Rightio, I am going to try to do this as often as I can, and am leaning on our other writers to help me if and when they’re able.
We are a footy site, and as such will cover AFLW. I know some of you don’t like that, and that’s fine – I like it, and that’s enough for me.
Do I like it as much as the men’s competition? No, I don’t and pretending to would be disingenuous, so I won’t bother with a charade. I see it as a competition finding its feet with great potential, and I see the women playing it as professional athletes, and will treat them as such when I write about them.
Reviews and observations are not misogynistic – they’re about footy and the players playing it. They’re written in the same tone as we do the men’s competition. There’s no kid gloves and no “good try” kind of stuff contained here. It’s a review of the week’s AFLW action, reviewed as the legitimate sport that it is – warts and all.
I hope you enjoy.
So we started on Friday night, and the Carlton v Richmond season opener and this game got an article all of its own, given it was the stand-alone game to kick things off. Rather than re-hash things here, you can read it here – Richmond v Carlton AFLW Opener.
- HB Meyers
Now, onto the rest of the games
MELBOURNE V NORTH MELBOURNE – BY HB MEYERS
This one got the missus’ attention early when I told her that the Dees had a player named T Hanks playing for them. Thoughts of Tom Hanks in tight shorts piqued her attention, and the possibility of him having another relationship with a sporting ball was too good to pass up. Alas, it turned out to be Tyla Hanks.
And much disappointment ensued.
Hanks did get amongst it early on, which I enjoyed pointing out.
Kate Hore was the standout for the Dees. Her two goals were pivotal in her team rolling over the top of the Roos. I felt the Dees were so much more blue-collar than the Roos in this game, which is the antithesis of both the Melbourne and Kangaroos culture over the years. North had so much talent, with Jas Garner looking like a killer early, and Ash Riddell having a blinding third quarter, but with Emma Kearney not having her usual influence (her 20 touches weren’t all that telling), it was the Hore-led Demons that played the better team footy.
Karen Paxman reminds me of Chelsea Randall across half back – controls the game without having to insert herself into the guts.
Interesting to see Daisy Pearce playing off half back. She looked lively early, but I reckon she needs to get plenty of miles into those legs to get back to where she was. Drifted out of the game by half time.
Pretty good standard of footy, particularly given the wind blowing straight across the ground. These teams could both play finals if early-season form is anything to go on.
Garner’s early ball use in the conditions was excellent.
Eden Zanker is a strange talent – looks lost at times and leaves herself wide open to be collected, yet somehow finds herself in 40 metres of space to run into an open goal. On this, how North allowed her out the back and behind their zone was absolutely criminal.
In the three-quarter time break, footage aired of North Melbourne coach, Scott Gowans instructing his team, and basically giving away their strategy to drop Jas Garner behind the ball. Whilst I love the access, I am not sure this was a wise move. I watch a fair bit of the NBA, and whilst the cameras will get into the huddle, the networks are prevented from airing anything strategic mentioned that is caught on camera. It is always on delay, and it is always very general – no specific game plan.
Not that I think it would have happened, but imagine you’re a mate of Melbourne coach Mick Stinear, and you’re sitting on your fat ass at home, watching his team. You hear that Gowans is going to drop Garner back. Would you text him and let him know? How about if you were mates with an assistant? They’d be more likely to check their phones – most are just pretending to look like they know what they’re doing – you send them a text and suddenly, BAM, part of your game plan is now common knowledge. Footy is filled with strategic moves to keep the opposition guessing – don’t give shit away!
Anyway, loved Ash Riddell’s third quarter – every bit as good as Prespakis’ third term the night before. I was really rapt to see Riddell in the side for Round One after her ankle injury last season. She was looking really good to that point, and she has picked up right where she left off. She makes The Mongrel’s top ten AFLW players to watch this season. Don’t ask me who else is in it – I haven’t decided yet.
Memories of 2019 started flooding back in the third as Tegan Cunningham started clunking marks in the third. Two contested grabs in as many minutes, on a day that was not conducive to tall forwards reminded people of what she’s capable of.
