Week Five of the 2020 AFLW season saw some teams come face to face with reality, whilst others started to dream of finals.

Let’s jump straight into the reviews, considering it was me this week holding things up. Apologies.

 

GEELONG 5. 8. (38) DEFEATED GOLD COAST 2. 6. (18) – NICK SLUGGETT

On a hot Friday night (Seriously, it was 30 degrees!) at Great Barrier Reef Arena, it was the Suns and Cats set to do battle. The Cats were coming off one of the performances of the season against the winless Richmond. The Suns were coming off a respectable loss to one of the hot favourites for the comp in North Melbourne.

With only two wins between the teams so far, it’s definitely not “match of the round” but is still a good excuse for some northern Queenslanders to have a wine and watch some good quality footy.

Here’s some of my highlights:

JUST RUSH IT?

Only 7 minutes into the game and Jade Pregelj made a diving attempt for the ball on her defensive goal line. Instead of sliding over and knocking the ball through for a rushed behind, she punched it back into the field of play, and the area of uncertainty. Renee Garing failed to punish her for the poor choice, but something tells me that the situation may be brought up during the review. She learnt from her lesson though and executed the skill perfectly in the second quarter.

HOWARTH = CLASS

At times in footy, it can be hard to find the good players. They can be caught in traffic or being contained by an opposition player, or the ball just might not fall their way. Kalinda Howarth had none of those issues in the first quarter as she lit up GBA Arena. Howarth would feel rightly let down by some of her teammates as she executed some elite passes on to put them in scoring positions, only for them to falter at the final hurdle.

STANTON… ALMOST

Jamie Stanton almost had best on ground honours sewn up by quarter time. Had she kicked a bit straighter the Gold Coast would’ve been enjoying a comfortable lead, instead of being behind. Still, Stanton racked up 7 disposals, had a couple shots at goal and sent the Suns inside 50 on multiple occasions. It was a good quarter, but it was almost a great one.

MEGHAN MCDONALD – FEARLESS

Going back with the flight of the footy is never easy. Doing it head on and at pace is downright crazy. Meghan McDonald showed the type of courage reserved for a prestigious few. Early in the second quarter McDonald went back with verve that made this Mongrel flinch, just sitting in his seat. She took the contact well and had a bit of a limp, but it didn’t affect her footy too much as she remained a key pillar in the Geelong defence. Credit to Jordann Hickey who was coming the other way, also. With another Cats player on her back she charged forward, ready to be the meat in the sandwich and wore the contact well.

NINA MORRISON AND OLIVIA PURCELL

Solid games from both Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell. Both really stepped up in the absence of Ivey due to her suspension. Nothing too outlandish from either, but really solid work rates and the ability to find teammates in close and under pressure. When the Suns made their move in the second, it was Morrison and Purcell who pushed the Cats forward in the third. Driving into contests and wrenching the footy out of Gold Coasts control.

THE WRAP

The match was of a high standard. Between Cranston, McDonald, Howarth, Stanton, Morrison, the stars shone bright and carried the game forward. The Cats took the early lead, but the Suns fought back in the second quarter. The Cats then re-took the ascendancy in the third. Geelong would eventually kick away in the last quarter on the back of their superior skills and determination in the crunches. They just seemed to want it more.

My Best were Morrison, Stanton and Purcell. Honourable mentions to Howarth, Richelle Cranston and Jacqui Yorston.

WHAT’S NEXT?

If some results fall their way, the Cats have surprisingly pushed themselves back into the hunt for finals action… A big Friday night match-up against North Melbourne looms next week.

For Gold Coast, the door remains ajar for their finals hopes but, like Geelong, other results must go their way and they have to get a serious move-on in terms of wins. Starting next week when they complete the biggest trip in footy to face West Coast. Good luck girls.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE 9.9. (63) DEFEATED ADELAIDE 3. 3. (21) – HB MEYERS

 

You could see the difference in the two teams in this game, and sadly for the Crows, without their co-captains, it came down to one simple thing.

The lacked class.

And North Melbourne have it in abundance.

This was apparent all game long, but if you needed it rammed home, look no further than the third quarter of Jenna Bruton. She would be classified as maybe the fourth mid at the Kangaroos? Possibly the third? Yet after a relatively quiet first half, she had a blinder of a third quarter to lift a team that was already well and truly on the way up.

