DAISY Pearce has had her first competitive hit-out since 2018, playing a prominent part in Melbourne’s practice-match win over Collingwood.
The skipper, who led the Demons to the 14-point victory, featured up until three-quarter time at Olympic Park Oval.
Having sat out last season due to giving birth to her twins, there was much anticipation about the 31-year-old’s return.
But senior coach Mick Stinear was both thrilled and impressed with her efforts.
“She sees the game really well, has got great awareness around her and is a good ball user,” Stinear told Melbourne Media.
“We’re rapt to have her back, not just as a player but as a captain of our club.
“We’re looking forward to the season starting and her leading the way.”
While Pearce managed to get through the game unscathed, there were concerns for four other Demons on the injury front.
Lily Mithen and Ainslie Kemp both had their days cut short due to ankle concerns, while Maddy Guerin came from the ground with a calf complaint.
Aliesha Newman was also forced to the bench in the final quarter after hitting her head on the ground in a tackle.
But with two weeks remaining until Round 1 of the 2020 NAB AFL Women’s season, Stinear was confident all will pull up well.
“There were a couple of little injuries, but I think everyone’s looking pretty good at this stage – there’s nothing serious there,” he said.
“Ainslie Kemp is probably at the nastier end just with an ankle roll, but fingers crossed it’s not too bad.
“The other girls will be fine.”
After a tight tussle early on, Melbourne quickly managed to gain control of the game and built on its lead throughout the morning.
First-half goals to Kemp and Casey Sherriff were soon followed up by a confident display after the main break, with Shelley Heath, Tyla Hanks, Harriett Cordner and Shelley Scott all registering majors.
“The first quarter was a grind – both teams were pretty relentless around the ball and it didn’t really open up until the second half,” Stinear said.
“I thought the girls did well just finding their way through the game.
“Defensively, we were far better than what we’ve been in previous seasons, so that’s exciting for the team.
“There are some areas we can sharpen up on in the next two couple weeks, and the girls will be ready for round one.”
Melbourne took 24 players into the match, including all of the club’s draftees and off-season recruits.
And with plenty of young Demon talent on display, Stinear was happy with what he saw.
“We were in a good position to give everyone an opportunity,” Stinear said.
“The girls did a great job and it was a good reflection of how we want to play.”
The Demons will open their 2020 campaign at Casey Fields on Saturday 8 February, in a clash against North Melbourne.