Essendon has enjoyed some relief from a self-inflicted month from hell through a Maddy Prespakis-inspired 26-point win over Hawthorn in both clubs’ AFLW debuts.

But on a dirty night for Hawthorn, Hawks key forward Sarah Perkins had a special moment late in the third quarter.

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Grieving the loss of her late aunt, Perkins looked to the sky and made a love heart sign with her fingers after snapping a brilliant goal from 25 metres out.

The goal brought the Hawks – Perkins’ fourth AFLW club – back within five points of the Bombers as the game looked set for a close finish.

Sarah Perkins looks to the sky in honour of her late aunty. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Sarah Perkins celebrates with teammates. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

But the Bombers’ board upheaval and drama in their men’s program didn’t seem to distract their women’s team as they kicked away in the last quarter to mark their first appearance in the expanded 18-team competition with a 7.11 (53) to 4.3 (27) win at Marvel Stadium.

“It’s terrific for the broader club to have today to look forward to and there was real excitement across the week,” Bombers coach Natalie Wood said.

“To give our staff that, and our supporter base, was a real positive.”

A crowd of 12,092 on Saturday night justified the round-one fixture being moved from Port Melbourne’s smaller ETU Stadium after a campaign led by Hawks coach Bec Goddard.

Fans were treated to an entertaining contest as marquee recruit Prespakis led the Bombers’ midfield with 26 disposals and six clearances and put the icing on the cake with a late goal.

Essendon kicked the final four majors and kept their opponents scoreless in the last quarter after Hawthorn had briefly hit the front midway through the third term.

A childhood dream comes true for Maddy Prespakis.

A childhood dream comes true for Maddy Prespakis.
Madison Prespakis was dominant for the Bombers. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Prespakis’ performance came despite a corked left thigh that stopped her from training for a fortnight before the match.

“She was still touch and go (the day before the game) and passed a fitness test, and I thought her four-quarter effort was outstanding,” Wood said.

“To see her really going into the contest late in the fourth and helping really set the scene on our contested possession was fantastic.”

Bombers co-captain Bonnie Toogood (two goals) starred in the attack and debutante Paige Scott (16 disposals, one goal) was important, while Jacqui Vogt and Danielle Marshall anchored the backline well.

Top draft pick Jasmine Fleming (11 disposals) shone on debut for the Hawks, who were plucky but lacked Essendon’s spread of contributors.

Tamara Smith (14 disposals, six clearances), Tilly Lucas-Rodd (16, five) and Zoe Barbakos (two) also did well.

The Hawks fielded a dozen debutantes, with Goddard conceding the inexperience told in the final term.

“For three quarters it was neck and neck, and we felt that our pressure was really at the level that we wanted it to be,” Goddard said.

“It hadn’t been in the practice matches but it went to a new level tonight.

“That’s great and it’s part of progress but in the fourth quarter we went into some habits that we don’t want to see.”

Goddard drew a literal line in the sand in the change room pre-match in a bid to inspire her side, invoking the spirit of the Essendon-Hawthorn rivalry with a reference to the infamous 2004 AFL contest.

The Bombers kicked the opening goal through Jess Wuetschner’s neat left-foot snap after five minutes but didn’t have things all their own way in a feisty encounter that featured a quarter-time melee.

There was an emotional moment for Sophie Locke when she converted a free kick at the top of the goal square to give Hawthorn their first major.

Locke, who lost her mother to cancer earlier this month, kissed her black armband and pointed to the skies after the historic moment.

With AAP

Bonnie Toogood speaks about the Bombers’ first ever win.

Bonnie Toogood speaks about the Bombers’ first ever win.