Bruton had this little stutter-step change of direction that keeps her opponents off balance, and despite being small in stature, will put her body on the line.

You add in what she does to the outside run of Ash Riddell… I have no idea how teams haven’t worked out just how damaging she is, the inside grunt of Emma Kearney, the overall game of Jas Garner, and the clean hands of Kaitlyn Ashmore and you have a team that is primed for a run at the flag.

The Crows have some talent of their own, but in Anne Hatchard and Eb Marinoff, they have two absolute workhorses who… how do I put this delicately… they lack finesse. They are “see-ball, get-ball” players and that is great, but the class is missing from that Adelaide line up, and it only becomes very apparent when you see them matched up against a team that oozes class.

And North oozes class.

Hatchard and Marinoff are carrying a huge weight for the Crows – they need some help from players like Rhi Metcalfe, who turns like a container ship, Danielle Ponter, who had trouble getting involved, and Justine Mules, who gets to the right spot and then doesn’t do anything with it.

Garner did her claim to being the best player in the game no damage with her 24 disposals and two goals, and as I am every time I watch her play, I loved seeing Ash Riddell work to the outside, find the footy and use it well. She had another 24 touches and is a couple of straight kicks at goal away from putting the competition on notice.

Kearney did Kearney things, winning the hard ball and driving her team forward, whilst Bruton and Ellie Gavalas also got in on the action.

This was a powerful win for the Kangaroos, who now sit half a game clear of the Lions in top spot of Conference A at the time of writing. They also have a monstrous percentage to work in their favour if things get tight. A definite premiership threat.

 

GWS  7. 14. (56) DEFEATED RICHMOND  1. 5. (11) – JASON IRVINE

A record-breaking day out at Robertson Oval as the first game for premiership points was played in the southern New South Wales town of Wagga Wagga.

But more than that, it was an absolute clinic by Greater Western Sydney as they comfortably took care of a depleted Richmond outfit who were without their captain Katie Brennan, the home side sailing to a to a 45-point victory

The score the Giants managed was their highest-ever score in their AFLW history, surpassing the 7.6.48 against Collingwood in Round 3 of the 2018 season. GWS punished the Tigers in all aspects of the game as the yellow and black saw their lowest total in their short history playing in the AFLW. Along the way in this contest, a winning margin of 45 points was also a record for GWS.

GWS intercepted Richmond’s defensive rebounds well, as much as the Tigers’ Pheobe Monahan tried to keep it out and their quick play-on gameplan caught the Tigers defence off-guard. It allowed GWS to compete well in the air or find space in their forward 50. The ball movement and unselfishness from the Giants is what allowed them to kick on and spot forward targets with Cora Staunton and Rebecca Privitelli the key players in that part of the ground. Staunton and Privitelli combined for six of GWS’ seven goals for the game.

A GWS debutant got her first goal of her AFLW career. Sarah Halvorsen kicked one after Richmond gave away a free – for a throw – deep in the forward 50.

Christina Bernardi was tasked with being the one in charge, leading against her former side in Brennan’s absence. But the stand-in skipper got the ball rolling for the Tigers, literally, as she just got boot to ball in the goal square for her side’s first goal of the game. It turned out to be the Tiger’s only goal of the game, but a special one nonetheless.

Richmond’s woes continued all around the ground as there seemed to be a lack of communication at times. It appeared the Tigers were waiting for others to go for the ball themselves and sit back and what transpired was neither Tiger going for the footy. For a team that hunts and punished like GWS, Richmond can’t afford to have these breakdowns and instead back themselves to tackle the contest and impending ball first. Their poor starts again let them down, while the team got tired towards the end.

Tayla Stahl for the Tigers ensured she put herself into every contest, excessively putting her body on the line whether that be taking a diving mark on the wing, under the legs of Tanya Hetherington. Stahl continued that intensity further in the third term.

