Each week, The Doc casts his eye over the comings and goings of the AFLW world and finds what he likes, and other things he likes a lot less. Here are those things from Round Seeven
Breann Moody is still the queen of the ruck division
Last week in my likes and dislikes column, I made mention of Alice Edmonds’ ripping form and should be deserving of an All-Australian blazer in the ruck position. Well, the front-runner showed on Friday night against the Saints that she’ll take some doing to dethrone as the number one ruck in the competition.
Breann Moody is perhaps a marginal gap ahead of both Alice Edmonds and Tahlia Hickie in the All-Australian ruck sweepstakes, but if we’re being honest, we should be seeing two of these three take a spot in the team at the end of the season. We can almost categorically lock in Moody to start.
Whilst what was left of the Saints’ ruck stocks were blown apart when Simone Nalder went off with concussion in the first quarter, Moody and Jess Good were destructive in the ruck contests. Between the pair, they had 43 hitouts (Moody had 22) to St. Kilda’s 16. Moody was put up forward on the odd occasion, and came through with some strong hands, recording three contested marks and kicking two goals, to go along with 11 disposals (all contested), and three clearances.
It wasn’t easy by any means, but the Tigers got five wins in a row, by conquering the West Coast Eagles at the Mineral Resources Park on Friday evening. I’m not sure what the overall thesis is from the fans or fellow analysts, but it’s not looking like anyone has been woken up by the Tigers’ relentless pressure and the ‘all guns blazing’ approach when they get the ball off turnover.
They were lucky last week against the Suns, but in reality, the Tigers are not 5-2 by accident. They showed a couple of weeks ago that their brand stacks up against the better sides. They beat Brisbane, and I’d argue that they should’ve beaten Adelaide earlier in the year and with Carlton, GWS and North Melbourne to round out the year, they should finish the year 7-3 at worst and that would nearly put them at arms’ reach of top four.
There were a lot of strong contributors on Friday night, but one that doesn’t get anywhere near the credit she should be getting is Emelia Yassir. Pressure inside the attacking 50 is one of the most crucial things in football and this was a game that she had an impact in on the back of her defensive pressure; averaged 3.4 tackles per game before Friday but recorded seven tackles (equal leader on the ground), with six of them inside the attacking 50. She’s not a high-possession player, but she is a warrior and leaves nothing to chance when the ball is in her area.
The breakout game for Charlie Thomas
Regardless of where the Eagles finish on the ladder, there have been many bright spots for this Eagles’ team over the course of this season the Eagles look a vastly more settled side in comparison to season six. They’re competitive a hell of a lot more, the next phase now is to win the close ones – it’s still a big tick, nonetheless. But the biggest tick is the kids.
They’ll lead the charge over the next decade and a bit, but they’re already starting to come through now. Ella Roberts, child prodigy, is looking better and better every week, Sarah Lakay is fast emerging as an elite ruck and Bella Lewis will be right up there with Emma Swanson as the club’s best and fairest this season. But are we quick to forget Charlie Thomas? This young lady was taken with the Eagles’ first pick in last year’s AFLW draft and in her debut season there was a small ounce of doubt that she was the right pick.
But this season has quickly erased those doubts. This was a performance that justified their selection; She had 23 disposals (20 kicks at 70 percent), 11 intercept possessions (second of all players), seven rebound 50s (first), seven marks (equal first) and 386 metres gained (third). Currently, her season averages read 14 disposals, 299 metres gained, nearly a contested mark per game, 5.4 intercept possessions per game, and five rebound 50s per game.
Last season, or earlier in the year if you prefer, my colleague on the A3 Footy Podcast and good friend Alex Catalano made the proclamation that if he was to build up an AFLW team from scratch, he would be choosing Courtney Jones as one of the first players he’d pick. He wasn’t wrong then, he definitely isn’t wrong now.
Forget the league’s All-Australian team, I think it’s irrelevant these days. The true fans of the game will pick players based on their position – and in mine, there’s three general forward spots up for grabs and four players are currently front-running for it: Kate Hore and Greta Bodey are currently locked in, whilst Jess Matin and Jones are currently fighting it out for the third and final spot in the team.
The difference between Matin and Jones is that Matin is a pure goal-kicker, there aren’t many other nuances to how she plays; she’s either presenting as a lead-up option or she’s at the feet of the talls. Jones can feature further up the ground and get others involved in the scoring chain. She kicked two goals and had four score involvements from 12 touches in the wet against the Swans on Saturday and as it sits, she’s on 6.5 and averaging over four score involvements per game. Matin is on 8.1 but averaging less than two score involvements per game.
Does Chloe Scheer get a shout?