Vivien Saad had an interesting game, first up, but those two free kicks in the last quarter inside defensive 50 are good lessons to learn early.
Nice disappearing act from Kaitlyn Ashmore. Five touches for the game… I reckon two came after quarter time.
Truthfully, I felt North were a better team in this game – they were beaten by a team that wanted it more. If I were to name the top five players on the park in no particular order, I’d go Kate Hore, Ash Riddell, Karen Paxman, Jas Garner and Libby Birch.
GOLD COAST V GWS – BY DANIEL JON KERSHAW
In horrendous weather conditions that were reminiscent of the Gold Coast v North Melbourne debacle to open the men’s season a couple of years ago, the Gold Coast Suns met GWS in their inaugural AFLW match in Blacktown International Waterpark Sportspark.
The rain might have been torrential, but it was ironically a drought in front of the big sticks with the home team winning narrowly 1.3 (9) to 1.2 (8).
However, despite the low scoring affair, the contest was strong between the two sides, with GWS pushing the ball forward ferociously and Suns countering with fast paced sling-shot play from the back half.
Giant Alyce Parker was best on ground with 22 disposals and 5 tackles, while teammate Aimee Schmidt calmly kicked what would become the winning goal from 30 out as straight as if it was played in the dry.
Despite the loss, there were encouraging signs from the Suns, particularly from the back five who weathered a rampant GWS attack and former-Lion Jamie Stanton, who worked hard in the engine room.
It was a good hit out for both teams who are set to be competitive in this year’s competition.
BRISBANE V ADELAIDE – BY HB MEYERS
Firstly, how good is Kate Lutkins in defence! Just continually disrupts and puts herself in the right spot. 17 touches and eight marks would have had her in contention for the best Lion on the park.
Dakota Davidson v Dayna Cox was probably the best one-on-one duel of the game, with Cox taking the chocolates. However, Davidson showed a little bit of mongrel, and looks to be a player to watch. With her and Jess Tawhlao-Wardlaw up forward, they have the potential to tear teams apart when the conditions are better.
Emma Zielke was really solid in defence, and her ability to pause, assess and then find a teammate was exactly what the Lions needed.
Isabel Dawes would have every right to be a bit pissed with Orla O’Dwyer, who completely burned her as she ran past and into the open goal for the handball. O’Dwyer kicked the goal herself, but Dawes would have made certain of it had her teammate done the right thing and handed off to her in a better position.
Sophie Conway was solid on the wing, and drifted back into defence to help out where required.
The Crows were missing so much – their forwards were pretty dysfunctional without Erin Phillips providing a marking option. I like Eloise Jones, but she was fumbly in this one, and both Danielle Ponter and Stevie-Lee Thompson struggled to have an impact.
Anne Hatchard… I want to spend a bit of time pumping up her tyres, but I reckon she’d push me out of the way and pump them up herself. What a transformation she has made over the last couple of seasons. She was good when she was carrying ten extra kilograms, but she has taken her game to another level.
I watched her simply run away from her opponent a dozen times in this game – they just could not go with her. Ladies and gentlemen reading this – Anne Hatchard is now the standard by which all other AFLW should be judged. The work she has put in to get fit, and the way she has worked on her game are testament to her dedication. She tried to put this Crows team on her back in this game, but the load was just too great. I was rapt for her breaking the record for disposals, and she did it with a tagger hanging off her in the last quarter. It was a wonderful display form her – I’d like to say I’m proud of her, but that is reserved for kids and people you know. I don’t know her. As such, I was proud for her.
However, as much as I would like to focus on Hatchard’s efforts, the focus should be on the winning team. This is something I dislike about the NBA – it becomes about who scored the most points individually, and not who actually won. The Lions won this – they deserve the most credit.
Quick shout out to the effort of Rachelle Martin – love her attack on the footy. She always looks like she is giving everything she’s got. I thought Justine Mules started well, and I thought she could be on doing a bit more heavy lifting without Phillips, Randall and company. I reckon she needs to back herself a little.
