In an intense and sometimes spiteful contest, Collingwood made it three wins on the trot to start the 2022 AFLW season, with an 11-point win over the Cats.
Geelong are a much-improved team on the group we saw in 2021. Their tackling is infinitely better, they run in numbers, and when there is a contested footy to be won, they will hurl themselves into the fray like mad women. Despite the loss, I enjoyed what I saw from them.
The Magpies, however, demonstrated what a solid team they are across the board, with a bruised and battered Jaimee Lambert once again stepping to the fore and staking her claim for the best player on the park, and the player they hope can fill the void left by Bri Davey, Mikala Cann, playing some solid contested footy as well. As always, Britt Bonnici was combative and Stacey Livingstone was doing her best impression of a brick wall, repelling multiple Geelong attacks.
Let’s ump into some talking points.
Remember when the “stand” rule was brought in and we wondered if it would cost a team a game? Come on… it was only last year – cast your mind back.
Well, in case you don’t remember, start your list of games from now and make this your first one.
After a lovely intercept mark from Chloe Molloy about sixty metres out from goal, Julia Crockett-Grills thought the Collingwood star was playing on, and she moved a few steps on the mark. Molloy was onto it in a flash – because she plays like she is a step or two in front of everyone else – and let the umpire know all about it. The whistle blew, Molloy moved to within range and pushed the lead out to 11-points, making the task of reeling the Pies in that little more difficult.
Too difficult, in fact.
Molloy probably could have ended up with a couple of goals extra. Her clean hands and footy smarts create opportunity for those around her and have the defence scrambling… though she did get a little too hungry with the ball early in the second quarter, burning Eliza James, who had run hard to make space. You take that from time to time with Molloy – the upside outweighs any negative four or five-fold.
The season-ending injury to Breanna Davey should have been a death blow for Collingwood. A team losing a player of her stature in the game would normally be enough to derail a season, but the Pies have midfield depth and a bit of it was on show in this game.
Mikala Cann picked up the slack and had 18 touches as she joined the Lambert and Bonnici-led midfield. Her combative work was excellent, and her willingness to throw herself into the contest made the loss of Davey somewhat bearable.
Make no mistake, you would definitely want Davey out there if you could wave a magic wand and have everything right again, but if the Pies can use this opportunity to fast-track the development of Cann, then she may play a very important role in the latter part of the 2022 season.
IT’S KEARNS, STUPID!
The Cats have found something, here.
Like a battering ram with arms and legs, Rachel Kearns’ attack on the contest should be shown as a guide for every Geelong player entering the team. It is the standard by which others should be judged.
And if it were, there’d be more than a few that fail.
The way she attacked the footy in this game reminded me of Mitch Robinson. There was no backward step from her as she barreled into physical contest after contest, throwing caution to the wind and making every Collingwood player in the vicinity a little nervous in the process.
She had just nine possessions in this game, but she set a very high standard in terms of her intensity and it would not surprise me if we end up seeing a heap of bone-jarring clashes involving her for the rest of the season.
NO SCHLEICH-ING THEM UP THIS WEEK
I love watching Ruby Schleicher gather the footy, step around an opponent, tuck the footy under her arm and have a run. I get the feeling that it is an aspect of her game that the Geelong coaching panel is familiar with as well, as they seemed determined to shut it down in this game. From where I sat, the work of Phoebe McWilliams should be commended in terms of applying pressure when the Pies looked to use Schleicher.
As a result, the defender seemed to struggle to find the time and space usually afforded her. She is a killer with footy boots on when permitted to run with the footy, but Geelong may have just given opposition coaches a free tutorial in how to limit her impact.
Every time Schleicher collected the footy in this game, the pressure arrived almost instantly. Her disposals were rushed and it was left to a few of her teammates to hold the fort. Stacey Livingstone was brilliant again as the key defender who would happily stand under the footy with a truck bearing down on her if it meant saving a goal, and she was a tower of strength as any wayward forward 50 entry by the Cats was immediately gobbled up and spat back out.
A BIT OF FEELING
Before I get into the argey-bargey, I just want to give Jaimee Lambert a heap of credit in this one – she seemed to be on the receiving end of a bit of the Geelong aggression, including a tackle from Georgie Prespakis that will most likely be looked at, but she was cucumber-like… as in äs cool as a…” in every aspect. She took her lumps, got up and played the game hard and fair. Not much in terms of remonstrating, or cheap shots to get back at anyone – you have to respect that.
That said, there were multiple moments where players went the body instead of the footy. I mentioned Kearns before, but all of her aggression seemed to be in the contest. The umpires seemed content to allow a lot of it to go unpunished, which is both great – as I said, I love the rough stuff – and a bit of a worry – because there are soccer mums and dads who don’t like that sort of stuff.
I am interested to see what comes out of this game as I reckon there maybe a couple of players a little nervous.
WHEN SABBY MET MADDY
A bit of positivity never goes astray, right? That’s what I am told. Personally, I like a bit of balance – the good and the bad, and we got both in the Frederick v McMahon clash. Sadly for Sabrina, the good was just about all Maddy McMahon’s way.
Sabrina looks well and truly shot when it comes to collecting the footy when it is on the deck. At one point she didn’t even bother to reach down to attempt to trap the ball, seemingly running through the contest hoping the footy would somehow bounce up and end up in her arms. I remember when she looked like an unstoppable force at Brisbane in the early days of AFLW. What a difference a few years makes.
She was given a nice old touch up by McMahon, who ran off her with ease and forced Sabrina to chase. She led her to the footy way too often, as well, using her own judgment to push to the front spot, leaving her opponent lagging behind. McMahon was one of the best for the Cats, and with four disposals (two coming late), Sabrina was a non-factor.
How the Pies manage to get her involved and keep her involved will be interesting as the season wears on. She has the capacity to plant herself deep inside 50 and take a few contested marks in a hurry, but we haven’t seen that for a long time, now.
A COUPLE OF OTHER BITS
Loved the run of Sophie Van De Huevel in the first quarter to break lines and hit Jordan Ivey (my daughter’s favourite Geelong player because she calls her Poison Ivey). Three bounces through the guts – that was exhilarating.
The same goes for the repeat efforts of Nina Morrison in the final quarter. She only had 12 touches for the game, but three came in the same hard, contested chain of possessions as the Cats tried desperately to reel the Pies in.
Britt Bonnici was a star again. She just works and works, and some of her clearance work, with clean hands under pressure, should be commended.
Loved the work of Amy McDonald again. She is a complete workhorse and thinks nothing of getting back into defence to aid her team and release the pressure. She is averaging 10.7 tackles per game in 2022… a fantastic effort.
ADELAIDE (6. 6. 46) DEFEATED WEST COAST (1. 3. 10)
REVIEWER – HB MEYERS
The West Coast Eagles were always going to have a crack in this one – after being run over by the Suns in the last quarter last week, they would have felt stung by how easily they rolled over, allowing a team that was roughly at the same level as they are handle business in that manner.
