We’re at the business end now and a few teams are being found out.

With a round to go, securing a top-two spot is on the mind of many, and finding form at the right time of the year is proving elusive for other, highly-fancied teams.

Let’s jump straight into the reviews.

 

CARLTON 13. 9. (87 DEFEATED GOLD COAST 4. 3. (27)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

I found myself at a bit of a conundrum for this game. I say conundrum because on this Friday night I went to go watch my Bulldogs in the men’s for the first time since the tail-end of the 2019 season (pre-season games do not count) and this AFLW encounter served as the prelude. Usually when it comes to these reviews I go to my desk in the bedroom and go to work. But this was thrown out the window

So, I did what any fast-thinking journalist would do in a sticky situation like this and jotted down notes for this game from a local Richmond pub. Classy, right?

The onus was on Carlton to get the job done here and keep their slim chances of featuring in the final six alive against a Gold Coast team that are more depleted than disappointing. A win would keep the Blues alive, but Daniel Harford would’ve told them pre-game that this would be as good a time as any to give out an absolute smashing and help garner some percentage.

And didn’t they deliver? You couldn’t find a better tale of two halves than this one. After withstanding a tough challenge from the Suns in the first half of the game, the floodgates opened for the navy Blues, kicking 9.5 to one behind in the second half to record a history-breaking win, setting the highest score in the history of the league – a little funny is that they were on the receiving end the last time a team broke the record of highest score in the AFLW.

But nonetheless, let’s break down the game that happened on Friday night.

 

THE VESCIO FIVE

“Hey that’s a good band name, write that down Steven….” said Gary King. It’s no Gary King and the Enablers, but that’s a nice little title for this piece.

Putting my musings on the Simon Pegg movie ‘The World’s End’ aside, the best-on honours clearly go to Darcy Vescio in this one – 5.1 off 15 disposals and could’ve equalled Brooke Lochland’s seven-goal haul, potentially even bettered it, if she wasn’t so unselfish. But I guess that speaks a lot about what she wants out of this team.

She had Jade Pregelj for company for most of the evening, and Pregelj is no scrub defender. She makes you earn your touches, but Vescio was just leading her a merry dance all the way throughout Metricon Stadium. She used her body to nudge Pregelj under the ball quite a few times and then there were other times where she was just too classy.

Makes me feel sad for the Suns defender, because what more can you do when the ball gets pumped inside 50 so often and it comes directly towards your direct opponent? But it’s a credit to Vescio for finishing it off. I’ve never seen her play a more dominant game than this, and this is absolutely counting her first game in the AFLW when she kicked four goals.

The term ‘barometer’ gets thrown a little more than casually in football today, but Vescio is one of these players. Because when she’s firing, the Blues are often travelling well, and as the past few weeks have indicated, Vescio is in the form of her life.

 

RING THE BELLA

If Vescio was the standout best on ground for the Blues, then Breann Moody would’ve been the second-best, because her work against Lauren Bella was absolutely gold standard. It’s going to be a tough battle for that All-Australian ruck spot between her and Lauren Pearce, and I think Emma King might not be too far behind.

But gee whiz, Moody just did so much in this game and if you watched the game, you could tell that she was a big reason in Carlton’s dominance. She provided first-use in the hitouts to her midfielders and was able to work out of the stoppages as well – poor Bella, she was struggling to keep up with her for large portions of the game, particularly in the second half.

Moody’s stat-line read 16 disposals, 22 hitouts, six marks and 1.1 – that’s not just an emphatic statement, but it’s a statement that reads out about Bella’s inexperience showing out. She’s had a very good year and is probably in the considerations for a top five ruck in the competition – maybe this game diminishes the value a bit.

But I still think she’s got the potential to be exactly what the likes of Moody, Pearce and King are right now – a dominant ruck force in the AFLW.

IS THE FUTURE ALWAYS SUNNY ON THE GOLD COAST?

They’re heading to the Spoon-Bowl next week against the Geelong Cats, which means that the Suns will either go through the season win-less, or they’ll finish 1-8 with no real correlation to their draft stock, because they’re locked in for the number one pick in the Queensland talent pool, unless something bizarre happens between Brisbane and the Suns during the trade period, which is unlikely.

But, for as dismal as the season has been for the Suns this season, there are plenty of signs emerging through from the Gold Coast Suns.

Maddison Levi is going to be a hell of a player in five years. I feel that she is still raw in terms of game awareness and I.Q, but her ability and want to attack the footy at every chance she gets has been a massive plus for the Suns this year. Once she adds that polish to her game, she’ll be slotting goals on a consistent basis. I really loved her run down the attacking 50 to get her first and only goal of the match. That comes down to work rate, and there aren’t many first-year players that have a work-rate like Levi’s.

Whilst on workrate, how was Lucy Single? She would’ve been close to the best Sun on the ground at half time. She was just getting so involved around the play and that goal of hers in the second quarter – my god it was brilliant! She started with the ball on the defensive point of the centre square and baulked around a player before giving it off, only to get back on the end of a mark just inside 50 from Leah Kaslar and then finished it off. The reaction was literally the same reaction I had at the pub, and I was trying not to knock over the half-full glass of beer. Like many, she tapered off, but she’s going to be a star.

Last player I want to touch on is Serene Watson, who I spotted at numerous centre bounces and around the stoppages as well. Yes, the midfield is quite depleted, so something needs to be done, but I think they’ve found something here with Watson around the ball. Noticed her run with Maddy Prespakis early, not sure if that stuck or not, but she did record 16 disposals and four marks for her trouble and Prespakis only had the 11 disposals.

Which leads perfectly into the next part of the review….

 

THE SPREAD

Not so much the spread the way Collingwood and North Melbourne work after a stoppage or a centre bounce, but more so the fact that there wasn’t a real standout from the Blues in terms of disposal output. Their star player had the 11 disposals for the evening.

Yeah, Grace Egan had the 19 disposals and led all Blues from this aspect, but she had a pretty slow start to the game and really got going when the Suns collectively were on their way down on the canvas. That’s not to say she didn’t play well, but there were others that I thought played a starring role early. Just as s a matter of reference, 13 Carlton players registered disposal numbers in the double figures.

Katie Loynes had a really strong game – the one that makes you think that she does lead the club by example. Lucy McEvoy played her best game in the middle to date, recording 15 disposals and kicking 1.1 for the evening. Elise O’Dea off the wing looked very prominent with her 15 disposals – probably her best game since the win over the Saints. I really like Lauren Brazzale trying to pump the ball inside 50 or just forward everytime she got her hands on the football, and Georgia Gee – I think her work rate is amongst some of the best in the competition.

