As the world spirals out of control, households with the most toilet paper become the modern palaces and their occupants modern day gods, we turn our focus to Round Six of AFLW as the finalists confirm their spots and the also-rans confirm theirs as well.

Let’s get stuck into the games.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE 10. 6. (66) DEFEATED GEELONG 3. 2. (20) – HB MEYERS

As the Cats leapt out to a three goal lead in the second quarter, people were wondering just how big an upset this was going to be. North Melbourne looked as though they may have gone the entire first half goalless but for late flurry that undid so much of the Cats’ hard work.

Going into the half time break, Geelong still felt like the better team. They were blue collar, whilst North looked more like a team playing like millionaires.

The one exception to this was Ash Riddell, who continued her excellent season, and not only collected the footy, seemingly at will, but used it intelligently as well. Her ascension to the upper echelon of AFLW midfielders has been a joy to watch. Whilst others are continually drawn to the contest, Riddell is disciplined enough to hold the team structure, continue to play as the release player at stoppages, and she has reaped the rewards in 2020.

I would have had her as best on ground at half time despite her team struggling to get the job done.

As a matter of fact, I jotted down who I had as best at half time, and it went Ash Riddell, Meg McDonald, and Kate Darby, though that order was different by the time full time rolled around.

Jasmine Garner had an explosive third quarter, kicking two of her three goals to put distance between the teams. Held to just six disposals in the first half, she finished with 18 to reaffirm her status as one of the best players in the league this season.

What Garner does so well is take the ball cleanly. Whether in marking contests or at ground level, when she gets both hands on it, she doesn’t double-grab. It’s one take, and the Roos are off and running as a result.

Emma Kearney continued to rack up touches, but it was really interesting to hear Leigh Montagna mention she was playing for free kicks by throwing her head back. I’ve been seeing that in her game all season. She is good enough to allow that facet of her game to fall away.

Ellie Gavalas showed plenty again, and will be a star in the future. Right now, she is about fourth in the North Melbourne midfield rotation, which may cause her star to shine a little less brightly, but the signs are all good, and the chance to develop with players like Kearney, Riddell and Jenna Bruton to guide you must be a bonus.

Speaking of Bruton, she was a bit messy early, and gave away a couple of free kicks, but rallied well to be instrumental in the third quarter onslaught of the Roos. You get some players who have loping strides and they look so balanced and poised, but she is the opposite, with these short little jab stets and herky-jerky movements to keep opponents off-balance. It works pretty well, though.

The run and carry of Bruton, Riddell and Kearney is close to unstoppable. You know that scene in The Naked Gun where Priscilla Presley goes to slap Leslie Nielsen and he catches her hand, then she tries with the other hand and he catches that to – suddenly a third hand comes out of nowhere, as he’s holding the other two and slaps him in the face? That third hand is Jenna Bruton. The Kangaroos has so many hands to slap you in the face with.

The move of Emma King into the ruck after half time was pivotal. Viv Saad was good early, but King feeds the mids in a way that Saad is unable to at the moment.

Finally for North, the presence of Daisy Bateman up forward gave them a really good mobile target. Though she only had eight touches, each one of them was important as the Roos made their move.

And what of the Cats?

The injury to Nina Morrison looked to suck the air out of the team. Her knee wrenched in a tackle from Brit Gibson and you could tell Gibson knew right away there was some damage done. Her hand went up immediately as Morrison writhed in pain. I wish Nina a speedy recovery.

Meg McDonald was really impressive early on, and reads the ball so well in flight. She reminds me of a female Matty Scarlett. Amy McDonald was also quite good in limiting Kaitlyn Ashmore for most of the game.

Olivia Purcell worked hard, but was beaten on the day, and Danielle Higgins battled on.

If I was giving votes, Jas Garner was the difference. She’d get three. Riddell would secure two, and I’d throw one at Emma King, as her move into the ruck paved the way for some great centre break clearances.

