AFLW Friday - Lightning Strikes Twice

This time last week we sat and watched Collingwood and Carlton fumble their way through the season opener of the AFLW season. After a week of turmoil that saw fans lamenting the quality of the football they were seeing, media commentators questioning whether the competition could keep people interested, and the AFL stepping in to attempt to arrest the trend of low scores across the first round, we expected a bit more of a free-flowing game.

Sadly, Mother Nature didn’t get the AFL memo. More to the point, she showed up at the game unannounced and proceeded to trash it. She didn't just invite herself to the party - she'd been out for pre-drinks a few hours earlier. The Blues won 3.12.30 to the Giants 1.3.9 in wet conditions. 

Thunder, lightning and rain were the main take-aways from the game at Drummoyne Oval. As the game stopped for quarter time, the broadcast feed went out. When it finally came back on, the commentators were relocating to the boundary (sadly, I could still hear Kate Sheahan after a little while) and the second quarter was ready to start, fifteen minutes later than scheduled.

All talk was about the conditions and how they were affecting play until Carlton Captain, Brianna Davey, went down with what looked to be a serious knee/leg injury. The girls around her knew immediately that something was up, and you could see by the reaction of players on both teams that they were aware the injury was serious.

Up until the point she was stretchered off the ground, Davey was leading the Blues in disposals, and finished the game on top in the department. This should give you an indication as to her influence on the game until that point. In wet, wild weather, she still found a way to get her hands on the pill and was a steadying presence for her team.

Tayla Harris had nine touches and only three marks (still good enough to be equal game-high), but in the conditions, looked very much a star. Her presence at contests, and her bone crunching tackle on the siren that left both Nicola Barr, and herself laying on the turf were a couple of highlights in what was a game the league won’t want to showcase. Harris seemed to be nursing a sore shoulder as she walked off the crowd after signing the Carlton theme song with her teammates.

Darcy Vescio kicked her first goal of the year, and should’ve finished with three, missing a very get-able set shot, and botching a dribble goal in the last quarter. Vescio has garnered a lot of media attention after leading the competition in goals last season, but has not been able to break the shackles so far this year. She seems to be getting very close attention at every contest, and the umpires now look to be seeking her out for free kicks. Two of her shots at goal tonight came from frees. I still don't know what one was for.

Amanda Farrugia looked at home across half back later in the game for the Giants, but her disposal let her down. At one point her ball drop was so haphazard that it was lucky to make contact with her foot. It went almost directly to the oposition. She positions herself well across half back and really started to look comfortable in cutting off attacks, but handballing to a runner may be a better option for her, particularly in adverse conditions.

Alicia Eva was the other standout for the Giants in what was a very forgettable overall effort. Her nine tackles were second only to Sarah Hosking’s ridiculous 16 tackles for Carlton. Eva added 17 disposals to be the highest ball winner on the ground.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Blues got the points. Whilst Carlton fans were happy, the low scoring will once again feed the narrative of those wanting to shoot down the league. Truth be told, even in poor conditions, one goal for the game is not something anyone wants to see from a team. A combined total of four goals is what you’d expect normally in a quarter – not in a game. Granted, these were atrocious conditions and they must be taken into account when discussing the game and the score line. When a game is stopped due to lightning, you know you’re in for a messy encounter, but there are those waiting to use this score line to further their arguments.

Maybe you have to ask – do they have a point? Luckily, not in this case.

A couple of shots on goal went perilously close to sneaking in, but grazed the post on the way through. Vescio’s misses and a set shot from Farrugia should’ve been converted. A diving lunge robbed Tayla Harris of a goal too. In those conditions, but for the bounce of the ball, we could’ve had a six or seven goal to three or four goal game, which would’ve ticked the boxes the league wanted. It didn’t play out that way.

Currently, it’s easy to liken AFLW games in perfect conditions to men’s wet weather football. There are a little too many fumbles and it is a little too messy. There’s also a little too much of throwing it on the boot and hoping for the best. But if I am likening AFLW footy in good conditions to men’s wet weather footy, what would I liken tonight to? I’m not sure I’ve seen something like that before. Not at the highest level, at least.

Carlton have limped away with a win to set themselves up nicely going forward. With two wins from two starts, they will now be eyeing off a top two finish. GWS, on the other hand are now staring straight down the barrel. With two losses from their first two games, it’d take something special to turn their season around.

Two questions come out of tonight’s win for Carlton. What is the true cost of tonight’s win, and how hard will any injuries hurt them? Davey’s leadership and poise will be sorely missed. If Harris’ injury is something that will hamper her, the Blues lose their best inside fifty marking target. Combine that with the loss of Davey and they’d be missing two of the pillars that are essential to the construction of their season. The loss of one star would be hard to cover. The loss of two would be close to impossible.

Carlton will already be planning for next week, and the rest of this season without their captain, but the shoulder of Tayla Harris will be getting plenty of attention tonight as well. For the Blues to challenge this season, Harris' fitness is a must.

Get well soon, Brianna Davey.