AFLW Round Five has been run and won… and lost, with the final six really starting to take shape. The Mongrel team were keeping their eye on each and every game – here’s what we saw.

 

Note – we are still working on the final review. This article will be updated when it becomes available

 

RICHMOND 9. 6. (60) DEFEATED GEELONG 2. 1. (13)

REVIEWER – JB EDDY

 

This match marked the launch of the first-ever Indigenous Round for AFLW. It’s been a winner for a while in the men’s game, and the Tiges turned up with an absolute ripper guernsey for the match. Geelong’s was decent enough, but the Tigers won the Zoolander walk-off before the bounce.

This match was Geelong’s third Friday night game in a row, a timeslot usually reserved for marquee games in the regular season, but this Geelong side has not really lived up to being a marquee team so far.

Geelong dominated Richmond last time they met in Round 4, 2020. Monique Conti was best on ground, but had little support in the 22 point victory to Geelong that should have been more after leading by 40 points part way through the third quarter.

The boot was certainly on the other foot in this game though, as Conti had plenty of support in the middle from Brennan, McKenzie, Brancatisano and Hosking throughout the game. Geelong never had a sniff and looked equal parts frustrated and frustrating as the Tigers kept them under pressure and rarely able to find space, running out convincing winners by 47 points.

MILESTONE GAME

The celebrations were on par with premiership jubilation when the Tiges recorded their highest score and first ever win.

Last week against the Blues they certainly had their chances, but ultimately fell short by five points. Considering the Blues are a team that many had in premiership contention earlier this year, that’s no small feat. Sure, they’ve had a classic Carlton-esque start to the season, but on paper their supporters could have expected a bit more meat on the final margin.

Richmond have kicked scores of 7.6, 7.4 and now 9.6 in the last three rounds, and came into this game as in form as a side can be without a single win to their name. Comparing this side’s early games to the last couple of rounds shows just how much their second-tier players have improved, and while Monique Conti is still the unchallenged and unquestionable queen of the team’s engine room, the amount of help she had is what meant the difference in the last month.

Geelong by contrast would have been looking at this game as a must-win to open their 2021 account. They will be pretty disappointed by the first half, though the second was lot tighter, kicking 2.1 to Richmond’s 3.3.

 

CLEVER CONTI 

I’ve already given Conti a bit of a wrap, but she deserves her own space, and she found plenty of it in the match too. Her gameplan isn’t complex—she gets possession and sprints backwards around traffic like an NFL quarterback to assess her options. This gives her teammates time to move forward, which they do because they know she’ll have her eyes up to look to put the ball to where they’re going to be.

Once she kicks or handballs in their direction, she sprints towards that player to become an option. She had loads on 1-2s in this game, as she does every game. By getting to the ball as fast as she does, the defence has to either go to the ball carrier and leave Conti open or stick with Conti and release some pressure on the playmaker. Her gut running lifts other players, and when she went down at the end of the first quarter with her hands over her eyes due to an errant, John Jones-style eye poke from Crockett-Grills, you could feel the Richmond faithful tighten their sphincters a bit.

Fortunately, it seems she just had a bit of a gouge on her cheekbone as she came back on in the second quarter with a bit of dressing tape on her cheek like she was some sort of budget anime cosplayer. Maybe it helped, because she super-saiyaned the hell out of her game after that incident.

She finished with 28 possessions (14 of those contested), five tackles and four clearances in a best-on-ground performance. While some of the other big names in the league like Phillips, Bowers, Garner, Paxman and Prespakis may be the first names mentioned for the big awards, Conti should be in the conversation before too much longer. At just 21, only Prespakis is in a similar age range, and she’s considered an exceptional talent.

Conti’s basics and effort are as good as any 21-year-old I’ve seen, and I can’t wait to see how she develops now that she has some backup around her.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRUCTURE

If there’s a word of this football generation, it’s structure. Everyone loves going in and getting the hard ball, because it shows you’re willing to put the body on the line and do the hard work.

It’s often forgotten what you do once you have it.

If your teammate is in and under with you, one player can tackle either of you. At the start of the season, Richmond fell into this trap several times. They’ve learned from that mistake though, and this game saw plenty of outside players waiting on the defensive side of the contest to accelerate once the ball was won and get a quick handball to move it forward.

Geelong on the other hand seemed content to kick out of packs blindly. Part of this reason is because of the pressure Richmond were putting on, but just as impactful was the lack of movement for players to become genuine options.

Olivia Purcell is the exception to that criticism, showing a willingness to get the hard ball when needed, but make space when it wasn’t. She had poise around the ground, and looks to have a good head for the game. With a bit of luck, her footy nous will catch on. Unfortunately they may be without her for a while when she left the ground after seeming to injure her knee in the second quarter, and did not return.

Amy McDonald also got in and under pretty well, but her disposal was often not up to AFLW standard. The official stats show her as zero clangers and only one turnover, but watching the game I think they were very generous with those numbers. At the start of the second quarter alone she had a play where she got a free and kicked it straight to Richmond’s McKenzie. Fortunately McKenzie kicked it to Brennan, which McDonald intercepted, only for McDonald to turn it over again and hit up Hosking.

Her kicking style is unorthodox to say the least. She seems to prefer a two-handed drop that doesn’t let her kick through the ball, but rather look like a wooden puppet. She knows how to get the ball though, so that is something I guess.

She did have an excellent spin move out of the centre just after half-time, but then proceeded to give Higgins a hospital pass that saw her laid out by Ross. It was a crunching tackle, and full credit to Higgins for keeping an eye on the ball, but it should have been further ahead so she could run onto it or flatter so she wouldn’t be taking it while stationary.

Some Cats fans may say I’m being harsh, especially as it seems the commentary team thought she had a blinder. She did kick a decent running goal, and at 23 years-old, McDonald has time to improve, but that lack of penetration, balance and consistency in her kicks is pretty concerning. That style is pretty hard to watch too.

DEFENDERS OF THE TURF

There seems to be an old myth that a backline player is just someone who either didn’t have the skill to be a forward or was too ugly for the forwards to want them nearby. While blokes like Mick Martyn did nothing to dispel this stereotype, there were plenty of players willing to take it on in this game (well, the skill part for sure, I’ll leave the looks judgement up to someone who doesn’t live in fear of their wife as I do).

Harriet Cordner was once again a rock in defence, and she was well supported by Sarah D’Arcy. They combined for 17 intercepts and 12 marks. Part of that was the blind kicking into the forward 50 of Geelong, but knowing when to spoil and when to mark is just good backline craft, and it was nice to see it executed so well.

Meghan McDonald tried to stem the tide for the Cats backline, but was too often battling on her own. Her positioning was excellent all night, but she had trouble with the muscle of Fredrick, and Wakefield. She was also too often left on her own. While there is a bit of old-school charm around a 1-on-1 defence, the modern game is all about zoning off and helping a teammate around the contest, which Geelong didn’t do enough of here. Part of that was Richmond’s pace when attacking, but this was only effective because so many Geelong players were sucked up the field, only for a clearing kick to go over their heads into the path of a goal-bound Richmond player.

Renee Garing seemed to be floating a bit off of half back, and did some nice work to cut off the attack also, but seemed in two minds about playing on or waiting for players to rush forward.

ENTRIES APLENTY

Geelong’s forward 50 entries reminded me a bit of the time I did a home bathroom reno. Get the tools and materials you need, have a great plan, take your time and you should be pretty optimistic about how it all turns out, but all that hard work can come undone if you forget to finish properly and end up leaking all over the ground.

