Round Three of the 2021 AFLW season has been pushed, pulled, massaged and bumped into existence, but at least we’re getting footy, right?
These articles are huge, so let’s not waste any more time. Here are the Mongrel Team’s reviews of each and every game this weekend.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3. 6. (24) DEFEATED GEELONG 1. 3. (9)
REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY
Well, us Victorians are going back into lockdown for at least five days – makes you think a lot right?
But the one thing that was keeping me ticking over on this Friday was the fact that my Bulldogs were going to be taking on Geelong at Kardinia Park in what is their third Friday match in a row. The women’s team hadn’t played there yet in the short time the Cats have been in the competition, so it was important to get one on them here whilst the Cats are still in a build of sorts.
The Cats would’ve been eyeing off the Dogs as a winnable game and considering that their previous two losses were against quality opposition in North Melbourne and Collingwood and being 0-3 against the Dogs – who aren’t exactly on the same level as those two sides – would put a massive dent in their plans for 2021.
Well, it wasn’t pretty, rather it was low-scoring, scrappy at so many stages and frustrating to watch from a Bulldogs’ supporters point of view. It was the Dogs, however, that came out with two wins in a row and kept themselves in touch with the top six – that is of course if the competition doesn’t can the season, and they better not if they’re keeping the Australian Open running.
Nonetheless, it was a tough game, and there’s got to be a lot of credit to the Cats, because the first two weeks have been overall pretty mediocre in terms of effort and skill-set. This week they were better in their endeavour, but the skill set still leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s been the hottest start I’ve seen from Ellie Blackburn in any season so far. If my top 50 was released today – where would I be putting her? Top 10 is almost a lock, she could easily push for top five with the way she played on Friday night.
Whilst one goal was scored in the entire first half, one woman was pushing and pushing for the Dogs to score and for the third week running. It was Ellie. Whatever happened between the Fremantle game last year and round one this year, she’s looked every bit of amazing: She wins the contested ball when she needs to, so damaging on the spread and she knows how to find her team mates.
No goals from her this week, which is a shame but sometimes that’s footy, but 25 disposals, including 17 in the opening half, as well as six marks outlines just how hard she works and how much she wants this club to do well. She also works really bloody hard defensively, like nine tackles is impressive for someone that plays so offensively.
She’s the perfect leader, perhaps the best leader in the competition right now, because she leads from the front and her team mates are following.
PLAYING IT GRITTY
The one big knock on the Cats right now is their polish, and I think I might have alluded to that last week when I mentioned that there was a lack of star-power in this Cats team.
But if there’s one thing the Cats do have – and plenty of might I add – it’s grit. They were always going to be up against it in terms of skills and talent against the Dogs, but the way Geelong pressured, harassed and tackled them, particularly in the first half, is something that the Cats can work with heading into the rest of the season.
In a sense, and this may be clutching at the straws a little, there’s a lot of Fremantle in the way Geelong’s players attack the opposition when they had the ball on Friday night. The stark difference is how they use the ball, and right now the Cats would have to be in the bottom three overall for kicking efficiency.
But, it’s a credit to the Cats, because the Bulldogs controlled a lot of the play in the opening half, but it was the Cats that out-tackled them by six at half time. It isn’t much on the stat sheet, but they also caused the Dogs to make a lot of unforced errors when they were they were that kick away from inside 50 and that caused a lot of frustrating turnovers.
The Dogs could’ve and should’ve had them on toast at half time, and the Cats came out of half time and really could’ve put them to the sword, they had eight inside 50s to the Dogs’ five, dominated the contested possessions and were on top of the clearances. But that polish, that damn polish. The Cats need players that can close up the plays, because that is what is going to get them to the next stage of their development.
Just a small one here, because I didn’t say much about Liv Barber in last week’s review. I do love the way she attacks the contest. I also love how she’s buzzing when the Cats don’t have the footy – key forwards who chase and tackle are rare commodities in football and Liv Barber will be a very, very fine football player in due time.
The stats don’t jump off the page, but she took a very nice pack mark on the wing in the third term, she laid three tackles, had a shot on goal in the last quarter from about 45 metres out that fell a few metres short of the mark. I also didn’t mind seeing her in the ruck at stages, thought she battled on well, despite the obvious size and experience difference in her opponents.
That combination of enthusiasm, attitude towards the contest and want for the footy – that can take players a long way in football.
JESS FREAKIN’ FITZGERALD
You should’ve seen my reaction, watching this from home. It was just brilliant how she got the footy in that 2-on-1 situation, and then watching her run away with the footy and then the finish. I absolutely popped off my chair and absolutely screamed in delight, both my Dad and my youngest brother came into my room to tell me to shut up and stop carrying on like a child.
Point is, in just three games, Jess Fitzgerald has already established herself as a star in the competition. Not quite at the levels of Ellie Blackburn, but with the Mongrels as my witnesses, she’s going to get there sooner rather than later. Last week against the Blues, she was brilliant and got the Rising Star nomination – rightfully deserved too might I add.
She didn’t get as much of it this week as she did last Friday night, but still did plenty with her eight touches, she just worked hard to get involved in which way she could, tackled well too and stood tall in opposition tackles at stages as well, it was a fine overall performance without being a genuine star.
And then there’s the goal. I can almost hear Dennis Cometti calling Tom Boyd’s goal in the 2016 Grand Final again watching back at the replay, but as iconic as that moment was, this is equally as iconic, because we’re witnessing a star emerge before our very eyes. Midfielders who kick goals or get into dangerous spots up forward are few and far between in both AFL Men’s and Women’s. So for an 18-year old in her third game to be doing it so consistently – I can’t help but get excited, perhaps way too excited.
Yeah, she’s got the best marking hands in the game – bar none. It was another stunning game in the air from Izzy on Friday night, and whilst she only could get 1.1 for the night, her marking hands make her one of the most valuable commodities in the AFLW today.
She took a career-best nine marks from 12 touches against the Cats. Most of those I’d wager were contested grabs – interesting that she averages over four contested grabs per game this season heading into Friday night’s game. That’ll probably go up just a fraction when they release the stats during the week.
But the way she reads it, the way she initiates contact in those one-on-ones, it’s all just elite-tier footy smarts and Izzy certainly brings that in spades. Plus, the luxury to throw her in the backline when the Cats made an effort to bring the game back on their terms just makes her value as a player all the better, because she took one or two intercepts in there as well and halted any momentum the Cats were building.
Another early candidate for top 10 in the top 50 – and that’s not bias talking. She’s got the best hands and the best contested mark in the competition and I dare anyone to come at me with another name that rivals it.
Geelong really have found a player in Amy McDonald.
Strong, tough at the coal-face, she – along with Liv Purcell, who continued to play strong footy – they were the ones that really pushed the Cats into making that third quarter theirs for the taking. I mentioned a little earlier that the Cats dominated contested ball and the clearance work, well I think McDonald’s influence in particular was a driving force.
She finished up with the 23 disposals, would be nice to see her clearance and contested possession numbers, because I reckon I saw her feature in five clearances at least. She was also putting in the defensive work as well with six tackles. I just love how she finds herself in and under a lot and I think that will do someone like Nina Morrison a favour and push her to the outside, where she can utilize her polish with the footy, because they really need something.
Another big game from Kirsty Lamb – 20 touches and the nine tackles. She has really stepped it up a notch this year and I think a spot in the AA squad of 40 is not out of the question.
Second straight week covering a Geelong game that I noticed Sophie Van De Heuval in defence. Aerially she looked very comfortable, but her kicking at stages was very poor, but I like that she keeps taking the game on at every opportunity.
Really liked Maddie Boyd this week, showed such strong hands and presented well up the ground. Had 11 disposals and seven marks, also laid four tackles which is impressive for a big forward.
A lot better from Rocky Cranston this week, looked more dangerous whenever the ball went down her general area, attacked well and also tackled strong, which is absolutely what she should be doing.
Whilst Blackburn, Lamb and Huntington should get credit for the win, Brooke Lochland quietly racked up the 16 disposals and looked quite lethal whenever she was trying to kick the footy forward, she’s such a brilliant link-up player.
Phoebe McWilliams would be in All-Australian contention if she could convert her opportunities – 1.4 from three matches with the goal she kicked on Friday night lucky to get past the inside of the goal post.
