And here we are – contenders emerging, pretenders exposed and a weekend of footy that saw some of the greats of AFLW strut their stuff. Erin Phillips was being… well, Erin Phillips, Darcy Vescio turned it on in a scintillating third quarter, and Cora Staunton snagged the lazy four goals to power the Giants home.

Let’s jump into the reviews.

 

ST KILDA 7. 9. (51) DEFEATED GEELONG 3. 4. (22)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

It was classic suburban footy in the form of the St Kilda v Geelong clash at Moorabbin, complete with lighting towers failing and one quarter of good football being a little too much for the Cats to handle.

There will be a lot of talk about the three goals from Caitlin Greiser but we’re going to dive a little deeper to see what we can uncover in this one.

 

THE TAG

We saw something a little interesting in this game as Julia Crockett-Grills was given a bit of a job to do by Paul Hood. That mission, and she chose to accept it, was to stop Georgia Patrikios.

JCG looked to relish the responsibility in the first quarter, evident in how diligent she was in having the “bumpers up” every time Patrikios trued to run forward of the contest. She was responsible for her at stoppages and generally made life tough for her until the attention eased in the second quarter.

It wasn’t the kind of game we are used to seeing from Patrikios, yet she still managed to tally 17 touches. However, she did get caught with the footy a couple of times. It was like watching Scott Pendlebury get caught with the footy – you think “that’s not supposed to happen”.

Crockett-Grills and Patrikios matched up several times later in the game as well, but it was the first quarter when JCG was on her game and was assigned the role of stopper. For the record, I thought she performed admirably.

But there is no escaping the class of Patrikios. You hear more and more people speak of the young brigade being the best players on the park, and that was again the case. Patrikios selling the candy in the forward pocket was excellent, but it was the overall game of another young gun that caught the eye.

 

IF THE LEFT ONE DON’T GET YA, THE RIGHT ONE WILL

In the piece of play that led to Kate McCarthy’s snap goal in the last quarter, the combination of Patrikios and Tyanna Smith was on full display. After a release handball from Patrikios, Smith took the footy, tucked it under her wing and headed toward forward 50.

The goals beckoned, but instead, she tried to feed Caitlin Greiser. The spoil sent the ball to the deck with McCarthy swooped and goaled, but the standout in this passage was Smith.

One of the better-skilled players in the league, Smith is also a blue-collar worker. She notched a game-high 13 tackles in this one, demonstrating she is a lot more than a fancy, ball-winning mid. When there was dirty work to do, she put her hand up and did it.

God help her… she’s not even 19!

Yeah, I know Redgum references probably don’t cut it in 2021, but if one person smiles, I smile.

The standout aspect of Smith’s game, believe it or not, is not the tackling, but her delivery by foot. Think about it – how often do you witness the lace-out pass into attack in AFLW? If you watch Tyanna Smith, you’ll see them. She hit a couple of teammates on the chest inside 50 in this game and will go on to be an absolute star of the competition.

The commentators might bang on about the future, but Tyanna Smith is in the top handful of players at Moorabbin right now, and she has played just four games. What a pleasure to watch her go about it.

 

ONE GOOD QUARTER

Now, this has the potential to come across as though I am praising Kate Shierlaw as being the difference between the teams, so I want to make it clear right from the outset that I thought Maddy McMahon did a fantastic job on her for three of the four quarters, soundly taking the points against Shierlaw in the process.

However, the funny thing about being a forward is that you can impact the game in five minutes, or ten minutes of good footy, and that’s what Kate Shierlaw was able to do in this one.

In a little stretch through the third quarter, Shierlaw managed to snag a great goal on the run, replete with tongue-out celebration as the ball sailed through. This gave the Saints a great break and in the next few minutes, they peppered the attacking 50, with Shierlaw out twice more, only for a pressured shot off the deck to sail out of bounds, and then Kate McCarthy missed her completely as she made great position out the back again.

Big deal, huh? She kicked one goal and almost kicked two more – it means nothing.

Well, you could be right, but the Geelong defence looked absolutely panicked at this stage. They made errors, missed assignments and generally cocked up everything they tried. Whilst you would put that down to the St Kilda forward pressure as a whole, some of that credit has to go to Shierlaw; I genuinely believe she sowed the seeds of chaos in that St Kilda attack in the third.

Shierlaw was also responsible for a great little handball to set up Isabella Shannon for her first AFLW goal in the third quarter.

Again, over the course of the game, Maddy McMahon takes the chocolates – she was great in nullifying Shierlaw for the most part, but we’ve seen it time and time again for forwards – when the moment comes, you have to be ready, and in this one, Kate Shierlaw was ready in the third quarter. She made it her quarter.

 

THE CRITICISM YOU’RE AFTER

So, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had columns on the site discussing how AFLW players actually want constructive criticism and not the babying provided at times as part of the official coverage. It’s also been backed up by several players, which has been nice.

Well, at one point in the last quarter, we saw a player completely give up on a play and no one on commentary said a damn word about it. They just glossed over it as though nothing was wrong, but that does the sport a disservice in my eyes. You’ve got to call the bad with the good. It’s what makes a good analyst or commentator.

With about ten minutes left in the game, Aasta O’Connor stood on the mark in the middle of the ground. The ball was about two metres in front of her as she had a bit of a chat with the umpire. Rosie Dillon just walked up, picked the ball up and waltzed around O’Connor while she yapped to the umpire and play went on. O’Connor did not chase, did not extend an arm, didn’t do ANYTHING to even try to impede her.

At 33 years of age and one of the most experienced players on the Geelong list, a little bit of pride in your performance is warranted here. O’Connor has been in the league since its inception and to allow a player to walk around her on the mark is close to unacceptable. It sets a terrible example and shows no attention to the job at hand. Do you know who does have attention to detail? People who go on to play in flags.

About one minute after this occurred, St Kilda had a goal fly through off the boot of Caitlin Greiser on an inside 50 re-entry. I’m not dumb enough to try to pin that on the actions of O’Connor (she had another disposal in the passage of play to clear the footy before the goal) but if that is the effort that you’re gonna display, the Cats may as well throw Liv Barber into the ruck and give O’Connor the week off.

It was lazy footy and it should be addressed by the Cats’ coaching staff.

 

WATT’S GOING ON

She may have gone a little quiet with the game done and dusted in the last quarter, but the efforts of Rhiannon Watt over the first three quarters should have her in strong consideration as the best player on the ground.

Watt was strong in the air and had great follow up work at ground level. Unlike many of her ruck-counterparts, Watt does not look all at sea when the ball hits the deck. She is often running in support of her teammates and is able to recover the footy when they make an error and bail the Saints out of trouble.

She was far and away the best big on the ground in this one, completely outclassing Aasta O’Connor and working hard to ensure she was a presence across both half forward and half back. Yeah, I would have liked to see her finish off strongly, but when the work needed to be done, Rhi Watt put on her boots and did the hard yards. In a game where one quarter of footy was good enough to win it, three quarters from Watt was more than enough to get the job done.

 

WEBSTER STEPS UP

I have to admit, I watched the work of Rebecca Webster a couple of weeks ago against North Melbourne and I was left unimpressed, but with the benefit of hindsight, no one was really impressive for the Cats that day, so another look was warranted. I’m glad I did.

Webster spent a fair whack of the first half as a link player across half back and into the middle for the Cats, but if we were looking at a heat map of her disposals, I don’t think there would have been many in her attacking half up until half time. I was wondering whether she was the kind of player that’d pick up some easy touches across half back but not the meaningful kind of disposals in the middle and running hard forward.

She quickly put that to rest in the second half.

With 24 touches and a penchant for getting first hands on the footy at stoppages, Webster looked fantastic for the Cats. Her ball use was good and her hands at the contest were clean which is about all you can ask for from a 20 year old.