Total forward 50 entries were 34-19 in Richmond’s favour, but even that isn’t the whole picture. Geelong only had four marks inside 50 to Richmond’s 12, and two of them were in the last quarter, which shows just how manic some of their forward thrusts were.

Geelong’s midfield tried hard, but their efficiency inside 50 was a woeful 26.3% compared to Richmond’s 44.1%. They also struggled to keep it in their forward 50, with Richmond frequently launching from half back. Rookie Ellie McKenzie had a beautiful end-to -end run in the third quarter where she palmed off her opponent, takes a couple of bounces, baulks another, bounces again and delivers a chip into space that results in a bit of a scrap, but ends in a goal to Jacques.

McKenzie is only five games into her career, but the number one draft pick is adding a new dimension to this Tigers team. Her value is steadily rising, and she looks like she’ll be ready to breakout later in the season.

Fredrick looked to be working hard all day, and had some fantastic tap work where she picked out a running mid beautifully. She should have kicked more than 1.1 in this game, but Wakefield was on a hot streak, and Brennan had probably her best game in the yellow and black. Fredrick’s poster shot was one she should have kicked, but it was not a bad effort from her.

THE DIFFERENCE

Three factors hurt Geelong enough to take away any chance of winning.

The first was the fact that six of their players had five or less possessions. 14 had 10 or less touches. That’s just not enough of a contribution.

The second factor was hitting a target. Geelong had 19 marks for the game to Richmond’s 39. That’s not the be all and end all of the game, but it was made worse by so many kicks falling short or being intercepted. A kick goalward of a player lets them run onto it, which can be even better than a mark sometimes. A kick behind them or to the opposition is a wasted possession.

The third was being able to run the ball. Geelong were lacking confidence at times, and were reluctant to take on the tackler. They recorded only two bounces to Richmond’s 10. In combination with the marks stat, it shows just how hard they found it to move the ball, either quickly or gradually.

AFTER THE GAME

OK, the Tigers went a bit over the top in their celebrations. It had more of a finals feel than getting off their duck, but they made a bit of history so it’s hard to be too critical.

Brennan was overjoyed in the post-game, taking the scene in and mentally recording the moment. She’s copped a fair bit of heat recently, and most of it has been deserved for someone with so much talent. Finally though, it seems she may have some support that she’s needed.

The team went to the middle for their song as Monique Conti was stuck chatting with the commentary team. She seemed ready to rush off and join them, which is understandable really. They waited for her and then sang loudly while bouncing for joy. They then went to the boundary to have a bit more of a dance with fans and friends who made the trek down to Geelong. Absolute jubilation and a great moment for all the players to be part of the first ever win for the team.

Was it a bit too much? Yes, probably.

Will Richmond supporters care? I doubt it. But if Steve Hocking implements another mad rule change, this may be where the blame lies.

UP NEXT

Round 6 will see Geelong take on Carlton at Ikon park. The extra day’s break will help, but while Carlton’s only wins come from Richmond and St Kilda, they will likely prove too much of a challenge for the Cats. Tayla Harris seemed to get a knock in the game against North, so may not take part, but the return of Prespakis will be very welcome, and they seem to have too many avenues towards goal to be concerned. Blues by 4 goals.

Richmond will face a stern test against a North Melbourne side that has been very hot and cold lately. At their best, they seem unconquerable, but too often lacking in polish in forward 50 entries.

It’ll be a great sight to see Fredrick and Seymour match up against Saad and Emma King, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Richmond take the honours in the hit out department, especially if King goes forward and Saad is forced to ruck around the ground against Fredrick. The engine room will also offer some nice contests, with Conti and McKenzie lining up against Garner and Kearney. Richmond will have the pace advantage there, but the depth may hurt them if Riddell, Ashmore and Bruton are on form.

Bannister vs Cordner promises to be as uncompromising as any contest anywhere, with both unlikely to give an inch or shy away from the niggle.

The game is North’s to lose. On paper, they should be the dominant side, but they’ve shown themselves to struggle under a high-pressure contested game against Collingwood and Melbourne, so Richmond could well have their moments here. Still, I’d expect North’s depth of talent to win out against the Tigers. If North get out to a strong start, they may well end up with a decent margin, but they will not have it all their own way with the Tigers riding a wave of optimism and enthusiasm. North by 18, but there will be plenty of highlights and contests to keep an eye on.

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS 7. 5. (47) DEFEATED GWS GIANTS 3. 4. (22)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

On the back of an incredible win last week against Melbourne, these are the sort of games I dread, being a Bulldogs supporter.

In the men’s, the customary thing to do after a big win is to completely throw away the game the following week, which is often against opposition that outsiders will look at a ‘winnable game.’

But in footy, there is no such thing as a winnable game anymore and you can’t rest on your laurels, especially if you’re a Bulldogs supporter like me.

Three in a row and looking for four wins for the first time since the Dogs were premiers in 2018, which carried into the first two weeks of 2019, this week saw them coming across a Giants team that had been almost everywhere around Australia in the first month.

I expected the Giants to be somewhat war-weary heading into this one, given all the things they’ve been through – both on the field and off. The Giants probably won’t be playing finals this year, but if there’s one thing they haven’t been short of this season – it’s heart.

And they showed plenty of it again here in this one. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the red, white and blue train and take them off the tracks, because the Bulldogs looked to have the game sewn up by half time, on the back of a dominant second quarter.

 

BLACKBURN V PARKER

When you talk about box office showdowns, look no further than seeing two of the most in-form midfielders square up in the middle and in the stoppages around the ground.

They probably went head-to-head directly only a handful of times – Parker was being worked off Kirsty Lamb and I saw Blackburn running with Rebecca Beeson for large parts in this one. Both were solid, but I wouldn’t exactly call either of their games ‘spectacular.’

By Parker’s standards this season, this was her worst game, only picking up the 16 touches, but she was still working pretty hard in the contest. It did look as if the Dogs put a strong emphasis on making sure every disposal she got wasn’t an easy one. Kind of similar to how Collingwood were picking off Maddy Prespakis in the season opener. She did lay the eight tackles though so defensively, she was great.

Blackburn had the 17 disposals, and probably looked the more prominent out of the two if I had to really choose who was the better player. She was looking to run and create and generate a lot more and had a bit more time to think things through as opposed to Parker. But she would like to have her time again in that last quarter when she got wrapped up in an Alicia Eva tackle, when she had every right to rush the ball over and concede a point.

 

BONNIE AND IZZY

When you get your key forwards up and firing, especially when they kick three goals each, you can’t really ask for much else can you?

For Toogood, this was the best game I’ve seen from her since her debut three years ago. Back then,  she managed to kick three goals in a game of footy and it was a good effort – only someone by the name of Brooke Lochland kicked seven that same night and took a lot of the spotlight off her game.

But Toogood’s 2021 campaign has just been purely that – Too good! Sorry couldn’t resist that gratuitous one-liner, but the way she leads at the footy, the hands when she goes for a mark in the air as strong as they’ve ever been and her finishing has often been clinical when she has her opportunities. She had three goals to her name by half time, with her third the best of the lot – turning Louise Stephenson inside-out and slotting a cool drop punt from the boundary line about 20 metres out.

Her and Izzy had all five of the Bulldogs’ goals up until half time. Izzy was I thought held well for the most part by Pepa Randall, but that little patch from the second term until midway through the third quarter, there was just not a chance you were stopping Izzy the way the Dogs were moving the footy.

