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Round Four AFLW Review - All Games Covered

Well, we’re over half way and the wheat is slowly being sorted from the chaff. The Kangaroos remain undefeated despite a spirited Dees challenge, the Crows dropped the hammer on the Dockers in Darwin, and the Giants finally got on the board in 2019.

Last week I watched every AFLW game on delay, and half way through the live telecast of the first game of this weekend, I suddenly realised why that was a good idea. If I knew the game would produce three goals combined in pretty good conditions, I may not have bothered.

I’ll get to the nuts and bolts of that game in a minute, but I think it’s important to note that here at The Mongrel Punt, we try to be as fair and balanced as possible. When we point out something negative, it’s not because we’re against the women’s game, or that we’re misogynists – I’ve read a few things online where people have this thrown at them if they comment negatively on a game or incident, and it’s not the case here. Nor is it because there is another agenda at work. We love footy, and we love good footy. When we see something that isn’t good footy, I believe we should point it out and move on. We don’t want to bury our heads in the sand and look only at that which is worthy of praise – that creates a bubble where you can’t talk plainly about a game, and we hope you’re always able to get honesty here.

And so, as I tuned in to the Geelong v Carlton game, I genuinely thought that the Blues would have a better fitness base, and run the game out a lot better. They did.

They just couldn’t kick a damn goal.

 

GEELONG V CARLTON

It was interesting to see that Geelong rated Maddy Prespakis so highly this early in her career, with one of their best ball-winners going to her and paying close attention. It worked in the first quarter, with Prespakis limited to four relatively ineffective touches. Hats off to Renee Garing – the game is always so contested early on, and she put the clamps on the young gun, enabling the Cats to get the jump.

It was a jump that proved pivotal.

The move to play Brianna Davey on Phoebe McWilliams looked to be a masterstroke in the first five minutes, as Davey zoned off and provided potent run from half back for the Blues. She was probably best on ground early, but just one thing can change that perception, and when McWilliams marked from Maddy Boyd and goaled, it hurt more than any of Davey’s possessions did.

Following that, Davey was moved into the action and the defending was left to the defenders

Speaking of defenders, Meg McDonald is one of my favourite AFLW players currently, and I thought she had a real opportunity to shut Tayla Harris down and cement her claims on the AA full back spot. The way the game was played in the first quarter really aided her, with most of the action being conducted between the arcs. I’m not sure Harris had a touch in the first, but as much as I’d like to put that down to the defensive prowess of McDonald, it was probably more to do with the way the game was played.

She had a couple of good wins along the way, but Harris could’ve been the game breaker.

And how about that cricket-ball size egg on McDonald’s head? She’s a tough bugger.

I suppose the Blues were sticking to their structures, but given Harris’ ability, it must have been tempting to throw her to half forward and get her involved. She stayed deep the entire first quarter.

I thought Maddy Keryk (too many Maddys in this review already!) was really good in this one after a quieter, less-effective game last week. She definitely doesn’t fear putting herself in harm’s way.

That’s probably the best marking game I’ve seen from Phoebe McWilliams. She may have had better, but I just haven’t seen them. Good to see her apply pressure defensively as well, because I thought she was a bit of a one-trick pony in that regard til this game.

Aasta O’Connor looked to be a bit clumsy when dropping Nicola Stevens off the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it earns her a week or two.

Here’s a pat on the back for yet another Maddy. This time Maddy McMahon, who had an excellent game on Darcy Vescio, and had a couple of moments where she not only beat Darcy one-on-one, but was able to beat a second defender, and clear the ball effectively.

Richelle Cranston is a Mongrel favourite, and her tackling was superb in this game. It was her pressure inside 50 that afforded the Cats a couple of shots at goal. She had nine tackles for the game and physically imposed herself. She is a bit of a hit-and-hope kind of kick, but half of me thinks that’s due to the nature of the possessions she gets – the contested type.

Anyway, she had a couple of clearances that really impacted the game, finding McWilliams on a couple of occasions. She has a real presence about her, and when her name was called, I noticed that my missus would pay attention. Cranston attacks the game, and the opposition with a ferocity. When I pointed out that she was wasting the ball a little, my missus looked at me like I was an idiot.

“She doesn’t care about the ball,” she said, as if I was completely missing the point. Maybe she’s onto something? To say that Cranston’s favourite part of the game would be absolutely nailing someone in a tackle would be a pretty fair statement.