Loved Issy Grant’s debut video with her old man – one of the greatest to ever pull on a Bulldogs jumper – during the week. She didn’t look out of place when she had the footy in her hands. Think she’ll be a nice addition this season.
Much like Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig didn’t get a lot of the footy in this one, but there were a few delightful runs off the half-back line, couple of sweet kicks that found targets and the tackle in the last quarter on Crockett-Grills, the Cats were off to the races if she didn’t lay that tackle – She’s such a ripper.
Jordan Ivey across the half-back line I liked. Got involved with a lot of plays off half-back and tackled strongly when needed – finished with 12 disposals and five marks
The Dogs conceded 22 free kicks to the Cats, a lot of them were very clumsy ones to give away – just players falling onto the back of their opposition, a couple of high-contact ones were also a little silly to give away. Can’t afford to do that to the better sides – they’ll make you pay.
Another strong game from Julia Crockett-Grills. I love the way she goes about it – very strong and is tougher than one of my mum’s well done steaks. She laid six tackles and had 11 disposals in what was a very tough, congested contest.
It’s gonna be difficult to give midfield minutes to support both Lamb and Blackburn, but I really like it when Elisabeth Georgostathis goes in for the stoppages. She’s proven to win the ball in close and also burst away when need be.
Gonna spare a thought as well to Ashleigh Guest. Another player who is as tough as they come, copped one in the ribs in the third term, and then got belted in amongst a pack that left her with an eye that swelled up in a matter of moments. It looked horrible – I shudder in fear to think how it’ll be in the morning. (Update: It’s as bad as I imagined it – it’s as grotesquely swollen as Ken Griffey’s jaw in that Simpsons episode!!)
And lastly, it’s taken me a few years to come around to this take, but it’s time to give away the lasso rule for last touch out of bounds. It gets very confusing when the ball goes out of play when it is disputed. It was meant to be brought in to help keep the game running smoothly, but it isn’t exactly doing that right now.
GWS 2. 6. (18) DEFEATED GOLD COAST 1. 2. (8)
REVIEWER – BRETT HODGSON
Here we are in round 3 for a game between two teams that have yet to taste the sweet spoils of victory. Both the Suns and the Giants come into this game with something to play for. GWS return to Blacktown for the first time for crowd-football in 355 days, and the first time since the tragic passing of Jacinda Barclay. Gold Coast have had the hypothetical highs and lows, having set their highest score ever in Round 1 to back it up with the lowest score in AFLW history ( 0.2) in Round 2
It’s a battle between the two most leaky defences in 2021. Gold Coast did play on a wet track last week vs Fremantle so perhaps they are well prepared, or maybe they have a higher fatigue factor to overcome and it’s the Giants time to stand tall. Let’s see who comes out on top in this mongrel of a day.
The Giants opened up with the first two goals of the game in the first quarter to take a 15 point lead (2.3 to 0.0) at quarter time. As it turns out that was all the margin they would need to get their first win for the season, taking the contest by 10 points (2.6 to 1.2)
Gold Coast somehow not only came agonisingly close to setting or equalling their record low score, but also were in a position yo pinch this game in the dying stages. Jamie Stanton goaled with two minutes remaining to give the Suns a shot but a Giants clearance and a dangerous tackle free was the final nail in the coffin for the Suns and the ecstatic Giants girls celebrated in honour of their teammate.
In a clash of contrasting styles, the Suns strangely came out early with a short kicking, possession game, which is far from ideal in the conditions presented. GC held their marks luckily but did not put the GWS players under any pressure via field position or “chaos balls” like the game plan they had last week in the wet vs Freo.
The Giants chose to attack via the long ball after gaining the contested ball at ground level. The GWS mids were a bit more decisive with their disposal and got rid of the ball quickly after a broken tackle whereas, far too often, after busting one tackle the second tackle would immediately nail a Suns player and a free kick would be awarded to the Giants.
Parker was phenomenal for GWS, breaking tackles and gathering the ball all over the field. She found herself working hard to support her backline as well as being a danger up forward in the contest. She played the changing conditions superbly, altering her tactics on the fly. Early on she was damaging with the long ball, but once the drizzle subsided she altered back to feeding her outside players with clean disposal by hand (her hands in traffic to set up Alicia Eva for her goal was superb)
Three votes no question to Parker. 24 touches (six intercept possessions), six clearances and five tackles mark a great day at the office for the leading disposal winner in AFLW.
MACKRILL OR SILLY SALMON?
I loved the impact of Tait Mackrill in this game for GWS as she had some vital moments across half-forward and certainly made her presence felt. Two bone-crunching tackles led to dangerous forward 50 entries, including her tackle and kick to set up Taylah Davies for the opening goal.
She was mostly unstoppable when she decided to take on the tackler or challenge a Sun in possession. Yet when she chose not to then Mackrill looked to have transformed to the silly salmon.
Twice she was set upon by a tackler and appeared to throw her head back to draw a free-kick. One of them resulted in a shot on goal and perhaps a date with a chiropractor. To be fair the absolutely dreadful camera work that plagued the broadcast did her no favours, so Tait if you’re reading and it was a legit high tackle I apologise – you can blame the cameraman for that. High or not her impact was vital for GWS.
This is in no way a criticism of the way the Suns coach goes about it, I was just surprised at a few things tactically for Gold Coast. The wet weather territory game worked so well vs Fremantle last week so the decision to adapt a short kicking possession-style game plan was a bit odd, considering generally it’s a cardinal sin to over possess the ball in slippery conditions.
In the past few weeks there were a couple of moves to get players involved or change up something that wasn’t working for the day. Today prime movers such as Howarth (who I will touch on further) Perkins, Kaslar and Keaney all struggled and only the move of Tex into the ruck was the only one that seemed to be shifted around to try to gain some ascendency. The Suns have had six opposition midfielders in three games with 20+ disposals so maybe one of these players could have a new role up their sleeve in the later rounds.
Drennan led the Suns’ midfield superbly and was like a bull in a China shop throughout. A case can be made for her being the best (or at the very least “underrated”) two-way midfielder in the game, combining offence and defence. I believe she has been the recruit of the year and I believe she would be leading the Suns Best and Fairest quite convincingly. She did her best trying to clamp onto the Giants midfielders all game. 22 disposals, and game-highs of nine clearances and 12 tackles for Drennan.
Ahrens has been an unsung hero for the Suns this year, often overshadowed by fellow star Jade Pregeji. Over three games in 2021, the Centre Half Back has accumulated 50 disposals and showed an extremely cool head under pressure. She was colossal in the air as she bailed them out time and time again, especially when Eva, Parker and Beeson took over. Without her, the Suns lose by double or triple today’s margin minimum.
GWS WIN THE MIDFIELD BATTLE
It was a battle of contrasting styles with the rest of the midfielders of the classic offence vs defence matchup
The attacking Giants with Alicia Eva and Rebecca Beeson vs the dour and defensive-minded Jamie Stanton, Kate Surman and Hanna Dunn. Both groups had their moments but ultimately the Giants pair stood firm and took the points, often seeming to have that bit of extra space and time in the clinches.
The toughness of Eva was a feature as she broke multiple tackles and was then able to release. In contrast, whenever a Suns mid could fight through they were often immediately wrapped up and penalised in the follow-up tackle. In particular, for the Suns I was impressed by the toughness of Co-Captain Dunn as she never gave in and went about it with no issue, putting her body on the line routinely, tallying nine disposals and seven tackles.
In the end, the power in the middle won out for the Giants with Beeson, Eva and Elle Bennetts combining for 51 touches.
Win the ball? No problem
Usually, the term “utility” is a dirty word in football as generally, it specifies a player that doesn’t stand out in any one aspect, yet does a little bit of everything okay. Maddi Levi, on the other hand, can be a true utility and a dangerous player going forward. Her attack on the ball was great and she offers a great backup to Lauren Bella in the ruck. The Suns have something special with the 18-year-old.
The signs are noticeable now that something is not right. Injury, form, confidence or just a bad day, she had a shocker. To me, it appeared as she was trying to hit the scoreboard with every disposal today. Once she gets to playing basic fundamental football her special talent will shine through. Going from nine goals in 2020 to none in three games in 2021 clearly appears to be on her mind. As stated previously I think Lake has to try something to get her up and firing as the Suns can’t have a player of her calibre held to just four touches.