She was on the end of some really nice skills by her teammates and her kicking boots weren’t so bad either, kicking 3.0 – which is a current personal best in the AFLW. Oh, and she’s also leading the goal-kicking at the moment with Erin Phillips. Elite territory, that.

 

WHILST ON THE SUBJECT OF BALL MOVEMENT…

It’s been the biggest improvement of the Bulldogs’ game this season and a key reason why they’ve won four in a row, because the way they set themselves up in the defensive 50 and quickly rebound the footy has been consistently solid across the past month. When they get it and go, it becomes fun to watch and even better when it’s pulled off, because you’re always running the risk when you go the corridor and there’s every chance you turn it over.

The Dogs’ scoring in the second quarter was built on run from the half-back line. Once they got going, the Giants were always struggling to run with them. One such instance, Deanna Berry received it at half back and got working to Sarah Hartwig, who handballed over the top to Kirsten McLeod in the middle of Whitten Oval – they were away and it results in a goal to Huntington.

Similar circumstance when Toogood kicked that ripping goal from the boundary – it was worked out of half back by Naomi Ferres, to Ellie Blackburn, which was then worked through by Danielle Marshall. That was all worked along the wing, but they took the game on and it caught the Giants napping.

Fair credit to the Giants, because they plugged the holes to run through the corridor after half time and forced the Bulldogs to go a lot wider and with the breeze naturally playing to the Barkly Street end, the Giants were able to stifle the Dogs’ run after half time a fair bit.

The next step in the Giants’ game would like to have a look at how they work the footy up as well during the week, because plenty of times the Giants kicked without actually looking or thinking.

 

BUSY BEESON

Rebecca Beeson is putting together a very fine season for the Giants. I think being a top 50 player is a lock this year, but All-Australian? Gonna be hard to get her in over the likes of Blackburn, Paxman, Bowers, Davey and of course her team mate in Parker.

Despite winning contested ball like it’s shelling peas, the biggest criticism I’ve had on Beeson this year is her disposal efficiency and she was going below 50 percent before this game. I think a large part of that is because of her contested game – she averages over 14 contested possessions per game and also averages 6.2 clearances per game, right behind Parker. It’s not easy being clean when you’re winning hard ball.

But in this one, she looked a lot more dangerous winning the footy out of the stoppages. She had the 24 disposals, five tackles and furthermore, she was often at the bottom of the pack when it came to a stoppage, so that tells you she is doing her utmost to make the footy hers. I reckon she would’ve reached her average of six clearances in this one easy.

And she wasn’t as prolific in turning the footy over here with her 11 kicks, so I guess that’s a small win for the Giants?

 

THE INJURY

This was just one of those moments that you just knew that it was most dreaded three letters in Aussie Rules…. The letters ACL.

Admittedly, I’d soured on Deanna Berry by the end of the 2020 season – she just didn’t look fit and struggled to get herself involved in the play. She was playing a bit deeper last year so I think that plays a role, also she did have an injury-interrupted pre-season last year, also had one the year before that, so I see the pattern.

Season 2021 was more impressive, and I think that’s because now the Dogs have genuine key position players to kick to and Berry can be more at home as a small forward or a half-forward and it was really showing this season, and this game in particular, before she went down. She was covering ground really well and was on the receiving end of a few good chains that led to scores.

It was just so innocuous, but as we’ve seen in both the men’s and the women’s football, all it takes is a little twist and the knee goes pop. It really took the air out of the game as well and you can tell the Dogs were trying to work through it, but the look on their faces after the game told the story plenty. They were absolutely gutted for her and it speaks a lot about how tight knit this group has become this season.

It’s so good to see the team gather around her post-game and wait for her to huddle up after the match to sing the song. The really good sides genuinely play for one another and the Dogs are side that has done plenty of it working towards something special.

 

OTHER BITS

Cora Staunton, or as the commetators said on Fox Footy ‘Scora Staunton’  was kept to zero goals this week. Had a bit of the footy, but most, if not all were possessions higher up the ground – felt somewhat meaningless at times. More kudos to Ellyse Gamble for winning the big one-on-ones when it mattered.

I liked Alicia Eva’s game, led all players on the ground with 11 tackles for the match. She’s not a physically imposing person, but her toughness around the contest gets underappreciated a fair bit for my liking.

Speaking of underappreciated toughness, really enjoy watching Liz Georgostathis around the contest, laid the ten tackles for the Dogs and was just in and under everything. I’m really liking the season she’s putting together.

Another big defensive game from Eleanor Brown, picking off plenty of forward entries for the Giants. Her kicking was left a little wanting at times, but still a very strong showing and kept Privitelli out of the game for large parts.

Brooke Lochland recording another 17 disposals in another really strong game playing as a high half-forward type. Thought she was winning a lot of contested ball as well, which is pretty good.

I liked Kirsten McLeod’s game, kicked 1.0 but was showing plenty of promise in the air, despite the one mark, and was putting on elite forward pressure, laying six tackles.

No one is going to doubt Erin McKinnon’s tap-work as a ruck, but I have a few queries about her abilities to cover ground and go for hard ball. Not that she needs to do the latter, given the talent surrounding, but her direct opponent Celine Moody was allowed to run her own race at times in this one, and that’s a bit concerning.

I thought Georgia Garnett was impressive playing in defence, battled hard under pressure early, got into right spots for intercepts and was trying to do her best to create run out of the defensive half. Finished with 13 disposals and five marks.

Another great game from Ashleigh Guest in the defensive half for the Dogs. Really loved her goal-saving tackle on Nicola Barr before the quarter time siren and her positioning in defence to take a few intercept marks was really on show as well.

And lastly, good to see Katherine Smith back playing footy after missing all of last year due to an ACL injury, spent a lot of time forward and showed good pressure, and then moved to her original position in the back line in the final term and looked pretty comfortable.

 

BRISBANE 3. 7. (25) DEFEATED FREMANTLE 1. 8. (14)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

On a weekend where most of the games give you at least one reason to tune in and see what’s going on, this was top of the pops as far as I’m concerned.

Friday night’s game was interesting because Richmond were in a good position to nab their first-ever victory – which did happen. Carlton and North was interesting because both sides were tipped to win the flag by the media pundits, but both sit outside the top six and the losing side faces an uphill battle from 2-3. Melbourne and Collingwood is another blockbuster showdown purely based on Collingwood being unbeaten and the Dees seeking to rebound from a bad loss.

But this is top of the pops because these are two of the most in-form sides in the competition right now. The Pies are right in there too. But Freo were also unbeaten and the Lions were cruising very nicely before being brought back down to Earth by the Crows last week. It had all the makings of a classic game.

Well, it was, just wasn’t the one many were expecting. A lot was made in the media about the forwards from both sides but the defensive sides were absolutely disregarded and that was what this contest was more about: being a match of attrition as opposed to that of flashy brilliance.

No one gave the Lions a chance here at the Dockers’ stronghold that is Fremantle Oval, but Craig Starcevich really is a coaching mastermind, and the Lions are legit. For most of the game, they out-hustled Trent Cooper’s soldiers and showed that the Dockers are in fact human in the AFLW after going through an unbelievable winning streak of 11 games.

 

WHILE ON THE TOPIC OF STREAKS…

Here’s a streak that will be worrying Trent Cooper after this game – four games in a row that Fremantle have gone to quarter time goalless… Yikes, imagine that right?

