Apologies for the delay this week, guys. Been off adding another little Mongrel to the family.

No mucking around – straight into the reviews, with a couple of delayed games first.

 

ROUND THREE CATCHUP

GOLD COAST AND  WESTERN BULLDOGS  – DRAW 6. 5. 41 APIECE

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

I made the bold claim on the A3 Footy Podcast last Thursday that this game had the hallmarks to be ‘must watch football’ – it made sense at the time, given that both the Gold Coast and the Bulldogs sit outside the top six and seemingly barging down the door to overtake a very vulnerable Collingwood in sixth spot.

I can’t speak for you readers, but I thought this game lived up to the pre-match billing of being must-watch.

The Suns, fresh off an absolute belting from Brisbane in the QClash, set the scene with their pressure early and forced the Dogs into numerous turnovers and by three-quarter time, had them on the canvas through a combination of strong contested work and sloppy unforced errors and ill-discipline by the opposition.

But the thing I have loved about this Dogs team all season long so far is their heart, they have proven time and time again that despite the odds, and despite the short turnarounds in games, they don’t die wondering.

Four goals down at the final break, no side have ever come back from a margin that steep, but the Dogs put their head down and found four goals in the last after kicking two goals in the first three terms.

They could’ve stolen it on the back of a set shot from Bonnie Toogood, which went out on the full – but in truth, it feels like neither side truly deserved to lose this game, both teams did well to absorb the other side’s pressure in the opening half, and both teams showed their magic in front of the big sticks in the second half.

 

BIG GAME CHARLIE

Not that there were any questions to start with, but any queries about what Charlie Rowbottom adds to this Gold Coast team were taken care of as the teenage sensation put in her best game to date for the Suns.

The conditions at Metricon Stadium were greasy and greasy conditions mean that the contested possession beasts come into their own and both sides had their beasts – I’ll touch on the Bulldogs’ one shortly, but for four quarters, the work that Rowbottom put in around the centre bounce and through stoppages was uber-consistent.

Leigh Montagna had the notion during the game that Charlie Rowbottom had surged her way to the top the favourites board in the Rising Star Award, and on the back of this performance, it’s hard to argue against the claims.

There aren’t many players in the AFLW who have the size and power that Rowbottom possesses and with each week, she’s backing herself in to win that contested ball and it’s through that which helps the Suns break out of clearances. Out of her 25 disposals, 17 of them were contested possessions, which speaks volumes about her importance to this team.

Another thing that may get overlooked with Rowbottom’s game is her contested marking, she took a few strong grabs in the second half and to have a first-year teenager stepping up in a big way is massive for the Suns going forward. The seven tackles as well outlines her defensive pressure as well and the Suns showed plenty of that.

As for the goal, the 50 metres was warranted given Elisabeth Georgostathis crept off her mark before the umpire called play on – she deserved the goal anyway to cap off what was an incredible game.

Charlie Rowbottom has officially arrived as a player.

 

KIRSTY LAMB – FOURTH QUARTER HERO

If you’re not fed up with me talking about Kirsty Lamb this season, then more power to you.

The Dogs don’t get back into this game without the work from Kirsty Lamb in the last quarter. It’s common knowledge that Lamb has been battling a foot injury all year, which makes her performances this year all the more bloody remarkable.

It may not have been her best game for the Bulldogs this season, but the way that she willed herself to every contest she can get to is a testament to her as a player and to the league as one of the hardest-working players in the competition. This game proved

She was sent to the forward line in the last quarter, and with that a furious text message by my colleague Alex Catalano was sent to the A3 messenger chat about why the hell Nathan Burke sent her inside forward 50.

Within a few minutes, that question was answered as she kept her feet in a one-on-one against Shannon Danckert and snapped it from about 35 metres out and trickled through, Cat took that message back almost immediately after that goal. I was quick to let him know about it too.

But it wasn’t just the goal that helped her stand out, but it was the important contests to keep the Suns away from the ball that helped get the Dogs back into the contest, there was a play that saw her dive for the football on the wing to keep the ball moving for the Dogs.

There were also some big momemts involving her with the Suns captain Hannah Dunn that saw the Dog come up trumps and resulted in scoring opportunities and could have lead to more.

But this does lead me to this.

 

IS HANNAH DUNN THE RIGHT PLAYER TO LEAD THE SUNS?

Now before people get stuck into me, this is not a crack about Hannah Dunn the person. I like to talk about football and keep it like that.

I looked at her game in this one and looked at how she played on field and think about what she does in the Suns’ backline. The stat line reads a solid game – 12 disposals, three tackles, two marks, that’s all fine and gravy.

But then I think about the rest of the captains around the league and then compare – I watch players like Ellie Blackburn, Brianna Davey, Hayley Miller and Emma Swanson and they all do their best – regardless of their team’s standing on the ladder – to put the girls on their back when the going gets tough.

Maybe It’s a bit harsh to compare her to midfielders, but I don’t feel that same presence with her. Well, how about comparing her to players like Breanna Koenen and Hannah Priest then? Koenen sacrifices herself to play whatever role she gets given to her and Priest has been doing all she can in a struggling Saints team?

I’m not seeing any of that with Dunn. I spoke to our local Suns’ man Brett Hodgson after the game and he shared similar feelings with me, in the sense that when the Dogs had the game on their terms, Dunn struggled to impact the game and was left ultimately chasing tail for the most part of the game, particularly in the last quarter.

We’ve seen the Dogs organise their defence well behind the ball for most of this game, but where was the organisation from the Suns in that last quarter? The Dogs kicked at least two goals from the ball bouncing in the open square and failed to employ the goal-keeper role down back both of those times.

As a leader, you need to do better and right now, I am struggling to see that with Dunn. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong places, but I’d feel better placed about the Suns if the captaincy was handed to someone like Jamie Stanton, a selfless, team-first footballer. We’ve seen in past weeks she’s been doing the run-with jobs and it’s worked to full effect.

Or even see what the vice-captain in Bess Keaney can do as a leader, She was very impressive in mopping up at half back, her composure with the ball in hands and her unassuming work ethic to push back in defence was underrated for mine. There’s probably others there, but I’d rather allow Dunn to play her role in defence without the extra pressure of being a captain.

 

THE KIDS WILL BE ALRIGHT – PART 2

When I covered the Bulldogs/Adelaide game a week and a half ago, I made mention of the works of a couple of the kids Elizabeth Snell and Issy Pritchard.

This week, allow me to indulge you with the works of two former first-round draft picks in Nell Morris-Dalton and Jess “Freakin” Fitzgerald, we talked about Kirsty Lamb being the fourth quarter hero, but these two were right behind them as being massive for the Dogs in the last when they needed players to stand up.

Morris-Dalton’s two goals were massive and well-rewarded considering the body of work she was doing in the lead up. About 24 hours earlier at the same venue, Tayla Harris was plucking contested marks from every which way.

Seeing Bonnie Toogood constantly double-teamed in this one meant that this was Nell’s time to step up and I thought by large, she was massive; her defensive pressure all throughout the night was very good and on a night where the conditions weren’t ideal for the take the game on through the corridor game style the Dogs like to play, she was vital in winning contested ball and moving the ball forward.

As far as Fitzgerald goes, watching her play as a midfielder week in and week out, you can see she looks better with every game she plays. Her goal in the second term was huge in the context of keeping the Dogs in with a sniff and it came on the back of good game sense – she goes to pick that ball up, she’s in trouble and it’s either a minor score or no score at all.

The last quarter was the standout however from her, as she won some important contested ball, and her sharp hands enabled the Dogs to break clear and get the ball inside 50. A lot of the credit will come back to the senior heads in Lamb and Blackburn – Lamb I’ve already covered, and Blackburn really came into her own again in the fourth term and did what she could to get the team over the line.

But it would be a crime not to mention the hard work of Jessica “Freakin” Fitzgerald – a star in the making.

 

THE FORWARD LINE POTENCY OF THE SUNS

This game makes it the third time this season that the Suns have broken the 40-point barrier. It’s amazing to think that considering the 2021 season that they have had.

Part of it comes down to the ball movement that the Suns have brought in place; it feels more direct and direct footy means that it’s more likely to catch the opposition in an uncomfortable position and the Dogs gave away a few free kicks as a result of that.

The key forward pair of Tara Bohanna and Sarah Perkins were big in this one, but it would be remiss not to mention Tori Groves-Little in this part as well.

Bohanna has been in sensational touch since joining the Suns this year, confirming what some of us already knew when she was dominating in the VFLW last year – she can seriously hang at the top flight. Her knowledge of the game, athleticism and reading of the play is fantastic and the Suns last year were crying out for a forward that can finish as consistently as she can.

Perkins set the tone early with a great tackle on Naomi Ferres in the opening 20 seconds, which led to her first and only goal of the match, but I always felt that presence any time the ball went forward. There was another great tackle on Katie Lynch that resulted in a scoring opportunity and the slippery footy meant that she was always in with the chance to pressure the defenders into turnover.

And whilst Groves-Little only registered the three disposals in this game, it’s the little things that people take note of – the shepherd they produced to get help see Perkins’ goal bounce through was crucial, the fact they stayed back whilst the Dogs defenders converged to the ball, which led to their goal in the third quarter and the manic tackling pressure they applied to go along with that – they are a dangerous player if you allow them the space.

These three, alongside Kate Surman – who was a lot quieter in comparison to previous games – form the nucleus of what has been a very exciting Suns’ forward line so far this year and I can’t wait to see more of it in the future.