As you can see, the Blues aren’t so short of players that are capable of doing a job on the field. It’s all a matter of putting all together against a) the better sides of the comp and b) a fraction more consistently throughout the season, because that’s where it has done the Blues this season.

 

OTHER BITS

Gold Coast’s top three in the best and fairest will be as follows: Ali Drennan, Kate Surman, Lauren Ahrens – all three of them again featuring as the Suns’ top players in this one – all three of them pulling up solid four-quarter efforts. Surman’s composure with the footy is underrated, Drennan’s contested work holds her in good stead and the Suns defence just needs about three or four more copies of Ahrens because she just gets her hands on the footy.

Thought it was a stout job by Kerryn Harrington in defence. She’s looked back to her best over the past few weeks, playing as that last player in defence and generating offensive drive out of the defensive half – 15 disposals and four marks from her in this one.

Another good performance from Nicola Stevens up forward – 12 months ago I questioned whether or not the switch from defence, but she attacks the footy in the air with such confidence and she’s got skill to put it away on the scoresheet as well.

Kalinda Howarth on the wing has been a fascinating development in recent weeks. She’s not getting her hands on the footy up forward, so this is looking the next best way of getting her involved – she had the 16 touches in this one, certainly didn’t look out of place on the wing.

Great to see Brooke Walker on the part for her first game of the season after battling injury all season – I have long thought that the Blues have looked a better side with her on the park. And she was a pretty dangerous option up forward, kicking 1.2 from nine touches and three marks.

Speaking of injuries, Emma Pittman hasn’t played a game of footy in over 700 days, having endured to separate ACL injuries. Got the seven disposals and three tackles, but I think she would’ve just been happy to get through the game.

Not sure how I see Hannah Dunn’s season, feels like at times she’s sort of a ‘here and there’ player, doesn’t exactly bring out the best in players. Had a quiet one in the middle in this one – really need more from your co-captain. Likewise Sam Virgo, who did little after kicking the first goal, but in her defence, it’s hard to get it when the Suns can’t win it at the coalface like what happened in the second half.

I haven’t been a fan of Nat Plane’s season, but she’s found a little bit of form heading into a big round nine clash, kicking two goals from 14 touches, I think she can really become something as a crumbing forward – and also that aeroplane celebration was quite good.

And one last player, Tayla Harris – where’s she at? SEN’s Nic Negrepontis sent a tweet out, describing her season as underwhelming, which then prompted a question by WARF Radio caller Peter Holden: ‘To trade or not to trade?’ She was better this week at channelling her aggression for the contest but had little to show for it. The Blues could look at shopping her to the highest bidder whilst she has value, but I think for Carlton’s forward structure, she stays, but she’s got to find form somewhere, because the pressure is building.

 

 

GWS 2. 4. (16) DEFEATED GEELONG 1. 3. (9)

REVIEWER – BRETT HODGSON

 

Round Eight kicked off from GMHBA stadium in perfect football conditions with the winless Cats facing off with the Giants. GWS were chasing a spot in the finals, whereas Geelong were playing for pride, chasing their first win of the season and also since Round One of the pandemic-hit 2020 season. Lets take a look and see who came out on top.

In a close encounter that belied the ladder standings it was the Giants claiming the four points with a 2.4 (16) to 1.3 (9) win over the bottom AFLW side. The Giants would have been counting their lucky stars as they looked far from a side that was challenging for a finals berth, constantly unable to get their game going and seemingly possessing fair few passengers. Take nothing away from the determined Cats girls who were simply outstanding in their attack on the heavily fancied opponents, ultimately it was the Giants on-ball brigade and a bit of class in the forward line that gave them the edge in this contest.

The Giants attacked the game focusing on switches out of the defensive 50, playing the expanses of the ground well and forcing the Giants to cover a ton of territory. GWS, on the other hand were unable to get their run and carry game going, the pressure of Geelong often meant that disposals were pressured, enabling the Cats defence a fighting chance to defend

 

I’LL HAVE FRIES WITH THAT

 

The McDonald pairing for Geelong was simply sensational in the contest. In the midfield Amy was superb in leading the charge often with the bustling Britt Tully in her back pocket. She was extremely efficient in tight, often extracting the ball from any situation and trying to will her team on to victory, not much more she could have done. 21 touches and an equal game high 11 tackles.

At Centre Half Back, Meghan was impenetrable for long stretches of the game, often thwarting the Giants aerial attacks. Without her efforts they would have been out of the game early. To be fair though there was a lack of contest from her direct opponents as she often was able to fly third up or completely unopposed. This can also be attributed to the outstanding pressure of the Cats midfield who often caused hurried disposal though the game. 19 disposals (15 kicks) and six marks

 

OLD SCHOOL/NEW SCHOOL

The forward combination of Cora Staunton and Haneen Zreika were fun to watch in this game. The craft of the spring chicken Staunton, in particular, is a thing of beauty for the purists out there – her forward IQ would be right up there with the best in the competition. Despite pushing 40 years young, she caused headaches often for the Cats defence especially when the ball was at ground level. Staunton always seems to get in the right spot at the right time and was a constant danger through this game. Kicked one goal for the match but got run down in the goal square while about to boot her second.

Zreika seems to be almost there, and will cause nightmares for opponents for years to come. Her pace and constant movement are a deadly combo for any small forward, she seems to now be gaining confidence in her abilities and talent. Could have also been a multiple goal kicker but missed from 20m straight in front after an awkward ball drop. Her single major for the game was a dead eye shot from 25m out in the right flank after pressuring an ill advised Cats switch. An absolutely beautiful finish from a true up and coming player.

 

PRESSURE

GWS were under a lot of pressure coming into this game, with what they were playing for, yet they struggled big time when the Cats bought the heat to them in the midfield. The pressure around the ball was vital to the game as Amy McDonald was ably supported by Laura Gardiner and Rebecca Webster. The Giants almost seemed willing to take on the tackler at every opportunity and ultimately this lead to a number of stalled attacks and frees against. In the first quarter alone there were four instances of a Giant gaining possession and getting taken down and not even feigning a disposal attempt, resulting in a free kick against. Not only was it a bad look but it was an absolute momentum killer and gave the Cats the belief they needed to stay with the Giants.

