Cardiff flexed their muscles early with a big win over the Saints. Image via Geoff Robinson.

Cardiff kick-started their 2020 Black Diamond Cup campaign in style against 2019 runners-up Maitland, as the AFL Hunter Central Coast’s top-flight women’s league finally got underway on Saturday afternoon.

The fast-starting Hawks sprung out to an early 21-point led in the opening quarter, before more than doubling their lead through the second.

Maitland was able to hit back in the third quarter at Cameron Park, but Cardiff had already built an unassailable lead. They eventually chalked up a 122–6 victory, which coach Paul Cooksley described as “a perfect showing of Cardiff’s new style.”

“We had a pretty disrupted preseason, that’s for sure, but the girls put all that behind them and showed what they’re capable of,” Cooksley told the Chronicle. “It wasn’t a surprise to me they were able to get the win, the girls have looked fantastic.”

Hawks debutant Tayla Gregory was a standout for Cardiff, kicking five of the Birds’ 18 goals. Gregory and fellow AFL convert Clare Cummings were both named among the best on-field, alongside promoted Cardiff junior Hayley Hawkins.

Cardiff now stand as one of four teams still undefeated after the opening weekend.

To have two new signings and a Hawks junior among the top performers on the day was “fantastic” to see for the team, and the club, Cooksley said. On top of that, the “new style of play” they’d been working on came off to perfection.

“We did everything that we had been planning to do, which was all credit to the girls, we can take a lot out of that. It was a nice, hard, physical game and they had to work hard for everything we got, Maitland is a tidy side,” he said.

“Taylah Gregory, five goals on debut, you have to get excited for that! Clare [Cummings] was great too, she’s played a few [games] in Armidale but she’s reasonably new and she was just out there jagging possession all game.”

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Hawkins, who is just 16 years old, was also one of the new stars Cooksley pointed to after the Saints match. After proving herself in the lower ranks, Cardiff has catapulted her into the top grade. She was “spectacular,” the Hawks boss said.

“It’s fantastic to see juniors coming up into the team, we’ve had a consistent stream of our young girls coming up. If Hayley can get into the same ranks as juniors like Matisse Coram-Parker, Eloise Petersen, girls like that, it’ll be great,” he said.

Cardiff won out in a “hard, physical game” at Cameron Park last weekend.

Elsewhere in the AFLHCC Black Diamond Cup Women’s opening round, last year’s minor premiers Killarney Vale set off on an early-season march at Feighan Oval with a 112–14 win over Warners Bay. Skye Bailey and Teneale Toker scored five each.

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Terrigal Avoca had similar success at home at Hylton Moore Oval. Gabrielle Ralphs scored four as they downed the new combined northern outfit Nelson Bay/Port Stephens to take the top spot after the first week of play.

Newcastle City also pocketed win number one with a victory against Wyong Lakes at Northlakes Oval in the final match of the round. Amy Pittman kicked a hat-trick for the defending champions in their 50-point triumph.

Former Bulldogs and Swans star Amy Pittman fired in three for City in the opening round.

The Round 1 results immediately set up a mouthwatering second week in the AFL Black Diamond Cup; all four undefeated sides will come face to face on July 25, with only two of the potential contenders able to emerge unscathed.

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Cardiff will host Killarney Vale at Cameron Park, while City head south to face arch-rivals Terrigal Avoca in Hylton Moore Oval. Also next Saturday, the Marlins play the Bulldogs, and Maitland hosts the Magpies in their first home game of the season.

STANDINGS: Terrigal Avoca, Newcastle City, Cardiff, Killarney Vale (4), Warners Bay, Maitland, Wyong Lakes, Nelson Bay/Port Stephens (0).