This includes games against West Coast, Adelaide and Gold Coast – the latter two of the three saw the Dockers head into quarter time scoreless, 0.0, donuts – double yikes.

The Dockers are a side that can run out games, but scoreboard pressure gets talked about in footy, and at times, it goes overlooked, but it is real. Teams can fall on the back of scoreboard pressure and the fact that the Dockers went 0.2 in this one and the Lions did manage a goal on the board – you just knew Brisbane could smell blood in the water.

For the past 12 months, it’s been an on-the-side hobby to work out how exactly you stop a juggernaut team such as Fremantle. Whilst keeping them at bay in the opening quarter is a good start to it, it’s going to require a consistent defensive effort across four quarters. Which starts with this point…

 

CONWAY THE GOALKEEPER

This was a critical part in the game, because the second quarter was largely dominated by Fremantle and they actually had so many opportunities with their eight inside 50 entries this quarter. Actually, Freo had a lot of the play in the first term too, but the Lions often had a spare in the defensive half – that played such a large part in their big win here.

Tahlia Hickie took a few nice grabs in the opening term, and Kate Lutkins was also prominent reading the play at stages. But it was Conway who played the goal-keeper role in the first half, but it was the second quarter that, with the benefit of hindsight, would’ve saved the Lions from certain defeat.

One particular play saw Tiah Haynes have a shot from about 35 metres and it was on line and it would’ve been six points, if it weren’t for Conway, who was on the line. She palmed it down and it went over the line for a minor score.

She did that another two times in the first half alone, and it saved the Lions from conceding a goal to the Dockers, you could tell that the Lions’ primary focus was to flood the Freo forward line – West Coast tried it on the Dockers a few weeks back in torrid conditions, but the Lions have the talent to really make you pay the other end if you do not finish your opportunities.

 

THE TACKLES THAT MATTER

Here’s an interesting stat and another part of what decided this contest – tackles.

It’s common knowledge for the die hard AFLW fan that Fremantle’s game plan revolves around tackling and suffocating the opposition ball carrier, and this is what I meant when I said Brisbane outhustled them – in essence, they beat them at their own game.

The tackle count was +12 in favour of Brisbane: 59-47 and you can tell that the Dockers were rattled after half time, because they looked sloppy with the ball going forward. Perceived pressure is a thing in football and as someone who has played many a game at local level, I’ll be damned if people scoff at the thought of perceived pressure.

Often, Fremantle look so swift and clinical when they get the ball off the turnover. In this one, there was plenty of fumbling, bumbling and Brisbane were often there to make sure they’d bury them in the contest.

But wait, that’s not all that’s happened – tackles inside 50 read a staggering 21-6 in favour of the Lions. Speaks a lot about how much more the Lions wanted it right?

Out of the top three tacklers at the Lions, two of them were forwards. Between both Dakota Davidson and Courtney Hodder, the pair laid 13 tackles between them. Davidson was soundly beaten by Matilda Sergeant in the air, but defensively, she still had presence. Whilst watching Hodder battle with Ange Stannett was a enthralling encounter, but Hodder definitely took home the spoils. Should’ve been more rewarded than the 1.2 – she was a real livewire anytime she got near the ball.

 

ALLY

A lot of applause will go to Emily Bates and her 26 dsposals, and with good reason, I thought she was just really brilliant all around the ground – won important hard balls, placed herself well as a kick behind the footy at a lot of other stages during general play and got on the end of many of Fremantle’s failed forward thrusts. I really can’t fault her game today.

But plaudits need to equally go to Ally Anderson here, too. Whilst she didn’t pick up as much of the footy as her teammate, her strength to win clearances and contested ball were so vital, and equally as important was her tackling when the Dockers had the footy – leading all players on the ground with nine for the game.

What a lot of people will take out of this game is her effort in the last minute and a half of the game, when the Dockers had brought the game back to less than a kick courtesy of a Roxanne Roux Roost.

The Lions managed to work it to their half forward line, where Ally Anderson won the footy and kicked it to a contest about 20 metres out from their goal. Whilst Jesse Wardlaw was twisting and turning, trying to shake off her opponent, Ally Anderson sprinted to get to that contest, where she got on the end of the game sealing goal. No Docker looked willing or able to run with her and in a game where it was more about the work ethic than anything else, this was the cream of the crop in terms of plays during the game.

 

WHO STOOD OUT FOR FREO?

There weren’t many players that stood out, not many do in a losing effort. But some players that I thought played well:

I really liked Steph Cain’s fourth quarter, I think she might have had about seven or eight touches, she just looked everywhere after being unsighted for most of the first three quarters.

Houghton tried hard and pushed up the ground and led back towards the attacking 50. On her best day, she kicks three or four goals, but in this one, just lacked the finishing touches and was one of many who fumbled the footy frequently, but I can’t fault her effort.

Kara Antonio was another who I thought played a terrific role across the half-forward line, playing the link up role really well – she finished with 14 disposals and five marks. Laid zero tackles the only downside, but her leading patters are very impressive for someone who’s played predominantly as a midfielder.

I liked both Laura Pugh and Philipa Seth across the half back line – both were sloppy at times using the footy, but they were working as hard as they could to generate the offensive run off the half back line.

And lastly, Kiara Bowers. A bit slow to start things off but worked herself into the game and had 24 disposals, six marks and eight tackles and as the second half was unfolding, she looked as if she was doing what she could to get the Dockers up and about – it wasn’t her best game, but she was still one Freo’s best here.

 

OTHER BITS

Aside from Houghton, the Fremantle forwards were largely disappointing: Sabreena Duffy and Ashley Sharp had seven disposals between them and whilst Gabby O’Sullivan was prominent in the second term, struggled to work herself back into the game after half time.

And as much as I don’t want to ram into the kids too much, I need more from the likes the Roxanne, who had the seven touches and had little impact until the last quarter, Sarah Verrier had six disposals and Bianca Webb the three. Can’t have the kids be passengers in a premiership contending team.

No goals from Greta Bodey this week, but still worked hard to get 17 disposals, playing a little further up the ground this week. Probably expected not to feature on the scoresheet heavily this week, given this was such a defensively minded game.

Saw the best and worst of Orla O’Dwyer this week – she had 1.1 from 14 disposals and I enjoy watching her attack the contest at every chance. However, taking advantage of a free kick inside 50 is such a pet peeve of mine, and Orla took advantage of a free kick in the third term that she really shouldn’t have.

Especially when Freo had the game on their terms in the second term, Shannon Campbell needs some recognition here. Not as prominent in the air, but she is criminally underrated at winning hard ball and she did plenty of it in the second term – finished with 14 disposals.

Janelle Cuthbertson was made more accountable this week, thus why she only had the six disposals and not as prominent, but I thought she did a very good job in keeping Jesse Wardlaw goal less. Allowed Wardlaw to go further afield to get the touches, but in the one-on-ones inside 50, she was the clear winner.

Lastly, it’s great to see Jess Wuetschner back in the side. Yeah, she was a late inclusion, but it has been anything but a smooth ride since she was struck by lightning at the start of last year. She was played in a few roles different from her usual as a deep forward. But as long as she’s got a smile on her face playing footy, that’s all that matters to me right now.

 

 

NORTH MELBOURNE 9. 5. (59) DEFEATED CARLTON 6. 1. (37)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

North jumped the Blues to kick things off, with a couple of goals before the Blues even had time to get a decent disposal. Goals to Kate Gillespie-Jones, who may have the most impressive physique I have seen since Lex Luger first arrived on the scene in WCW in around 1987, and Jas Garner set the Kangas alight.

