This is gonna be a big one.

All seven games of AFLW for Round One reviewed by the Mongrels in one article. Great for those who like a bit of depth in their coverage. Not so great for those who like to look at scores and move on.

Anyway, no beating around the bush here – the article is long enough. Let’s get stuck in.

 

COLLINGWOOD 5. 3. (33) DEFEATED CARLTON 4. 3. (27)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

Well, there’s an old saying in footy – you can’t win the game in the first half, but you can sure as hell lose it.

I may have just completely mashed a couple of sayings together, but I am sure you get the drift. Collingwood played good footy in the first half and Carlton played like a team that had not had their hands on a footy on a legitimate competition in 300 days.

Coming in as underdogs, the Pies brought the heat early, and broke the Carlton wall in the second quarter, snagging four goals for the quarter whilst holding the Blues scoreless for an entire half. Yes, Carlton found their feet and matched the Pies in the desperation stakes after half time, but the horse had bolted and for the first time, the Pies knocked over the Blues in the first week of the AFLW season.

 

HARRIS V LIVINGSTONE

Harris came into the game with her knee strapped, and if you missed it, the commentators made sure to let you know.

As far as I am concerned, if you’re out there, you’re 100% fit, and so we had Stacey Livingstone attempting to back up her words about Harris being “useless” if you can stop her in the air.

How’d she do?

Both players had their moments. Harris was actually better on the deck than in the air in this game, notching six disposals but doing a lot of the heavy work. Livingstone was able to zone off at times and benefited from the atrocious Carlton delivery inside 50 to pick off er4rant kicks and collect 14 touches. I heard one commentator state they were even in their battle. They weren’t – Livingstone won again, but Carlton sure as hell did Harris no favours with their delivery.

They kicked like mules.

 

LAMBERT SETTLES THE PIES

It took a moment of brilliance from Jamie Lambert to settle the Pies after the Blues rattled off three goals straight in the third quarter. Against the flow of play, it was Lambert who gathered cleanly and, out of the corner of her eye, saw Aisling Sheridan sprinting toward goal.

Lambert wasted no time turning, chipping the ball expertly out in front of her teammate and watched on as Sheridan ran into an open goal to stop the momentum.

Lambert was fantastic in 2020 – a complete workhorse in the midfield and of her 17 quality touches in this game, none were more important to the outcome than her intelligent delivery to her teammate in the third quarter.

 

PRESPAKIS DRAWS THE HEAT

It was interesting to watch the Pies played the 2020 MVP.

It was almost as though Collingwood conceded that Prespakis was going to get her hands on the footy at stoppages. She is strong through the torso and hips and powers her way toward the footy, but the efforts of Ebony O’Dea, Jamie Lambert and Bri Davey to limit her impact saw Maddy releasing the footy under constant pressure.

As a result, a lot of her footy was farming the ball out to teammates with the opposition closing in all around her. With their main weapon limited, the Blues were whacked at clearances and the Pies were able to whip the footy away in the first half, picking up a 13-6 clearance advantage.

 

MOMENTS OF MOLLOY MAGIC

Putting it out there – Chloe Molloy disappeared in the second half, but after her two goals in the second quarter, she’d done enough to set the Pies win up.

Her first goal of the game both captured how good she can be and how poor the defence was from Carlton at that point. How Nat Plane allowed Molloy to be the last player between the play and the goals baffles me… and I don’t baffle easily.

It may not have been Molloy’s direct opponent, but the cardinal sin for a defender – any defender – is to allow your forward space goal-side, and that is what Nat Plane did. A hack kick from the stoppage saw Molloy out into space. Plane tried to corral her, but Molloy waded through her defensive effort and ran into the open goal. Molloy added another goal in quick succession as the Pies opened up a break.

The Blues came out a different team after half time, but I am guessing defensive positioning will be high on the agenda when the team sits down and reviews this one.

For the record, Molloy had ten touches in the first half. Her full game total was… ta da… ten touches.

 

SCHLEICH-ING THEM UP

Career-best game for Ruby Schleicher, who continuously put herself in the right spots to impact contests in the back half.

She picked up 12 touches and five marks as she stood in the way of plenty of Carlton attacks.

 

VAOMUA LALOIFI

Played a ripping game in defence for the Blues and you have to ask yourself how far Carlton would have been behind at half time without the efforts of Laloifi.

Not only does her name roll off the tongue, she looks to have developed a real feel for the game and seemed right at home in the defensive 50. Got caught out a couple of times on mismatches here and there, but her attack on the footy and contest was fantastic.

Ended the game on the bench after a dangerous tackle from Aleisha Newman, who I had to add is NOT our Doc’s favourite player by a long way. Maybe he can elaborate on that at some stage…

 

DIFFERENCE MAKER?

I reckon Grace Egan started really slowly. She looked out of sorts and fumbled everything that came her way early. With Prespakis under immense pressure, it was up to players like Egan to step up, especially with Lucy McEvoy sidelines.

However, it took until the second half for Egan to find her way. Once she started gloving the footy, the Blues looked a hell of a lot better.

 

HELLO… NEWMAN

Well, Aleisha Newman has no one to blame but herself if she finds herself suspended.

Everyone remembers her goal of the year a while back and her pace is what she gets by on, but with space in front of her, she fumbled and bumbled her way down the wing, only to turn the ball over and have to execute a clumsy tackle on Laloifi.

She was brought in to provide speed and skill. Only one was on display tonight and that didn’t work out well, did it?

 

BONNICI HAS HER WAY

Someone maybe want to stand next to her for a while, Carlton?

Britt Bonnici casually racked up a game-high 22 touches for the evening as she was allowed to roam around Ikon Park with no one paying her much attention. Well, when you do that, bad things happen and her run and carry gave the Pies a heap of breathing space all contest.

You’d think maybe this could have been rectified at some stage? Either Daniel Harford was happy to live with Bonnici getting a tonne of footy, or she was just too bloody elusive to stop. Which one do you think it is?

 

OPTIONS

Carlton looked better when Darcy Vescio moved onto the ball. Too often, she is stranded in the forward pocket, reliant on teammates to bring her into the play. If she is the star she is promoted as, put her in the guts more often and allow her to work forward. Get her into the bloody game – Carlton are a better team when she’s involved.

