It’s that time of the week again – The Doc has cast his eye over the goings-on of the AFLW world and has compiled his likes and dislikes of the week.
Let’s jump in.
Hatchy hitting her stride
Not that Anne Hatchard’s first three weeks have been poor by any means, I just think that it’s a combination of (getting used to what she does on the field and those around her performing as good as her.
But the last few weeks have seen her really assert herself into some red-hot form. The last three weeks have seen her hit the scoreboard with a regularity that we haven’t seen with her much thus far during her career. Three behinds against Collingwood, three goals and 11 score involvements last week against GWS and against Port Adelaide this week it was 1.2 and nine score involvements.
The Crows had a few monstrous performances, but for a midfielder of her calibre to take six contested marks is absurd. You’d have to wonder if she kicks straighter, then the Showdown medal would’ve easily been around her neck.
Randy is pretty good at footy too.
Chelsea Randall amazes me as a footballer. Last season, the persistent hamstring injuries were cause for me to be a bit concerned about where her future lies amongst the Adelaide football club, but the captain has responded with a very strong season to date, highlighted by her performance in the inaugural showdown.
Randall’s midfield minutes have risen significantly this season and that in turn has been critical to why Hatchard is finding herself more forward of the ball. It’s smart coaching by Matthew Clarke to do that with one of the better marking players in the side. Randall’s percentage of centre bounce attendances the last four weeks prior to round six have been 56, 75, 90 and 69
On Friday she led all players for clearances with seven (four from centre bounces) and was second to Hatchard for contested possessions (14 from 27) and kicked three goals from nine score involvements in this game and is averaging career numbers in disposals, contested possessions, clearances and score involvements this season.
The Hawks hold on again
For the second straight week, the Hawks conceded four goals in the opening quarter and for the second straight week, the Hawks came from behind to win a thriller. Some say that once you get the monkey off your back and get that first win, it comes more easily and the Hawks have won two on the fly.
It was a magnificent response in the second quarter with a breeze that is indicative of a three to four goal gale; eight goals were kicked with it in the first half, but following that, the Hawks clamped down and broke the Eagles through their pressure. There is a brand with the Hawks and whilst they aren’t and won’t be the cleanest side through their forward half, they like to suffocate sides when they don’t have the ball.
Hawthorn recorded 88 tackles against the Eagles and beat them +30 in the statistic – they currently sit second in the competition for tackles as of Friday night; 74.2 per game, only behind Brisbane averaging 74.8. Aileen Gilroy and Tamara Smith each laid 10 tackles and led all Hawks in this statistic – Gilroy has been a smashmouth player since her North Melbourne days, but Smith has emerged as one of the finds of the year; she is the equal leader at the club for tackles, averaging 8.7 tackles per game alongside Tilly Lucas-Rodd, who has emerged this year as a genuine midfielder.
Garnett’s got it
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Giants, but this was a terrific response against a side who is clearly on the struggle. The recruits have come in and have offered something; Maddie Brazendale looks like a gun, Goldsworthy will be a star and Cambridge McCormick has got something about her.
But the decision to move Georgia Garnett from a full-time defender to a forward has been something that every commentator has not shut up about since the season started, but there’s good reason for it. Garnett looks a natural when she’s forward; she knows how to lead and her marking hands have been a breath of fresh air for a Giants side that look willing to be more attacking than conservative.
She averaged six marks per game in the lead up to this game, she doubled that average with 12 marks against the Blues, a clear standout in the Giants’ win over Carlton. She also featured with 17 disposals, six inside 50s, four intercept possessions and four score involvements.
The big Edmonds
It’s been playing on the back of my mind for weeks now, but there are about four or five rucks that are head and shoulders above the rest. Breann Moody is currently the starting All-Australian ruck; but I like having two in my team and there’s a good field to choose from. If you had Alice Edmonds being an All-Australian at the start of the season, you’re either just pot luck, or an incredible football genius.
The Dogs’ decision to throw Celine Moody more as a permanent forward has thrust Edmonds into the number one ruck role this season and is currently reaping dividends in the middle; she destroyed Liv Fuller in the ruck; 35-8, including 15 hitouts to advantage. The Dogs did beat the Cats in the clearances and had a lot of the territory, but the inability to take advantage of repeat inside 50s did them in again.