They did come out firing against the Crows, but when playing Adelaide, the effort has to be backed up by strong bodies, good structure, and the ability to execute under pressure. In that regard, Adelaide had it all over the Eagles, with seasoned players who operate at a skill level far above anything West Coast could muster.
With both teams on the road, it was the mature and composed Crows, even without Chelsea Randall, and missing Anne Hatchard for the final quarter, who ran out relatively easy winners, doing what they had to do in order to put distance between them and their opponents.
Let’s jump into some talking points.
If you’re so inclined, you could dig into our archives and find the first game I saw Eloise Jones play. I wasn’t impressed.
I can distinctly remember thinking that she had no idea what she was doing, but man… she knows what she’s doing now. I suppose the fact that Jones made an impression at all back then demonstrates there was something about her. She took the game on, and though she ran into trouble and may not have made the wisest decisions with the ball, she went after it, and that was a hell of a lot more than others.
Fast forward a few years and Jones’ growth has been amazing. Not only does she continue to go 100 miles per hour, but she also does it with a skill set that few in the league possess. Clean hands, great vision, and the willingness to both take on tough kicks and make them, Eloise has leapt into contention for the title of Adelaide’s most important player.
A couple of times in this contest, she took the risk to create the run for her opponents and I really didn’t see what she was trying to do until she did it. That is something special, and to have the confidence to do it when there are safe options available… she could be the difference in some big games later in the season.
When I first watched Jones play at this level, suffice to say it was going to take a bit to win me over. She has done that and plenty more and now she is banging on the door of becoming a star in this league.
I got used to seeing Justine Mules running around half back, chasing an opponent and running hard to cover the space to shut down an opponent (almost a very unfortunate typo, there…), but her move forward is paying dividends for Doc Clarke and the Crows.
Her pressure inside 50 and commitment to playing a defensive forward role resulted in two goals in this game – the first time she has snagged two in a game, and the way she went about her footy not only aided in taking The Gooch (any Dff’rent Strokes fans here?) out of the game, but also resulted in her exploiting Gooch’s frustration to kick her second goal.
Gooch was doing well in restricting the league’s leading goalkicker, Ash Woodland, so the move of Mules onto her not only resolved that problem for the Crows, but created one for the Eagles. That, my friends, is great coaching.
I’m not sure that Mules stays as a forward in 2022, but if she does, she is a great option to disrupt some of the best defenders in the game, and if she can hit the scoreboard as well, that’s a huge bonus.
Tough start for Sarah Lakay, giving away two ruck free kicks inside defensive fifty, which led to two shots for goal for the Crows. With a size advantage and a well-documented leaping ability, she really didn’t have to be throwing her arms around in a wrestle with anyone. Just by holding her ground and competing, she would have created enough problems for the Crows, but in trying to do a little too much, she brought herself undone.
The other mistake I noticed involved the Goat… so it may come across as AFLW blasphemy, but the Eagles’ only goalkicker may have given Erin Phillips a bit of a lesson in how to utilise the “stand” rule inside 50. Phillips takes a ton of marks inside 50 but always seems to be five metres outside her distance. This results in her shots at goal becoming nothing-kicks, landing a couple of metres short and being thumped over the line.
Aimee Schmidt found herself in the same situation in the first quarter, but rather than going over her mark, she slowly veered out to her right, almost drawing parallel with her opponent. As a result, she was able to make the distance (it surprised me) and kick the Eagles only goal.
I know Erin has been playing footy forever, and they say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but watching Schmidt manipulate the new rule, I reckon this might be a little trick Phillips should adopt. It might earn her a goal or three over the remainder of the season.
Finally, allowing Sarah Allan to roam around half-back unattended strikes me as a monumental error. Already one of the best defenders in the game, having no direct opponent to occupy her permitted Allan to do as she liked – and she liked to intercept and disrupt the Eagles. Quite a bit, actually.
THEY’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARRIS
I loved the game of Parris Laurie.
She was tough, contested, and worked hard all over the ground to provide a solid backup ruck option, and as a “get out of jail” option when the Eagles were looking to exit defence.
She really fought hard in this one and whilst several of her teammates were physically overmatched, she was one who was definitely up for the fight. She had 13 touches and seven marks in one of the better games I have seen her play.
I don’t want to call her old, but I do want to call her reliable. Soooo, maybe just ignore the title. I pinched it from the bloodhound in Lady and the Tramp when he’d talk about his grandfather or something…
Marijana Rajcic is one of the unsung stars of the Crows outfit. Not flashy, she goes out each and every week and simply does her job. She puts herself in the best position to impact contests, does so, and clears for her team. I don’t think she would win any style points for the way she goes about it, but I’ve noticed something funny about footy – they don’t ask HOW you won. They ask IF you won, and Rajcic wins contests almost in spite of her looking a little proppy and unbalanced at times.
Maybe it is an optical illusion, but she does so many things where it looks as though she is going to lose the footy or her footing, but somehow manages to continue on and gain a win for her team.
Anyway, as long as I have written about the Crows girls, I cannot remember ever highlighting her, but she damn well deserves it. In a team boasting All-Australian, Sarah Allan, players like Rajcic hold things together and are thoroughly deserving of praise, as well.
Mikayla Bowen got better as the game went on. If I were the Eagles, I would be laying as many blocks as possible to get her out into open space. Her disposal is very good and she was the architect behind one of the more impressive chains of possession for West Coast.
I really don’t get the umps being so stringent on dangerous tackles, bu you get a situation when Courtney Guard crashes into Justine Mules, clearly taking her in the head, and they call play on? Consistency… you’d really love some.
Eb Marinoff loves looking for Erin Phillips inside 50, doesn’t she? You can be sure that whenever she gets it around 50-70 out, she is going to Phillips, and the Goat doesn’t often let her down – she has some of the best hands in the game.
Nice debut from Abbie Ballard. She looks like a bit of a hard nut and her kick has some penetration on it. She’s only 19… the Crows may have found another one, here.
Umps… you’re allowed to pay a free for holding the ball against Erin Phillips – it’s okay. She got nailed in a second tackle after shrugging the first early in the third quarter. Blatant holding the ball that was judged a stoppage. I know she is fantastic, but that means when someone is good enough to catch her, you have to reward them, too.
For the Eagles, I liked the work of Hayley Bullas. She was hard at it and made her opponents earn any kick against her. I also liked what Melissa Caulfield brought to the table. The veteran was one who looked to play her own game and was not pressured into rushing by the Crows.
All in all, a solid win by the Crows – not spectacular by any stretch, and I am already looking forward to their clash against the Dees. Fingers crossed it actually takes place.
MELBOURNE (9. 10. 64) DEFEATED ST KILDA (3. 5. 23)
REVIEWER – JB EDDY
The Saints take on the Demons in the battle for our souls, four points in the sort of heat that Melburnians would call hot as hell.
As the undefeated home side, Melbourne were deserved favourites with a veteran list and some exciting youngsters geared up to take on a St Kilda side searching for their first win of the season and still in a bit of a building phase in their third year in the comp.
