Well, another week of AFLW footy, and another week of controversy ensues.

We’ve had cancelled and postponed games, issues around religion and pride, and amongst it all, there were actually games of footy played. Imagine that?

Luckily, here at The Mongrel Punt, that is our focus – what happens on the field. So we’ll leave the rest of the topics to those who enjoy that engagement and we’ll focus on the thing that all else revolves around – the game of Aussie Rules. How novel…

Let’s get on with the Round Four Reviews.

 

FREMANTLE (5. 8. 38) DEFEATED COLLINGWOOD (1. 1. 7)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

If there was such a thing as a two goals to one belting, I reckon we were seeing it in this game.

At three-quarter time, the Magpies looked like they were well and truly still in this contest – on paper, at least. In watching the game, itself, it was clear that the Fremantle Dockers were making a pretty hefty statement at the expense of the Pies.

Both teams came into this clash undefeated, but as the final siren sounded, the visiting Dockers left no doubt as to who were contenders in 2022, and who were pretenders. It was a systematic destruction from Freo, who could have been five goals up at the last change quite easily. Misses piled up in a series of inside 50s that kept the footy in their half of the ground for long stretches of time, with the Pies forced to fold back to alleviate the pressure. Their half forwards were camped in the defensive fifty and that left very little to kick to.

When they did manage to get the ball past the centre, the efficiency and brutal brilliance of the Fremantle defence was incredible. They laid tackles galore and punished the Magpies whenever they went to ground with the footy. As the holding the ball free kicks grew in number, the Dockers were imbued with even more confidence. The final score says it was a five-goal win, but this was as comprehensive a beating as the Pies have received for a while.

Freo are for real.

Let’s jump into the talking points.

 

LIKE A TIGHE-R

Aine Tighe was playing just her third AFLW game in this one, but you would not have known it.

Matched up against marquee player, Sabrina Frederick, Tighe looked like the veteran, reading the ball off the boot of the Collingwood mids and giving Sabrina a bath across half-back.

As the game progressed, Tighe’s confidence grew. She started leading Frederick to the footy and continued to rack up intercepts, backing herself to read the play better than her celebrated opponent. Whilst Freo would have many that could claim the honours for best on ground, Tighe was the clear standout for me. Not only did she beat Sabrina multiple times, she also cut off the distribution chain that feeds Chloe Molloy.

The job on the Collingwood star forward went to Jessica Low, who was right up for the challenge of curtailing one of the better one-on-one players in the competition. Low’s chase and drag-down tackle on Molloy in the third quarter spoke volumes about the commitment of this team, and of the former Eagle. It was a moment that will be viewed and reviewed when the team watches game tape of this outing.

With Tighe and Low controlling their opponents, the cleanup work was left to Ang Stannett, who used her pace and agility to gather and rebound the ball effectively.

This was a win built on pressure all over the park, but without the defensive efforts of Tighe, firstly, and then both Stannett and Low, the Magpies could have very well broken through for a goal. That may have changed things, but we’ll never know – because the defence of Fremantle was just too damn good.

 

COMPARE THE PAIR

The lead-up forward position is vital in all forms of footy, but in AFLW, it offers a source of stability and reliability for forward fifty entries. For the Pies, Sabrina Frederick played that role in this one and was curtailed beautifully, as covered above.

At the other end, Ebony Antonio demonstrated how it should be done. She worked hard up and down the ground – not at jogging pace – at full pace to make contests and compete both in the air and on the deck. It was a distinct difference in the roles of these teams.

Antonio covers the ground well and often found herself in space. In contrast, Sabrina is a plodder and the closing speed of Aine Tighe was too much for her to handle. The second efforts were also telling, with Ebony Antonio notching eight tackles. Playing the role of long-leading forward, that she was able to accrue those numbers Is ridiculous, but it gives an indication as to just how “on” this team was.

If you were looking at team structure and had to pick between Antonio and Frederick, there may have been a time Sabrina would have been picked first. I remember her taking eight contested grabs in a game a few years back – I doubt we’ll see anything like that again from her.

Antonio, on the other hand, looks to be getting better. Her 15 touches and a goal had her easily amongst the best on the park again, and her ability to impact the game both in the air and at ground level will go a long way to seeing Freo play a big part at the pointy end of the season.

 

A LESSON IN FORWARD PRESSURE

Not to be outdone by any stretch, the pressure of Kara Antonio in this game was off the charts.

Her six tackles tell only part of her story in this game, as the number of times she was able to split a one v two contest really inspired her teammates. Both her and Ann McMahon took great pleasure in applying pressure to the rebounding queen known as Ruby Schleicher, but Antonio also managed to stay dangerous and often turned a 30-70 situation into a true 50-50, or even a 60-40 situation in her favour.

Kara Antonio’s maniacal pressure set the tone for the Dockers in this one. It was infectious and exciting, and if you’re one of those people who looked at the scoreline at three-quarter time and made a wisecrack about AFLW scoring and yadda, yadda… seriously, watch and learn from this woman. She was brilliant without being a scoring small forward.

 

THE FASTEST GUN FROM THE WEST

Is there any AFLW player faster in getting her boot to the ball than Hayley Miller?

There is no bullshit about her game – she sees the footy, she gets the footy, and she kicks the damn footy. No weak little handballs sideways that do little but transfer the pressure – Miller gets penetration on her kicks and uses it to great benefit. Whilst others may fumble and bumble around with the ball, it is Miller who slams the ball on her boot and then works hard to get to the next contest.

With Miller now captain, her genuine leadership is coming to the fore. Her running goal in the second quarter set the Dockers alight, and with repeated efforts in multiple contests, it was clear that her game was all about physically telling her team to “come with me, girls”.

Miller’s 19 touches and two goals (when the Dockers only had three) were gamebreaking stuff and the skipper could hold her head high after keeping her team undefeated in this young season.

 

ANY POSITIVES FOR THE PIES?

Look, it’s difficult to find positives when your team managed two scoring shots for the whole game, but the work of Jaimee Lambert was combative and she often did hard yards to get back in defence to aid her back five. She was also one of the few who looked to have any time to assess and deliver when she had the footy in hand.

Brit Bonnici was solid but was under the pump consistency from the tackle-crazed Dockers, and Roby Schleicher, despite the pressure, continued to find the footy. Ditto for Sarah Rowe, who found the going a little hot early. She continued to put her hand up and her body on the line to win the footy.

 

HOLDING THE BALL?

You would have heard the commentators yapping on about the sheer number of holding the ball free kicks awarded to the Dockers, right?