Eb Marinoff had nice stats, but I reckon she wouldn’t be overly pleased with her game in terms of impact. She had six tackles, which is par for the course for her, but the Crows needed her to really step up and do a few special things. Pretty hard in those conditions, I guess.
Marijana Rajcic had a couple of moments she’d rather forget in the last quarter. Watching it back, her fumble in the middle in the last quarter led directly to the Wardlaw goal, which basically shut the gate on the Crows. O’Dwyer applied the pressure and Jess Wuetschner hit Wardlaw with a beautiful pass.
Speaking of Wuetschner, she started like a rocket, didn’t she?
Really nice to see Ally Anderson not having to get 20+ touches for the Lions to be good this season. She was really having to do it tough last season.
COLLINGWOOD V WEST COAST – BY DANIEL JON KERSHAW
West Coast Eagles played rivals Collingwood on a wind-swept Sunday at Victoria Park that would have been great for sailing, but less optimal for a game of footy.
The superstitious types would have noted that the Eagles banner split before the game began, a similar omen as the 2018 grand final played by their male counterparts. I think you know what happened.
The game was played largely in the direction of the wind, a north-westerly clocking the mid-30s, which made attacking against seem like the players were riding a bike uphill.
The visiting side got off to a hot start in their inaugural match, with their fast-paced ball movement and frenetic pressure getting them out to an 8-point lead at the first change, with former Docker’s star, Dana Hooker, hooking a goal and claiming the club’s first and only goal to date.
The bone-crushing hits between the sides set the standard for the day, with the women throwing themselves into every contest, which unsurprisingly, resulted in a few injuries throughout the day
From there, Collingwood were able to steady the ship and chip back with two goals at the half time break. Even though the Eagles were able to get the ball into their forward 50, they had no answer to Pies duo, Ash Brazill and Stacey Livingstone, who cut off every entry point and stopped the likes of exciting forward, Imahra Cameron (housemate of Liam Ryan) and Gaelic import Grace Kelly (yes, that really is her name) from damaging the scoreboard.
In the second half, Collingwood’s experience shone through as the Eagles fatigued, allowing them to kick away late to win 5.8 (38) to 1.5 (11) in a score line that didn’t reflect how even the game was for most of the day.
It was good to see Chloe Molloy back out there, and ten tackles from Mikayla Bowen at 18 is a great sign of things to come.
ST KILDA V WESTERN BULLDOGS – BY HB MEYERS
Prior to this game I grabbed up the AFLW magazine to familiarise myself with some of the names in the expansion St Kilda team – this magazine was about six bucks when you bought the Herald-Sun… just want to say that it was the biggest piece of shit you could ask for in terms of a guide for the season. Names, ages and positions – that’s the info you get about the players. The rest was basically fluff pieces. Do better, Herald-Sun – how about some actual analysis or at least something to allow us to do analysis of our own.
Anyway… onto the game.
The Dogs looked “on” early, and quickly established a lead in windy conditions. Once that lead was obtained, the Saints settled, but it was already too late.
Bonnie Toogood burst from the gates with two goals in the first quarter and looked string both at ground level and on the lead.
The Dogs played Izzy Huntington off half back, which was a surprise for me. The memories I have of her were standing tall in the goal square as a number one draft pick, clunking marks, kicking goals and then doing her knee. A fair bit of concern as she was helped off the ground in the last quarter, but it appeared to be more of a knock to the head than any injury – great to see her get through.
Loved the work of Hannah Scott. She is a classic Mongrel Punt favourite, bullying her way all over the field, and her clash on the boundary with Nadia Von Bertouch was as physical as anything you’ll see in the men’s comp. Great hit, and great that both girls bounced to their feet – I loved it.
Scott also fixed up Emma Mackie late in the second quarter – she really is fast becoming one of my favourites.
The future looks bright for the Saints, with Georgia Patrikios showing why she was so highly rated. She reads the play beautifully, has clean hands and looked a cut above at times out there. Needs to get stronger, obviously, but the tools to become a marquee player in AFLW are all there.
