The new AFLW season got underway on Thursday night in Victoria but it was a touching pre-match tribute to Jacinda Barclay that provided a sombre pre-cursor to the match between Carlton and Collingwood.
Barclay was a former AFLW star with the Greater Western Sydney Giants, whose death in October last year left the sporting community devastated.
The extremely talented star played in a remarkable five World Cups for the Australian women's baseball team, as well as a stint in American football, before making the move to the AFLW.
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Barclay was described as the "Sonny Bill Williams" of women's sport when she was signed for GWS.
The outgoing and extremely popular star made her debut for GWS in 2017 and played 23 games for the footy club.
A heartbreaking family statement described her as "a shining comet that soared through this world casting her radiant light of love on all she met.
“Though that comet has now shattered into a million pieces, the memory of it will remain a beacon for all women in high profile sports to strive to excel, to dare to be great while staying humble and proud.”
On Thursday night at Ikon Park, players from Carlton and Collingwood, as well as the umpires, joined together to form a circle in honour of the fallen champion.
Players and umpires take a moment before the bounce to honour the memory of Jacinda Barclay pic.twitter.com/o52mrZgpOM
— Daniel Cherny 📰 (@DanielCherny) January 28, 2021
— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) January 28, 2021
Seeing Jacinda Barclay being remembered in the season opener of the AFLW was not how I expected things to start but <3 She will always be missed
— Amelia 💖💜💙 (@howdoyouamelia) January 28, 2021
— Tim (@TimothyJ_23) January 28, 2021
The Giants and Crows also held a minute's silence for Barclay before their practice match earlier in January - the first match for GWS since her death.
Greater Western Sydney have indicated that players will wear special jerseys with Barclay's number 34 on them, throughout the season.
GWS are also set to hold a minute's silence for her before their season opener against Fremantle on Sunday in Perth.
— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) January 28, 2021
Carlton comeback falls short in AFLW opener
The AFLW season opener saw the Magpies claim a 5.3 (33) to 4.3 (27) win over Carlton.
A shell-shocked Carlton fought back from a scoreless opening half with three quickfire third-quarter goals.
But the damage had already been done and the comeback ultimately proved in vain as a capacity crowd of 6712 watched on in the first ticketed match in the competition's history.
Blues captain Kerryn Harrington kicked a goal after the fulltime siren to sum up their second-half dominance.
Led by the electric Chloe Molloy, Collingwood were all over the Blues - who failed to score until seven minutes into the third quarter.
The Magpies dominated general play in the first quarter, with Brittany Bonnici starring in the middle, but only had one behind to show for it.
But once Irish speedster Aishling Sheridan kicked the first goal, the floodgates opened.
Star Molloy slotted two majors in as many minutes, with the first being booted out of the stadium and onto the Princes Park walking track.
But the real dagger came just before halftime when former Blues captain Brianna Davey kicked an exciting running goal in her first game as Magpies co-captain.
Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone again had the better of her duel with All-Australian forward Tayla Harris.
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