Are Freo the only team that has read the tea leaves? With AFL umpires now in charge of these games, it is abundantly clear that the new interpretation of holding the ball is being trialled in AFLW. If you lay in a tackle and make that feeble punching the ball with no force movement, you’re going to be pinged. Fremantle seemed to be awake to this but Collingwood were sleepwalking.

Tackle after tackle – free kick after free kick and still you’d see Collingwood players feigning that they were trying to get rid of the ball. People, it is not going to fly. Either get rid of it, or you’re screwed. That Freo were onto this is a credit to Trent Cooper and the team. That Collingwood was not across this at all… well, that sits with Steve Symonds.

 

A LAST BIT

I was interested in seeing Ebony O’Dea allocated the run-with role on Kiara Bowers in this one.

Even more interesting was that Bowers completely blew O’Dea up by halftime, with the tagger gasping for air at one stage as Bowers took off away from her after a free kick was awarded. Nice idea, in theory, but in practice… well, they don’t call Bowers “Turbo” for nothing.

If you’re going to follow her around the park all day, you’d better have the tank to do it. The Pies learnt the hard way that allocating a tag and successfully tagging a gun like Bowers are two very different beasts. And the league learnt just a little more in terms of the work Bowers has done to reach the level she is at.

 

GWS (7. 1. 43) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS (2. 10. 22)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

Whichever way the result went, we were going to find out a little bit more about both GWS and the Western Bulldogs in this round four clash.

With the Dogs, obviously with Covid ransacking the squad to the point where it was nearly bare for two weeks, it meant that this was going to be their first game since round one, which was nearly three weeks ago.

As for the Giants, it has been a rough week for them – externally, they would’ve felt a lot of pressure following their garbage performance against North Melbourne last week. Internally, the news about Haneen Zrieka electing to sit out for religious reasons would’ve most likely proven to be a bit of a disruption too.

Add to that another five players were withdrawn due to the league’s Health and Safety protocols, and suddenly, things could’ve looked like another dire week in the office for Alan McConnell and the crew in the orange and charcoal against a side like the Bulldogs.

But, for as much as the Dogs lost this game with their lack of clean disposal and poor efficiency in front of goal (that’s what happens when you don’t play for 20 days), the Giants won this game standing up against the adversity of it all and making the most of their forward 50 entries to record perhaps one of their best wins in the club’s history.

I said a couple of weeks ago that football can be a fickle game at times and this is one of many games that I’ve watched over the journey that can perfectly explain it.

The Dogs had control of the play for about 70 percent of the match and won a lot of key statistics around the ground, but failed to make the most of them, but annoyingly almost every time the Giants went forward of centre, they found a way to put a goal on the board.

 

HAVE THE GIANTS FINALLY FOUND MORE FORWARD FIREPOWER?

You’ve probably read about here on the Mongrel a fair bit, but it has rung true for the Giants over the past couple of seasons now – There is very little assistance in the forward half for Cora Staunton.

I’ve been on record for saying this, but the fact that someone at 40 is leading the goals is something that should be very concerning, and I would hazard a guess that the coaching staff have been trying to address this for a little while anyway.

Rebecca Privitelli had a great 2020 but since then, she has been stuck in neutral in terms of being that game-breaking key forward to pair up alongside Staunton, whilst Tait Mackrill has been persisted with over the past couple of years, but has fell short of the mark often, either didn’t play in this one – Privitelli due to the Health and Safety protocols, whilst Mackrill wasn’t at the ground, I can only assume she’s had to stay home for the same reason.

But, if there is one positive from the Giants losing a handful of players due to the protocols, is that they’ve been forced to change the magnets around and well their forward line kicked their highest score for the year and two players that played huge roles in the Giants’ win were Nicola Barr and Louise Stephenson.

With Staunton playing as that traditional centre-half forward type and playing further afield, it was Stephenson and Barr that found themselves a neat little duo inside 50. The pass to Barr in the second term, although defensively diabolical on the Bulldogs’ end, was exactly what the Giants have missed largely over the past 12-18 months; cohesion.

Stephenson, who spent a lot of her career playing as a key defender, got dropped following the loss to Fremantle in round two, but played mostly inside the forward 50 and impressed with her aerial ability and her skills at ground level – her second goal which saw her sell candy to Ashleigh Guest was flat out ridiculous.

For Barr, it’s the best game I’ve seen her play since the league started, her ability to continuously stay dangerous inside the forward half at ground level and her leading patterns were first class, as was her pressure around the ball. To finish up with three goals, she just looked like a natural forward, makes you think why Alan McConnell didn’t go with this option earlier.

Oh, and I’ll take more of those F-bombs on camera please, they’re brilliant.

 

THE TWO YOUNG GUNS HEAD TO HEAD

It was one of the first things I noticed as the ball was bounced in the centre at the start of the game – Alyce Parker and Jess Fitzgerald, head-to-head in the centre bounce. What a great advertisement for the future of the game.

I liked the tactic from Nathan Burke, try and limit the inside game of Alyce Parker as much as possible. If you didn’t know about her inside craft, contested possession accumulation and clearance work, what have you been doing with yourself the past few years? Parker is in the top percentile of players in the competition who makes winning contested ball like shelling peas – take away as much of that as you can

I thought that it was an admirable effort from Fitzgerald all throughout the game to match her inside work and quell her impact around the stoppages, particularly in the first half, Fitzgerald was quick to jump on her and try to force the stoppage and force Parker’s hand under pressure and you’ll find that her 10 tackles in this game will attest to this.

Parker gradually got off the leash as the game progressed and put in a decent shift. Through general play in particular, Parker was afforded time and space and whilst there are still aspects of her kicking that needs work, there were much more impressive signs from her in this one than there was the past couple of weeks.

Parker had the 20 disposals, six tackles and five clearances in this one, whilst Fitzgerald had the 11 disposals to go with 10 tackles – it was a spectacle to watch these two young guns of the competition go at it in a fierce contest, and hopefully it won’t be the last time we see it either.

 

DOGS HOLDING THE FORT

Whilst it’s true that the Dogs’ defensive unit is lacking height at the moment, they don’t lack the heart and the effort, and I thought two players that showed that this week was the pair of Izzy Grant and Eleanor Brown.

Particularly when the Giants had the game on their terms, both players really worked hard in close to try and keep the ball out of the grasp of Giants’ players.

When I look at Grant play the game, she attacks contests, opposition, and the ball with the kind of desperation that makes you think she’s playing for her spot in the side and there were a number of plays throughout the game that exemplified of her wanting to keep the ball out of the Giants’ hands.