While the final scoreline does tell the tale of how developed both teams are, it doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Saints were in this for three-quarters of the game, thanks in a large part to the pressure they were able to bring around the ball. They couldn’t quite sustain it though, and their all-out defence strategy failed to pay off as Melbourne used the breeze in the last to bury St Kilda’s hopes of taking their biggest scalp since their surprise win over the Bulldogs in round one of last season.
St Kilda owned much of the first quarter, gaining territory through some hard running and pressure on the Dees midfield. Much of the quarter was spent in the St Kilda forward half, but they didn’t really make the most of their chances.
Plenty of push and shove before the bounce, and St Kilda showed their hand very quickly as Tarni White wrapped up Karen Paxman before she’d even gathered the ball. Paxman is a beast of a player, so giving her the extra attention seems like it may have been intended at curbing her influence on the game, but if anything, it looked like Paxman enjoyed a bit of physicality.
The early pressure allowed St Kilda to catch the Dees flat-footed as the turnover allowed Jacqui Vogt to slot a very clean goal from some fast ball movement, opening her account for the season.
St Kilda kept attacking, and managed to find some space several times, only to be let down by their ability to execute the basics under pressure. Kate Shierlaw took a fantastic contested mark 30 metres out, played on quickly into space and ran to just beyond the goal square, then inexplicably runs across the goal face and tries to kick across her own body rather than just taking a steady shot. She pulls it too far and kicks almost behind herself. This was the sort of play that makes a player pick the very back row when they go through the film on Monday.
Catherine Phillips likewise showed amazing acceleration from a quick switch around the 50m arc to kick a long shot from around 45 metres, only for the ball to be touched on the line. Rhiannon Watt did well to draw her player to open up Phillips, but the looping handball meant Phillips was flat-footed underneath it for too long. If the pass was flatter, Phillips could have had a few extra steps and possibly turned that point into a major.
Worse, Melbourne managed an end-to-end chain through some hard running from Paxman, finding Tayla Harris running into an open forward line, marking 25 out and converting against the flow of the play.
A STALLING SECOND QUARTER
After a slog at the start of the quarter that didn’t really allow either team much play, Tayla Harris collected the ball 60 metres out to kick to Daisy Pearce’s advantage, but a little off-break saw the ball fall into the lap of Lucy Burke. Burke took three quick steps, only to have Pearce take her down in the goal square, spilling the ball free and allowing St Kilda to rush through a behind for the Dees.
The Dees kept pressuring the St Kilda defence, with strong marks to Scott and Harris. Scott sprayed her shot, but Harris converted cleanly to get her second.
St Kilda turned on the pressure once again, bringing the ball to ground frequently and denying Melbourne room to move.
Late in the quarter, St Kilda finally managed to find some space and with quick ball movement through debutante Ash Richards who burned off two defenders, finding Xenos 30 metres out. Xenos’ kick juuuuust made the journey and kept the Saints in touch going into halftime.
PRESSURE FOOTY IN THE THIRD
Later in the third quarter, a play eventuated that shows why Daisey Pearce is so highly rated. A long kick from Paxman didn’t really favour any of her teammates, but Pearce quickly tackled Hannah Priest as soon as she collected the ball, resulting in a throw. Pearce put a bit of lip at the whistle, prompting Priest to give her a tiny bit of a shove, resulting in Pearce displaying a classic arms-wide-open fall, calling for the 50 metre penalty even as she fell to the ground. She probably deserved it too, but was denied. She set her runup and delivered to an open Kate Hoare who for some reason had a clean leading lane right up to Pearce’s mark for an easy goal from 12 metres out.
To put that tackle on, add some verbal sting, almost milk a 50 and then take enough off the kick to find an open teammate shows that Pearce still has something to give the game for a while yet. It’s regrettable that the AFLW likely didn’t see Pearce’s athletic best, but her craftiness is a level above anyone else in the league. I’d say it’s almost Brent Harvey-like, except that she passed off within the 50 metre arc, and we all know Boomer would never have done that. Ever.
The Saints kept pushing forward, utilising a long-kicking style to make the most of the breeze, finally managing to catch the Demons on the overlap, finding Molly McDonald timing her run past the contest perfectly to receive the handball and snap from about 35 to bring the margin back to a point.
The Saints seemed buoyed by the goal, blitzing Melbourne at the bounce, finding Shielaw on the lead. A clever fist found Lucas-Rodd steaming towards goal, and a clever kick to Xenos gave her a shot at goal from ten metres out, but on a 45 degree angle. Some Josh-Kennedy-esque stutter-stepping did her no favours, and instead of aiming for the far post and letting the breeze guide it through like a car rolling gently down a hill, she took a hard left like a hat-wearing Volvo driver about to miss their exit on a freeway, and were it not for the nets at the back of the goals she may have cleaned up a Subaru for her troubles too.
DEES TURN THE SCREWS IN THE FOURTH
Despite that late miss to Xenos, St Kilda would have felt excited that this match was very much alive, and with scores level and control of the play for much of the day, they were well in this.
Unfortunately, Melbourne understood that they’d played very inconsistently for much of the match, and finally decided to turn up the intensity and show the Saints what they could do.
Part of the spectacle of AFLW is the suburban grounds. Each ground has its own little nuances, not the least of which is understanding the swirling breeze that comes from having incomplete seating around the ground. The Demons used this knowledge to take advantage of the breeze , pushing to the grandstand side and attacking with it at their backs as it swirled around the stands and pushed the ball towards their attacking goal line.
Tayla Harris had been giving the Demons some forward options all game but turned it up another notch in the final quarter. A quick centre break gave her a bit of space on her defender, and a long kick from 45 just pushed to the left. A poor kickout from St Kilda gave the Demons the ball back on their 50 metre arc, and a long kick into attack saw the St Kilda defence panic, and Rebecca Ott held Harriss a little too much before falling into her back. Harris definitely put a bit of mayo on the fall, but that’s the privilege of being a forward.
And with that, the flood gates opened.
The Dees surged forward quickly again, though not quite quickly enough for Paxman to escape her tormentor Tarni White to force a ball up. St Kilda spread wide to cover the Melbourne midfield, which bothered the Dees ruck Lauren Pearce not at all as she grabbed the ball out of the ruck, snapping truly as she was tackled for two quick goals to get St Kilda nervous.
Melbourne controlled the rest of the game as St Kilda struggled to get the ball forward of centre. The St Kilda defence couldn’t find a way out, culminating in a frustrating turnover from Priest as she fumbled a handball receive in the back pocket, allowing Tayla Harris to gather and find Tyla Hanks 35 metres out, and she finished with a clinical shot at goal to put the game beyond a plucky St Kilda outfit.
The Dees weren’t finished though, putting the Saints to the sword. Rather than play a possession-type game to wind down the clock, they targeted percentage and kept pushing deep into their attack. Plenty of wayward kicking and rushed behinds may have frustrated them slightly, but St Kilda were in full panic mode and desperate for the siren.
With just over a minute and a half to go, Daisey Pearce collected the ball in the pocket to snap a dribbling goal that was another highlight for anyone studying forward craft as the St Kilda defenders stood with hands on knees, sucking deep breaths.