 

GIANTS MIDS

Alyce Parker was at her ball-winning best, with 25 touches to lead the Giants midfield, but she did not seem as efficient with her disposal this week. She covered a ton of ground and did a lot of the dirty work, but very seldom found the space she thrives on. She was once again supported by captain Alicia Eva, Ellie Bennetts and Rebecca Beeson, with the quartet combining for a massive 76 touches. If you had that figure without seeing the scoreboard though you would have (quite rightly) assumed the Giants had romped to a massive win, yet somehow their influence was quelled by Geelong. The Cats wrapped the GWS mids up at every opportunity, registering 68 tackles for the match.

 

QUICK TAKES

Maddy McMahon was great at full back for the Cats, backing up Meg Mac superbly. While she did struggle a touch at times with Staunton at ground level she more then made up for it in the air, a commanding aerial display from the former basketballer.

The second level Giants need to stand up if they are any hope of reaching the finals. Regular impact players such as Jessica Dal Poss, Rebecca Privetelli, Georgia Garnett and Tait Mackrill were unsighted for long periods of the game. Perhaps the way the GMHBA stadium plays had an effect, with a fair bit of the action taking place out wide. In particular this does not suit Mackrill, who struggled with only four disposals. Although her most telling contribution was a massive bump on Denby Taylor in the opening minutes, sidelining the Cat for the remainder of the game with a suspected AC injury.

Former Giant Phoebe McWilliams had a great game for the Cats. Her mobility at half forward was a constant thorn in the side of the defence all day. She presented non stop and kicked a great goal after sustained forward pressure. 12 disposals and three marks for the big Cat in a hard working display.

Erin McKinnon was an absolute monster in the ruck for the Giants. 25 hitouts for the 22 year old. She will be a future star of this competition if she can work on her tank and just fine tune her ruck craft a touch. But the sky is the limit, and I’m tipping she will be a dominant force within the next two seasons. The Cats rucks tried to quell her but ultimately their efforts were in vain

I loved the game of Julia Crockett-Grills. She worked around half forward but after the first quarter it appeared she was given license to push into the contest in general play. Her impact kept the Cats in the game when for all money it appeared the class of the Giants was about to take over. Her endurance was on show as a lot of hard yards were put in. 17 disposals and seven tackles for the tireless effort she put in.

For the last round of the season the Cats head to Metricon Stadium to take on the Suns with only pride on the line to see who not only gets their first win of the season but also who ends up with the coveted pick one in next years draft. GWS take on Carlton in a clash with major finals implications.

 

COLLINGWOOD 8. 9. (59) DEFEATED ST KILDA 2. 1. (13)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

It’s the first time these two sides have met in the history of the AFLW and at the start of the year, I had this down as a match to keep an eye out for. It made sense in the pre-season: St Kilda were a side on the rise, whilst Collingwood were expected to continue their improvement as a collective in 2021.

Well, we got one side of the prediction right – the Pies have a foot in the door of a top-two berth after winning their first six games of the season. Last week, they got stifled by Brisbane’s pressure and forward press and some key figures were taken out of it, namely Bri Davey and Chloe Molloy, causing them their first loss of 2021.

As for the Saints, after a decent opening month which saw them at 2-2, the wheels look well and truly off if the past few weeks were any indication. In the pouring rain last week against GWS, they were combative enough, but there just wasn’t much else going for them in terms of ball movement and capitalization of their opportunities.

They picked a bad week to take on the Pies and the scoreboard and stats sheet will back it up. It was a procession and business as usual for Steve Symonds and his troops as they prepare for a massive clash with the Adelaide Crows next weekend in Adelaide.

 

HELLO NEWMAN

Before we go any further, it has to be pointed out that I am not even Aleisha Newman’s smallest fan. I remember sounding off to the writers on Newman at the start of the season when the Pies beat the Blues that she offers no skill-set to this side, just pace.

Pace in the modern game is good, but pace means nothing if you don’t have the smarts, the poise and the skill in the top flight. In short, you’re just going to have a bad time – whether it be in the AFL – men’s and women’s, VFL men’s and women’s or even locally at VAFA-level or Southern Footy D1 footy.

Credit where it’s due here for Newman, because she was dropped after round one, but was brought back into the team in round three and hasn’t lost her place. She was dangerous against the Bulldogs without kicking a goal, last week against the Lions she was unsighted. But this, this was the game that solidifies herself in this team.

Kicked 3.2 off eight disposals, I’ll leave the argument that she could’ve kicked four or possibly five to the discretion of you loyal readers. But what I will say is that her ability to place herself as the crumbing forward at numerous opportunities was the biggest factor of her hitting the scoresheet.

Confidence is another thing that probably doesn’t get talked about, but she looked more certain with her footy than any other time I’ve watched her in either a Collingwood or a Melbourne guernsey and as soon as she gets more polished at ground level and isn’t as fumbly – her and the Pies will be much better off and isn’t that a scary proposition for us all?

 

NO ALLEN? NO BUTLER?

Well you should know the rest, but even with the season-ending injuries to Jordyn Allen and Lauren Butler last week, Collingwood’s defensive unit is still holding up at peak level.

Feel like I need to mention the return of All-Australian defender Ash Brazill, because it’s been well over a year since she ruptured her ACL. You don’t want to say it’s good news that players get injured, but the return of Brazill couldn’t have been any better timing, considering that Butler’s played a magnificent season and Allen’s played her role in the defensive half very stoutly.

She had the nine touches and three marks on return, which might not sound like much to the common observer, but I found her positioning to spoil and take the intercept mark, the way she runs and attacks the footy at pace and her willingness to create out of the defensive half is like she never left. Given the injuries to the players mentioned above, Brazill is going to be a very important player for Collingwood in the Finals this year.

Also important for Collingwood’s premiership chances are the defensive pair of Stacey Livingstone and Ruby Schleicher – both of them were at their best again this week. Livingstone didn’t get as much of the footy as she has in other weeks, but the fact that she still impacts a contest, takes the intercept marks that she needs to and can start a play that leads to scoring opportunities out of the defensive half, so invaluable to this team.

And then Schleicher… I don’t think she’s played a better game since the opening game of the season. She was just doing everything in her power to stop the Saints from scoring, she was just so desperate – especially in the third term. One particular play that stood out was her second effort after she messed a kick up on the wing and then worked her backside off to run down Jacqui Vogt and win the ball back – All Australian defender.

Oh, and just for reference, Caitlin Greiser and Kate Shierlaw had just nine disposals between them.