Admittedly, my knowledge of the Geelong AFLW team is still developing, but from what I saw in this game, Webster is every bit the player Liv Purcell is and with those two working together with Amy McDonald, the Cats have the pieces in place to develop a great core of on-ballers for years to come.

 

OTHER BITS

Good to see Richelle Cranston find a bit of the footy early in the game. She’s looked like she has been going up and down in the one spot for a few weeks now, so to see her find a little form was heartening.

The G-Train? Well, you’ll hear enough about her elsewhere, but if you were coaching against the Saints, you would just about have to drop a defender behind as the deepest player in your backline. Greiser loves running back onto the footy, and how many goals did the Saints kick running into the open goal-face? I’ll speculate and say a goalkeeper kind of role stops two of those open opportunities, makes this game a lot closer and aids a leaky Geelong defence.

For a season I was charged with kicking the footy in whenever possible and was under strict instructions that it is okay to make a mistake as long as the mistake is as far away as possible from the goal. In other words, if you’re going to kick short in defence, make sure you hit the damn target! We saw quite a few horrendous little 15-20 metre kicks in the Geelong backline in this game, even from players as good as Meg McDonald. Bad kicking might be bad footy in front of goal, but it is also pretty poor footy when you’re protecting the goals as well.

Did you ever try that move in primary school where you get tackled, so you try to handball the ball about two feet in the air and say “I haven’t go it” trying to milk a free kick? Or was that just me? Well, add Stephanie Williams to my club, who tried to pull that move on Tahlia Meyer and was caught holding the ball. Really, that was grade four stuff from Williams and as the stat sheet will tell you, handballing to yourself doesn’t give you a stat – Williams finished the game with donuts in disposals. At 19, she has plenty of time to refine her craft, but maybe leave that party trick in the box.

This review makes it sound all St Kilda – I understand, but I did really enjoy the pressure the Cats applied in the first half. They took the game right up to the Saints, but it appears they’re just having those lapses here and there that allow teams to gain the ascendancy.

That’ll do for this one. Solid, if unspectacular win by the Saints who did it all in one quarter and were happy to protect the lead in the last.

 

 

FREMANTLE 7. 13. (55) DEFEATED GOLD COAST 1. 0. (6)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

After coughing up the first goal of the game, the Fremantle Dockers withstood the early pressure of the Gold Coast Suns to run away with a convincing win that really, could have been a lot bugger had they converted their chances.

The Dockers looked a better team all over the park in this one and once the tone of the game settled, they were able to overpower a feisty Suns outfit that did, to their credit, bring the heat in the first half.

Costly fundamental errors riddled the game of Gold Coast and Freo seemed content to swoop in and make them pay for them. What this created was a Suns team consistently second-guessing themselves, looking for easy solutions and more often than not, bringing themselves undone when Fremantle returned fire and brought some heat of their own.

Let’s get stuck into the highlights and lowlights.

 

THE TACKLING MACHINE

Please take this the right way.

When I was watching this game, I could not help be drawn to the work and commitment of Kiara Bowers. I know that by this stage of the season, that may seem redundant to state – she has been into everything up to her eyeballs all season and with a tackling average that any player in any league in Australia would kill for, she continually does the tough stuff to enhance her reputation as one of the premier onballers in the game.

But here’s where things get weird.

When watching her I started to make comparisons to Dennis Rodman. Yeah, back in the day before the NBA became a league of pampered idiots lecturing people about how they should think, I really enjoyed watching, and I would take great interest in the rebounding of Dennis Rodman.

People forget that Rodman was a scorer in college and in the NBA he could do that on occasion as well, but what everyone knows about him was how good his rebounding and dirty work were. He thrived on it and would happily throw himself into harm’s way for the betterment of the team. He was a heart and soul player, and whilst you may remember him as a bit of a headcase later in his career, the young Rodman was a loyal workhorse who would do anything for his coach, Chuck Daly.

And it is this version of Rodman that I find myself likening Kiara Bowers to.

Tackles are her stat. It is something that she does better than anyone else in the competition, and  just as Rodman made rebounding an art form, Bowers is doing the same for tackles in AFLW.

Put it this way – she was the second-highest disposal winner on the park in this one, but, incredibly,  she had more tackles than every individual player on the field had disposals apart from herself and three others. That’s right – she had more tackles than 38 players on the field had disposals.

With 15 tackles in this game, Bowers continued to be the standard for hard work that others should measure themselves by. The next best was the impressive 18-year-old, Lucy Single, who I’ll get to soon, but when you look at the success of the Dockers this season and last season and you wonder why they are where they are, look no further than Bowers. She is everything you’d want in an on-field leader.

Right now, is it Bowers or Ellie Blackburn as your MVP?

 

OH, OH GABBY

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Freo game last week as well and one of the aspects I pointed out was that they had the potential to be better this week due to the way Gabby O’Sullivan contributed.

She was a bit of a non-factor in Round Three, but man, she made up for it this week.

When it comes to AFLW, Freo are one of the more interesting teams to watch. I like seeing the way they go about it, North Melbourne and Adelaide as well. All three teams have players that standout in a crowd, and O’Sullivan is one of those players for the Dockers.

She is always hard at it, but in this one we saw her feel for the game rise to the fore. You see, O’Sullivan was one of the few ladies out there that allowed for the wind in this game. Rather than opt for the front and centre as the pack flew for marks, Gabby popped out the back and was rewarded for her intelligence with marks and the ability to run onto the footy as it sailed over the heads of those contesting. It is the same sort of goal sense you’d see from a player like Stephen Milne in his heyday.

O’Sullivan missed a late snap, but two goals was a nice return for her exploits. I had her in the top three on the park in this game – just a fantastic return to form after a week she probably felt was way below what her team expected from her.

 

CUTHBERTSON DINES OUT AGAIN

Yeah, she did run herself into trouble on one occasion in this game, but over the entire duration, Janelle Cuthbertson looked extremely solid in defence for the Dockers.

Charged with limiting the impact of Sarah Perkins in this game, Cuthbertson handled her opponent with ease, Perkins slotting in as one of the least effective players on the ground.

Whilst Perkins was not at all aided by the delivery inside 50, she was forced to head up the ground to search for disposals in the second half as Cuthbertson continued to roam around defensive fifty, situating herself perfectly to play the role of interceptor for Freo.

In his weekly Rolling All-Australian column for The Mongrel, The Doc had Cuthbertson sitting pretty in defence this week, and after this performance, I simply cannot see her being displaced. Many people talk about the Fremantle midfield, or the potency of their forwards, but Cuthbertson and O’Driscoll provide a very steady hand in defence that the Dockers rely upon.

 

MILLER TIME ONCE AGAIN

I’m really warming to the work of Hayley Miller. One of the more unsung Dockers, she is quietly putting together a very good season as the understudy to Kiara Bowers in the middle.

Over the past two weeks, Miller has stepped up her game, averaging 16 touches and five tackles.

Probably could have finished with two goals after positioning herself beautifully to intercept a panicked Sarah Perkins kick out of defence late in the game, but still had a very solid day at the office in this one. She has a bit of size and strength about her  that enables her to stand in tackles for that split second longer than others, which in turn, allows her to offload the footy to a teammate whilst drawing the heat herself – a nice aspect to have in your game at a level where people can rarely fight their way through tackles.

 

TRIPPING UP THE FLASH

I get excited about watching Gemma Houghton play, but as this game wore on, I found myself just as excited watching the way Jade Pregelj and Lauren Ahrens played against her.

Ahrens had a couple of shocking turnovers, one of which led directly to a Gaby O’Sullivan goal when she missed a teammate by hand by a good two metres on a kick-in play, but defensively she was very good, as usual.

I really liked the way Pregelj played Houghton. The Freo forward loves to double back and run toward goal. She is lightning fast and capable of putting distance between her and her opponent in short order, yet she found it extremely difficult to do that to Pregelj, who was happy to wrestle and fight in order to prevent Houghton from getting that step on her.