I also liked the game of Molly McDonald off half back. Her kicking needs a bit of work, but she finds the footy pretty easily, and her run through the middle was impressive.
Ellie Blackburn was prominent early in the game. Her run and long kicking gave the Dogs a great advantage as they kicked away from the Saints.
First goal from Molly McDonald for the Saints, and it came off perhaps their best passage of play, where Patrikios cut off a defensive exit, and then hit the running McDonald with a ripping pass, allowing her to slot the first in the Saints’ AFLW history. These two girls are just 18 years old.
The youth movement at the Bulldogs has plenty of upside as well, with Gab Newton showing plenty of potential, but it was the work of Kirsty Lamb in the midfield that offered the Dogs a steadying presence when it was required.
Finally, for the Saints, I liked the work of Rhiannon Watt in defence but again, the kicking is an issue, Hannah Priest was very good all day and Olivia Vesely was solid.
Special shout out to Nicola Xenos, and there’s a reason. I really like it when you can tell that players absolutely give a shit, and the way she attacked the footy, and the opposition at just 18 years of age… they’re things you can’t teach. She does them both exceptionally well. Playing in a tough position in an expansion team, I was really impressed with the way she went about it. nice work, Nicola.
And that’ll do for this one – the Dogs kicked away early and did enough to score a good first-up win. The Saints… there may be a little bit of pain this season, but the pillars are in place. Now, they just have to build around them.
FREMANTLE V GEELONG – BY HB MEYERS
The Cats had no business being as close as they were in this game. Fremantle controlled long parts of the contest, but the Cats were effective and methodical with the ball in hand, to the point where they were within a kick with minutes to go.
In the best game of the weekend, the Dockers managed to put the Cats away in the last quarter thanks to Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton, who provided a great one-two punch up forward.
Duffy finished with four goals as she made the most of every opportunity that came her way. Early on, her opponent, Madeline Keryk looked like she had her number, and took several intercept marks, but the opportunistic Duffy turned the tables and hit the scoreboard hard.
Houghton was the most dominant player on the ground, and is so close to becoming a star of the game. her blemishes on the scoreboard (she could have legitimately had five goals) and a couple of dropped chest marks decreased her impact, but her recovery, and ability to take off and have a bounce are elite. I’d go as far as to say she could be THE elite forward in the game by the end of this season.
But her opponent was also good, and took a couple of really nice contested grabs against her. Maddy McMahon (who either Matty Pavlich or Will Schofield called Maddy McCann during the broadcast, almost triggering real-crime fans watching the game) held her own at points, but it was obvious that the Cats were missing Meg McDonald.
Rocky Cranston now has the clubhouse leader for goal of the year after taking on Evie Gooch, using the handball out in front to shake her opponent, and then steadying and kicking a great goal. Cranston was also used in the ruck, which looked to wear her down.
Speaking of the ruck, Freo debutant Roxy Roux made a big splash when she was thrown into the action and looks a star in the making. Solid but agile, she has great hands and worked all over the park.
Kiara Bowers was a star, particularly in the first quarter, and worked tirelessly for her team. To see her just know that she could take players on and beat them, half with leg speed, and half with force of will, was a highlight.
Good to see Nina Morrison back, though it was a rather subdued game from her.
A lot of composure from the Cats, with great handballs under pressure, but the more you handball in close, the more chance something can go wrong, and a few times a fumble set the Dockers on their way. Their defence was commendable, but with the kind of repeat entries the Dockers got, it was just too much in the end.
And that’ll do for our week one review.
I was most impressed with Sabreena Duffy, Gemma Haughton, Maddy Prespakis, Tayla Harris, Kate Hore, Anne Hatchard and Georgia Patrikios from the games I watched and look forward to hearing what you guys think.
Huge thanks to Daniel Jon Kershaw for casting his eye over the games I couldn’t – your input is greatly appreciated.
If any of you guys would like to help us out with coverage and think you have something to add, please let me know.