 

ST KILDA  6. 6. (42) DEFEATED RICHMOND  0. 3. (3) – JIMMY AYRES

In a crowdless venue on a fierce, windy day – another crushing loss to Richmond has handed St. Kilda their second win of the season to the tune of 39 points. Two scoreless quarters have Richmond claiming some very unwanted records, but more on those later. A herculean game from Monique Conti wasn’t enough to see the Tigers register a goal, let alone trouble Caitlin Greiser and her fellow Saints players as they romped on the goals and pressured mercilessly. This is the game as I saw it.

RECORD UNWORTHY OF GUINNESS

It was a long and dogged day for the girls in black and yellow. Off the pace from the first bounce and clearly missing their captain Katie Brennan, the Tigers limped to the final siren goalless; the first AFLW team to do so. Assisted by two scoreless quarters, they also registered the lowest final score by any team in AFLW history.

‘GREISER KITE’
Please excuse my terrible attempts at puns, but there’s a new G-Train ‘cult hero’ in St. Kilda colours, and boy was it certainly a dominant display up forward and around the ground for Caitlin Greiser. When the ball came to her overhead, she never looked in doubt of clunking it. Equally matching her aerial class with multiple ground ball efforts, she kicked the first three goals of the game and proved quite a handful for the Tigers defenders as she took her tally to a season-high 10 goals. A good battle late with Rebecca Miller saw Greiser take the chocolates, but credit to Miller’s tackling and pressure.

‘CONTI’-NUOUS EFFORT EARNS PRAISE

Monique Conti played an almost lone hand for the Tigers all over the ground. Amassing a game-high 22 disposals, four marks and four tackles, she was one of a very select group of Richmond players that appeared to be up to standard on the day. To steal a reference usually reserved for a certain AFL captain, Conti’s basketball background was certainly on display as she attempted to weave her way in and out of traffic and break lines. The few times she was caught holding the ball were far from a blight due to the dismal lack of assistance from her teammates, forcing her to take the game on alone. A visibly emotional Conti was seen crying as the players walked off the ground – passion personified. Sometimes your very best just isn’t enough when you’re the only one pouring your heart into the game.

IF THE TIGERS FALL IN MOORABBIN AND NO ONE IS THERE TO SEE IT…

The Coronavirus sanctions have now hit the AFLW, meaning only fellow players and team training staff were on the sidelines to cheer the girls on. A few attempts at chants and Mexican waves from the benches showed that some were attempting to make the best of a difficult time for all sporting leagues.

BLOCK AND TACKLE

The physicality shown by the girls from Moorabbin was quite a feature from the opening bounce to the final siren. Nicola Xenos, Rosie Dillon and Nat Exon shared 20 tackles between them as they proved too hard and too strong for the Tigers on-ballers. There was a particular passage of play that caught my eye; a pack splitting Xenos hits a target midway through the fourth, causes a contest, Xenos continues running goal side to capitalise and kick the goal for her team. A brilliant team effort and plenty of positive signs for the Saints going forward. Props to Georgia Patrikios for her gut running and classy disposal.

 

COLLINGWOOD 5. 13. (43) DEFEATED BRISBANE 2. 2. (14) – HB MEYERS

In the first of the AFLW/AFL games conducted without fans permitted access, the Pies shook off the early loss of Sharni Layton with a broken bone in her hand, to put Brisbane to the sword in the first half.

In truth, Collingwood should have been further ahead than 24-points at half time. They had plenty of chances, with Aisling Sheridan and Sophie Alexander missing opportunities that they could have very well converted.

The game was littered with some tough physical clashes, with Sophie Conway shaken up by a brutal tackle from Ebony O’Dea that left her cradling a shoulder. Despite her efforts  to get back on the ground, it was obvious she was in tremendous pain until she could be treated at the break

Cathy Svarc sacrificed her own game to limit the influence of Jaimee Lambert and used some pace, and a great kick to space from Lily Postlethwaite to hurt her on the scoreboard. Lambert had just eight touches in the first half – way less than we’ve come to expect from her.

