Round Four of AFL action is done and dusted, and the Mongrel team has their eyes on the prize, their eras to the ground, their noses to the grindstones, and their hands… well, you don’t wanna know where they’ve been.
Here are the standout players from this week in the AFLW.
NORTH MELBOURNE V GEELONG – Alex Docherty
Player Focus – VIKKI WALL
A couple of weeks ago when North were very close to running Melbourne to the line that the work of Erika O’Shea has proven to be one of North Melbourne’s great finds so far this season. But it seems I have completely disregarded the work from Erika’s compatriot in Vikki Wall.
Last week I watched a little bit of North’s defeat to the Crows and made comment that Wall’s attack on the footy was about as good as you could expect from someone who is still new to the game of Aussie Rules and adapting to the different rules in a new country. Like the Irishwomen before her: think of Cora Staunton, Sarah Rowe, Orla O’Dwyer, they have all got one common trait: they attack the football and don’t take a backwards step.
In a game in which goals were few and far between in this game, Wall popped up with two very important goals. One of which I was very impressed with, she gave the ball a clever little toe poke inside 50 and worked hard to get the handball receive and showed great composure to put the ball through the big sticks.
She didn’t find the ball a great deal, but if you watch the game, you’ll notice that every time the ball is in her vicinity, she’ll move hell and high water to win the ball and just gather territory and ground. Two goals from 10 disposals in a game where six goals were kicked overall is a solid return from someone playing just her fourth career game.
GWS v West Coast – Tim Hunt
Player Focus – EMMA SWANSON
A game that was high on pressure and low on scoring saw West Coast notch up their second win for the season, defeating the GWS Giants by seven points and keeping their hopes alive for a first finals appearance. As has often been the case in their short history in the AFLW competition, West Coast’s performance was underlined by a sterling effort from their captain, Emma Swanson. The skipper was comfortably West Coast’s best, winning 23 disposals and finishing with match-highs for tackles and clearances – nine each. Importantly, in a game where a high price was placed on goals, Swanson added one of her own to her stat-line, converting a second quarter set-shot from 30m out. The goal would prove to be the game’s last.
Combining with the increasingly impressive (and powerful) Bella Lewis, Swanson ensured that West Coast remained on top around the ball, as they took a plus-eight advantage in the clearances and a plus-ten advantage in the inside-50s, forcing the Giants to spend most of their time defending. A poor efficiency in their forward half kept the Giants in the game for far longer than they should have been, highlighting a key area of improvement for West Coast going forward.
The effort of Sophie MacDonald in shutting down Cora Staunton must not go unmentioned as she proved time and again to be a thorn in the side of the Giants main scoring option. Sarah Lakay and Courtney Rowley, as well as the aforementioned Lewis, were important for West Coast too, while for GWS Alyce Parker continued her impressive season, winning a game-high 26 disposals, and Jodie Hicks provided important run and carry as the Giants tried in vain to find ways to overcome West Coast’s staunch defence.
CARLTON V FREMANTLE – HB Meyers
Player Focus – ABBIE MCKAY
Last week I focused on a Port Adelaide player despite the Blues pulling out a draw, so it is only fair I switch the focus to one of the baggers for this week.
And Abbie McKay made that task relatively easy.
The 21-year-old continued her string of good form with a powerful performance against the Dockers. Notching 29 touches and ten clearances, she was the difference in the middle of the ground as the Blues responded to a hot start from Freo to battle back and score the draw.
She added eight tackles to her name in this game, whilst Kiara Bowers posted a ridiculous 17 tackles in opposition to her. However, Bowers was unable to have the same impact with the footy as McKay.
Another contributor I want to give a yell out to is Jess Low for the Dockers, who played a very disciplined game against Darcy Vescio, beating her highly-touted opponent to the footy and displaying the type of desperation you need to put the Carlton forward out of the play. Nice work, Jess.
GOLD COAST V ST KILDA – Alex Docherty
Player Focus – COURTNEY JONES
When the Suns acquired Courtney Jones over this past off-season, I made a quiet note to myself that this might just be the recruit of the season. There was a lot she did right at Carlton and maybe time will tell whether or not the move is the right move in terms of team success, but against the Saints in this game, she showed just exactly what she brings to the table.
The Suns were inaccurate in this game and should’ve beaten the Saints by a hell of a lot more. Jones was one of a few guilty of spraying shots that should’ve been goals, but her effort in this game was outstanding. If she wasn’t having the shots on goal, she was on her way, setting up her teammates for looks on goal. One particular play saw her square the ball up towards Ellie Hampson, who went on to miss it – just dictates how smart she is and how willing she is to work the percentage plays.
She did find a way to kick a goal in the third term with a brilliant snap out of a stoppage and to see her teammates all swarm her and topple over was fun to see. She finished the game with 1.3 from 18 disposals and 12 score involvements. Could’ve easily had Kalinda’s game on here too, but Jones has been someone that I have rated highly this year and probably doesn’t get the recognition that she should.
HAWTHORN VS WESTERN BULLDOGS – Daniel Jon Kershaw
Player focus: KIRSTY LAMB
As Box Hill slowly turned into a swamp, Lamb became a contested beast. The slippery conditions didn’t phase her in her milestone game (50 AFLW games) as she put on a wet weather footy masterclass. Clean of hand, great around the many stoppages and a juggernaut in the contest, Lamb slaughtered the Hawks midfield, not only getting plenty of the pill (25 disposals and 7 clearances), but also appeared to be made of Teflon as no Hawk could tackler her. On a fourth attempt to bring her down, she was awarded with a free kick for a dangerous tackle – so hard was it to tackler her, the Hawks had to resort to brute force.