 

OTHER BITS

The first half of Lauren Ahrens was huge, was very good in playing the extra player to contest every time the ball headed Bonnie Toogood’s way and intercepted dutifully – finished with 14 disposals for the game.

Speaking of Toogood, her run up to the kick was horrible, it was always going to hook as soon as you leave your line – would she have been better placed if she had popped the kick up as close to the goal line as possible? Just something to think about for next time.

Best game I’ve seen Viv Saad play in defence this season, still had a few moments where she dropped sitters, but the thing most noticeable about her game is that she’s backing herself in to be in the right spots and backing herself in to compete and nullify the opposition.

The forward pressure from Britney Gutknecht and Sarah Hartwig has been very good to watch this year. Gutknecht starting to improve in terms of her positioning as a forward and got two goals on the back of holding her width as a forward.

Great to see Lucy Single back in the side for the first time this year. Had a very strong start to the game, she tapered horribly in the second and third quarters, but found herself in the action again in the fourth quarter – competed very well.

It was a massive last quarter for Celine Moody – I’ve talked about her significant improvement this year around the ground, but her cleanliness at ground level in the last quarter in a high-pressure environment is going to get overlooked by so many.

The contested work of Claudia Whitfort this season has been fun to watch. I made a comment a few weeks ago when the Suns beat the Cats and mentioned how strong she worked on the inside, she’s proving herself to be a valuable piece of the Suns’ midfield brigade this season.

The key defenders in Katie Lynch and Ellyse Gamble allowed the ball out the back too easily on a number of occasions – Bohanna’s two goals; the first came off the back of the ball slipping through Lynch’s hands and the second basically through Gamble over-committing to the contest and going to ground.

I liked Jacqui Dupuy’s work playing as the secondary ruck and pinch-hitting key forward, every time the ball came her way inside 50, she was looking very dangerous and took a few impressive marks inside 50 – still not sure about that paid mark after the half time siren, felt like ages the siren went before she completed the mark.

Issy Grant’s game was enormous, another player continuing to shine through with her rapid development – could be in line to be the club’s most improved player at season’s end. Barely lost a one-on-one and plays with such urgency.

Seven possessions between the pair of Dee Heslop and Daisy D’Arcy, but the pressure they put on was enormous, 11 tackles between them – have always appreciated Heslop’s tough approach to the game and D’Arcy is still young in the caper.

Elisabeth Georgostathis backed up her career-game against the Cats with another solid 19 disposal game – the kicking was poor at times, but her work-rate never wavered and continued to get on with the job – a great patch of form for her heading into the massive game on Sunday.

And with all that, it’ll do me for this one. Both sides now sit half a game behind the sixth-placed Collingwood and with the Dogs scheduled in to take them on at Victoria Park Sunday in a must-win game.

The Suns will no doubt be reeling from this; it feels like one that got away from them. They take on St Kilda on Sunday at Sandringham’s Trevor Barker Beach Oval – a game that will see them likely to take them to their fourth win of the season and if the Pies drop their game to the Dogs, it’ll have them right in the Finals mix with a couple of games to go.

We’re set for a great finish to the season for these three clubs, that’s for sure.

 

 

ROUND FIVE CATCHUP

GWS (6. 5. 41) DEFEATED ST KILDA (5. 9. 39)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

Wow…. sometimes you start watching a game and you get the feeling that it might be something special.

I did not have that feeling when I started watching this game at all. It was messy. There were more fumbles in the first five minutes than I’ve seen in any game this year, and I thought I was in for a long night watching something that was never going to reach any heights.

In a sense, I was right, but the tension of the last quarter and a kick after the siren to win the game kind of wallpapers over what was a pretty poor game when we talk about skills and execution.

 

THE FRANTIC FINISH

The good stuff first – Cat Smith… way to stand up and deliver under pressure! No, I am not talking about the relatively easy 25 metre shot for goal to ice the game. I am talking about the contested mark just outside 50 that set it all up. That was the moment that won the Giants this game. If she spills that mark, we get a rolling maul outside 50 and I doubt that anything comes of that for the Giants. Whilst the goal will be celebrated, and good on the Giants for picking themselves up off the canvas, it was the mark that impressed me most.

Great job, Cat Smith.

 

NOW… THE QUESTIONABLE UMPIRING

Do the Saints have a right to feel cheated in this contest?

I reckon they might, but as a footy fan, I feel bloody-well cheated. You hate to see a game decided by umpiring. Absolutely hate it, but that’s what we got in this one, with the umps red hot on the whistle in the last quarter – it looked as though the pressure well and truly got to them as well.

Firstly, two dangerous tackle free kicks were paid that were so ridiculously soft that we should probably ban tackling altogether. One went to Alyce Parker, who basically threw everything she had at the footy in an attempt to kick it, which sent her falling backwards with even a feather-touch of a hold on her jumper. The umpire was sucked in.

The second tackle was worse, with Tarni White wrapped up and lowered to the ground – yes, lowered with care, yet the umpire found that to be dangerous as well. This rule is fast becoming a joke and decisions like these are more the umpires ensuring that they don’t miss something that may be considered dangerous after the fact than calling what they actually see.

Stop guessing. Stop dicking around. Call what you see and cut the shit!

And then we have the 50 metre penalty.

I’m sitting here an hour after the game – none of the Mongrel writers really know what it was for. At first, I thought it was for the ball being knocked out of Smith’s hands as she ran back to take her kick. Nope.

Then I thought it must have been a hold downfield. Nope.

Then another angle showed Kate Shierlaw wrestling to try and get past her opponent to get downfield and get involved in the play – did something else happen there? I am not going to edit this after it all comes out because that would give the impression that supporters knew what was going on. They didn’t. I didn’t. The commentators didn’t. No one did!

In the end, it was an umpiring decision that cost the Saints their first win of the season. Good on the Giants for pushing hard when all looked lost, but to lose that way… it stinks.

 

CORA

She’s 93 years old, has he best short-step run in the game, and now sits second on the goal kicking list for the season despite the fact she plays on a team that can barely kick goals.

I don’t know how many years she has left playing in AFLW, but with her intense look and no bullshit way of going about it, I hope it is at least a couple. She could teach three quarters of the league about giving a damn about a contest and – you may want to sit down for this one – I think I even saw her handball in this game. Yep, a deliberate handball to a teammate.

I was shocked, too.

She finished this game with three goals and looked dangerous every time she went near it. I still think it is a massive issue for future planning that your best forward is drawing a pension, but we’ll save that for another time. All hail Cora!

 

THE PARKER CLEARANCES

After having no clearances in the first quarter, Alyce Parker went to work in the next three periods, racking up nine in total for the game.

She was way too much to handle for the Saints, who tried to keep her quiet with some attention from Jacqui Vogt, but Parker saw her off and was a huge factor in the outcome of the game until the Saints put their captain, Hannah Priest onto her to get some measure of control.

The damage may have already been done, with Parker’s power football (though not clean disposal by any stretch of the imagination) helped GWS set up a small lead that would prove vital down the stretch.

 

TOO BASIC?

At one point I saw Molly McDonald express a bit of frustration at not getting the ball out wide after having made really good position with hard run. I don’t want to go back and look because I am lazy, but I feel it was Tilly Lucas-Rodd who opted for the quick hack forward with no real direction as opposed to looking and finding an option.

This happens way too much for the Saints and I reckon they may just leave it up to one or two people to do the talking on-field. We’ve all been to the footy, right? Most have played at some level? Your coaches always tell you to be vocal – talk to teammates, point, direct, advise and encourage. It is in those moments that a teammate sees a better option out wide that it becomes everyone’s role to let the player with the footy know their teammate is there. I get the feeling many of the St Kilda players just shut up.

Both teams were guilty of playing really basic footy in this one. It was as though it was wet weather footy played in dry conditions, but at some point, the reward has to outweigh the risk, and players who are making great space to get by themselves need to be rewarded. Otherwise, what is the point of running hard to make space.

Molly McDonald, I feel your pain, mate.

 

TARNI WHITE STANDS UP… A BIT

Warning – Captain Hindsight has entered the building, and he is loaded up on advice.

Well, Tarni White had three shots at goal in the last few minutes and converted one of them to give the Saints a lead. Then she found a way to get involved again, and again, but those forays ended up being fruitless at a time the Saints really required some… fruit, I guess.

I’m not sure whether it was a rush of blood, excitement to put the game away, or a sense of panic, but a short or even a sideways option with the lead and a chance to kill some clock would have been the wiser option with a minute or so left.

As it stands, Tarni went high, long, and not too handsome and gave the Giants a chance to rebound. A cooler head and a short option would have eaten another 20 seconds off the clock and made things very difficult for the Giants.

/Captain Hindsight

 

OTHER BITS

Liked the game of Ally Dellaway. She was a rock for the Giants early in the piece and was one of the few to look like she was composed with the footy in hand.

Nicola Barr was important, as well. She was dangerous inside 50, finishing with a goal and a nice assist to Cora the 98 year old dynamo for her goal to open the last quarter.

Ten tackles for Alicia Eva, but that out of bounds on the full in the dying minutes was close to unforgivable. Lucky the Saints had a bit of ‘deer in the headlights’ about them, or she would be ruing that poor kick running down the wing.

Really enjoyed the Greiser v Randall clash. Greiser kicked a nice goal, but Randall is a complete warrior and seeing her take the game on was excellent.