The Lions’ third quarter saw them attack the contest with a renewed vigour. They started hitting the contest harder, and a goal to Dakota Davidson showed just how far she’s come this season. On the end of a very nice hip and shoulder from Brit Bonnici, the sound of which was quite audible without fans in the venue, Davidson retreated to the bench to compose herself, and was told to “suck it up” by Craig Starcevich. That she returned to the ground, laid a hard tackle to earn a free kick and then ventured forward to kick a goal would have Starcevich smiling.

As we headed into the final quarter, the Lions had a sniff, down just 14 points, but with best on ground, Brit Bonnici cleaning up behind the play, and both Lambert and Steph Chiocci getting back on top, the Pies were able to pull away to win comfortably in the end by 29 points.

Looking at the game as a whole, Bonnici would pick up the three votes, with Sarah D’Arcy picking up two as she provided a dual focus of taking contested marks, and preventing Kate Lutkins from becoming a force as an intercept marker. I’d toss the one vote up between Stacey Livingstone and Sarah Rowe, who were both excellent.

Before I finish this one up, just wanted to touch on the lack of intensity from Jess Wardlaw in this one. I know she looks laconic, and that is part of her charm, but watching Livingstone run past her to mark on her chest at one point, it came across as though she is a player that cruises around at three quarter pace at best. You compare her to the way a player like Gemma Houghton attacks the contest – they are worlds apart. Interested to hear if any Lions fans agree/disagree.

 

CARLTON 6. 4. (40) DEFEATED MELBOURNE 3. 6. (20) – HB MEYERS

This was the proverbial game of two halves, with the Dees looking far better in the first half, despite being unable to capitalise on the scoreboard.

After half time, the Blues started to run hard, and really seemed to stretch Melbourne, with normally composed players being run down, and most of their disposals coming under intense pressure.

Carlton have a really nice balance of brute force and finesse, with Tayla Harris flexing her muscles on one occasion and making Maddy Gay regret the way she attacked the contest. Harris dropped the shoulder as the two met, and Gay cannoned off her, and dropped to the deck. Say what you will about Harris – she is a weapon who does not mind throwing her weight around. I kind of dig it. he was also responsible for two direct goal assists to go with the one goal she snagged, herself.

Maddy Prespakis did what we’ve come to expect from her. In and under, working hard to clear the ball to her teammates, it was nice to see her slot a goal early in the last quarter to be on the end of some good work, rather than being charged with beginning it all.

In wonder if the Demons starting Karen Paxman in defence in the last quarter was a concession of sorts? The game was there to be won, and Melbourne had Libby Birch, Daisy Pearce and Paxman all behind the footy. Paxman was being tagged for most of the first half by Grace Egan, but that attention had fallen away by half time, so this seemed to be overly defensive on Melbourne’s behalf.

Kate Hore kicked one of the goals of the season after running, taking three bounces, dishing off and receiving back in the forward pocket to snap a weary-looking kick home. Unfortunately, she had the chance to add to her tally in the third quarter with a set shot from 30 metres out that slid off her boot and failed to score.

Such was Melbourne’s kicking at goal in this one, with a couple of shots seemingly stopping on the line and bouncing away from the goal mouth.

To the Blues’ credit, they worked extremely hard to stay in the game until the time was right to strike. Charlotte Wilson was excellent in subduing Teghan Cunningham, who seems rather lost out there at times, and Vaomua Laloifi had a great last quarter as she repelled multiple Demon attacks like she was some sort of exorcist.

The run of the Blues was good, with Brooke Walker, Lauren Brazzale, Georgia Gee and particularly Chloe Dalton providing plenty of carry through the guts.

For the Dees, we saw a few uncharacteristic turnovers from Daisy Pearce, whilst Shelley Scott continued to look very dangerous but squandered her chances in front of goal. Casey Sheriff was good, and I really think the Dees missed the grunt of Sinead Goldrick, who had a great run early in the game after beating Darcy Vescio. Her attack on the ball and willingness to take the game on would have been very handy but for a corkie preventing her from re-entering the game.