It was an enthralling battle, with Houghton having early chances, which she squandered, and Prelgj slowly getting on top as the contest continued.

Helped out by Ahrens, I give the points in this one to Pregelj. Houghton has been wonderful this season, but to hold her scoreless is a big feather in the Suns defender’s cap.

 

THE SINGLE LADY

As mentioned above, the player ranked second in tackles was Lucy Single, with seven for the game.

At just 18, Single looks to be a keeper for the Suns. She wins her own footy, looks good with the footy in hand, and can cover the ground quickly. She looks for options rather than blindly hacking at the ball and her tackling… well, you don’t fall into seven tackles in a game by accident.

She started the game running around with Kiara Bowers and it would have been a valuable lesson to her. I can see her becoming a regular part of the Gold Coast midfield rotation for the remainder of the season and becoming one of their better players over the next couple of years.

Definitely one to keep an eye on.

 

MISSED TARGETS

Whether it was the pressure applied by Fremantle, poor skill, or a combination of the two, Gold Coast made some horrendous errors with the footy in this game.

Time and time again they turned the ball over by both hand and foot under little pressure, which then allowed Fremantle to counter-punch so significantly that it really seemed to knock Gold Coast out of the contest.

The turnovers were at their worst in defensive fifty, as players dicked around with the ball a little too much, and even when they opted to look for a longer target, hung the ball up in the air so long that it gave Fremantle time to come in and effect the spoil, or take an intercept grab.

Then of course, when you have someone kicking the wrong way out on the full and giving away a free kick in the forward pocket (and a goal), you know you’re not really destined to have a good one. I am happy to be corrected, but I believe that was Paige Parker that made that error – why did the commentators not mention her name? Seriously, if that happened in any other game, they would name them, but here, you’re forced to shuffle back and squint like an old man reading a newspaper without his glasses trying to find out who made the mistake. It’s a mistake – we all make them. Let her own it.

 

OTHER BITS

Kalinda Howarth – All-Australian one season and really struggling to find her rhythm the next. She is one of the better-skilled Suns players out there, but even she was turning it over under little pressure. It’s catching.

Liked the effort of Sabreena Duffy in this one. She chased hard and probably could have had two or three given the opportunities she had. Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be, but the hard work and tackling will pay off eventually.

Lovely banana goal from Roxy Roux to capitalise on the Paige Parker mistake in the second quarter. You love to see a bit of skill with the footy, and Roux made the ball talk as she guided it through from the boundary. That had to sting the Suns on two levels. Not only did they cough up the opportunity – she threaded it from a tough angle. It was a head-dropping minute or so for the Suns.

Finally, Jamie Stanton tried her hardest, but I reckon she was missing a genuine partner in crime in this game. Ali Drennan tried hard, but got a lot of defensive attention along the way. Most midfields have three reliable options that can get you the 15-18 touches each. The Suns just don’t have them.

 

I think the Dockers will rue not putting the foot right on the throat of the Suns in the aftermath of this one. They were a far better team, but their inaccuracy probably cost them a 65-75 point win. Don’t get me wrong; a 49 point win is nice, but they could have really killed Gold Coast in this one – far and away a better team.

 

CARLTON 8. 3. (51) DEFEATED RICHMOND 7. 4. (46)

REVIEWER – JASON IRVINE

 

It’s now only a matter of time until Richmond picks up the first win of its AFLW history, going down to Carlton by five points at Ikon Park – the team’s lowest-losing margin. In doing so, Richmond did score its best AFLW score of 46 points – its previous best was set at 45 points against Geelong last season.

The Blues were tidy on the transition and took their time to drive the ball forward with Madison Prespakis and Grace Egan combining well. Darcy Vescio kicked three goals – all in the third term – to steer momentum towards the home side in that quarter and always looked lively, taking flight on a few occasions, as well as searching for space on the deck.

The Tigers relied on the midfield brilliance by Monique Conti – a game-high 26 disposals – and a forward display from Courtney Wakefield – who also kicked three goals. Richmond skipper Katie Brennan looked good out there, kicking two goals – her first since Round 3 2020 – in more of a forward role.

 

HOSKING V HOSKING

The sibling rivalry continued during this match, the sisters playing against each other for the first time in the AFLW after Sarah’s move to Punt Road during the off-season. But what made this an even greater contest to watch was everything that came before the first bounce – the pranking wars. The latest blow was Sarah rocking pastel purple hair after Jess messed with her sister’s shampoo but can I just say, I reckon Sarah worked that colour really well!

To the on-field match-up – the pair started side-by-side at the first bounce. Sarah got the first clearance of the game, and booted the ball inside 50 but the Blues were able to rebound with ease. From there, it was relatively even for both sisters. While Jess prevailed in the disposal count – 19 to five -, Sarah provided plenty of pressure with seven tackles. Sarah also had six marks for the game compared to Jess’ two with Sarah looking to fly and crash packs.

It was looking to be a bittersweet game for Sarah, going down to the rooms in the first quarter for a concussion test after a crushing tackle from Prespakis. Sarah later returned to the action, passing the test and playing out the game as the Tigers really couldn’t afford to have her sitting on the pine.

 

THE SPRAY

Carlton coach Daniel Harford delivered a quarter-time spray to his team after trailing by 16 points at the first break and kicking two behinds within those 15 minutes. Carlton certainly looked like the plan was to take it slow, using the time to find spare targets and hold up the run as they went forward. But Harford ultimately had other ideas.

Harford said on Fox Footy; “We’ve just got to get our heads in the game. I reckon we just fell off, we weren’t really watching what we were doing. Not even focusing on the moment. I don’t know where our heads are at.  So that was the cook that we gave them just to try and get their heads back in the game. Hopefully that does the trick.”

Carlton got the first clearance of the second quarter, so the intent was showing immediately and the coaches instructions were working, but it was Richmond who extended its lead before anything else could occur. Katie Brennan kicked the first goal of the second quarter to open up a 22-point lead.

Carlton kicked into gear and by the end of the first half, leading by one. Prespakis got things rolling for the Blues, kicking their first before Lucy McEvoy also goaled. The reigning AFLW MVP, Prespakis got her second soon after and the Blues had four unanswered when Tayla Harris kicked truly.

Prespakis and McEvoy each found space out wide to collect the ball and kicked through the big sticks to contribute their goals of the quarter. Carlton made use of the Richmond pressure around the ball and acknowledging how many Tigers jumpers were around the ball, waited on the outside to great use. Tayla Harris’s goal was a bouncing effort that had the Sherrin spinning into the goalsquare and untouched by Nicola Stevens or Iilish Ross.

Carlton seemed to be continuing that momentum through to the second half, Darcy Vescio kicking the first goal of the third quarter. Carlton continued to produce a lead they wouldn’t surrender for the remainder of the game, leading by 14 points at the final break.

Carlton’s first quarters have been below-average this season – winning just one against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2 after the Dogs kicked 0.4 to the Blues 1.0. On the two other occasions this season, in Round 1 against Collingwood and Round 3 against St Kilda, the Blues didn’t register a score.

 

MONIQUE CONTI v MADISON PRESPAKIS

You could probably write a section each on those two stars of the competition but they did go toe-to-toe many times throughout the match so it makes sense to divulge what each did in one section.

The Tigers midfielder Monique Conti – who was celebrating her 25th AFLW game – was electric throughout this contest. When she wasn’t crashing packs and getting into the thick of the action, she was on the outside gathering the ball and on the burst to get her team forward. She broke away from many opposition players in the first half, unable to latch on and hold her in as she delivered the ball inside 50 and spotted up targets with pristine kicking.

Conti’s speed through the middle helped a Tayla Stahl/Courtney Wakefield-combined goal, and a game-high 26 disposals for Conti put her at the top of the disposal count in this game and she added four tackles to go with them. The Blues, however, got a hold of Conti after the main break. The Tiger was repeatedly caught in tackles and giving away free kicks on at least three occasions to the delight of the Blues camp after seeing what damage she can do.