Her closing speed is something I took notice of during the game and her IQ to know when to peel off her direct opponent to try and impact a contest further up the ground has shown some significant signs of improvement. Her kicking is still a bit sketchy, but in the meantime, with all the uncertainty going around, I’ll take those errors with a player like Grant, who has had some wretched luck with injuries over the past couple of seasons.

Brown’s case is a bit different, having been the Bulldogs’ most improved player in 2021. Her start to 2022 has seen her play a little bit more as a key defender which, let’s be honest here, is not her primary position, but so far she’s done a very good job of trying to make it stick.

She’s not going to be the cleanest player on the park, but what she will give is consistent effort and that’s what I admire about her game; she never counts herself out of a contest, even if she’s outnumbered and in a couple of occasions in this one, she worked herself into the position as the outnumbered to win the ball and keep the ball going for the Dogs.

What’s the ceiling for a player like Eleanor Brown? Well who bloody knows, but what I do know is that even though the disposals won’t tell the whole tale, her defensive abilities, both in the air and at ground level are advanced beyond her years.

 

STARTING AFRESH IS THE WAY

Throughout the week, I was shooting messages all over the place about what to do with the Giants going forward. List-wise they’ve got plenty of experience, but results-wise they’re not getting it done.

Also worth keeping in mind that Sydney is going to come into the league at the end of the season and with that, they’re going to be targeting several players to jump over and join ‘The Enemy’.

All four of Chloe Dalton, Katie Loynes, Rebecca Privitelli and Pepa Randall – all of them elder stateswomen of this team – were all forced out of the side in the lead up to this one and that meant it forced Alan McConnell’s hand to play the kids – Brodee Mowbray and Georgina Fowler, alongside the mature-aged Casidhe Simmons all made their debut in this one, but also Ally Dallaway, Emily Pease, Jess Doyle and Ally Morphett have made their debuts as well this year as well.

Every club is going to get their depth tested at some stage in the season, if they haven’t already, but there are good finds coming out of this Giants team, and with that, brings a sense of unpredictability for the opposition and I think in a way, that helped rejuvenate a side that has looked a tad stale.

Jess Doyle was picked up as a Swans Academy prospect and there’s probably every chance that she’ll bail out to go join Sydney for 2023, but in a couple of instances, led up as a forward quite well and the fact that she has featured in the goals column in both of her games to date is a testament to how sharp she is in front of the big sticks.

Ally Morphett playing ruck has shown way more around the ground than what Erin McKinnon has been doing for six seasons. McKinnon’s a very good tap-ruck and showed it again in this one, but meanders around in no-mans land for the rest of the game.

But the player I wanted to give big props to on here was the game of Emily Pease, who playing as a wing/midfielder option played a very strong game, second only to Parker for disposals with 15 for the game but also had four marks and three tackles showcasing both her link-up play and her toughness around the contest. She’s a player that looks to take the game on at every opportunity and that’s something that the Giants have desperately lacked for years.

 

LAMB’S CLEARANCE PARTY

For the casual observers, you may have noticed that Ellie Blackburn spent a lot more time in the forward half of the ground in the second half, and that was confirmed by Nathan Burke in the post-game press conference.

Don’t get me wrong, Blackburn worked hard and I think the nine tackles and the goal in the third term can attest to this, but it did look as if she spent a lot of her petrol tickets early and it wasn’t just her, it was noticeable with a lot of the Dogs’ players as we approached the end of the game, a lot of the girls looked buggered and understandable considering how long it’s been between games.

But one player that I thought worked consistently hard throughout the game for the Bulldogs was Kirsty Lamb. Especially in the final quarter when the against the wind, the Dogs continued to push, Lamb was one of a few players that tried to work their hardest to keep the ball moving forward.

Lamb is the kind of player a lot of midfielders would like in their side. She doesn’t have the star power that Blackburn does, but it was noticeable towards the back end of last season that she is working towards being that kind of player, but from me anyway, I just simply love how she burrows her head down and works hard at every contest and every stoppage she attends.

The Giants, despite my criticisms of overall talent in past weeks, have always been a very tough and physical side, particularly in the middle, but I thought she was one of the best Dogs out on the park, leading all players on the ground for clearances with nine for the match, she also finished with three tackles to go with her 18 disposals.

 

OTHER BITS

Haven’t mentioned her game yet, but Alicia Eva’s tackling played a key role in this game. The Dogs may have dominated possession and a lot of statistical areas, but the Giants restricted the space of the ground a lot and the pressure from players like Eva is critical to this – 12 tackles and 12 disposals is a very nice captain’s game.

Alice Edmonds has got some hands about her, hasn’t she? Loved her game in this one, I counted a few very strong contested marks and compared to her days at Richmond, I think her efforts around the ground have improved strongly.

Jasmine Grierson in her first game for Giants colours looked very composed out of the backline. A few times that her kicks failed to hit the targets, but I think the intentions were there, so I won’t be too critical of that, finished with 12 disposals and nine tackle.

Good to see Rocky Cranston work hard for her touches and get rewarded for it, kicked a very important goal on quarter time, but I thought her follow up work and her pressure was very good – finished with the 14 disposals and three tackles.

Ally Dallaway had some nice moments in this one, I love her toughness at the ball and the opposition and given the absence of Rebecca Beeson in the meantime, has done a very solid job playing her role in the midfield.

I don’t often go after players, but I hope Gemma Lagioia got a stern talking to after her selfish shot on goal in the opening quarter – had a player all by herself in the goal square which would’ve given them their first goal of the match – guess it was that kind of night for the Dogs’ forwards.

Brid Stack had a horrid game against North, but I thought she bounced back very strongly against the Dogs, took a nice intercept mark in the opening term, but played her role to make sure the forwards were in for a tough evening.

Issy Pritchard continuing to do some nice things around the forward half of the ground – liked her pressure, liked her getting on the end of some good link-up work. I would love to see her take the kick in the third quarter – yes it was about 45 metres out, but with the wind blowing that end, she could’ve given that a real chance.

Tanya Hetherington’s job on Bonnie Toogood after quarter time is something that may not be looked at too much on the outside, but I thought Toogood’s impact in the air was severely limited.

Against her old club, Elle Bennetts lifted after half time, getting involved with the play, she finished with the 13 disposals and two behinds and despite squandering a shot on goal before three quarter time, that was the right decision to go for it.

And on that note, the Dogs have got a four-day break before they take on Fremantle at the Whitten Oval, in what will most likely be the Dogs’ third straight loss to start the year, because let’s be honest, I watched the Dockers dismantle a premiership fancy in Collingwood on Thursday night, I can’t imagine what will happen to a side like the Dogs, who are only just starting to find their feet again.