The Blues looked shell-shocked, and it appeared as though North had hit this contest on a mission to avenge their first back-to-back losses in the team’s short history.

However, the Blues were resourceful and managed to stem the flow for the remainder of the quarter until a Darcy Vescio purple patch saw her kick two goals and have a hand in another to get Carlton rolling. From there, the Blues were accurate, but they lacked that reliable ball-winner to get the clearances on their terms. The absence of Maddy Prespakis was keenly felt as the North midfield brigade racked up huge numbers between them.

The third quarter saw the Kangaroos extend the lead to 11 points before their relentless attack broke the Carlton dam, with the Kangaroos running out handy 22-point winners. Let’s jump into the nitty gritty and see what we can uncover.

 

THE MIDFIELD MACHINE

Let’s just take a moment to run some numbers, shall we?

Jasmine Garner had 32 touches in this game despite looking like she is in third gear at all stages. Emma Kearney had 28 and both Ash Riddell and Jenna Bruton had 23 apiece.

Now, I am no mathemagician… what a crap occupation that would be, but when the four highest-disposal winners on the park are all members of the same midfield, it makes it really difficult to shut down their run and carry.

Garner just collects the footy like it is something she does casually on her day off. The ball seems to find her and her good hands make it seem so easy to gather and offload. The fact that she makes it look easy should not take away from the effort she puts in to get from contest to contest. It was Garner getting the ball forward in traffic to Darcy Bannister to drag in a great contested grab opposed to Vaomua Laloifi. It was Garner getting the clearance inside 50 in the last quarter to set up an Abbatangelo goal, and it was Garner dropping back into defence to beat Tayla Harris at ground level.

I’ve been wondering who the make equivalent of Jas Garner would be – someone that effortlessly finds the footy without every having to hit top pace to do so. Darren Jarman? Sure, she doesn’t sell candy like him – no one can – but just being able to get to the fall of the ball, display clean hands and dish to a teammate is something that is so underrated in the league at the moment. Jars might be a stretch, but the way Garner goes about it, she is a complete natural footballer.

Kearney is quite the opposite to Garner. There is always a sense of urgency about Kearney. She outs her head down and pumps those thighs as soon as she can – she looks as though she is running for her life when she gets the footy, choosing to carry it rather than dish immediately like Garner.

What that does is break down the defence, draw them to her and open up the ground in front of her for teammates to utilize. She relishes having a weaker midfield to deal with s the game wore on and you could see her wanting to take tacklers on when she took possession. She is a killer, and like most killers, she smelled blood in the water when confronted with this version of the Carlton midfield.

I had Ash Riddell as the best player on the park in the first quarter. She is an absolute workhorse for the Roos, often making consecutive contests as she takes off to provide an option. 23 touches was her season highand her nine tackles were the most of any player.

At one point, whichever bozo was commentating actually made a good point – Jenna Bruton flies under the radar in the North midfield. Her and Riddell are small-bodied, so they don’t crash in with the same impact as Kearney, but that doesn’t mean they cannot hurt if you’re not careful, as Elise O’Dea found when she had the pleasure of Bruton’s hip for company.

In many ways, this midfield had to make up for the way the Collingwood team dismantled them last week. They were embarrassed by a well-balanced, disciplined and perfectly structured group. That is what this unit could become as well, but they need to be less wasteful and maintain their integrity at stoppages. No kick-chasing and they’ll be juuuust fine.

 

NO PRESPAKIS – NO CARLTON?

You’ve gotta think about this, right?

Where was the lift from Grace Egan? How about Jess Hosking? Elise O’Dea?

Without Prespakis in there to command the footy and win it at the coal face, the Carlton mids were swept aside too easily for my liking. Teams could seriously look at throwing two players onto Maddy when she is back next week and letting someone else from the Blues try to beat you – it may be a better option.

After back-to-back 20+ disposal games, Grace Egan couldn’t get near it without Prespakis drawing the heat. Her ten touches were her lowest of the season right when the Blues needed her to be at her best.

Hosking had 14 and reminds me a lot of Mitch Robinson at the Lions, inasmuch as the physicality is always there, but the decision-making and execution… well, not so much.

Meanwhile. O’Dea added 12 touches of little consequence.

The Carlton backs really stoof up in this one, but the lack of support they received from the mids, all of them soundly beaten, made their lives tough. Prespakis will be back, but the Blues reliance on her borders on the same kind of reliance the men’s team had on Patrick Cripps in recent seasons. It needs to be arrested quickly.

 

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH TAYLA HARRIS?

I love argey-bargey as much as the next person, but was that all Tayla Harris was capable of producing in this one?

She was crunched by Vivian Saad in the second quarter and attempted to take Emma Kearney to the bench with her as she exited the ground to undertake a concussion test, but she seemed absolutely out of sorts in this game. She ran under the footy a couple of times, and proved Stacey Livingstone dead right with her efforts at ground level.

Harris gets the superstar treatment in the media, and with that should come superstar scrutiny. Her six touches and just one mark were not good enough. Of course, I could just give a huge amlunt of credit to Danielle Hardiman on her return…she was bloody excellent in defence.

 

AMAZING GRACE

Take a bow, Grace Campbell – everything you touched in this game turned to gold.

Whilst many will focus on the dominance of the North midfield, Campbell’s efforts up forward were excellent, with the former Tiger more than justifying her move to North with a goal of her own in the last quarter, but it was her selflessness play to set up scoring opportunities for others that caught my eye.

The little handballs, the centering kicks, the pressure inside 50, and even the help defence late in the game – all contributed to Campbell having a big say in these proceedings. I was a bit of a fan of her work last year with the Tigers, but in a side packed with talent, it was always going to take a while for Grace to find her place. It’s taken five rounds, to be precise.

Campbell’s presence in the North forward half adds a dimension of unpredictability to the team. Her willingness to throw herself into the contest and create chaos inside forward fifty was responsible for at least two other goals and her vision offered both Emma King and Daisy Bateman scoring chances, of which one capitalised.

I’m not sure she’ll get votes in the MVP for this game, but she damn well should – I thought she was close to the most important player on the ground.

 

IS VESCIO THE CARLTON BAROMETER?

Who was the one to spark the Blues in the second quarter? It was Vescio.

Who was the one to look most dangerous working up their field and doubling back? Again Vescio.

Who was plonked in the forward pocket in the first quarter and couldn’t get a look in? That would be Darcy Vescio.

Everyone understands why she remains so close to goal – her two second quarter majors are about as comprehensive a statement as you can make about her prowess around goals, but when the going was tough in the first quarter, how valuable would she have been up the ground a little?

I wonder if there is scope to allow Darcy to call her own shots on the field in terms of when she moves up the ground and when she plays as a stay-at-home forward. The Blues looked like they needed a lift in the first quarter and like it or not, without Prespakis out there, no one else looked like they had the presence to impose themselves on the game. Vescio has that capacity.

When allowed to roam a little more free in the last quarter, she looked very dangerous as the distributor running toward 50. She has good penetration on her kicking and can actually kick to the advantage of her teammates. If only Daniel Harford had two of her to use, I guess.

 

OTHER BITS

Loved the contest between Bannister and Laloifi in this. Laoifi was well on top early, and may have been one of the Blues’ best for the game, but that contested grab from Bannister was special in the context of the game.