We’ve probably all had a gut-full of Tayla Harris being blaming for her terrible misses. Two were absolute sodas, and yes, they would have been game changers. Let’s hope they were learning experiences, because in a game where teams struggle to kick goals (three goals total in perfect conditions is deplorable) even one miss from point blank is such a waste. Two… borderline unforgivable.

Katie Loynes provided a touch of class to kick the Blues only goal. Her front and centre gather was clean, and her finish was good. It was sorely needed at that point – actually it was sorely needed at any point. What the game required was a good foot in the ass, actually.

I’ll put it down to fatigue and pressure, but in these conditions, this game was as scrappy as it gets. Handballs and kicks going nowhere, rolling packs, and at times it resembled wet weather footy. The fact that this game was for top spot in a conference was almost an indictment. I do not doubt the endeavour of the competitors – I never would – but as a spectacle, this was horrid.

Kerryn Harrington had moments where she looked a cut above in defence for the Blues, using her pace to win against bigger opponents, and strength against the smaller ones. Overall, an intelligent defensive game from her.

The Hosking sisters were both involved in the physical stuff. Sarah dropped Jordan Ivey with a hip to the head early in the game in an incident that will be looked at, but for mine, she was protecting the space and made the ball her priority. Jess was on the receiving end of a Maddy Boyd hit in the fourth quarter as the cats finally made their way into attack.

Saw a couple of moments from Sophie van De Heuvel below the knees that indicated she’ll be a real handful to contend with as more opportunities come her way. Picking the ball up cleanly at ground level is such an underrated part of the game, particularly when fatigued.

Overall, the Cats were lucky to pull this one out. Carlton shot themselves in both feet with their inability to score despite owning the footy in the second half, and in the dying moments, they gave away a 50 metre penalty to Boyd due to inattention and cruising through the protected zone (I hate this rule so much).

That’s not to say the Cats were much better. They wasted opportunities and were running up and down on the spot at times. As much as they won this game, Carlton lost it. If you’re thinking of watching this game on replay… don’t.

 

ADELAIDE V FREMANTLE

OK, so after watching the horrible Cats and Blues game, I tuned into this one with mixed feelings. These are two quality teams, and on paper it was always going to be a good game. However, with it being played in Darwin, I expected the conditions to drag the game down.

Luckily, the women were good enough that it didn’t play out that way, but when you have a comp where people seem to take delight in sinking the boots in about lack of skill, etc… why put them in an environment where the ball will be slippery as hell? I’m thankful there wasn’t a storm to make the ball even more slippery.

Anyway, as I said, this game didn’t degenerate in the way I feared.

This was a great win by the Crows thrusting them well and truly into contention and creating a must-see game next week against the Kangaroos. And once again, it was Erin Phillips leading the way.

I’m sure a few have queried the amount of free kicks Phillips gets, and maybe they have a point, but being the diligent fella I am, I went back and checked each of them out – there was not one free kick that wasn’t there for Phillips. She puts her body in the right position and forces the opposition to do something. Whilst some don’t understand how to use their body in a contest, it is second nature to Erin. She puts herself in position to win the contest, and she does. She either marks it or draws the free kick – that, my friends, is what good players do.

She could’ve very easily finished with five goals in this one, and it is painfully obvious how often the Crows look for her when going forward. And why not? She rewards their effort!

More Erin later.

I thought Kiara Bowers was probably the best player on the ground in the first quarter. She had beautifully clean hands at ground level, and was integral in the first goal for Kellie Gibson.

Bowers was probably the only Docker star to truly stand up. Antonio was down. Donnellan was close to unsighted. Hooker was down (she was nowhere near it in the first half). Houghton was down (yes, I consider her a star – she was awesome last week).

Dockers R3 v R4

Antonio 2 goals in R3. 1 goal in R4.

Jess Foley and Anne Hatchard – what a ruck combination. Hatchard is a complete beast once the ball hits the deck, as well, and her combination with Ebony Marinoff is one of the most consistently impressive on-ball combinations of the season. Whilst Marinoff didn’t shatter any records this week, her and Hatchard combined for 42 touches. Foley added 15 to give the Crows another dimension at centre bounces and her ability to palm down to her on-ball brigade often gave them first use.

Speaking of Foley – give the girl a goal assist for the smother she laid in the middle of the ground in the first quarter that saw the ball ricochet to Phillips, who put the ball into space in front of Stevie Lee Thompson for a goal. Whilst Phillips will get the direct goal assist stat, that effort from Foley was brilliant and deserves just as much, if not more credit.