Four goals to Cora Staunton was impressive, nabbing the first goal of the game, similar to last week’s efforts. The Irishwoman is classy as she won a one-on-one contest against Rebecca Miller close to goal and effortlessly broke away from her opponent in the forward 50 which saw her run into open goals and kick truly. Staunton, when playing up the ground a bit more, was clinical in her decision-making, spotting teammates easily as she got out of trouble with a few twists and turns. Staunton epitomised her awareness of the game in the third quarter, standing back from a throw-in, reading the tap and seamlessly running through the contest to goal. The Tigers defence were unchallenging and she could’ve had more goals but her collective work with Privitelli saw Staunton show her team mentality.

Monique Conti is silky and smooth and turned the game on when she got a hold of the ball, especially in the middle of the ground. It was her explosive running that set up Richmond’s first goal. After a contest on the wing, Conti read the play, and without breaking a stride, tapped the ball to herself in the direction of the Richmond end. Conti didn’t appear to break a sweat despite three Giants players chasing closely, pulling the trigger 60m out. The kick didn’t go all the way but it did land 15m from goal, allowing Bernardi to gather and run into goal. Conti’s composure under pressure and ability to get out of heavy traffic through crafty side-steps, as well as taking a huge mark going back with the flight in the final quarter, shows why she’s one of the best on the Tigers lineup.

There was a lack of finesse and composure from both teams in front of goals, however most of the behinds came from being on the run. Richmond had chances to extend on their one goal, either missing everything or the ball falling short. Sabrina Frederick had plenty more time, despite being chased, looking at an open forward line but saw the ball trickle out of bounds shooting from 50m. Bernardi took a mark, squished between two GWS defenders, was on a slight angle but chose to kick it checkside and missed. Jodie Hicks for GWS missed another crucial shot on the run, needing to snap around her body but with no one around her.

 

COLLINGWOOD  8. 5. (53) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS  3. 3. (21) – ALEX DOCHERTY

Some might have branded this an Elimination Final for the two sides sitting outside conference B, but as far as I’m concerned, the Western Bulldogs’ finals push was finished the moment the siren blew in Leederville last week.

The Pies are still considered a finals chance, despite losses to Fremantle and Melbourne in the previous two weeks. The loss of Ash Brazill to a knee injury will hurt to a degree, but the Pies were still able to flex their muscle against a much more inexperienced Bulldogs outfit, and the 32-point margin showed the difference between where the Bulldogs are now, and where they need to be in the future.

I’d love to know how many times the Bulldogs missed tackles because I saw way too many players tackle and allow their black-and-white counterparts shrug it off like it wasn’t a big deal. That kind of effort has me absolutely concerned about what lies ahead in the final three games of the year. It’s a write-off, we know this already, but North and Fremantle are different beasts to the Pies and they will completely put them to the sword.

Another thing that was bothering me about my Bulldogs was the inside 50 count. Five entries in a half of football is the sign of a team that looks lost. However, I must give credit to the Collingwood side for applying such crippling pressure, because once that is put to effect, that’s where the inexperience factor will be the death of a side like the Dogs on any given day. The young pups were good last week against the Eagles, but most of them didn’t make much impact this week – they were handed a real lesson.

Trying to find positives for my team was hard. Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb were beaten in the middle. But individually, they had better games than last week – and they needed to be, they’re the veteran heads that must guide the younger brigade forward. Kirsten McLeod looked dangerous whenever the ball went forward, and her two goals were both pieces of individual brilliance and Brooke Lochland also looked dangerous in the forward 50. Izzy Huntington’s second-half was magnificent, marking everything in sight and Bailey Hunt worked hard along the wing. Eight Bulldogs had five disposals or less – which might underline the struggles of this side. Personally, I would like to see more from the likes of Deanna Berry, Hannah Scott and Lauren Spark. All three have struggled all season, but they’re capable players and they’ve got the track records to prove it. I wonder if it’s just problems adapting to Nathan Burke’s gameplan? Also whilst I’m ranting about the Bulldogs’ woes – why the bloody hell is Nell Morris-Dalton not getting a game? Woman was a top-10 pick in 2019 and has not been sighted since the pre-season.

As for the Pies, the Dogs had no answers for Chloe Molloy. Since day one, I’ve been telling people that this talented young lady’s home is as a forward. She was played as a key defender in 2018 and had played stints in the middle in the VFLW last year when she returned from that foot injury. Sounds like someone listened, as she kicked two goals in the first quarter and could’ve had maybe four or five by full-time, but she ended with 3.2 – I’ll give kudos to Eleanor Brown who went to her after quarter time and quelled her influence to a degree, but it was the Chloe Molloy show in Morwell.