Ditto, Chloe Molloy after half time. Her run and carry was vital in the first half. With the Blues charging, why not inject her into the middle? She is better-skilled than all but a few AFLW players and the Pies needed someone to settle things down. Molloy was a prime candidate to do just that as the Blues mounted a challenge.

ST KILDA 8. 3. (51) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS 6. 6. (42)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

How good is it to get back to the footy? Like seriously – it has been nearly 12 months since I’ve been to a game live – actually my last live game before this year was at RSEA Park when my Western Bulldogs beat St Kilda in the opening round of the AFLW.

I was hoping for more of the same this time around, at the same ground, but alas it wasn’t to be. So much has changed since the first time these two sides have played. The Saints have come along so strongly since and it felt as if they took another big step on Friday night.

The Bulldogs look like they’re going to be a harder team to beat too. At stages, they just looked electric whenever they were running forward and their linking work was lovely. During the week, the Dogs revealed their plan was to win two flags by 2025 – very bold, but I like it.

The contest itself will hold up as one of the best games of the year. Given that Melbourne had been treated to a day of torrential rain for the most part, you wouldn’t have known it given how the players ran and used the footy – I thought this would’ve been a six or seven-goal game between the pair, but instead, we got ourselves a brilliant, free-flowing game of footy with a lot of clean skills throughout.

 

THE UMPIRES

I’m red hot about this, so I’m going to get it out of the way now. And it’s not often I write about the umpires here, but I can’t let this go.

These umpires were dreadful in this game. Last year, there were a lot of question marks about the consistency of umpiring in AFLW and they looked at rectifying this by bringing in umpires from the men’s league to help. But so far, it hasn’t done much but leave fans more confused and frustrated.

As soon as I saw that Razor Ray was umpiring this one, I knew this game would be more of a trigger-happy officiated game as opposed to a smooth operation. Which is a shame because the rest of this game was fun to watch, as you’ll read further down.

This isn’t about the fact that St Kilda had more free kicks, because a number of them I considered were fair game and at times the Dogs were a bit undisciplined. But the thing I was more ticked off about was the lack of free kicks that the Dogs were getting, and if you’re thinking this is sour grapes talking, trust me when I tell you it isn’t: 26-6 free kick in a game of football is not normal and you have got to wonder at what stage do you point the finger at the umps.

I reckon I have counted a dozen times in the second half alone that the Dogs tackled Saints players and weren’t rewarded with a free kick. Quite often in the 30 seconds that followed, the Saints would win a free kick somehow.

A part of me feels cheated about this, but I guess that’s the crap aspect of footy – I’ve missed getting to games, but I haven’t missed that aspect at all.

P.S Izzy Huntington had her arms chopped late in that last quarter and it wasn’t like it was a sneaky shot, it was clear as day and blatant – umpiring in the AFLW cannot get anymore cooked than that.

 

GEORGIA PATRIKIOS

So, the rant’s over, let’s talk about the better parts of this game shall we?

Georgia Patrikios looks like she’s ready to go another level this year, which is pretty special considering she was pretty good last season. She also had Elisabeth Georgostathis around her in the stoppages, which is not an easy tag to break at the best of times, but she still found a way to shake it and record 23 disposals, leading all players on the ground.

The Saints were on top of the contested possessions and the clearances pretty much from quarter time, and it was because of her and the next player I’m going to bring up….

 

THE DEBUT OF TYANNA SMITH

Going back to the 2020 AFLW Draft, I’ve always been very keen on Tyanna Smith. I even had her on the A3 Footy Podcast as a guest and she was a bloody delight to talk to.

But by god, this was something special. From the first bounce, she didn’t look out of place, was winning the hard ball, and her composure is something that is absolutely beyond her years – 16 disposals on debut, I’d wager she’d have a few clearances to go along with it as well, because she was extracting them pretty much every stoppage you saw and combined that with an innate ability to find a teammate often.

Oh, and she did say on the podcast that she enjoyed kicking a snag, well she kicked one in that second term, and it was beautiful and it also showed that she’s a very capable finisher, not that I didn’t know that already. I wished it wasn’t against my team, but it was really brilliant and here’s hoping for more of the same next week.

 

HUNTINGTON GOING FORWARD

I watched Izzy Huntington walk to the goal square before the first bounce and I was quietly eager to see what she’d do in this forward line. Also very nervous, because she has had very conspicuous injury history.

But in this one, she was simply amazing to watch in the air, which is not an easy thing to do when the weather has been atrocious all day. But Izzy found a way to make it look like it was a sunny day in Moorabbin. I reckon I must’ve counted three or four of her marks were contested and some of them weren’t easy either; she had to literally come from nowhere to pluck a couple of those.

It’s a good return, kicking 2.2 – yes I’ll argue that it could’ve easily have been three or four goals, but I still think it’s nothing but positive signs that she can be a really consistent threat in the air and can hit the scoreboard at any given moment.

 

THE SAINTS’ DEFENCE

This is where the Saints won the game, because they conceded so much more inside 50 entries – it was 33 entries to 20 at the end, but the defence did so well in locking it down, even more impressive, because the Dogs forwards, particularly in the opening half, were pressing and harassing the defence at various stages.

Not one defender deserves more applause than Tarni White, who I actually mentioned in my last article, predicting the players who I thought could crack my top 50 for the first time. Well if she has a full year at that rate, I’d think she makes a very strong claim after Friday night. 20 disposals, seven marks – intercepting nearly everything in sight. She did take an important intercept late in the game.

I also have to give big ups to both Nadia Von Bertouch and Hannah Priest, because both of them never yielded in their respective contests and also Cat Phillips who floated in and around as well, making sure the ball got out as swiftly as possible.

 

BACK IN BLACKBURN

Sometimes, you just watch Ellie Blackburn and forget how good she is as a player, maybe because you’ve been watching her since day one and she’s been so good for so long.

But in this one, she just looked like it was her mission to do everything in her power to drag the side over the line. Literally, she was everywhere around the ground. She was pushing forward for scoring opportunities at times, she was hanging a kick behind the play at other stages. There was literally nearly nothing she didn’t do as a midfielder on Friday night.

