The Maitland Saints lifted against Newcastle City in the opening round of the AFLHCC Womens, downing the defending champions by a slim six-point margin. Image via Geoff Robinson.

After falling to Newcastle City in the first round of finals last year, Maitland have claimed revenge in their first outing of 2019, with just one goal separating the two sides at the full-time whistle.

Whether it was a determination to get one over the inner-city powerhouse, or just a fantastic result off the back of a strong preseason run, the Saints emerged the winners against City, knocking over the premiers 4.6-30 to 3.6-24 at the Central Coast Regional Sporting & Recreation Complex on Saturday evening.

“Very happy with the win, and with the girl’s footy that they played on the Central Coast,” Saints coach Chris Pedler said after the six-point victory. “We had a pretty good preseason, and got a few good trial games, but starting off with a win is always good.”

“Even better to beat the reigning premiers in the very first week, I think it’s the first time Maitland has ever knocked them over in the women’s competition, so that’s pretty special for the girls.”

Newcastle have started their title defence in 2019 with an uphill battle after falling to the Saints on the Central Coast.

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The battle on the Central Coast was a close one from start to finish, as City and the Saints both chalked up a single major in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-6 early on, before Newcastle took an 8-6 lead into the break. The second quarter exploded points wise, as Maitland burst out to a 22-14 lead at the half, but the game was far from sealed.

City were able to take control back in the third, levelling things up in the second last game of the festival of football at the southern ovals, and the two teams headed into the final stanza neck-and-neck at 22 points apiece.

Molly Simpson was the standout kicker for the Blues, as she claimed her first double of the season after her move from the 2018 minor premiers Nelson Bay. Jessie Burnham led the way for the Saints, chalking up two majors of her own.

The Saints claimed the biggest scalp of the opening round.

Sarah Burns and Nikki Robson also scored for Maitland, while Simone Wood was the only other City scorer of the match, but Pedler said it was “really hard to pick out a single best player” for the team.

The women’s head coach, who has made the switch from leading the reserve grade in Maitland in 2018, pinpointed the returning Sarah James as a key part of the squad.

“Sarah was great, and we had a new girl who’s coming into the sport – Nikki [Robson], who has come across from league tag – she was fantastic. Another new girl, Ash [Fennell] was great, but overall I couldn’t have picked a bad player and it was a great team effort.”

Fennell, who has made the move from Adelaide in the post season and joined the Saints, was named best of field for the winning side, while Anna Fraser and Stevi Bishop were also given the nod as some of Maitland’s best.

Aleece Williams (right) shone for the Magpies on the Central Coast.

Also on Saturday, Gosford kick-started the festival of football with a 7.2-44 to 2.7-19 win over The Entrance Bateau Bay, with Lily Mugridge kicking two for the Tigers.

Wyong Lakes had similar success, downing Warners Bay 6.1-37 to 2.3-15 off the back of a strong hat-trick from Magpies regular scorer Aleece Williams, while Killarney Vale piled over Muswellbrook with a 28.14-182 to 0.0-0 victory. Kelsey Acton bagged one of the highest tallies of the weekend with five, while Sasha Edwards and Ashleigh Page both notched four.

Cardiff also chalked up a landslide victory on the Central Coast, scoring 115 points against Wallsend-West Newcastle, who posted just two majors and five behinds for a final score of 17. Claudia Russell and Arizona Cross both claimed hat-tricks, while Tayla Grazules and the Bailey sisters Eva and Minerva all kicked two apiece.

Terrigal Avoca’s Morgan Ross was on fire on Saturday evening, slotting home seven majors to take control of the goalscoring standings. Image via Geoff Robinson.

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Finally, Lake Macquarie fell to Terrigal Avoca in a 10.18-78 to 2.3-15 battle to close out the evening, with Panthers forward Morgan Ross returning to her scoring ways with eight majors against the Dockers to put her atop the scoring charts in the opening round. Bronte Korsch also chipped in two for the victorious Panthers.

Molly Simpson has made the switch from Nelson Bay to Newcastle City in 2019.

2018 minor premiers Nelson Bay were delivered an automatic loss after forfeiting to Singleton at the one fixture planned to take place away from the Central Coast facilities. The Roosterettes had planned to host the match at Rose Point Park, but the Marlins forfeit the fixture.

Port Stephens had the first round bye.

STANDINGS: Killarney Vale, Cardiff, Terrigal Avoca, Wyong Lakes, Gosford, Maitland, Singleton (100%), Newcastle, The Entrance Bateau Bay, Warners Bay, Lake Macquarie, Wallsend-West Newcastle, Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, Muswellbrook (0%).