But for better or worse for the Dogs this season, Edmonds has been an incredible revelation. Just over 12 months ago she was on the outer at Richmond, delisted and thrown a lifeline by the Dogs and is now currently leading the competition in hitouts, averaging over 27 per game.
Filling the void
Seemingly, a lot of people wrote off the Cats this week against the Dogs after Georgie Prespakis’ two-match suspension for a dangerous tackle that landed Erin McKinnon with a severe concussion was upheld. Good reason too, she has been a key catalyst to Geelong’s winning record this year; first at the Cats for metres gained and tackles, top two for disposals, contested possessions, clearances and inside 50s.
It’s no secret that I love Nina Morrison; from being the first guest on the A3 Footy Podcast, to her incredible talent and work rate to the stunning mullet. She’s a brilliant footballer and an even better person. Prior to this week she only averaged 24 percent of centre bounce attendances, but this was a game they needed her in the guts and she delivered in spades. Her tenacity towards the contest was felt every time the Dogs were working to clear it out; 18 of her 21 disposals were contested possessions, but also got eight clearances, 10 tackles and a goal assist.
Also a special shoutout to Rebecca Webster, who probably doesn’t get the plaudits because of those around her, but she was very good in this game, linking up and taking the ground when called upon.
Having watched a good handful of Southern Saints games this year in the VFL Women’s competition, it was only a matter of when, not if, Hannah Stuart would break out and solidify herself in this St Kilda team and this was hands down the best performance to date.
The Saints didn’t win this game, but after a couple of rough weeks, they would’ve been pleased with the efforts against a top-six contender in Collingwood, I’d argue that they should’ve even won it (see the dislikes), but one of the bigger positives was the influence of Stuart, who has played every game this season since being drafted back in June.
She made her name as a brilliant extractor in the state league, but this was a more well-rounded performance; 2.1 from 25 disposals (10 contested possessions), 364 metres gained, four clearances, four inside 50s and six score involvements. There’d be a few finds in the AFLW this season, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that Stuart would be top of the pile.
Don’t forget about T. Hanks
This year’s Melbourne midfield has been, by and large, spearheaded by Liv Purcell and Eliza West; both whom have been a testament to Melbourne’s recruiting over the past couple of years. Purcell was picked up whilst recovering from a torn ACL, whilst West was rewarded for strong form in the VFL Women’s and has been in impressive touch since with her penchant for the contested work – both defensively and offensively.
Having said that, Tyla Hanks reminded us all why she is a top-line player and vital to the Dees’ engine room. The thing about Melbourne is that they’ve got a plethora of players who can run through the middle: Paxman, Zanker, Mithen and even Kate Hore have seen minutes in the midfield this year, but all of them can play other roles around the ground too, they can be used if needed.
Hanks doesn’t even need to crash and bash the contest anymore because that’s what Purcell and West have been brought in for, and I thought her game against Fremantle was a reminder that when she is on, she’s a very influential player; She led all Demons for metres gained with 378, but also equal leader of all Demons for clearances with five (four of which came from centre bounces.
What’s happened to Dana Hooker?
Back in the opening couple of seasons, you’d herald Dana Hooker as one of the best midfielders in the competition. But since moving across to the Eagles, the ability to impact games have been sorely missed. West Coast don’t really need her in the midfield now; Emma Swanson has been in ripping touch, Bella Lewis is just starting to hit her strides as an A-grade midfielder and you’re not moving Aisling McCarthy away from the midfield either.
Also taking into consideration the kids coming through; Ella Roberts, Charlie Thomas, Courtney Rowley – you see it with other veteran heads; Daisy Pearce is the first one that comes to mind, finding a way to adapt to a new role and making it stick for the betterment of the team. Hooker’s last two weeks have seen her attend 10 percent of centre bounce attendances against Fremantle and 14 percent against GWS.
She didn’t see a lot of midfield minutes this week against Hawthorn and aside from a goal assist; really struggled to get herself involved and having a major impact in the forward half; 11 disposals, three score involvements and four tackles.
What’s happened to Erin Phillips?
Showdown one was a game that Port Adelaide fans will want to forget. It was a disappointment for the Power, who are clearly streets behind an Adelaide side who are finding some form towards the business end of the season.