Prespakis had 19 touches and five tackles but it was her ability to go forward as well that set her apart. The Blue kicked two second-quarter goals within six minutes of play. The crafty Prespakis made the most of a Richmond backline that was huddled around the ball, and as soon as the ball came loose, there she was the pounce and make Richmond defenders scratch their heads about who was accountable for the reigning AFLW MVP. While Prespakis seemed shaky to begin with,  she powered on and combined well with her midfield unit, especially Grace Egan, and found avenues for the Blues to keep ticking along.

 

COURTNEY WAKEFIELD LIT UP THE GAME EARLY

In one of her best outings for the Tigers, Courtney Wakefield was one of their best. She kicked three goals – an equal career-high – and had 10 disposals but it was the tackling that showed she has another component of her game on display.

Wakefield tallied five tackles – her game-high is seven against Gold Coast last year – as she made it a mission to keep the ball in the Tigers forward 50. But it was her goals that really sparked the Tigers, kicking two of Richmond’s first three goals.

While the first was due to a 50m penalty against Lauren Brazzale running around Wakefield on the edge of the 50 trying to follow Hannah Burchall, Wakefield found a goal before quarter time too with Tayla Stahl handballing to her teammate running into goal. Her third goal was a trickler in the goalsquare as she outmuscled her opponent to get boot to ball.

Wakefield wasn’t just laying tackles but getting out of them too, being in the play for Richmond’s second. She worked her way out of a Madeline Guerin and Vaomua Laliofi tackle to give it off to Sarah Dargan who then handballed to Stahl who kicked a goal.

 

VESCIO’S THIRD QUARTER

Darcy Vescio redeemed herself after kicking two behinds in the first quarter by lighting up Ikon Park at the same end in the third quarter. Her teammates were determined to find her and she did the running into space and lead to the drop of the ball.

Vescio provided plenty of highlights aside from the goals, leaping over and crashing packs to on her way to an equal-game-high six marks.

Vescio was able to get separation from her opponents, her first coming after leaving Sarah Sansonetti in her dust. The Blue got on the goals tally with a 30m goal straight in front. The second goal was on a slight angle 10m out which she again ran onto after the Blues switched it wide and drove the ball inside. Sansonetti was again caught out as Vescio ran straight into space and converted her third from 35m out.

 

GEE, THAT’S THE DEFINING MOMENT

There was still eight minutes left and the scores reading a two-point lead to the Blues before the moment came for a Nicola Stevens goal.

After an unrealistic marking attempt from Harriet Cordner, Carlton got the free kick with the ball bouncing over the top of the pack and just ahead of Georgia Gee, towards the Blues end. Gee was the only player to pay attention, gathering the ball and running. Taking the advantage, Gee ran 30m with a bounce in between while her opponent Sarah D’Arcy was trailing.

Gee was on a tight angle but squared the ball up to a one-on-one between Stevens Phoebe Monahan where Stevens took the chest mark, uncontested in the end. She slotted the goal and the Blues were out to an eight-point lead with eight minutes left.

The opportunity for the goal allowed them to edge clear of Richmond slightly but the buffer contributed to the final margin as Richmond weren’t able to counter the goal.

 

CHARLOTTE WILSON’S LAST-DITCH EFFORT

The margin was six points with a minute to go and the ball was in Richmond’s half, where it had been for a few minutes prior also.

A mad scramble in Richmond’s forward line resulted in Sarah D’Arcy getting a quick kick across her body towards the goal where Sarah Dargan and Charlotte Wilson each went up for a mark but the ball fell to ground, in between Sabrina Frederick and Gabriella Pound. Frederick and Pound ran toward the ball as it bounced towards goal but Wilson responded quickly too. Wilson, before Frederick got boot to ball, lunged forward to take the ball over the line for a rushed behind, and ultimately, winning the game for the Blues as they then had possession from the kick-in within the last minute.

Wilson had 10 disposals for the match but it was this effort that is to be rewarded, otherwise who knows what could’ve happened with an even score and centre stoppage.

 

COLLINGWOOD 4. 4. (28) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE 0. 8. (8)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

It was about mid-last week before we headed into round three that ex-AFLW player, Mel Hickey suggested holding these top-tier clashes between the Victorian sides at Marvel Stadium. It certainly had some merit – Casey Fields didn’t deserve last week’s amazing clash between Melbourne and North Melbourne – that’s a showdown fitting a stadium that can seat thousands.

Well, we got our wish this week, as North Melbourne and Collingwood were scheduled to meet at Marvel Stadium – the first time since 2019 that an AFLW game had been held at Docklands and the preview promised plenty. The Kangaroos were looking to bounce back from defeat and avoid losing two in a row for the first time since they came into the competition.

As for the Pies, they have never gone four from four to start the season – not since the competition started. In their first couple of seasons, they’d have lost the first three or four games. Then the 2019 season happened and that was disastrous. But they’ve come such a long way since Steve Symonds took over, and it was evident on Saturday night.

They out-worked, out-ran, out-gunned, out-played the Roos en route to a fourth straight win. I told the chaps on the Mongrel chat that ‘Flagpies’ is brewing, and I mean it. It’s easy to throw around the premiership contender moniker as a journalist and a writer. But the way this Magpies team worked around the contest and around the ground, they could seriously give a side like Fremantle a real run for their money this year.

But anyway, let’s try and break it down as best we can here, it was a… interesting game to say the least.

 

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE

I was eyeing off the first bounce, who was matching up on who: Garner vs Lambert, Davey vs Kearney, Riddell vs Bonnici – this looks like a dream wrestling match card on Pay Per View, both sides possess such star talent on the on-ball brigade and this was one of the number of things that made this match-up the anticipated match of the round.

But in the end, it just felt like a genuine sweep in favour of the Pies. You can also argue that this is how the Pies got in front of the contest by quarter time. Between Bonnici, Lambert and Davey, the three of them had already combined for 28 disposals. By full time, it was 79 disposals between them and that’s just bloody scary thinking about that for the rest of the year.

Davey was the best of the lot, working strong through the stoppages and the centre bounces. She recorded seven clearances out of a massive 31 disposals and was just such a beast in the congestion. Lambert had the 27 in another typically brilliant performance, her vision around the contest – it’s second to none and Bonnici the 21, busting her backside from end to end – I’d love to see her GPS numbers one of these days, because I reckon she’s clocking serious kilometres.

The thing all three of these players do so well is once the ball is worked out of the stoppages, they run and spread to either be the next link in the chain or to be an outlet pass if the ball is being worked out of the defence. There’s a reason Collingwood have one of the most elite midfield groups of the competition and a large part of that is due to the elite endurance bases that all three of these players possess.

Just for contrast. Garner had the 19 – thought she tried hard, but it was clear that the impact she had on this one was very limited compared to previous weeks. Kearney had the 15, well below her best and Riddell I thought was consistently solid with her 17 disposals – tried to run it, use it, create something on a night that North was really lacking potency going forward. Also Jenna Bruton had the 18, but was swamped a fair bit by black and white jumpers, thus limiting her impact on the game.

 

NORTH GOING FORWARD

So, listening to the radio commentary at the game, one of the commentators – couldn’t tell you which one it was – posed the question: “Have you ever seen North’s AFLW side look so impotent going forward?”

Well, it’s North’s lowest score since they’ve entered the competition and the way they played, the way they moved the ball forward all throughout the evening, they deserved a loss like this. I’ve never seen the Kangaroos look so frantic when they get their hands on the footy. But I suppose credit should go to the Pies, for creating that pressure.

When North started getting control of the play late in the second term, they continually seemed to throw it on the boot without a thought. Mia King did it a few times and it resulted in intercept marks from the Collingwood defence. Kate Gillespie-Jones and Ellie Gavalas had shots on goal that went wide that could’ve been goals had they taken the extra second to balance up.