21 disposals, 2.1, five marks, 17 of those 21 disposals were kicks, so I’d also think there’s a massive amount of metres gained there, but seriously, it was a mammoth effort from her. I’d argue she’d be best on ground, but there are others mentioned above who are in with a decent shout as well.

 

OTHER BITS

I really liked Bonnie Toogood’s game, she presented well and looked dangerous every time the ball came her direction – 2.1 from nine disposals and three marks.

Kirsty Lamb racked up 20 disposals, but it was her use of the footy that was the standout, she was hitting targets lace out at a rate I hadn’t seen since she made her debut in the competition – she could seriously break out this year.

Jacqui Vogt up forward is going to be huge for the Saints this year. Greiser kicked her two goals and was the focal point up forward, but it’s the support around her that’ll elevate the Saints this year – Vogt’s pressure was top notch and kicked her first goal because of it.

Rosie Dillon with the nine tackle performance just outlines the style of game she plays – she loves to get in and under and whilst she didn’t get much of the footy, she was still defensively brilliant.

I didn’t like Jess Fitzgerald up forward in the first half, but I did like her in the middle in the second half – finished with 10 touches and three tackles, her work in the stoppages a highlight.

Rhi Watt’s game as the number one ruck was very solid – got beat by Celine Moody in the hitouts, but was more productive around the ground with her 13 touches.

I enjoyed watching Ange Gogos match up with Kate McCarthy all night – that was a fun battle to watch between two fast-paced footy players. Gogos did let her out the back a couple of times, but McCarthy was kept to eight touches and no goals.

And lastly, just a big shoutout to the best sports photographer in the land in Michael Wilson, who caught the fantastic photo of Alice and Nathan Burke coming together post-game. Wholesome content is what I’m about.

 

MELBOURNE 9. 2. (56) DEFEATED GOLD COAST 5. 5. (35)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

In the first-ever meeting between the Suns and the Demons, I couldn’t help but feel excited for both of these teams.

The Suns became my second favourite side in the competition last year because of their never-say-die attitude against the better sides in the competition, and at times, showed glimpses of flair with the footy. God ,they just look like some of the happiest girls up there on the Gold Coast – they’re an exciting side that’s for sure.

Melbourne is a side that will have a lot of outsiders looking on in interest – will their mini-culling of their list last year, work wonders to the side in 2021 or it will be one of the greatest all-time backfires?

If Saturday afternoon was any indication, then the Dees are going to be fine. They were shaky early, largely in part to the Suns’ pressure around the ground, but they hit their straps as the game progressed and on the back of a massive second term, opened their account for 2021 on a lovely day at Metricon Stadium.

 

I WISH I WAS TEX PERKINS

Right before I look at her game, If you understood the reference of that title, well I wish I had points to award you,, but you have my respect.

But in all seriousness, it is a bloody delight to see Sarah Perkins back in the AFLW full time. Not quite sure what the internal expectation from the Suns was of her, but my expectations were to just provide an option and hopefully put a goal on the board. Well I’m happy to report that she blew the expectations out of the state of Queensland.

Provided a marking option – check. The added bonus was she stuck a couple of very nice grabs deep in attack and got two goals for her troubles. The thing that stands out for me though is the way she moved around. When she was at Adelaide four years ago, she wouldn’t have been leading up the middle of the ground providing as an option.

And then her use of the footy. I’m not talking about the set shots, rather the field kicking. I just can’t say anything other than it is amazing. The case in point was the inside 50 that found Britt Perry at the top of the goal square in the second quarter. It bypassed two Melbourne defenders and it should’ve been a six-pointer. But that’s the sort of stuff you’d love to see from your key forwards.

Fantastic Suns debut from her.

 

THOSE FIFTIES!

I have no doubt that they’ll look at this during the week, but the Suns gave away three 50 metre penalties on Saturday and all three of them directly cost them goals. And they’re not the ones that make opposition supporters shout out expletives to the umpires, but these were undisciplined errors from the Suns.

The first one saw a few Gold Coast players run closely past Tegan Cunningham, which led to her first. Britt Perry gave away a second 50 in the second term for doing the same thing, which led to Shelley Heath kicking her first career goal. Then the last one came at the start of the third term, when Cheyenne Hammond didn’t give the ball back to Krstel Petrevski.

If the Suns are to elevate themselves another level, this sort of stuff needs to be stamped out. Might just come with the experience, but those sorts of penalties will crucify you in crunch time games.

 

MELBOURNE’S SECOND TERM

This is where the Dees won this game, as it was on the back of them outworking the Suns around the ground. By half time, the clearance numbers and the contested possession count were pretty much neck and neck, but it was Melbourne who were +17 in the uncontested ball by half time.

A large part of that goes to Karen Paxman, who absolutely torched the Suns with 13 of her 26 disposals coming from the second term. It was almost as if she brought her own footy with her from the quarter time huddle. No one looked like running with her and she was allowed to have a nice little stroll around for 20 minutes.

She spearheaded the charge, but others certainly did their part. Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks were looking a lot cleaner around the stoppages, Daisy Pearce was starting to impact the contest off half back as the Suns were kept goalless and the forwards of Kate Hore, Krstel Petrevski and Tegan Cunningham were all buzzing around and contributed to the scoreboard.

 

THE DEBUTANTS

There were over half a dozen debutants combined in this one, and I reckon most of them will have earned their places for next weekend.

The ones I was most impressed with were Eliza McNamara, Bess Keaney and Lucy Single.

If we’re doing the 5-4-3-2-1’s here, McNamara would be in there for her ability to run, be in the right spots consistently and be able to use the footy really well. It might be clutching the straws, but there is a little bit of Karen Paxman in the way she plays. I mean she just doesn’t stop running and 18 disposals on debut is a very impressive feat.

Keaney notched up nine of her 15 disposals in the first term playing along the half-back line and through the middle at stages. She looked at stages very willing to take the game on. I didn’t realise that she was already 28 and a mature-aged recruit. Probably does explain a lot about her poise and penchant to take the game on – she’s going to be some recruit for them this year.

Single is going to be a player to watch out for over the next decade or so. She didn’t look out of place anytime she was placed in the middle and looked like another player that was willing to take the game on at every opportunity. She also laid three tackles, showing that she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

 

THE RUCK BATTLE

This was pretty interesting to watch. Lauren Pearce vs Lauren Bella. Pearce’s 2020 was majorly disrupted with injury and only played two games and was a far from her best in 2019. Bella is fast becoming one of the rising stars in the ruck.

