And so, with two rounds in the books, and the AFLW conference system looking both completely unnecessary and utterly ridiculous, I decided to cast my eye over several games this weekend with an open mind, to see what the woman could conjure.
What I was met with was a mixed bag.
Right off the bat, it’s important to state that I watched the games on delay, as I reckon it’s unfair on the family for my time to be dominated by footy all year round, so I pick my spots and watch games when it’s a little less disruptive to the wants and needs of others in my life. Sorry Mongrel Punters – at this time of year you come second to those who put up with me on a full time basis.
But we’ll be back together soon enough, I promise.
I caught the score of the Melbourne v Collingwood game and immediately decided to focus elsewhere. Seriously, if not for the late goal from Sarah Dargan, we would’ve seen a goalless game from the Pies. That seriously is not worth my time or effort to cover.
Moving right along…
NORTH MELBOURNE V GWS
Thunder storms, lightning strikes, and a woman named Kate Gillespie-Jones who is as impressive a physical specimen in woman’s football as I’ve seen. Already my missus’ favourite player (because she thought her full name was Gillespie Jones and still prefers to call her that), I started to take notice of her this week – she is a tank!
Hours upon hours of work have gone into strength training for Gillespie-Jones, and it shows. She is a beast, and should be proud of the condition she has worked to get herself into. It’s obviously reaped the desired rewards when she’s confronted with a one-on-one contest. Not many women will be moving her out of the way easily.
I was interested in the McKinnon v King ruck duel, but with King sneaking forward to snag two goals, she gets the chocolates in the battle for former All-Australian rucks.
Loved the way Ash Riddell started, and my heart sank when she was helped off the ground. I suppose if there is a silver lining to this, it’s that she did an ankle, and not an ACL. Her attack on the ball, and control of the pill in the slippery conditions was a cut above everyone else on the ground in the first quarter. Skills like that in less than ideal conditions endear her greatly to The Mongrel, and I hope she makes a speedy recovery.
In my book, she was in the running to be adjudged one of the best on ground for the second week in a row before her injury.
I really don’t get the big wraps on Christina Bernardi. I think she knows how to play the game, but I also think her brain works a little too fast for her skills to catch up. She has the right idea, and you can see what she’s trying to do, but too often she brings herself undone with an attempt to do something a little beyond her. I watched her play a few games with the Pies last year and thought the same thing. K.I.S.S.
Bernardi finished with 0.3 but also wasted a couple of opportunities where a shot at goal beckoned and didn’t eventuate due to her actions, or inactions.
Jasmine Garner is a star. She always looks dangerous, and in a game that is often chaotic, she seems calm and in control at all times. Her hands are fantastic, and her second efforts make her stand out. She could easily be the best player in a premiership team.
I can’t remember who was commentating, but the dude really went for the low hanging fruit when he uttered “Mo… no hope this time.” Seriously, he had time to think about a line like this and STILL opted to use it.
Liked the game of Jess Dal Pos. She had a habit of bobbing up and breaking up plays just when it seemed North were getting right on top. She was a little wasteful, but in those conditions, I reckon I’d struggle as well.
It will be interesting to see if Kaitlin Ashmore is pinged for a dangerous tackle against Amanda Farrugia. Given last season’s interpretations, it wouldn’t surprise me to see her with a case to answer. Then again, I reckon half the dangerous tackles that are penalised aren’t even dangerous, so maybe I’m a bad judge.
I thought that the umps were pretty hot on holding the ball decisions in this one, particularly given the wet conditions. At times players seemed to have a split second to dispose of it before the whistle blew and a free kick was awarded against them. I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of the game.
Cora Staunton would have to be a bit of a cult figure, wouldn’t she? I don’t think she’ll ever die wondering if there is a chance to play on and make something happen. She got caught a couple of times in this game, but her willingness to take the game on is refreshing.
The boundary rider, Kath Loughnan was really orange-ing it up out there at three quarter time. Looked as though she spilled a bottle of fake tan all over herself.
Emma Kearney – she just keeps powering on. She led the game in disposals, but I don’t think she was as damaging as she should’ve been. Really came into it in the last quarter and a half, but up until then, I wasn’t sure that she was as effective with the ball as she would’ve liked. She was still clearly amongst the best on the park, but I’d like to see her hit some more targets by foot.
That said, her step inside and long ball to set up Garner's first quarter goal was a bit in hope, but it was a great hit in hope. Sometimes, it just works.
Looking at trends, North move the ball really well when allowed space. They do something that teams have been unable to do at times in AFLW, and that’s hit leading targets without breaking stride.
That said, there is still way too much “hit and hope” kind of kicks coming out of defence for both teams. The amount of intercept marks or possessions across the centre line are remarkable.
