In a phenomenal debut AFLW season Caitlin Greiser led the league in goalkicking

St Kilda full-forward Caitlin Greiser was one of the revelations of the 2020 AFLW season, kicking multiple goals in four of her last five games of the season including a personal and club record of three goals against Richmond in Round 6. In her debut AFLW season playing for expansion club St Kilda Greiser was phenomenal, leading the league for goals during the home and away season with 10, finishing one goal ahead of Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth and Fremantle’s Sabreena Duffy.

Greiser had been given the nickname of ‘G-Train’ long before she made her AFLW debut however it seems fitting that she shares this nickname with a former St Kilda full-forward in Fraser Gehrig who won the AFL’s Coleman Medal in 2004 and 2005. During the 2020 AFLW season Greiser emerged as a ‘cult-hero’, was one of her club’s best players and delivered one of the moments of the season. With eight minutes remaining in St Kilda’s Round 3 Friday night game against Melbourne at RSEA Park in Moorabbin Greiser overcame a high degree of difficulty to kick a set-shot goal from 52 metres out, close to the boundary line, the goal gave the Saints a five point lead and ultimately propelled the club to their first ever AFLW victory in one of the league’s biggest ever upsets.

Greiser who made her AFLW debut for the Saints in Round 1 this season, days before her 21st birthday has spent much of her sporting career playing close to goal and has been adept at having an impact on the scoreboard, initially as a soccer player and from 2018 onwards playing Australian Rules Football.

Caitlin Greiser was born on 17 February 1999 and whilst she enjoyed having a kick of the Australian Rules footy, in terms of playing sport in a formal competition concentrated on playing soccer as a junior. Greiser rose through the ranks and as a teenager played soccer for South Melbourne in the Women’s National Premier League and thrived playing as a striker, scoring 28 goals in 2016 to lead her club in this category. Greiser’s personal best was scoring eight goals for South Melbourne in a single game. In May 2019 Caitlin commented to saints.com.au on the change from soccer to Australian Rules Football “When I was younger I had always wanted to play footy, but there was no pathway for the girls. I ended up playing soccer because Mum didn’t want me to play with the boys. I loved it but after 10 years I think I needed a change. I was meant to go to America and play college soccer but I decided to stay mainly because I am really close to my family. I have always loved footy, so I wanted to give footy a go and I have been loving it.”1 Eight American colleges offered Caitlin a scholarship to play soccer so it would have been easy for her to continue down that path.

During 2018 Greiser played eight games of Australian Rules football for the Western Jets in the girls Under 18 TAC Cup from March to May, kicking multiple goals twice with a season best of four goals against the Eastern Ranges. During 2018 Caitlin played her first Australian Rules football games at senior level, representing Melbourne Uni in the VAFA, after kicking 10 goals in her first four games she was promoted to the club’s VFLW side. Greiser played 10 VFLW games with Melbourne Uni in 2018, averaging 6.4 kicks, 1.3 handballs, 1.1 marks and 1.3 goals per game.

After the AFLW commenced with eight clubs in 2017 the St Kilda Saints were provided with a provisional license in 2018 and were one of four expansion clubs that joined the league in 2020 along with Richmond, Gold Coast and West Coast expanding the league to 14 clubs after Geelong and North Melbourne entered the AFLW in 2019.  Greiser joined the Southern Saints for the 2019 VFLW season and began training with the club at RSEA Park in November 2018.

Early in the 2019 season Greiser spoke to saints.com.au about the areas of the game she was working on, commenting “I want to work on my fitness definitely. So I am trying to do that at training and working a bit harder to get my fitness level up and also my strength. I’m trying to strengthen up my body and I have been doing and bit of touch on Monday’s as well as getting some kicking in and some bodywork. That’s my main focus for now.”2

During the 2019 VFL season the Southern Saints frequently played with three key forwards in Greiser (179 centimetres tall), Kate Shierlaw (182 cm) and Courtney Munn (182 cm) which stretched opposition defences. The ability of this trio to work effectively together was a key reason for the Southern Saints success in 2019, with the club recording 11 wins and three losses during the 2019 VFLW home and away season to finish in second position behind Collingwood who had 12 wins and ahead of the Western Bulldogs in third place with 11 wins.