Good to see Mimi Hill hit the scoreboard a couple of times and I liked that she took on the responsibility at one point with Jess Hosking yelling for the foot ten metres closer to goal. They seem to be the moments that screw up plays in AFLW, so going back and slotting it was the right call.

The return of Duffwoman? She was pretty good early, but looked to have run out of puff by half time. The Duff out of puff… that’s some good rhyming… stuff.

Gab Pound started really well and was the best Blue on the park in the first quarter.

Will Viv Saad be okay after collecting Tayla Harris to the head, with what looked to be her leg? Harris was kind of lurched over with Jenna Bruton in her sights when Saad stepped in to lay a shepherd, but the contact was high and I expect them to look at it. Maybe she can get a warning like I got when I got caught shoplifting at age 11? It was enough to make me never do it again – maybe it’ll have the same effect on Viv?

A lot of incorrect disposals were allowed to take place without penalisation in this game. IT had to be frustrating for some players to see two or three throws or dropping the ball calls not paid, only to have incidental contact called against you a second or two later.

And before I finish up – hard not to acknowledge the work of Nicola Stevens in this one. With the Carlton mids struggling to find a winner, she led the Blues in disposals, with 19 for the game despite spending most of her time inside 50.

 

 

ADELAIDE 8. 13. (61) DEFEATED ST KILDA 1. 2. (8)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

Relentless pressure. That was the story of this game as the Adelaide Crows turned the screws on a St Kilda teams that was completely unable to match their intensity or physicality.

With stars all over the park, the Crows gave the Saints no room to breathe as they held the footy in their forward half for the majority of the game, and only some inaccuracy prevented them from notching their biggest ever win.

Plenty of positives for the Crows in this one, whilst for the Saints… well, I’ll try my best to find a couple.

 

THE MIDFIELD MENACE

I felt for the St Kilda midfield in this game – they need space to operate. Players like Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios thrive in the wide open spaces. They’re essentially kids – Patrikios is 19 and Smith is 18 – already they look like the Saints’ best two midfield options, but up against bodies like Anne Hatchard, Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff, they were unable to stand up in tackles or keep their body over the footy.

In short, they were pushed around.

Marinoff was instrumental early in the game. Her attack on the footy and player set the tone, and with Hatchard wading into and out of trouble using her power advantage, the Crows had a 23-15 clearance advantage and doubled up with a 110-80 contested possession win.

They are massive advantages.

What this led to was one of the most lopsided inside 50 stats you’ll ever see. The Crows won 47-8. Yep, you read that correctly – St Kilda managed just eight inside 50 disposals in an entire game. They were monstered by a midfield hungry for the contest and looking nowhere near full.

The Saints will take a while for their midfield to develop the strength to match teams like Adelaide, and once the game opened up in the last quarter, Patrikios was able to rack up some numbers – she finished with a game-high 24 touches – but those numbers are insignificant. You could pick any of the Adelaide mids as more influential.

 

THE JUMPER CLASH

I am positive that this will be a story online and in the papers by the time our review goes live, but bear in mind I am writing this immediately following the game. I have a theory that due to the nature of the AFLW fixture at the moment, the people responsible for the implementation of the Indigenous jumpers didn’t quite know what they were dealing with and may have even had an indication that both teams would be facing others in this round, hence the jumper clash. People will complain about it, but considering they had to design and make the jumpers, the AFLW fixture was not exactly cooperating with them.

But how difficult is it to change things up, approach the Saints and say “hey, as the away team, we’d prefer you wear a non-clash strip this week and you can wear your Indigenous strip as soon as it doesn’t completely blend with the other team.”

That would make too much sense, right? It’d also take a bit of courage.

So, here’s a question – what stopped them from ensuring we didn’t have a jumper clash? Political correctness? Fear of upsetting someone?

So, rather than do what was best for the game, they just went ahead with the jumper clash because… they’re terrified of a small backlash? I’m surprised the umpires didn’t break out their white kits, just to screw with things even more. This was a cock-up.

 

ALLEN TOWN

This is something that may fly under the radar of a few analysts, but if you’re looking to watch an underrated player go about her business as part of a successful system, track back and watch the efforts of Najwa Allen in this game.

She has had bigger numbers and I am sure some will point to other performances where they felt she was more prominent, but her positioning, zoning off and timing was excellent in this one. She finished with 13 touches, but her value in terms of pressure and one-percenters was worth way more than the stat sheet will indicate.

 

KICKING LIKE A MULES

Great to see Justine Mules slot the first goal of her AFLW career. She has been a tireless worker for the Crows over the last few years and does her job week after week.

I thought she played some of her best footy last week against the Lions, but her work in this one, including a couple of very solid contested grabs, was important for the Crows.

Mules is an unsung hero for the Adelaide Footy Club. She runs all day, provides plenty of pressure around the footy, and as a non-Adelaide fan, I was rapt to see her slot the goal in the last quarter to break the drought. True to form, moments later she marked again inside 50 and instead of doubling up with a shot at goal, saw a better option and hit up Eloise Jones. Players like this make good sides great.

 

WHAT WAS PETA SEARLE THINKING?

Was this viewed as a learning experience for her team? Was she okay with them taking their lumps, unable to progress the footy past the centre of the ground?

I would have liked to be a fly on the wall of the St Kilda coaches’ box as the game progressed to hear what their thoughts on the use of Kate Shierlaw were. She has been one of the success stories of 2021 for the club, but sitting inside forward fifty, she was absolutely wasted in this game.

Shierlaw has a decent tank, can take marks on the lead and may have been much better used as a hit-up target to the wings, allowing the rest of her team to get back if she was able to take the occasional grab.

As it stands, she finished with seven touches and a season-low one mark. Yes, she was able to run onto the footy after what was possibly Patrikios’ only clear possession of the footy to that point, to kick a goal, but the horse had bolted by the time Shierlaw slammed that gate shut.

Hannah Priest was left to stand under high balls at half back all game, and whilst she racked up plenty of the footy, was constantly under pressure, which resulted in a large number of turnovers. Maybe the presence of Kate Shierlaw in defence could have halted the momentum a little?

Or a lot.

 

OTHER BITS

Very interesting to see Matthew Clarke opt for this game to throw Chelsea Randall back behind the ball. After an early goal, Randall was shifted to her familiar role in defence which allowed her to get another game under her belt as she returns from her ACL injury and took her out of harm’s way in the process.

Sarah Allan looked good coming off half back and read the ball in flight well as she chopped off several desperate St Kilda forward forays. As one of the deepest defenders pushing up to the middle, her sure hands were a thorn in the Saints’ side.

Erin Phillips could have easily finished with three or four goals but for inaccuracy. She was probably the main culprit in terms of wasting the footy inside 50, which was the only detraction from what was an otherwise customarily excellent outing.

Tilly Lucas-Rodd toiled away for the Saints in defence but like Priest, was continually under the pump when she had the footy in-hand.

And we saw Rhi Watt deep in defence as well in the first half, attempting to provide a chop out for her team. She was pretty good, but boy, the Saints missed her presence in the ruck. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, I guess.

Tyanna Smith matched Eb Marinoff’s tackling output in what was the second outing of the year that she has been right at the pointy end of the tackle count. Good to see her contributing in other ways when she can’t get the game on her terms.

 

COLLINGWOOD 7. 7. (49) DEFEATED MELBOURNE 1. 8. (14)

REVIEWER – JASON IRVINE

 

It looked to be match of the round but this top-six matchup between Collingwood and Melbourne at Victoria Park during Indigenous Round didn’t exactly live up to the hype.

