The Doc’s Likes and Dislikes from Week One of the AFLW Finals

The Doc, as usual, is all over AFLW as we run toward crowning a champion for the second time in 2022.

Here are his Likes and Dislikes from the first week of the finals.


Melbourne v Adelaide




  1. Big Time Bannan

There’s a reason why Melbourne drafted Alyssa Bannan as early as they did in the 2020 AFLW Draft. Taken fifth overall, Melbourne acquired this draft pick via Geelong in a mass swap of picks. Bannan was one of a few big names coming out of Victoria. Ellie McKenzie was the clear number one talent, but Bannan, Jess Fitzgerald, Tyanna Smith and Mimi Hill weren’t too far behind her in the talent pool.

She’s been in the competition for what will be her third season, but already she’s proven herself to be a player who thrives in the big moments. She was instrumental in Melbourne’s first run to the Grand Final earlier in the year, and this game is further proof in the pudding that Bannan is about as dangerous as it gets. The thing that I love in her game the most is that she is supremely confident that her pace can beat nearly everyone in the league. Watching her burn off Hannah Button in the second term was reminiscent of Cyril Rioli and Lewis Jetta in the 2012 Men’s Grand Final.

But above that, she kicks goals when you need them, and she popped up with two of them in this game – the second of which garnered a roar of applause from the Ikon Park crowd as she ran around Hannah Button on the mark and then delivered the goal with supreme poise. Not many players dare to try that in football, but it’s purely refreshing to see someone back themselves in like that.


  1. Standing Tall

Whilst there were other Demons players who were greater, it’s hard to ignore just simply how good the performance was of Tahlia Gillard in this game. With Gab Colvin out at the start of the season with a season-ending knee injury, there was a bit of an impetus on Gillard to fast-track her development and week after week, I’ve seen this young lady step forth and deliver with lock-down jobs and her ability to cut off opposition entries at the knees.

She’s saved her best for the qualifying final, rotating between both Ashleigh Woodland and Chelsea Randall – beating them both and leading all players on the ground for intercept possessions with 11 for the game. After playing three games in season six, Gillard has played every match thus far in season seven; but also averages 4.6 intercept possessions per game – the only person who is averaging more at Melbourne is Libby Birch.




  1. Outworked again

The old saying goes; ‘It’s not about how you start, but it’s how you finish’ – Adelaide were dominant in the opening quarter – kicking three goals in the opening ten minutes and led by as much as 19 points. They were 10-5 in inside 50 entries in the opening term; for the remaining three quarters, the count read at 26-11 in favour of Melbourne – once they got cracking, the Crows struggled to match them.

In terms of how the Demons won, it almost feels like a carbon copy of their round one encounter earlier in the year. The Demons smashed them in uncontested ball in their last encounter, this time round, nothing changed. The Crows were obliterated by Melbourne’s penchant to run and spread off the turnover, and it led to many scoring chances. Melbourne was +73 in the uncontested ball in round one. This time around it was +61 – add to the fact that Melbourne were +19 in the contested ball and +19 in marks in this one, the Crows have either learned nothing from the last encounter or Melbourne are just head and shoulders better than them right now.

One small positive thing from Adelaide was Sarah Allan’s game – I might have harshly judged her during the week and asked the question of whether she is performing to the level of her premiership best – but she answered that with a strong effort from start to finish.


  1. Quiet night for Anne Hatchard

Interesting to see Shelley Heath start in the middle and run with Anne Hatchard in the middle and all throughout the first term around the stoppages. By quarter time, she was moved off and Tyla Hanks looked to get the head-to-head match-up. For a player of Hatchard’s calibre and standard, this was an off night for her.

It’s not through a lack of effort – she laid eight tackles and only Ebony Marinoff had more tackles from the Adelaide camp and Hanks was equal-second overall. She did, however, finish with just the 16 disposals, The thing that’s dropped off is her ability in the air. Since the beginning of season six, she’s only recorded under 20 disposals just three times and this was one of them.

It isn’t just that. Since the performance against Port Adelaide in which she took nine marks, six of which were contested, she has only taken just eight marks from five games – including five against St Kilda in round 10. If she isn’t performing, then it’s up to the next lot to pick up the slack – Teah Charlton was good, but I need to see more from the likes of Niamh Kelly, Rachelle Martin, Hannah Button and Hannah Munyard – all four of them were disappointing.


Brisbane v Richmond




  1. Asserting themselves as the premiership favourites

They’ve been arguably the best team all season, but Melbourne looks like they’ll be the only team that will come close to challenging them for the premiership. Their second term was about as good as it gets systematically. Brisbane’s work around the source was second to none – +12 in the contested ball and +32 in the uncontested ball. Despite winning more of the ball, they still managed to lay 67 tackles in this game, which is basically on another world. Richmond had three more tackles, but they were made to chase tail for a lot of the afternoon.

When you roll down their 21 that played on Saturday, where do you find the weakness in this team? Nat Grider was quiet, but she was All-Australian last season, Phoebe Monahan has transformed herself from a discarded player to a defensive mainstay, Kate Lutkins is quietly working her way back into form after rupturing her ACL early in the year.

