Essendon VFLW has suffered an 18-point defeat to the Southern Saints in its season opener and first official game at the NEC Hangar.

The Bombers fought back in the second half after a slow start, but couldn’t overturn a 30-point half-time deficit in the 4.5 (29) to 7.5 (47) loss.

After no football since the 2019 season, excitement and intensity levels were high throughout the first quarter, with the Saints having to fight hard to score the first major for the day.

The Bombers, led by new captain Georgia Nanscawen and vice-captain Courtney Ugle, challenged the Saints across the ground but struggled to capitalise in front of goals.

The Saints came out firing after the first break, kicking a quick four unanswered goals to leave the Bombers goalless at the main break.

Cecilia McIntosh was vital throughout the first half, throwing herself into contests and applying much needed pressure on the Saints.

Cecilia McIntosh did her best to fire up the Bombers. (Photo: Celie Hay)

After a stirring half-time address from coach Brendan Major, the Bombers ran out with a change of mindset and were lively early.

They hit the board quickly with forward Alex Quigley scoring two majors within minutes of one another.

The team maintained consistent intensity and pressure throughout the third term to keep the Saints scoreless, with Alex Morcom strong across the backline and Kendra Heil supporting Nanscawen in midfield.

A fourth-quarter position change from midfield to forward for Alana Barba resulted in the Bombers’ third goal of the day, with McIntosh hitting the scoreboard shortly after.

Alana Barba (middle) celebrates her fourth-quarter goal. (Photo: Celie Hay)

But the Saints quickly replied with two late final-quarter goals to seal the 18-point win.

Nanscawen was disappointed in her side’s first half, but said there were plenty of positives to come out of the game.

“It’s disappointing to not get off to a great start. Throughout the first half, we were really on the back foot, and as a result we dropped our heads a bit too much,” Nanscawen said.

“In the second half, we were a lot more proactive and played the game on our terms a bit more. There certainly were lots of encouraging signs, but we need to tidy up that (attitude) as it wasn’t a great course to drop our heads, so we need to be better with that.”

Nanscawen attributed the strong second half to a change in attitude and the increase of pressure applied to the Saints.

“In the second half, we had the confidence that we could play our game and we were a lot more proactive, particularly around the stoppages,” she said.

“In the first half, we didn’t man up very well, so we really tidied that up and played the game more on our terms.”

Nanscawen said she was “incredibly excited” to see the future of women’s football after the NEC Hangar hosted its first VFLW game today, with the players using their new facilities for the first time.

“We are very lucky to have these facilities and we can feel very proud that when people come here that they can marvel at what we have. I certainly feel very proud to be a part of a historic day to play the first official match here," she said.

“I can’t wait to hopefully sing the song here in not too long a time."

The VFLW Bombers will now look forward to round two against Casey Demons at Casey Fields at 1pm on Saturday, March 6.

Essendon 0.2 0.4 2.4 4.5 (29)
Southern Saints 1.2 5.4 5.4 7.5 (47)

Goals: Quigley 2, Barba, McIntosh

Best: Ugle, McIntosh, Frew, Barba, Heil, Morcom