It wasn’t quite the sell-out that was billed, but the clash between Fremantle and Collingwood lived up to the hype.
In a week that saw the AFLW spin from controversy to controversy, the Pies and Dockers put on a ripping game of hard footy that satisfied all of the 41,000+ fans in attendance at the new Optus Stadium.
Fremantle fell behind early but clawed their way back into it by quarter time. Once they took the lead, were never headed, running out winners by 13 points. Final scores were Fremantle 6.4.40 to Collingwood 4.3.27
While it was a great win for the Dockers, particularly after a less-than-stellar outing in week one, we like to focus on things inside the game; things that warrant a little more attention than they may otherwise get.
Was Chloe Molloy targeted by the Dockers?
Molloy is a star in the making. Currently playing off half back for the Magpies, she shows the kind of poise and decision making skills that others in the league seem to be lacking at times. In just her second game as a Magpie, the Dockers tested her out.
Molloy found herself on the receiving end of a couple of late bumps, and may have been involved in an off-the-ball incident, as she was left doubled over in pain at one point. She continued playing, executing a Dustin Martin-like ‘Don’t Argue’ in the second quarter which would bring a smile to the faces of even the most skeptical fans.
For every knock she took, Molloy got up and kept delivering. Though she went out of the game in the last quarter, her first three were of a high standard. Anyone who questioned whether she’d be great at this level will question no more.
Dana Hooker was far and away the best player on the ground
Hooker’s run and ability to get to contest after contest made her the standout for Freo. She put the icing on the Dockers’ first win of the season with a wonderful snap goal early in the last quarter to put the game out of reach for the Pies.
Collecting 20 touches, seven tackles and adding two goals to her name, she stamped her mark on this contest, and would seemingly find a way to extract herself from sticky situations to propel her team forward.
Christina Bernardi squandered chances
I’ll give her some credit first – at points during this contest, she was the only Magpie who looked like scoring. She did slot two goals, but there were times in this game she almost made me tear my hair out in frustration.
Bernardi ruled the air in consecutive contests at one point, only to fire the ball directly to an opposition player, allowing them to reload and launch into their forward line. You’d think after doing it once, you’d be a little more careful, but no... that's not her style. Maybe she is of the school of thought that theorizes that it may not have worked last time, but it just might work this time! I’m pretty sure no great philosopher came up with that one. I may have made it up myself, which means that is definitely not steeped in wisdom.
Overrunning the ball as it dribbled into the fifty, trying a soccer off the ground from the edge of the square and hitting the post after spraying the initial kick into attack – Bernardi had the chance to really make a difference tonight. She had a chance to be THE difference, but if you look at the stat sheet, you’ll see reflected a player that did OK. She bagged a couple of goals, took a couple of nice marks, and was involved in quite a bit. However, she could’ve been the player on everyone’s lips. She could've been the match winner.
I love a bit of the rough stuff. Don’t let it get around, but I do. There was plenty of feeling in this game, and it spilled over into every tackle, every bump and every contest. Words were exchanged, players would give their opponents a little extra push after executing a tackle, and if the chance came to inflict a bit of pain, it was gladly accepted. The crowd felt it, too. They felt the tension and it added to the atmosphere.
Freo ruck, Alicia Janz did not get much of the ball, but managed to lay a ripping hip and shoulder on the wing in the third quarter, flattening an unsuspecting Magpie.
Then there was the tackling. It’s actually been one of the highlights of most AFLW games this season. This game was no exception. Good, hard tackling, and free kicks to the players executing those tackles is just the kind of footy I like to see.
Ebony Antonio standing up in defence.
The Docker defender was a star tonight. Her stats of 15 touches and three marks do not do her justice at all. She withstood the early Collingwood onslaught and when the heat was on she was as cool as a very cool cucumber. All three of her marks were timely, and she seemed to buy herself time at points and display some solid judgment when clearing the ball.
While she was not prolific, it seemed that every time the Pies started to look dangerous, you'd hear her name called, and the danger would pass.
A New Record
Topping 41,000 makes the Fremantle-Collingwood clash the highest-attended stand-alone women’s match in history. Luckily, the game itself was worthy of it. There were no terrible, repeated skill errors as we found in games last week. Players took grabs, were pretty good at ground level, and put on a spectacle worthy of such an event. While it was nowhere near the perfect game of football, it was an entertaining, well-contested match.
The AFL memo that went out during the week may have made the strong suggestion to open the game up and play free-flowing footy, but I am not sure these two teams needed it. They were determined to play footy their way. That's what they did, and it was excellent.