 

THE FOURTH MUSKETEER

Most of the reviews I’ve done have seen the three big midfielders get the love and recognition and again they were once again at their brilliant best – Bonnici had the 29 touches, Bri Davey had 23 and two behinds (could’ve elevated her as BOG if she kicked them) and Jaimee Lambert had 21 and seven tackles.

But Steph Chiocci is the unofficial fourth member of this elite midfield group. Unofficial might sound somewhat harsh given she’s co-captain of this side, but the fact that she doesn’t need to burrow in as much as those three has her playing a little more on the outside means that she flies under the radar so much this season.

She had the 15 disposals and was involved in a number of passages that transpired from the back half that led to scoring opportunities. In some instances, she was starting from half back and then was receiving the ball again at half forward. She’s become not just such a brilliant link-up player, but also does the hard stuff when she needs to be. She took a great contested grab early in the piece and laid five tackles as well.

 

WHERE DID THE SAINTS LOSE THIS GAME?

It’s been a pretty disappointing season overall and you would’ve thought given how well they were travelling before the 2020 season abruptly put an end to it, they’d give things a bit more of a shake this year. However, the Saints are still a young side, and there’s a bit that I saw in this one to suggest that they will be a force in a few seasons.

The biggest thing they’ll need to address is the midfield surrounding Georgia Patrikios. It was another standout game from her in this one – 29 disposals, six tackles and I’d wager there were a big handful of clearances as well, because she was doing everything in the middle. Tyanna Smith is going to be a star – another 12 tackles outlines her defensive capabilities around the coalface, but in a game where the experience gap between the two midfield groups is miles apart, they were always going to be fighting an uphill battle.

Alice Burke I’ve got full faith will become a very good player in due time, but got taught a real lesson in the stoppages, Rosie Dillion battled hard, but only had the 11 disposals for her trouble and likewise to the likes of Tahlia Meyer and Jess Matin – both had moments and showed promised, but probably need a few more pre-seasons before they really start to hit their straps.

Collingwood’s win was set up on the back of not allowing the Saints first-use of the footy and it stuck until the full-time siren. Credit to the Saints for fighting on and there were portions of the game where they stuck their tackles and put their dukes up, but you going to have to get your hands on the leather product if you’re going to win a footy game.

Just for the damning stat and to really kick this one home, 10 Saints recorded five disposals or less – among those include Greiser, Shierlaw, Rosie Dillon, Bianca Jakobsson, Jayde Van Dyk and Rhi Watt… Massive yikes.

 

OTHER BITS

Another great game from Mikala Cann in this one, I’ve absolutely enjoyed watching her consistently attack the contest at speed. Her marking hands were especially good in this one, taking six marks, including a few strong contested grabs. Could’ve made it a great game if it weren’t for inaccuracy, kicking 0.2 – but I’ve liked her form of late.

Tarni Brown was below her best last week, but bounced back really strongly, finding the footy 16 times, with 13 of those being handballs. So not being as direct with the footy, but still looked very fluent in moving the footy along – putting together a fine year so far.

Jacqui Vogt got caught holding the ball a few times, which makes me question her awareness when she’s got the footy in her hands, but I can’t question her tenacity as a defensive presence – laid six tackles playing as a forward.

Molly McDonald put up 15 disposals on the wing, and I thought she was looking quite flash when she had the footy. Only five Saints’ players recorded double figures in disposals, so given that she had the footy 15 disposals should be applauded.

Not many other Saints’ players stood out, but Hannah Priest’s job on Chloe Molloy was worth noting. She didn’t lose many one-on-ones with her, but Molloy still found herself on the back of two goals, I suppose that old saying is true: give Chloe Molloy an inch and she will run the mile.

Another big game from Sharni Norder against a bit more of an inexperienced ruck in Poppy Kelly – probably showed how much more Kelly needs to be developed in a sense, because Norder gave her just a proper lesson in ruck craft and then positioning around the ground – 14 disposals, 22 hitouts, four marks and a goal.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the percentage of time spent on the ground for both Rhi Watt and Kristy Stratton – Watt I know had the three disposals and was mentioned earlier, but it didn’t look like at any stage she was out there until the last quarter. Stratton in the similar boat, didn’t see her until a bit later in the piece.

One last Pie that I need to mention is the work of Sarah Rowe, back in the side this week after a bit of a layoff with that bothersome shoulder – picked up 17 disposals along the wing and just looks very nice running with the footy, providing a link-up option.

 

 

BRISBANE 4. 11. (35) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE 2. 8. (20)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

It’s a funny thing, watching the Brisbane Lions play football – there is no pomp and circumstance (hello to all Randy Savage fans out there, by the way) and there are no players that make the game all about them.

The responsibility is shared, and my guess is they’d be a team that shares the glory just as fairly.

It can be difficult to write a review about a team that plays so selflessly to the point it eliminates wonderful individual performances, but that is what we encountered when the Lions took on, and defeated the Kangaroos at the Gabba.

They were hard, uncompromising and brutally efficient when moving the ball from end to end, and though both teams squandered numerous chances to hit the scoreboard, it was probably the only thing that kept North Melbourne in the game.

The Lions were relentless as a unit, and when you scour the stats sheet looking for the best performers, it is a list of Kangaroos that jump out initially – Jenna Bruton and Ash Riddell with 26 and 35 touches respectively, with only Isabel Dawes able to crack the top five, with 19 touches, but as you explore, and move to the tackles department, things take a different turn.

The Lions have built their game on pressure, and it reaped ample reward, if not on the scoreboard, than in meaningful moments in this game. Cathy Svarc and Courtney Hodder led the game in tackles, with eight apiece, as they applied the kind of pressure that forces errors – the kind of pressure North Melbourne has wilted under when playing the best teams this season.

It is this type of pressure that exemplifies the 2021 Brisbane Lions, and if you did not have them as a serious threat to the flag before this game (what rock have you been under?), then you’d want to start factoring them into your equations right about now.

Let’s take a look at some of the standout performers.

 

THE SVARC THAT STARTS THE FIRE

You could tell that Cathy Svarc meant business right from the outset, taking on the job against Jasmine Garner and really, she gave her a bit of a lesson in terms of defensive attention through the first quarter.

As the Roos looked to their star, Svarc was all over her, holding her stat-less through the first stanza with tight checking and strength in the contest. Garner would rally as the tag was eased through the second quarter, and went on to finish up with 14 touches for the game, including a couple of nice contested wins and dishes to teammates, but Svarc was damaging going the other way early and really embraced the defensive role.