Finally, why don’t the Saints look to use Nicola Xenos more? She seems to earn her goals with little assistance and when the Saints are moving the ball, they seem to bypass her in favour of much less skilled teammates. She can use the footy well – use her well, too!

 

And there we go. A steal? A dramatic steal, perhaps? Nonetheless, the Giants win against a St Kilda team that simply looks like it is cursed. Does Georgia Patrikios not like Novavax?

 

 

ADELAIDE (3. 7. 25) DEFEATED FREMANTLE (2. 4. 16)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

One look at this score line and you may not think much about the game being one for the time capsule, but if you watched the game unfold the way I did, then it’d be fair to say that this was a game with a finals-like intensity.

Both sides were missing their stars – Kiara Bowers hurting her knee during the week at training for Freo (thankfully not too serious), whilst both Chelsea Randall and Erin Phillips were out for the Adelaide, but that meant nothing as we were treated to a fierce game of football.

There may be every chance we see these two sides go head-to-head again in the finals approximately a month from now, but going by this game alone, the Crows showed why they are striving to be the benchmark side of the competition.

After a very even opening half in which both sides had their share of the ball inside their respective forward 50s of the ground, the Crows found another gear around the contest in the second half and restricted the Dockers to just three inside 50s for the entire half.

The Crows meanwhile piled on the inside 50s and had recorded a whopping 24 inside 50s in comparison. A wayward third term that saw them kick five behinds kept the door widely ajar for the Dockers and was gladly accepted by Hayley Miller right before three-quarter time.

But the Crows continued to plug away at their forward half dominance and finally got some reward for effort in the early goings of the last quarter, the Dockers had some chances with the ball, but poor decisions all throughout the game cost them in the end.

In a way, the nine-point winning margin flattered the Dockers due to the Crows’ inaccuracy. However, the efforts of their defensive unit meant that they kept this game tight all throughout the match.

 

PAIR OF MIDFIELD ACES

There was a time, a few years ago when Erin Phillips had been under injury duress or missing due to injury that the Crows would struggle and would bring out the critics saying the Crows were too reliant on Erin Phillips through the middle and forward. I know that I was one of them.

Having said that, watching the work of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff through stoppages and across general play, long gone is the notion that Adelaide are too reliant on one player – there are others that will be mentioned for their work as we go along, but as far as how Adelaide win this game, the buck starts with these two.

It’s hard to pick out who was better, because both have different styles when they line up together in the midfield. Marinoff we’ve come to expect as the inside midfielder and contested specialist who can also rack up tackling numbers at the click of your fingers. However, we’re seeing more of her now getting on the outside and delivering the ball inside 50 with such precision that we’re now starting to hail her as a terrific balanced midfielder.

Hatchard over the past few years has really honed her craft on being that player that can work herself from contest to contest and through her smarts of knowing where to position herself to either receive the handball or be that next link in Adelaide’s short kicking chain, she becomes a consistent ball winner.

One slight criticism I have on Hatchard currently is her kicking – I found out a few times as the game progressed that she gets the ball, turns on a dime and throws the ball on her boot without thinking; this is usually around the forward half of the ground, and this is where it favoured the Freo defenders.

But there’s no faulting the work ethic that sha brings and you need to look no further than her first five minutes of the last quarter; she was pushing as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen in this competition to get things clicking forward of centre and they got two goals on the end of it.

Just as well, there is no questioning how much damage both players bring to the table at Adelaide. The pair combined for 61 disposals (Hatchard 31 and Marinoff 30) – Hatchard took eight marks, outlining her link up play organisation within Adelaide’s system, whilst Marinoff led all players for clearances with five for the match.

Crows’ fans will have their fingers crossed that neither of them buck off to Port Adelaide over the off-season, these two are vast becoming the cornerstones of this Adelaide side.

 

HALL OF CAIN

The Dockers dominated tackles as per usual, but you could sense they still missed the presence of Kiara Bowers in the middle. I say this because he Dockers lost the contested possession count by 13 by the full time siren.

However, what the Bowers injury meant was that it opened up an opportunity for someone to fill in through the Dockers’ engine room – that opportunity was handed to their number one wing option in Steph Cain and it resulted in her having her best game in Fremantle colours.

Cain featured in the centre bounces more often in this game and took to it as if she was a veteran presence in the centre square for years. We’ve all seen what she can do on the wing, holding her width and providing a good outlet pass with her speed and neat ball use.

Playing as a midfielder enabled her to push back and help the Dockers’ defenders without necessarily holding width and there were plenty of occasions where she handily assisted her teammates in mopping the ball out of defence, as well as playing the strong hand of extracting the ball out of stoppages and applying the defensive pressure around the ground.

A fun fact here, before this game, Steph Cain never reached 20 disposals in a game. As they always say around here; there’s a first time for everything and for Cain, this was arguably her best game yet – 21 disposals, six tackles, three clearances and a pair of marks from her.

All that remains to be seen now is how Trent Cooper will play her if Kiara Bowers comes back into the fray next week.

 

PONTER-RIFIC

I’ve been a bit of a critic of Danielle Ponter over the past couple of years. Whilst it has to be acknowledged that she is a hell of a player, the problem with her is the consistency – when she’s on, she’s red hot, but when she’s not, it feels as is Adelaide are playing with one less player on the ground.

This was about as far away from the latter as it gets for Ponter in this one, because she was sensational. On an afternoon where goals were hard to come by from both sides, Ponter was inevitably the difference between the two sides in the end.

She had two goals next to her name, maybe could’ve had more given the opportunities that presented themselves, but there is no questioning her work-rate and willingness to force the opposition into turnover – there was a tackle she made on Amy Franklin in the last quarter which exemplified her desperation to win the ball.

What’s great about her game is that she’s willing to push up and help with the connect between the midfield and forward groups that is extremely hard to master in women’s football. She’s got the sharp hands to keep the ball moving and she’s not afraid to find an option inside 50 if it’s on (something for Gemma Houghton to take notes on).

By the time she lined up for that kick that sailed about 20 metres away from the behind post and out of the full, you could just sense that she was tired from all the running and all the leading she was doing to get her hands on the football.

When you look at the stats line of 20 disposals, six marks and 2.1 it’s hard to argue against that being a very good return in a low scoring game.

 

STEADY VERRIER

As a defensive unit, the Dockers need to be commended for their efforts. Giving up 43 inside 50s for only conceding 25 points is a mammoth effort by any means of the imagination – if it was a team like St Kilda, Carlton, GWS or West Coast, then we’re possibly talking about records here.

Some players to quickly highlight here; Ange Stannett was brilliant in repelling the ball out time and time again. Jess Low had the job on Ashleigh Woodland and – despite a goal that should’ve really been a free kick because she dropped the ball on the ground before she got a boot to it – minimalised her impact, despite giving up some size to do it.

However, I want to touch on the game of Sarah Verrier, because for a player who’s only in her second year in the AFLW, to come into an established line-up and stand up against what is a premiership-calibre team, is simply awesome.

Verrier has played every game since being drafted at the end of the 2020 season and since rapidly built her game and her confidence up to become a very steady and reliable intercept marking defender.

What makes this even more impressive is that without Janelle Cuthbertson in this team, it’s enabled her to really stand up and take on that responsibility and the way she’s taken the challenge on has been simply fun to watch this year.

She’s top three at the club for intercept possessions, averaging five per game, but I imagine that would’ve spiked with the number of times she was able to fill the hole in defence anytime the Crows were on the move from defence to attack – 19 disposals, five tackles and three marks makes it a very impressive stat line to read.

 

THE ENERGIZER BUNNY

It’s easy to overlook Rachelle Martin in this team for several reasons – the star presence of Marinoff and Hatchard being one, and the fact that she’s incredibly tiny being a distant number two, but when you watch the Crows play and how she plays individually, it is increasingly hard to ignore just the amount of work she puts into this team.

Once again, Abbey Holmes is wrong when she said that size matters in football, because in certain situations, it does matter, just go ask Caleb Daniel what he reckons about playing on key forwards when he shouldn’t be.

But Rachelle Martin does not situate herself across the defensive half in the way that Daniel has over the past few years, you see her around the middle of the ground, where she enjoys harassing the opposition and the bone-crunching tackles and on several occasions, she popped up at the most critical moments when Fremantle looked like they were going to get a run on.

There is a real energetic approach to her game, it reminds me of all those years of seeing the Energizer Bunny in the adverts and seeing the little critter run circles around whatever it was it was doing – same thing applies with Martin, because even in the last quarter, she was applying great pressure.

The only player that averages more tackles at the Crows is Marinoff – and we all know how well she can tackle, but Martin was the leading tackler on the ground for both teams in this one, laying seven of them to go along with 11 disposals, looking particularly dangerous across the forward half.

I did receive some complaints about my AFLW all-favourites side from a few Crows supporters and for one comment in particular – fair enough, but I’d have to say hands down Rachelle Martin is my favourite Crow right now. A player of her size that can tackle and provide spark across the forward half of the ground – I love seeing that.

 

OTHER BITS

We haven’t made mention of the Adelaide back line yet, but as per usual, Sarah Allan was terrific, Marijana Rajcic mopped up very well, Najwa Allen was rebounding very well and Chelsea Biddell is continuing to enjoy a renaissance year, intercepting plenty that came her way.