Chloe Scheer’s first four weeks in season seven have resulted in her just kicking one behind. Her past three games have seen her kick 7.6 – including two bags of three goals – one against the Saints and her most recent performance against Essendon; kicking 3.4 from eight marks and 13 disposals – most of which came from a dominant second half. ‘Reminiscent of Tom Hawkins in the 2011 Grand Final’ said one of our Mongrels in the chat.
Football has always been a funny game and since I’ve questioned Scheer’s influence as a forward, she’s come out and has often had some say in games. Even last week against the Dogs, she only kicked one goal, but she often made the defenders sweat a bit whenever the ball came down her way. Seven goals from her last three games is impressive and it puts her just five goals behind the leader Jesse Wardlaw with three games to go.
She’s a difference-maker, and the Cats are surging towards a top-eight berth. Can she make a late run for All-Australian? Well if she can continuously pluck grabs and kick goals, she could very well be. Astonishingly, Scheer is equal first in the competition for contested marks, averaging 1.7 per game and is ranked equal-sixth for score involvements.
Marinoff and Bowers: Clash of the Titans
It’s not often that I refer to the AFL Fantasy scores in these columns, but the scores from both Kiara Bowers and Ebony Marinoff are just that flat-out ridiculous that it has to be said: Kiara Bowers recorded 164 points to Marinoff’s 131.
Now to break it down properly, this is the sort of game that folks should be showing ignorant pigs like Steve Price to prove the point that women’s football has got a platform. Is it as flashy as the men are currently? Maybe not, but what the AFLW has is tough and uncompromising football and a few of the blokes around in the men’s competition could do with a few pointers in terms of putting your body on the line to win the football.
Marinoff had the 32 disposals and almost broke the league’s metres gained record set by Ellie Blackburn back in the inaugural season of 732, when she recorded 697 on Saturday against the Dockers. But Bowers is the one I’d like to talk about; renowned for her tackling, her past month now have seen her put numbers of 17, 12, 18 and now 19 this week and is currently first in the competition for tackles, averaging over 13 per game, Marinoff second behind on 10.4 per game.
She’s hit her strides now after a slow start to the season, but once again for the Dockers, not many others have followed her through as a tough loss keeps them in the bottom two for another week.
Cometh the moment…
I’ve watched Ruby Svarc a fair bit over the past couple of years and she always leaves me feeling frustrated… I’m sure she feels the same too (not with me!). There are a few things that I love about how the way she plays; she is blessed with speed, has shown on many occasions the points to run and receive the football on the outside and is almost always on the verge of doing something special.
But it’s that bloody word in football… ‘almost’. The problem though is that she ends up doing too much with it and it becomes a detriment to her and the team. And whilst this one moment in the game may not be a complete turning of the page, all that players really care about is the game they’re currently playing and hope something builds on to next week.
This leads to Ruby’s effort in the second quarter; you could possibly describe it as a season-defining moment in Brisbane’s win, because North had matched up well with them at this point. Svarc takes off from half back, takes a couple of bounces towards half forward. Handballs to Greta Bodey and charges deep inside 50 to tackle Sarah Wright and win a free kick, which deserved a goal, and thankfully she got it. It was an incredible play – arguably the play of the season.
Has the G-Train been derailed?
After 2020, where she won the league’s goal kicking and All-Australian in a shortened season, Caitlin Greiser has been facing a steady decline. Some of it is through form, this season looks as if the Saints will play through Shierlaw a bit more inside 50, but when you total up just three disposals in 81 percent game time, that’s cause for concern.
It’s not entirely on her; the rest of the forwards struggled; Jess Matin barely saw it before kicking two goals late in the game. Nicola Xenos had five touches, Kate Shierlaw five and Ash Richards seven. The Saints forwards were collectively beaten by the Carlton defenders on Friday, but the concern lies with Greiser; when she gets going, the Saints are an entirely different side. When she doesn’t however, things often go the other way.
Greiser’s goal averages are as follows: 1.7 in 2020, 1.0 in 2021, 0.4 earlier this year and currently she’s averaging 0.7 this season. It was wet and the conditions were greasy yesterday in Melbourne, we get that, but that’s an excuse in football that can only go so far. Moody commanded the air the other end for the Blues. This is a challenge to her and Nick Dal Santo to find some greater consistency, because we know at her best, she’s a very good player and a match-winner.
I don’t like particularly going into the commentators, but I’m in one of those moods this week, so I’m going to release some frustration out of the subpar commentary from not just this season, but from seasons gone by. Namely, I’m going after Chyloe Kurdas and Robert Harvey. I’m sure they’re terrific people, but I just cannot stand the fact that in commentary there are those that coddle too much on the battlers and those who wouldn’t know half the names of the players on the team and there is just no middle ground.