GWS are 2-2 and in the top six remarkably – probably won’t last the end of the weekend but given everything that’s happened to them the past week, I think they’ll take that and regenerate for the Saints next week as they’re back at Henson Park, which I’ll say from my desk here in Melbourne, looks quite the venue for football.

 

ADELAIDE (4. 11. 35) DEFEATED MELBOURNE (3. 3. 21)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

Ahead of the commencement of this weekend’s round of footy, the two big drawcards were the two games pitting top-four sides against each other.

Whilst nothing is set in stone after four rounds, we’d get a little bit of understanding about where all four of Collingwood, Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne all sit in the premiership pecking order as we begin to approach halfway through the home and away season.

We saw Fremantle put Collingwood to the sword in an awesome display of defensive suffocation at Victoria Park on Thursday night, and in this contest, we saw Adelaide completely beat down Melbourne with three quarters of brute strength and physical domination.

I’ll explain more of that once we get through the introduction, but if you watched the game and bypassed the shocking commentary from the two muppets doing commentary and cheering for the home team, then you can see exactly how hungry Adelaide want a third flag by how much they applied pressure on Melbourne.

The Demons have been pretty good to start the year, but last week against St Kilda may have shown there’s a bit of a blueprint to toppling Melbourne. For the Saints took away Melbourne’s short kick game and forced them to play manic football, which is something that made the Dees play a bit more uncomfortable and forced them to make a lot of errors out of general play.

The defenders tried their best to withstand the Adelaide pressure, but the Crows once again proving why they are one of a couple of teams to beat in 2022.

 

SETTING THE SCENE

Well, they say the third quarter is the premiership quarter, but for me, setting the tone with your intensity in the first quarter is just as important. Adelaide only got two goals in the opening quarter, but their tackling numbers would’ve surely had to be top of Matthew Clarke’s talking points in the quarter time break.

Oddly enough, the clearances and the contested possession numbers were even in the opening quarter, but the physicality and the pressure put on by most of the Adelaide players were crucial in setting up the win.

The inaccuracy allowed the Demons to sneak in with a slim chance in the final quarter, but the margin will fool you in the end. Fox Footy usually bring out their pressure gauge during the men’s games, but I reckon you’d think the Crows’ pressure here would have been off the scale.

Adelaide laid seven tackles inside 50 in the opening quarter and finished with 26 for the match. They were also +7 in tackles up to quarter-time and were +11 by full time, this was despite Adelaide having over 20 more disposals and 19 more contested possessions by the end of the game.

The thing that I believe would have Clarke most pleased here is that there is no one player here that is setting the bar, not like Kiara Bowers at Freo where she racks up six to eight tackles in the opening quarter, this was more of an even spread.

Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff were probably leading the charge, but emerging players like Teah Charlton, Hannah Button and Rachelle Martin were also all-in on making sure they were laying hurt on the Demons’ ball winners and even those players playing for a spot in this team like Lisa Whiteley and Abbie Ballard were applying physical pressure on Melbourne’s running players and were very prominent throughout.

Karen Paxman, Lily Mithen, Sarah Lampard and Casey Sherriff are players I think of that excel when Melbourne get the game on their terms, but none of them really were able to get the space they’re often afforded with their system – it was just a sublime defensive effort by the entire team.

 

FLIP ‘EM OFF

I’ll say by her standards, she has had a bit of a slow start to the year, but this game we saw the game-breaking version of Erin Phillips back, and that’s got to be a worrying sign for the rest of the competition.

She started in the midfield, aligned up against Eden Zanker in the centre bounce and around stoppages, which is something of a compliment for young Eden, but also as this game will show you, she’s got a lot of work to do to get herself back up to snuff with the pace-setting midfielders of the competition, because like a lot of her teammates, Zanker was outworked by this Adelaide team.

Phillips was then able to push forward where she made Libby Birch earn her touches and was able to apply scoreboard pressure on the Dees early, kicking two brilliant goals at ground level. It was also interesting to point out that she was taking ruck contests throughout the opening half inside the Adelaide forward 50.

She then added a third goal to her name in the second half where she again was in the right spot at ground level and snapped truly from long range, she had chances where it could’ve been a four-goal or five-goal performance, but the 3.2 from 17 disposals? You’d take that every day of the week.

It’s a beautiful thing with Erin at the moment, because with both Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff putting in very strong midfield performances again in this one, it gives the Adelaide coaching staff that flexibility to play her in the forward half, where at ground level she can be very menacing, but also the fact she also leads very well towards the ball as well means that it draws a defender like Birch away from the zone set-up and forces her to be more accountable.

It’s good for the Crows, because whilst Woodland’s pressure was very good and got her hands to the ball a little, Gab Colvin had her number in the air and in a number of one-on-one contests and kept her scoreless.

 

THE IMPENETRABLE DEFENCE

Right now, you’d have to say Adelaide’s defensive set up is about as good as Fremantle’s. It’s not an easy feat to keep players like Kate Hore, Daisy Pearce, Shelley Scott and Tayla Harris all out of picture until the final quarter, but the Crows played it beautifully.

Sarah Allan, again a standout in this one, cutting off Melbourne’s rebound 50s at every opportunity. Maybe it’s because she’s not at a Victorian club, but Allan’s recognition as a key defender goes around here in Melbourne incredibly undetected, I can firmly understand why the folks in South Australia get frustrated when she doesn’t get the plaudits she rightfully deserves, because she’s an amazing intercept marking defender.

But there are others here that deserve as much recognition.

I have thought of Marijana Rajcic as a hit and miss kind of player – at times she gets a role where she plays very well, but then lets herself down under pressure, but this is probably the most consistent I’ve seen from her since Adelaide’s last premiership in 2019.

Blessed with the job of taking down Daisy Pearce, Rajcic got the better of her in a lot of one-on-ones and Daisy, like a lot of her fellow forwards, really struggled to stamp their authority on the contest in the first three quarters.

To Daisy’s credit, she was able to get off the leash a little in the last quarter with two goals and setting up Harris for the other goal and got a few eyebrows raised as to whether the Demons could stage the unthinkable, but it proved to be too steep of an uphill battle.

I will also touch on Najwa Allen’s game here because I saw her play a bit of a run-with role on Kate Hore across the match and given how dangerous Hore has been over the first three weeks and how much ground she covers each week, this was a tagging job that proved to be a very decisive move, the Melbourne speedster was kept to just five disposals.

The Crows are currently conceding an average of 15.7 points per game in 2022, the stingiest of any team in the league, which is probably one of the best things for Adelaide fans to hear right now.