Whilst on the game of Allan, let’s appreciate the run of Mikaela Tuhakaraina and the chase that Allan gave her in that third term – should’ve been rewarded for holding the ball, but I love that she’s continuing to take the game on.

The physicality of Eloise Jones was simply brilliant to watch in this one. Those that know me will know I enjoy the bumps and the fair hits and Jones was dishing out plenty to go along with her usually exquisite skills by foot.

With Cain playing more on-ball, the game of Airlie Runnalls on the wing was massive. She holds her line, has the aerobic capacity to push back and to push forward and links up really well with her teammates – a career-best game from her.

One of the best games I’ve seen from Teah Charlton so far in her young AFLW career. Phillips out of the team looks like it’s opened the door for her to play as the third wheel behind Marinoff and Hatchard and took it on head-first, displaying a strong body and sharp hands around the contest.

Laura Pugh worked hard for her 21 disposals, but made a few basic errors with her ball use, it was lucky the Crows didn’t make her pay for them, because they could’ve been very critical turnovers in the opening half.

Weren’t as many contested marks this week by Caitlin Gould and Montana McKinnon, but you could’ve still felt their presence in the air both around the ground and in the ruck contests; the pair smashed Mim Strom and Gemma Houghton in the ruck in this one 20-9.

Structurally, no Roxy Roux hurt the Dockers in this one, part of me felt like Houghton looked lost as that second ruck, not knowing what to do after the initial contest and it played into the hands of the Adelaide midfielders a fair bit.

A quiet game in comparison to recent weeks for Hayley Miller, but you could feel that she was trying to do everything she can to get herself into the match and her goal in the closing stages of the third term will attest to that – just an off night from the captain.

Strong work by Hannah Munyard to come back from what looked like a bad ankle injury, finished the game with 14 disposals, but positioned herself well across the Adelaide wall in the second half and showed plenty of dash.

No scoreboard impact this week from Ebony Antonio, but seeing her play further afield to try and get some ball movement happening for Freo was very good to watch, a couple of times she played out as that get out of jail kick and tried to get things working forward of centre.

And with all that said, that’s me done for this game. A big win away from home for the Crows and it has them sitting nicely in the box seat for the minor premiers – a depleted Collingwood side at home next week, before playing St Kilda at Moorabbin means they will most likely finish the year at 9-1

The Dockers will play Melbourne at Optus Stadium next week in a match that will most likely decide who will get second spot on the AFLW ladder and find themselves sitting out the first week of finals alongside the Crows.

 

 

GEELONG (5. 3. 33) DEFEATED RICHMOND (1. 4. 10)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

CONTI V MCDONALD AND THE GEELONG HUNT

This is a section in two parts.

The first centres on the contest in the middle between Amy McDonald and Mon Conti.

It seems that everywhere you turn when it comes to AFLW, you hear the name of Mon Conti, and for good reason, too. She had a phenomenal start to the season and has been the standout player for the Tigers this season. Her ability to extract the footy, suddenly change direction and find herself in space is something she does better that anyone else in the league, but there is another who is putting in some huge efforts this year and isn’t getting anywhere near the plaudits she deserves.

And that’s Amy McDonald.

These two went head-to-head at a lot of the stoppages around the ground as well as in the centre, with the honours being split on many occasions. When we look at the season overall, Conti is +3 in disposals on McDonald, but the Geelong star is +1.8 tackles per game, throwing herself into the contest.

With Tessa Lavey sitting this one out, the Tigers were only ever going to have one real ball-winner to worry about, and that was Conti.

Now, we get to the second part of this section – the hunt.

Conti’s lone hand in the middle meant that she entered this game with a big red X on her back. Whenever she touched the footy, the Cats swarmed around her, resulting in far more dump kicks and turnovers than we’re used to seeing from the Richmond star. Chief amongst her harassers was Rachael Kearns, who seemed to take great delight in crashing into Conti whenever the opportunity presented. She was closely followed by McDonald, with Rebecca Webster making sure she wasn’t being left out of the action.

If the targeting (fairly) of Conti was not a team directive, I’d be very surprised. It was one that worked a treat and if the Cats are to progress as a team, intelligent coaching like this and good execution of the plan are exactly what has to occur.

For McDonald, she cruised around for 26 touches to lead all players and added seven tackles to her tally, as well. If not for her awkward kicking style, I reckon she would be one of the faces of the league at the moment.

 

CYBORG DARBY

There was a player for North over the last few years named Kate Gillespie-Jones, who had arms like a bodybuilder and was quite… hmmm… mechanical in the way she moved around the field. I have this sneaking suspicion that they have unscrewed her head from her body and replaced it with that of Kate Darby, and possibly added in an upgrade or two along the way.

Cyborg Darby played a pivotal role in this game, not only snagging a goal and contesting hard inside 50, but also providing the Cats with a great “get out of jail” option down the line. She was able to take string marks leading down the wing on a couple of occasions that seemed to open the game right up for the Cats, allowing them to get the ball out over the back of the slow defensive set of the Tigers.

There was a third occasion where she didn’t take that GooJ mark, but her positioning was so good that her opponent had no choice but to give away a free kick to prevent her from marking it.

I am not usually a fan of the mechanical players. You can kind of tell that footy didn’t come all that natural to them, but Darby was excellent in this one, and as a result, I am going to shut my big, fat mouth about the mechanical players and give her the respect she deserves…

… but if I am ever in a bar and she walks in and says she needs my clothes, boots, and motorcycle, I’ll probably just give them to her. I know how these things end.

 

HARD AT IT

I mentioned Rachael Kearns in the section above, and highlighted the way she went after Mon Conti when the chance arose. I didn’t think she cared who had the ball, as long as she could crash into them in some way, shape, or form.

About a week or so ago, several of the Mongrel writers were watching as Tayla Harris crashed packs and took bodies with her. I asked the question as to whether anyone had ever sat her on her backside in AFLW?

After a moment or two, most responded that they’d never seen it occur and we wondered who would have the capacity to do it. The name of Tahlia Randall came up and I agree – she would run through a brick wall. I reckon Chloe Scheer would drop the shoulder into her, and Eloise Jones would try and end up on her ass as a result, but my pick was Kearns, and I reckon she would relish the opportunity, as well.

Her attack on the player with the footy borders on maniacal. If she gets them with an arm, hip, shoulder, leg, torso… it doesn’t seem to matter to her as long as she gets to make hard physical contact. I would have been terrified of her in my early years of high school… and maybe even right now.

Seriously though, I love the way she has gone about honing her craft with the Cats and can see her becoming more of a weapon as she gains more experience. And if she happens to take her eye off the ball one day and sit Ms Harris down, it would be a great day in AFLW.

 

CHANGE OF ROLE FOR SCHEER

Good to see Chloe Scheer moved into the middle in the early going.

I praised the coaching of Dan Lowther (sounds like a newsreader) earlier on, but this one might make a permanent believer. Scheer often has to sit and wait for the onballers to get the ball into her vicinity, but in the role she played today, you could tell she was very eager to get her hands on the footy early and often.

We’re not talking massive disposal numbers, here but I felt that Scheer’s tough work in the guts really set a tone for the team and gave them a solid body to throw into the contest to clear a path. She has a great leg on her (she has two of them, actually – she just kicks with one at a time… yep, champagne comedy here) and I suppose you could look at her move as being one of those “robbing Peter to pay Paul” moves, as she didn’t hit the scoreboard, but the drive she provided provided opportunity for others to work into good positions ahead of the footy, and everyone was a winner when that paid off.

 

PHOEBE MCWILLIAMS

When your first contest of the day sends the footy bouncing off the back of your scone, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in for a bad day, but Phoebe McWilliams quickly turned things around and had her best game of the season, snagging two goals and picking up 11 touches.

McWilliams has been one of those players who has almost taken games over at points of her AFLW career. She has almost clunked big marks, almost kicked big goals, and almost been a fantastic player. At 36, the chances of her becoming that player are now probably gone, but in this game she showed that she can provide a consistent marking threat and one that will make you pay if you decide that it’s a good idea to zone off her or not give her the respect she deserves.

She now sits at nine goals for the season – good enough for equal fourth in the league at the time of writing, and given the role she has played on a team that has not performed well at times, that is an excellent result.

 

OTHER BITS

Can I start a petition for only one Hosking sister to play in any given game? It is hard to keep up with who is who at the best of times and it is made more difficult when the commentators cock up which one they’re talking about and suddenly switch to the other.

Scary situation with Liv Barber collapsing after cracking her head into the turf. She did what I would try to do – get back to my feet quickly, but once she did, the effect of the blow became apparent and she went down again. Fingers crossed she is all good.

14 tackles for Megan Kiely in this one. I’ve loved what she has produced for the Tigers this year and reckon her recruitment was a very wise one from Richmond.

Ellie McKenzie really seemed to struggle in this game. She would have been a great help for Mon Conti in the middle, but she looked as though she was not enjoying the contact out there. I can recall Sam Lane telling us in her teacher’s voice that she was getting treatment for something early on – I reckon that had a pretty significant impact on her ability to move around the park.

 

 

COLLINGWOOD (10. 6. 66) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS (6. 5. 41)

REVIEWER – ALEX DOCHERTY

 

To both teams, this was a season-defining game of football. The last spot in the six was up for grabs between Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs, and with the Gold Coast blowing an opportunity to the Saints earlier in the day, it couldn’t have been any more set up for the Pies as a must-win game.