Bella won the hitouts 17-9 but it was Pearce that had her beat around the ground, and I think in this case, that wins out. Not many of Bella’s hitouts weren’t to advantage. What Pearce was able to do was provide a link in the chain to the Melbourne’s offensive run often. She also provided a strong marking option anytime the Dees were making the run from defence.

Eden Zanker did a fine job as the fill-in ruck last year, but I think this game just proved how important Pearce is to this team. Not only does it enable Zanker to play her role up forward more (and she will take those marks 10 times out of 10 by the end of the season) but it gives the Demons that player who can win her share of hitouts and be a very damaging player around the ground.

 

LILY MITHEN

With the fanfare of Paxman’s explosive second term, it perhaps meant that the game of Lily Mithen flew under the radar just a fraction. She was just as brilliant, if not more consistent over the four quarters

She had 22 disposals, 20 of them being kicks, and also featured with a goal in the third quarter on the back of I’d suggest really poor defending and checking by the Suns players, but that’s something for them to work on over the week. But in the case of Mithen, she was just sensational, running everywhere and anywhere on the ground and being able to win her fair share of hard ball when need be.

The Dees look like they have a few of their younger players ready to break out, and even though she’s been in the league since the start, Mithen is only 22 and is classified as one of the ‘Younger Brigade.’ However, she looks like she’s ready to step into the category of the elites if this game is any indicator.

 

OTHER BITS

I really liked Tyla Hanks’ game here – 18 disposals, and I’d reckon over half of them were contested possessions, she’s just such a bull on the inside. She’ll definitely make it her mission to make the footy hers.

Another debutant I didn’t mind seeing was Maddi Levi. She got better as the game went on, attacking the footy and certainly loved a tackle, laying six tackles. As a key position player, you’d be pretty happy with that!

Kate Surman was a great find for the Suns last year and she continues to amaze here – 14 disposals and seven tackles. Big highlight was her run from half back, evading a couple of Dees to help set up Leah Kaslar for her first and the Suns’ second.

Ali Drennan in her first game for the Suns was very strong in the middle – 17 disposals and nine tackles is great stuff first-up and you’d think that the Gold Coast on-ball brigade isn’t doing so bad without Jacqui Yorston in the team.

I really liked Krstel Petrevski up forward in game two. Just looked very comfortable crumbing the ball at the feet of Tegan Cunningham and just looked dangerous anytime she was near the footy. Jackie Parry as well, leading out of half-forward and having her self a 17-disposal game is most impressive.

Just quietly showing some appreciation to Shelley Heath. Never been a big possession getter, but she always brings pressure and a want to turn the footy over – she laid seven tackles and was rewarded with a goal as well.

One more thing, I cannot leave without a word about my love child Kalinda Howarth – I heard on the TV that there was a mishap in the pre-game warmup and had to undergo a fitness test. She was largely ineffective, maybe it would’ve been better for her to take it easy and hope nothing was wrong.

 

ADELAIDE 8. 8. (56) DEFEATED WEST COAST 2. 6. (18)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

Early on, you kind of got the feeling things could get very dark for the West Coast Eagles as they took on the might of the Adelaide Crows.

The Eagles were not just facing the only team to win two flags in the short history of the league – they were facing a team with immense talent and a returning pair of champion players that, until today, had book-ended the Adelaide team.

With Chelsea Randall prowling around centre half back and Erin Phillips drifting through the forward line, the Crows possess one of the best one-two punch combinations in the game, but Matthew Clarke had a couple of surprises up his sleeve to open the season.

Phillips started in the guts, indicating that any doubt over whether she is good to go for this season should be dismissed, and Randall started at half forward to create a bit of havoc amongst Eagles defenders.

But more on that in a sec. The Crows used a powerful second half to run away with an impressive 38-point victory, with plenty of stars on show. Let’s jump into some talking points.

 

THE MAN

Any wrestling fans here? Ric Flair fans? Then how about Becky Lynch fans?

Some may see me calling Erin Phillips ‘The Man’ as insulting or derogatory, but it is anything but. Flair used to utter the saying “To be THE man, you have to beat THE man” in terms of his exalted status in wrestling. More recently, Becky Lynch adopted the moniker due to her position as the top woman in the WWE at the time. She was the top dog, the top star… the man.

And so is Erin Phillips in AFLW.

After a 2019 season where the crown may have slipped slightly from her head, Phillips adjusted it in this game with a performance that dared any of the up and coming stars of the league to attempt to take her title. She had 23 possessions and kicked a couple of goals, but that could have easily been four or five. She is one of the few women in the competition that looks completely comfortable taking a grab above her head, even when there is contact headed her way, and she makes sure that when she touches it, her disposal matters.

At 35, many will challenge over the remainder of the season, but if I can channel the Nature Boy one last time… to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man, and right now, Erin Phillips is the man!

 

THE NEW ROLE

I’m not sure how many knew Chelsea Randall was going to line up at half forward, but I can tell you how many were a little upset with the way it played out – at least five West Coast defenders weren’t overly pleased.

Randall did not hit the scoreboard in this one, but her ability to take the ball cleanly, fend off and take on tackles to pump the footy inside 50 saw her responsible for several scoring opportunities.

The sole captain of this Crows outfit, Randall looked like she was ready to jump out of her skin when she got near the footy. Whether she remains a forward threat will be something we wait to see, but in terms of impact, she looked as though she could easily get on the end of a couple of goals in any given game.

More on some players in new roles below.

 

THE FIRST HALF STANDOUT

It was not all doom and gloom for the Eagles, with a very competitive first half before tiring. Best of all across the first two quarters was Mikayla Bowen. Her hard run and willingness to throw herself into the contest in defence was integral in the Eagles’ efforts to keep the contest close in the first half.

She created scoring opportunities as well as getting back defensively to assist her teammates and had it not been for her efforts, the Crows may have been much more successful in establishing a better lead at the half.

Bowen is just 19 years old but showed maturity beyond her years in this one. Like most of her team, she started to run out of puff late, but with plenty of years ahead of her, you can see her becoming one of the first picked each week for the West Coast team.