I’m really impressed over the first couple of weeks with the efforts of both Garner and Gilliespie-Jones. Riddell is my favourite Kangaroo to watch, and I hope she gets back quickly.
For the Giants, Rebecca Beeson is the other one who stood out amongst her teammates. She’s made a bit of a leap in performance, and is +7 in disposals this year.
Righto, onto the next one
WESTERN BULLDOGS V GEELONG
After a nail-biter in Round One (that I didn’t watch, admittedly), Geelong were rocked with the news that Nina Morrison had injured her ACL at training. She was arguably the best in their first-up win, so her loss was significant.
Add to this the absence of Mongrel favourite, Richelle Cranston, and the Cats were up against it in taking on the reigning premiers.
I watched a bit of Phoebe McWilliams last season, and she struck me as a frustrating kind of player. Inasmuch as she would threaten to make a difference in a game, but she’d never quite get there. This was probably the best I’ve seen her look over the course of an entire game. She was unlucky not to be rewarded with a holding the ball free kick in the first quarter, which could’ve given the Cats the first two goal of the game.
The Dogs enjoy switching play, and actually pulled it off successfully several times. I am not being a dick about it – with less penetration on their kicks, moving the ball across the ground to open up space is a slower process in the women’s game, and it often comes undone. To see the Dogs do it well… it’s encouraging, and if they can start doing it a little quicker, we could very well see Brennan get some legitimate one-on-one encounters inside forward 50.
The Dogs really worked the second quarter to their advantage kicking with the wind and slammed home three goals in what felt like five minutes of actual time (not clock time). Ellie Blackburn’s goal from 50 was the highlight, after receiving a free kick for a beautiful tackle.
Probably the best I’ve seen Katie Brennan look in the air. She had four contested marks on the day, and was great at using her body to hold her opponent off, then her strength to get separation to mark. She got a lot of plaudits for her two goals last week, but I think this was a much better overall game for her.
There was an amazing piece of play featuring Lauren Spark, where she was able to cover both Phoebe McWilliams and Kate Darby inside defensive 50. Why McWilliams and Darby were unable to work cohesively enough to manufacture some space between them and capitalise on the 2-1 advantage, I’ll never know. But credit has to go to Spark, who played the confused Cats perfectly, and was able outmark McWilliams cleanly when the kick came her way.
A few nice taps in the ruck from Erin Hoare, but geez, you don’t wanna see her having to pick the ball up off the deck too often. It’s like she has no knee joints! Her inability to get down to pick the ball up at ground level afforded Ash McCarthy her first goal in AFLW footy.
Mon Conti was one of the few players on the park that didn’t look startled when she got the ball with a bit of room. She was able to assess the situation, work her way through traffic and pick out an option at points where other players would’ve thrown it on the boot and hoped. She didn’t hit the target every time, but what she did was look poised and patient when the opportunity came her way.
Meghan McDonald – she had a blistering last quarter, and I loved the way she attacked the footy. Her 21 disposals were a game high, and although her foot skills were a bit… messy – is that a good word? Yes, messy at times, she was able to stem the flow of Bulldog inside 50s in the last quarter. Without her back there, the floodgates would’ve well and truly opened.
I liked seeing Madeline Keryk and Kirsty Lamb match up at a couple of stoppages. Neither takes a backward step, and I particularly like the way Keryk tackles first with her body and arms, but then also wraps her legs around the player with the ball too. If you get tackled by her, you’re going nowhere!
Now, my missus was a little reluctant about me using this, but I managed to convince her it has merit. At one stage in the last quarter, Madeline Boyd took a mark as four Bulldog players were all around her. None of them really committed to the contest and kind of just hung around the area. At that stage of the game, I think the contest was basically all over, so I understand the situation – chances are they were bloody tired.
I get it.
Not so, my beloved missus. She makes the comment that “those girls have the PE girl staggers.” I had to laugh and ask what that was, and she explained that girls in her high school had this half-assed meander when taking Phys Ed class, and the Bulldog players reminded her of them in the way they kind of moved toward the contest but weren’t really interested. Obviously fatigue plays a big part in it, but the “PE girl stagger” is set to become part of the Mongrel vernacular now as we watch footy throughout 2019.
So, looking at the game overall, with so many things that could tip the balance one way or the other, it often comes down to accuracy. I watched as Phoebe McWilliams missed two shots from about 25 metres, yet Ellie Blackburn was able to roost one from 50 metres and kick the goal.
The Dogs won pretty comfortably in the end, and a missed shot on the siren could’ve made it even more comfortable, but at crucial moments, when you’re 25 metres out… kick the bloody goal, Phoebe!
