Round Three of the AFLW season is in the books and our very own Alex Docherty has his eyes all over the competition. Here’s what he liked and disliked from the weekend.
Gutsy Dogs continue to win
Three wins to start the year is a big tick for a Western Bulldogs side that looked rattled with Covid and injuries in the opening rounds of last season. There are still issues that remain with the club – the new-look forward line structure is still in its teething stages with Gabby Newton and Celine Moody the tall targets to kick to this season, but they are finding ways to bank the four points each week so far and they’ll be every chance to be four from four next week when they trek to Box Hill to take on Hawthorn.
In round one, they had to stave off a late GWS surge, last week they did it despite losing Britney Gutknecht with a badly broken leg. This week was against Fremantle who had some very positive patches this week after a disappointing two weeks to start the season. The Dockers led for a large portion of the match – over 42 minutes if we’re to be precise, but where there was a will, the Bulldogs found a way.
Kirsty Lamb and Ellie Blackburn were at their best, but they’ve got others starting to stand up and follow. Izzy Grant had an unbelievable last quarter, Gabby Newton’s confidence in the air was massive in patches and Rylie Wilcox – despite costing Ellie Blackburn a goal with a bad error in the fourth quarter – looks like she’s going to be stud of a player.
Ponter salutes Indigenous round
It feels poetic that on the weekend the AFLW celebrates Indigenous round, it was Danielle Ponter that stood up in a game that Adelaide needed to win keep up with the top sides in the competition. Without her, the Crows would’ve been staring at the barrel of one win from three starts.
I’ve been critical of Ponter’s consistency over the past couple of years, but she’s averaging two scores per game so far in season seven and followed through with two goals straight this week against North Melbourne. Without Erin Phillips directing the troops in the forward 50, there was a bit of intrigue with how the likes of Ponter and Ash Woodland would respond without her and up to this point, they’ve been good.
Woodland was double-teamed by Sarah Wright and Jasmine Ferguson and went goalless for the first time this season, but North made the grave mistake of leaving Ponter out and she made them pay.
The Giants are on the board in season seven
They were unlucky in the first two rounds – they were closing in against the Bulldogs in round one and were in the wrong place at the wrong time against a Brisbane outfit that are just simply awesome to watch right now.
But for Cam Bernasconi and the GWS Giants, the monkey is now off the back and they’ve got their first win for season seven. And there’s no better way to do it than to give the fledgling Sydney Swans a hiding from pillar to post: +76 in disposals, +23 in the contested possessions and +58 in the uncontested ball. We got a first-class example of what an expansion team looks like in comparison to a side that has been in the competition from day one – and didn’t the Giants let them know about it too.
There has been a bit said about positional changes at the Giants and the reluctance to continually pinpoint Cora Staunton inside 50. There’s been a noticeable better spread of goal kickers this week – Staunton kicked 2.2, but I think we can all acknowledge that she’s a special kind of player. Nicola Barr made her season debut known with two goals, Jess Doyle has been consistent with her scoring input inside 50 and Zarlie Goldsworthy in her debut game could’ve easily had a bag of four or five, such was her presence inside 50.
What else can I say about Brisbane after three rounds?
We’ll see just how Brisbane go against one of the yardsticks of the AFLW next week in Melbourne. So far, their winning margins have been 49, 47 and 73 and their performance against the Gold Coast Suns in the QClash was their best performance so far.
The Suns are struggling, we get that, but they kept them scoreless for a long time in that game and it wasn’t until Jac Dupuy finally got the Suns on the board, that it started to feel like the cue was in the rack for the Lions. The Suns recorded 26 inside 50s on Saturday, but the likes of Phoebe Monahan (25 touches, nine marks, 10 intercept possessions) and Breanna Koenen (13 disposals, nine marks and nine intercepts) were simply too dominant for any of the Suns forwards.
I mentioned last week about Emily Bates being the best player in the competition, and whilst she was still prominent in this one (, the likes of Ally Anderson (28 disposals, eight marks and seven tackles), Cathy Svarc (20 disposals, eight tackles) and Isabel Dawes (11 tackles) were all massive in the congestion and smothered the Suns’ attempts to move the ball with ease.
Kez on a wing and a prayer
Season seven has seen a few surprises, but who among you have had Kerryn Peterson (nee Harrington) starting further afield, mostly on a wing?
I’ve seen Daniel Harford play the Carlton captain on a few positions just briefly last year; featured a little bit in the midfield and some instances on the wing, but Kez has seen more game time in middle of the ground this season than in defence, where she has won multiple All-Australians in years past.