On Vescio; does anyone else think she sometimes plays like a millionaire? Maybe she is, comparatively, in this competition, in terms of the weapons she possesses, but at times, the grunt just doesn’t seem to be there.

If I were giving votes… three to Prespakis. She is a worker with the ability to do things few others can in this competition. Two would go to Chloe Dalton, who was the best of the Carlton runners, and I would go either of Laloifi or Kate Hore for the one vote. Hore looks as though she is fitter than she’s ever been this season, and Laloifi just continually did the right thing at the right time in this one.

 

FREMANTLE  10. 6. (66) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS 8. 3. (51) – ALEX DOCHERTY

All week long, I have been lamenting about having to see the Western Bulldogs’ AFLW team cop another belting against quality opposition for another weekend. But this was arguably the best performance the Dogs have put together this year.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get their just reward of four premiership points as the Fremantle Dockers showed exactly why they are an unbeaten side, kicking four goals to one to make it six from six in what was a very entertaining game of football at the Whitten Oval. How entertaining? Well let’s just say that the score line of 10.6.66 to 8.3.51 broke the league record of the highest aggregate score.

Thinking a disaster was going to emerge from the day, it didn’t get any easier when it was revealed that both Lauren Spark and Brooke Lochland were late withdrawals from the day. But in the opening term, it was the Bulldogs who kicked the opening two goals and were perhaps a bit unlucky to give away one in the final moments. Kicking with the infamous breeze down at the Gordon Street end, the Bulldogs applied tremendous pressure and were willing to run and take the game on and when it came off well, it was exciting to watch.

It was back and forth like that for the next two quarters. The team who had the breeze, had the advantage. But the margin from the first three breaks never exceeded a goal – four points at quarter time, two points at half time to Fremantle and the Dogs by two points at three-quarter time. But, kicking with the breeze in the final term, the onus was on the Dockers to get the job done.

There’s a reason Fremantle are the only side to remain unbeaten this season, and they showed it in the last quarter. They had big patches where they were soundly beaten in the first three quarters and perhaps some of the players knew it too – Sabreena Duffy got very feisty with a Bulldog player and Katie-Jayne Grieve had a massive brain fade, giving away two 50-metre penalties which cost them a goal. But they put the frustrations aside and did what was required.

I wish we saw this Bulldogs’ team as opposed to what we got the last two weeks, but I hope this is a turning of the page, that will see the team be as competitive as this in the final two weeks. Maybe they can win the last game of the season against the Giants after all. Lead from the front by Captain, Ellie Blackburn. She did everything she could in the middle and kicked a pair of brilliant goals and Izzy Huntington – who continues to grow in confidence as an intercept defender.

I guess the word this week is ‘grow’. I say this because all of the players I’m about to mention have taken massive strides in their development. Eleanor Brown’s confidence is growing by the week as a defender, bit unlucky she couldn’t register more than one mark – she got into the right spots a fair bit. Aisling McCarthy bounced back from a couple of rough weeks, with a solid game in the middle, and Gabby Newton was also impressive. Hannah Munyard showed plenty of spunk as an outside midfielder/half-forward and did so many good things when she had the footy and Elisabeth Georgostathis played defence and did a good job taking Duffy out of the game.

And finally – didn’t think I was going to leave Nell Morris-Dalton out of this report did you? What I saw from her, must make you wonder why the hell Nathan Burke decided to leave it until round six to give her a game. She didn’t kick a goal, but she set up at least a couple of others and provided such a presence up forward – gave a contest every time and you can tell the Freo defenders looked nervous whenever the ball came her way, also she provided the pressure that is required from forwards these days with a few tackles as well.

For the first time this season, I’m genuinely excited for the future of the Western Bulldogs.

So on the Dockers, it’s easy to point out how big Kiara Bowers was – another casual 21 disposals and 12 tackles on the day. But I thought Ebony Antonio was Fremantle’s best player. For someone her size, she covers the ground well and almost did everything playing as a half-forward type player. Got her hands to it, took a few good grabs and tackled ferociously, second in tackles only to Bowers. I also thought the other Antonio – Kara was excellent in the middle and one that stood up in the last quarter when the Doggies were putting the challenge towards them.