Another quick centre break gave Hoare a shot at goal, only for a wayward finish, but a quick repeat entry gave Fitzsimon the opportunity to sell a bit of candy out of the pack, accelerate for a couple of steps and snap from 30 out to kick her first career AFLW goal.
With just 22 seconds left, Lauren Pearce found Hanks with a deft tap, Hanks surged forward to kick to Harris on the lead, only for Harris to bobble it a little bit, but Hanks cleverly roved her own kick and put through another major with just eight seconds remaining, giving the Dees a six-goal final quarter from eleven scoring shots.
It could easily have been a ten goal quarter if St Kilda hadn’t played a flood defence, but the added pressure on the ball cost the Saints any chance of transitioning into attack, as the Melbourne half-back line walled up their forward half and stopped any attempt to breakthrough.
THE STATS THAT MATTER
Melbourne ran out leaders in most stats, but the key ones were Clearances (28-14) and hitouts (31-16). Lauren Pearce dominated for the Dees, taking the honours for 20 taps, but mature-aged rookie Leah Cutting backed up last weeks 19 with a respectable 13 against a quality opponent, and showing plenty of second efforts, as evidenced by her 10 tackles.
For the Saints, the tackle count showed their intensity around the ball, edging the Dees 75-53. While it’s something that Saints fans can look to as evidence of the effort of the team, it does also show just how often Melbourne was first to the ball. Tarni White was an example of this, managing 12 tackles, but only getting eight of her own touches. Her negating role was decent enough, but there wasn’t enough class around the contest for her teammates to turn tackles into possession chains that could hurt Melbourne on the rebound.
FORWARD LINE STRUGGLES FOR THE SAINTS
Vogt had a fantastic first-quarter goal, but did very little afterwards. Her three touches included the goal, and two handballs that resulted in turnovers in St Kilda’s forward 50. It’s never going to be easy when the Demons are rabidly attacking forward at every opportunity, but Vogt certainly cost her team some shots on goal with some odd leading patterns, coupled with some bruise-free work around the contest. Playing as a medium forward is always tricky, filling the crumbing and marking roles without committing too heavily to either, but Vogt will definitely need to up the intensity if she is going to be part of the St Kilda attack.
She’s not alone though. As mentioned earlier, Shierlaw had a howler of a miss, but she was far more committed to the ball, backing up her teammates and taking marks closer to the middle of the ground to set up attacking plays. While she will need to convert more often, her work at Centre-Half-Forward was good as a conduit to a deeper attack, though she did have some turnovers in her field kicking later in the match.
Comparing the return St Kilda got with the class of Tayla Harris, Tyla Hanks and Daisy Pearce, it’s easy to see where the improvement needs to come from. Had St Kilda made the most of their chances early on, they’d have had Melbourne on the ropes at halftime, and likely forced some changes in structures and tactics that could have allowed them to grab a win. Whether they need to draft or develop, it’s vital that St Kilda find a reliable goal kicker if they’re going to move up the ladder—especially as the newer teams come in and get their pick of the draft class.
CLASS IN THE MIDDLE
Paxman, Hanks and Zanker out-worked their opponents, despite some decent negating work by the Saints. While Paxman gets a fair bit of deserved praise, Hanks move from forward to midfield looks to be paying off handsomely. Her ability to read the play and time her run looked brilliant in this match, complementing Paxman’s in-and-under work beautifully.
The Saints by comparison were well-served by Tilly Lucas-Rodd (22 disposals, 9 tackles) Burke and White, but Lucas-Rodd was really the only one who managed to have an impact as a playmaker. Xenos showed a lot of potential but was often just a step too slow in her disposal. She is rapidly coming into form after missing 2021 with an ACL injury, so there is a lot more upside than her three possession, one goal game would suggest.
It’s like that every round will be asterisked now, with border closures and close contacts playing a part in how the season rolls out, but assuming everything goes as planned, the Demons will head to Norwood oval to try and do what no one has done since Valentines Day last year (the Grand Final was at Adelaide oval). Adelaide seem to be absolutely seething at missing out on the flag last year, and determined to make everyone in the league pay for it. I think the Dees are a contender this year, but Adelaide at home are on an absolute tear and will likely get the victory in a match that will no doubt be a spectacle.
St Kilda will probably take on the Eagles. One side will open their account with a win, while the other languishes at the bottom of the ladder (or will, once Brisbane and the Bulldogs make up their missed games). West Coast have seemed a bit more free-flowing in their ability to hit the scoreboard in 2022, but with the uncertainty and likelihood of a longer hub than they’d have liked, I’m tipping the Saints here.
Even before the two games were scratched out and rescheduled, I had this game marked down as the one I wanted to review this weekend.
In their first two weeks of 2022, Fremantle have come out and made a statement, accounting for West Coast in the Derby, before putting the GWS Giants to the sword, with a display to signal their intentions that they’re going to be firmly right in the premiership picture this season.
Rolling into Punt Road this weekend against the Tigers, it would be interesting to see how they would handle their second of what will most likely be many weeks on the road (thank your state government for that one Fremantle fans).
It also gave us our first encounter between the two sides in the short history of the AFLW.
After an impressive opening-round win against St Kilda, Richmond backed it up with a very strong performance against a quality side in Melbourne, proving their worth around the contest and forward of the ball for a large part of the game, but a second-quarter avalanche proved just too good for the Tigers in the end.
It’s interesting to hear from Joel Peterson, who was commentating the game on ABC Radio in the pre-game that the Tigers are forging themselves as a ‘three-quarter side’.
When you pit them against a side like the Dockers. Richmond’s improvement since their inaugural year has been stark and continues to be so, but the elite fitness base from Fremantle makes that argument that the Tigers aren’t a side that can string out a consistent four-quarter performance yet all the more plausible.
However, it was a win that was expected of by the Dockers, and they did it after a tight and physical tussle in the first three quarters, running away with a five-goal burst to take home their third win in as many matches this season.
THE MIDFIELD MAESTROS
I said this a little bit to whoever listened during the week that the team who gets on top of the middle will have the game.
The midfields are quite similar– I say that in the sense that there is one genuine star in the middle, but surrounded by very capable players – not elite, but a rung or two down from that. Hayley Miller is a very good player and is on the cusp of being elite, Gabby O’Sullivan is inconsistent but very good on her day. In the Richmond camp, Sarah Hosking is a very good player and players like Maddy Brancatisano and Meagan Kiely have the potential to be very good pieces too.
Kiara Bowers and Monique Conti are the respective superstars, but both play the midfield role just a bit differently.
Bowers is a bit more well-rounded as a midfielder; she’s terrific around the stoppages, winning the contested footy, winning clearances, but just the same, has always been a tremendous tackler and a real menace for the opposition trying to extract the ball from stoppage.
Whereas Conti is more of an offensively minded midfielder; she has a terrific burst out of the stoppage, is a renowned clearance player, but also follows up exceptionally well trying to keep the ball continually moving. Some bozo said on Twitter the other day that Conti never won a hard ball in her life – I’ll give you one guess what I thought of that.