I don’t want to go on and on about it, and I’m sure you readers get the picture. North just looked so dysfunctional going inside 50 for the first time I can remember watching them play. They’re usually so clinical and precise, but Saturday night was anything but. Six more inside 50s they had and had as many scoring shots as the Pies, but no goals.

Leaves you wondering about what happens next week right?

 

WHICH LEADS ME TO COLLINGWOOD’S DEFENCE

Got to look at it from both sides right? For as bad as North were going forward of centre, the Pies’ defence deserve a lot of credit for how they combated the forward 50 entries, as well as generating the rebound 50s that turned into scoring opportunities.

Of course, Stacey Livingstone and Ruby Schleicher were in the thick of it, as you’d come to expect from their first three weeks. Schleicher again was prolific with her 15 disposals, doing a bit of both rebounding and intercepting – she could be – no wait – she IS one of the most improved players this season. She’s been so consistent and so lethal every time she gets her hands on the footy.

I get the feeling Stacey Livingstone may have flicked through my Rolling All-Australian and made it her mission to play out of her skin, because she was intercepting every second possession that the Roos had going inside Collingwood’s defensive 50. I’ve got a big decision to make this week in regards to which key defenders make the side. The debutant Brooke Brown had the match-up on her at stages and thought to myself that she was never going to stand a chance.

I noted down two other players that don’t get the recognition that I thought were pretty prominent in defence. Jordyn Allen only had the eight touches, but I thought her aerial work was a real highlight in her game, she took a few nice intercept grabs and her tackling at stages looked quite strong. She was a high-end draft pick a few years ago, so it’s good to see her play her role so well.

Lauren Butler is the other player. Doesn’t get the recognition she deserves most weeks, but she wins her one-on-ones, uses the ball so well and gets in the right spots for intercept marks. She had 15 disposals in this one, and was very prominent every time she got her hands on the ball, it felt like there were meaningful disposals.

Most of them were meaningful disposals coming out of defence for the Pies. They crushed the Roos on the back of rebounding the footy.

 

UH-OH MOLLOY MAGIC

I think there will come a time before this season is done that Chloe Molloy just explodes and has herself a four or five goal game. I feel it’s going to happen somewhere. She’s just that dangerous every time she gets near the footy, you’re half-wondering whether or not she can make something happen or not – one of these days, everything will go her way and she will have a day out. You heard it here first.

But in this one, I just really couldn’t help but watch her influence the contest around the ground. I noticed Aileen Gilroy was running with her for most of the game – I certainly don’t envy her job having played similar sort of run-with jobs through most of my under-19s days. But credit to her, she certainly stuck to task and kept Molloy honest.

But sometimes, you can do all you can, and somehow your direct opponent will still find a way to put one past you. The first quarter goal is an example of this. Gilroy was immediately wrapped up in a tackle by Molloy, who was able to recover with a beautiful pick up and then proceeded to run around, kick round the body from long range and got the kind bounce.

Molloy was leading up the ground at various points and Gilroy was right there with her most occasions. Sometimes she got the spoil in and brought it to ground, other times it was that Molloy was just too strong, but it was what made it such an enthralling one-on-one contest all throughout the night.

Also, just a side note, not entirely sure about how Molloy got out the back for that last goal in the final term, Gilroy was about 30 metres further afield, but if we’re being honest, if Jasmine Grierson hadn’t spilt that mark, it wouldn’t have been a goal, unless she managed to colossally screw it up with the kick.

 

OTHER BITS

Weren’t many North players that stood out, but Daria Bannister was giving it a fair crack as she always does up forward. The delivery inside was putrid, but she did well in trying to make a contest out of it.

Liked Grace Campbell’s efforts as well. Looked very desperate at stages to win the footy and make it her own. Finished with the ten touches, makes you wonder why Richmond gave her up on the cheap.

Kaitlyn Ashmore was back to her best after a quiet one last weekend – 17 touches and was generating plenty on the outside. Six tackles is also very enticing for an outside player – a big tick.

Thought Grierson and Tahlia Randall worked well in tandem to shut Sophie Alexander out of the game in half time. I think Alexander on her day is a very good player and is very hard to beat once she gets going.

Another outstanding performance from Aishling Sheridan up forward – 1.1 from nine touches but just looked so dangerous. I think the throwaway term ‘X-Factor’ can be something that genuinely describes her. Very electric anytime she gets near the footy.

As for her fellow countrywoman Sarah Rowe, I wouldn’t want to be her when it comes to the reviews this week. Got caught twice when she went off the mark and sort of erred with the footy. Just needs to be a little more poised with the footy when she gets a mark or free kick.

Tough start for Collingwood co-captain Steph Chiocci, got caught holding the ball a couple of times and then dropped a chesty, which would’ve lead to a scoring opportunity. But recovered well to finish with 20 disposals and seven marks.

Lastly, I think Jordan Membrey will be an important player for the Pies going forward this season. Only had the one goal but had multiple chances that didn’t trouble the scorers. She’ll provide good support for the likes of Molloy, Alexander and the others.

 

ADELAIDE 6. 9. (45) DEFEATED BRISBANE 5. 3. (33)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

We entered the Adelaide v Brisbane clash with a feeling of familiarity. These two teams have been at, or near the top of AFLW since the inception of the league, with the Crows knocking over the Lions in the first ever Grand Final.

This year, the clash had some extra juice to it. The Crows were coming off a bit of a hiding last week at the hands of the Dockers, whilst the Lions had cruised to 3-0 but had managed only to beat three teams who are currently winless. Yes, whilst you can only beat those the league puts in front of you, there were questions to be asked of the Lions, and Adelaide were ready to ask them.

The first quarter could have ended the game. The Crows were so dominant that it looked as though the hype around the Lions was not justified at all. However, as the game settled, Brisbane worked back into it and had a genuine chance to inch the game down the stretch.

It had some ugly patches, but this was a hard-hitting affair with plenty on the line. In the end, it was the Crows prevailing on the road, to move to 3-1 and join the Lions up neat the top group on the ladder.

Let’s jump into some highlights and a few lowlights as well.

 

THE GOAT

There is a distinct difference between Erin Phillips and most AFLW players.

Phillips grew up on football. The daughter of South Australian football royalty, Erin was part of the game as soon as she was born and though the pathway for her to compete professionally only eventuated in the last five years, I am so glad she has had the opportunity to strut her stuff in the sport that was her first love.

I commented during the game that there is no one better than Phillips in the air. There may be some as good, but no one is better. In a one-on-one contest, or in a pack situation, she clunks as many marks as anyone else in the league. The difference between Phillips and those other contested markers is that she can then move into the guts and rack up 20+ disposals and kick four goals, whilst the others are settling for touching the footy 5-8 times in a game.

Her body work is elite, her conditioning is unquestionably great and her ability to get the right spot at the right time straightens the Crows up when she is playing forward.

I’m not sure how many years we’ll get to see Phillips continue to play in this league. Maybe another after this – does that sound about right? However long she plays, I am determined to enjoy every moment of it. She is the standard by which all others players are judged in the league – a footballer who is also a great athlete. An athlete that makes football look easy. She is the best player in the competition on her day and it was once again a pleasure to watch her drift forward, take contested marks and snag goals.

Nobody in AFLW does it better.

 

THE HEIRESS

As much as Phillips is in a league of her own, I want to take a moment to level some praise at a player who has made such a transformation over the past two seasons that you’d barely register her as the same player from 2019.

Anne Hatchard has made such a startling switch from part time ruck to aerobic beast for the Crows. I may be clutching at a straw or two here, but do you think it is at all possible that she watched Phillips work herself into the condition she was in and felt inspired to do the exact same thing?

Hatchard’s work ethic is just about the best in the league. She runs deep back to deep forward and everywhere in-between to either give an option to her fellow midfielders, or get back to intercept the long ball and relieve her defenders.