The lesson with Svarc is, that unless you enlist the aid of a few teammates to run blocks for you, you’re going to be in for a terrible 90 minutes or so of footy. She just refuses to give any time or space to her opponent, reveling in locking he footy in and rendering her opponent useless.

Switching onto Emma Kearney at points through the third quarter, Svarc’s no-nonsense approach to accountable midfield minutes went a long way to setting up the Lions for this impressive victory. I love that she has a bit if F-U in her game and knows that if she decides you’re not getting a touch… guess what? You’re not getting a touch.

 

HODDER TO TROT

Courtney Hodder’s  night was summed up in one desperate, brilliant act.

She was a good twenty metres away from her well-positioned opponent as the long ball made its way inside 50. Hodder threw caution to the wind, made the ground back and managed to make a spoil with the flight of the ball, keeping her feet in the process.

Her recovery was excellent, chasing down the loose ball, before gathering, swinging around onto her right foot in traffic and kicking one of the AFLW goals of the season. She was mobbed by her teammates as the ball sailed through and it was at that point right there that you felt the Lions might just be over the line.

Hodder’s influence around the ground should not be downplayed, either. Her pressure and willingness to throw her body into the contest created a feeling of chaos that North struggled to combat. Yes, there were a lot of others who had plenty more of the footy, and yes, I am sure there are people who value numbers of impact.

I am not one of those people, and in this one, no player had a bigger impact on the game than Courtney Hodder.

 

PREPARE THE AA JACKET…

She looked a bit proppy early after hurting her ankle, but Kate Lutkins was soon back in the swing of things, controlling the footy from half back and ensuring the Kangaroos got nothing even resembling an easy inside 50 possession.

I watched her initial matchup with interest – Lutkins is an instinctive footballer. She reads the play and has a tremendous feel for the game. Her opponent was the opposite.

Matched up against Lutkins was Kate Gillespie-Jones, who is built like a brick outhouse, but is very mechanical when she plays the game – almost robotic in her movements. Someone should check to see if there is a barcode on the back of her neck, or something.

In these contests, I always find myself rooting for the natural footballer, and Lutkins did not let me down. She had 14 touches across half back as Gillespie-Jones was limited to just seven for the game and was a non-factor.

I wondered whether Darren Crocker thought about swinging KGJ to the goal square whenever Lutkins moved onto her? It may have been a good move to pull the Lions’ defender away from the intercept role off half back, but I suppose you then have Bree Koenan to move into that role, and she is a complete monster when there is a ball in dispute.

 

THE RIDDELL-ER

My favourite North player really stood up in this one. Small in stature and big on heart, Riddell often flies under the radar in terms of attention, but those that watch North games realise just how good she is, and how consistently she ranks as one of North’s best. There are no days off with her.

With Garner well held, Riddell was the driving force for North in the first half, and with another 25 touches, taking her average to over 20 per game this season, she’d have to be close to repeating as an All-Australian this season.

 

THE UNSUNG MIDS

Shout out to Ali Anderson in this one, who on paper, had her worst game of the season. Luckily, we can take that paper and throw it away whenever we feel like it, because her pressure and commitment, combined with her second and third efforts really caught the eye.

Between her and Emily Bates, the Lions have a pair that are not afraid to get their hands dirty, and if it means that someone else benefits from their work and they don’t get a stat, then so be it. They embody what this Brisbane team is all about, and their work ethic does not go unnoticed.

 

ARE NORTH PRETENDERS?

Well, they’ll play finals, so it won’t take long to find out, however, their record this season screams “flat track bully”.

They’ve beaten the Cats, Saints, Blues, Tigers, and Dogs, with all their losses coming against teams in the top six right now. Can they hang with a fellow contender? The proof is in the pudding right now, and you’d be pressed to say no they cannot.

North have looked great against underperforming teams, but against Collingwood, Melbourne and Brisbane, they have been exposed. They get one more chance before the finals, taking on Fremantle at Arden Street. If they drop that one, put a line through them.

 

CAN THE LIONS BREAK THE CASEY FIELDS CURSE?

Melbourne have turned Casey Fields (that wind-swept heck hole) into a fortress this season. They play it well and know it better than anyone in the league… well, they would considering it’s their home ground, I suppose.

Next weekend, the Lions make the trip to try to become the first team to win at Casey all season. It should be a belter of a game, with the chance to sew up a top two finish. The way the Lions are going about it, you’d be silly to bet against them.

 

 

RICHMOND 5. 12. (42) DEFEATED WEST COAST 5. 4. (34)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

We’re amongst friends here, right? We can speak frankly?

Okay, here goes – I didn’t want to watch this game. When I started to allocate games for this week; a huge week in terms of reviews both both men’s and women’s games to cover, this one was left vacant… and that means I had to do it.

So, as the weekend came to a close and all other games were covered, I settled into my favourite, and only, lounge seat, whacked the headphones on and started to watch.

I felt a bit like the crowd from Rocky 4, with the game itself being Rocky Balboa – I was not into it at all, and my expression apparently displayed as much. But you know what? The longer this game went and the more the plucky Eagles took it up to Richmond, the more I got into it, until the point in the fourth quarter where I was sitting forward in my chair, watching intently.

Mrs Mongrel looked over at me and asked Ï thought you didn’t want to watch this one?”

“It’s turned into a belter.”

And so, as the Tigers ran out less than convincing winners, I nodded my head in appreciation of what was a very good contest between two teams that leave everything out on the field. The conditions were against them, but they cracked in hard and won this old bugger over.

And I I can change, and you can change… everybody can change. Cue the Rocky theme…

 

THE DESPERATION STAKES

What I saw to start this game was a team that was on against a team that was off.

There is no simpler way to put it. The Tigers owned the first 15 minutes of footy and looked as though they would romp home in this game, but after half time, West Coast flipped the switch, and you could see the desperation evident in each and every player on the park.

Players like the Kelly sisters, Mikayla Bowen, Bella Lewis and Maddy Collier threw everything at the Tigers, and suddenly, through force of will, we had a game on our hands.

It was only when a charging Ellie McKenzie turned a West Coast turnover into a scoring opportunity for Katie Brennan that the Tigers started to exhale again, but even that was short-lived, as Katelyn Pope popped up, snagged a goal borne again of desperation and kept the game alive.

I am not the biggest fan of wet weather footy, but this quickly became an enthralling contest, and if you get a chance to view it, I highly recommend settling in and seeing just how hard these girls went at it.