In a game where moving the ball became extremely difficult because of the conditions, Lamb took very little time to throw it on the boot, realising it was all about forward movement at any costs. And while a few of her 18 kicks went astray, overall, she was a pivot to the fast ball movement from the dogs that provided opportunities to score. She even contributed to the score tally with a lovely snap that result in a goal of her own. Even though her name is Lamb, I thinking owning to her skill on the watery grounds of Box Hill that “Duck” might be more appropriate. What a way to celebrate 50 games!
ADELAIDE V COLLINGWOOD – HB Meyers
Player Focus – ANNE HATCHARD
It has been a pleasure to watch the development of Anne Hatchard over the last several years, going from a serviceable, yet plodding player to one of the competition’s hardest workers and elite runners.
She led all players in this game, notching 26 disposals and using her aerial prowess to drag down ten marks – both game-highs. Not only was she powerful in the contest and great on the run and spread, but her decision-making has also improved out of sight from a couple of years ago, now seeing her bring teammates into the game far more often.
Eb Marinoff, as per usual, was excellent, as well, whilst Ruby Scheicher looks set for another AA season with another solid outing from half-back for the Pies.
PORT ADELAIDE V SYDNEY – Jimmy Day
Player Focus – ABBEY DOWRICK
Two of the new sides to the AFLW competition met at Alberton in the hopes of securing their first win. While remaining relatively tight in the first half, the Power exploded after half-time to win by 66 points. There were a host of key contributors to the Power’s success including R3 Rising Star nominee Hannah Ewings and superstar Erin Phillips playing her 50th AFLW game, but it was another rising star nominee this year, Abbey Dowrick, who rose above all others.
Dowrick lead all players in terms of disposals (24) and tackles (14 – doubling her career total in one game), had three clearances and finished with 1.1. Dowrick was able to spread after stoppages and be a link in play, she was able to impact when she didn’t have the ball – as evidenced by her tackle numbers – and she was able to exit stoppages with speed. This was most notable with a 60-65m running goal in the third term. Dowrick hit the stoppage at speed, and got on the end of a handball to exit out the front of the stoppage and flush a drop punt on the run. Aided by the breeze, the ball carried the leading forward and rolled through for a magnificent goal. Her team-first attitude was emphasised late in the last quarter as her and a teammate were streaming inside 50, to get on the end of a Phillips pass. As the ball bounced to favour teammate Brittany Perry, Dowrick didn’t stop running and laid a great shepherd to ensure Perry was unencumbered and under no pressure and could stroll in for her second goal.
When you see the output of Dowrick and combine with Ewings (19 disposals and 3.1), Port possesses a potent one-two punch that can hurt you on the inside and the outside, and also on the scoreboard. As Abbey Dowrick continues to gain more confidence in her skillset, and impact on games, I think we will see someone who can significantly impact the competition and be in the top handful of players in the game, in coming years, alongside Hannah Ewings.
It’d also be remiss of me to not mention Erin Phillips briefly. While she couldn’t celebrate in style with a win, the Port captain was instrumental in Port’s forward 50 entries and scoring chains throughout the game. She finished with 16 disposals and a number of direct goal and score assists, making sure to bring her teammates into all she did.
RICHMOND V ESSENDON – HB Meyers
Player Focus – EILISH SHEERIN
This was game number four in the career of the mature-aged recruit, and she is repaying the faith for the Tigers with some outstanding dash off the half-back line.
Looking at this game as a whole, it was quite a balanced performance from both teams, but whenever Sheerin got the footy, her leg speed and willingness to take off and take the game on made Richmond look better. She finished with 20 touches and had she hit the scoreboard, could have had the complete game. She finished with 0.2 for the game, but as a rebounding player, her ability to cover the ground saw her leave some of the Essendon forwards in her dust.
Whilst Sheerin was the standout, I want to give a shout out to Daria Bannister for the Bombers. Used primarily as a deep forward for North Melbourne, Bannister has done a ton of work to improve her fitness and was a big reason for Essendon being so close in this one. Great to see her take the next step with her endurance this season – at 23, she has a heap of improvement in her, and with better conditioning, she is giving herself every chance to reach her potential.
MELBOURNE V BRISBANE – Alex Docherty
Player Focus – TAHLIA HICKIE
Think back to the preliminary final last season at the MCG and it was the work of Lauren Pearce that helped Melbourne through to their first Grand Final. The rematch was something that piqued my interest in the lead-up to this game… and it didn’t disappoint.
Lauren Pearce has been one of the leading rucks in clearances over the last couple of seasons and she showed her class again in this one, recording seven clearances and beat out Hickie in the hitouts 22-19.
But that doesn’t mean that Hickie was disgraced. In fact, I think that this was an exciting ruck contest that broke even. Hickie’s work in close was very good in this game and it’s a testament to how much work she has put in since breaking through to the senior side. She had 15 disposals, 11 of them being contested. Only one player recorded more contested ball in this game and that was Ally Anderson, who has found some really good form over the last couple of weeks herself and could’ve easily found herself in the spotlight this week.
But we’re all about looking at a different lens here at the Mongrel… Well, I am anyway, can’t speak for the rest of us. In the case of Hickie, the stats will speak for themselves in terms of her improvement. Her averages of 10.3 disposals, 6.3 contested possessions, 22 hitouts, 3.3 inside 50s, 3.3 tackles and three score involvements this season are either on the mark or all career-high averages.