There will be some sore bodies tomorrow with 142 tackles laid for the match. There was some Giant hits (I know, I know) from Mackrill that set the tone in this one but not to be outdone Lucy Single kept the game within reach with a chasedown tackle in the final minute of the second quarter as Cora Staunton was about to kick for goal from 15 metres out.
Rebecca Privitelli was unlucky to not have a larger impact, on a dry track I feel she could have likely been a multiple goalkeeper as she was a danger all day, just couldn’t fully capitalise.
Louise Stevenson had a great game at centre halfback for the Giants, especially in the second half of the game when the Suns were pushing hard to get back in the game. Her disposal and reading of the play makes her a handful in the back half
I can see what the Gold Coast match committee were trying for when they debuted Janet Baird but the conditions did not suit her one bit. She looked very tentative early, before fatigue set in her movement and instinct looked okay. Interested to see what she provides on a dry track.
Lucy Single showed a lot today around half-forward, attacked the ball in a straight line and didn’t pull out of any incoming collision. Her decision making and pace were noticeable.
Georgia Garnett had a very impressive debut, bobbing up in key moments around the ground, the Giants would have been thrilled with her involvement. 10 touches and four tackles on debut
The follow-up work of Lauren Bella improved noticeably. She was more active in second efforts and also pushed hard to be a factor behind the ball, which isn’t something she had time to do in the first few weeks. Her chemistry with Drennan was on show with some delightful ruck work.
Last but not least it would be criminal if I did not mention the 5ft2 bulldozer, Haneen Zreika. She was a handful for the Suns defence with her constant pressure, and a couple of her tackles were absolute belters.
CARLTON 6. 4. (40) DEFEATED ST KILDA 2. 4. (16)
REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY
This was a game with huge ramifications for both sides, and with the season facing uncertain times, especially with the lockdown happening in Victoria, every game from now is a crucial game.
No game is more critical than the Blues in 2021, who started 0-2 after being labelled as premiership favourites in the pre-season. Albeit, those two losses were both one-goal margins, coach Daniel Harford made it pretty clear that the Blues are playing nowhere near the level that they should be. Can you blame him? Scoreless in the opening half in round one against Collingwood and last week against the Bulldogs, they gave up a 10-point lead and then missed easy opportunities to win it late.
They entered into RSEA Park in Moorabbin with every chance that they could be 0-3 and their Finals’ chances burned down in a blaze that the Blues only have themselves to blame for. In the very short time they’ve had in this competition, the Saints have turned Moorabbin into a place that’s been made uncomfortable for opposition, regardless of skill set.
However, it was the Blues’ star power that shined through here, turning it on after quarter time to record their first win of the season. The Saints tried to control the ball throughout the ground, and the fact that they were nearly +30 in marks should be a testament to that. But the Blues were strong around the contest and were good when the ball was in dispute. They looked good and a step back to their best.
THE MADDY PRESPAKIS SHOW
By half-time the reigning league best and fairest had 17 disposals to her name and will have probably had the umpires already locking in the three votes as well. But you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who impacted the entire contest more than Maddy Prespakis.
She worked hard on the spread, was important with every in-and-under contest that she needed to. It was a typically destructive Prespakis game here and the Saints would be left wondering how they let her wander around RSEA Park like a child through the middle of a movie – no supervision and no accountability from the Saints mids.
I’d like to pinpoint a moment and that was the goal she kicked in the second quarter. She was matched up in the stoppage by Rosie Dillon. Now I love Rosie and I love how she goes about her footy. But I don’t know if she’s the one you want to go head-to-head with one of the best players in the league.
In this particular instance, Rosie Dillon win the hard ball – as she’s pretty good at doing so – but Prespakis stayed out. Sure enough, the ball spilled out and it allowed Prespakis to get the uncontested possession and finish the play off. Dillon is a great contested ball winner and a sound tackler, but after quarter time especially, you needed someone to run with Prespakis, as the first week showed especially.
The Saints did put Cat Phillips onto her after half time and Prespakis’ influence dipped dramatically, but the damage had been done, and the Saints were playing catch-up essentially from there on in.
Prespakis – 3 votes.
AND THEN THERE’S THE ASSISTANCE…
It was as though Daniel Harford handed the keys to the younger players and told them to do what they like. Prespakis was of course driving the ship, but of course a good captain (metaphorically of course) can’t do it without good crew mates alongside.
I know HB has covered both Blues games this season and has made note of Grace Egan starting slow in both of them. He even went as far to suggest a tagging role to get her going. Well turns out Egan was matching up with Patrikios around the centre bounces and the stoppages around the ground. She was good all throughout and finished with 24 touches for easily her best game of the season.
Abbie McKay I actually didn’t notice get into the thick of it in the middle until the second half. By half time she had already had 11 touches to her name and finished with the 17 disposals to her name, but it’s the fact that she can find the footy, extract from the contest or even provide a link the chain that will make her such an important piece to this midfield team. Plus the seven tackles to her name is pretty attractive too.
Georgia Gee was moved on the ball after half time and had a real positive impact. If she wasn’t getting her hands on the footy, then she was causing a lot of pressure to turn the footy over. She’s such a dynamic player. They can also use Lucy McEvoy and Mimi Hill through the middle as well. It’s a good luxury to have that can afford the older Blues players to play other roles around the ground.
WHICH LEADS ME TO THIS PLAYER…
Elise O’Dea… Haven’t seen her play a game like that for quite some time.
The first quarter saw her play as the extra defender for Carlton, as they were kicking against the wind, with the breeze blowing towards the South Road end of RSEA Park (As a local, I’d been waiting a while for me to say that), O’Dea was receiving a lot of the footy that was coming down that way. The Saints only managed a goal with the breeze and it was largely in part because of her.
This was followed by a move in the forward line, which saw her play a role just as lethal as her job in the first. As a forward target, she was lively, she did get a goal on the board, which was just reward for her efforts. To be honest, her and Darcy Vescio make a dangerous duo up forward – and it’s no surprise to know that they were teammates at Darebin in a different timeline.
O’Dea finished with 21 disposals in a game that saw her practically do everything and when I say everything, I mean everything!!! She even recorded a hitout – what didn’t she do here???
WATT V HARRIS
When I saw the Saints co-captain (they have about 900 of them apparently) go to Tayla Harris, I immediately rubbed my hands with anticipation – this was going to be a box office showdown.
I’ve liked Rhi Watt so far this season – she seems to be assigned a job to do and just does it. Round one against the Bulldogs it was nullifying the rucks, round two it was nullify Emma King’s influence around the ground. This week it was start at full-back on one of the biggest household names in the women’s footy today.
This meant that Breann Moody had a field day in the hitouts, and not just that, I think Moody was a big standout around the ground, but if it meant keeping Tayla Harris goalless, then I think Peta Searle would be happy in that regard. In fact, Harris would only have seven touches for the game. She was beat, well beat, but not exactly useless as her old mate Stacey Livingstone would say.
She tried to make things work at ground level, get teammates involved and she was laying tackles, so that’s not bad from a defensive standpoint. But Watt – and also credit to Ali Brown as well, who filled in at stages – absolutely denied Harris from her greatest strength – and that’s in the air.
AND THE BATTLE UP THE OTHER END
Looking up the other end of the ground and another big match-up looked like it was going to be a beauty: The G-Train Caitlin Greiser against Vaomua Laloifi, returning from concussion.
It was looking promising for the G-Train early, her speed is so underrated in the league and she burned Laloifi on the lead a couple of times, just poor delivery crucified Greiser to no end. She did get on the end of a good delivery and used her speed to out gun Laloifi for the Saints’ first of the day. Laloifi should’ve put body contact on – she was in a good position to do so and throw Greiser off, but that’s a discussion for another time.
After quarter time, however, Greiser was hardly sighted without having an extra one or two Blues for company. Charlotte Wilson was matched up on her at numerous stages, and Kerryn Harrington was looking back to her best form in terms of being able to set up plays from the back half, and a lot of that is built on making sure the Saints’ key forward didn’t get her opportunities.
And that happened… and it worked…. And the Blues won the game.
I feel like Greiser is the barometer of this St Kilda side, and if she doesn’t fire up, the Saints have a hard time winning. I think back to all the Saints’ wins they’ve had and she’s had a strong hand in all of them – might actually be something in that.