Greiser finished third in the 2019 VFLW goal kicking award and in August it was announced that she had joined St Kilda’s inaugural AFLW list as an open-age signing, other players recruited by the Saints in this manner included fellow key forward Shierlaw and midfielder Olivia Vesely.

In a 17 point semi final victory against her former club Melbourne Uni Greiser was one of the best players, kicking a game-high four goals to be the only Saint to kick multiple goals. In the preliminary final against Collingwood on Sunday September 15 Greiser kicked one goal in the 14 point loss. The following week Collingwood defeated the Western Bulldogs by 37 points in the Grand Final.

During 2019 Greiser played all 17 VFLW games for the Southern Saints, averaging 7.4 kicks, 1.2 handballs, 2.8 marks and 1.3 goals per game. Greiser was named at full-forward in the 2019 VFLW team of the year and was joined by two of her Southern Saints team-mates in the team – Tilly Lucas-Rodd in the back pocket and Vesely on the interchange. The profile for Greiser in AFLW Prospectus 2020 said “Greiser has kicked 32 goals in the past two VFLW seasons – ranked second behind Collingwood’s Jamie Lambert. She led Southern Saints’ goalkicking last season, booting 22 goals, twice as many as any other player at the club.”3

During 2018 and 2019 in the VFLW the Southern Saints built a game-plan and familiarity amongst the playing group that could be implemented by head coach Peta Searle for the club’s inaugural AFLW season in 2020. St Kilda’s 30 player list for the 2020 season included 15 players with previous AFLW experience. Most of the players in this category represented the Southern Saints in the VFLW during 2019 whilst another seven players without AFLW experience including Greiser and Vesely were recruited from the Southern Saints. At the 2019 draft the Saints recruited three teenagers including Georgia Patrikios with pick 5 and recruited a trio of experienced players. St Kilda’s highest profile recruits from other AFLW clubs were Brisbane Lions duo, forward Kate McCarthy and midfielder Nat Exon. Entering the 2020 season St Kilda were considered to have an even well-balanced list across the field and would be well placed to improve in the next 2-3 seasons.

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Greiser made her AFLW debut for St Kilda on Sunday 9 February against the Western Bulldogs at RSEA Park in Moorabbin, eight days before her 21st birthday. In the first match for premiership points at Moorabbin since 1992 8,000 people attended which led to a lockout due to capacity being reached. On debut Greiser had six kicks, one mark and kicked one behind in the 25 point loss. In the first quarter the Saints conceded the opening three goals of the game but from that point onwards the game was relatively even with the Western Bulldogs outscoring the Saints three goals to two. A highlight was Molly McDonald playing on after receiving a pass from Patrikios and kicking the Saints first goal in the AFLW on the run from 25 metres out late in the first quarter.

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After not kicking a goal in her first AFLW game Greiser kicked multiple goals in four of her remaining five games of the season and kicked a single goal in the other game. From Round 2 to Round 6 Greiser was the outright highest goal scorer in a game three times and the equal highest goal scorer in the other two games, highlighting her ability to make an impact on the scoreboard.

For their first road trip St Kilda played the reigning premiers – the Adelaide Crows who were the dominant side in the AFLW during the first three seasons, winning premierships in 2017 and 2019. Half-way through the second quarter against Adelaide Nat Exon and Georgia Patrikios combined brilliantly with a chain of handballs through the midfield, from 53 metres out Patrikios passed to  Gresier who marked 10 metres out from goal, played on and kicked a goal to extend St Kilda’s lead to 14 points. In the third quarter Greiser received a handball from Rosie Dillon and kicked an open goal from seven metres out. Half-way through the last quarter the Saints led by six points when Saints defender Clara Fitzpatrick was stretchered off after a heavy collision in a marking contest. Late in the game Adelaide’s experience proved critical, outscoring St Kilda three goals to none in the final five minutes of the game to record a 13 point victory.