The Tigers held up very well around the contest for large parts of the first half and were close to the Dockers for clearances and contested ball up to half time, however, by full time, the Dockers had amassed over 20 contested possessions more and won the clearance count convincingly.
For Bowers, it was another day in the office as she recorded 28 disposals, nine clearances and 16 tackles – with half of those coming out of the first quarter. But it was Gabby O’Sullivan (five clearances and eight tackles with 14 disposals) who I thought stood up impressively when the game was in the balance in the opening three terms.
Conti was second best to Bowers, but not for a lack of effort, trying to get things running at every chance she could. Her prominence around the stoppages was largely felt in the first two weeks but could only register two clearances from her 22 disposals – but was still easily Richmond’s best player.
The Tigers missed Tessa Lavey out there in this one, having been a prominent figure on the wing in the first two weeks, and they would’ve loved the balanced work and creativity of Ellie McKenzie in there too. But we’re about to find out a bit more about the depth of this Richmond in the coming weeks.
CAN THE TIGERS COVER OFF HARRIET CORDNER?
This one stings a lot, probably one of a few players that Richmond can’t afford to lose.
Already, the Tigers are batting through their list at a rapid rate: Lavey will most likely be back next week, but McKenzie and Courtney Wakefield are both going to miss some footy, Wakefield’s shoulder injury opens a massive hole inside 50 in terms of finding a key target to kick to.
The Tigers tried rectifying this with Sarah D’Arcy as a key forward early, before this injury forced her to go back into defence.
This one is a massive blow, Harriet Cordner is arguably in the five most important players in this Richmond side. Her ability to close out her opposing key forwards over the years – for both Melbourne and Richmond – have been superb. Nothing flashy about how she does it, but just good old fashion contested footy, she’s very good at that.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen throughout the course of AFLW, not just in this season alone, all it takes is one innocuous twist and that’s your race run for 12 months. The short answer to the question above is no, they won’t be able to cover her off. There won’t be many players in the competition, let alone on Richmond’s list who will beat key forwards with monotonous regularity the way Cordner does.
The long answer is that they’re going to have to work around it. D’Arcy, who showed in round one that she is a brilliant intercept marking defender, is probably going to have to be forced to defend more as opposed to peeling off her direct opponent to intercept and put faith in Rebecca Miller to break even against some of the game’s best key forwards.
I also saw Gabby Seymour push back as a defensive option and had some good moments with her intercept work. She was one of a few Tigers who put in a consistent four-quarter effort, both in the ruck contests and through her follow up work. She’s already having to carry a big workload in the ruck with no Poppy Kelly in the team right now – another one on the injury list at the moment.
We talk about good selection headaches, but these are the bad ones that no one wants. Ryan Ferguson faces some big decisions in the next few weeks – the depth is getting put through the ringer.
THE DISCIPLINE… OR LACK THEREOF
I’ll put my cards out on the table here… Richmond just isn’t a mature-enough side to be going far this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked the intensity, I’ve liked the overall effort and I’ve really liked how they are moving the ball with more gusto than ever. But, I counted too many free-kicks in this one given away for very clumsy head-high tackles, or just very silly late hits that resulted in goals or scoring opportunities when it could’ve easily not have been.
Emelia Yassir gave away a very soft, but nonetheless there, 50 metre penalty in the opening minutes of the game, in fact, she gave away a few very sloppy free kicks
Beth Lynch, frustrated for coughing up the ball moments before against Hayley Miller gave away a downfield free kick for bumping Bowers after she had disposed of it, which led to Gemma Houghton kicking the first goal of the match. With less than 30 seconds to go for the quarter, that’s a genuine coach killer.
In the second quarter, Bec Miller gives Hayley Miller a blatant shove in the back that results in a Fremantle free-kick; completely unnecessary, the Fremantle captain then kicks it to the goal square and it’s mopped up for a goal – the Dockers’ second of the match.
The last one I want to pin-point was Laura McClelland in the last quarter. This resulted in Hayley Miller’s goal for the Dockers, made no intention to run at the ball, just Miller to try and take her out of it for her teammate for some space.
There were plenty of other moments in the game; poor tackles that resulted in high contact or push in the back, and it’s not often I bring out the free kick count in a review, but 26 free kicks conceded to Fremantle is something that the Tigers must work on if they’re to bridge the gap to the premiership fancies.
You can’t go winning many games with that.
THE DOUBLE-EDGED SCORING SWORD
So, when I covered Fremantle in the pre-season reviews here on the Mongrel, the massive concern I had with this team is where the scoring was going to come from beyond Gemma Houghton.
Already, it looks like my prediction of this team finishing 7th is going to blow up in my face, but that’s okay. It won’t be the last time I’ve written off a side in the pre-season for them to completely stick it up me – it’s what I love the most about predictions really.
22 scoring shots to 12 says a lot about a win and it’s a big result at that. Should the Dockers have won by more? Probably should’ve, they had 46 inside 50 entries in the game – 26 more than the Tigers did and that’s some margin.
They also kicked 11.11 – that’s 50 percent efficiency, and that’s not counting the shots that went out of bounds or the set shots that fell a few metres short. The accuracy has been a slight on Fremantle’s start; 6.7 against the Eagles in round one and 7.10 last weekend against the Giants, currently the Dockers are kicking at about 46 percent at goal.
Let’s not bash around that statistic, it’s still early in the year so there’s plenty of time to right the wrong, but it’s something to be mindful of as the season progresses, one thing that they have managed to tick off is that they have found cover for both Sabreena Duffy and Ashley Sharp in terms for forward options.
Ebony Antonio throughout the years has been deployed more as a versatile option, capable of playing a multitude of positions, but playing up forward, she seems more settled with her role as a key forward, bagging another two goals in this one and currently leads all Dockers for goals at the present time.
Miller made it three times in as many matches this season in which she featured in the goals column, whilst Kara Antonio, after being rested last week, kicked two goals – one off a half chance in the goal square, and the other a good conversion in the last quarter.
And of course, a two-goal bag from Houghton, who had her hands full with Bec Miller for most of this game, but her leading patterns were incredibly strong and was quite dangerous anytime the ball came in her general direction – the 2.2 was a small let down as she could’ve easily kicked more.
All in all, it was very pleasing to see this Fremantle outfit share the load in terms of scoring output – so far 12 players have managed to register a goal across all three games this season and that’s a big positive.
THE FIRST-YEAR DOCKERS
They may not be the game-breakers just yet in this Fremantle team, but my early impression is that a number of these players will help Fremantle at least make one step close to premiership glory.
Nothing is expected from the likes of Aine Tighe, Mikaela Tuhakaraina or Dana East other than to play their specific roles for the team, and as well, players such as Jess Low, Airlie Runnalls, Mikaela Hyde and Ann McMahon (who was rested this week for this clash) are all new to this side as well and providing a positive impact.