Gotta give props to Ashley Sharp and Mia-Rae Clifford who combined for half of their 10 goals. A lot of people talk about Duffy and Gemma Houghton but both were very ineffective in front of the big sticks on Sunday. Without these two, we’d be talking a different ball game and maybe the Dogs would’ve got their second win of the season. Sharp kicked 3.1 and Clifford kicked two goals in her Fremantle debut, both were simply brilliant. I also thought that Gabby O’Sullivan on the half-forward line was very busy and very dangerous across all four quarters and Hayley Miller was very good in the middle – both women I feel don’t get the recognition they deserve.

 

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

 

GWS  4. 2. (26) DEFEATED ADELAIDE  3. 3. (21) – HB MEYERS

If you are looking for the definitive play of this game, it occurs right at the commencement of the fourth quarter, as a perfect piece of ruck work from Erin McKinnon set up the running Alyce Parker. She burst from the guts, went long inside 50 and when Cora Staunton was taken high and connected with a long shot across her body, it tore the heart out of the Adelaide Crows.

It was a great performance from the Giants, to win on the road, though the home ground advantage was probably diluted due to the lockout.

Parker was a warrior, and for all the talk of Anne Hatchard, Ebony Marinoff and Erin Phillips in the middle, it was Parker getting her hands to the ball often, and with purpose. Whenever the Crows looked to be getting plenty of the footy, Parker would intervene.

She finished with a game-high 30 touches and made most of them count.

This was in stark contrast to the Adelaide ball-winners, who seemed to miss more targets than they hit by foot. Hatchard and Marinoff both had 20+ disposals, but their efforts did not hurt the Giants. Meanwhile, Erin Phillips struggled to get completely involved in the game and will obviously not be the player she was… this season at least.

The Giants got great service from Tait Mackrill, who had the best game I’ve seen her play, whilst Staunton was a target all day long. She finished with two goals and was perilously close to a third when her long shot at goal was apparently marked by Jacinda Barclay, however for some reason the umpire called play on and the Crows cleared.

Rebecca Beeson demonstrated just why she won the Giants’ best and fairest award in 2019, with a stellar display of outside run, and clean hands. Her give to Jodie Hicks from a clearance set her up for a goal, and she continued to buzz around, making life easier for teammates all game.

Emily Goodsir had a nice debut and looked dangerous, whilst Pepa Randall was good in defence, despite her hairstyle making her look like a 15 year old Melton bogan.

The Crows are now shot in 2020 and will not defend their premiership. They are a vastly different team to the one that swept all before them in 2019, with Danielle Ponter, Eloise Jones and Stevie-Lee Thompson all way down on form. Yes, they’ve been hit by injury. Yes, they were still in it with 90 seconds to go, but no… they did not deserve to win this. GWS did.

In terms of votes, three goes to Alyce Parker who was far and away the best player on the park. Two to Tait Mackrill, and one to Beeson for her clean hands under pressure. Apologies to Erin McKinnon, whose ruck work was great, but I found it hard to give a vote to someone who had two touches. Apologies also to Cora Staunton.

 

GOLD COAST  5. 3. (33) DEFEATED WEST COAST  1. 2. (8) – ALEX DOCHERTY

I’ll be honest with you all, I was very disappointed with the Gold Coast against Geelong last week at Mackay – it was a game that they should’ve been looking at as one to win and etch themselves closer to a finals berth. But all that game did was make this week’s match even more vital.

Coming up against a West Coast team who are sitting at the bottom of conference B, it was important that they get a win and a healthy percentage boost. Well, they did what they needed to do in the end and sit just a game out of the top three in conference A. They play Adelaide and Melbourne in their final two weeks, so if they do get to the Finals, they will need to beat teams that will not be pushovers.