It’s a little odd, but then again, the Blues are trying to work themselves into a position where they can contend and credit to Harf, because I have been critical about the on-field results the past 12 months. Peterson was one of Carlton’s best in their draw against Port Adelaide, recording 21 disposals, 401 metres gained, one goal and four score involvements, but she also managed to float back into defence and provide a steady pair of hands, recording eight intercept possessions to be one of Carlton’s best players.
Hannah Ewings has arrived
Next to Ella Roberts, Hannah Ewings was slated as the best talent in the country. At North Adelaide she did a lot from impacting around the stoppages to being a force in the forward 50; she was averaging 20.6 disposals and 1.3 goals per game for North in SANFL women’s this year as a 17/18-year old. Crazy to think about, right?
Last week against the Dogs, she was impressive around the midfield and this week against Carlton, she backed it up with a big game; 21 disposals, four tackles, five clearances and 434 metres gained. The five clearances were the most of any Port Adelaide player out on the ground, and the thing that will impress Port fans and Lauren Arnell the most is that three of her five clearances came out of direct centre bounces.
The Power are a team that will be on the up over the next few years, but you can very much expect that Ewings will be the cornerstone of the midfield for the Power post-Erin Phillips. She’s very powerful around the congestion and she’s got a great game sense about her. Get very excited about her Port fans.
…But Paige Scott is already here!
We’ll assume that Ewings and Wilcox get the nominations for the Rising Star award this week, right? It puts them in a good position to win the award, however, there is one player that is already asserting herself as the favourite to this point is Essendon’s Paige Scott.
She was massive in their round one win against Hawthorn and solid last week against Carlton, but found that when you keep her around the forward 50, she’s a tough one to beat at any situation. Just the nine disposals this week in Essendon’s annihilation of West Coast from Scott in this one, but she powered through for three goals, six score involvements and six marks too.
The thing about Paige Scott is that she is already rapidly proving that when the Dons get their opportunities inside 50, she is often the one making space and doubling back to provide an extra lead and then when it’s go time, she really pushes down and gets the whips cracking and is so lethal both in the air and at ground level. We’ve got an absurd bunch of talented youngsters that could still claim the Rising Star award, but with five goals from three starts, one’s already beginning to put her hand up for it.
Where has Eilish Sheerin been?
It’s fast becoming one of the best stories of the season and that’s the sudden emergence of Eilish Sheerin. She was on the train-on list at GWS at the start of the year and failed to make it on the list, which makes you wonder a bit about what the Giants have missed out on.
If you’ve got her in your rolling All-Australian side after three rounds, I don’t blame you one bit. In round one, she featured with 17 intercept possessions in the loss to Geelong, and after a much quieter second week, she was back at it leading the intercept stats in the game against Hawthorn; racking up 12 intercept possessions to go along with 20 disposals, three marks and three tackles in miserly conditions at Punt Road on Sunday and was again amongst the Tigers’ best in their smashing of Hawthorn.
Her game is more than just picking off the opposition, she’s running and spreading and providing an outlet to her teammates and she nearly capped off a great afternoon with a shot on goal that just went the wrong side of the goal post. The Tigers will be happy with her output so far; averaging 11.7 intercept possessions per game this season – the next best in this statistic are averaging four less intercept possessions per game.
What the hell are you doing Darcy?
Let’s call it for what it is: Carlton should’ve been leaving Ikon Park with the four points against Port Adelaide. The Power are going to be a good outfit in the years to come, but right now, there are just not enough players struggling to run out a four-quarter game.
Port opened up a two-goal lead at halftime on the back of a brilliant four-goal second term that completely rocked Carlton. But the Blues won back the territory battle in the second half and wrangled the lead back to tie the scores in the dying minutes. Darcy Vescio is running down the broadcast wing and Phoebe McWilliams is streaming towards the goals. Instead of doing what most footballers do and thump the ball long and deep as they can, Vescio fires a five-metre forward handball to a teammate who was immediately under pressure and burnt her teammate in the forward line.
Regardless of whether Vescio could make that distance, you’ve just got to get it as forward as you can with the game on the line. For a senior head, that’s just not good enough and when Daniel Harford comes to do the review early in the week, he better be showing that footage Darcy and showing the senior players (sans Kerryn Peterson) how to win the ball, because you can’t have a second-gamer in Keeley Skepper bailing them out every week.
What the hell is Fremantle’s forward line doing?
So close, but they remain winless, the Fremantle Dockers.
Last week it was one behind from 20 inside 50 entries and whilst Fremantle were much better around the ground this week, there is one constant that is letting them down and it’s their forward 50 entries. From those 20 inside 50 entries, they only managed just one mark inside 50. Against the Bulldogs, it was 24 inside 50s for one mark inside 50.
