrap-up, just in case you missed it. 


No Daisy? No worries 

With the retirement of long-time leader Daisy Pearce, questions lingered as to how Melbourne would cope in her absence. But Friday night's season opener blew away any concerns for the Demons in their premiership defence. Despite starting a bit fumbly and vulnerable on the turnover, Melbourne's ability to turn the game after half-time and pile on the final nine goals of the game exemplified the depth of on-field leadership it boasts. Captain Kate Hore and vice-captain Tyla Hanks were certainly major factors, but the spread of performers for the Demons should have other sides fearful.  


When in doubt, bring the pressure 

Carlton's round one win off the back of a tumultuous pre-season was built on immense pressure. Against the Suns, who took a half to get going in the face of the Blues' ability to retain the ball in the forward half, every Blue bought in to the side's hard-running, high-workrate-style of footy. The Blues laid 91 tackles for the game - 21 of those inside 50 – just three away shy of the AFLW record and making life very difficult for Gold Coast's backline. Without important defenders Kerryn Peterson and Gab Pound, the Blues were able to minimise the hurt their absence caused by maintaining the rage higher up the field and forcing poor or rushed forward entries from the Suns.  


The Power has started to close the gap 

Despite going down to Adelaide in their second ever Showdown, Port Adelaide halved the margin on last year's result, and even got its nose in front at half-time. Matilda Scholz was impressive on debut, leading the hitouts with 14, while big name recruits Ash Saint (two goals) and Janelle Cuthbertson (six intercepts) were key players at each end of the ground. The targeted recruiting Port Adelaide's off-field team did over the offseason is paying off already, with the gap on the best teams set to close this year. 


The Cats run deep 

Without first 21 players Becky Webster and Shelley Scott available on Saturday due to injury, Geelong proved just how many weapons it has across the field. Deploying Irishwoman Aishling Moloney in attack, - who, despite only picking up the game recently, showed an impressive game awareness and knack for setting up teammates - and Abbey McDonald in defence, the new faces didn't skip a beat. The Cats enjoyed goals from seven different players – just two away from the AFLW record – amidst a forward line that has plenty of chemistry. They're a side that can do some real damage this year. 


Toogood puts her team on her back 

When Hawthorn had the narrowest of leads at half-time and looked set to take the momentum and run with it, Essendon co-captain Bonnie Toogood put her team on her back and wrestled back control. A strong key forward who kicked two goals, it was her ability to come up the ground and control the footy in the air that set her apart. She took eight marks for the game – no other player registered more than four – sent the ball inside 50 six times, and had seven intercepts from her 23 disposals. Toogood is the definition of leading from the front. 


North Melbourne's uncontested game is off to a flying start 

In its 40-point win over St Kilda on Sunday, North Melbourne showcased its high level of skill to keep the footy away from the Saints and give premium delivery to its forwards. Taking 61 marks to St Kilda's 30 and winning 141 uncontested possessions to the Saints' 89, the Roos controlled the ball with ease on the outside all day. Led by Ash Riddell (29 disposals, 18 uncontested) and Jasmine Garner (29 disposals, 14 uncontested), North Melbourne transitioned into attack from stoppages with skill, giving them the best chance to get it on the chest of their three-pronged attack of Tahlia Randall, Emma King and Kate Shierlaw. 


The Tigers' forward line can stand up without Wakefield 

A few adjustments were required in Richmond's forward line over the off-season with the retirement of All-Australian Courtney Wakefield, but it all came together in the Tigers' narrow win over Brisbane. Captain Katie Brennan stood up with two goals, while Emelia Yassir and Monique Conti each hit the scoreboard. But it was new recruits Courtney Jones and Caitlin Greiser who helped to carry the load in attack, each kicking a goal in their Tigers debut and having a real presence throughout the game. They will only further develop their chemistry as the season wears on, but they're already starting in a strong position. 


The new-look Swans are more than just competitive

Down by 25 points deep in the third quarter, the Swans of season seven would have let ill-discipline and poor decision-making sneak into their game, causing it to blow out. But that's not the case for the 2023 edition following their off-season recruiting spree. Back-to-back goals from Aliesha Newman and new co-captain Chloe Molloy before the three-quarter time siren had Sydney up and about heading into the final quarter, and with that belief they surged to the final siren, keeping the Giants scoreless in the last term. They've proven they're a never-say-die team, and no longer are they hunting that maiden win.  


Fremantle is more than Kiara Bowers 

With star midfielder Kiara Bowers a late out for Fremantle in the Western Derby, anyone could have been forgiven for thinking the Eagles were in with a sniff of winning their first against their cross-town rivals. What came to the fore, however, was the depth of role players the Dockers boast, none more so than Laura Pugh who, coming off a broken hand in the preseason, won a club-high 19 disposals, while Gabby O'Sullivan and Megan Kauffman stepped up with the defensive stuff, laying 14 and 11 tackles respectively. While being without Bowers is not the ideal scenario for Dockers coach Lisa Webb, she now knows that her other personnel will step up.