Collingwood have fallen off the pace against the finer sides in the competition; big losses to Fremantle, Brisbane and more recently North Melbourne in what was a toothless showing for a “rivalry game” the pressure was on against a side that has shown plenty of spark and vigour over the past month.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, for as much as they tried, they looked every bit of a team that have been on the receiving end of multiple four and five-day turnarounds – four games in two weeks, including two interstate trips, is going to prove detrimental to a team against a side like Collingwood, who have been one of a few sides that have avoided playing games on a weekday.

For the Dogs fumbled the ball extensively, made bad errors when they missed a far easier option, the defensive unit were sucked into the contest and allowed too many Pies out the back and in transition couldn’t match the Pies’ speed around the ground.

Having said that, the Pies have been ravaged by injuries and have added another massive blow to their team with Brittany Bonnici set to miss the rest of the year and most likely a slab of 2023 as well with a serious knee injury in the first quarter.

It could’ve been enough to derail the Pies given how tireless she works around the ground, but they put the Dogs to the sword, recording their highest score in the history of the league.

 

THE LAST OF THE BIG THREE STANDING

With Bri Davey put on the shelf in round one and Bonnici put out of commission in the first quarter, who here would’ve foreseen the kind of game that Jaimee Lambert would’ve put together? I certainly didn’t.

Much like her previous couple of seasons, Lambert has been a standout in the Pies’ engine room, but whereas Davey elevated herself as the goal-kicking superstar midfielder, Lambert has been more situated around the coalface and winning the ball at the source.

However, when the Pies were searching for someone to stand up and put the Dogs away for good in the third term, they turned to Lambert as the primary source and on top of her excellent clearance work already up to this point, stamped her authority on the contest with three goals in the third quarter.

Her first goal was set up on the back of a terrific palm down in the ruck and with no defensive pressure on her, snapped it around the body. The second one came down to sheer work-rate as her direct opponent Elle Bennetts was trailing by a good 30 metres as Lambert crumbed off the pack and ran into an open goal, and the third just came out of a fortuitous reading of the play, as the ball fell to her chest and converted the corresponding set shot.

The Pies are a side that pride themselves on work rate and whilst the Dogs allowed them space way too many times, Lambert was always pushing herself to get to the next contest anyway, because that’s what she does; when the Pies have the ball, she’s pushing to be the next option and when they don’t she’s working hard and tackling well.

It almost reads out like a perfect game for Lambert – 22 disposals, five marks, seven tackles and three goals – name a midfielder that wouldn’t go to bed with that stat sheet?

 

SABS MAKING A STATEMENT

For the first time in a long time, we’ve seen Sabrina Frederick make a serious splash on a game of football.

I’ve been a long critic of what she doesn’t do, especially when the ball is in the hands of the opposition and whilst that aspect remains to be seen, you can see that she’s rediscovered an intensity to her game that we haven’t seen since she was donning Brisbane colours.

Maybe it was the VFLW game last weekend that she was playing that forced a rocket up her backside, kicking four goals in a game decided by two goals is nothing to be slept on and I’m no Pies fan, but I groaned about the thought of having her back in the team. I groaned even louder when I realised that she was going to back up Alison Downie in the ruck.

But I will give her credit where it’s due, because for all her flaws around the ground (and trust me, she’s got plenty) there is one thing that you can count her on is her body work and in this one, she showed the fundamentals that a key forward should be doing; work to the front spot and contest (if you can’t mark it).

Pinch-hitting behind Downie, she protected the drop zone brilliantly and made Celine Moody look very average at numerous points in the game, don’t worry Bulldogs fans I’ll get to that shortly and tapped it down to her teammates like a true professional, just look at Lambert’s first goal for evidence.

It was a great return game from Frederick, 2.3 could’ve been a four or five goal game if the radar was on point, but regardless of what she kicks, Pies fans would be delighted to see her making a big impact once again.

As for her direct opponent Ellyse Gamble, the only thing I’ll say is don’t come Monday, some of those defensive efforts couldn’t cut the mustard in state league.

 

LOST AT SELECTION?

So during the game, there was a bit of a debate between myself and my colleague at A3, Alex Catalano about the Dogs’ selections this week.

It was a very strange decision to take out “The Big Show” Alice Edmonds for this game. I say strange because she’s been a great back-up ruck to Celine Moody and positions herself quite well across the forward half of the ground playing the resting forward role.

As you might’ve deduced in the last segment of the review, Celine Moody looked flaccid in her ruck craft and it looked as if young Issy Pritchard was pinch-hitting for her – Pritchard is tall, that is undisputed, but she’s not a ruck option and it was clear as day when both Downie and Frederick had their way with her anytime she stood up to face a ruck contest.

Would the inclusion of a player like Edmonds stem the final margin of the result? Would it change the result from a loss to a win? To answer both questions, bringing Edmonds in would most likely bridge the gap slightly, but I doubt the Dogs change result entirely.

Edmonds has an established ruck craft and has shown something across general play, but she is not a player that changes the game on a dime. A solid back-up ruckman yes, but she is no Lauren Pearce or Breann Moody.

The other decision that confused me was bringing in Deanna Berry for her first game in a year. Berry has worked hard to get back from her knee reconstruction and has done plenty on the training track, but with no VFLW football, I think it was the wrong decision to bring her in straightaway.

It’s great that she got through unscathed and that she’ll be better off next week and beyond, but this was about as high stakes as it gets for the Bulldogs; top six spot on the line and Berry looked nowhere near where she should be to help the Dogs get to that top six spot.

Against a team such as the Giants, Richmond or even Geelong, it would’ve been fine, because you can get away with potentially carrying one or two players, if need be. But this was a game that required all 21 players to contribute. Berry’s not alone either, there were plenty of players that failed to pull their weight in this one.

 

THE UNCONTESTED GAME

When you play against a side that’s had to work with a condensed schedule, common sense indicates you try and run them off their feet, right?

Like most of the other good sides in the competition, the Pies try to look at short passing and overlap running to try and get the ball moving forward. Overlap running is very important with the best sides, and we saw a lot of that from the Pies in this one to exhaust the Dogs into submission.

And as we saw in the third term, several Dogs’ players were caught lagging by several metres, it’s a credit to the coaching staff at Collingwood for identifying this and trying to exploit this weakness. The Pies were +35 in uncontested ball at the half time interval and by full time were +62

Were all the kicks polished and exquisite? Far from it, but every time the Pies opened the game up, you could tell there was purpose behind the kicks, and often, it led to them getting more score on the board.

I will pinpoint the work of both Sarah Rowe and Ruby Schleicher for their efforts in this one. The pair combined for 42 possessions, but they were on the back of pure gut-running and dare to try and take the game on, something the Pies have missed over the past month.

Rowe has had some lean weeks but was allowed and afforded too much space on the wing and consequently, she made the Dogs pay with her disposal every time. Schleicher was doing exactly what she does best and that’s mop up the loose ball in defensive 50 and rebound the other way with a drive that left the Dogs’ forwards searching for answers.

 

IS IT TOO MUCH LEFT TO TOO FEW?

I want something nice to talk about the Bulldogs, but the more I think about what winners they had around the ground, the more I think it’s the same suspects that shoulder the load.

Ellie Blackburn was magnificent, another great captain’s game from her. Kirsty Lamb was great, gave away some head high free kicks early in the game, but you know what you get from her week in and week out and that’s another big bodied midfielder that’s busting her ass to keep the ball moving and this game was more of the same.

It’s unfair to ask the kids to lift, Jess Fitzgerald had a quiet game in comparison to previous weeks, and same to Lizzy Georgostathis, but defensively tried their best throughout the stoppages and there are others who struggled to get involved, but I can sympathise because they are still finding their feet at this level.

I look up forward and they look too reliant on Bonnie Toogood to kick a winning score, she took some strong grabs, but was ultimately beaten by Lauren Butler when it was all said and done, the Pie keeping her goal less – the second straight game this has happened.

What’s happened to Elle Bennetts? I praised her game against Melbourne in round one, for a tough approach to the game and great defensive pressure. She showed none of that in this game, looked like she was okay to stroll at her own pace and looked like she didn’t want a bar of the contest.

Richelle Cranston had some good moments in this game but disappeared too often when the Dogs needed someone up forward to lift. Brooke Lochland is another player that has become a bit hit and miss, but I guess it doesn’t make it any easier on them if their teammates are trying to locate Toogood inside 50 every time.

Maybe it’s the interruptions – Covid or Otherwise – finally catching up with them, but we can only assess what happens on the footy field and right now, they are looking like a side that rely on a select few players to carry them over the line every week.

 

OTHER BITS

One of the best games I’ve seen from Mikala Cann. Needed someone to lift in the middle and she was one who answered the call. Finished with 21 disposals, five tackles and five clearances and finished off with a nice goal in the final term as well – a breakout game from her.

I suppose a good sign for the Bulldogs was that Eleanor Brown played a solid game down back as the intercept, rushed her disposals a few times and even saw her play more in the middle in the last term, not the worst idea in the world going forward that one.

I’d like to see more of Alana Porter trying to take the game on, her run in the second quarter was great to watch. But other than that, good to see her equal-leader of the match in tackles, laying seven for the game.

What was running through Issy Grant’s head when she decided to try and mark on the goal line, only for her to spill it and allow the Pies to get an easy goal – you’re a defender, punch the ball through and reset the girls.