 

‘TANK’ MCNAMARA

Since her debut last season, Eliza McNamara has been one fantastic kid to watch, not because she’s a local Sandringham Dragons product, but she is a very legit player. In a game where the Demons struggled to really get anything going, she was one of a few that really busted her backside off trying to get the ball flowing.

Last season was more about her holding her width as a winger and being the outside receiver and her ability to run all day has been well covered, but even with the added pressure of the Crows this week, she took that in her stride and put together a very good game under the circumstances – a wise woman once told me that pressure created diamonds, that makes a lot of sense here, because her work rate equates to that.

On an afternoon where players who often average very good numbers as a midfielder like Karen Paxman, Lily Mithen and to a lesser extent, Eden Zanker had very quiet games, McNamara put in arguably a career-best game; 22 disposals, four marks and three tackles.

But the thing that I was very impressed with was the fact that she was able to stand up in contests and absorb what was some manic pressure by the opposition, half of her 22 disposals coming from contested situations.

She’s going to play her 15th game next weekend, but I can’t help but marvel how intelligent she is in terms of finding space and knowing where to be on the receiving end of winning the ball in space. She’s only 14 games into her AFLW career, and I know it’s because she’s played through the junior pathways, but she played this game like a genuine veteran.

 

WHO ELSE STOOD UP FOR MELBOURNE?

A few other players for mine that I thought played well and stood up well against the Adelaide onslaught.

Tyla Hanks in the middle was perhaps next best or maybe even equal best to McNamara for the Demons. Whilst her running mates in the midfield were way down on numbers, Hanks, whilst in terms of impact, wasn’t as damaging as she has been in recent weeks, was still pumping her legs and working hard to make a fist of things and ended the game with 20 disposals, I just loved her run and drive.

Whilst I touched on Libby Birch earlier, I thought she worked very hard to try stop the Crows from scoring heavily in this one and positioned herself as the ‘goalkeeper’ exceptionally well, the Crows probably would’ve had a few of those points converted into goals otherwise. She intercepted well and tried to get things going out of the backline – finished with 14 disposals and five marks.

Maddi Gay is a player that I think gets overlooked and underrated a lot, which is understandable considering the amount of talent that Melbourne do possess, but in a game that suited those with ruthless aggression, Gay is a player that has consistently brought that aggression and I thought tried her heart out too.

And lastly, Sinead Goldrick may have given away a few free kicks for head-high tackles, but there’s no denying the sheer tenacity that she brings to this Melbourne team. There’s a fine balance of offence and defence to how she plays, and she was one of a few Demons that were both tackling hard, but also trying to find avenues to open the game up for Melbourne.

 

OTHER BITS

She had some good moments, but it was a quieter week this week for Eloise Jones in comparison to previous weeks, only the eight disposals and one mark, I wonder if no Stevie-Lee on the other wing proved to be a hindrance?

The biggest victim of Adelaide’s press was Alyssa Bannan – has been quite good for the Dees playing further up the ground to start the year, but the Crows closing down space meant that she was hardly sighted in this game – finished with the two handballs.

Was that the best game from Maddi Newman in her short AFLW career? I thought it was, played as an intercept option behind the footy brilliantly at times and her rebounding work was gold class. Finished with 13 disposals and five marks.

I didn’t mention Sarah Lampard before, she was someone that got a lot of the foot but didn’t get a lot of time and space as she would usually get across half-back – had 18 disposals, but also four tackles is a good effort.

A second hamstring injury in successive games for Chelsea Randall – hopefully it’s nothing too bad, but jeez there was always a risk bringing her back in too quickly with these little hamstring strains.

Casey Sherriff flies under the radar a lot, over the past couple of seasons she has made one of the two wing positions her own and showed a lot of run and link-up work, finished with 15 disposals and three marks for her efforts.

Montana McKinnon’s aerial work has been impressive so far this season, but her follow up work in this one was something that I noticed has gradually improved over the past couple of weeks.

Conversely, I thought Lauren Pearce’s ruck craft and use of the body against both McKinnon and Caitlin Gould was elite, she’s made a great habit of winning the ball directly from ruck contests in recent seasons and playing a big part of extracting clearances – good to see her run.

I’ve enjoyed this positional change of Chelsea Biddell playing as a key defender so far this season and again, she showed moments of brilliant intercepting and won some very important one-on-ones against Tayla Harris as the game progressed.

She was one of two rising star nominations for last round, but Megan Fitzsimon looks like she’ll become a very good piece of the Melbourne team in the years that follow. She’s tough, loves to run and her skills by foot aren’t so bad either.

And in conclusion, a stunning performance by the Adelaide Crows, who have cemented themselves as one of the competition’s benchmarks once again and you’d suspect against a struggling and inconsistent Carlton outfit next weekend, you can almost pencil in five wins from five starts.

The Demons aren’t far away from the benchmarks despite this result, but they’ll take away some key areas that they need to work on to get to the promised land and they’ll get a great chance to rebound, by taking on the Gold Coast Suns at Casey Fields next Sunday.

 

BRISBANE (3. 9. 27) DEFEATED GEELONG (4. 1. 25)

REVIEWER – DANIEL JON KERSHAW

 

Looking at the fixture at the start of the ground, no one anticipated this match in Maroochydore, Queensland would be an absolute belter – but who doesn’t love a good surprise!

Looking at the stat sheet, this game should not have been close. Sure, possessions were like for like (201 for Lions, 192 for Cats), but when the Lions win the inside 50 count 38 to 12, there is no reason this game should have been a 2-point thriller. But then the stats don’t tell the full story, because the Cats backline held tough against a tsunami of maroon and gold.

THE MCDONALD SISTERS

Amy and Meghan are not only sisters playing together in the hoops, they were also among the best for Geelong and showed some real grit and determination that spurred the team on nearing causing the boilover of the season.

Meghan was an impenetrable wall down back, especially in the first half of the game. Nothing the Lions did seemed to be about to stop her swallowing up the ball every time it went inside 50, whether it was beautiful 1 on 1 work or her effortless rebounding. It sure was causing Lions headaches that took half a game to work out how to mitigate by opening up the lines with some spread and speed.

But she wasn’t the only McDonald running hot – evidenced by the commentators constantly repeating the surname ad nauseum.

Geelong was soundly beaten in the guts in this one, but that didn’t stop Amy from putting her mark on the game with her explosive speed around stoppages and head over the ball toughness that helped Geelong stay in the game. She finished with 20 touches, 4 tackles and 4 clearances. Great stuff.

