The early fruits of a gruelling pre-season were on display as the Cats put in an encouraging performance in Saturday’s 23-point practice match win against Richmond.

With just three weeks to go until Round 1, it was a fitter, more confident Geelong that led from start to finish at the Swinburne Centre, with a host of new faces impressing in their first hitout in the Hoops as the Cats triumphed 6.12 (48) to 3.7 (25).

Veteran forward Phoebe McWilliams booted three majors, while fellow key forward Claudia Gunjaca showed good signs, but could not capitalise with a tricky breeze and a couple of goal attempts touched on the line.

Nina Morrison made a welcome return, while Kate Darby kicked a goal in her first game since 2020, after being upgraded to the Cats’ primary list earlier this month to replace Renee Garing.

The Cats took an eight-point lead into the first break, leading the tigers 18-10 after a sharpshooting start against the wind.

A tough tussle ensued in the second term, and while the Cats were unable to kick a major, they maintained their lead, chipping away on the scoreboard in tricky conditions.

The Cats pulled away in the second half, kicking 24-9, highlighting their improved ability to run out games.

Meghan McDonald assesses her options during the practice match against Richmond. Photo: Arj Giese

Pleasingly, the Cats produced 18 scoring shots and, while they would love a bit more accuracy in front of the big sticks in Round 1, it was an encouraging sign for a team that struggled in its forward 50 last season.

The tackling intensity was also notable, with the likes of Morrison, Darcy Moloney and new Cats Rachel Kearns and Georgie Prespakis laying some great tackles.

Nina’s Return

It was the sight that brought joy to supporters, teammates and coaches alike: Nina Morrison back where she belongs, in the thick of the action of an AFLW match.

21 months after her last competitive hitout, Morrison didn’t miss a beat as she threw herself into the contest at every opportunity.

Nina Morrison evades a tackle against Richmond in the Practice Match. Photo: Arj Giese

From crunching tackles and pressure acts, to winning the ball and setting up teammates for scoring opportunities, Morrison was in fine form.

There was a momentary scare through the Cats camp as she limped to the bench in the second half, but thankfully it was just a cramp in the hot conditions.

She will now turn her attention to preparing for her premiership season comeback in January.

Threebe McWilliams

Cats forward Phoebe McWilliams proved a valuable focal point for the Cats, making the most of her opportunities with three majors against the Tigers.

McWilliams was quick to get on the board, converting a free kick in the goal square into an easy goal for the first score of the game.

Phoebe McWilliams and Chloe Scheer celebrate a goal against Richmond in Saturday's Practice Match. Photo: AFL Photos

Her second came later in the opening term – another from the goal square as McWilliams fought through heavy traffic and got boot to ball.

McWilliams was clearly enjoying the MCG end of the ground, kicking her third goal there in the third term from a set shot 30m out in front.

Nine New Faces

All nine new Cats enjoyed some game time against the Tigers on Saturday. Former Crow Chloe Scheer slotted in up forward, while former Dee Chantel Emonson brought the pressure, including laying a couple of valuable smothers.

Liv Fuller worked in tandem in the ruck with Rene Caris, while Annabel Johnson carried on her good form from the VFLW season, reading the ball well and committing to the contest.

Liv Fuller flies for a ruck contest in Saturday's Practice Match. Photo: AFL Photos

Claudia Gunjaca created a few good opportunities up forward, while Zali Friswell showed at times her prowess as an outside midfielder and Gabbi Featherston was composed in defence.

Rachel Kearns was clearly enjoying the physicality of Aussie Rules, laying some strong tackles and fiercely attacking the contest in her first competitive hitout in her new sport.

Number 2 draft pick Georgie Prespakis slotted seamlessly into the midfield, laying tackles, applying pressure and winning the ball – all while donning her trademark long sleeves, despite a weather forecast in the mid-thirties.

Georgie Prespakis gets a kick away against Richmond in the Practice Match. Photo: Arj Giese

The Cats will now go on a mini-break over Christmas, before returning in late December as preparations for Round 1 ramp up.

The Cats kick off their season against North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos at Arden Street on January 8.

Practice Match v Richmond

Richmond: 1.4, 2.4, 3.6, 3.7 (25)
3.0, 3.6, 5.8, 6.12 (48)

Geelong Goals:
Phoebe McWilliams 3, Kate Darby, Jordi Ivey, Danielle Higgins.