Whilst I cannot say enough good things about Phillips’, Hatchard’s game here flew well and truly under the radar. She was huge in terms of intercept marks – they were a result of pure hard work to get back and help. I counted four intercept marks for her – all of which were vital at those stages of the game.

The other aspect of the game I loved from Hatchard was her desperation. Making the ground to make a spoil, or flying in to hold someone up in a tackle – those little things, again borne of hard work, create a team ethos and challenge others to give the same amount of themselves.

Look, I don’t think Anne Hatchard will ever be Erin Phillips, but being Anne Hatchard is plenty good enough for this Adelaide team. If the ball is there to be won late in a quarter, it will not be Hatchard giving up the ghost and standing there with hands on her hips. It will not Hatchard trailing her opponent to the footy, hoping for an easy touch out the back. She works for everything she gets, and her 19 touches in this game were pretty important.

 

RIDING THE WAVE OF SUCCESS

Right, this is the second straight week I am using a Point Break reference in regard to Greta Bodey. If you don’t know what I am talking about by now, perhaps you never will. Patrick Swayze was great in that role, but the real deal is the number 15 guernsey for the Lions.

The Doc’s Rolling AFLW All-Australian team will be released early in the coming week again, and after another 17 disposals and two goals, Greta Bodey will most likely be part of it again (sorry to put the pressure on, Doc!).

The prime objective of a mid-size forward is to hit the scoreboard and apply pressure, and Bodey does both very well. She now sits on seven goals for the season, behind just Erin Phillips and Dakota Davidson, but she is providing so much more. Bodey is third in score involvements at time of writing and continues to find the footy easily for someone without a background in the game.

Whilst the Lions would have loved a couple of others to step up in this encounter, Bodey’s efforts and her season to date have been huge for Brisbane.

 

THE DESTROYER

Anyone got access to some decent stats? I wish I did, because I reckon Bree Koenen had a field day down back this afternoon, reading the play beautifully to chop off a multitude of Adelaide inside 50s.

Koenen’s straight-ahead style of play and no-nonsense attack on the footy helped the Lions stabilise following the harrowing onslaught of the first quarter. Her steady hand and good decision-making helped guide Brisbane out of trouble and back into the game.

It’s funny – early in the game, you start to get a mental picture of the best players, who you’d give votes to and who’s having the most impact. It was all Crows after the first quarter – Hatchard, Phillips, Mules… they were tearing it up, but about half way through the third quarter, Koenen’s name was prevalent in those thoughts as she aided her team to get within striking distance.

She was also responsible for the game-saving (at the time) tackle on Hannah Munyard as the young Crow played on in front of goal. Koenen was all over her like a cheap suit, dragging her down and winning the free kick when a goal seemed to be the only logical outcome. I guess logic takes a holiday when Munyard marks 15 metres out.

Koenen finished with 14 touches and four tackles, but it was her digging her heels in through the second and third quarter, refusing to allow her team to go quietly into the night that really stood out.

 

THE BATTERING RAM

I take notes as I go to help me populate these reviews and I have three instances noted here where Chelsea Randall either crashed into a pack, or took a player out in the contest.

It is no coincidence that the Crows looked a little listless without Randall in the team last week. She looked as though she was prepared to make up for lost time in this one. Throwing her body in at the contest with an almost reckless abandon, she tried to crunch her old sparring partner, Kate Lutkins as the latter waited under a high ball, and her hit on Greta Bodey will probably come under some scrutiny, although it looked to me as though she attacked the contest in a textbook fashion, turning her body side on and bracing for contact.

Still… what do I know?

Well, I do know one thing – having Randall on your team is a hell of a lot more appetising than having her as part of the opposition. She was close to dragging in a huge mark in the first quarter – the spillage going to Erin Phillips for a goal at ground level and her run through the guts late in the game was scintillating.

She is the captain of this side for a reason and after an average first couple of weeks, I thought she did the kind of things this week that really made her teammates walk taller.

 

SHE’S GETTING IT…

I’ve heard a bot of chatter from Lions fans about Orla O’Dwyer and have taken particular notice of her, given her outstanding athletic ability. However, the chatter has mostly been about when she would develop the composure and awareness to use the ball well once she got it – getting it is not the issue.

I think we may have seen her do just that in this game.

O’Dwyer made some really big plays in the second half. She was integral in the LIons gaining the ascendancy, and her relentless run and attack on the footy resulted in the ball going Brisbane’s way several times.

On three separate occasions, she used her speed to close the gap on her opponents and drag them down. She got Eloise Jones in the second quarter and both Ang Foley and Stevie-Lee Thompson in the pulsating last term.

She still has a way to go, but this is the strongest indication that she has the potential to be a star in this league – not a huge disposal monster, but as an impact player. At 22, she could be a real weapon over the coming couple of years.

 

OTHER BITS

A few nervous moments in this one for Marijana Rajcic – fumbles at the wrong time and a bit of confusion with the ball in hand almost opened the door for the Lions to walk right through in the last quarter.

Sophie Conway really stepped up her production in the last quarter and really looked as though she’d run herself into the ground. If there was a player that looked as though she could drag the Lions over the line, it was her.

I liked the look of Eloise Jones in defence. She is a very natural-looking footballer and her creativity means that the Crows can get a nice boost when she drifts through the centre.

Another excellent outing for Ebony Marinoff in this one, relishing the contested footy and pulling the Crows out of the fire in the clinches on a couple of occasions. I probably could have given her a section in the review above rather than dumping her in here, but I reckon that suits Marinoff – gets in, gets the job done without fuss… doesn’t need the accolades.

Ash Woodland finished with 1.4 for the game and realistically could have had those numbers reversed. The positive thing here is that she is getting plenty of the footy inside 50. I reckon the goals will come as long as she doesn’t drop her head. Hell, there are some deep forwards who haven’t had double-figure touches in a game this season – she has.

Back to earth this week for Taylor Smith. Two touches after her three-goal breakout last week.

I liked the defensive aspect of Courtney Hodder’s game. This was her lowest-disposal game of the season, but the pressure aspect made her remain a presence on the deck.

Gotta feel for Cathy Svarc, being handed the job on Phillips as she drifted between forward and midfield roles. She seemed like she might get a little bit of run off Phillips at stages, but when poor disposal follows from her teammates, that can come back to bite pretty hard. Phillips was able to get out a couple of times after the Lions turned it over, leaving Svarc out of position- I really felt for her, as she wasn’t doing a lot wrong.

I thought Justine Mules was much better this week. Looked to have really clean hands and was on in the first half in particular.

Finally, the contributions of Emily Bates and Ali Anderson once again flew under the radar, Neither are huge disposal winners, but I like what they do with the footy when they have it in their hands. Both are clean and don’t waste the footy.

 

Okay doke – I’m done. Great win by the Crows, but after failing to answer those questions posed by Adelaide in the first term, the Lions resat the test in the next three quarters and passed with flying colours. Both teams now sit 3-1 and should feature in the finals. Hopefully, we get to see a second round between them in 2021.

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS 6. 1. (37) DEFEATED MELBOURNE 2. 12. (24)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

I can distinctly remember saying on the A3 Footy Podcast that the Western Bulldogs were due for a reality check. After two wins on the trot, running into a Melbourne side that were red hot against North Melbourne, I wasn’t liking my chances here and not many others in the media circles gave them a sniff either.

But no one told Nathan Burke and the Dogs that.

The first, and last time the Bulldogs won three on the trot, we must go back to the last game of 2017, followed by the opening two rounds of the 2018 AFLW season. Since then, wins have been few and far between with this side, with expansion being the root cause of this side’s downfall during the 2019 and ’20 seasons.

This was another mighty test for the Dogs and they weathered everything that Melbourne threw at them, and that was a fair bit. They dominated general play for much of the first half, and more will be explained through this piece, but the Dogs have now claimed two massive scalps in Carlton and Melbourne in 2021 and things are looking very sunny in Footscray once again – from an AFLW perspective, they’re in the top six… good gracious!!!