The commentary on the Sydney/Gold Coast game was horrendous, almost as if they were encouraging the Swans as if they all had stocks in them and then praised their efforts. They were smashed around the ground – 34 points is a saving grace in wet conditions, but they were -31 in contested ball -9 for clearances and -18 for inside 50s. But they did out-tackle them by six, which is something.
Robert Harvey’s insights have been pretty decent actually, but he has undone himself many times over the last month, saying that this is the first time he’s seen a specific player live. I’ve always been told honesty is best policy, but really, keep those sorts of comments to yourself. Firstly, no one really cares who you’ve seen or haven’t seen, but it’s also an ordinary look when you’re on TV commentating on a game and you say that to an audience who has seen Erin Phillips at least once live.
Which leads me to Port Adelaide.
As the old saying goes; bad kicking is bad football and for Port Adelaide, they should’ve had Hawthorn on toast by quarter time in Frankston: They were +9 in inside 50s and had four more scoring shots than them. They also had a fair chunk of territory in the third quarter, but will rue their opportunities.
They miss Gemma Houghton up forward, she is a commanding presence in the air that very few at Port Adelaide can match. You can see Erin Phillips really had a go and got her shots on goal too, but a wayward 0.3 is only adding fuel to this problematic fire. They’ll most likely head into the next draft with the first pick in the South Australian talent pool, but even then, they might get one or two more before the Crows get to pick, because the talent gap between the two teams is miles apart.
It also probably doesn’t help them either that Hawthorn’s tackling pressure in this game was once again, on another planet. The Hawks harassed, and they chased and hunted down the Port players and recorded another 70 tackles – +30 on the Power and beat them soundly in the tackles inside 50 as well 18-3 – Lauren Arnell would be flat about the result, this was one that got away from them.
Freo fade away again
It’s been a struggle this season for the Dockers to get going and very little has fallen in their favour. But I’ll give them this; they’re competing hard and maybe 17th on the ladder is a very stiff indication of where they truly sit.
But as they say in football, you don’t get premiership points for having a go. The Dockers faded in the last quarter against Melbourne last week after sticking fat with them for three quarters. This week they were nine points up on Adelaide at three-quarter time and had had their measure for most of the three quarters up to the final break. Much like last week, however, they conceded four goals again this week and lost by 16 to the Crows.
To be fair on the Dockers this week, they had three players that fell to injury before half time. Janelle Cuthbertson suffered an ankle, Gabby O’Sullivan a dislocated shoulder and Sarah Wielstra a knee. The Dockers’ depth has been ravaged this season by both expansion and injuries, and next week against the Pies away from home – it doesn’t get any easier for them.
What’s the next step for Essendon?
If you’re an Essendon fan, you’d be very disappointed with their result against the Cats. There was a lot they did right: clearances they won by 14, won the contested and uncontested possession count and had seven more inside 50s too, but they still went down.
So where did it go wrong? Sloppy entries inside 50 didn’t help the cause, and the Dons recorded 15 more turnovers than that of the Cats, so you can easily make the argument that they were their own worst enemy on this occasion. Chloe Scheer could’ve easily had a bag of five, six, maybe even seven. Dani Marshall had the job on her for large slabs of the last quarter, but it was clear that it was not the right match-up; Scheer out bodied her far too easily.
But my biggest worry with Essendon is that there is little assistance for Maddy Prespakis in the midfield. She had 37 disposals on Sunday, the next best disposal winner was Bonnie Toogood with 16. Prespakis also had 10 clearances, ruck Steph Wales had six and Amelia Radford had three. For mine, there isn’t enough around Maddy for the Dons to be a sustainable outfit. Paige Scott and Daria Bannister were having small stints in the middle, but that robs the forwards to win it out of the middle.
Where’s the fight in the Dogs?
You could ask anyone at the Whitten Oval, fans or staff and they’d likely tell you that this was hands down the worst performance the Dogs have had in the history in the women’s competition. It was certainly the worst performance I’ve seen from them. 23 scoring shots to four is embarrassing and it should’ve been closer to 90 points or more, such was Melbourne’s dominance and the Dogs’ lack of bark.
They’ve lost three in a row now the Bulldogs, all of which to finals contenders, and that tells me that they’re not yet ready. The biggest problem remains their forward structure and movement, they only went inside 50 three times to half time and finished with 12 inside 50s for the match. When it did go down there, it was easily mopped up by the usual suspects. Libby Birch, Shelley Heath, Sinead Goldrick all had a picnic in defence.
They had no answers for Liv Purcell and Eliza West in the contested ball – the pair combining for 20 contested possessions as the Dees beat them by 25. But the big problem is that the Dogs were -48 in the uncontested ball, which speaks to me about the lack of accountability and/or the difference in fitness between the two teams. Next weekend’s game against the Saints is simply a must-win game to stay in touch with the top eight, because it is looking more like a downward spiral.