AFLW Round One – Mongrel Standouts

The second AFLW season of 2022 kicked off this weekend, with all teams now represented.

What did we see and who were the best players from each game? Let’s check it all out with The Mongrel’s Standouts from Round One



Player Focus: Eliza James

In a game where the stat sheet indicated a close battle between these two historic rivals, it was players like half-forward Eliza James that set the game very much on Collingwood’s terms.

James had a fantastic multi-facet game, adding significant forward pressure, providing a great option as a link between the midfield and the forward line and giving Pies opportunities to score. In the second half, the Carlton defence we’re holding up very well against a barrage of Collingwood entries. It even looked like they were going to hold and get on top. That was, however, until James laid two tackles that resulted in holding the ball decisions, which subsequently shifted momentum and helped Collingwood go on a run. James was dangerous anytime the ball came near her, not only presenting for the ball well and following up for second efforts, but she also halved a few important contests when the ball flew into the forward arc.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say she had a complete performance. In saying that, the essential part of her performance was her pressure. Collingwood banked a total of 60 tackles for the game. Ten of these came from James, giving her a staggering stat of laying 16.6 percent of the tackles, including three in the space of a minute in the third. No wonder the Blues became a little nervous coming out of defence. Honourable mentions: Gabriella Pound (Carlton) and Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood).



Player Focus – Tahlia Gillard

With the season-ending knee injury in the pre-season to Gab Colvin, who was solid as a rock for this Melbourne defence over the past couple of seasons, there was a bit of a question as to who was going to fill the boots at full back.

That was given to Tahlia Gillard, who played three games last season in her debut season. As you can see from this game, there’s potential to what she does; there’s good game awareness to position herself a kick behind where the play needs to be, and she’s got good length in so that she can spoil and impact on the contest.

However, the bad of it is that she was matched on Ashleigh Woodland and she got away to kick three of Adelaide’s four goals in this game. In a sense, I thought she was unlucky in at least two of them, because Woodland found herself in an open spot in general play and caught Gillard out of position. One instance that saw her break Gillard’s tackle when she was running at full tilt.

But at 190 centimetres, she’s a player that’s got some potential and 12 touches and four marks showcased that she knows how to get her hands on the football and her use of the ball was good at times too. Very impressive first-up performance this season by the 18-year-old.



Player focus – Jasmine Garner

It’s the same old song for North to start the season, with Jas Garner’s game once again putting her head and shoulders above 95% of the players in the league.

Whilst there could be an argument for the game of Nicole Bresnahan and Mia King, as well as the efforts of Emma Kearney off half-back, Garner did a bit of everything for the Roos, and did it well. She possesses the perfect blend of overhead ability and skill at ground level that make her the perfect player in the competition at the moment. The thing is, she looks as though she does it quite easily. I am sure she is busting a gut out there, but she makes it look like she is two or three steps ahead of every other player out there.

In a game that often saw players fumbling or failing to dispose of the footy cleanly, Garner made every touch count and was potent both in the middle and forward of centre. Her attack on the ball was fierce, and with 27 touches to her name to go with a goal, her performance was one of the highlights for a Kangaroos team looking to finally make good on one of the best lists in the game.



Player Focus – Paige Scott

Whilst Maddy Prespakis will most likely get the best on ground honours in this game, a young Don on debut showed herself that she belongs at the top level herself.

I saw a couple of games of Paige Scott in the VFLW season that concluded just recently, prior to her being drafted. Sure she had some draftable traits; attacks hard, capable goal kicker, but I hadn’t seen enough of her to warrant a spot in my top 30 draft prospects piece for the Mongrel back in June. For the record, she ended up going pick eight.

What I saw from her in front of a strong crowd at Docklands, highlights that she’s so far worth the selection. She presented well when playing deep – she got a good mark and converted well in her one and only set shot for the game. When she was up the ground, she was either hunting down the ball or harassing the Hawks players that were around her and when she got her hands to the ball, good things tended to happen.

Scott finished with 16 disposals, with a good split of eight contested and eight uncontested, but also three score involvements, three intercepts, four marks and three tackles in a strong performance on debut.



Player Focus – Emma Swanson

For just the fourth time in 49 games played by the club across three different leagues (and four different competitions) in 2022, West Coast were victorious today, coming from behind at three-quarter time to beat Port Adelaide in their first AFLW game by 12 points. Both sides had several good contributors, but for my review, I’d like to focus on the West Coast skipper, Emma Swanson.

After playing for GWS for the first three seasons of the nascent AFLW competition, Swanson returned to WA as an inaugural West Coast Eagle. After being elected captain prior to the season, the pressure was quickly heaped on Swanson, and it’s fair to say that though West Coats’s performances have been well below the club’s expectations, Swanson has more than delivered as a player and as a leader. Sometimes, though, leadership and ability is only truly recognised when a team is winning, and if today’s performance indicates anything, it’s that West Coast may have found a way to do just that. Swanson, typically, led from the front, gathering 21 touches and adding three tackles and four marks to her impressive stat line. More than that, though, Swanson offered important leadership when her side needed it the most, winning the first two centre clearances of the last quarter.