So let’s break it down and see what we can find in this game. As a Dogs fan, it’s been one of the best wins since the 2018 premiership season and it’s always bloody nice to get one on Melbourne, being the ‘traditional rivals’ and all – why the hell is this not the season opener??

 

YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT BAD KICKING…

It’s the elephant in the room, so let’s knock this one out of the way first.

By half time, I said to myself that Melbourne had kicked themselves out of this contest. They had 21 inside 50s for 1.6 in the opening half of footy. The Dogs kicked 2.1 from four entries in the same amount of time. By full time, the Dees doubled the amount of scoring shots the Dogs had and double the inside 50 entries.

Ultimately, 2.12 from 38 inside 50 entries is not just bad footy, it’s absolutely ugly footy and the Dogs made sure they paid the ultimate price up the other end. The main culprits were Eden Zanker and Tegan Cunningham, the pair combined for 0.6 – it means they got their opportunities, just failed to make the most of it – sometimes for forwards, it happens in football, you get an off day.

I thought Zanker played a really strong game around the park. She looked prominent early, but missed her chances. However, when she was playing up the ground, she was quite prolific in the ruck as well and led very well towards the ball. Cunningham was the one I was most disappointed in. All three of her behinds came from shots that had very little angle to speak of. Albeit they didn’t miss by much, but the best forwards eat those shots up for breakfast, and then have room for leftovers.

But they’re not the only ones, Alyssa Bannan missed a tight shot on the pocket, which the modern players do so well. Jackie Parry missed a gettable one and Niamh McEvoy perhaps missed the most critical shot on the three-quarter time siren. A bit of distance, and on the 45-degree angle, a goal there and Melbourne would’ve been up and about.

 

THE RETURN OF HANNAH SCOTT

I’ve missed Hannah Scott in this team. I’m a strong believer of ‘The Enforcer’ in a football team – and a small shoutout to Kirsty Lamb as well here, because her physicality on the contest was just first rate.

It was interesting to hear Nathan Burke say in his post-game presser that Hannah Scott had been available over the first three weeks but hadn’t been picked. Just a small reminder that Scott had also been dropped for the Dogs’ round six clash last season. So in essence, she’s missed the past four games.

To put it simply in the press conference, Burke challenged Scott to be defensive first, then be the attacking force the Dogs’ fans have come to know and love her as. Well she did plenty of both, positioned herself very well at numerous plays to halt Melbourne’s attack, her tackles and her shepherds – you can tell that she helps the Bulldogs defence walk a little taller and if you’re in her crosshairs, watch out.

She also provides such a cool head in this game and her kicking and vision was pinpoint accurate most times coming out of the half back line.

 

HEATH BLANKET

Ever since her debut, I’ve appreciated what Shelley Heath can bring to this Dees team. Never been a big possession getter, but what people fail to recognize and appreciate at times is her aggression towards the ball carrier. Not a lot of size on her, but she’ll make you pay if she’s within tackling distance.

Well, Mick Stinear gave Heath a run-with job against one of the in-form players in the competition in Ellie Blackburn. In the first half, you’d give the points to Heath, who in tandem with Tyla Hanks, worked Blackburn over and kept her impact at the minimum. The Dogs’ captain got caught holding the ball a couple of times and Heath was never too far behind.

Blackburn would finish with the 16 disposals for the match and would also kick a critical goal in the final term. You can’t keep the good women down in the AFLW, and Blackburn worked her way back in the contest to play a strong role in the second half, but Heath made sure she earned most of her touches.

Side note: Not sure where Heath was when Blackburn kicked that goal, whether she got caught in a transitional swap or not, it’s hard to tell watching the replay. But one thing it did give us was the pleasant sight of the ex-Dog Libby Birch go to ground in that marking contest that lead to Blackburn’s goal – a great time was had by all Doggie supporters.

 

MORE FREAKIN’ FITZGERALD

Yes please.

On Friday night, I watched Tyanna Smith do her thing at Moorabbin at wondered how she hadn’t got herself a Rising Star nomination – better pencil that one you muppets doing the award, or else. Because in these set of eyes, I believe she’s the front-runner for the award this year.

Jess Fitzgerald scoffs at this and says: ‘Hold my Milo.’

She’s just continuing to get better and better with the games she plays and, in my mind, the Dogs absolutely made the right choice picking her at number two in the AFLW Draft last year. Could’ve picked Smith and it would’ve been a fair choice, but Fitzgerald is just proving herself by the week and came up again with huge moments through the game.

I noticed the strapping on her quad and thought she might’ve been in for a rough time, but she shrugged it off and went to work and let me tell you, she can work. She played more forward this week, but was very smart in being the right spot to crumb and goal in that second quarter, don’t be fooled by how nonchalant the finish was – that was a tight squeeze and a difficult kick. The goal in the fourth quarter was every bit of ‘Cold Killer’ as Ellie Blackburn’s goal. That’s enormous for an 18-year old to go back and just nail such a clutch goal against quality opposition.

Defensively, she was brilliant with her eight tackles and whilst she didn’t spend a lot of time in the midfield, that centre clearance she had in the fourth quarter was pure freakin’ Fitzgerald.

 

HUNTING IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION

Before I cover this part, a big shoutout to Gab Colvin, who had the job on Izzy Huntington all game. For almost three quarters, she kept her influence well down in the air and didn’t stop working her all game.

But much like Blackburn, you can’t keep a good woman down for long, and the third quarter was Izzy’s for the taking.

Much has been spoken about her prowess in the air to start the season. Well, with Colvin compromising her aerial game for most of this contest, Huntington needed to impact the contest a different way – so she did it on the run.

Twice she kicked critical goals on the run. The first one being from a tight angle and it had every right to miss to the near side, but it turns out Izzy can make the ball talk, which is pretty nice. But it was her second goal was incredible, a true testament to her work rate and in essence, reminded me instantly of Fitzgerald’s first goal against Carlton a couple of weeks back.

She gatheeds the ball in the middle of Whitten Oval, booted long towards Dani Marshall, who did brilliantly to hold it up as she was the lone Dog in the one-on-three. Izzy Grant also did well to pick up the loose ball to Huntington who was running by and slotted the goal as cool as you like.

She did start to get in the game a bit in the air in the last term, but those two goals proved that she is as good on the run as she is in flight.

 

A MADDY GAY OL’ TIME

A lot of the applause will go to Karen Paxman, and rightfully so, because it was another typical Paxman game – 27 disposals, just nothing but consistent running, clearance work and clinical work with the footy in her hands.

But I think Maddy Gay needs a bit of applause too, particularly in the first half, when she was as strong and as tough at the source as Paxman was, maybe better. She had missed the first two games of the season due to injury, but it was clear from last weekend, that she makes the midfield just that little bit better and that’s saying something considering Paxman, Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks are all playing peak footy right now.

13 of her 19 disposals came in the first half, with her ability to win the contested ball and strong tackling a real highlight in her game. The Dees were dominant in the contested ball and the clearance work in the early goings and I reckon Gay had a bit to say in there. Hard to believe that she is probably one of the more underrated players in this side right now.

That might just change in the coming weeks.

 

OTHER BITS

Firstly, big ups to the Bulldog defence for sticking up all game, the following in point form:

  • Ellyse Gamble won about 90 percent of her contests on Tegan Cunningham, her best game at the club by far.
  • Eleanor Brown played one of her best games, picking off forward entries and daring to take the game on at every chance.
  • Sarah Hartwig continuing to build confidence in her game across the half-back line, was running and trying to create at every chance.
  • Naomi Ferres, god she’s tough. Copped a big whack on the nose and came on not too long afterwards and was solid.
  • Ashleigh Guest, black eyes and all, playing goalkeeper at numerous points in positive light and played her best game at the club.
  • Katie Lynch, mounting a case for recruit of the year. She reads the ball so well in the air and her use by foot is so underrated – also that fend off on Paxman was just too sweet.