 

THE BATTLE INSIDE 50

The battlelines in this hit out were in the Cat’s defensive 50. For large parts of the day they were under siege. Even though the result didn’t go their way, only allowing 3 majors is a big win for the Cats and something they can build on for the rest of the season and into the next.

We’ve spoken about how great McDonald was down back, but McMahon was also instrumental in leading the backline to hold tough, stopping the Lions converting their dominance on the scoreboard with her renowned intercept marking.

As great as the Lions were across the ground, I reckon they’ll be disappointed in their 3.9 score-line, considering the fire power they have up there. However, as wasteful as they were in front of goals, there was still a lot to like, especially in the second half when they stopped bombing with a hope and a prayer. And one of the things that was a highlight and a pleasure to watch was their forward pressure. 18 of their 65 tackles of the game were inside 50! You love to see it. It’s the thing of dreams for a coach to see so much pressure applied, particularly around the big sticks.

A few Lions had very impressive days with their tackling count, but none were more impressive than Courtney Hodder who was a defensive beast in their forward 50, and if you were a Geelong defender, probably not so keen to be on the other end of those vice-like arms.

 

WHO ELSE IMPRESSED?

There was a very high standard of play across both teams, led by Bates who filled up the stat sheet with a bunch of impressive results! 24 touches, 6 tackles and 7 clearances. Not too bad around the goals either, scoring 1.2. Bates gave the Lions everything in this one and gave them every opportunity to clinch the 4 premiership points against a hungry, developing side.

O’Dwyer looked like she was going to have a massive day early on weaving through traffic with the greatest of ease. Even though she went quiet in the second half, she still managed to rack up 15 touches and a goal.

Even though she didn’t see a lot of the leather (8 touches) Dakota Davidson made every touch count, using her powerful frame to either bring the ball down or create some great passages of play, including a sublime snap around the body for goal.

I think Hickie’s dominance in the ruck went a bit under the radar here with 34 hit outs! It seemed like every time the ball went up, Hickie was leaping above and beyond Darby to knock it to advantage. It seems the Geelong ruck woes are not just exclusive to the men’s side.

And last, but not least, how great was Chloe Scheer? She didn’t get a wealth of opportunities, but when she was given the chance, she made them count. You know you have the opposition worried when all they can do against you when you have isolated your opponent is to infringe them. If she had managed to convert for a fourth goal and win the game, the highlight reel would have been worn out this week, but it wasn’t to be!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS?

If you were a Cats fan, there was a lot to take away from this game. Even though they are sitting winless, they won’t stay that way for long. This is a team on the rise and if it wasn’t for the difficult schedule so far, the Cats tally would be looking a lot healthier. There next two games are against West Coast and the Suns, which look like bankable wins.

Not the cleanest day for the Lions, but they have all the elements to add to their silverware collection this year. Anything short of a grand final appearance this year is a failure in my opinion.

 

Best on ground: Emily Bates

Runner up: Chloe Scheer

 

 

NORTH MELBOURNE (7. 9. 51) DEFEATED CARLTON (3. 3. 21)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

Cards on the table – I really enjoy watching the Kangaroos girls play footy. They play an exciting brand, using the corridor whenever possible and have the players with the skill sets to capitalise on fast-break footy.

That said, a hell of a lot of credit has to go to the Carlton defence for their efforts in the first half of this game. A lesser group would have given up at least six goals to halftime – possibly more, with North amassing an incredible 14-2 inside 50 count in the first quarter, alone.

The Blues were often pinned in their own defensive fifty and had to repel repeated re-entries by the Roos, with Lucy McEvoy standing tall and really starting to look like a leader in defence.

Eventually, the dam wall broke and the Kangaroos got some reward for effort. Some may put this down to the very short turnaround the Blues had from their game on Tuesday night, and they’d have a case, but given the amount of play North had through the guts, I reckon Darren Crocker would be a little disappointed they were unable to capitalise on what was a distinct advantage.

Let’s get to some talking points.

 

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

The move of Emma Kearney to half-back has given the North Melbourne midfield a lot more freedom in 2022, with the work of Ash Riddell well documented by our team at The Mongrel Punt over the past few weeks, but it is what they get from others in the midfield mix that makes them so damaging – in this case, namely Jenna Bruton.

Bruton is one that slips under the radar of many teams, but her hard run, clean hands and link-up play as North surged from stoppages was really impressive. It’s not as though I haven’t written about her efforts before – her name constantly bobbed up in our reviews last season as well, but in this game, I felt her 28 touches were more damaging than Riddell’s 30.

Their work in the middle, combined with 25 touches from Mia King, gave the Kangaroos a real springboard into attack. Ellie Gavalas was once again busy, whilst Jasmine Garner was more subdued. I guess that highlights the strength of this North midfield – they can have a former MVP have a down day, a league-best and fairest playing off half-back, and you still have more potent weapons through the middle than your opposition.

Riddell tore it up again in the first quarter – whatever running regimen she has adopted should be widely distributed amongst AFLW players, as the way she motors from contest to contest is wonderful. Like Bruton, she wins her own footy but it is as the first release player that she really shines. With 12 touches in the first quarter, she paved the way for North to get on top and would have to be not only in the box seat for an AA selection again, but well and truly in the mix for the league Best and Fairest award at this stage.

The Blues were once again reliant on the bullocking work of Maddy Prespakis but second to her 21 touches was Keeley Sherar in just her second game. Sherar had 19 touches and used her body well to clear space. At 18, the future is very bright for her.

 

THE RUCK BATTLE

You ever hear about midfielders that play on each other, shake hands to start the game and then barely see each other for the rest of the match?

That is what I thought about when I watched Emma King and Bree Moody in this game. They played wide of each other all game, with Moody adopting a more defensive mindset. She clunked some intercept marks to stop the bleeding on several occasions… and then started the bleeding with one of those unforced errors that saw the ball fly out on the full and allowed Daria Bannister to demonstrate her skill.

King seemed to be more involved all over the ground, taking two big contested “get out of jail” grabs for the Roos as they exited defence and also loomed as a genuine threat around the attacking fifty. North had the luxury of throwing Kim Rennie into the ruck which allowed King more room to move and whilst I would have Moody as the best individual ruck on the park, the combination of King and Rennie did more than enough to consider this tussle a breakeven.

 

MORE GREEN SHOOTS FOR THE BLUES

You’re probably sick of that saying if you also follow the men’s team, huh?

I have to mention the game of Paige Trudgeon, here. In just her fourth career game, she looked like a seasoned pro in defensive 50, and her efforts, along with those of Lucy McEvoy and Kerryn Harrington, really aided the Blues in restricting the scoreboard impact of the Kangaroos early in the game.