Inaccuracies hindered each side but it was the Pies who punished their opponents on the turnovers with each area of the ground covered well by women in the black and white guernseys. Collingwood were good at controlling the play going forward with some stop-start passages whereas Melbourne were more likely to take the game on, running through the middle.

Collingwood were the best side and had standout players in each third of the ground with a certain connection evident. They were equally able to punish any and all Melbourne turnovers while Melbourne shot themselves in the foot by missing crucial shots at goal after some great work to get it forward.

Melbourne’s lowest score of the season, 1.8, sees the Demons take a bit of backward step. Lauren Pierce was Melbourne’s lone goalkicker, scoring in the third as the Demons were held goalless in the first half.

Jordan Membrey didn’t return after three-quarter time, sustaining a left knee injury after falling awkwardly in a tackle while injury woes continued for Collingwood, with Chloe Molloy also looking ginger after clashing in a marking contest, though she did get up to continue the game.

Brianna Davey starred for the Pies with 25 disposals and two goals as did Brittany Bonnici who got the ball 23 times, while Tyla Hanks (22 disposals) and Kate Hore (17 disposals) were among Melbourne’s best players. The 35-point win to the Pies sees them one game clear atop the AFLW ladder while Melbourne have dropped out of the top six for North Melbourne to take its place.

 

INACCURACIES HURT EACH SIDE

Despite what the final score column says, this game was still plastered with missed opportunities. For Melbourne, who finished with a scoreline of 1.8 would be ruing some easily shots on goal and could’ve had a couple of extra goals to bring the final margin down a little. On the other hand, Collingwood were in the same boat with behinds, kicking seven but three were from hitting the post so they too could’ve easily improved their final score and had the margin blow out even more.

The inaccuracies probably hurt Melbourne more-so than Collingwood because apart from the final result usually being a behind, the progression to get the ball forward was great. There so were so many great passages from the Demons from the likes to Kate Hore, Eliza McNamara and the rest of the midfield, it was discipline inside 50 they were lacking mostly.

For the Demons, it was either the kick inside 50 not finding a teammate and Collingwood able to rebound with ease, or when a mark was taken, even 30m out, the Demons looked like they didn’t want to have a set shot so looked to pass it off. Those quick, dainty kicks were not getting anywhere and again, Collingwood rebounded with ease. It was unlucky that neither passage really resulted in a goal as even when it looked like a sure thing, it was still butchered such as Alyssa Bannan missed a wide open shot in the fourth as Melbourne got the clearance inside 50. She had Tegan Cunningham in the goalsquare on her own but chose to go it alone and the ball drifted wide.

Another important blunder that highlighted the Demons woes was a two-kick transition forward that started with Gabrielle Colvin intercepting a Brittany Bonicci kick inside 50 unopposed. Seeing the mark was without opposition, Colvin kicked into the middle of the ground to have Kate Hore mark on her chest. Hore quickly turned and ran around Ebony O’Dea to sprint away and take a bounce, spotting up Jacqueline Parry who marked on her chest unopposed, as well. Parry didn’t want the set shot and tried to chip it inboard to Karen Paxman who fumbled the opportunity to mark the ball and went to ground trying to pick up the ball. However, Lauren Butler did for the Pies at Paxman could not for the Dees – she cleared the ball long into space for Bonicci who collected, weaved her way out of a Zanker tackle and Collingwood were away again.

Maddie Gay was rewarded for a rundown tackle in the forward 50 but it all stated rom the back as Paxman, Shelly Scott, Alyssa Bannen all kicked and marked up the line to get the Demons into the middle third of the ground. Eden Zanker twist and turned and she had a long time to get rid of the ball while being tackled with the umpire letting it go as she got a kick away to Cunningham who found Paxman again, booting it forward to a one-on-one before Gay got the tackle, Paxman missing the shot.

The misses from the Demons were not through lack of trying as the transition and way forward was there, but when they got inside 50, all that seemed to change. A testament to the Pies defensive unit lead by Stacey Livingstone who intercepted well but also a lack of discipline from the Demons to calm it down and stay controlled and committed to backing themselves.

 

COLLINGWOOD’S SYNERGY

When you look at Collingwood play, you just know every player in that side is switched on and will play for each other. The connection each of the 22 players have out there on the field is a sight to behold.

Collingwood never truly looked like that had to take the game on at too many moments, instead opting to look for a chain link of unopposed players who could mark uncontested and drive the ball forward.

When the Pies needed to be quick, the link-up was still there as players were running in tandem with one another and it worked just as well, getting the ball inside 50 for the forwards to work their magic.

As well as these passages, the Collingwood players piled on a heap of pressure all over the ground, but especially forward where crucial Melbourne turnovers resulted in scores to the home side. The repeated follow-up efforts, the constant hard-nosed attack on the ball and the ability to squeeze their opponents into making a mistake is all part of the Pies gameplan. And it’s working.

 

THE CLEARANCE DOMINANCE OF THE PIES

While the clearances were even at 17-all, Collingwood edged ahead in the centre clearances seven to five. From the first bounce, the Pies got the clean possession and quick entry inside 50 and it was a similar scenario in the second and fourth quarters. Melbourne won the initial centre clearance in the third quarter.

What summed up the way Collingwood worked the stoppages well though was when Mikala Cann kicked the Pies fourth goal of the game. The throw-in came down and Sharni Norder tapped it to the advantage of Cann who was running through to kick a goal.

The Pies were the better team, especially in the first of breaking away and squaring a ball up to the goalsquare. The patience and composure allowed them to take some time to spot teammates and kick it to the best position for scoring.

 

CHOLE MOLLOY. THAT’S ALL.

Chloe Molloy is proving a cut above this season, the Collingwood forward kicking three goals against the Demons – her best output of the season – as a great year continues. The sharpshooter was again accurate in front of the sticks and stayed lively, bopping around and inviting pressure on the Melbourne defenders.

Molloy got the first goal of the game through a free kick for a throw as her big first quarter continued, flying in the air but not clinging on to the mark. But it was efforts like that that had viewers in awe of what she can do, those jaw-dropping moments.

Her second goal was a beauty – a checkside from the boundary. Praise needs to go to Sophie Alexander who kept the ball in from the boundary line and gave it off to Molloy.

She was lining up alongside Libby Birch in the third and provided a brilliant rundown tackle that didn’t get rewarded but Molloy stepped up again in the fourth, kicking her third of the afternoon as she was one-on-one in the goalsquare when a booming Sharni Norder bomb came down Molloy’s way.

Molloy also made a few crucial plays and assisted with the goals in different ways. With Mikala Cann’s goal in the second quarter, it was down to Molloy who got the ball deep into the forward line for the stoppage in the first place. A minute earlier from the goal, Molloy marked in the middle of the ground and immediately turned to play on, kicking inboard and while it bounced out of bounds, it resulted in the stoppage that would allow the Pies to drift ahead even further.

 

THE FIVE-GAMER MCNAMARA’S PRESSURE MOMENTS

The first-year, pick 15 Demon has been a good addition to the Melbourne side in 2021. While not quite reaching the heights of her 18-disposal Round 1 debut game, Eliza McNamara has been consistent in her output on the field.

What stood out in this game is that the five-game midfielders never gave up when she had the ball or the ball was in her vicinity.

Many times McNamara was seen bursting through the middle of the ground, pouncing on the loose ball and spinning her way out of trouble to get Melbourne forward and provide an advantage.