 

NIAMH KELLY

I’ve never quite worked out how the name Niamh sounds like “Neeve”. We had an Irish girl at work and I thought there were two of them – One named Niamh and one named Neeve, because I’d see her name written, then hear her name spoken and couldn’t fathom them being the same person.

Anyway, I found a new respect for Niamh Kelly in this game – her attack on the footy was absolutely relentless and she showed no fear in attacking the ball in the air or on the deck. Between her and her sister, the Kelly Gang breathed life into West Coast and became the spark that turned into a fire.

Stats simply do not matter here – I don’t want to look at them – you cannot replicate the commitment of Niamh Kelly with numbers – it simply does not compute.

 

STARTING IN STAHL

With the first two goals of the game, Tayla Stahl may have been wondering if she could kick a bag in this one. It certainly felt that way as the Tigers adjusted to the conditions better and put points on the board as a result.

Stahl was the beneficiary, slamming through two goals early to give the Tigers the ascendancy and, really, set them up for the win. They say games cannot be won in the first few minutes, but they can certainly be lost, and the Eagles will rue their early game attention to detail… or lack thereof.

 

A SICKENING COLLISION

Maddy Collier copped one of the nastier hits I’ve seen in AFLW laste in the game as she came off the wing to hunt the bouncing footy.

Coming the other way with velocity was Gabby Seymour. Both girls went low and hard, but a clash of heads – or more to the point, Seymour’s head and Collier’s face – left the Eagle dazed and with a rapidly swelling eye.

There was nothing untoward about the contact – both players had their eyes on the footy and both went as low as they could. It was a pivotal time of the game, with Eagles just having kicked a goal to bring them back within just over a goal, but that collision, and the way Collier’s head snapped back on impact… it was the sort of thing that would have had Collier’s parents very concerned.

We wish her all the best in her recovery.

 

WHAT WAS MISSING

It seems a little unfair that Richmond managed to pick up three players capable of playing key forward upon entering the league, and the Eagles got… none.

Courtney Wakefield and Katie Brennan were both integral parts of the Richmond win, with the latter ending the game with two goals to her name. At the other end, the Eagles were forced to rely on smaller players to conjure goals, seemingly out of nowhere. Oh, they did – including a wonderful snap by Bowen with the heavy ball from the boundary, but imagine having a legitimate target on this West Coast team? It’d be nice.

Brennan was very good in this one – her roving goal in the second quarter was classic footy smarts, and her settler in the last quarter gave the Tigers some stability. She had a very calm demeanor in this one, exuding confidence and leading by example.

 

In the end, it was a very tough win by the Tigers after being in a comfortable position at half time. The game should act as a lesson to the Eagles never to think you’re out of it, and a lesson to the Tigers to never get too cosy with a lead. Things can change quickly.

 

ADELAIDE 12. 6. (78) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS 3. 4. (22)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

After a disastrous Round Seven beating at the hands of the Demons, Adelaide were determined to bounce back against a Bulldogs side that started the season well, with four wins from their first five encounters.

This Bulldogs team, however, has looked anything but a finals team in recent weeks, dropping their last two to the Blues and Roos. This looked like it’d be their last shot at a spot in the finals.

And now it is gone.

The Adelaide girls were completely ruthless in their attack, robbing the Dogs of every opportunity to find room on Norwood Oval and pressuring them into mistake after mistake. In a display of power football, the Crows hammered the Dogs into submission and continued to punish them, anyway.

Let’s jump into some of the highlights and lowlights of the Crows’ big win.

 

RACHELLE MARTIN – THE PRESSURE MACHINE

I think she may be my favourite Adelaide Crows player right now, from either the male or female version.

They called her a pocket rocket, and really, I am surprised they didn’t break out the “excitement machine” tag for her as she zipped around the field, chasing and harassing. The Crows have several players adept at this style of play – her sister, Hannah Button excels at it, Eloise Jones loves to apply pressure to her opponents, and the pairing of Hatchard and Marinoff never let up, bit none match the intensity and closing speed of Martin – she is a dynamo in shorts!

If you are going to look at her game on paper, you won’t be impressed, but Martin passes the eye-test every single time. She is manic, both with and without the footy, and her constant pressure and quick recovery enabled her to set up scoring opportunities for multiple teammates in this game.

Her contested footy wins were impressive and her opportunism and reading of the ball off the pack ended with her running into an open goal. She is the type of player that can ignite a team and her ‘Energiser Bunny’ style of play really set the tone for Adelaide in the first quarter.

There were players with more touches out there – considerably so in some cases, but everything Rachelle Martin did in this one meant something, and it is rare to find games like that in the competition, currently.

Three votes.

 

THE BATTERING RAM

I want this to come across in the right way – it is important that it is taken that way.

Chloe Scheer knows how to use her body to advantage both her and her team. She is a crash and bash player that hits packs hard, hits players hard, and hits the footy hard. As a result, along the way, some opposition players might get hurt.

And that is fantastic.

This game had several women who, in a one-on-one contest, should have been able to use their size advantage to win the footy, and/or sit an opponent on their arse. But Scheer was the only one who really did it.

She finished with three goals, presenting continually at the ball-carrier and going in hard to earn it when things did not go her way. I look at the way she uses her body in comparison to Hannah Scott and it’s like night and day. Scheer takes the contact, creates the contact, but has the second and third efforts Scott simply doesn’t. IN short, she works harder for longer and the results are evident.

Scheer was a menace in this game and it is evident as to why the Crows were so relieved to get her back from her knee injury. Her hustle and take-no-prisoners approach to footy are the tyoes of factors that make others on her team walk taller.

 

THE OLD FIRM

Hatchard and Marinoff – attorneys at contested footy. Has a nice ring to it.

These two simply do not stop contesting the footy. In a game where there was a fair bit of talk about the midfield battle prior to the bounce, their ability to extract it and get a meaningful possession gave the Crows a continued set of one-on-ones up the field.

Marinoff and Hatchard combined for 44 touches as they got the better of Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb, both of who seemed rushed and lacing composure during the game. Blackburn, in particular, did not have the trademark run and carry possessions that have become her trademark and drove the Dogs to some unlikely wins earlier in the season.

Marinoff is a running machine, whilst Hatchard adds power to her game that is close to unrivalled when it comes to the midfield. When these two are up and running, it’s time to call for reinforcements.

 

ELEANOR V ERIN

They didn’t play on each other for the whole game, or even extended periods, but the duel between these two when they did match up was enthralling.

Dogs fans will be rapt with what they’ve seen from Brown this season. She is a ball winner, an interceptor, and relishes being given a job to do. Well, she got one in this game, taking on Phillips whenever the star went forward.