They also had no answers for Jaimee Lambert and Bri Davey either – both were monsters in the middle. Lambert has had a dominant 2020 and is easily a top-three player in the competition, but Davey was the better player on this day. 30 disposals in an AFLW match are a rarity, but watching her in the middle was like watching her when she was playing her first year back at Carlton – she had the ball on a string and there wasn’t much the opposition could do to stop her.

Flying under the radar, I thought Sarah Rowe had her best game, gathering plenty of the footy and doing a lot with it and all the best to Britt Bonnici, who celebrated her 23rd birthday with another sturdy performance in the middle – often underrated, especially when Davey and Lambert are dominating.

Alex is a Bulldogs nut, and you can find more of his musings on the dogs at his website – https://docherz93.wixsite.com/adbulldogscentre

 

CARLTON 8. 2. (50) DEFEATED ST KILDA 4. 5. (29) – HB MEYERS

You know, I think St Kilda is my favourite AFLW team to watch. They just play exciting football, and the first quarter against the Blues this evening contained some of the best women’s footy I’ve seen this season. That said, the Blues were simply… better.

Sarah Hosking must have thought all her birthdays had come at once as she snagged two early goals for the Blues, who were powered in this one by Maddy Prespakis and Kerryn Harrington. Harrington, in particular, was wonderful in the first quarter, providing a one-woman wall across half back that the Saints had trouble bypassing all game. Prespakis won hard ball after hard ball and dished out the hands to her runners on the outside.

Tayla Harris was a beast in the air, clunking several contested marks to the point I was wondering where the third player was in her contests, coming in to kill the ball in flight and give her opponent, Clara Fitzpatrick a chop out. It didn’t really come often.

Harris had only three marks for the game, but all were important, contested grabs.

The runner trio of Georgia Gee, Brooke Walker and Chloe Dalton provided leg speed that the Saints simply couldn’t match, and their relentless run was rewarded with involvements in several goals.

For the Saints, I loved seeing Georgia Patrikios winning clearances. Some may scoff at this, but there is a definite element of Scott Pendlebury to her at such a young age. She moves like a natural footballer, and will be one of the top handful of players in this league.

Caitlin Greiser kicked two goals, but the way she works up the field and back is really impressive. She runs hard, chases and will not stop a pursuit just because someone is a few metres away from her. Sabrina Frederick could take note…

The Saints missed drive from some who usually provide it – Hannah Priest and Nicola Xenos (Mongrel favourite) were both somewhat subdued in their roles, whilst Olivia Vesely, complete with big shiner, was an absolute warrior.

The Blues would simply not be denied in this one. Vaomua Laloifi had a wonderful duel with Greiser, while Charlotte Wilson was solid in defence as well.

The Blues have now strengthened a hold on a finals spot, and will be hard to displace with three rounds left.

 

MELBOURNE 10. 6. (66) DEFEATED WEST COAST 1. 1. (7) – HB MEYERS

There is a big chasm between the best and worst in AFLW, and Melbourne exposed the worst of the West Coast Eagles in their game this weekend.

The Dees had class all over the field, with Libby Birch mopping up the myriad errant kicks forward from the Eagles, Karen Paxman dominating proceedings through the middle, and Shelley Scott (very underrated) up forward making life miserable for West Coast, the Dees were far too strong.

Paxman was again the standout, and would have to be the favourite to win the MVP award this season. She consistently puts herself in the right spot, wins the footy and looks patient and poised every time she gets her hands on it. The only other player that does this as often as Paxman does is out for the season – Chelsea Randall.

A tip of the hat here to coach, Mick Stinear, who realised that Kate Hore was having a hard time up forward and moved her onto the ball in the third quarter. It paid immediate dividends, with Hore bursting from the centre to hit the scoreboard yet again.

If we are talking All-Australian selection, Paxman is a lock at the moment. She could sit out the last three games and still come under very strong consideration. Maybe some have been as good, but none have been better this season. Shelley Scott would be a good bet on the half forward flank, and tightening things up even more, Kate Hore would have to be in consideration as well. Also, she has the best in-game hair in the league.