East was covered last week by the chief Mongrel, and in this one, she was quite solid in her efforts around the stoppages, particularly in the second half of this game when the Dockers began to get off the leash in the middle. She’s such a rugged and determined kind of player and in a midfield that was begging for depth after Bowers and Miller, she’s really cementing herself into this team.
Tuhakaraina’s work rate is something I’ve been immensely impressed with since her debut in round one and it’s finally great to see her get rewarded for her pressure and her want to get into the right spots often with a goal in that last quarter – she’s not going to feature heavily on the stats sheets, but you need to keep an eye out for her, she’s circling around a lot of contests in that forward half.
I watched Tighe’s first couple of weeks and for someone who hasn’t played a game of AFLW before this year (she missed the past two seasons because of injury), it’s amazing just how much knowledge for the game she has taken in. It’s one thing for the Irish players to absorb as much information when they’re not on the field, but it’s another to actually apply it when the contest is hot and Tighe barely wasted a possession in this game and her vision for the game is remarkable, both in ruck and up forward.
Sleep on them at your own peril.
Whilst Gabby Seymour’s game was more around what she did after the ruck contest and was better, I thought Mim Strom’s ruck craft was enormous in patches. Had some very good moments throughout the game as well around the contest, laid some strong tackles and kept the ball moving.
Kate Dempsey was probably next to Conti as the best Richmond player on the park, her link-up play across half-back and the wing was fantastic and looked like one of a few Tigers desperate to keep working the ball up – finished with 18 disposals and five marks.
Sarah Verrier across the half-back line has been something to keep an eye on this week after being highlighted by the mainstream media, and I thought her positioning was excellent – took a couple of good intercept grabs, some good defensive tackling and finished with 11 disposals and four marks.
It was hard for her, considering she was playing both through the middle and up forward, but for what it’s worth, Katie Brennan was another player that tried to do her best – kicked a very good goal late in the piece and finished with four tackles, 12 disposals and won a pair of clearances too.
I enjoy Steph Cain on the wing and this one was no exception – she does a brilliant job at holding her line on the outside and trying to bite off those kicks to the middle of the ground. A smokey for the wing spot of my rolling AA team.
Sophie Molan’s first game of 2022 was pretty good. Had an interrupted pre-season, but shrugged it off with some nice moments of winning contested footy and the tackle that set up her first goal in league footy was very nice too.
Laura Pugh does not get the plaudits she deserves, playing both through the middle and through half-back, her ball use to help set plays up and Freo’s forward ball movement is something that I think gets considerably underappreciated.
Probably not her best game, but Christina Bernardi had some very good moments in this game; pressured well as a forward, her lightning-fast hands set up Yassir for her first career goal and managed to kick one herself as well.
Good to have Roxy Roux back in this Freo team this week, ultimately didn’t do a great deal, but pinch-hit in the ruck okay, and kicked a very nice goal in response to the pair of goals Richmond kicked on the brink of half time.
And lastly, I thought it was an interesting duel between Tayla Stahl and Ange Stannett up forward for the Tigers. Stahl had some good moments and was on the end of a couple of chances – one of which she nailed, but was largely unseen for most of the game.
NORTH MELBOURNE (7. 12. 54) DEFEATED GWS (4. 3. 27)
REVIEWER – HB MEYERS
The scoreboard may have looked somewhat respectable, but make no mistake – this was a hiding.
Three last quarter goals pulled the winning margin back to 27 points, but by quarter-time, this game was just about in the books.
The Kangaroos brutalised a disjointed, disorganised, and at times disinterested GWS side who were not wearing their pride jumpers for this contest. Good thing, too – there was nothing at all to be proud about through the first three quarters.
North put the cue in the rack on a hot Melbourne afternoon and the Giants managed to find some form in the last, but it was way too little, way too late for a team that looked nowhere near it when the game was there to do won. On the flip side, North powered through the first three quarters, better in terms of structure, desire, and skills. That is a lethal combination to throw together.
Let’s look at some talking points.
RIDDELL ME THIS
All-Australian selectors… are you paying attention to what Ash Riddell is doing on a weekly basis? I bloody well hope so!
She was at it again this week, notching 20 touches through the first three quarters before finishing with 23, and like many of the Kangaroos, she was at her best when the pressure was on early. Eight disposals in the first quarter and barely a wasted one amongst them gave her team enormous drive through the middle and a great option when breaking into space.
I’ve been singing Riddell’s praises for a few years now as I thought her story was a good one. Was I barracking for her to make it at this level? Hell yes, I was, and I almost feel a sense of pride in watching her perform the way she now is. She will run all day, work inside or out, and some of her clearance work in this one was exceptional.
Three games into the season, she will be the front-runner in the North Melbourne best and fairest award at the moment, and has been aided by the move of Emma Kearney to half-back.
On that, what a gutsy move from Darren Crocker to have Kearney settle into the new role. Not only did he take one of the game’s best midfielders and have her play a new role – he also gave the remainder of the midfield a chance to step up and take the reins. Ash Riddell has not hesitated to do just that.
She is now averaging 28.3 touches per game in 2022 and despite playing alongside some pretty handy characters in this team, she has been their standout thus far.
If the Giants could poach one player from this North Melbourne side, I reckon Kaitlyn Ashmore would be one they would seriously consider. With elite running power and the discipline to retain her space out on the wing, Ashmore is able to find space, draw opponents to her, and open up the game for her club.
You can also see her confidence growing – she knew she had a step on opponents in this game and did not hesitate selling a bit of candy or stepping inside to continue her run when they over-committed.
I am sure you will be able to find games where Ashmore had more of the footy, or hit the scoreboard harder, but in this one, she was a release valve for her team, always seeming to bob up when they needed someone to collect the footy and put a bit of distance between the teams.
Ellie Gavalas reminds me a bit of a cartoon character. You know the sort – they kind of take six or seven steps before they even move off the mark and it takes them a while to get their legs pumping? Gavalas takes those sorts of steps all the time. She doesn’t exactly stride out… just those little pumping steps.
She was one of North’s best in the first half and really could have finished the game with four goals if she had her kicking boots on. Instead, a scoreline of 2.1 was nothing to sneeze at as she made good position, worked hard to get deep forward, and made the Giants pay early in the game.
Gavalas was one of the players that played the role of an architect in the North win, setting them up with her hard run (even if some of it was on the spot like Scooby Doo) and good goal awareness.
FINDING HER WAY
It seemed as though the Giants learnt how to use Chloe Dalton in the second half. She was caught with the footy a couple of times in the first half, playing a more contested brand, but it is on the outside that she is capable of shining.
With the heat getting to players, Dalton’s run and carry became the catalyst for GWS ti string some nice footy together. She took the game on, burned off whoever was unfortunate to find themselves in the role of chasing after her, and breathed life into a GWS team that was stagnant and uninspiring for the most part.
She finished with 13 touches and a goal (GWS’ first) and gave them a bit of grunt as she had the confidence to break a few lines and charge away with the footy. It was amazing to see what occurred once she started doing that – GWS genuinely looked as though they could score, and it placed the North defenders under pressure. It’s a pit it took until so late in the game for her to get the space to do that.