Sophie Casey might just be Collingwood’s most underrated player in this side. A Small defender who normally fights above her size and manages to make it look easy in the process. Provided a lot of rebound this week and looked steady doing it as well.

You could see Ashleigh Guest trying to take the game on, but she’s a player that has to know her limitations, she’s not a very good user of the ball by foot at the best of times and better stationed playing as the goalkeeper or a loose behind play.

Another fantastic game from Eliza James, surely a Rising Star nomination is beckoning this week, she’s got great agility and always looms as a threat inside 50 – 14 disposals and six tackles to go along with a goal is a fantastic return from a first-year player.

She got monstered in the hitouts easily at times, but that doesn’t mean Celine Moody didn’t try and work her ass off across general play – had the 12 disposals and four tackles to go with her 19 hitouts but would’ve loved having Edmonds in this team to help her out.

After a poor game last week against North, Chloe Molloy bounced back very well here, played predominantly in the midfield, she helped extract clearances and looked prominent bursting away from stoppages – she’s going to be very important for their midfield heading into the finals.

Amelia Velardo is looking like she’s improving with every game that she plays. Backs herself in to take the strong intercept marks and is using the ball quite efficiently as well, and I don’t mind that she’s not afraid to step up to someone, as Brooke Lochland found out in the last term.

Probably the worst game I’ve seen from Katie Lynch, looked second-best to the ball so often and really failed to impact the contest. Got moved to full forward in the last quarter, didn’t work out too well either – jot it down to one of those nights.

Are they going to wheel out Abbi Moloney every time the Pies play the Bulldogs so the idiots at Seven keep referencing her Dad who played at Footscray? Also, can she stop kicking goals on the Dogs please?

I’ll always appreciate the work of Naomi Ferres. Doesn’t matter how the game goes, she’s usually in and under and trying to mop up across the half back line. Did a superb job under pressure in this game.

I also won’t complain about the umpiring decisions here, that’s what my Twitter account is for, but I will mention that it would be nice for them to stop play whilst someone who is injured is being attended to by the trainers – happened twice in this game and the ump allowed the play to continue around the matters at hand, that’s bush league.

And on that, that’ll do me for this game. The Pies showed enough that they deserve to hang around the top six, but with a big game against the Crows next weekend at Norwood Oval, they may not celebrate their stay in the top six for too long.

As for the Bulldogs, they get a six-day break before they get a chance to get back onto the winners list as they travel up to Western Australia to tackle a West Coast side that have been thoroughly disappointing in 2022.

 

 

CARLTON (7. 9. 51) DEFEATED GWS (5. 3. 33)

REVIEWER – HB MEYERS

 

This was a do-or-die game for the Giants, with a spot in the finals still a realistic goal coming in. Playing the Blues at home, they would have felt good about their chances and with the game in the balance at halftime, it was going to take something special for either team to win.

Luckily, two of the three teams banded together in the third quarter to ensure that would be the Blues.

What are you getting at, HB?

Well, I guess you’ll have to read on to see.

 

SWINGING THE GAME

There are a few players and moments in the game that deserve individual attention, and we’ll get to them, but it would be completely remiss of me to start with anything but the umpiring in the crucial third quarter.

I know there are not a heap of GWS supporters who read the women’s reviews, and that’s fine. I don’t particularly care whether this is well-received or not by the rest of the people reading, but GWS were royally screwed by the umps in the third, leading to a margin that became too much for them to overcome.

Some may choose to focus on the fact that Vescio slotted two goals for the quarter and was the best player on the park in that period – no one is going to dispute that – but the manner in which opportunities were created for Darcy really irked me.

The free kick count for the quarter was 9-4 in the Blues’ favour, with around three or four of them looking to be cut and dried penalties. This was compounded by two 50 metre penalties, and it is here that we need to look to see just how much of an influence these umpires had on the contest.

A dubious free kick to Georgia Gee led to Vescio’s first goal, with Gee able to spot Darcy leading inside 50. I suppose that could be fair enough. Even if the free kick wasn’t there, Vescio still did the work to capitalise.

Darcy’s second came via a 50 metre penalty to Gab Pound, who quickly took the kick and laced Vescio out again. You could sense the frustration in the GWS team at this stage, and their vocal dissent of a terrible sequence of umpiring led to Vescio heading to the goal line and slotting a second goal.

The damage was done by that stage. Carlton had the lead, Vescio was up and about, and the Giants were chasing tail for the rest of the game… and not in a fun way.

Add to this the decision in the last quarter that saw Erin Lorenzini clearly get a kick away whilst being tackled and STILL getting pinged for holding the ball, leading to a goal from Abbie McKay, and you can see exactly how an 18-point margin can be created.

I have no dog in this fight at all, but I was appalled at the way the game played out in terms of umpiring. They were far too quick on the whistle in some cases and when the same thing happened moments later with jumpers reversed, play was permitted to go on. GWS would be ruing a lost opportunity here, but on rewatch of the game, I think they’ll come to the same conclusion as I did – it’s hard to play against two teams and win.

 

POUNDING THEM!

This was easily the best game I have seen Gab Pound play. Running across half back, she collected the footy at will and played the role of sweeper to perfection for the Blues.

Whilst I had witnessed her playing serviceable roles for the club, this was really the first occasion I can remember her being a pivotal factor in the game. Her intercept work, clean hands and fantastic positioning made for a very tough evening at the office for the GWS forwards.

 

THE BRICK WALL

I am a bit big fan of Vaomua Laloifi. She has really taken some big knocks this season and added to them in this game, thumping her head into the ground on a tackle in the third quarter. True to form, however, she was back in the saddle quickly and doing what she does best in defensive 50.

Her combination with Kerryn Harrington, along with Paige Trudgeon, gave the Blues a trio of defenders that worked cohesively to stifle the GWS forwards.

Laloifi’s positioning and front-on attack on the footy make her a formidable foe, and her willingness to put her body on the line to create opportunity for her teammates would make her one of the Blues’ most popular players within the club.

 

STACKING UP

I have to admit, earlier this season, I watched Brid Stack play and I was wondering what the hell she was up to on an AFLW field. She just looked a little bit lost.

That has changed dramatically as she has got some reps in playing in the GWS defence, and both her reading of the play and rebounding work has started to shine. Just the eight disposals for her in this game, but it doesn’t really tell a story. She had an impressive run with the footy and is starting to find targets more often. GWS would be rapt with her development and though she is 35, her hardness at the contest should provide a valuable asset as other defenders grow into their roles.

 

DROPPIN’ 50

Darcy Vescio slotting 2.2 in the pivotal third quarter, with the second registering the 50th goal in an excellent AFLW career.

Though I complained loudly above about the way the goals came about, you cannot question the skill level of Vescio and the conversion once opportunities present. Darcy had one touch in the first half before unleashing in the third quarter, giving the Blues the lift they needed and notching the 50-goal mark in the process.

Vescio is the first player to hit tat magical 50-goal mark and should be rightly hailed as the matchwinner in this game, even if I did bitch about it in the opening section.

 

MOODY BLUE

I loved the work from Breann Moody in this one.

GWS usually play two rucks, enabling the switch between Erin McKinnon and Ally Morphett, but with McKinnon having to to do the work alone this week, Moody looked set to test her endurance.

And she did. And Moody won out.

Her work as both a get out of jail target as well as an interceptor saw vital the Blues stopping GWS in their tracks. And it wasn’t just in the air that Moody did the work; her follow up at ground level was far superior to that of her opponent.

It was a good learning opportunity for McKinnon, who evidently needs to work on her fitness to compete with the best rucks in the game.

 

And that’ll do for this game. Apologies about the rant to open up proceedings – I just hate seeing when umps have a big say in the outcome. For the record, the free kick count ended up 27-12, but several of them late in the game were more due to poor discipline from the Giants.

 

MELBOURNE (4. 3. 27) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE (2. 5. 17)

REVIEWER – JB EDDY

 

With a top two spot on the line, both teams were looking at this contest as a way to stamp their finals credentials. It was meant to be a case of Melbourne’s brute force at the contest versus North’s speed and ability to make space, but in typical 2022 fashion, expectations of how the game would be played were turned on their head.

 

HOW IT PLAYED OUT

Casey Fields has become a fortress for the Dees, with the swirling breeze and patchy shelter from the stand rewarding players familiar with he ground. North can’t complain too much though, as they enjoyed the very same sort of advantage with their win over Freo in Hobart. Daisey Pearce won the toss and kicked with the breeze, preferring to take the advantage as it presented itself rather than risk it dying down later on, showing she’s as canny an operator as has ever pulled on a pair of boots.

Melbourne dominated the territory battle in the first quarter as North played a wide structure that they struggled to make work as their kicks were held up by the strong headwind. On the occasions they did move the ball froward, they often bombed long to an outnumbered contest as the Dees played extras in front, expecting the ball to drop, or they took shots from too far out and suffered for the accuracy.

Some poor choices also cost them metres, as Talia Randall and Aileen Gilroy gave away 50m penalties for basic infractions that should not happen in a disciplined side. Another 50 was given after Jasmine Garner had a mark overturned and seemed to disagree with the decision. Not entirely sure what the kick or 50 were actually for, but if it’s for dissent and the umps have indeed notified teams that they’ll be on the lookout for it, then the 50 makes sense, even if the overturn didn’t.