Anytime I see Kate Shierlaw play or hear the name come up, I immediately think back to her Twitter bio with which she compares herself to a baby giraffe. Maybe it’s a little mean, but I can absolutely see the resemblance and it makes me laugh a lot.
But jokes aside, she’s been in really ripping touch over the past few weeks hasn’t she? Last week she was sensational in the air against the elite North Melbourne defence and backed it up again this week against a Carlton defensive unit that shouldn’t be slept on by any means. The confidence in her game is at an all-time high and it’s making her play such a joy to watch.
Granted, they put a lot more attention on Caitlin Greiser as mentioned above and absolutely it should be taken to account to an extent, but the way that Shierlaw covers ground, the way that she is so confident in marking the ball at the highest point – there is not a player in the competition that can stop her when she gets to marking the ball like that.
She took eight marks from 13 disposals and kicked 1.1 from that as well. Another thing that caught my eye is how once she led up the ground and completed the mark – the first thing she looked for is to bring the ball to the middle of the ground. I liked it, it didn’t work at stages, but I love watching the key position players trying to take the game on and bringing the footy towards the middle of the ground.
I haven’t touched on Nicola Stevens’ game yet. She needed a lift on previous weeks if the Blues were to make some ground on the ladder – well she came through with two goals from 10 touches, her work at ground level a big highlight.
Really good to see Gab Pound back in this Carlton side. She had the 12 disposals, but the Blues have missed her composure with the footy across the back half.
I think despite a big tag by Egan around the stoppages, Patrikios had a nice game with 20 disposals, five tackles and three marks. Probably the best Saint on the day and I think the fact that she can wear a decent tag and still give you 20, speaks a lot about her work rate.
Daisy Walker on debut looks like she’ll be some sort of player – She only had the seven touches, but didn’t hesitate to take the game on at stages and was quite efficient with the footy in her hands.
Rosie Dillon currently averages eight tackles per game – third in the competition and that was helped by her nine-tackle game on Saturday.
Was very disappointed with Nat Exon in this one – three disposals and didn’t look like getting anywhere near it at any stage of the contest. Also the one tackle is pretty telling.
I think Hannah Priest played her best game in her short time in the AFLW. Looked like she was desperate to stop the Blues from scoring at every opportunity. Finished with the 18 disposals, five marks and six tackles.
Another Saint that tried really hard in defence was Tilly Lucas-Rodd. Had the 16 disposals and four marks and was another that was trying everything to both stop the Blues and then create off half back.
And lastly, a big shoutout for Jess Hosking’s 19-disposal game across both half back and in the middle. The young guns in the Carlton side will get the credit, but Hosking’s ability to win the hard ball shouldn’t go unnoticed either.
MELBOURNE 9. 6. 60 DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE 8. 3. 51
REVIEWER – HB MEYERS
If you’d somehow managed to avoid seeing a game of AFLW, you could have done a lot worse than to tune into this one to whet your appetite.
You could tell by the tone of this game that both sides fancy their chances to walk away as 2021 premiers. And you know that both teams realise that in order for that to happen, they’re going to run into each other again at some stage.
This game had plenty to it – the quality of the North Midfield, the highly-skilled Melbourne forward line, and a plethora of players that would be in the best-22 for any side in the competition.
After an even first stanza, it was the Dees who elevated their game and they had the North Melbourne girls looking at each other in confusion. The Demon attack on the footy was relentless, culminating with a three-goal half to Jacqui Parry. At that stage, it looked as though North had no answers. That was, until after half time.
If the Dees dominated the second quarter, North did the same to the third, peppering their attacking fifty behind a huge lift from Ash Riddell, and a 30-second blast from Darcy Bannister that saw her slot two goals in 30 seconds.
The last quarter was a slog, with both teams reluctant to allow any open space for the other. A quick snap by Isabella Eddey (on some brilliant hands by Sophie Abbatangelo) drew the Kangaroos within striking distance, but the Dees were too string in defence, and a Shelley Scott free kick and goal on the siren extended the lead out to nine points.
So, game of the year? The Dogs and Blues had a belter last week, but it’d be hard to go past this one. It was hard at it, it was entertaining as hell, and it had a real edge to it. For mine, the best game of the season thus far.
Here are my takeaways.
I went back and had a look at the faces of the North Melbourne players during the second quarter. Expressions of shock, anger and exasperation were prevalent as the Demons pressed forward again and again, breaking the Kangaroos down from half-back with a running, handball and precision kicking game that left North looking flat-footed.
You could tell – they were not expecting that.
The Demons looked possessed in the way they attacked in the second quarter and North had no answer. It was a blistering display of power football that had very few weaknesses.
Having watched the majority of AFLW games over the journey, I am not sure I have seen a better whole-of-team performance than this one by the Dees in the second quarter. Especially when you consider the calibre of their opponents. It was the sort of football that detractors of AFLW say never occurs (you have to wonder how they know it never occurs when they refuse to watch it, huh?) and damn it, it was thrilling to witness.
You cant talk about the second quarter of Melbourne without mentioning the third quarter of the Kangaroos. It was a statement, in and of itself. It was a team with wounded pride coming out and stating “not today”. And it was a confirmation that this North Melbourne side is not one to be taken lightly, even when five goals down.
The big guns started firing, the forward line started clicking and this time it was Melbourne players exchanging looks and trying to conjure something going the other way.
But they were under siege, and only a free kick and fifty metre penalty was able to halt the onslaught of the Kangaroos. In a game where 17 goals were kicked, North had four in the third and the Dees had six in their second quarter run. Both were amazing displays of AFLW footy, and if you haven’t watched, I recommend you do so.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT KATE HORE?
Here I was, trying to make up a great pun about Kate Hore, then I realised the futility of my effort and I gave up, but what I will do is talk about how bloody dangerous she looked in the first half.
2020 saw Kate Hore hit her stride in AFLW. Looking every bit a natural footballer, she slotted into the forward line of the All-Australian team and she looks to have got better again this season. She reads the ball beautifully, is clean below her knees (this is a skill many have yet to master in AFLW) and is one of the most dangerous avenues to goal the Demons possess.
At half time, Hore was dominant, racking up 12 touches and a goal in a dominant performance.
Hore may be noted by some as a goal kicker, but she is also creative and often has the quick handball to a running teammate ready to go around goal. Many players seem to simply transfer the pressure when it comes their way. They handball to a stationary target and let them deal with it – not so, Hore. She looks for the best option, often hitting someone on the move. They’re the sort of actions that set up scoring opportunities and after half time, North knew they had to put a stop to what Hore was doing.
Credit must go to Nicole Bresnehan, who really tightened up on Hore after the break, restricting her to just three touches in the second half. But in many ways, Hore had already done the damage.
PAXMAN AND KEARNEY
I heard the bloke doing commentary (I think it was Jason Bennett) describe these two as two old bulls going at during the game. Well, I suppose it is better than describing them as two old cows, right?
Kearney and Paxman are two of the best players in the caper, and to see them going head-to-head at points of the game was a joy. Kearney drifted out of the game late, which almost by default gives the chocolates to Paxman, but even when they were both heavily involved, the Melbourne star was more prominent.
It’s interesting – during the game, one of our Mongrel writers posed the question as to whether you’d prefer to have Paxman or Lily Mithen as your number one mid. Mithen brings the finesse and that is probably due to having a little more time once she collects the footy. Paxman is at the coalface often, and though she may be tempted to throw the ball on her boot a little quickly at times, her follow up work, and her doggedness to ensure she gets to the next contest cannot be faulted.
At one stage in the second quarter, Paxman was involved at half back and continued to work to remain part of the play resulting in Parry’s third goal. While others stop, Paxman keeps running.
So, in answer to my fellow Mongrel’s question, Paxman would be my pick, not just over Mithen, but over Kearney, and over almost all players in the league right now. She is incredibly consistent, refuses to stop throwing her body into the contest and you can tell that even when a decision goes against her, disappointed as she may be, she is still relishing the contest.
Important to note, Paxman’s game will be lauded due to hitting the scoreboard, but the fifty-metre penalty she received in the third quarter… well, let’s jump to that topic, shall we?
