Though it may have been somewhat overshadowed by the men’s Grand Final weekend festivities, the AFLW rolled through Round Five with a couple of big results.
As always, The Mongrel team had their eyes on the prize and bring to you the standout performers of the weekend.
WEST COAST V FREMANTLE – Daniel Jon Kershaw
Player Focus – KIARA BOWERS
Hayley Miller might have suffered from a bout of leather poisoning in this game, but for me, another massive day of tackling from Bowers was the highlight. West Coast really got on a run early in the game and had a wealth of inside 50s. However, one of the reasons they had trouble capitalising was due to the tackling prowess of Bowers.
Whenever the ball was in dispute, Bowers always seemed to be there, either putting her head over the ball or laying tackle after tackle on West Coast players to help relieve some of the pressure the defence was under. And that work rate kept up all game. Regardless of whether the ball was in the middle or either end of the ground, Bowers was there applying pressure through tackling. It genuinely felt like she was everywhere. I absolutely loved her physicality around the contest. But what was truly astounding was that along with the monstrous stat of 18 tackles, she also had 17 touches and 5 clearances.
This is a woman who put her team on her back and refused to give her cross town rivals their first Derby win. Honorary mentions: I’ve mentioned Miller, but also want to give kudos to O’Sullivan and O’Driscoll, who both had some great moments of play.
GEELONG V ST KILDA – Jimmy Day
Player Focus – NINA MORRISON
From the opening bounce, the Cats had the Saints measure. Not only did they kick their highest ever score, they also had their biggest win in club history. In a win like this, it’s difficult to just highlight one player. Much could be said about Shelley Scott reintegrating herself to her natural surrounds inside forward 50 – and finishing with 3 goals (how it took coach Dan Lowther 5 weeks to make the move, only he can answer). Others might emphasise recruit Mikayla Bowen’s game as she patrolled the wings of GMHBA Stadium, involved in scoring chains and applying defensive pressure. While midfielders Amy McDonald and Georgie Prespakis continued to get plenty of the ball and be involved in everything.
I need to give an honourable mention to Becky Webster who put together one of her more complete performances against the Saints. But it’d be remiss of me to not highlight Nina Morrison’s contribution.
15 disposals, 12 tackles, and a goal. Nina was in everything – she was present around the contest, often first hands to someone moving into space; she linked up in scoring chains; and, with match high numbers in tackles, she was putting significant defensive pressure on as well. Nina has been building nicely this season. Playing predominantly in the front half, with the occasional excursion into centre bounces, Morrison is showing why there has been so much hype surrounding her – even after two knee reconstructions.
The Cats are starting to build a solid core group of players and, the more experience they get, the stronger this side will become. Morrison is one of the central pillars to this, with the flexibility she has to play through stoppages and up forward, especially with the burst of speed she has. One of the big stand out points from Thursday night is how clean Morrison was with wet and dewy conditions. Others double or triple-grabbed, while Morrison was taking the ball in the air or off the deck cleanly each time.
WESTERN BULLDOGS V NORTH MELBOURNE – Alex Docherty
Player Focus – BROOKE BROWN
North fans asking for Jasmine Garner in this section, you’d be better off reading my likes and dislikes column this week, because she was just simply too good not to put in here.
But I thought a player who was good in this game was Brooke Brown in defence. She took my notice in a few games last year in terms of her defensive positioning and use of the ball. No mistake that she is an intelligent reader of the play, but sometimes her kicking was seen as a letdown, it’s not an end of the world criticism, just something she could work on a little more and there’d be no dislodging her spot in North’s defensive five or six.
There are a few defenders in this game that should get looked at: Jas Ferguson’s job on Gabby Newton was brilliant, Sarah Wright had an underrated game and Emma Kearney’s run and drive out of half-back was very good.
But Brown’s performance was also something that caught my eye in this game. When the Dogs had control of the game through territory, Brown was one who stood up and looked to take the game on and was looking to gather as much ground as she could. Her stats won’t read as good as someone like Kearney’s or Garner’s, but 14 disposals, four intercepts, four marks, three inside 50s and 341 metres gained for a half-back flanker is a strong return.
COLLINGWOOD V ESSENDON – Alex Docherty
Player Focus – MIKALA CANN
Often, we look at Collingwood’s midfield and we refer back to their ‘big three’ of Bri Davey, Brittany Bonnici and Jaimee Lambert. The Pies have been without Davey and Bonnici for the most part of the year due to their respective knee injuries and it’s pretty apparent that Jaimee Lambert has been playing hurt the last couple of weeks.
Last week against Adelaide she failed to feature in any centre bounce and was stationed more across the forward line and against Essendon, you’ll find that she was scarcely found in the middle either. I’ve been a big fan of Mikala Cann since her arrival to the AFLW for her no-bullshit attack on the ball. She’s tough but fair and on Friday against the Bombers, the midfield keys were handed to both her and Chloe Molloy.
Molloy was very good in this game, but I also think Cann’s influence across the middle can’t be understated either. With Maddy Prespakis running rampant and keeping the Dons right with the Pies at halftime, the challenge was made to Cann to take her on at the contest and whilst Prespakis would finish the game on 31 disposals, the contest is where Cann thrives and the contested possession count was 17-16 in favour of Prespakis.
That’s not to say Cann lost the duel. I thought in the dour conditions, Cann played to her strengths and a big reason the Pies won out in the middle in the end. She finished with eight clearances and 11 tackles to go along with her 20 disposals and was allowed to crash and bash through any pack she was able to get around. That kind of football is why I’ve been big on her from day one.