The game continued with Melbourne swarming through the contest in packs, occasionally running in a line astern formation as they weaved through the middle of the ground like those damn Mynah birds weaving through my front hedge to take a crap on my newly-washed car. Unfortunately, North didn’t have a hose handy to shoo them away, so they had to content themselves with increasing levels of desperation and intensity that almost threatened to pay off, but for every time they managed to push the ball forward, they struggled to convert their shots on goal into scoreboard pressure.

A scoreless third quarter cost when North controlled a lot of the ball drained the legs of the Roos, while Melbourne enjoyed a 17 point break going into the final quarter. Knowing they had the momentum, but were kicking into a breeze, they resolved to make it as hard as possible for North to score, flooding the backline and playing a goalkeeper to touch the long shots that came in, causing an ever-more desperate Kangaroos team to try and move the ball too fast to keep their structure together, and all too often, give the ball up.

 

POWER VS STYLE

A Hallmark of North this season has been the ability to link up handballs to create space and open up clear areas to play in to. Unfortunately for Roos fans, another common element has been atrocious forward 50 entries. Kicking the ball long to the spot twenty metres from goal works well against lower-ranked teams, especially when players like Daria Bannister and Sophie Abbatangello can work off the front of the pack or drift to the rear of the contest, but with experienced back line veterans like Dairy Pearce who was complemented by the talents of Libby Birch and Sinead Goldrick.

At the contest, the Demons were willing to crash the packs and put their bodies on the line, both to collect the ball and to put on some hard tackles. By contract, North lacked the heavy tackling and struggled to contained the Dees inside mids from breaking away from the contest.  Jasmine Garner and Mia King were two exceptions, but few other mids seemed keen to do more than hand tackle their opponents, and it just wasn’t enough to stop the likes of Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen from flinging them aside like they were scientologists trying to convince them to take a “personality test”.

Emma Kearney tried to bring the usual level of white-line fever, but was kept to a minimal influence by her opponents, with a rotating group that included Kate Hore, who had too much speed for Kearney. It’s always easy to say what could have been done in the post-match, but for my money North needed her in the middle in the third quarter. Melbourne were taking the ball away from a hard-working North midfield, and Kearney’s aggression may have staunched the Dee’s ability to break through the pack. Of course, that may have let the Dees break through the North defence with even greater ease, so it’s hard to say it’d be the best move while sitting on a cozy chair at home.

 

THE FORWARD BATTLE

With Emma King and Kim Rennie taking the tall forward role in rotation for the Roos, and Tayla Harris at the other end, fans may have expected more of a shootout than we got in this game. Harris was willing to play up the ground as needed, especially when making herself a marking option as the ball moved out of defence, but she still managed to move closer to goal to present herself and also take a couple of hangers as she showed the leap and finish that have made her so dangerous this year.

Kate Hore used her speed to push the ball forward at every opportunity, and made North very worried as the ball entered their defensive zone.

At the other end, Daria Bannister and Sophie Abbatangello tried hard all day, but just couldn’t convert the half chances into goals, much of that being due to the pressure that Birch and Goldrick brought to the contest.

 

ASHMORE SHOWING SOME BRILLIANCE

Kaitlyn Ashmore is probably a bit underrated as a wing, with her link-up plays and clever bodywork creating headaches for her opponent almost every week. Her fourth quarter goal however was simply brilliant.

With Melbourne veteran Daisey Pearce hunting her as she ran to a tumble punt forward 50 pass, she tapped the ball on to her own advantage, collected it at pace and snapped off one step from near the boundary to pass through the big sticks. It was a tonic to the North faithful that had made the trip over to the Dees home ground, and I’m sure there’d be a few kids replaying it in their loungeroom this week as they kick a cushion through the doorway.

 

ALL-AUSTRALIAN CONTENDERS

About now, you can lock Karen Paxman in for her sixth AA nod in a row. Her blue-collar work inside the contest keeps her opponent looking over their shoulder, more concerned about Paxman’s position than their own, while she’s not afraid to run off and find space to transition into attack along the wings or through the corridor. Footy can be a simple game, but none of those simple things are as easy as Paxman makes them look. Basics like hitting a target with both players moving at top speed by hand or foot or drawing a forward to the ball by placing the kick to the spot that is hardest for the defender to cover. They’re simple to understand, but all too often players can’t execute them, especially not as often as Paxman does. There are more flamboyant and innovative mids in the comp, but if you were to look for a player that you could bet the house on giving you an opportunity every time she gets near the ball, Paxman would be at the top of the list.

Jasmine Garner and Ash Riddell are two others that are putting their names in the mix, though a midfield spot will be very hard to break into with so many quality midfielders in the top six teams, and emerging stars in the younger sides. This has been Riddell’s best season so far, and she’s had enormous impact, but will AA selectors take her ahead of players like Bowers, Hatchard, Conti, Prespakis, Marinoff, Bates, Parker, Bonnici, Lambert, etc? Her numbers make it a possibility, averaging 28 touches and just under five clearances per game, but nothing is ever assured with these sort of things.

Garner has the luxury of playing as a forward pocket or flank that will see her hard to beat for her fourth AA guernsey in a row, though she does spend long stints in the midfield as well.

Tayla Harris is likely to have a spot, though Brennan and Woodland could make claims. I’d be surprised if Harris was overlooked though. She has the profile and she delivers when needed, which will have her in the box seat for a forward line spot.

Other players like Mithen, Kearney, Lauren Pearce, Hanks and Ashmore could also be in consideration, so both teams could expect to be well represented when the squad is announced.

 

SETTING UP FOR THE FINALS

A loss has the Kangaroos dropping to fifth, but a game clear of Collingwood and ten points ahead of the Bulldogs in seventh. They’ll be playing finals, but are unlikely to grab a coveted top two berth now, unless Adelaide and Melbourne fall over completely, and Freo and Brisbane have similar fates.

The final two games against the Lions (currently fourth) and West Coast (fourteenth) are must-wins to bring some momentum, as well as keep a small hope of a top two spot alive. The game against Brisbane is supposed to be played in Maroochydore, but the current floods in Queensland could see it moved elsewhere. The location will heavily affect the likely winner in this match. If North can convince the league to let them take it to Hobart or Arden st, they could take their second big scalp of the season. If instead the waters subside and the game is played on a sticky, muddy Queensland pitch, the Lions game of surge and burn footy will make it very hard for North to use their quick handball game, much like the Demons did this week.

West Coast have had a horror season, but will want to finish strong. Even so, if North want any respect coming into the post-season, they need to win big and show that they can overcome their transition woes.

Melbourne takes on Freo, with another must-win game for both sides wanting a home advantage, before facing Carlton at Casey. Carlton aren’t an easy-beat side, but at their home ground, Melbourne should account for them without too much difficulty. The Freo game will determine their season, as a loss to Freo will see them equal on points, but with Freo’s much stronger percentage pushing them above the Dees.

Will Freo take a risk on Bowers and her knee, or will they keep her on ice for finals? With that sort of uncertainty, I’ll back the Dees to take both games, and a home final.

 

 

ST KILDA (5. 4. 34) DEFEATED GOLD COAST (4. 7. 31)

REVIEWER – BRETT HODGSON

 

Sunday football kicked off from Trevor Barker Beach Oval with the winless Saints hosting a Gold Coast side, hungry to avenge their last quarter fadeout against the Bulldogs last weekend.

With the finals race heating up, Gold Coast had absolutely everything to play for, while St Kilda had nothing to lose. St Kilda shot out of the blocks with a four goal lead midway through the second quarter, and held on in a frantic final quarter, to put the blowtorch on Gold Coast’s finals chances, while also delivering their club a much needed victory, having waited 336 days. For Gold Coast, they had a few chances to snatch the game late, however just came up short (wide) which I will touch on in a bit. St Kilda were switched on from first siren, and Gold Coast appeared flat and fatigued- with this being their third game in ten days..

Let’s see how this one played out…

 

SHINING THROUGH ADVERSITY

St Kilda got the first goal of the game, through a quick evasive manoeuvre and snap from livewire Nicola Xenos, however at the very next ruck contest, the home team would suddenly find their maiden win that much tougher to come by. In the following centre ball up, Rhi Watt landed awkwardly after contesting a ruck knock and limped off the ground (later diagnosed as a torn ACL) this caused a re-shuffling, with Jacqui Vogt stepping in, with support of Kate Shierlaw and Kaitlin Greiser as a new makeshift ruck division. Despite conceding 31 hitouts to 18, the ruck tandems largely negated the effectiveness of Lauren Bella’s stoppage craft, More on them later, but the St Kilda inside midfielders also played a tremendous defensive game to halt the Suns work around the ball, but also break open on the counter attack.

Best wishes in your recovery, Rhi.

 

SAAD STANDS TALL

Viv Saad was absolutely colossal in this contest for Gold Coast. Admittedly, I’m never sure what will happen when she is around the footy, as she has had a few moments of panic or not “playing to the whistle”. Make no mistake, her hands were assured often, and unlike her defensive counterparts, she wasn’t bothering with half distance disposals, if she felt any pressure she was doing what was needed to clear the defensive zone. Saad finished with 14 disposals and a game high 11 intercept possessions, to give her side some level of resistance. Lauren Ahrens looks to be playing hurt- not fully recovered from the crunching tackle of Tayla Harris a few weeks ago, and Bess Keaney had a game full of uncommon indecision. For Gold Coast to be any shot at sneaking back into the finals calculations, a lot could be riding on the shoulders of the former Roo.