Roxy Roux was dropped ahead of this game, because she was drafted to be an aerial presence and has so far been incredibly flat. Amy Franklin tries, but she was outworked on many occasions by Katie Lynch. But it doesn’t come down to just that, it comes to the connection – or lack thereof – between the mids and the forwards. Kiara Bowers went at just 35 percent disposal efficiency and Hayley Miller at 62 percent.
What they will be pleased with is their tackles inside 50; 17-6 this week and they got a lot of their shots on goal on the back of great tackling pressure. They’ve got a positive in Amy Mulholland (three tackles inside 50) and Megan Kauffman looks a likely type too.
New colours, same Privitelli
Geez, Rebecca Privitelli is a frustrating player to watch at times. I think back to her 2020 campaign at the Giants and she looked like she had elevated her game to a new level as a key forward.
Fast forward a few seasons and we’re finding herself going backwards with her kicking. She almost looks as if she isn’t sure about what sort of kick she wants to go with when she prepares herself for a set shot. Her miss in the third quarter was as simple as it gets; 10 metres out, angle was tight but that’s a non-issue for a lot of players. Go back and kick a drop punt.
Instead, she tries to go for a checkside kick that hits the post. It was just a haphazard, stupid decision by one of the leaders of the Swans. The Swans were blown out of the park by the Giants and given how much they’ve improved from last season, they probably weren’t going to win this game, but 0.3 from gettable opportunities is a very disappointing return from arguably your most important forward. Regardless of where her team sits on the ladder, you’d expect better than a paltry 10.7 from the last 18 games.
Why can’t the Cats score?
It’s pretty clear that Geelong have got a football identity, which is a few steps in the right direction – they’re a tight-fisted, nose-to the-grindstone sort of team, that just bring out relentless pressure and an impressive nous for the contested ball.
However, you won’t win many games of football if you kick two or three goals per week. Against Collingwood who have proven themselves so far as a side gunning for a spot inside the top four, Geelong could only manage just one goal for the match and that was courtesy of a free kick given away by Sarah Rowe.
Do the Cats lack structure forward of the ball? Who are even the key targets to kick to? Who classifies themselves at Geelong as the small forwards? We talk at length about Geelong’s midfielders and how well the defenders hold up under siege, but without Phoebe McWilliams in the side, Geelong looks like a shambles forward of centre. Chloe Scheer looks better as a midfielder, Georgia Clarke was in superb touch in the VFLW last year up forward but is struggling to adapt at the higher level.
Until the Cats can rectify this problem, they’re not going to be much of a threat to the rest of the competition.
St Kilda’s 15 minutes of pain
You take the first quarter away, the scoreline was Melbourne’s 0.9 to St Kilda’s 3.2 – if you recall when the Saints first entered the competition, they produced one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition by toppling a wasteful Melbourne to record their first win in their short history.
The Saints were dominated by Melbourne in the opening quarter; -44 in disposals and -8 in inside 50 entries as the Dees found the goals six times in the opening quarter. But the Saints subdued the Demons with their tackle pressure and worked hard to try and locate their opposition for the remainder of the game.
I said on the A3 Footy Podcast this week that this was going to be their litmus test of where they stand amongst the rest of the competition and the numbers will give off a pretty deft indicator that they still have some work to do to get to the top of the mountain. One number that will concern the Saints, they were -33 in the contested ball against Melbourne. Just between Eliza West, Lauren Pearce, Olivia Purcell and Kate Hore – the Melbourne quartet combined for 47 contested possessions alone and that’s a worry for the rest of the competition.
Where’s the midfield help for Tilly?
I think everyone here can establish that Tilly Lucas-Rodd is a gun, a star – whatever hyperbolic positive turn of phrase you can come up with; she is a bloody good football player.
Which stands the next question; Where is the bloody help? Richmond had Monique Conti out there destroying the Hawks on the scoreboard by herself and got good assistance by the likes of Grace Egan, Sarah Hosking and even their ruck Gabby Seymour was getting in on the action – the four of them combined for 17 clearances – between TLR, Jasmine Fleming, Charlotte Baskaran and Lucy Wales, they had 12 and that was with Wales not recording one clearance.
Judging from her first three games, Fleming is going to be something special, but even then, it can’t be just her to pick up the pieces. Baskaran had two centre clearances, and will be a fantastic in-and-under type player, but she can’t be doing it on her own either. Tamara Smith tries her guts out every week, but even then, she’s going to need time to adjust and adapt to the AFLW after being a revelation in the state league. Aileen Gilroy showed some aggression towards the opposition with 12 tackles – maybe it’s time to see her feature in the centre bounces a little more?