In the first Crows game I reviewed this season, I thought Eloise Jones was ordinary. Last week, I ate humble pie. This week, she was great again. She reminds me of Steve Johnson in the way she moves and in her opportunism. People will notice her goals and that’s fine, but she seeks out body contact too, and for an 18-year old, she isn’t afraid to dish it out or cop it.

I loved seeing Jones drop back behind Danielle Ponter to lay a shepherd, allowing her teammate clear path to a goal is the sort of thing coaches notice. Then there was her ability to stand in a tackle and effectively dispose by hand to Ponter for a goal.

I reckon Ponter owes EJ dinner.

Jones has a good footy brain, and has quickly gone from being a player I was questioning to one of my favourites to watch. Great game from EJ.

The Dockers have found a gem in Parris Laurie. I really liked what I saw from her when she dropped back into defence. Though I think the Foley/Hatchard combination was excellent, she battled on against them all evening.

With the Crows kicking 1.5 early in the second, I really thought it could come back to bite them, particularly as Freo managed to slam on a couple to take the lead.

Loved Tayla Bresland’s hip and shoulder on Marinoff. They’re two tough women.

Best defender on the park for the game? Maybe Marijana Rajcic. Rarely beaten, she picked up the slack for a quiet Chelsea Randall, particularly in the first half. Sarah Allan was also very good, charged with the job of stopping Antonio.

The individual defensive effort of the game goes to Ang Stannett, who made a wonderful smother on Stevie Lee Thompson after being nudged out of the play. She recovered to throw herself across Thompson’s boot and save a goal.

I thought Sabreena Duffy showed enough in short bursts for the Dockers to be excited about her future. Her contested mark in the last quarter was excellent, and created a scoring opportunity for Gemma Houghton.

Overall, a fantastic win by the Crows. The Dockers would be bitterly disappointed that their guns simply didn’t show up.

Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker - click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker - click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS V BRISBANE

Welcome to the party, Jacqui Yorsten – you belong. Eight disposals and a mark sound like a modest return on debut, but it was the tenacity of the young Lion that stood out on a day where they redefined their season, and smacked the Bulldogs down in the Grand Final rematch.

The Dogs looked a step slow all through the first half, unsure when they got the ball, and hunted by the Lions. Players like Deanna Berry, Bonnie Toogood and Libby Birch struggled to get into the game as the Brisbane pressure forced error after error.

I loved what Jess Wardlaw brought to the table as she was the clear best player on the ground in the first half. Quieter in the second, she was the perfect foil for Sabrina Frederick-Traub who was locked in a good battle with Lauren Spark.

Wardlaw took contested marks and used the ball really well, particularly when delivering inside 50.

Nat Exon – now you’ll have to excuse me as I was under the impression that Exon rode a bit of a wave surrounding her mullet hairstyle last year, so much so that it overshadowed how well she can actually play.  She is clean with the ball, supremely fit (as evidenced by how hard she was running at the end of the game) and gets to the right spot. Her running goal in the third quarter, taking the advantage from yet another Yorsten effective tackle, was a genuine highlight, and was a definite nail in the Bulldog coffin.

I touched on the Frederick-Traub game a little earlier, but aside from her contested work, which was good, her inaccuracy could’ve really cost the Lions. All three of her shots at goal were gettable, and those misses, in a close game may have been the difference.

When you compare the game of Sabrina to that of former teammate, Tayla Harris, the result wallpapers over some pretty significant cracks. Yes, Sabrina may not have had a shot from the top of the square by herself, but the misses were still pretty awful. She does the hard work and fails to capitalise on it.

As a result, you look at the game and think that Lauren Spark successfully held Sabrina goalless, right? Nope – Sabrina held Sabrina goalless, and if the Lions are to make a fist of what is left of the season, they’ll need her converting the chances she’s creating.

You really don’t want to allow Kate McCarthy goal side in a one-on-one. Hopefully that’s a lesson the Dogs take on board going forward. Other teams would be well-served in taking note as well.

There were some really worrying signs at points for the Dogs. Teams are only as good as their desire to work for each other, and at one point toward the end of the second quarter. Ash Utri offloaded to Mon Conti (a Mongrel favourite) and continued to run away from the impending contest between Conti and her opponent. Conti was tackled and went to offload, but Utri wasn’t even looking at the contest. Now, I don’t know what was going through her head, but it wasn’t a good look.