Brown more than held her own, with Phillips registering one goal, but the former Crows captain should have had two, missing one of the easier shots she’s had this season in the second quarter.

 

ALLAN V HUNTINGTON

Another four contested grabs fro Huntington in this one as she tried hard to keep the Dogs in it, but when all the play is up the other end, there is not a hell of a lot you can do about it.

Part of me wondered whether a move to play centre half forward, and a licence to run up to half back was something that could have worked for the Dogs? I am not sure Huntington has the tank to do that all game, but as the game started to slip away, the move of Huntington to half back to stop the bleeding seemed an obvious one.

Unless you’re Nathan Burke, apparently.

Whilst Huntington rules the skies, she was well-held, overall, collecting just five touches for the game. She received some nice scoreboard help from Bonnie Toogood, but in the end the Bulldogs forwards were just starved for opportunity.

 

THE WOODLAND CREATURE

That title sounds horrible, but I couldn’t get it out of my head – apologies, Ash.

Woodland has jumped out of the box this season, kicking two more goals en route to eight for the season thus far. In a forward line housing talent such as Erin Phillips, Danielle Ponter, Chloe Scheer and at times, Chelsea Randall, that is no mean feat.

She is an intelligent player, and at 22, is starting to really find ways to impact the play when she doesn’t get the footy lace-out. She is serving a wonderful apprenticeship with Adelaide at the moment after struggling to get a run with the Dees in 2019, and could be a significant factor in finals this year.

 

HOW DID THE KIDS GO?

Two standouts for me in this one.

The first was Sarah Hartwig, who continually stood tall whilst under the pump in the Dogs defence. Her 11 disposals and four tackles do not do her game justice as she started to take more responsibility down back and found herself in the right place to intercept several times.

She got a little ahead of herself with a run from deep in defence, being caught holding the ball, but with few options presenting upfield, she was determined not to kick into trouble. Unfortunately… trouble seemed to find her on that occasion.

The other was Teah Charlton, who led the game with seven tackles. Unafraid to put herself in harm’s way, Charlton was a bit of an unsung hero for the Crows as they applied great pressure every time the Dogs gained possession. I gave a whole section to the pressure of Rachelle Martin, above, but the tackling from Charlton was just as good.

 

FINAL BITS…

The heat was obviously having a bit of an impact as the end of the third quarter rolled around. The ball seemed to be stuck on the wing forever at one point as the teams engaged in a rolling maul for a good few minutes. Maybe there was a little shade there?

Another excellent outing from Stevie Lee Thompson off half back. Is it crazy to suggest she might get up and pinch the Crows’ best and fairest this season? Every game I have seen her, she has had a big impact not only defending, but turning that defence into attack as well.

I gave a whack to Justine Mules last week for her inability to pick up the footy in the wet, and I heard about it from some people. She was much better this week, but I’d love to see her give the first option. It’s when you second guess yourself that you get caught in footy.

Ben Dixon called Danielle Ponter’s grab the best he’d seen in AFLW. He’s not wrong – it was a belter.

 

And that’ll do me – great win by the Crows. For the Dogs, a couple of bright spots, but they’d be so disappointed with this finish after a great start to 2021.

 

 

MELBOURNE 5. 7. (37) DEFEATED FREMANTLE 4. 8. (32)

REVIEWER – JB EDDY

 

In a contest that looked over at half time, the Dockers and the Dees served up an absolute thriller from two of the most impressive teams in the competition. Freo entered into this game knowing they’d already made finals, and the Dees needed to get the win to make certain that they’d get some April action, and seemed determined to do so.

Freo have been frustratingly consistent in their first quarters this year. Consistently low scoring that is, having scored goals in only two opening quarters this year, and those matches were against West Coast and GWS, hardly the class of the comp.

While that might seem alarming, they’ve been equally consistent in finishing strongly, scoring goals in the last quarter in every match except their round two grinding win in wet conditions against the cross-town Eagles team.

Oddly enough, Freo have goaled in every 2nd quarter prior to this match except in their round five match against the Lions.

The trademark slow start was almost made up for with a very strong second half push, and if not for an unfortunate (but completely fair) 50 metre penalty, Freo may have been able to steal this one.

 

A TALE OF TWO HALVES

I can only imagine the frustration and elation that comes with being a Fremantle supporter. Both the men’s and women’s sides can do astounding things when switched on, but occasional lapses would often have footwear flung at the TV I’d imagine.

The opening play saw Kiara Bowers—a player that many had highlighted as a favourite for the best player in the league, and many would still be standing by that prediction—put a heavy tackle on Melbourne’s mid Eden Zanker that saw Bowers get her number taken by the umpire. As an aside, it is kind of funny that we still have that little ritual at AFL level. I’d assume the process is completely paperless these days, with the reserve umpire entering in the player details straight into the match review system. Then again, who knows, maybe they just share one big google doc with every player report ever. It would either be a bespoke system that would make Elon Musk envious, or it’d be some patched together pin board that gets pieces of it flown to every ground, only to be reassembled at AFL house after the round ends. There just is no middle ground with the AFL, it’s either best available at any cost or it’s whatever can be bodged up without bothering the accountants.

For the whole first half, Melbourne put on a clinic in how forward 50 entries should be handled. Rather than bomb long from 60 to “the spot”, they managed to find players between 40-50 metres from goal who would then hit up another forward within 30 metres. This high percentage play controlled the tempo of the game, and kept the impact of Fremantle’s dangerous rebounding backline minimised…. For the time being anyway.

 

IN THE MIDDLE

Paxman was also extremely influential in the way that has become her trademark. She topped the charts with 24 disposals, and making some nice ground with 19 of them being kicks. Her grit to win the hard ball, yet the situational awareness to hit up a moving teammate is just superb. To make sure the Melbourne supporters understand just how enjoyable it is to watch, if this Melbourne side was a cheeseboard, Paxman is the d’Affoinous blue that just delights you every time you have it, and Lauren Pearce is the quince paste that takes it all to the next level (the artisan one from the odd-smelling fellow at the Prahan market, not the pre-packaged monstrosity from Maggie Beers).

While Lauren may be only the second most influential person with “Pearce” on her locker, her ability to win the ball was unparalleled in this match. To go with her match-leading 16 hit outs, she managed to get 17 contested possessions and created headaches for the docker talls at both ends of the ground. She also managed a game-high 7 clearances and blunted the Freo rebounding attack with 6 intercepts.