We like to talk about the recruits a lot for every side, but I think Port Adelaide’s ex-AFLW contingent have been largely disappointing – possibly with the exception of Indy Tahau, who is basically holding up the defensive half as a 19-year old and Jacqui Yorston, who continuously puts her head down in the midfield and tackles her backside off.
What are the ex-Crows doing? More specifically, Erin Phillips. She has probably only had one good game this season, and that was against a hapless Sydney outfit. We know that time isn’t on her side anymore, but she hasn’t looked likely for her side this season – she’s not playing hurt, is she? She’s averaging career-lows for disposals, score involvements, clearances and contested possessions and is only averaging 43 percent of centre bounce attendances this season.
What’s happened to Darcy Vescio?
Just over a year ago, Darcy Vescio won the league’s goalkicking award on the back of sharp shooting for goal and being able to be dangerous on the lead. Of course, the other component of this is Carlton’s diabolical use of the ball. Keeley Skepper had a shot on goal that hooked horribly about 25 metres right and landed in the forward pocket and Mimi Hill missed a chance with a set shot on top of the goal square and the efficiency inside 50 was at 29 percent.
But Darcy Vescio is supposed to be a leader of the club and currently is that far away from their best footy, it’s too far gone to be laughable. Vescio only managed just four disposals and two score involvements. If you can’t get your hands to ball, you need to pressure and there was very little of that from Darcy too – just one tackle in over 92 percent of game time.
The Blues had 27 inside 50s in this game, so it wasn’t as if the forwards were starved for opportunities as the Blues had their share of momentum and territory. But this is where it falls to Daniel Harford. The side is injury hit, but where’s the innovation to swap the magnets around? Vescio is a momentum kind of player and if they get their hands to the ball early, good things often follow up with that.
Well, let’s be blunt. Bad kicking is bad football, and the Saints should’ve made the Pies pay for their inaccuracy. 16 scoring shots to nine from 37 inside 50s for the entire game should’ve resulted in a five-goal win to the Pies, but they got out of jail big time, leaving it to a late pearler in the final minute to win by two points.
Collingwood should be thankful for the Nicola Stevens howler; it would’ve had the Saints up by 10 points with less than three minutes to go. She had acres of space to run onto the ball and no Pies player anywhere around when she dropped the ball onto her boot. One metre out right in the heart of the goal square; it’d be harder to actually kick a point from where she was when she kicked it.
As you’d probably expect, all the anti-AFLW idiots have come out and presented this as exhibit A.2129. It’s an egregious miss, nearly unforgivable. But Saints fans potting her for the kick would have small memories if they forgot that Josh Bruce and Tim Membrey missed shots from similar distances and similar situations where they had no one around them – and they get paid full-time contracts!
It was a close on Saturday night at the Swinburne centre, and for the Gold Coast Suns, they were agonisingly close to being 4-2 against the Tigers and were in front for a lot of the second half. A late play-on advantage call to Emelia Yassir got Richmond in front with two minutes to play.
But for the Gold Coast fans, they’ll probably feel a bit cheated after a goal by Maddie Shevlin showed that the ball touched the fingertips of Serene Watson before it bounced over the goal line; which reopens the discussion of whether or not it’s time to bring in the score review system. Do the Suns win this game if the decision is overruled by the ARC?
Maybe they do hold on, but then again, the Tigers had +16 inside 50s and four more scoring shots than the Suns, so that alone suggests that Richmond still find a way to win this game. But this is where the competition needs to step in and take some ownership and provide an outline for this sort of stuff.
Wrong place, wrong time for Essendon
You could call it an insipid first half from the Bombers, but let’s be honest here, who is beating a Brisbane side that lost a game they should’ve won the week before? The Lions were set out of the gate from the opening bounce and the Lions struggled to go with them for the entirety of the first half; in the first quarter alone, the Dons were -9 in clearances, -10 in the contested ball and -11 in the tackles.
By full-time, Essendon tackled the better of the two sides, but were still well smashed in clearances and contested footy; -17 in clearances and -31 in the contested ball, but the biggest deficiency was the territory battle; -32 in inside 50 entries. We all knew that the Lions would be seething from their loss to Richmond and responded accordingly.
The Dons are an expansion side but were clearly not ready for it and should be thankful that the margin was at 44 points, given that the Lions had peppered a lot of shots on goal in the opening half. It could’ve and should’ve been a much bigger margin.