Obviously, there were several other important contributors for West Coast – Kate Bartlett, Sophie McDonald, Jessica Sedunary, Belinda Smith and Bella Lewis – as well as those for Port Adelaide – Abbey Dowrick, Justine Mules, Ebony O’Dea, Kate Surman and Jacqui Yorston – but Swanson was the player of the day. Special mention must be made too for Ella Roberts, a local phenom in her debut AFLW match, whose touch of class in the last quarter helped West Coast over the line.



Player Focus – Issy Pritchard

Could’ve raffled off a few Dogs to talk about here: Ellie Blackburn was brilliant again, Gabby Newton’s first half up forward was most impressive, Kirsty Lamb had her good moments and Richelle Cranston was threatening up forward for a lot of the afternoon.

But Issy Pritchard is a star on the rise. She was hitting her stride towards the end of last season and was rewarded with a Rising Star nomination in the final home and away game against Brisbane. Her last five games on average saw her average 12 disposals, 4.2 tackles and three marks per game. Solid numbers for someone in her first year at the club.

Wearing a new number this season, Pritchard continued to work on her good form at the end of last season. She’s got such a big strong body already for her age and at her ground level work was just so clean and her vision incredible. Got involved in a lot of play as well and featured prominently; 19 disposals, 14 contested (most of any Dog) six clearances (two from centre bounces), three tackles, six intercepts and six score involvements.

Just a brilliant kid and great to see the number 4 continue on with gun players that start with the letter I



Player Focus – Nicola Xenos

The Saints rained on the debut of the Sydney Swans, with a strong first-up performance following a very disappointing result last season.

The race for the most influential player came down to two, in the end. I opted to go with Nicola Xenos due to her ferocious pressure around the footy at ground level.

Whilst it was difficult to look past Kate Shierlaw’s four-goal game, as they just don’t occur too often in the league at the moment, Xenos’ work ethic and continued attack on the player with the footy should have resulted in her kicking three goals of her own. However, as she went back to take her kick at goal from 15 metres out following one of her seven tackles – this one resulting in a holding-the-ball decision, the Saints lost their head a little and the decision was reversed.

Still, it did little to diminish the efforts of Xenos, who really came to the fore last season and looks like she will be a big part of this St Kilda team again.

The return of Georgia Patrikios saw her register the most disposals on the park, with 18, but I felt many of her disposals were rushed and she lacked the poise she has been known for. Still great to see her back – she changes the look of this team.

Finally, the defensive work of Brenna Tarrant was the standout for the Swans. Whilst Tarrant took responsibility for Caitlin Greiser at times, she also acted as the defensive general, setting up the Sydney defence and dropping back into the goalkeeper role. She had 13 touches and three marks as the Swans’ best contributor for the game.



Player Focus – Amy McDonald

In a thrilling contest between Geelong and Richmond, numerous players had moments across the contest, but it was the two-time reigning best and fairest at the Cats, Amy McDonald who changed the complexion of this match. Coming into the second half, the Cats had only managed 0.2 for the game and, while they had opportunities, they couldn’t capitalise.

From the opening bounce of the second half, McDonald was the premier midfielder on the park. She hit contests and stoppages at speed, and regularly exited the front of the stoppage, allowing her teammates to get on the move as well. She limited the impact of Mon Conti and other Tigers midfielders, and generated much of the Cats forward half thrusts.

It wasn’t just her positioning at stoppages but her ball use that had an impact. McDonald was regularly able to hit targets and open up the ground for her team, which then allowed them to surge forward.

McDonald finished with a match-high 24 disposals, match-high seven clearances, and six tackles. She didn’t hit the scoreboard – which would have capped off a great afternoon’s performance – but she was key to Geelong regaining momentum after half-time and was able to win the footy all over the ground.

Honourable mentions: Georgie Prespakis and Sarah Hosking



Player Focus – Emily Bates

The Lions downed the Docker 79-27 in a result that should surprise very few followers of the AFLW. The Dockers were missing a few key players but in reality, their skill and overall development has stagnated over the previous couple of seasons when compared with the top sides; mostly they’ve been getting along with sheer guts.

No one player exemplified the gap in quality between the two sides more than Brisbane’s Emily Bates, who continued on her merry way after a league-best-performing season. Bates grabbed the ball 19 times and dominated the middle with 6 clearances but what impressed me the most about her game was the way she used the ball. Bates, efficient with both hand and foot, distributed her possessions with purpose and a calm head and allowed swift ball movement for her team.  Bates also proved an impressive two-way runner, leading a strong defensive effort with an equal game high seven tackles to pressure hard around the ball and ensuring her opposition could not break away cleanly from the contest.

If we’re looking for yardsticks to gauge the quality of this still infant AFLW competition, look no further than Emily Bates this season.



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