But onto this game – it wasn’t a spectacle of a contest. It was tough, physical and a grind from beginning to end, but the one thing that separated the Suns and the Eagles by full-time was that bit of class. The Suns had it in patches all over the ground, and the Eagles, well you can see that they tried their guts out – but they lack the polish in the forward half to compete with the other teams. It’s a bit like their game last week against Melbourne, they were competitive early, but they fell away when they needed to go another gear with the Demons.

It didn’t make scoring any easier when Grace Kelly hurt her leg in a contest inside 50 early in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game after that. West Coast failed to register their first goal until the last quarter where Hayley Bullas received a free kick, to which she dutifully converted. But the facts will remain that the Eagles had just as much of the footy and even beat them in the clearances and the inside 50s. They just need to work on the finishing, because that’s what’s separating them from being cellar dwellers to being able to compete in games.

From the winners, well there’s one name that I can think that actually proved to be the difference – Kalinda Howarth. She’s fast becoming one of my favourite players to watch in the AFLW right now. Very clean at ground level, very dangerous in the air and gee doesn’t she know how to finish up plays. You know that ‘class’ factor I mentioned before, well Kalinda’s four goals were the difference in the end – she’s had a standout past month of footy.

Kate Surman was looking electric again across half-forward, Hannah Dunn and Jamie Stanton were industrious, and Lauren Bella overcame an early knock to play a solid game in the ruck against Parris Laurie. And the defence again proved how good that they can be. Lauren Ahrens and Jade Pregelj were mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I covered the Suns’ loss to North – both were again at their best, whilst I was very impressed with young Serene Watson, who seems to be getting better and better with every week.

On the other side of things, there were plenty of things to like around the ground from the Eagles. Dana Hooker just does what Dana Hooker does best and that’s work her backside off to win the footy and use it well. No one’s going to deny how big she was with her 31 disposals. I liked Kellie Gibson playing more up the ground as opposed to being a forward, just gives the Eagles another good option in the middle of the ground, but it does rob Peter to pay Paul a fair bit, even more so when it’s already been pointed out how much the Eagles have struggled to get it forward of centre this year.

Imarah Cameron continues to impress floating between a half-forward and midfield, she’ll be a beauty to watch in a few years when she eventually blossoms into a full-time midfielder, whilst another player that I was very pleased to see play well was Belinda Smith. She looks to have developed a nice little role as a rebounding half-back flanker. I also liked Parris Laurie’s work around the ground – beaten by Bella in the hitouts, but she had her covered around the ground easily.

 

So, that’s it, and given the current climate, I thought I’d have a crack at the AFLW All-Australian Team as of right now. Far out, I wish they had six backs and six forwards… would make things a lot easier.

Please keep in mind that I have not watched every game, and use my fellow Mongrel Writers as a guide for some games. I will happily admit I need to watch a couple more GWS games.

Here we go

 

BACKS – STACEY LIVINGSTONE (COLL)   LIBBY BIRCH (MELB)

 

HALF BACKS – PHOEBE MONAHAN (RICH)   KATE LUTKINS (BRIS)   ALYCE PARKER (GWS)

 

CENTRES – ASH RIDDELL (NTH MELB)   MADDY PRESPAKIS (CARL)   JAMIEE LAMBERT (COLL)

 

HALF FORWARDS – KATE HORE (MELB)   TAYLA HARRIS (CARL)   JASMINE GARNER (NTH MELB)

 

FORWARDS –  CAITLIN GREISER (ST K)   SABREENA DUFFY (FRE)

 

RUCKS – SHARNI LAYTON (COLL)   KAREN PAXMAN (MELB)   KIARA BOWERS (FRE)

 

INTERCHANGE – SHELLEY SCOTT (MELB)  HANNAH PRIEST (ST K)  EB MARINOFF (ADEL)   MON CONTI (RICH)   KAITLIN ASHMORE (NTH MELB)  IZZY HUNTINGTON (WB)

And the way she is going, one more outing like today from Kalinda Howarth and Ashmore and her can swap places. And Gemma Houghton would definitely find her way in if she held onto half of those chest marks she spills.

 

Happy to discuss… in a polite manner, of course – HB Meyers