RIDDELL ME THIS…
With all the momentum and with the Dees searching for answers, it took a fifty-metre penalty to Karen Paxman and a steadying goal to right the Melbourne ship. North were all over Melbourne in the third quarter, but a free kick in the middle saw Paxman backing up to take her free-kick. Ash Riddell threw the ball back to her, dropping it a metre or so short of the retreating Demon. And then the whistle blew.
Now, it is my humble opinion that the umpire got completely sucked in here by one of the oldest tricks in the book, but one of the best tricksters in AFLW. Paxman was backing up.
Could she have stopped and caught the footy Riddell was throwing back? Maybe.
But why would she?
The ball dropped short and the umpire paid the costly fifty-metre penalty. The momentum faltered and the game was suddenly back on even terms.
It was unfortunate that it was Riddell that threw the footy back to Paxman – she was in the midst of perhaps her best quarter of footy for the Kangaroos, which is saying something given the season she had in 2020. If not the catalyst for North storming back into the contest, she was certainly one of the driving forces behind their third quarter surge.
Riddell’s ability to contest and double down again to either lay tackles or win the footy gives the North Melbourne midfield a potent weapon. Whilst so much of the attention goes on Kearney and Garner – maybe even Jenna Bruton, it is the gut-running of Riddell that allows those players the freedom to work.
Her nine third quarter disposals led the way for the Kangaroos, and with form like that, a second selection in the All-Australian team might be coming her way.
This one surprised me, but the attack on the incoming footy from Sinead Goldrick was a real highlight of the game for me. The third-year Irish recruit is what you’d consider unorthodox in terms of her playing style, yet strangely, in a league where the unorthodox can be not too far from the norm, she has slotted in beautifully in defence, and did some really nice things in this one.
Goldrick has little in the way of fear, and is unafraid to run in a straight line at the footy, even when she knows what si coming the other way. She will wear her fair share of knocks along the way, but she does not strike me as the type of player who will change the way she goes about it.
Her rebound out of defence and bull-at-a-gate style of running with the footy set the Dees alight on a couple of occasions, at one point starting the Melbourne run that saw Karen Paxman lead the charge downfield to assist Jacqui Parry’s goal. Later, her combination deep in defence with Lily Mithen was just what the doctor ordered to repel the North attack.
Goldrick may have been looked at as a project player at one point, but her manic style and desperation have made her an integral part of this Melbourne defence.
Tough in the clinches and charged with being the third midfielder in the guts for the Dees, Tyla Hanks showed in no uncertain terms that she belonged in this one. She was in an under, throwing her body into contests and laid an impressive nine tackles.
I guess the magnitude of this performance is raised when you consider the talent she was opposed to. Many believe the North Melbourne midfield to be the best in the business, but Hanks rose to the challenge, taking on this daunting group and getting the better of them.
Her combination with Paxman and Lily Mithen gave the Dees plenty of drive out of the middle and when the ball was in dispute, Hanks flat out refused to allow any North player an easy extraction and clearance.
Hanks’ ascension at Melbourne may end up being one of the stories of the season. I am a firm believer that organic improvement is what wins teams flags, and Hanks has made a significant step in 2021. Not to put any pressure on the girl, but EVERYTHING Melbourne does revolves around her… nah, just kidding, but she is a big part of the Demons’ hot start to the season, and importantly, was a vital part of this win over a fellow contender.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Deployed across half back now, the Melbourne captain, Daisy Pearce plays a bit of a subdued role. She reads the play, positions herself well and rebounds the footy at regular intervals.
However, are we really silly enough to think she doesn’t have another gear?
Today she silently slipped into that gear at points to either win the footy for her team, or prevent her opposition from doing so.
It was spoken about on commentary for a moment, but her one against three contest on the wing in the fourth quarter was inspirational. How many other players would run back into that sort of situation, have three opponents gathered around them,. make the right decision and force a break-even?
Not bloody many, but Daisy did. And she made it look easy. All it could have taken was a North player to glove the ball cleanly, or knock it on to a teammate, or lay a shepherd on Pearce to take her out of the play. Yep… ifs and buts… none of it happened. Pearce made the right call, the right moves and the right play and the resulting stoppage may not have elicited rapturous congratulations from those in the booth, but keen footy watchers knew what she’s done there – she did the little things that make a difference.
Add to that act her courage backing into traffic, and stellar ball use as she cut a path through the guts earlier in the game and you have a tidy little game from Daisy that will no doubt fly under the radar.
Libby Birch did a really good job early on Jasmine Garner. The North star was better once moved into the action in the second half, but Birch is one of the more underrated defenders in the game and she more than held her own against Garner, whose first goal was a little cheeky one out the back.
The stats really don’t do her a lot of favours, but I liked the game of Casey Sherriff in this one. She read the play really well and punished North for any errant kicks.
I have no idea how Shelley Scott manages to get out in space… ever. Way too dangerous to allow any room. Her goal on the siren was probably just-reward for her work in the forward line all day.
How could you not love Darcy Bannister’s 30 seconds of brilliant forward work? Great to see her getting a regular gig and running around injury-free. Or relatively injury-free, I guess.
Jas Garner’s ability to get the ball on her boot in traffic is elite. Just a quick little sidestep to buy herself the smallest amount of room and the ball is gone.
A quieter game for Jenna Bruton in this one – it was kind of compounded when she was run down by Shelley Heath in the fourth. It’s just not often you see Bruton caught unaware.
And that’ll do. I was rapt to be allocated this game. Was really looking forward to it and it did not disappoint. Plenty of takeaways for both teams, but you’d be thrilled with that win if you’re a Dees fan.
FREMANTLE 7. 1. (43) DEFEATED ADELAIDE 1. 5. (11)
REVIEWER – HB MEYERS
The Fremantle Dockers made a statement on the road as their pressure football, combined with a solid defence and the best tackling midfielder in the game… not just the AFLW, provided the impetus for an outstanding win over a team many consider a contender in 2021.
How complete was the Dockers’ dominance of the two-time AFLW premiers? How effectively did they shut down the vaunted Crows midfield? And how brilliantly did they put the clamps on a forward line as good as any in the competition? Well, that’s my job to get to the bottom of, but if we’re going to start anywhere, it has to be with the best, so let’s do just that.
On paper, you look at the Kiara Bowers v Anne Hatchard clash and you may be tricked into thinking it was a close contest. Bowers had 23 touches to Hatchard’s 21 and whilst neither hit the scoreboard, both had moments where they looked like they were getting the better of the other.
But you’d be wrong if you put it down as a draw – this was a comprehensive win to Bowers and continued to enhance her reputation as one of the best players in the game.
The Fremantle pocket-rocket was a tackling machine.. a statement that should surprise no one, but it may have come as a rude shock to Hatchard, who was on the receiving end of four Bowers tackles in the first quarter. When Bowers latches onto you, it’s game over. You simply do not break her tackles.
I’ve seen Hatchard, a woman with immense power, wade through the tackles of others, but when Bowers wrapped her up, Hatch was going nowhere fast. One of Bowers’ vice-like tackles even had the Adelaide running machine very slow to get to her feet. This will probably be looked at, but she is the best and most consistent tackler in the game – she knows what she is doing. I reckon the AFL will give her a fine, particularly given Hatchard got up and kept playing.
Defence is this aspect of Bowers’ game that probably deserves to be spoken about in more glowing terms than it already does. She is a stopper as well as an accumulator. She turns uncontested touches into very contested touches for her opponents through sheer will alone. At half time, she had recorded 24.3% of her entire team’s tackles. Whilst you would have heard the commentators grant Gemma Houghton the ‘superstar’ label during the game, Bowers is the one who should have it bestowed on her. Not only did she get as much of the footy as anyone on the park, her defensive work and willingness to put her body on the line cannot help but inspire those around her to do the same.
Bowers’ name is well and truly in the mix for the competition MVP award after three games. Yes, Ellie Blackburn has been excellent and deserves all the attention she is getting as leader of the Dogs, but Bowers has been monstrously good, both offensively and defensively this season. Averaging a ridiculous 22 touches and 13 tackles in an undefeated team, it’s high time her excellence was acknowledged.
THE SMALL FORWARD MASSACRE
Here are a few numbers.
Eloise Jones – Five touches
Danielle Ponter – Five touches
Ash Woodland – Four touches
These are the players that bob up for the Crows, kick a goal or two (or three in Ponter’s case) and run riot in the forward fifty.