There is something about the name “Trudgeon” that screams to me that it is the perfect name for a defender. Even though it is the name of a weird swimming stroke, it is like a combination of a truncheon and a cudgel, and if you’re going to get hit by both of those objects… you’re in trouble.

Anyway, I am getting sidetracked. She was calm under pressure as the Roos consistently bombarded the forward 50, particularly early in the game, and it looks as though Carlton may have found one, here.

 

UNLIKELY AVENUES

How nice were the shots at goal from the forward pocket from the North girls in this one?

Daria Bannister showed some incredible skill in slotting two shots from tight angles, and in a close game (at that point), her ability to convert tough shots in what was a relatively quiet game for her in the first half, was of immense value.

And then you had Alice O’Loughlin in game number five, slotting not only the first goal of her AFLW career, but her second in short order, as well. She also had a great shot from the boundary that highlighted her skill.

The only thing that was missing was one from Sophie Abbatangelo from close to the same spot, which was a bit narrow. Personally, I think one of her eyelashes got in her eye as they seem to go into business for themselves, at times, but we could also put it down to the cramp she got as she kicked.

But it was the eyelashes… we know it was the eyelashes. Robyn Noddy and Kylie Foster… don’t ever say we don’t give the people what they want at The Mongrel.

 

OTHER BITS

Don’t allow Darcy Vescio to fake you. That should be written down and given to all North defenders. If the first move goes left, Darcy always comes back right. If Darcy goes right, bet your bottom dollar that you’re going to be covering the left after the first move – Vescio is consistently attempting to sell candy with the first move. If you are filled and you buy it, you should have to buy everyone at the club and at The Mongrel Punt a coffee. Jas Ferguson… I’ll have a flat white with one, please.

I’m not sure there is a better player at maintaining their space and stretching the defence of a team than Kaitlyn Ashmore. She very rarely gets drawn to a contest and seems to lull her opponents into thinking they have her covered. The problem is that she covers the ground beautifully and five metres become 15 very quickly.

The move of Tahlia Randall forward hasn’t been spoken about much, but she doesn’t hold back when attacking the contest. The commentators spoke about her ferocity at the contest and it was on display again in this one, splitting a couple of packs to allow crumbers to find the footy.

Emma Kearney at half-back continues to be a winner for the Roos. She is looking more composed in the role now. In the first game I saw her back there, she seemed desperate to clear the ball from her area as quickly as possible and it resulted in a few turnovers. That was not the case today. She was measured, precise, and importantly, dangerous when she opted to take the game on.

Nicola Stevens is so underrated. As a lead up forward, her work in taking the footy cleanly and in preventing North from exiting easily should be acknowledged.

Wasn’t convinced with the game of Georgia Gee in this one. Coughed the footy up a bit too much early when the Blues needed her skill to break through the North Melbourne wall across half-forward and the middle. The late goal was some nice wallpaper, though.

The Blues are really missing Grace Egan at the moment. She could have developed into an excellent running mate for Maddy Prespakis, who seemed to be playing the Patrick Cripps role of 2019/20 in putting the midfield on her back. I hope she gets some good help in 2023.

And that’ll do me for this one – North were comfortable winners in the end, but their failure to hit the scoreboard after dominating play in the first quarter will be a worry for Darren Crocker.

 

GOLD COAST (5. 9. 39) DEFEATED RICHMOND (5. 4. 34)

REVIEWER – JB EDDY

 

Once again, my excellent tipping has come undone by players not understanding their role in letting me flex my AFLW knowledge over my friends and family.

After a 2021 season that saw Richmond break into the middle of the pack and with some great young talent to complement their mature players, this should have been a win to get their season back on track after losing two straight to finals contenders Melbourne and Fremantle.

Gold Coast, on the other hand, came into this match having just notched up their first win since March 15, 2020, having gone winless in 2021 and never won two in a row.

So you can see why there would have been a few raised eyebrows at the end result, but anyone watching the game would be far from surprised, as Gold Coast converted midfield dominance into relentless surges forward, and if not for some questionable finishing would have crashed Richmond’s percentage hard enough to drop them below GWS’ 84%.

 

STICK TO THE BASICS

While AFLW in 2022 is of a much better overall standard than at any other previous season, it’s still evolving into the elite-level that we all hope it will reach. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the teams that tend to win aren’t necessarily the most innovative or tactically brilliant, but those that manage to do the basic things well. Things like locking in the tackles, picking the ball up below the knees without breaking stride, hitting a teammate with a handpass while both are moving at full pace.

While these are basic skills, they’re not exactly easy ones. Plenty of the men’s sides do have difficulty with them, and as a long-time North Melbourne supporter, I understand this better than most.

What I’m leading up to here though is that Gold Coast for the most part didn’t do anything especially brilliant in this game, except clean up their basic skills. Where Richmond were often double-grabbing at a handball or bobbling a quick pass, The Suns managed to collect cleanly and keep that gap to the chasing opponent.

There is a certain beauty in simplicity, and Gold Coast showed that often.

There is also predictability in simplicity though, so Richmond’s aggressive playmaking gave the Suns plenty of headaches throughout the match.

There was one basic skill that GC had trouble with though.

 

THE HIGH PRICE OF POOR ACCURACY

There were many gettable shots that GC wasted. Kicking 1.5 in the first quarter robbed them of a commanding lead.

The first rushed behind was a bit unlucky. A bomb to an open forward line from Sarah Perkins was collected by Richmond Defender Bethany Lynch, who took two steps before being brought down by livewire forward Ashanti Bush, and could probably have been given the free for holding the ball, but a spill and a handball that was never meant to be kept in play robbed GC of a shot at goal.

Sarah Perkins trusted her leg from about 30 out, only to find the post. It was the right call for a forward of her ability to make, but as she leaned back on the kick no amount of head movement to her right could convince the ball to curve in between the posts.

A great forward entry that found Surmon who delivered a perfect handball to a goalward-bound Rowbottom who collected the ball about 20 metres out, and rather than take a quick three steps to settle and kick it through from 15, she tried to burn off the Richmond defence, and did well enough, but Mon Conti put on the jets to close her down and force her to kick across the goal into space. Contrast that with Dargan’s dribbler in the second that made something from nothing and you can see how making the most of the chances kept Richmond in the game right up until the dying moments.

GC entered their forward 50 again, and with some good tap work by Perkins, Jacqui Yorsten picked the ball up from the deck with a perfectly smooth motion, got the ball onto her foot, but couldn’t quite settle, spraying to the left.