Mim Strom was her main opponent for most of the day, and while she was very clean when she had the ball, she didn’t have the impact that a player with her stature and poise could have had. She’s a joy to watch as she is unusually agile while being an exceptionally powerful presence around the ground, but she seemed almost reluctant to use her strength advantage at the coal face. I’d like to see a bit more ruthlessness from her, and I’m sure it’ll be in full effect come finals.

Roxanne Roux spent some time relieving Strom, but her real impact was up forward when she kicked two opportunistic goals each side of three quarter time to put Freo back into the match.

Bowers seemed a bit abashed by her early booking, but her work in defence was absolutely rock solid when she went back there. Her 11 tackles were a key reason that Freo was able to run down the Dees and looked like pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. With the way the match review panel has been, there is a chance that she may miss next week’s clash against North Melbourne, which may end up a blessing in disguise really. The extra rest may see her set up for a finals campaign in the best possible shape, and if that doesn’t intimidate her opponents, then they haven’t been paying attention to her at all.

Ebony Antonio was a little late to come into the game, but had enormous impact in the second half, and almost managed to steal a win in the final second, but there wasn’t enough time for her to hit the pass she wanted. More on that later.

 

A RARE GEMMA

You know Freo are on the move when Gemma Houghton can get some space to stretch her legs. Her third quarter four-bouncer was exactly the spark they needed. Few players can break lines with their carry like Houghton can, and for my money, none do it better. She also has a knack for kicking when she finds a target in space, not just looking for a target once she’s finished running, which makes an immense difference to the inside 50s.

She managed to put a nice goal on the board too, to put her team in front, though her shot from 40 out on the boundary may have been a bit ambitious with the game in the balance mid-way through the last quarter.

 

FIERCE AT THE BALL

The tackle count was an interesting stat. Freo won this 86-37, which while showing just how hard at the ball carrier they were, also showed how often they were second to the contest. The tackles inside forward 50 were just as confronting, with Freo leading that stat 24-9, but not quite able to get value for money and claim the holding the ball decisions that they needed.

A lot of that came down to Melbourne players anticipating the contest, and keeping a player out of the scrum to be an option by hand. Melbourne also understood that Lauren Pearce was the dominant ruck on the day, so taking it to a stoppage helped them more than a scramble for a loose ball, as shown by the fact they won 18 stoppage clearances to Freo’s 12.

 

COMING HOME WITH A WET SAIL

While the first half may have kept the local crowd subdued, the final quarter had them well up and about.

Late 3rd quarter goals to O’Sullivan and Roux put Freo back in the game. O’Sullivan’s juggling mark stuck nicely as her opponent Casey Sherriff seemed in two minds on whether to contest the mark or block the smaller forward’s space. O’Sullivan’s conversion sparked her side, and the intensity lifted for the rest of the quarter, culminating with Roxy Roux ploughing through Melbourne Defender Libby Birch to kick a nice in-play goal. Birch seemed a bit off for most of the game, and that play will do her no favours when the coach reviews the game in the next week.

Roux again read the ball better than Birch as she roved the back of a marking contest to collect the ball and stab it through the sticks from the top of the square as Birch dived after her grasping nothing but air.

Houghton’s contested mark and conversion put the Dockers in front by a point with eight minutes to go, buuuuuut…

 

A COSTLY 50

Daisy Pearce was unflappable all game, with her usual stoic expression and clinical disposal making up for the low number of possessions for much of the game, however it was a little bit of wily veteran intelligence that allowed her to regain the lead for her team.

As Melbourne rebuffed an invigorated Fremantle attack with a long kick out of defence from Bannan, Daisy found herself with a mark and a bit of an overlap on Freo as they rushed back into defence.

A good player would look to play on quickly, but a smart player looks for every advantage, and Pearce did that here as she saw O’Driscoll approaching from the wing to cut off the corridor. She ran behind Pearce and angled into the centre of the ground in what I can only assume was a bit of a brain fart as she tried to form a set structure. She was far enough back that had Daisy played on quickly, it may well have been ignored, but Daisy held up a moment so that O’Driscoll passed behind her, and then moved as if she were kicking it to a spot just beyond O’Driscoll’s back, making it seem that she went from being mildly inconvenienced to being illegally obstructed from disposing of the ball.

Now, the kick could have been paid anyway, but by drawing attention to the player and acting as if she’d had her pass cut off (which it should be mentioned was into an area where Freo had four players and Melbourne had only one that was a bit ahead of the play) she polished up the situation to make sure the umpire had no choice but to call for the penalty. This is the benefit of having veteran campaigners in the side with the hard-won footy nouse that can only come from experience.

This time she did play on quickly to take advantage of the Dockers players who had been a little slow to flood back, finding Maddison Gay one-out with Matilda Sergeant in a wide open forward 50 that gave them a great chance to run into the contest should it come to ground, but none of that proved necessary as she converted sweetly from 35 out.

With just over 6 minutes to go, both sides attacked the contest hard and struggling to get the ball out of the middle of the ground and into the forward 50. The final frantic minute saw the ball locked in Freo’s attacking 50, with Lauren Pearce proving an insurmountable obstacle in defence as she positioned herself at the spot and spoiled several forward thrusts and with ten seconds to go took it out of the ruck to give silver service to Casey Sherriff who learned from her earlier indecision to lay in a big clearing mongrel punt of a kick that, while gathered by Pugh for the Dockers, gave her less than four seconds to find an option to goal from 60 metres out. She managed to find Antonio who goose-stepped her opponent, but time ran out just as she sent a tired kick forward and the Dees hung on to take the points.

 

NEXT UP

Freo have a six day break to take on a North side that has not quite lived up to early-season expectations, and will need a win to guarantee a finals berth, assuming that the Blues pick up a handy win and the Western Bulldogs can put a huge score on a plucky Richmond side.

The desperation that North will need to bring, combined with the likelihood that Bowers may have a week off and some other players may be put on ice could see North take this one in an upset, but it’s also likely that a strong-finishing Dockers side could put a big slice of doubt into the Kangaroos if the game isn’t well beyond a winnable position for Fremantle.

Melbourne will take on current league leaders Brisbane, and a win could catapult them up to third position, whereas a loss can drop them to sixth at worst. While Brisbane have been enormously impressive, the Demons have turned Casey Fields into a bit of a fortress, and I’m tipping that their desperation along with Brisbane’s worst-case scenario being a second place finish giving them the extra motivation needed to get across the line as a Brisbane side that will be happier to finish the game with a clean injury list than a big score.