WHERE DID THE GIANTS FALL DOWN?
How long have you got?
Basic things like always having a player back on the goal line were not employed. Handballs missed the target more often than not. Run from behind was non-existent for three quarters. Two rucks both move like container ships and one of them can barely find her fist with a handball. Every kick was rushed and directionless.
The last one can be put down to the work of North Melbourne, pressuring and harrassing a team that may have the most passengers in the league, but from what I saw in this game, there was a distinct lack of players wearing orange and charcoal that were not willing to have a crack. They were unprepared and continually out of position on turnovers and jogged back to position whenever they could, with North players running past them as they did.
I know it was hot – I know it was uncomfortable and it saps energy from the legs, but North were playing in the same heat, as well. They were able to do it – why not GWS?
WE heard Alan McConnell imploring his charges to lift, trying to give them direction on the bench but you can’t teach a fish to drive. Some of his troops just don’t have any weapons, and unless bludgeoning an opponent to death is made legal, the Giants are going to be an average team at best.
Also, as stated last week, if they are still reliant on Cora Staunton as their main avenue to goal, they are up some murky looking creek without a paddle. This dearth of forwards didn’t sneak up on them – they’ve been without for a while.
So, what do they need?
Hell, it would be quicker to list what they don’t need. An outside runner to aid Eva and Parker. A mobile half centre half forward who can draw the footy and take a mark. And a good draft hand to pick up another two or three skilled and hard running players to bolster their bottom-six, which could be the worst in the league.
Not much to ask, is it?
I touched on Kearney to half back – I liked her efforts this week. Not as pronounced as last week, but more effective with the footy and less likely to turn it straight over. This can really work.
Daria Bannister looked particularly dangerous in this game. She displayed good judgment and some lovely kicking for goal.
The handball to a covered Cora Staunton in the last whilst possessing a three-on-two advantage… mind-boggling.
On the positive side for the Giants, Ally Dellaway had some good moments, and Pepa Randall had a couple of big one-on-one wins, and one in an outnumber where she forced a behind. Things may have been direr without her.
Overall, the result says a 27-point win, but this felt like a ten goal difference between the two. I suppose North missed a chance at a big percentage boost with their foot off the pedal, but credit to the Giants for showing a bit of fight late.
BRISBANE (9. 9. 63) DEFEATED CARLTON (4. 4. 28)
REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY
Looking at this scoreline, I wouldn’t blame you if you’d thought the Brisbane Lions were coming back from just over a week’s break in between matches.
After a poor opening round defeat to the Adelaide Crows, Brisbane then found itself ravaged by the league’s health and safety protocols and forced them to postpone their round two clash – originally scheduled against Carlton, now scheduled in the future against the Western Bulldogs at some stage.
The Lions were originally scheduled to take on the Gold Coast Suns this weekend in the latest QClash encounter – a game that had the hallmarks to be another exciting chapter in the brief history of these two clubs in the AFLW.
But because the Suns themselves fell victim to the league’s health and safety protocol, along with the Western Bulldogs – who’ve had to sit out another week due to very thin numbers available, we got this match on a Tuesday night.
Any queries about the Lions depth following the injuries to both Kate Lutkins and Dakota Davidson, as well as Sophie Conway, who missed this game because of the protocols, were quickly dispelled, when they blew the Blues away in the opening quarter and by halftime, had the game well and truly in their grasp.
The Lions were back to their premiership best, by playing team-first football, running in numbers, taking the game on at every opportunity and defensively overwhelming the Blues almost every time they were trying to manoeuvre the ball outside of defensive 50.
A STAR IS BORN
So, a question for Craig Starcevich; What took you so bloody long to debut Zimmie Farquharson?
I’ve seen debutants kick bags of goals or pick up 25-30 disposals in their league debut over the years, but there’s something about Zimmie’s game here that just make you think that she’s going to have quite the say in AFLW footy in the coming years.
She was taken with Brisbane’s first draft pick back in the 2020 AFL Draft and after not breaking through for a debut in 2021 and after not being selected to play in round one, she finally got her opportunity here, and didn’t she come through with the goods?
Against a Carlton defence, who I’ll say are a very sturdy lot, Zimmie looked as if it was a god playing against women at times – her first disposal set up Jesse Wardlaw with a lovely, weighted kick which resulted in Wardlaw’s second goal of the opening quarter. Keep in mind, she was sprinting down the wing with the ball in her hand before she hit the key forward – that’s not an easy feat.
If I was to quote a famous song, I’d take one from The Police; Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – because most, if not all of, her kicks opened up play or created a scoring opportunity, and a few of her handballs just helped open up the play too, her vision for the game meant that these disposals were meaningful ones and that will have wowed plenty of Lions supporters.
I could guarantee there would’ve been a few hearts in mouths around the nation watching her nearly collect the point post in that second quarter, but her first goal in league football was the just reward for her efforts on this night, because she was just simply superb.
To cap it off – 1.2 from 12 disposals, five marks and one tackle is a very good return from a debutant – safe to say she’s earned her spot for next round, hey Starce?
THE BLUES’ LACK OF PRESSURE
So, I’m done gushing about debutants, let’s give the Blues a bit of a roast here, because this was where they lost the game – tackles… or lack thereof.
I thought it was astonishing reading the halftime stats that Carlton had laid just 13 tackles in the half and Brisbane had somehow managed to double that. It wasn’t that type of game where stoppages were happening every 30 seconds, it was more of an open and free-flowing game.
But still, to have 14 players on your list not register a tackle up to halftime? That’s almost some bush-league numbers and to list some of the players up to halftime who didn’t register a tackle? Maddy Prespakis, Elise O’Dea, Breann Moody, Jess Dal Pos and Brooke Walker – from senior heads, that’s nowhere near good enough, I wouldn’t have been shocked if Daniel Harford gave them a spray in the rooms at the main break.
Too often were the Lions able to break tackles or walk around Carlton defenders with such ease. On a couple of occasions, I’ve spotted Ally Anderson with the ball in her hands waltz through a pair of Carlton players and applying very little pressure to go along with that, it just felt like she brought her own football at times.
Greta Bodey was another one who managed to weave through Carlton players at her own leisure inside the Lions forward half and she ended up kicking two goals for her trouble in a magnificent return to her early 2021 form.
But it’s not just those two, but it’s watching Emily Bates stream out of the centre bounce and stoppages too a handful of occasions just too easily. Bates was the best player out on the ground for both sides in this one; her work rate was on her clearance work was second to none – she finished with seven for the game – the most of any player on the ground.
Carlton’s intensity picked up in the third term, where seven of those 14 players knuckled down and laid some tackles, but by full time, they were still 17 tackles down on the Blues.
In short, they just weren’t hungry enough for the contest.
ORLA – THE SMILING ASSASSIN
Orla O’Dwyer is really beginning to get the league’s attention with her speed, her work rate and her talent.
It may have surprised a few people on the outside that she was second to Anderson in the Lions’ best and fairest count last season, but all that says to me is that she’s a valued contributor to the Brisbane team and then some – her and Sophie Conway on the wings last year made for a very dangerous pair.