St Kilda were heavy underdogs for their Round 3 Friday night game at RSEA Park against Melbourne who were one of the premiership favourites. Greiser registered the first goal of the game, receiving a free-kick and kicking the goal from the top of the goal square. Greiser set-up the Saints second goal of the game, gathering the ball 50 metres out from goal whilst running away from goal, quickly turned and snapped the ball across her body to Darcy Guttridge who kicked an open goal to put St Kilda one point in front. With 8 minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the game and St Kilda trailing by a point Kate McCarthy kicked the ball inside 50 and Greiser took a one-handed mark with her left hand 45 metres from goal. From just outside 50 metres Gresier demonstrated tremendous composure, power and skill to kick the set-shot goal and give St Kilda a five point lead. It was the final score of the game, St Kilda recorded their first ever AFLW victory, kicking three goals, one behind to defeat an inaccurate Melbourne who kicked one goal and eight behinds. On her match-winning goal Gresier commented “I was a bit nervous [lining up for the winning goal]. I always practise at training, distance kicking … it’s been a bit tough [learning footy]. All the coaching staff and everyone around me has been supporting me so much, all the girls helping me learn new things. Learning different positions … around the ground is very tough and I have sort of got the hang of it now.”

Against Melbourne Greiser had 10 kicks, one handball, four marks, kicked two of St Kilda’s three goals, provided the assist for the other and polled a game-high seven votes out of a maximum 10 in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year award. For her match winning performance against Melbourne Greiser received a Rising Star nomination, being the second Saint nominated following Patrikios who received a nomination after a line-breaking game-high 18 disposals in Round 1. After the game Greiser spoke about her nickname of ‘G-Train’, commenting “It’s pretty special, to be honest. It’s really big at the club, so I want to make sure I live it on and play my best.”4

In Round 4 St Kilda hosted Fremantle who had won their first three games of the season. Very little separated the two sides all game, at the start of the third quarter Nicola Xenos kicked the ball deep into St Kilda’s forward line, after her opponent dropped the mark Greiser picked the ball up and kicked a goal from 12 metres out to put the Saints four points in front. Molly McDonald kicked a goal for the Saints early in the last quarter but later in the quarter conceded a 50 metre penalty which allowed Kate Flood to level the scores with just under two minutes remaining. The final score of the game was a behind to Fremantle forward Gemma Houghton resulting in a heart-breaking one point loss for St Kilda.

Greiser’s pressure inside forward 50 and skills resulted in her kicking the opening goal of the Round 5 Saturday night game against Carlton at Ikon Park. Caitlin spoilt an attempted pass to Carlton defender Vaomua Laloifi, run towards goal, received the handball from Nicola Zenos and kicked a right foot snap goal from a difficult angle to open the scoring. In the second quarter Rosie Dillon kicked the ball inside 50, it landed 25 metres out and Greiser grabbed it on the bounce, turned, ran towards goal and kicked a goal from 12 metres out being pursued by three opponents to reduce the margin to seven points with three and a half minutes remaining in the first half. St Kilda were outscored by Carlton four goals to one in the second half, being defeated by 21 points.

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During Round 6 St Kilda played fellow Victorian expansion club Richmond at Moorabbin, however due to the corona virus fans weren’t allowed to attend the game. After receiving a free kick for being held Greiser kicked the opening goal of the game from 15 metres out directly in front one minute and 15 seconds into the game. Later in the quarter Greiser took a strong overhead mark and kicked a set-shot goal from 30 metres out to register the second goal of the game. In the third quarter Greiser received another free-kick for being held and kicked the set-shot goal from 20 metres out, giving her a hat-trick of goals for the game and giving her the league lead for most goals kicked in 2020 with 10. St Kilda registered their highest score of the season, six goals, six behinds, and became the first side in AFLW history to keep an opponent goalless for an entire game, restricting Richmond to just three behinds to record a 39 point victory. Greiser finished the game with 11 kicks, three marks, four tackles, kicked a game-high three goals and received a game-high nine votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award.

Greiser was named the Round 6 Dare Sainter of the Round and after the game was asked by Saints.com.au “Now the last few rounds whenever you have kicked a goal there has been a huge cheer from the crowd, today not so much, how did it feel playing with no fans allowed in?” Caitlin responded “It was really different, a different thing for us but we worked with it and were so glad we had all the support from the fans at home, we got some messages on the wall in the changerooms which was really lovely and good to see. My family were devastated that they couldn’t come as well but I am glad they were at home watching and we were able to get the win on the board.”