There will come a day when the Jones’, Ponters and Woodlands of the world will once again reign. There will come a day when the ability of these players will rise to the top…. but it was not this day.
That was from Lord of the Rings for those playing along at home.
On this day, they ran into a defensive set up so well-drilled that they could not find any room to move. When they touched the footy, they were beset by Freo defenders. When they leapt at the footy, they were accompanied by the fists of spoiling defenders. When they looked for opportunity, they had it snuffed out.
The work of players like Mikayla Hyde, Laura Pugh (loved her bump on Erin Phillips), Matilda Sergeant, Janelle Cuthbertson and Sarah Verrier is the sort of task-focused defence that normally only coaches would point out in the review. However, seeing how closely they stuck to the task of nullifying the Adelaide forwards, it is nigh-on impossible to ignore their efforts. They were very bit as responsible for this win as the efforts from Houghton, Sharp and Duffy up forward.
Throw in the electrifying run and abundant confidence of Ebony Antonio to take the game on from half-back and you have a defensive unit that not only goes in for the kill, but gives you a good kick once the job is done just to make sure you’re dead.
THREE OUT OF ELEVEN AIN’T BAD
I know that Meatloaf is persona non grata in AFL circles these days, but maybe a reworking of one of his famous tunes is in order for this game. Allow me to paint a picture for you to give some context.
Last men’s season, Richmond played a game where none of their players really stood out, picking up a win with no player topping twenty disposals. It was almost unheard of in a stats-driven competition, that a team could come out and play a simply team-oriented game that would see an equal contribution across the board. No cheap possessions, no stat-padding with unnecessary one-two handballs – just potent footy when they had the ball in hand, with each player pulling their weight.
And now we look at today’s numbers for the game – eight of the top ten disposal gatherers were wearing Crows colours. Amazing, huh? In such a demolition, the Dockers didn’t dominate possession and didn’t monopolise the footy. They just played effective football when they had it and made sure all the Crows’ touches came under pressure.
I’ve covered Kiara Bowers above. She had an equal game-high 23 touches, but after her it was Hayley Miller and Steph Cain with 15 each that made the top 11 players on the park in terms of disposals. Eight Crows sat in that top 11. Amazingly, the Crows also had five of the bottom eight disposal gatherers, meaning they were both really good at the top end and really poor at the bottom end in terms of staying involved.
Yes, Freo have a powerhouse in Bowers. Yes, she will be the best and fairest on this team and perhaps the number one player in the league by the end of the season, but they have a team balance that should be applauded. They have contributors all over the park and a bottom six as good as any in the league.
Teams of champions rarely win flags, but champion teams… well, that is what Fremantle are in the process of creating right now. Ten wins on the trot and three in a row this season – the Dockers are eyeing off the flag they very well should have won in 2020.
I would not bet against them based on this performance.
NOT ALL BAD?
The Crows had a couple of good take-aways from this hit out, but really, after the arm wrestle that was the first quarter, the genuine winners for their team were few and far between.
Rachelle Martin was a dynamo, and there could be a few Adelaide stars that will watch her efforts as part of the review and be shamed by how hard she worked to win the footy and curtail the efforts of her opponent. She was in her second game, but looked like a player that ate the pressure that came her way and spat it back at her opponents.
Stevie-Lee Thompson seemed to drift forward a bit at points and looked like the one Adelaide player that could potentially break the game open. To commence the third quarter, her repeated shots on goal were ultimately fruitless, but you could see just what a difference her clean ball handling and great reading of the play could make.
Chloe Scheer making it back and getting through the game would have quite a few people breathing a sigh of relief. It was her first run around since the 2019 Grand Final, so for her to get through unscathed was great to see.
The other ones worth pointing out were Hannah Button and Teah Charlton, bith of who gave a strong accounting of themselves. Charlton had a real crack in the last quarter and demonstrated why she was such a high draft pick, whilst Button was in amongst it most of the day.
In the AFLW system since 2017, Haynes may have been considered done for after not playing a game through 2019-20, but she has fought her way into this Freo side and looks as committed to the cause as anyone out there.
In this one, she made some timely intercepts and provided clean hands as he played the link role for the running Freo brigade. Her work in the second quarter to sneak forward and get on the end of a Kiara Bowers kick resulted in a goal to the Dockers and was one of the better passages of the day. It was one of those moments where you could feel the Crows players dropping their heads.
As anyone who plays footy knows, you can sense that kind of thing on the ground. You can see it in the faces of your opponents, even if only briefly. It must have felt sweet for Haynes to put that one on the chin of the Crows.
The Dockers still have some improvement, yet. Gabby O’Sullivan was down in this one. Returning just six touches, she struggled to get into the contest across half-forward all game.
A bit of a poor outing for Justine Mules, a week after I thought she played some of her best footy to date. A couple of moments of miscommunication with teammates led to two goals for Ash Shar, who was very quick to capitalise.
It might be a bit harsh to point out Mules here, as several of the Crows seemed intent on move=ing the ball on without a lot of thought at times. It was unfortunate that Mules’ errors led almost directly to goals.
Loved the first half of Hayley MIller and thought she was second to only Bowers at that stage. Her attack on the footy was first class and she did not shy away from any physical contact at all.
The Foley v Houghton clash? Foley obviously had the better of Houghton early but you just do not want to allow Houghton to get goal side of you. She has some set of wheels once she gets moving.
And that’ll do. A monster win by the Freo girls of an opposition that has been there and done that. Quite a statement to make as we put Round Three in the books. If they were not flag favourites before, they’d have to be now.
COLLINGWOOD 7. 6. (48) DEFEATED RICHMOND 4. 7. (31)
REVIEWER – JB EDDY
It’s the old rivals Pies and Tigers in what was a perfect Melbourne day at Punt Road. This would have been an ideal family day out if not for the lockdown, though there would be a few people grateful that they now have an excuse not to go out to dinner on Valentines day. Seriously, it’s the worst day to eat out on because all the tables of two mean you’re getting below standard service, which also sums up Richmond’s day as well.
Richmond came into the weekend looking for their first win ever. Supporters seemed fairly optimistic about taking on West Coast at Richmond’s home turf, so they may be understandably let down at taking on the much stronger and much less likely to be affected by the commute to Richmond, Collingwood team.
Despite that, Richmond were in with a chance for parts of the game. Their effort and pressure almost made up for their inability to stick to a structure and occasional undisciplined acts. Had they been slightly cleaner on their service to forwards inside 50, and had those forwards managed to convert a little better, they may have caused an upset. Instead, they squandered their chances and allowed the discipline and structure of a well-drilled Collingwood side to just strangle the game out of their reach.
THE MENTAL BATTLE
Having never sung their song in anger, Richmond look ever-more desperate to register a win. It may be that this desperation is a reason why they seem to have such a hard time maintaining a structure around the ball. Last week, we saw so many at the contest knocking it forward, only for an opponent to collect and kick it back over their heads that I cannot believe it went uncommented during the week. For it to keep happening, I think it has to be players giving a bit too much of themselves and being unable to rely on a teammate to get the hard ball, and dish it out to them in space.
It’s courageous footy, and every player loves hearing the coach praise their willingness to win their own ball, but if you’re just going to handball it out of the pack to the opposition, well that’s when you need on-field leadership to pull people in line. Still, their hunger is undeniable, and probably appropriate for a team that may need a little more time to smooth the rough edges on their playing style. Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of mongrel in the game‽
Collingwood showed time and again how a structure should be set up. When running forward, they had enough space between players that one opponent couldn’t shift their target if the ball carrier gave a quick handball off. In defence, they moved quickly and played on where possible. Their speed of movement often caught Richmond flat-footed as they had too many players leave their opponent, only for the ball to sail over their head.
One thing I’m loving about this season is seeing talent emerge. We’re getting to see women in the sport from a young age that will go on to become legends of the game. While the current batch of mature players will have paved the way, every year there are 17–19-year-olds ready to begin a 15 year career that will be talked about long after they’ve retired.
Two new players in this game had very different entries into the league, but I’m optimistic that both have a bit of potential.