Another repeat entry found Surmon alone on the far-side boundary, and her attempt to kick against the natural curve of a right footy went too far over to her right and through for a point. A very gettable shot that should have given GC another one.

Just on the siren, Sarah Perkins launched from 55, but missed again to the left. It would have been a barnstormer of a goal, but in searching for distance, she cost herself accuracy. She did learn from her mistake here though, playing on quickly in the second quarter to bomb one in from a similar distance that dribbled through, just ahead of the chasing defenders.

For everyone playing at home, that’s six scoring shots that should have been goals. In the AFLW, if you can pile on a seven-goal opening term, you will almost certainly win the game. As it was, GC showed they were serious, but had left the door wide open for the Tigers.

On the plus side, Goal-line footage put a bit of a focus on a hero from my youth. I always wondered what Sarah Connor did after helping her son save the world from Skynet, now I know she has continued her pursuit of a just society by enforcing the AFL code of conduct from the goal square.

 

 

She also threatened to smash the goal-line cameras, claiming that they would one day evolve into sentient umpires that seek to take over the whole of the AFL and turn it into an unemotive machine dedicated to world domination, but backed down once the boundary umpire asked her if that wouldn’t be an improvement on the current administration.

 

THE FINISH

Gold Coast would have been justifiably frustrated going into the final term eight points down. They’d done a lot of great work, but a lack of finishing and some 50/50 calls that didn’t go their way, along with some fantastic ball movement from Richmond, meant they had a lot of work to do in the final term.

Gold Coast made the most of their stoppage dominance to quickly rush forward, but Richmond were energised by their lead. After a scrappy forward thrust, Alison Drennan hooked a kick that could have been a fortunate mistake, but rather seemed like she had spotted an open Surman and kicked across her body like she was trying to put her right toe into her left ear. Surman kicked a nice lob shot to get the margin back to a point. More forward movement let Perkins collect and find a goalwards-bound Hammond for an easy goal.

With just a few minutes left, Gold Coast sent players back into defence, which allowed Richmond to exit their own defensive area with the sort of ease they’d have loved earlier in the game. Constant forward pressure gave Gold Coast control. It looked like they went into their shells a bit, as Richmond rallied to push forward, but just couldn’t find a way to kick a major.

Gold coast held on by keeping the Tigers on the backfoot for all but the last minute, and by then it was all too late for it to matter very much.

 

QUEEN CONTI V SIDE-STEPPIN’ DRENNAN

While Conti had to contend with some close attention from Stanton, it was Drennin who took the playmaker role for the Suns, forcing Conti to counter her work around the middle while battling for her own space to separate herself from the tag.

Conti still had a good game, racking up 20 touches to go with six clearances, but didn’t have the space to do the wheeling around at the back of the pack to find an open teammate as often as she has had in the past, with Stanton shutting down that movement very effectively.

Conti still managed to have a huge influence on the game though and notched up ten tackles to go with her other stats.

It was almost enough, but the Stanton-Drenning combo was just a bit too much for the Richmon midfield to contend with, especially with the silver service Lauren Bella was given them at stoppages.

Drennin took BOG honours with 27 disposals, five tackles and nine clearances in her best outing that I can remember.

 

RUCKCRAFT 101

I don’t want to be one of those boring old bastards complaining about the decline in old-fashioned ruckwork, because comparing the work rate of the rucks of old to now is like comparing a barely-mobile trebuchet to an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. Rucks now need to act like a tall midfielder/forward as well as take the taps, so it’s not surprising to see a decline in the ability of rucks to link up with the players at their feet.

Not so for Lauren Bella.

Her tap work is as good as you will find, and her 21 hitouts compared to her opponent’s 11 was massive, especially considering she shared duty with Dupuy for parts of the match. I don’t just mean Bella’s work is good for the AFLW standard either, I mean that if you can show me a ruck in any league that can connect with their mids with such consistency, let me know so I can bring them into my fantasy team.

Now, I’m not suggesting she’s an outside chance to take a run in the men’s league, just that her ability to gauge where her players are, where her opponent is jumping and coordinate a tap on a moving ball to hit up her teammates is the sort of split-second situational awareness that makes me wonder if she couldn’t have had a gig as a RAAF pilot if she was a few inches shorter.

It’s a joy to watch, and well worth checking out if you’re an aspiring ruck, especially as Bella is only 21 and likely to improve even more as she gets seasons under her belt.

That’s not to say Seymour didn’t do well. She was giving up 12 centimetres to Bella and had no supporting ruck to help her out. She’s a plucky player, but the Tigers could only look on with envy at the ease with which the Suns cleared the ball from stoppages.

 

BOHANNA-PERKINS FORWARD COMBO

Perkins is one of those players that people love to put up as a feel-good story, as well as one they put up to use as an example of the standard of the league.

For my money, her awareness and bodywork more than makes up for her lower mobility in comparison to some of the other forwards in the league. She’s a good mark, a long kick with decent accuracy, and her quick hands reward her smaller teammates that run by to feed off her.

As mentioned earlier, it’s basic footy. A tall forward brings the ball to ground in front of them, gathers and handballs off to a teammate running goalward. It’s bread and butter forward craft and has been going on for as long as defenders have managed to give the forwards a free scalp massage with their elbows while attempting to spoil a mark that they were never going to stop.

This is where Bohanna’s reading of Perkins play style came in so handy.

Bohanna gives Perkins the space she needs to split the defender’s focus, and gets her own space while doing so. If Perkins moves away from goal to use her booming boot, Bohanna would move closer up, but on the opposite side from Perkins so that space opens up in front of her to lead into (or over the top of the defence, which have to come away from the goal line to cover Bohanna as a marking option).

Likewise, if Perkins is in the goal square, Bohanna moves up the ground to make sure that a zone defence needs to split its attention.

This also allows the smaller brigade to have open lanes to run through, and collect a quick disposal from a contest, as we saw Cheyenne Hammond do in the final moments.

 

NEXT UP?

Richmond will be very eager to avenge their loss when they take on the Western Bulldogs at Whitten oval. The Bulldogs have a catch-up game against a very in-form Fremantle on Tuesday, so the short break, a very challenging game and the talent in the Richmond side looks like it’ll be too much for the dogs to notch up their first win of the season (assuming they don’t get one against Freo).

Gold Coast will face their biggest test yet, as they take on Melbourne at Casey fields. The Demons have turned their home ground into a fortress, playing the swirling breeze and lumpy middle as if they were in their own back yard. I think the Dees will have a bit too much for the Suns on their own deck, so could notch up a close win.