Hawthorn kick-start AFLW season with win over Bulldogs

Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

Hawthorn have survived an AFLW arm-wrestle to post a seven-point victory over the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat.

Exploiting the Bulldogs' injury woes, the Hawks won 6.10 (46) to 5.9 (39) to snatch their first win of the season - and only the second in their history - at Mars Stadium on Sunday.

Kirsty McLeod created a strong start for the Bulldogs by kicking two majors but her efforts went to waste, with her side unable to capitalise on a hard-earned five-point lead at quarter-time.

Hawthorn finished the first half with a nine-point lead, thanks to two unanswered goals by McDonagh and Gilroy.

The Bulldogs rebounded by winning four more contested possessions than Hawthorn early in the third term, having lost the first half count by five, and goals from former No.1 draft pick Gabrielle Newton, Sarah Hartwig and Brianna McFarlane gave them a 10-point lead.

But ex-Brisbane premiership player Greta Bodey (two goals, 11 disposals) answered with her first goal in Hawks colours to reduce the margin to three-points.

With fatigue setting in, the Bulldogs lacked the composure to withstand Hawthorn's pressure as Bridie Hipwell goaled, and another major to Bodey sealed the victory.

The Hawks dominated with fast ball movement in the corridor to deliver perfect service to the capable hands of Gaelic football converts Aine McDonagh (one goal, 11 disposals) and Aileen Gilroy (one, nine).

Emily Bates (22 disposals, three clearances) was dangerous for Hawthorn, while skipper Tilly Lucas-Rodd (21, five) led from the front and kicked their first goal.

The Bulldogs were well served by the relentless fight of skipper Ellie Blackburn (20 disposals, nine clearances), Isabelle Pritchard (26, five) and Jessica Fitzgerald (19, three).

Hawthorn coach Bec Goddard said her older players' experience kept their side in the game.

"It was about our mature players stepping up and running the game," Goddard said post-match.

"Batesy did some really important things in the depth of the game, same with (Lucas-Rodd), just soaking up seconds on the clock and being able to show the young players on our team the way that we need to play when those games are tighter.

"That's how we got over the line at the very end, a bit of maturity, calmness and finding a way to grind it out."

Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke said he had faith his players wouldn't dwell on their 0-2 start to the season.

"We're just switching off at certain times, not capitalising when we do have a good bit of play," Burke said.

"What we're going to do is just really focus on coming out against Melbourne and taking a game to that level that we can play - so not going over and above, you know, doing anything superhuman."

Hawthorn will next travel to face Fremantle while the Western Bulldogs visit premiership favourites Melbourne at home.