Repeated second, third-, even fourth-efforts from McNamara were a sight to behold. In the second quarter, she followed up a fumble to get the ball out to start a chain of handballs with Shelly Heath and Karen Paxman, the latter squaring the ball to Kate Hore.

In the third quarter, again, McNamara was never giving up and always aiming to get the ball and do something with it. There was a pivotal minute of play on the outer wing where the Demon was relentless, constantly busy, constantly running, providing pressure and was so aerobic that helped the Demons win a clean possession and take it out of the troubling pack of players that had surrounded the ball.

 

MELBOURNE’S DEFENCE IS IN SHAMBLES

There were way too many mistakes in Melbourne’s defence, and usually they paid the ultimate price. Even experienced heads like Daisy Pearce were making mistakes. It’s something the club massively needs to look at going forward.

One such forgettable moment happened in the second quarter where Daisy Pearce Aishling Sheridan in the forward line with the Pie kicking their second goal of the game. In the lead-up, contested work from Brianna Davey kept the ball hot but the short, attempted chip kick from Pearce gave up a goal which is not what the Demons needed at the time.

Another clanger from the Melbourne defensive unit in the final term resulted in another goal to Collingwood, this time to Brianna Davey. From the kick-in, she Demons were too soft in their kicks and couldn’t get enough distance to go to the intended target. This time, the ball landed in from of Karen Paxman with Mikala Cann gathering the hard-ball, getting the handball off to Davey where she goaled.

 

WEST COAST 5. 4. (34) DEFEATED GOLD COAST 4. 9. (33)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

The West Coast Eagles registered their first win of the 2021 season, beating fellow cellar-dwellar in a nailbiter, but there was no shortage of controversy hanging over the win, with a late free kick awarded to the Gold Coast that actually disadvantaged them in terms of field position.

But more on that in a minute.

 

BAD KICKING IS BAD FOOTBALL

If you’re Maddi Levi or Hannah Dunn, you may want to stop reading here – your inaccuracy cost your team.

I could throw Jamie Stanton in here as well if I were being harsh and just looking at a stat sheet, but I really enjoyed her work inside 50 and her shots at goal had a degree of difficulty the others did not.

Levi finished the first quarter with a scoreline of 0.3, including two set shot misses from inside 20 metres.

In AFLW, you simply do not get that many opportunities that close to goal, but Levi squandered both shots and missed a considerably more difficult shot in general play as well.

Her misses were completely overshadowed by that of the Gold Coast captain, who managed to kick the footy so low from ten metres out that it was touched by the player on the mark at toward the end of the third quarter.

I remind you – this margin was one point.

Gold Coast had periods of the game where they owned the football. On paper they should have walked away with their first win of the season. Instead, they are left to rue missed opportunities as the Eagles celebrate.

 

THE RUN AND CARRY

Mikayla Bowen (aged 19) and Isabella Lewis (aged 18) gave the Eagles a glimpse into what the future of this team looks like, both tucking the footy under their arms at points and taking the game on.

It was Bowen in the first half that lit up the centre as she took three bounces to set up a goal for Grace Kelly, and late in the game we saw Lewis pump those legs down the near wing to take on tackles and send the Eagles inside 50. The passage was only broken up by some excellent defence from Jade Pegelj.

The Eagles may lack some polish around the footy and their skills will take time to come to the fore, but the signs are good for the youngsters of the team. They will take on the responsibility and work their backsides off to get the footy going their way.

Bowen may have made a couple of errors in judgment with the footy in-hand, but I put that as much down to exhaustion as skill errors.

Keep an eye on these two over the next couple of seasons.

 

BOTCHED FREE KICK?

With around a minute and a half to go, the Eagles had the ball deep inside their defensive fifty following a missed Stanton snap. The whistle blew, and following some confusion, it was revealed that it was a Gold Coast free kick…

… forty metres off the ball.

Now, given that the footy was deep in the Gold Coast attacking zone, the logical thing was to give them a free kick where the ball was, right? 15-20 metres out from goal.

But no, the ball went to Lauren Ahrens at centre half forward – penalising the Suns a distance of around 30-35 metres. What should have been a goal scoring opportunity ended up being repelled as there was no way Ahrens was going to bomb a 55-metre goal.

Was this a huge error by the umpires, or am I completely unaware of a rule that, when enacted, completely disadvantages the team earning the free kick by awarding it 35 to 40 metres away from the action?

Were the Suns robbed?

Yes, but in this case, it was an inside job – not that decision. Their poor kicking at goal did as much or more damage than any late-game call. It’d be easy to point the finger at that umpiring call, but the real culprit was their failure to convert earlier.

 

PERERA 

I’m a Chantella Perera fan. How’d she do in this one?

Oh, I see… three touches and no marks.

Then why did I think she was so damn prominent in the game? Perera does the little things, the one-percenters to break up plays and add stability to her team. In this case, possessions do not equate to influence. She was rick solid, completely shutting down Kalinda Howarth in the first half before moving further up the ground to impact contests and whilst someone like Lauren Ahrens fro the Suns had a huge impact with her intercepting, Perera does what an old-fashioned defender is supposed to do – lock down.

There’ll be a few who raise their eyebrows at her inclusion here – some may not have had her in their best, but there was a real Mick Gayfer feel about her performance in this game – she was all over her opponent like a wet blanket, and I thought she was tremendous.

 

HARD AT IT

You could be forgiven for thinking Emma Swanson had a poor game.

All you heard from the commentators was how hard she’d had it and how there were no easy touches for her in this game. And you know what? They were right.

Luckily, she does not need easy touches to have an influence.

Swanson was in and under, winning the hard footy all game long, and ended up with the most touches on the park, registering 24 disposals.

Her combination with Maddy Collier, who cracked in as hard as anyone on the park, gave the Eagles some much-needed grunt in tight.

 

KALINDA

Is she working hard enough? Could she be started further up the ground and drift forward more?

Having a close look at the work of Kalinda Howarth in this game, I am not sure what’s up. The fastest she ran all game was to get her toe on the ball as it crossed the line in the fourth quarter to give her team a sniff, but at other times, she looked lethargic and, I hate to say it, disinterested in fighting for the footy.

You can tell a lot about a player by their second efforts and there weren’t a heap of them from Howarth in this one. She was soundly beaten by Chantella Perera and was only involved further up the ground later in the game.

Maybe a run through the middle early in the game could benefit her? Get her into the swing of it, get a couple of touches of the footy and then drift forward? As it stands, perhaps the most talented of the young Suns is having a season she’d rather forget. Only she can turn it around, but her coach could give her a bit of a hand in doing so.

 

OTHER BITS

Nice effort from Kate Orme after being a late call up. An early goal and some important touches late in the piece certainly backed up her selection.

This is the second time I have taken note of Lucy Single – finds the footy easily, but seems to want to take the tackler on a little too much at this point. Sometimes, throwing the ball on your boot and gaining some meres isn’t the worst option. I think she’ll be a beauty for the Suns, but needs a bit of work in traffic.

Finally, Lauren Ahrens was close to the best player on the park, for mine. POsitions herself well, reads the play, takes intercept marks like its second nature and rarely makes an error. I probably should have given her a section of her own, above… but it’s too late for that now. Excellent game for her and possibly good enough to place her in The Doc’s rolling AA team this week, right Doc?

 

 

As always, if you’d like to support us to grow and produce more of this great (?) content, you could become a member by clicking the image below. I’d really appreciate it.

Come on… click the image below and help an old mongrel out.

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!