Last week, Joanna Lin was warming up to make her debut for the Pies in an AFLW game when she was called up to replace Jordyn Allen who was ill. She managed to convert this week’s chance with a fantastic first goal at AFLW level. She showed this great game sense when she broke away from her opponent to gather the loose ball about 30 out in the pocket, wheel around and snap over her own shoulder in such a fluid motion I think I did a hamstring just watching her. The fact such a young player in the squad is encouraged to take their chances speaks very well for this Collingwood side’s ability to support x-factor players amongst their disciplined approach to the game.
It might be a bit easy to point to a number one draft pick as an emerging talent, but just because it’s easy doesn’t make it untrue. Ellie McKenzie managed 12 touches and 3 clearances; second highest for her side behind only Conti who was to my eye the Tiger’s best on ground.
A Katie Brennan kick inside 50 was far enough in front of McKenzie for her to run onto it, gather the ball and leave a trailing Jordyn Allen in the dust as she ran into an open goal to kick her first major.
She also showed a fair bit of forward craft when she sprinted goalward as soon as Allen’s kick to Butler had a little too much on it, and was intercepted by Brancatisano who spotted her open and kicked a perfect pass to McKenzie to let her kick her second late in the game.
Both players are at a stage in their career where just getting a game is a highlight, so to actually contribute at all is positive. To have an impact as they have shows they might be worth keeping an eye on.
SEYMOUR OF THAT IN THE RUCK
The most telling stat of the game for my money were the hitouts. Gabrielle Seymour was absolutely dominant with 16, followed by Fredrick with 10. Unfortunately, the midfield hasn’t quite seemed to gel yet, as so often the Collingwood players were able to read the tap, which didn’t often vary from “punch long and forward” at centre bounces. Fredricks did some nice mixing it up around the grounds though. Her sneaky back-taps seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Unfortunately, that included her own mids, who seemed to be caught flat-footed too often when their rucks were able to dictate the direction of the ball.
Both Richmond rucks got a bit of the ball too, with 11 and 10 possessions respectively. Unfortunately, they both should have had goals to their name, but sprayed several shots each, both ending with a single point and a couple of out on the fulls. It was made a little odder shortly after quarter-time when Seymour seemed overcome by emotion to take a contested mark about 30 out in the pocket. Unfortunately she sprayed it to the right, but I can only wonder whether her contract had a contested mark bonus that got her so giddy.
It could also just be a ruck thing. Rucks are an odd lot.
By comparison, Collingwood’s Rucks combined for only 7 hitouts and 9 touches. Ouch. Smith and Alexander might want to make sure that their mids are well supplied with coffee or whatever their preferred treat may be, because they were not supplied with quality taps from the ruck contest in this match.
BATTLE OF THE MIDFIELDS
Fortunately, the Pie mids were dominant in the middle, and held their spacing around the ground to cause all sorts of trouble for a Richmond team too often caught out when their forward press was intercepted.
Bonnici was easily best on ground, leading all comers with 31 touches, 10 marks and 5 clearances. She also managed a very comfortable 353 metres gained, and showed her class weaving in and out of traffic when she was inside the contest, as well as displaying supreme core strength whenever any of her opponents tried to take her down. She was inspirational to her teammates who knew they could start to spread as soon as she entered the contest, allowing them to get the ball in space when she inevitably did win the ball.
With 22 and 24 touches in the opening two rounds, it’s easy to see that stopping Collingwood will mean finding a way to limit Bonnici’s influence somehow. Finding someone who has the strength, speed and game sense will not be easy for any team though, so luckily anyone who appreciates good midfielder craft can enjoy turning up to a game knowing you’re going to witness something good. At 23, she still has years to get even better too.
Brianna Davey and Jaimee Lambert also had a lot to say on the contest, having 25 touches each and shutting down Richmond’s mids with some fierce tackling. They toiled all day and managed to amass a combined 10 clearances and 671 metres gained between them. They simply outclassed their opponents who had the will, but not enough of the way.
That is, except perhaps one Monique Conti. She was relentless. The only person busier in footy than Conti would have to be whoever has to field calls to AFL house asking why Steve Hocking is changing the rules again.
Her ability to dispose of the ball and then sprint to become an option is beautiful to watch, and she seemed to have an enormous tank to keep running to a contest or an open area of the ground to become an option. The reigning Tiger’s B&F winner showed her commitment to the team again in this match, but was too often playing a lone hand. Hosking, Jacques and Lavey were serviceable, but seemed too often to get suckered into the contest and had nowhere to go once the ball came free. Coaches love to see effort to claim a contested ball, but handballing right into open space claimed by the opposition will get them swearing in the box quicker than Stewie Dew when he runs out of the family bag of Allen’s snakes.
THE BIG DIFFERENCE
Everyone loves a highlight reel moment. The big speccy, the hard hit, the balk and snap. Yet, it’s the basics that often make the biggest difference in a game. Sticking to a structure, shepherding a teammate, putting pressure on someone over the ball and possibly the first commandment of playing footy—give the player going goalward right of way.
Collingwood did the basics well, and had moment of pure perfection with these standard skills.
Mark this moment: second quarter, 2:57 left on the clock. Collingwood’s Lauren Butler chases a ball near the boundary in her own back pocket. She outruns Brancatisano, who is certainly no slouch, paddles the ball along the line past Richmond mid Kodi Jacques, giving her a nice little shove out of the way, and sets up a beautiful textbook side bump into Sophie Molan who is over the ball.
By hunching her shoulders to protect her neck and pivoting into that last step to turn sideways, Butler puts Molan on her arse and manages to come away with the ball. If you’re a fan of the bump or a player learning the game, add this play to your memory. Not only does this little detail help gain possession, but it avoids injuring yourself by battering your head into someone over the ball. I openly cheered for her. Butler may not be the first name on the magnet board, but at 20 years old, if she’s getting the basics of the game right now, she could well become a backline player that will make more than a few opponents upset that they have to line up on her.
Add in the ability to let the player going goalward having right of way mentioned above, from someone in their second game no less, and it bodes very, very well for this Collingwood side.
Put simply, Collingwood had lots of it, and Richmond need more of it. Brennan is the undisputed captain of the side, and had her best game in recent memory, but she needs more help from the rest of the leadership group, especially Fredrick and Cordner. Both are extremely talented players, and deserve to be held up as examples to their teammates, but it seems they need to reinforce the structures more often, especially when the ball is moving towards their direction. It was also a little odd to see Brennan call for her team to slow down as the first quarter was coming to a close, considering they had the ball in her hands about 70 out. This permitted Collingwood to flood back and stymied a scoring chance, but the TV angle didn’t show what the forward 50 looked like, so it may have been the best option.
As I’ve mentioned plenty of times, Collingwood were well-drilled, so needed less on-field guidance, but being able to have Davey there to marshall the troops would definitely be appreciated. Co-Captain Chiocci had a bit of a quiet one with only eight touches but was more than willing to throw her body in at times. Stacey Livingstone looked to be the general down back for most of the match.
While Livingstone’s size is impressive, her decision making is also worth noting. She may not be as quick on her feet as the small brigade, but she would rapidly assess options when she had the ball, and take the safest one deep in defence. It was a bit of a treat to see her matched up with Fredrick at times, with neither afraid of a contested ball. Livingstone acquitted herself well though, and with that in her pocket, few forwards can expect an easy time when they line up on her.
A WORD ON UMPIRING
I know, it’s a thankless job. Umpiring is often at its best when it’s unnoticed. If anyone is entitled to say they enjoy playing in front of empty stands, it’s probably the ladies and gents in yellow, and fair enough with some of the comments tossed their way in the outer.
So many frees that have been paid seem to be very, very soft.
There could be many reasons why. Maybe it’s an instruction from HQ related to the earlier incidents that resulted in some serious injuries. Perhaps it’s a bit of rustiness from the umpiring corp as they get into the swing of things. I can’t say for sure. What I am sure of though is that the women playing the game are getting better every season. They’re moving faster, hitting harder and tackling even more ferociously, and I’m here for it. These are tough players, I don’t think it does them any favours to treat them as more fragile than they are. This is the big league, let them play the hard footy we all love.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Round Four shows Richmond taking on a Carlton team that has just registered their first win of the season over the Saints. They’ll go into that game at long odds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their attack on the ball gives them a bit of a sniff. The Blues are a much better side in terms of quality, speed and all-round contributors, but Richmond have a bit of old-school footy about them. If they can get the Blues guessing and make the most of any early chances, the threat of a season getting away from them may force some errors.