 

THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER

I’ve already touched on Erin Phillips, but there is no shortage of help for her, is there?

At the conclusion of the first quarter, I looked at the stat sheet (the part that worked) and saw that Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff had collected a combined total of just four touches in the first quarter. Hatchard’s one touch was very surprising considering how dominant she was in the 2020 season.

But you can’t keep good players quiet for long.

Over the next two quarters, Hatchard picked up 11 touches to put her stamp on the game. Her third quarter saw her really start to hit form despite strapping on a troublesome calf and her first outing in headgear after suffering a knock at training. With the game in hand at three-quarter time, Hatch spent the rest of the game watching from the sidelines.

Marinoff continued to work into the game, picking up 18 touches over the final three quarters to be one of the more important contributors for the Crows.

With these three in the middle, Adelaide have a trio of on-ballers that can match it with anyone in the league and they’ll take a bit of stopping as the season progresses.

 

RIGHT PLAN – WRONG EXECUTION

You can see what Daniel Pratt and his Eagles want to do, can’t you?

Watching the game, you can plainly see they want to use handball to breakdown the defensive structures, leading to an overlap and end with a player running back toward goal. And hey, it actually worked a couple of times.

However, the entire Eagles team needs to be able to a) hit a target by hand when executing this style of game and b) catch the footy.

They fell down repeatedly in both aspects.

When you’re using the run and carry handball game to break down a structure, you simply cannot fumble, but that’s what we saw too often from the Eagles in this one. Handballs missed targets – sometimes horribly so – and players were forced to sit and wait for delivery that should have been short and sharp. What that does is place the next person in the line under increased pressure and when skill isn’t your forte’, things can come unglued very quickly.

The pressure was there from West Coast and they really took it up to the Crows early in the game, but as they tired, their skills fell away and the gameplan became a little too difficult to execute. A 38-point margin indicates just how tough it was.

 

THE LUXURY

I touched on this above, but want to get into a bit more.

What a luxury Matthew Clarke has as coach of this Adelaide unit. He’s got players such as Eloise Jones and Stevie-Lee Thompson – both proven forwards – who he kust redeployed into other roles for the majority of the afternoon.

Jones had an up and down game, but you expect that from her. You have to be prepared to take the bad with the good, because you’re always going to get both. Clarke had her running around the midfield for quite a while.

I’ve long though EJ was one of the more naturally talented players in the league and she has a penchant of making the difficult look easy – I know it’s a stretch, but there is a bit of Stevie J in her.

Then you had Thompson plonked down in defence for a few quarters, running the footy out of the back half. Yep, the 2019 AFLW leading goal kicker playing off the half back line in a role reversal with Chelsea Randall.

They say coaching is tough gig, but when you have this kind of talent around you to work with, Matthew Clarke must have one of the best roles in footy right now.

 

QUICK BITS

Loved the goal-saving tackle from Demi Liddle in the dying stages of the first quarter. With both Ashleigh Woodland and the lurking Erin Phillips to beat, Liddle executed a perfect tackle to tie up both Woodland and the footy, preventing the Crow from finding the loose Phillips by hand. It would have led to a certain goal but for her desperation.

Speaking of Woodland, she looks promising. Another good forward for the Crows in the making. They need to stop this…

Solid debut for Aisling McCarthy for West Coast. Solid – not spectacular.

Massive tackling nights from Hannah Button (13) and Emma Swanson (11), but the  Crows would be rapt to see Teah Charlton pick up seven tackles on debut as well.

Worst handball of the game goes to West Coast ruck, Parris Laurie in the third quarter. She seemed to confuse herself after playing on at centre half forward and handballed directly into the midst of a couple of Crows. She either does not trust her kicking, or has been instructed not to kick, but sometimes… you’ve just gotta get that footy on your boot.

The Eagles would be content with what they saw from Bella Lewis in game one. Good control and showed a bit of vision, as well as riding a couple of hits.

 

Overall, good hit out for the Crows, but I did wonder whether they were very good , the Eagles were very poor, or whether we had a nice mix of those two land us in a six-plus goal margin?

 

 

NORTH MELBOURNE 11. 5. (71) DEFEATED GEELONG 1. 3. (9)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

A belting. An absolute pantsing by the Kangaroos over a Geelong team that was simply nowhere near the level of their opponents. Below I am going to highlight what I thought were the best players and best moments from the game, but I am going to open up with an apology.

There is simply no way I will be able to get everyone deserving into this review. North had so many solid contributors and if you were responsible for giving votes for this game, I really don’t envy you. There would be a good seven or eight players that could rightfully claim votes, yet due to the level of play from almost the entire team, will miss out.

Anyway, on with the review.

 

THE RUCK QUEEN

I commented to a couple of my fellow Mongrels during the game that I am not sure I’d seen a better all-round ruck performance in AFLW.

This was an absolute lesson from Emma King. Firstly, going forward in the first quarter and kicking the first three goals of the game was a nightmare beginning for the Cats’ ruck, Rene Caris. Not only that – King was also feeding her mids footy of such high quality that is really had the Geelong on-ballers on the back foot right from the outset.

King made one blue for the whole game, either missing or ignoring Kaitlin Ashmore as she streamed inside 50 in the first quarter. Perhaps a four goal haul was a little too tempting for the big girl?

That aside, this was a brutally efficient effort from one of the best rucks in the game and North owed much of their fast start to her hard work and willingness to run forward.

 

A WELCOME RETURN

As if North didn’t have enough firepower – Garner, Abbatangelo, Gavalas, King… here comes Daria Bannister into the fray to cause chaos with her hard run, good positioning and excellent playmaking skills.

She was involved in a heap of forward forays as her teammates started spotting her up. However, it was her effort in the second quarter that epitomised her commitment to the cause.

After an excellent hip and shoulder got rid of her direct opponent, she collected the footy and pumped it toward goal. The ball stopped on its end and the chase was on. Bannister was third in line, but brushed past a would-be shepherder to pressure Meg McDonald. Her third effort was to go after McDonald again, causing the Cats captain to cough up the footy into the waiting arms of Bella Eddey for her first goal in AFLW.

Whilst the celebration was largely for Eddey – iot is always a special moment to kick your first – the real hero of that moment was Bannister and her gut running. Without her efforts, North were a far worse team today.