For the Eagles, outside some flashes from Imahra Cameron, highlights were few and far between. Dana Hooker ran into trouble every time she touched it, as the Demons gave her no space to operate. Emma Swanson tried hard, as did Maddy Collier, but they were outmatched all across the field.

Big shout out to Sinead Goldrick, who looks like she could run through a brick wall, and would probably try. She is still learning the caper, as evidenced in the first quarter by her mark at 50, then her decision to handball 15 metres to a contest – made me smile. But she is learning quickly, and is not afraid to take the game on, often breaking lines with her run and carry. If anything, I think she could keep going at times, but opts to handball off to a teammate. If she isn’t a Melbourne cult hero, Demon fans need a lesson in cult heroes.

Overall, a very solid win for the Dees, punishing the Eagles after half time and gaining a nice percentage boost in the process.

 

FREMANTLE  7. 8. (50) DEFEATED BRISBANE  4. 8. (32) – ALEX DOCHERTY

It was called it the game of the round, and it was with good reason – both Fremantle and Brisbane remained the only sides yet to lose in 2020.

By full-time, it was the Dockers who remained unbeaten with that perfect record upped to 5-0 with a three-goal win at Fremantle Oval. The start was without question, one of the best first terms I’ve seen in the short history of the AFLW. It was almost as if both teams wanted to show one another what they had in a game of one-upmanship.

It was 5.2 to 2.2 at quarter time in favour of the Dockers. That three-goal gap was maintained throughout the match, but if we’re being honest here, the Lions were better than what the margin suggested, yet the Dockers were still the superior team. They outworked, out-tackled and outplayed the Brisbane Lions in numerous areas around the ground and showed exactly why they are a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

People can talk about North Melbourne all they like – and they have good reason to by the way – but the way the Dockers have played this season, you’ve got to say that the loss to Carlton in the Preliminary Final has made them all the more hungrier for success. And by god, I believe they’re going to get there this year, providing they stay healthy.

Oddly enough, Brisbane won more of the footy, +25 disposals and out marked them 50-42 but it was Fremantle’s trademark tackling pressure that caused the Lions to be a bit jittery with the football in the final term where they needed to dig deep. Freo out-tackled them by 20 and the source of that was Kiara Bowers who delivered a trademark game – 21 disposals and 15 tackles. I’m convinced she’ll smash the tackling record eventually. Also thought Katie-Jayne Grieve’s tackling has been sensational as of late – another nine tackles on Sunday evening. If Bowers was the grunt, Sabreena Duffy was the pizazz up forward, kicking 4.4 from 10 disposals and five marks. Talk about scoring opportunities, she definitely did her best to make them count. She could’ve honestly had six or seven, but don’t let the inaccuracy get in the way of what was a cracking game from the second-year sensation. Scary to think she’ll be a better player in five years time.

Ebony Antonio was superb as a centre-half forward – took plenty of good grabs and got a lot of her teammates involved in scoring chains. Looking at the Lions team, the first two players that I thought were outstanding were Emily Bates and Ally Anderson. Anderson has been a stud of an on-baller for the last 18 months, and did it again with another 25 touches. But Bates has emerged from a good player into the elite category this year and this game proved it. 28 disposals, six marks and a couple of tackles – her emergence is one of many reasons the Lions have risen from the proverbial ashes.

I’m glad to see Jess Wuetschner back and playing football. I was worried for a while that we wouldn’t see her back to her best football due to her being struck by lightning on the eve of the season – her best is absolutely electrifying (Pun intended). On Sunday she did everything she could up forward, kicking two snags in a good effort. I also liked the game of Rheanne Lugg, since the ex-Crow was picked up by the Lions, she’s looked better every game she plays and that’s one of the many finds Brisbane have unearthed this year.

Speaking of finds, they found one in pacey midfielder Cathy Svarc last week, and it looks like they’ve found another in Dakota Davidson as a key forward this week – the woman can mark and showed she can harass opposition defenders. Even with this loss, you can almost lock in the Lions for a spot in the Finals this year. When they do punch their ticket, they’re going to be fun to watch.

 

And that’s a wrap. Three weeks until we sort pout the wheat from the chaff. Who’s your tip to take it home in 2020?