CARLTON V ADELAIDE
First off, I just want to say that up until this point, it’s the best women’s match I’ve seen this year. Of course, I haven’t watched Freo v Brisbane yet, but it matters not – I enjoyed the hell out of this game.
I was disappointed to hear that both Chelsea Randall and Tayla Harris weren’t going to be taking part in the game. I was looking forward to seeing if Harris could make up for her sub-par season opener, and doing it against Randall would’ve made a huge statement. Alas, both sat out.
I’m going to give a shout out to Eloise Jones. I kind of pointed out a few things that she didn’t do well last week. Although I didn’t write it, I thought that she looked a little out of place in AFLW. Well, I always admit when I am wrong, and I was wrong about her. I thought she was wonderful in the first half. She was clean, tackled brilliantly, and created opportunities for her team.
Whilst a man can’t be considered guilty for what goes on in his mind, I have had a reversal on my unspoken stance on Jones- she can flat out play.
Erin Phillips – I think there’ll come a time in women’s footy when Phillips is looked upon and people say something like “she was pretty good… for that period in time.” I really hope that doesn’t happen, but there is a recency bias in sports that always favours the current players. Erin Phillips is a star, and when she is on, she looks a cut above every other player on the park.
Her start to the last quarter was a wonderful display of a star putting the team on her back and, with her actions, dictating to her team that they were not going to allow this one to slip away. If there was a centre stoppage, Phillips was involved. If there was a contest at ground level, you’d back Phillips to win it.
She took her fair share of hits, including a nice crunch from Darcy Vescio in a marking contest, but she took them all like a champ, got up, and took her free kicks as a result.
Early in the game it appeared as though Breanna Davey was going to go head to head with Phillips, but Jess Edwards got the gig once things settled down.
Anne Hatchard had another impressive outing, topping the disposal count with 22 for the day. Sadly, she’ll probably best be remembered for being knocked over by Sarah Perkins in a goal-celebration, but I’ll prefer to remember that it was her with the lace out pass to Perkins, enabling her to get on the score board. It may be the best field kick I’ve seen in AFLW this season thus far.
The Blues were hard at it, and their 17-point lead in the third quarter was built on a fierce attack at the ball. Foremost amongst the Carlton desperados was Maddy Prespakis, who looks as though she will be a fixture in the Blues’ best every week this season. She throws herself in and wins the ball, and she is not afraid to mix it up with the best players in the game, as evidenced by her willingness to start a fight with whichever Crows crossed her path as the teams separated for the half time break. Gotta love that.
Her goal in the third quarter, and centre clearance just minutes later was almost on par with the leadership demonstrated by Phillips. And she’s just a bit younger than Phillips – try 15 years younger. We might one day be speaking of Prespakis in similar fashion to the way we now speak of Phillips, and that day may not be too far away.
Sophie Li started really well, but faded badly in the second half. She showed clean hands early on, and I thought she could’ve been in for a big one.
So Stevie Lee Thompson, huh? Part of me expected to see Jason Lee in full ‘My Name is Earl’ get up cheering her on from the sidelines. It’s a ripping name, isn’t it? And four goals is a ripping return. Everywhere she went, the ball seemed to follow. Whilst I rate Phillips’ game as better overall, four goals is a match-winning performance in this league, and she deserves a heap of credit.
There’s a bit of baby giraffe about Sarah Allan, but she just managed to keep finding the footy in defence. There were points where she looked beaten, but fought back well the either break even or win the contest.
Kerryn Harrington was excellent for the Blues. Her ability to repel attacks, combining beautifully with Kirby Bentley held the Carlton defence together at times.
Overall, a spirited display from the Blues, but I reckon their supporters, both of the men and women’s team, are sick of spirited efforts with no pay off.
For the Crows, they did what they did without Eb Marinoff at her best, and with Chelsea Randall on the sidelines. They have the best player in the game in their team, and head home to welcome the Cats. A win there would set them up nicely.
And as for this conference system… what a bloody joke. The three best teams currently reside in the same conference, and whilst it’s silly to jump the gun and declare that there’ll be a less than deserving team that makes the Grand Final (Brisbane is a good outfit), it doesn’t exactly look as though they really thought this through that well, does it.
So, is it worth casting my eye over the Freo v Brisbane game? Those who watched multiple games, how does it stack up against the Crows v Blues clash? If it’s on par, I’m in.
And hey... if you'd like to support us, you could head over to our Mongrel Shop and purchase one of our hideously overpriced hoodies or notebooks. We even have a place for donations now. ORRRRRR, get one of the more moderately priced stubby holders or bumper stickers. Click the links below. Keep The Mongrel alive in 2019.