THE ENGINE ROOM

So good was the North Melbourne engine room that it was difficult to distinguish who was best.

First up, Rebecca Webster was handed the role of curtailing Jas Garner. That lasted about a quarter before the shackles were released. Garner ended up with the lazy 18 touches and two goals. Another day at the office.

Jenna Bruton continued to work away, using her excellent foot skills and relentless pressure to keep the footy going the Kangaroos’ way. Whilst Kearney and Garner get a lot of the plaudits, her and the next cab off the rank do a mountain of work.

Ash Riddell picked up where she left off in 2020, notching 20 disposals and playing a hand in several scoring chances. Her hard run – two way running as well, I might add – is one of the keys to the North midfield set up.

And then there is Emma Kearney, who is as hard at the footy as anyone in this league. 22 disposals is a regular day at the office for her as she combined with her teammates beautifully through the middle.

With Emma King putting the ball down their throats, these North midfielders had a picnic at stoppages through the first three quarters before the Cats started to peg back the clearance stats in the fourth. North ended up with a 29-24 advantage, but it was the quality of their clearances that was the difference.

 

THE NEXT BIG THING

I watched a fair bit of North last season and Ellie Gavalas showed plenty in her first season.

Well, she kicked it up a notch in this game, snagging three goals and collecting 19 touches as her aggressive attack on the footy and the opposition gave North plenty of firepower both up forward and through the midfield. The Kangaroos are flush with top end talent and Gavalas easily fits into that bracket as well.

She will be one to keep an eye on as the season progresses and with North taking on the improved Saints next week, they’ll need her doing the thing she did in this game to give the Roos their second win.

 

UNSUNG HEROES

And here we go – the ones I couldn’t fit into their own category, but were highly capable of slotting into the votes.

Mia King – some of her grunt work and front and centre clearance work was brilliant. It was her attack on the footy that set up the third Emma King goal of the first quarter and the way she flashes through the guts at times give the indication that she could slot in as one of the more damaging players at a number of clubs.

Kaitlin Ashmore – Just runs so hard to find space and is looking more and more settled with the footy in hand. Was completely burnt by Emma King in the first quarter, ignored as she ran inside 50. Kept working – would love to see her score involvement numbers.

Kate Gillespie-Jones – Her running power really comes to the fore late in games. Whilst still a little mechanical in movement, she is slowly turning more into a Terminator-type as opposed to the C3PO -type.

 

OTHER BITS

One thing I noticed about North that seems to be missing from quite a few of the teams (both AFLW and AFL for that matter) is the ability to find targets via handball. This is such an important, yet undervalues skill. It allows quick ball movement, no slowing down with on the run and prevents teammates from being placed under pressure. North were able to do it all day long without selling teammates into trouble. There are several other teams that really have to work on this – Geelong included.

Where is Richelle Cranston at? One of the bigger recruits to the Cats in 2020, I expected big things from her, but with five disposals and very, very few second efforts in this one, Cranston looked like she was not up to it. Hopefully, we put it down to a bad game?

If we search for Geelong’s best, who jumps out?

I thought Jordan Ivey was serviceable under immense pressure. Meg McDonald worked hard in defence and Olivia Purcell worked hard against all odds in the middle of the ground. However, I am not sure we could say any of them truly won their individual battles.

Seeing a bit more from Vivian Saad this season already. Looks more confident in her abilities and isn’t as ruched with the footy in hand. Of course, as I wrote this bit, she took the ball and ran straight into trouble. Vivian!!!

Phoebe McWIlliams reminds me of Hawthorn’s Tim O’Brien. Gets her hands on it a bit but just doesn’t hold onto it enough.

 

Overall, North announced themselves as one of the teams to beat. They were capable of holding this Geelong team scoreless for the entire game, but pride is a valuable weapon for a team getting badly beaten.

 

 

BRISBANE 5. 11. (41) DEFEATED RICHMOND 1. 6. (12)

REVIEWER – NICK SLUGGETT

Brisbane came into this game as heavy favourites. This was completely justifiable as the Tigers failed to win a match in the 2020 iteration of the league.

The Lions had a very stable off-season compared to previous seasons and would be looking to build on a now set group of core players to carry them deep into finals in 2021.

The Tigers were hoping for a much-improved performance in 2021, highlighted by the debut of number one pick Ellie McKenzie. The Tigers recruited plenty of experience in the offseason, namely Sarah Hosking from Carlton.

The wind was a clear factor for the scoring in this game, with the only goal to the Brunton avenue end coming halfway through the last quarter.

It was tough in the contest early, but the Lions were working harder on the outside. They would’ve been frustrated by their lack of polish and were unable to truly reward themselves on the scoreboard. Credit must go, in part, to the Tigers defence, which made some fantastic plays of desperation to deny the Lions at times.

However, the experience of the Lions would shine through and weight of numbers would eventually overwhelm the Tigers in their first game back at their hallowed home deck at Punt road. The Lions finished with such dominance that the Tigers failed to score in the final quarter, despite kicking with the wind.

Brisbane would finish with 48 more uncontested possessions, 12 more clearances and 22 more tackles which is really the tale of tape of who wanted it more. The Lions would win every major statistical category except for contested marks (mostly thanks to the likes of Brennan, McKenzie, and Frederick)

 

AN “ALMOST” DAY FOR KATIE

There is no doubting that Katie Brennan is all class in the air. She put on a clinic up forward in first quarter. She just needs fix her goal kicking. It is a cardinal sin to be kicking into the woman on the mark. Stiff not to be awarded a strong mark on the halfback flank late in the second. She clearly had the majority of the footy and brought it down. Brennan will definitely be spending some time this week thinking about some of those opportunities that went begging which could’ve put the Tigers in a position to claim their first win.

Overall, the Tigers tall towers up forward didn’t fire much of a shot. They threatened at stages and looked lively but ultimately didn’t have any significant impact on the scoreboard.

 

BATES STILL GIVING PEOPLE NIGHTMARES

It’s been a while since Norman was out there doing his thing, but his namesake lives on fulfilling his legacy of determination and smacking people down who find themselves in the way.

