Sabrina Frederick-Traub stamps her mark on the AFLW in 2018

In a game that was of a much higher standard than the season-opener, Brisbane ran out winners by 12 points over the reigning premiers. The Crows went in without their star, Erin Phillips who was a late withdrawal due to a quad injury. They missed her presence dearly. Partner in crime, Chelsea Randall was moved into the midfield and did all she could to fill the void. She was ably backed up by Ebony Marinoff, but they were unable to hold off the Lions, who despite a slump in the second quarter, were the better side on the night.

Brisbane got solid contributions from Jamie Stanton in the middle and Emily Bates repelling attacks, who both collected plenty of the ball. Leah Kaslar was a standout in the back half, rendering Sarah Perkins ineffective and holding her to just one disposal for the entire game. Captain Emma Zielke, now fully recovered from a punctured lung incurred during the State of Origin game, was also strong, but it was the performance of their young ruck-forward that was most impressive.

Had she kicked accurately, the football world would be lauding the overall dominance of Brisbane forward, Sabrina Frederick-Traub, but even with a return of no goals and three behinds for the evening, her influence on the Grand Final rematch cannot be downplayed.

With the departure of Tayla Harris to Carlton opening up space for her, Frederick-Traub now seems to have the forward line to herself as the main marking option. Standing head and shoulders above many of her opponents, she used her strength to completely outpoint the Adelaide defenders all game, whether her teammates were looking for her, or if she managed to get on the end of a bailout kick.

Two weeks ago on The Mongrel Punt, we wrote about a classic duel between Peter Knights and Paul Vander Haar, where both men flew for every mark they could grab. The result was 16 contested marks between them. Many people lamented the days of one-on-one duels and contested marking falling by the wayside. Whilst this was a far cry from the two blondes battling each other for aerial supremacy, Frederick-Traub brought back a little taste of the dominant contested marking forward in 2018. It was a welcome sight.

To put her night in perspective, we only need look at recent history. In both the male and female forms of the game, only one player had more contested marks than Sabrina in a game last season – Sydney’s Callum Sinclair had eight contested grabs against St Kilda in Round 18 2017. The next best were the Dockers’ Matthew Taberner and Sydney’s Sam Reid pulling in seven apiece.

That’s how good Frederick-Traub was tonight. Of her ten marks, seven of them were contested. Yes, her kicking let her down, and could’ve let her team down had the scores been a little closer, but her aerial work, her body work, and her ability to present as a reliable target made her the most important player on the ground. Often you hear people speak about the types of players that are able to “straighten up” a team and get them to go long and direct. Frederick-Traub is becoming that kind of player for Brisbane.

It was Sabrina’s mark, turn and long, quick kick into the forward line that gave Kaitlyn Ashmore the opportunity to mark on her chest and seal the game for the Lions. The emotion on their faces, and the gusto with which they belted out their team song in victory left no doubt how much the win meant to Brisbane.

Frederick-Traub may not have another game like that again this season. In Round One, we may have seen the best she has to offer. A couple of quiet weeks and the naysayers will gain momentum, talking up her weaknesses whilst talking down her strengths. It’s the way of things in professional sports, but at just 21 years of age, big things are expected from Sabrina over the next few years, and based on her efforts this weekend, you’d be foolish to bet against her.

Though she still appears to lope after tge ball rather than sprint, her fitness levels, and second efforts are now better. She now looks completely comfortable mixing it up with the best of the best, not only in the air, but on the ground as the ball spills – not that it did much when it went near her this week. Her strength and sheer size make her an imposing match up for any of the AFLW’s defenders, and as she gains confidence, the headaches for opposition coaches will grow.

It’s only one game, and a week is a long time in football, but the Brisbane coaching crew must have been smiling as they watched Frederick-Traub take the game by the scruff of the neck tonight.

“It’s absolutely enormous that you can plonk the ball on your key forward’s head and she can contest like that,” said Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich of Frederick-Traub’s performance.

The strong, contested marking forward is back. And she’s awesome.

 

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