 

SAINTS RUN AMOK

The St Kilda engine room was tremendous early on, with body on body pressure limiting the Suns inside ball winners. Led by Tilly Lucas-Rodd (21 disposals, nine marks) St Kilda burst open the Suns at every opportunity. Afforded a lot of time and space, especially through the corridor they were able to run rings around their opposition at will. Her body pressure on Charlie Rowbottom was absolutely outstanding, as she looked to take the fight to the Suns top draft pick, frustrating her on occasion. Her work rate in following up her disposal was outstanding, as her gut run often allowed her team to outnumber the Suns in crucial situations.

Tarni White played a great role in negating Suns spark Claudia Whitford in the first half, while also finding some football herself, while going about it in her typical tough fashion. Catherine Phillips also provided some outstanding defensive plays when Gold Coast looked to be on the counter.

For the Suns, Ali Drennan and Jamie Stanton battled like usual, however, both were a little quieter as they were seldom able to find space through the stoppages, this game was one of the few all season where a team was able to match the gut running of Stanton in particular.

 

THE TWIN TOWERS

Gold Coast two key forwards Bohanna and Perkins loomed large as the game shifted into the dying stages. Bohanna had helped drag Gold Coast back, kicking two goals in the last quarter- including an outstanding gather and goal in a 1v2 close to goal. Then it was time for her counterpart to step up.

Sarah Perkins had two opportunities to put the Suns in front in the last quarter, to ultimately miss with both shots.. For those that immediately say “ I could have kicked those with my eyes closed” lets have a quick recap…

The first shot was about 40 metres out with not a lot of angle, which Perkins badly missed to the left- her hand motion indicated either a breeze or hook, also keep in mind it was the dying stages of the game and despite her lack of athleticism, she puts in when she is on the move.. When you fatigue, most tend to over-analyse and overcompensate, not to mention lean back on their kicks (this is crucial)

Shot two comes with a minute remaining, after taking a massive mark – how she was left to go up 1v1 with two St Kilda defenders next to her I’ll never know… Perkins leaned back on the kick and aimed it right, perhaps accounting for a breeze or hook that affected her first kick but did not correct the second. Say what you will about missed opportunities, however I’ll do what nobody has and give her a tremendous amount of credit for at least creating the opportunity to win the match. Even if you would back yourself to kick those shots 90% of the time, that is still one miss from every ten shots… try that at the end of the last quarter with no do-overs..

Much has been made of her movement, however nothing ever gets mentioned about her IQ. Her kick in to Bohanna was pinpoint to put the defenders under maximum pressure. Perhaps at stages, she could be deployed in kickout duty, as Hannah Dunn is struggling with it.

With that being said, Rebecca Ott played a crucial role in regards of starting the counter attack when the ball went to ground and Perkins was forced in to a footrace, it has cost Gold Coast a few times, particularly in the dying stages against the Bulldogs- having no pace on that last line of attack.

 

QUICK TAKES

Kate McCarthy with 8 disposals and 5 inside 50’s from half back was an absolute weapon, at key stages she burst off half back with pace and confidence, also showing enough of an IQ to slow up and not rush her kicks into attack.

Ellie Hampson had another very handy game for the Suns in the midfield, with Rowbottom clamped up, a rested Hampson threw her body around- her “see ball get ball” attitude is outstanding, and she has shown a much more channelled aggression compared to earlier rounds.

Hanna Priest had another very good game for St Kilda, and  slipped under the guard in this one, often looking like she wasn’t paid much respect around the ground.

Gold Coast should perhaps look at using captain Hannah Dunn on a wing or as a pressure half forward. She had battled but looks devoid of confidence, she needs to just relax and find the football, this could be why she has struggled so much with the kickout duties,  not to mention the loss of gun defender Jade Pregelj. This in turn could free up Jacqui Yorston for a more prominent role, as she seemed to struggle to get amongst it as an outside wing in this contest.

Kate Shierlaw was two steps from kicking one of the best goals in AFLW history, running away from Jacqui Dupoy on the right flank, she put the foot down and drilled a goal at full pace from a tight angle, only to be pulled up for running too far – by the slightest of margins. She’s a really fun player to watch.

Speedy  recovery to Tori Groves-Little, who copped an accidental knee to the head from a high flying McCarthy. I’m doubtful she passes the concussion test, but hopefully there is no lingering effects. Speedy recovery Tori.

This last point might sound odd to mention, but Lauren Bella dropped back in to defence to take an intercept mark early in this game. This is kind of a big deal.. as this generally has never been part of her game, she is obviously very good at the stoppages and hitouts, not to mention a very solid ground ball player (attacking and defensive) however if she can add consistent intercept aerial skills to her game…. She is going to be a star.

 

 

BRISBANE (15. 8. 98) DEFEATED WEST COAST (4.0.24)

REVIEWER – DANIEL JON KERSHAW

 

When you put one of the classiest and high-pressure squads against a team that is renowned for their slow starts and lacklustre skill level, I think you can expect this result.

What you might not have predicted is just how much that team would dominate every stat line, including the most important one – the score! Possessions, tackles, tackles in forward 50, inside 50s, marks inside 50, even efficiency inside 50 (which is bizarre considering i50s were 52-11) – all these were heavily skewed towards the visiting team.

In short, there is no other way to describe this game other than as a massacre. And what was more impressive is that the Lions could have coasted through most of this hit out to get the premiership points – but they didn’t – they were relentless and had their foot on the Eagles throat for the entire game. It was ruthless and I loved it.

 

LIONS SHARPEN THEIR CLAWS

It was only four rounds ago that the Lions were struggling to fire efficiency in their forward arc against Geelong despite a wealth of opportunities from the midfield.

In the weeks since, they’ve done a marvellous job addressing those issue as the chemistry between the midfield and forward groups were much more on song.

The standout performance from the frontline was from Wardlaw, who was heavily involved in the Lions’ attack, contributing with powerful contested marks, kicking three goals and helping spill the ball forward in front of goals. Even though she quiet in the second half, her work helps the Lions break the record for the largest score in AFLW history.

Also worth mentioning is the three goals from Sophie Conway (on top of her 16 touches) and the work of Davidson, who again shows her value to the squad with strong contested play helping create opportunities.

 

THE ENGINE ROOM DOES IT AGAIN

Is Emily Bates the best player in the AFLW? After another superb performance of 31 touches, 6 tackles and 7 clearances, she is mounting a good case for the title. Bates’ vision and footy IQ puts her on a different level to many of her peers and she continually finds time and space to be damaging to her opponents.

Throws in the likes of Dawes, Anderson and Conway and you have a highly skilled, fast paced engine room that are going to be integral to the Lion’s campaign for back to back flags.

West Coast tried desperately to match it with this unit, but outside a couple decent performances from the usual suspects (Swanson and Bowen), nothing they could do could slow down their cohesion and intensity.

 

WHAT DID WEST COAST DO WELL?

It might sound counter-intuitive to highlight the defence of West Coast considering the score-line, but they had to do it tough all day without much of a respite as the ball lived down back for the entire game with the inside 50 count measuring 52-11.

Sophie McDonald did well as the last line of defence, and I thought Belinda Smith did a great job on keeping Hodder relatively quiet early on before she got a run on. I also think that Gooch has started to find a bit of form after a woeful start to the season – she even popped off to kick one of the four Eagles goals.

It was overall a very tough day for the Eagles, but they did show a little bit of fight there after the half time break, upping the intensity and keeping the Lions honest. Unfortunately, that resilience was in such short supply in this game.

 

A TALE OF TWO SKILL SETS

The skill level demonstrated by the Lions was next to none. They displayed everything we hoped for in the AFLW with impeccable field kicking and handballing. This is a well drilled side that makes very little in the way of unforced errors and know exactly where they needed to be.

There are so many examples in the game of Brisbane scoring off handball chains through the middle and pinpoint kicking to the top of the square. It felt like it was impossible for the ball to miss the intended target. It was so clean and impressive to watch.

In comparison, how can West Coast still be making basic skill errors after three seasons? Inaccurate handballs, kicks that land out of bounds or missing the target by a fair margin. Sure, the Lions’ pressure did contribute to that to some degree, but even uncontested kicks were missing the mark. There’s no excusing it anymore and measures need to be taken to remedy this before the next seasons kicks off

It is also worrying to see this considering the competition is expanding next season, further diluting the talent pool. I think it’s not a long stretch of the bow to suggest that we are likely to see massive margins next year.

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR WEST COAST?

After the game, Eagles coach Michael Prior said that players would be fighting for their futures for the rest of the season. While I don’t expect a handful of Eagles to return to play next season, there would also be some lingering doubt about Prior, especially after his mishap around Pride round.

The tenure for Eagles coaches in AFLW has been brief. In the three seasons since joining the competition, they have had three coaches. For mine, I’d give Prior another run as, despite the poor season, as he as helped the team develop a better structure than previous years.

What can I say? It’s bleak for the Eagles, but at least fans have the prospect of adding Ella Roberts in the off season to look forward too. Hailed as a generational talent, this Western Australian could be a game changer for the struggling club.

The Eagles take on the Dogs next and it will be interesting to see what happens considering so many careers are on the line. Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see their flight or fight instincts kick in and cause a boil over.

Best on ground: Bates

Runner up: Wardlaw

 

Two weeks to go. Some teams shot themselves in the foot… maybe even took part of their leg off in the process this weekend.

Bring on Round Nine.

 

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