Emily Bates forms part of that core group that the Lions will be looking to deliver in the midfield. She hunts the footy and always gives repeat efforts in stoppages. She is the definition of a hard-working midfielder with all the strings in her bow. The tackle she laid on half back in the second quarter was a standout. She stopped the Tiger player in her tracks and won the footy back.

Some of her passages of play in combination with Alexandra Anderson and Lauren Arnell are reminiscent of a team who’ve been playing together for a decade and know what each other are doing three steps ahead of their opposition.

 

WARDLAW LAID LOW

It’s very weird that the Lions would have a good win with plenty of the ball in their forward half and Wardlaw (Who this writer is a big fan of) would be the lowest ranked player on the ground. It’s safe to say Wardlaw was a non-factor in this game. Credit for this absolutely must go to the Richmond defenders, but I’m going to single out Rebecca Miller for doing most of the work on her. I don’t think I saw her lose a contest. A very solid performance in a defence that was under pressure and facing down a plethora of inside 50’s.

 

SHE’S STILL GOT IT

Great bit of toe from Lauren Arnell late in the second quarter. At a time when the Tigers were pressing to level the scores, she gathered the ball cleanly across half-back, under pressure from a tigers forward. Arnell then used some tremendous core strength, and a nice bit of pace, to shrug off the diving tackle and propel the lions out of defence.

 

ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS 

Courtney Wakefield showed some great forward craft in the second to score Richmond’s first goal. A long ball was kicked deep into the 50 and was bouncing up high above the one-on-one contest near the goal line. Wakefield beautifully used her body to edge out her opponent at the same time reach over her and direct the ball and gather before slotting through a goal she made look way easier than what it was.

 

GREAT OLD-SCHOOL MATCH-UP

Svarc v Conti – Catherine Svark had the job on Tigers star Monique Conti. The Lion put on a clinic on being an accountable midfielder in the first half. She led all possession getters and Conti’s shadow would’ve been jealous of how close they were at times. The Tigers’ star was possession-less at quarter time.

Conti would break free for six disposals in the third quarter when the Tigers pushed against the wind to try and keep the game alive, but to no avail. The damage was done, and the points went to Svarc.

 

HICKIE BOMBS ONE

Tahlia Hickie received the free kick on attacking 50 in the third quarter. Reading the play downfield wonderfully, she saw all the players vacate the goal square and rode the wind home for a monster goal. It was an absolute heart breaker for Richmond as it pushed the margin beyond two goals, and the Lions quickly made it a double-whammy and never looked back.

 

DEBUTANTES CAN BALL

Tigers fans will love what they saw from Ellie McKenzie in this game. She had good poise and attacked the ball with tenacity. She looks like she has good hands above her head and didn’t look out of place in the contest. This was typified by one passage in the third quarter where she had about four-to-five consistent efforts to force the ball out of defence and give Richmond there only genuine set of chances to score for the entire quarter.

Brisbane fans would no doubt have been just as impressed by Courtney Hodder. After playing Rugby Union for a few years and doing quite well, she’s come back to AFL and doesn’t seem to have lost her touch at all. It took her no time to showcase this with some good pace to turn and score the Lions second goal of the match. She was at it again in the third quarter when she showed great poise and skill in couple passages of play to find teammates in dangerous positions.

 

EXPERIENCE ISN’T EVERYTHING

The strong leadership in the Brisbane team shone through all over the ground as the game went on, but one player struck me most. Sophie Conway, who might surprise some since she isn’t really part of that “core” group of Lions. She just seems to know where to be. Whether it’s intercepting the ball in the defensive goal square (or inside forward 50), forcing the ball over the boundary line in the contest, or finding a teammate in space, she performs her duties with the coolness of a defender showcasing experience beyond her years.

Those first few minutes in the last quarter were telling. Had Conway not been there, Richmond would’ve undoubtedly found a goal and this game could’ve been a vastly different affair.

 

OPENING DAWES

How could I not mention the stellar performance from Isabel Dawes. The 19-year-old shone bright in the first game of her second season in the AFLW. Leading the game in disposals and clearances. Dawes looks to be forming part of a brigade of younger players at the Lions looking to combine with the more experienced generation to carry this team forward.

 

THE ROAD FORWARD

The Lions will host the Cats at home next week and look to build on this positive start and catch the Cats still licking their wounds form a crushing defeat to North Melbourne.

The Tigers play the Dees. They weren’t disgraced today and have plenty there to build on. They should be ready and hungry next week.

 

FREMANTLE 8. 10. (58) DEFEATED GWS 4. 4. (28)

REVIEWER – JB EDDY (New Mongrel… get around him!)

The first round of footy for 2021 finished with what was probably the most emotionally charged match of the week, and some very hard-at-it footy. While Freo ran out easy winners by a five-goal margin, GWS put plenty into the game against a side that will take some beating.

The final margin didn’t really paint a true picture of most of the game, which saw the first half full of hard, contested footy that unfortunately dropped off a bit as the game went on. GWS could consider themselves a bit unlucky to go into half time behind after some fantastic defence and leading the inside 50s 14-9 for the half, but that and a tenner won’t buy you a beer at the ‘G.

Fremantle have titled their 2021 campaign “unfinished business”, and it’s easy to see why. They haven’t lost a game since Carlton beat them in a prelim in 2019, and they were clear favourites for the 2020 season that was abandoned with no premier announced.

Before the season kicked off, many people had Freo as the favourites for the 2021 AFLW crown. Players like Gemma Houghton, Ebony Antonio and Kiara Bowers would be walk-up starts in any AFLW team, giving the Dockers winners on every line.

In contrast, a GWS side with a little less star power on their list. Alyce Parker is their reigning B&F winner, and at just 20 years old, looks to be the type of midfielder that you can build a squad around. She will definitely need a lot of help though, as this game showed.

The team had a nightmare offseason. I’m going to keep calling them GWS for this whole review, because having to call them the GIANTS in all capitals seems like they were named by someone complaining about a Facebook Marketplace seller refusing to deliver a $20 BBQ fifty kilometres to a bush campsite.

The decision to form a hub was probably the right one to ensure that a premier would be crowned this season, but unfortunately, it ruled out key defender, Louise Stephenson, who had to stay on call as a member of the local fire brigade, and ruck, Jess Allan, who has commitments to the ADF.