Kate Hore as a late out in this one really hurt Melbourne’s forwards, as well as her chances on keeping her spot in the rolling AA team this week. Her finishing is as good as anyone’s in this team and they could’ve done with her causing chaos.

Really rough debut from Lauren Magee, who had just the one kick and gave away a couple of free kicks that directly resulted in scoring opportunities. Not to be confused with Brian McGee, who drank some very good beer, listening to Queen, when he was seventeen.

I was once again impressed with Shelley Scott working up and around the ground. I feel like she’s the ultimate forward: Can lead, can crumb, can take a strong overhead can finish on the run or on a set shot, causes so many problems for her direct opponent – 16 disposals, six marks and 1.1 on a solid shift.

Kim Rennie I thought played a solid game, took a couple of strong grabs during the match and her work in the ruck against both Lauren Pearce and Zanker at times was very admirable.

Casey Sherriff did a very good job repelling the ball out of Melbourne’s defensive half, particularly in the second half when they were under enormous duress from the Bulldogs – finished with the 13 disposals, 10 of those being kicks.

I quite enjoyed watching Sarah Lampard and Kirsten McLeod lock horns all throughout the game. I’d give the chocolates to Lampard, who kept McLeod well out of the contest out of quarter time and picked up 11 touches herself.

Daisy Pearce had a few good moments but largely went unsighted – only the seven touches. Libby Birch had only the three, but did a good job on Toogood, limiting her to six touches.

And lastly, whilst it wasn’t her best game, I thought Gabby Newton’s third term was important, she found a lot of the footy at half-forward and was often involved at some capacity in setting up scoring opportunities.

PS – Carn the Doggies!

 

GWS GIANTS 7.6 (48) DEFEATED WEST COAST 4.4 (28)

REVIEWER – JB EDDY

 

What a nice day for footy at Blacktown. Blacktown has a really great oval, and GWS love playing at Blacktown, because Blacktown is always a great place to play.

Sick of the word “Blacktown” yet? Of course you are, which unfortunately we all were when it was mentioned every second moment, along with something about fridges and tennis racquets.

Still all the fans at Blacktown oval (last one, I promise) were treated to a frantic seven goal opening quarter, with three coming from the Eagles. To put that into perspective, they kick 2.3, 2.6 and 2.8 for the whole game in the last three rounds.

West Coast ran all day, but it was the quick kicks and sure hands of GWS that saw them wear down a spirited Eagles side, and take home the chocolates.

 

A QUICK START FROM BOTH SIDES

The game started quickly, with a rapid centre break that resulted in a quick F50 re-entry and the first of four goals to Irish veteran Cora Staunton. The goal may look a little scrappy to the uninitiated, but Cora has shown uncanny class in moments like this.

The West Coast Eagles responded quickly though, with a nice run and kick into space that allowed Ashlee Atkins to execute a perfect one-handed pickup to bounce through a 40 metre goal. The run and carry in this play was an example of how the Eagles intended to play the game, and at times it looked like it might pay off handsomely, however keeping the run and carry up for four quarters of footy proved too much for them.

Staunton quickly responded with another before a quick double from the Eagles saw them take the lead, only to have it pegged back with goals to Beeson and Dal Pos for GWS to take back the lead.

Staunton squandered an easy chance running into goal with a teammate, but seemed in two minds whether to pass or shoot for goal. Unfortunately for her, she did neither and put it through for a behind, but she had the class and experience not to dwell on a moment of indecision.

 

EAGLES ON THE RUN

The Eagles strategy was apparent from the beginning: RUN!

Their ability to sprint to create space was rewarded with lots of open play. As a comparison, WCE had 20 running bounces to GWS’ one, with livewire half-back flanker Belinda Smith responsible for 11 of them as she attempted to run the ball out of defence and catch GWS on the fast break.

The strategy looked very good for the first half, but during the third quarter it became obvious that several players were tiring. Handballs dropping short, slow to accelerate, kicks lacking penetration… The team seemed to be giving everything they had, but the tank was just empty.

Will the strategy pay off later on with a little more match fitness? Possibly. It could also result in a few of the players having soft tissue issues later in the season, but West Coast have surely considered that aspect.

 

THE MATCHWINNER

Undoubtedly, it was Staunton’s day. Aside from her four goals, she also had 8 score involvements and a goal assist.

Coming into this match you could be forgiven for pre-emptively writing in three votes for Alyce Parker—who had a fantastic game, as she has done all season—but it’s hard to deny that Cora broke the Eagles, especially in the last quarter when the Eagles narrowed the margin to just six points before Staunton’s rapid-fire double put the exhausted Eagles defence out of their misery.

The Irish import is already considered a legend of the Gaelic game, and her awareness and game sense shows why. While I’m sure she’s more than happy with her career, at 39 years of age it’s a shame that Australia didn’t get to see what she could do earlier, considering how skilful she is right now.

 

EMERGING TALENT

Part of what makes the current stage of the AFLW so great is that you can see young talent being moulded into marquee players. At just 18 years old, last years pick #3 in the draft Isabella Lewis had a breakout game.

Her 16 disposals were a team-high with 10 of them contested, and matched with a game-high nine tackles and five clearances, showing just how hungry for the contest she was. She was one of the few players on the ground who seemed utterly tireless in her efforts.

Unfortunately, her in and under work was a little unpolished, as you may expect from someone in their fourth game. Her 25% disposal efficiency, should be taken with a grain of salt though, as she was constantly under pressure with GWS seeming to target her frequently.

The GWS midfield is anchored on Parker, and rightly so. She’s a class above. She has a decent engine around her too, with Beeson and Eva chipping in nicely, and Goodsir showing something in this match. What they’ve had trouble with is reading Mckinnon’s ruck work. With that in mind, it was nice to see Jessica Allan do some great tap work around the ground.

Her 23 hit outs were almost double her season average, and were a big reason why GWS won the stoppage clearances 22-13. She can almost be forgiven for not following up on her ruck work with the class of the mids around her, but I have a hunch that a bit more of an effort to put a block on at the stoppages wouldn’t go unappreciated.

 

PINK BOOT PARKER

There’s a rumour that Jason Akermanis used to dye his hair blonde so that he would get noticed. The fact he could hit a target from 40 out with whatever limb he liked probably helped too, but it never hurts to make sure you stand out.

Perhaps that’s why Alyce Parker sported a pair of fluorescent pink boots? It definitely didn’t hurt her game at all, pulling in 25 touches to go with six tackles. Her clearance work and long-kicking ensured that West Coast were reacting to her work around the ground, rather than setting up their own set plays.

Many, many people have highlighted Parker’s remarkable ability, especially at such a young age. While 2020 was her breakout season that saw her named All Australian as well as take home the B&F for GWS, she did have a few games where she struggled to have her usual impact.

She’s put that to rest this season, bringing a new level of consistency to an already high quality of play. She’s also matching her own skills with an ability to bring others into the game, which speaks well for her future as the cornerstone of this GWS side.

I don’t know if we’ll see her in those boots again, but whether she decides to wear lime green or go barefoot, she’s a joy to watch.

 

NEXT UP

GWS go back on the road to take on the Bulldogs. The six day break shouldn’t bother either side too much, and with the recent burst of form from both sides, it should be a fantastic match up. A win could see GWS in the running for a finals spot, but a loss will put them under the pump. It should be a great match up, and while most will expect the Bulldogs to win, I wouldn’t be surprised if GWS are right in it until the dying moments.

No one likes going 0-5, which is what will happen to one of the teams in the Eagles v Suns match. The Gold Coast women will be racking up the frequent flier miles when they travel to Perth, though they will enjoy an extra day’s break. West Coast will need to recover from today’s exhausting match well, but their ability to mount an early blitz should see them through to open their account for 2021.

 

 

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