SYDNEY V HAWTHORN – HB Meyers
Player Focus – BROOKE LOCHLAND
I’d love to give the Hawks a player spotlight in their first-ever win, but when one player kicks a third of both teams’ goal tally, it is pretty difficult to displace her at the top of the pecking order.
Making her way to the Swans after years on the list with the Dogs, Lochland has a blinding first term, kicking all three of her goals in the opening stanza in an effort that many thought should have shut the gate on the Hawks.
She also had a chance late to punch the win, but the Hawks hunted her in numbers to prevent the first-quarter hero from repeating the dose. Lochland finished with 17 touches to go with her three goals in one of her more polished games in AFLW… aside from THAT game back in 2018 when she kicked a bag of seven.
Special mention to 17-year-old Jasmine Fleming, who was well and truly in the mix as the Hawks’ best player. Plenty of mentions upcoming for her in the years ahead.
CARLTON V MELBOURNE – Nicholas Sluggett
Player Focus – VAOMUA LALOIFI/LIBBY BIRCH
There were two players who caught my eye in this match. Both of them played a similar role for their team as they provided the primary source of defence and rebound, being the thorn in the side of their opposition.
For Carlton, it was Vaomua Laloifi. I would hate to think of what the scoreline would’ve read without her presence in the Carlton defensive fifty. I think this was bets highlighted in the third quarter, where the ball effectively lived in the Melbourne attacking fifty and yet they could only garner a single goal as a return for their efforts. This was no Laloifi alone, but she was the standout. Throwing her body in front of the ball with reckless abandon and driving it outside of fifty again and again.
For the Demons, it was Libby Birch, who I thought combined well with Sarah Lampard to effectively nullify the makeshift Carlton forward structure. Birch was fantastic at just getting free and finding herself in front of the football and causing Carlton to either kick to a contest that she wanted, or slow down their ball movement to allow other Demons players to get in front of the football. It was a great example of positioning and work rate.
A mention also has to be given to Tayla Harris who tore the game open early and found her form in the second season of 2022.
RICHMOND V BRISBANE – HB Meyers
Player Focus – MADDIE SHEVLIN
There has been quite a bit talked about how the Tigers were able to tame the Lions, and whilst we would have been singing a different tune had Dakota Davidson taken her time and taken a set shot… (FROM THE GOAL SQUARE!!!), she didn’t and Richmond knocked over the all-conquering Lions in a huge upset.
The Tigers put it all together in this one, with their defence working together brilliantly to repel attack after attack. Centre to that defence was Maddie Shevlin, who played one of the best games of her career.
Combining with a player I mentioned the last time I covered the Tigers (Eilish Sheerin), the pair ran riot across half back, positioning themselves perfectly to intercept and rebound.
Shevlin is proving to be an excellent addition to the Tigers, and her combination with Sheerin has given Richmond a pair of potent weapons to launch their attacks. It’s now getting to the point where opposition clubs will be heavily planning to circumvent their presence on a weekly basis.
GOLD COAST V PORT ADELAIDE – Alex Docherty
Player Focus – TARA BOHANNA
There’s a lot of love from me at the Gold Coast and they’re currently piecing together some nice form, having won three of their past four encounters.
Last week Charlie Rowbottom found her way into my likes column after her one-woman systematic destruction of St Kilda’s midfield and followed up with a big game in this one, also want to give Kalinda Howarth and Jacqui Dupuy some props for their performances and standing up when Port were on the charge in the last term.
But have I ever told you guys, how much I love Tara Bohanna right now? I probably have given you the backstory of her form in the VFLW before being picked up by the Suns as a top-up player and has really worked into her own as the new captain of the Suns following Hannah Dunn’s defection to the Power this past off-season.
In this game, it was a true captain’s performance. After a slow start with which no goals were kicked, the Suns got going in the second quarter kicking against a fair breeze at Bond University. She was forced to play a little further up the ground but was influential in a couple of bail-out marks in the defensive half. But she was just as influential in the forward 50, plucking a few strong marks inside 50 and finishing in front of goal just as well.
She finished with 3.0 from 14 disposals and seven marks – two of which were contested. She also featured with six score involvements and six tackles, two of which were forward 50 tackles – outlining that not only can she present towards the ball and finish strongly, there’s great defensive presence too.
ADELAIDE V GWS – JB Eddy
Player Focus – EBONY MARINOFF
Oh dear. Oh dearie me. Oh no, no, no.
With a scoreline that resembled the end of a decent opening partnership in a test match more than a game of footy, plenty of people will feel sympathy for the poor girls on The Orange Team. They managed to collect the record for biggest loss, lowest score and probably quietest changerooms after the match.
Spare a thought for me though, I have to narrow down the player most deserving of recognition in this Adelaide side that gave GWS the sort of spanking usually reserved for vagrant Catholic schoolboys in the 80s.
While Hatchard, Dowrick, Woodland and Newman all had excellent games worthy of acknowledgement, it was Marinoff who was a level above all day. From the first bounce to the final siren, she turned an easy win into a feeding frenzy as each of her teammates tried to outdo the other.
Her first goal came within a few minutes of the opening bounce, and was the sort of easy play that players train relentlessly, in the hopes that they can execute it so flawlessly when the moment comes. Running by a player at speed, collecting the handball and then a long left boot to put it through.
She didn’t relent afterwards, and her stats sheet reads like prime GAJ days. 36 touches (21 contested) seven clearances, eight inside 50s, five score involvements and a goal. But she was more than willing to run the other way too, managing eight intercepts and 12 tackles. She regularly circled out the back of the packs like a quarterback, looking for the various options and selecting the appropriate one a majority of the time.
While she had ample support, Marinoff was the difference between an easy win and an annihilation that will have some Giantesses wondering if they made the right career choice.