Irish import Brid Stack’s neck injury in the preseason match with Adelaide has had a lot of air time, and while she may not have been the most integral member of the squad, having her out with a broken neck will definitely leave some of the players shaken. When Lister went off with concussion just before half time, it seemed to remind them just how hard the game can hit.

Perhaps a greater impact though was losing Jacinda Barclay last October to mental health battles. The loss of such a talented and experienced player is one thing, but to lose her so tragically compounds the impact. Every game this round included a minutes silence to recognise her, and this match saw more than a few tears as the players remembered their teammate. Her number 34 jumper hung from the bench roof for the whole match.

 

SCRAPPY, OR SPIRITED?

The opening quarter was a low scoring affair, though a lot of that can be attributed to GWS’ willingness to get numbers to the ball. On a day where the temp hit 34⁰C, it may have come back to bite them later on when they slowed down and Freo took control.

Some may call this “scrappy” because players don’t have a lot of time to dispose of the ball cleanly, but I for one am a big fan of desperation footy, and GWS were as desperate as a hedge fund manager who had shorted gamestop shares last week. They were as hungry as Clive Palmer at a vegan yoga retreat. They were busier than a Canberra paper shredder. What I’m saying here is that they wanted the ball and didn’t care if they looked bad doing it.

Unfortunately, the intensity saw them fade a bit, and Freo’s class took hold of the match in the third quarter. GWS didn’t give up, but they did seem to be a bit warier around the contest after Lister seemed to get concussed after colliding with Houghton while both were going for the ball. Lister seemed to be blindsided and ran right into Houghton’s shoulder, whiplashing her head. A bit of bad luck, in my opinion, Houghton’s eyes were on the ball. There has been a bit of talk about “duty of care’ this week in light of the Stack incident, and it’s true that players need to be looked after where possible true, but the primary point of care will always have to be the player.

 

TAKE A BOWERS

The opening bounce was exactly what everyone expected, with Kiara Bowers getting her first of five clearances within the opening handful of seconds. While not many would have her as best on ground today, her presence is undeniable.

Bowers’ 21 possessions were to most of any Freo player, but her 10 tackles show why her teammates feel safe when she’s around. Last year she averaged 14 a game—the most in the league and almost double the next best player. If you’re trying to break a pack and Bowers is around, she’s putting you on your arse, and who doesn’t love to see that?

She seemed to pull a hammy in the first quarter, sitting a bit of it out to ride on the stationary bike on the sidelines. She re-joined at quarter time with her right thigh strapped, but didn’t seem to be missing a step. Every Freo supporter will hope she’s fine, because the side is much more dangerous with her in it.

 

ALL SET FOR ALYCE

Alyce Parker seemed to dig deep in this match. At just 20 years old, the reigning GWS B&F showed moments of class that suggested she could be the sort of player you build a midfield around, as well as a couple of turnovers under pressure that remind you just how young she is.

She’ll learn from those though, and come out all the stronger. Her 28 possessions was equal with teammate Rebecca Beeson’s effort, and just ahead of Ellie Bennetts. The fact that 18 of Parker’s touches were contested shows just how much she wanted to push her team across the line. Unfortunately, the three of them were left to shoulder a bit too much of the load though, and all were on the receiving end of some hard tackles that seemed to shake them. The intense pressure also hampered their ability to set up play, with more blast kicking from packs than they’d have preferred.

 

HARD TO CATCH HOUGHTON

Houghton is a dual AA and it’s easy to see why. Her ability to just accelerate and leave her opponent in the dust is worth the price of admission (or a stream) any day of the week.

Her first major play of the game was a three bouncer to bring the ball from defensive to forward 50, only to kick the ball into her opponent’s face trying to kick to the square. Freo recovered the ball though and with a quick kick, Houghton marked and converted just before quarter time.

Some pundits have said that time was up, and that the old wind-up siren at the ground gave her the extra second needed to make the mark count, but like my old under-13 coach said between bites of junior burgers “play to the whistle kid.”

Houghton had eight running bounces up until half time and finished with a game-high 484 metres gained. She hit three goals, but it could easily have been six with a little more polish on her finishing. Still, an easy pick for BOG.

 

WHERE IT WAS WON

GWS could probably claim to have had most of the momentum in the first half, but there’s no pressure like scoreboard pressure. It’ll crush you harder than a hundred “I just don’t like you in that way” text messages. A third quarter blitz from Freo seemed to hit GWS all the way back into the friend zone. The Dockers piled on 3.4 to a single Bennetts goal, and were it not for some wayward kicking it could easily have seen the game put to bed.

Up until this point, GWS had been able to weather the pressure and rebound well, but the combination of two quick Houghton goals and a morale-lifting debut major to Mikayla Hyde, who was only added to the list two weeks ago put the game well into Freo’s hands.

Freo’s forward line was just too much for GWS to handle. Houghton’s ability to break lines gave Sabreena Duffy ample opportunity to present, and with the highly experienced Kara Antonio seeming to coordinate the structure when resting forward, they stuck to a strong game plan.

Likewise, the Freo defence was anchored by the brilliant Janelle Cuthbertson. Her ability to read the play set up the sort of team-oriented defence that shows why the Dockers are the favourites for the flag this year.

 

NEXT UP

Both teams are supposed to head to South Australia for their next matches, but just before the first bounce, WA announced that they would be implementing a hard lockdown on the border due to a positive COVID result of a hotel worker. Whether that means a mad dash to the border or some changes in the fixture remains to be seen. Freo could play West Coast next week without destroying the fixture too much, so if it’s happening, at least it’s happening early in the season.

Fremantle should take on Adelaide, and GWS are scheduled to play a West Coast, the team that Adelaide made look a little ordinary this week. If these matches go ahead, both should be exciting affairs. Adelaide’s running power and hard-hitting style is a mirror to Freo’s ability to make space and contest the ball, so it should be an exciting match to see which side will set the standard for the year.

GWS may be a little worse for wear after some hard hits, but the West Coast team still seem to be finding their feet. I would expect GWS to be a little too good, but this week has been a tough one for them, and the Eagles may fancy their chances at getting their first win away from WA, provided they can actually get away from WA.

 

 

And there we go – dare you to find a more comprehensive review of the round than right here at The Mongrel. Go on…. try. And let me know, so I can assassinate them.

 

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