What it looked like to me is that Utri adopted the Dwayne Lamb line of “making it someone else’s problem” and just allowed Conti to deal with it. That is the sort of stuff that causes teams to drop their collective heads.

Speaking of Conti, she did some amazing work early in the third and had the option of either banging for goal, or popping it over to Ash McCarthy for an easy goal. Well, she took neither of those options, with her kick bouncing through for a behind. In a game where the Dogs were struggling for score (they had not kicked a goal to the point), it was a huge error.

Ash McCarthy made up for Conti’s error moments later when she turned an inspired defensive play into a goal. She smothered Kate Lutkins’ attempted kick from defence and turned it into a goal. Whilst I loved the individual brilliance, the fact that the Dogs had to rely on an individual doing something extraordinary to kick their first, and only goal of the game to that point doesn’t bode well.

Was tough seeing Ellie Blackburn go down with that hit in the last quarter. It was a pure hit, but looked completely unintentional to me. When she went down, you could almost feel the air go out of the game. It was as though any chance the Dogs had evaporated with her absence. Hope she’s better soon, with no ill-effects. Her emergence as the leader of the Dogs this season has been great to watch.

Katie Brennan – no criticism from me this week. Had no delivery all game and though statistically it was her worst game of the season, I thought she battled hard when her teammates actually gave her a chance to compete.

Whilst Kirsten McLeod’s last quarter goal was a ripper, it was so obvious she had zero faith in her left foot at all. Still, great goal.

Great to see Ally Anderson starting to get recognised for her efforts. She was fantastic in this one, notching her fourth straight 20+ possession game. The 5.5 tackles per game is pretty impressive as well. I was kind of hoping we’d get to see her and Ellie Blackburn go head to head in this game but it wasn’t to be.

So what do we make of this game? The Dogs are in trouble. With three rounds to go, they’re a game and a heap of percentage out of the finals race. They’ll need something to go right really quickly, and the quick return of Blackburn will aid that. The other facet that may aid them is the return of Isabella Huntington, who looked great on debut last year before injuring her knee.

The Lions – well, they’ve given themselves a chance in a weaker conference. So much so that they now sit top Conference B. How crazy is that. All they have to do is hit their straps at the right time of year, and they’re in the right conference to make good on an average season to date.

The Lions get the Cats, who have been very shaky despite their win over the Blues. The Dogs hit the road and go against the Dockers in a do or die contest. By next week we’ll know whether they’ll get a chance to defend their title or go the route of their men’s team.

 

COLLINGWOOD V GWS

So, I admit to not being all over the ins and outs of this game before I started watching, but as soon as I saw the Pies were missing both Ash Brazill and Sarah D’Arcy, I wanted to put the house on the Giants.

And when they stopped to a walk in the last quarter, I may have been tempted to regret that bet, had I made it.

Like so many AFLW games, a burst of good footy broke the game open and provided a break that was simply too much to overcome. The Giants looked great early, and used the wind to their advantage. They dominated play and slammed home the first four of the game.

Good to hear the commentators acknowledge just what an athlete Cora Staunton is. She plays with a desperation others simply don’t have. Those little shuffling steps really cover the ground, and her desire to get and go, whilst both a blessing and a curse at times, creates the play.

The Pies lack genuine class in the midfield. They have some battlers – Jaimee Lambert the best of them, but they didn’t seem to have someone who had the ability to break the game open.

Rebecca Beeson got her 22 touches again, but she was one of the guilty parties in committing the procession of out of bounds on the full kicks, or last touch out of bounds kicks.

Oh, she had plenty of mates – anyone who had a kick on the wing seemed to be aiming for the people in the third row. Sometimes, a miskick would stay in. it made for a really messy, really frustrating game to watch.

The difference between the first and second quarters was marked. Not just in the way GWS couldn’t score against the wind – that was always going to happen. I mean more in respect to the way GWS looked for targets in the first, and in the second the Magpies just hacked it forward and hoped the wind would kick goals for them.

Sarah Dargan’s goal in the second quarter was gifted to her by a wonderful ruck tap from Sharni Layton, who laid it right in her path. Layton was also instrumental in Membrey’s goal later that quarter.

Elle Bennetts didn’t have a heap of it (9 touches) but always looked poised when she got it.

Amanda Farrugia did her best work in the second quarter, dropping back to play in defence and making the most of errant Magpie entries.