It’s unlikely, sure, but having Richmond bring it all together after a poor start and Carlton failing to live up to the talent on their list is kind of on-brand for both sides.
Collingwood take on a North Melbourne team haunted by their Demons. Hopefully, Marvel stadium will allow spectators, because it could be an absolute belter. North were early favourites in the first couple of rounds, but have faltered at the first test of a top tier team. Last year, they were a little fortunate to overcome a very spirited Collingwood team to progress to the final four. The Pies will be looking for a little revenge, and North will try and reassert themselves as a contender for the flag.
It should be a fantastic matchup and well worth the price of admission if the gates are open, and assuming they don’t have to mix up the schedule again.
BRISBANE 10. 5. (65) DEFEATED WEST COAST 2. 8. (20)
REVIEWER – HB MEYERS
There was a bit of a scare in the first half of this game, with the winless West Coast Eagles taking the game right up to the Brisbane Lions through the first half.
The Eagles threw everything at a disappointing Lions outfit early, and had they been a little more accurate, this game could have taken on a different look.
The Lions rallied after half time, putting together a bit of a lesson in the third quarter as they completely dominated the play, adding seven goals whilst holding their feisty opponents goalless. Plenty to get through to round out the third week of AFLW action, so let’s get to it.
MAKING THINGS HAPPEN
Ali Anderson has had bigger games than this one. She has had more impressive numbers and played in better wins, but her impact on this game was important not just in numbers, but in what she did with the footy when she had it.
At the time of writing, stats detailing her potency were not available, but in watching Anderson, it was plain to see that she was a step ahead of others on the ground, with her vision opening the game up on several occasions to set up scoring opportunities for her teammates.
Late in the game, at a point when others may have started eyeing a scoring chance of their own, it was Anderson lowering the eyes to find Kate Lutkins inside 50. Sure, Lutkins completely fudged the kick at goal, striking it like a defender, but Anderson’s awareness of the situation to give her reliable defender a shot at goal should be commended.
LOOKING FOR THE RACWA
I’m not sure they make the trip that far to Brisbane, but the Eagles looked out of gas in the second half and with an empty tank, they were unable to give the Lions much resistance. But we know about that all that – let’s check out where the Eagles did some positive stuff in the first half.
Their pressure was elite. Every single player on the park drank the Daniel Pratt kool-aid and threw their bodies in with a reckless abandon. This bodes well for the future as the girls will get bigger and stronger. They will build their endurance and they will not fall away so dramatically in games. But the intent will be there all the way – this is what will make this team better in the long run.
I liked the game of Isabella Lewis, and Aisling McCarthy battled on gamely, despite having to throw the footy on her boot way to often to be very effective. Parris Laurie was another that could hold her head high, with a very competitive outing in the ruck, whilst Chantella Perera had moments here and there as well.
And like Forrest Gump, that’s about all I have to say about the Eagles. They looked well and truly cooked after the break, so the rest of the review will focus on the team that kicked it up a notch, Elzar style, in the second half…
… and they didn’t even use their spice weasel. BAM!
DAKOTA DIFFERENCE MAKER
Seven touches and three marks doesn’t sound very important, does it? I mean, we’ve seen people do that in a quarter of football here and there, but the timing of Dakota Davidson in this game was impeccable.
Her team was on the ropes in the first quarter when a dropped mark by Chantella Perera saw DD swoop, soccer the footy off the deck and keep her Lions within striking distance.
In the second, Davidson looked like she meant business. Her crashing body spoil on Amber Ward was an absolute beauty, and she started to have an influence in the air as well, plucking a contested grab against Perera. Late in the quarter, she clunked another one inside fifty, but sprayed the footy pretty badly out on the full.
Her next onslaught came at the beginning of the third quarter. The Lions were up and about here, and looking to make a statement after their lucklustre first two quarters. A diving mark from DD was capped by a perfect shot from the boundary to kickstart the Lions.
They never looked back from that point.
Dakota Davidson will develop into the sort of player that will put fear in the hearts of her opponents. She attacks the contest hard and can turn the game with her physicality. She drifted out of the game in the last quarter, but by that stage, her work was done, and the Lions were well on their way to win number three of the season.
SHE DOESNT NEED TO CALM DOWN
There were some wonderful hands on display in this one from Taylor Smith, who started the game with a couple of “GOOJ” (Get Out Of Jail) marks for the Lions, who were struggling to control the footy the way they would have liked under the intense West Coast pressure.
As the game progressed, Smith became a real thorn in the side of the Eagles, her good hands seeing her clunk several marks and convert on the scoreboard.
The Lions are blessed with tall forward talent, so much so that a player like Smith was able to operate without drawing too much heat. Jess Wardlaw was down on the day (her second efforts were not great at times and excellent at others – there was little consistency) but she still commanded attention. With Davidson playing her role, Smith was able to get deep inside 50 and use her size and judgment to capitalise on the undersized defence.
If this was a coming-out party for Smith, I can;t wait to see what she can conjure next.
TO ARNELL AND BACK
Lauren Arnell finished the game with 1.1 to her name, but her presence up forward for the Lions was one of the reasons Brisbane were able to get hold of the Eagles.
Arnell’s pressure, her willingness to compete and her up-and-back running caused plenty of confusion amongst the tiring West Coast crew. The longer the game went on, the better Arnell became. At 33, she is averaging career-best disposal numbers and would have to be loving where this Brisbane team is headed.
SURF’S UP, BODEY
Last week, our resident AFLW expert, Alex Docherty, supplied me with his second version of the rolling All-Australian team, and whilst I expected a few Lions in there, I did not expect the name of Greta Bodey to be amongst them.
And so, the old HB had to go and do some research. As he is most times, The Doc was spot on the money.
Bodey had been wonderful over the first two weeks of the season and with another solid effort in this game, she is mounting a strong case for AA selection, even at this early stage of the season.
Bodey finished with 15 touches (ranked fourth) and a goal for the afternoon, continuing her run of stellar form.
Hopefully she finds the perfect wave before Keanu Reeves shows up and tries to arrest her.
GRIDER ON THE STORM
Yeah, I know, I am starting to stretch for a bit of wordplay. Still, beats using ‘Grinder’ I suppose.
Her run off half back and through the middle was a highlight in the second half. Not that she wasnt hanging about, doing her thing in the first half – it’s just that once the Lions team kicked into full gear, her contributions started to be a lot more noticeable.
Grider looked to have a bit of composure out there, holding the ball for that second longer a few times until she saw what she was looking for. Though she lined up in defence, she was far more impressive when permitted to get further up the ground. This happened more often as the game wore on.
THE RELIABLE ONE
Where would the Lions have been without Kate Lutkins in the first half?
The veteran defender was at her best, intercepting, spoiling and generally making a nuisance of herself as the Eagles pressed forward and she remained in the way, like a particularly stubborn old lady parking her trolley in the middle of the supermarket aisle.
Lutkins combined with Bree Koenen to give the Lions respite when the Eagles were affording them none. She remained in control and was one of the few Lions to look composed in a first half where everything came with a healthy dose of pressure attached.
A lot of praise for the game of Sophie Conway… I am not as convinced. Perhaps I just took notice at the wrong times, but it seemed as though she was running into trouble a fair bit in this one. Getting the footy a bit is one thing. Doing something productive with it is another thing altogether.
The Lions were dying to get their outside run game going early, but credit to the Eagles, they simply disallowed them. As stated above, they just didn’t have the tank to continue that level of pressure and the resultant 124-75 uncontested possession count indicates that the Lions were able to own the footy once they got it out in space.
Fantastic physical clash on the wing late in the game between Maddy Collier and Cathy Svarc – just a real bone-rattler, and it was great to see both ladies play on.
Tahlia Hickie has a bit of a leg on her, doesn’t she. I am not sure teams are a wake up to it just yet, but if hse gets the footy, a lead up and then a double-back looks to be the order of the day. She can clear a pack pretty easily.
Orla O’Dwyer is a second of composure away from being one of the most exciting players in the game. She seems in a bit of a hurry to throw the ball on her boot around goals – could easily have kicked a couple as part of the Brisbane onslaught.
And that’ll do me – solid win by the Lions once they broke down the Eagles’ pressure game. West Coast look to be two seasons away from being able to run with the big girls. They’re just not fit enough yet.
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