As a result of the corona virus and the impact it was having on society including restrictions on inter-state travel the last two rounds of the AFLW home and away season were abandoned so St Kilda didn’t get to play their scheduled Round 7 and Round 8 away games against Collingwood and fellow expansion club West Coast. St Kilda finished fifth out of seven teams in Conference B with two wins and four losses, two wins behind Melbourne and Collingwood in third and fourth position respectively and one win ahead of the Western Bulldogs and West Coast in sixth and seventh position. In the abbreviated six Round season St Kilda had the equal most Rising Star nominations along with Carlton with three. The Saints third nominee was Vesely for an equal team-high 16 disposals and six tackles against Carlton in Round 5. St Kilda’s trio of Rising Star nominees in Greiser, Patrikios and Vesely are all among the club’s leading contenders for the best and fairest award.

During the 2020 AFLW season Greiser kicked 10 goals, five behinds to lead the league for goalkicking, finishing one goal ahead of Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth and Fremantle’s Sabreena Duffy, this trio were all under 21 years of age at the start of the season. Gresier is in contention for another goal kicking award with her match winning goal against Melbourne being one of the three nominations for goal of the year, voting for this award closes later today.

After the 2020 AFLW season concluded a squad of 31 players was named for the inaugural 22 under 22 NAB AFLW side. Greiser was one of two Saints named in the squad along with midfielder Georgia Patrikios. When appearing on the ‘Credit to the Girls’ podcast in late February Patrikios commented on Greiser “She’s a really exciting player. She hasn’t played for very long, but you can just tell she’s going to be a star. She’s really exciting to watch, even playing with her, she’s always a key target up forward and can kick the ball a long way, so it’s handy having the ball in her hands.”

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During 2020 Greiser played all six games for St Kilda, averaging 9.3 kicks, 0.3 handballs, 2.7 marks, 1.7 goals and 1.3 tackles per game. Greiser ranked third at St Kilda for total kicks with 56, behind fellow first years players and Rising Star nominees Georgia Patrikios (65) and Olivia Vesely (63), ranked equal second for marks behind Molly McDonald, easily led the club in goal kicking and also led the Saints for inside 50’s and score involvements. Greiser kicked 10 of St Kilda’s 24 goals in 2020, equating to 41.7% of the club’s goals. The second highest Saints goal kicker kicked two goals for the season, with four players on this tally – Darcy Guttridge, Molly McDonald, Jess Sedunary and co-captain Kate Shierlaw. Highlighting how dominant Greiser was in front of goal she kicked at least two goals in four of her six AFLW games in 2020.

In the womens.afl player of the year award Greiser polled six votes to finish equal seventh overall and first for the Saints, she was also the only St Kilda player included in the website’s AFLW team of the year, being named in the forward line. As well making an impact deep in the forward line Greiser was also damaging she she moved up the ground and delivered the ball inside 50. At the end of the home and away season Caitlin ranked equal 11th in the league for contested marks, equal 12th for inside 50’s and equal 16th for score involvements.

The official W Awards had been scheduled for 20 April which would have been the Monday after the Grand Final if the season was able to be completed as fixtured however due to COVID-19 the awards night has been cancelled. The AFL confirmed that awards such as the league best and fairest, All-Australian team and the Rising Star will be handed out but how this is facilitated is yet to be determined. As well as winning the medal for being the AFLW’s leading goal kicker Greiser is expected to feature prominently in the Rising Star votes and be named in the All-Australian team.

Given her VFLW form for the Southern Saints in 2019 Greiser was expected to be a valuable player for St Kilda during the 2020 AFLW season however no-one could have predicted the impression that Greiser would make in 2020 with her marking, the distance and accuracy of her kicking, ability to read the play and make an impact on the scoreboard, either by kicking goals herself or providing assists to her team-mates. In her debut AFLW season Caitlin ‘G-Train’ Greiser made an indelible mark and is set for a very exciting career.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 https://www.saints.com.au/news/103154/vflw-greiser-at-home-with-the-southern-saints

2 https://www.saints.com.au/news/103154/vflw-greiser-at-home-with-the-southern-saints

3 AFLW Prospectus 2020, page 158

4 https://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/aflw/st-kilda-scores-first-aflw-win-against-melbourne-after-caitlin-greiser-long-bomb/news-story/f3bfb572901557f2c30e8630262dd34f

5 https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/st-kilda-s-new-g-train-is-a-star-in-the-making-20200221-p5439u.html

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