But with Conway not featuring in this game, O’Dwyer kept on working, clocking kilometres and her run and link-up play on the wings was just outstanding. There are small layers that she’s adding to her game this year, her offensive running has gone up another level and her ability to push back and provide as an outlier has improved and her work inside congested spaces has been another thing that I’ve been impressed with.
I will say on her offensive running and link-up work, the kicking from players such as Tahlia Hickie and Nat Grider, both of whom looked so deadly whenever they decided to pull off those 45-degree angle kicks to open up the wider spaces of the ground play into O’Dwyer’s favour, because she can then utilise her speed and agility to get the ball forward without having to wait for her forwards to set up.
Orla finished up with the 20 disposals, second only to Bates at Brisbane who finished with 23, but also recorded four tackles and three marks in a fantastic wing performance.
And in something that will please my colleague Alex Catalano, head of the Orla O’Dwyer fan club, she is on All-Australian pace at the present time.
THE RISING STOCKS OF COURTNEY JONES
Is it concerning for Carlton fans that a player that made her AFLW debut a couple of weeks ago is all of a sudden, their most dangerous forward?
It must be said that Courtney Jones has had a very good opening few weeks for the Blues, looking to be dangerous at every opportunity she can, but it also speaks a lot about the players around her.
Nicola Stevens took a good, contested grab against Shannon Campbell in the second quarter and kicked a good fast-play goal out of it, but Campbell dominated her for the most part of the match – peeling off Stevens to taking several strong intercept marks in the defensive half.
Darcy Vescio – after kicking 16 goals in 2021, remains goalless after three games. I don’t think it’s through a lack of effort – Vescio was found pushing up the ground and providing an option to kick to a few times, but that’s not where their best football is.
Despite all of this, Jones’ worked very hard to get herself into positions where she can kick goals and has kicked goals in all three of her matches so far in 2022 – five in total not following her three-goal bag in this one.
Her first one, a bit lucky to get the free kick, but still was intelligent enough to brace for contact at ground level. The other two were, despite being fourth-quarter, junk-time goals, were still on the back of great positioning and for one of them, quite gutsy considering Jade Ellenger was coming the other way.
That’s a tell-tale sign of a player who is committed to the cause, a player who wants to be in this 21 next week and beyond.
IS JADE ELLENGER BRISBANE’S MOST IMPROVED PLAYER?
Well, it’s early days yet, but after seeing a lot of Jade Ellenger playing primarily off the defensive half last year, we’re getting to see her play a little further up the field, and it’s something that I think suits her style to a tee.
Last year, Ellenger averaged just over eight disposals playing across the back-line, more often than not as a defensive stopper on the opposition’s smalls – it’s plausible in theory, because she’s quick, competitive and plays the role with minimal fuss and as the premiership medal will tell you, it was a role that suited the Lions.
So far this year, Ellenger is well on her way to doubling her disposal average, currently at 15.5 per game and is also averaging career highs in marks and inside 50s. She’s playing with that freedom that she didn’t exactly get at Brisbane – whether that’s through design or whether that’s through confidence, only those in the Brisbane camp really know that.
But watching her game here, it’s pretty apparent that she is a player that knows where she needs to be as a link-up player and has got that confidence to use her speed and take the game on and more while, her competitiveness doesn’t diminish – see the example above where she nearly cleaned up Jones in the marking contest.
She’s the kind of player that will wow the spectators with her pace. It also helps that her skills are very good, which is important for the wing options. Now that I think of it, the Lions have quite a few players who dazzle the crowd with their skills, pace and football IQ, they’ve just added another one here.
Ellenger had 15 disposals and took seven marks for the Lions in this game, showcasing the kind of game that most modern winger in both the men’s and women’s possess – she holds her line, doesn’t allow herself to get sucked into the contests and uses her speed to best advantage.
I can’t answer the question above just yet, but if she continues playing at this rate, the answer becomes more emphatic, so get back to me after round seven on that one.
After a good round one game against the Crows, Phoebe Monahan had an even stronger game here, finished with 16 disposals and alongside Grider, provided a lot of dash and drive out of the defensive 50
Whilst Prespakis got mentioned for no tackles in the opening half early on in the review, she was still Carlton’s best player, strong on the inside, she even pushed back to try and repel the repeat forward 50 entries that the Lions were putting out – finished with 27 disposals and five clearances for the match.
Ruby Svarc only had the four disposals but laid the three tackles and won some important one-on-ones early in the piece when the game was ultimately up for grabs. It was a fair debut, but I can’t see her holding her spot once Conway comes back into the side.
Paige Trudgeon’s job on Jesse Wardlaw after those first two goals has to be commended for, because she did a very good job keeping her off the scoreboard after that – finished with the 12 disposals and took a couple of good grabs in defence.
I enjoyed Courtney Hodder into the midfield in that last quarter, in fact, I slowly started to notice it as the game progressed, but it’s good to see her get some touch of the footy. Oh, and her tackling was very impressive as well – outstanding forward pressure again.
Georgia Gee is a perplexing player. Loves to take the game on, we know this, but it certainly doesn’t help to be composed in some cases – had a moment in the third term where she marked about 50 metres out and instead of waiting for her Carlton forwards to set up, she gave the footy to Prespakis and botched the scoring opportunity completely.
Was worried for Taylor Smith for a moment there, but having seen the ice on her foot, I’m just glad it’s not another season-ending knee injury – if there’s something the Lions can’t afford to lose and that’s another key position player.
Hard to fault Kerryn Harrington’s game in this one, like Prespakis, she was one of a handful that just kept on repelling those inside 50 entries that the Lions were handing out and I thought stood tall in a defence that missed the composure of Gab Pound – finished with the 21 disposals.
Great to see Sharni Webb back out on the park after having missed the previous season due to the birth of her child. Got through the game unscathed and featured in some possession chains, wasn’t a big night for her, but she’ll be back in this team next week.
Breann Moody had herself another very good game – broke even in the ruck with Hickie at 14 hitouts a piece, but Moody’s ability as the bail-out option out of defence was huge early, but also big when she was deployed as the kick behind play – finished with 16 disposals and a couple of grabs.
Bit of an odd game from Jess Wuetschner, kicked the 2.1 and looked incredibly lively in patches, but there were other moments where she was caught behind her direct opponent, or perhaps struggled to make herself dangerous offensively or defensively.
Brooke Vickers on debut looked promising, backed herself in to be in the right positions in transition a couple of times and her ball use looked very good – deserves to keep her spot in this team next week.
A very underrated game from Belle Dawes, Bates and Anderson get the plaudits most weeks, but Dawes is another player that just puts her head down and goes to work, presented well in general play and showed sharp hands in close.
And I guess that will do me for now – Short turnarounds for both Brisbane and Carlton ahead of next weekend and both with big games ahead, with the Lions taking the field on Saturday evening to tackle a Geelong side that have made nothing easy against anyone so far in the competition, whilst the Blues take on North Melbourne on Sunday, who bounced back strongly on the weekend.