Alicia Eva was everywhere in the third and looked like she could be the catalyst for the Giants to pull away, but the Pies were dropping numbers back and GWS just kept bombing forward. It was as though they forgot what got them the lead in the first place.

With fatigue settling in, and the wind playing havoc, the kicking really fell off a cliff late in the third. Not that I was counting, but I am pretty sure I saw three out of bounds on the full decisions in a row without anyone else touching the ball in between. That’s pretty special.

I know it’s a good defensive play, but hugging the camera-side boundary and watching the ball drift towards the line every play was a little hard to watch.

The old transfer across ground on tired legs didn’t come off again in the last quarter, as Pepa Randall couldn’t find a teammate and Maddie Shevlin gave the Pies some hope by slotting a goal, but that first quarter lead proved insurmountable for the Pies.

Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

 

NORTH MEBOURNE V MELBOURNE

There were some very interesting match ups in this one, headlined by what will probably be the two best rucks in the game, with Emma King and Lauren Pearce on opposing teams.

Well, it was supposed to be that way, but the Roos threw King forward. That she kicked three goals and very easily could’ve had four means you’d probably opt for her, but really Pearce worked well around the ground against Kate Gillespie-Jones. If I am forced to choose, I take King right now, based on the fact she has more strings to her bow.

Kate Hore was very good, I thought. She looks like a footballer – well balanced and a threat both in the air and on the deck.

Jess Duffin – I’ve written about her every week, and despite whichever commentator stating she had seven marks in a quarter, she had seven for the game, many of which were of the intercept variety. Early on, she missed a few targets which re-opened doors that should’ve been slammed shut, but without her in defence, the Kangaroos may have been in a bit of trouble.

Jess Stanton was incredibly prominent in the first three quarters, but I felt she drifted out of the game in the last. That’s in stark contrast to Kaitlyn Ashmore, who was soundly beaten all game before bobbing up in the last.

Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen combined for 47 touches, and both seemed to genuinely give a shit, which is great. Mithen reads the play well, and is as gutsy as hell for a smaller player. Paxman is a solid player – 22 touches per game this season speaks volumes about how much the Dees rely on her output.

Aliesha Newman’s goal… wonderful. I love when she backs herself and takes the game on.

A bit of a quieter day from Jenna Bruton, which was probably due. Every time she touched it early, the pressure came from everywhere. I reckon she had two, maybe three kicks smothered in the first ten minutes.

The best forward on the ground was probably Tegan Cunningham, who took contested marks and worked up to the wing where necessary. What a pity she wasted her second opportunity after getting off at the tribunal by dropping a cheap shot into the back of the Duff-woman, Jess Duff. I’m not so sure she’ll get leniency this time.

You could maybe make a case for Mo Hope, but damn it, she just looks so laconic out there and I want to see desperation from her. She kind of reminds me of someone who is looking for the cheapest way to get a goal. I know that’s probably unfair… actually it’s wrong, but that’s how she can come across.

I still think Jas Garner is one of the best field kicks in the game. I love watching her with time and space. She assesses and hits targets.

Harriet Cordner had a ripper last week, but early in the second she’d already had a couple kicked directly on her. Tough life, being a defender.

Bethany Lynch may have been a little overawed in her first game. Her kicks were pretty thoughtless, including a couple late that almost seemed to pick out Melbourne players.

So, the late game free kicks will be a talking point, huh? Emma King got her third goal from a soft push in the back free in a marking contest. That was play on, for mine. It was a pivotal moment, and this game probably deserved better than to have the decider handed to North via a free kick. Maybe it was there… I think it was iffy.

A few minutes later and the roles are reversed. King falls right into Cordner’s back… no whistle. How’d that make you feel, Dees fans?

So North remain undefeated. They’ll play finals, right? The question is who they’ll come up against. It might be next week’s opponents in Adelaide.

The Dees have the Giants, and all things being equal, they SHOULD win on the road.

 

So, who were The Mongrel’s top five players of the week?

5 – Kiara Bowers (FRE)

Only big name Docker to show up

 

4 – Eloise Jones (ADEL)

As much for what she does without the ball as with it.

 

3 – Jess Duffin (NMFC)

The glue holding the North backline together.

 

2 – Ally Anderson (BRIS)

The heart and soul of the Lions midfield

 

1 – Erin Phillips (ADEL)

As if there was ever any doubt.

 

 

 

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