Mikayla Pauga might be the only one who isn’t safe from her spot in the team, but even then, she’s finding her role in this team and hardly takes a backwards step in her approach to the football. This team has got all the bases covered – elite wingers in O’Dwyer, Conway and Ellenger, the centre bounce crew have been bloody strong for so long and the forwards are kicking goals for fun. There is no weakness with this team, and it showed when it dismantled the only side that has beaten them this season.


  1. Ally Anderson is bloody good at football.

A few weeks ago, Michael Whiting from the AFL website published an article about how Ally Anderson was the quiet achiever and been flying under the radar. Suppose she has been playing golf for the last five years, hey? If I’m being honest, Ally Anderson has been an elite midfielder since the early days of this competition and whilst it’s true, she may not get recognised as much here in Victoria because she’s in a Queensland club. But guaranteed if she was playing at an Essendon or a Hawthorn, then she’d be touted as the second coming of God.

Ally Anderson is a tremendous footballer and those who watch and scrutinise football to the nth degree will know this and won’t sound off on her being a quiet achiever or a player flying under the radar. She’s been Brisbane’s best midfielder this year, and at times it feels like it hasn’t been even close. She had Meg Macdonald run with her this week after the successful job on Jasmine Garner and despite the close attention, Anderson just ran her ragged – she finished with 21 disposals, five tackles and six clearances.

And whilst Macdonald was working hard, Emily Bates (21 disposals, eight tackles and five clearances) and Cathy Svarc (19 disposals, nine tackles and seven clearances) combined for nine score involvements and nine inside 50 entries. Anderson was still solid, but those two were even better. You can’t tag a player in this side, the others will pick up the slack.




  1. That 50-metre penalty

It’s not so much a dislike, but rather something that I’m split about. There was a free kick in the second quarter to Cathy Svarc. Sophie Conway asks for the ball off Eilish Sheerin, Sheerin obliges and gives the ball to Conway, Conway then drops the ball to the ground and outstretches the arms to the umpire to appeal for the 50-metre penalty and then got it – Svarc kicked the goal and the Lions got clear by half time.

I’m torn about this, because it’s bloody clever and goals are goals – doesn’t matter how or what you do to get them, particularly in finals. But if you’re a Richmond supporter, you’d be bloody seething and crying for a bit of integrity in the game of football, right? A part of me feels like the whole ‘spirit of the game’ schtick should be considered here, but some other variables to consider here is that Sheerin should be asking the umpires who to give the ball to or leave the ball to the ground for the Lions players to pick up.

Finals football brings out the best in players and this was football skulduggery at its finest. Play on.


  1. Courtney Wakefield’s form

Since kicking four goals against Carlton in round eight, Courtney Wakefield has only yielded a return of 2.2 from her last three games, including a goalless effort against the Lions. Katie Brennan shouldered the scoring input in this game, Wakefield has been the go-to forward for the Tigers all season and was essentially blanketed by the Brisbane defence.

Phoebe Monahan was the direct matchup for a lot of the afternoon, but she had a lot of assistance by those around her. Grider, Koenen, Lutkins – they are all supremely intelligent in knowing when to peel off their direct opponent and then coming across to impact the contest. Just the two marks, seven disposals and three tackles from Wakefield in this game.

It’s great to see Brennan firing at this time of the season, but for their finals chances, they need Wakefield to be firing on all cylinders too. She has been in All-Australian contention for most of the season – 13.10 for the season has her fourth for key forwards in goals, but if she puts in a quiet effort like this against North Melbourne, the Tigers are in serious trouble of going out in straight sets – she is that important to their structure.


Geelong v North Melbourne




  1. Tackle-Roos

In games where goals are few and far between, these games are more of a battle of attrition. North Melbourne were smashed in the inside 50s count 41-18, but two things saved them in this game: Geelong’s torrid kicking for goal, and their tackle pressure. Too often in these games, one doesn’t come without the other and North Melbourne were able to lay immense pressure on the Cats and that forced them to play a lot wider.

North don’t have a Kiara Bowers-type player who regularly notches 15-plus tackles on a weekly basis, but Amy Smith, Nicole Bresnehan and Jasmine Garner combined for 35 tackles – which is immense. Amy Smith had the job on Monique Conti last week and kept her relatively quiet – this week she had 17 tackles in a mammoth effort and looked to have run with Amy McDonald in patches and whilst McDonald had the 23 touches, wasn’t as damaging with her clearance work as we’ve seen this season.


  1. Annabel Johnson

The Cats won’t be too pleased that their season has ended so abruptly, there has been a number of players who have improved out of sight and have been revelations; Mikayla Bowen’s second half to the year has been extraordinary. Georgie Prespakis is emerging as a star before our very eyes. Rachel Kearns’s intensity is almost second to none and Chantel Emonson has flown under the radar as one of the shrewdest pickups over the last three years.

But one player I had my doubts upon her being drafted was Annabel Johnson.  Recruited with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 AFLW Draft, Johnson was taken as a local product, having been playing with Geelong’s VFLW side. It was speculative, being that she was 21 and there were a handful of teenagers yet to be drafted.

But after playing five games earlier in the year, she’s thoroughly established herself in Geelong’s 21 this season and if a game-high 11 intercept possessions doesn’t sway you into a believer like it has me, then maybe a season-average 6.3 intercept possessions per game might. She’s already emerged as a future defensive general.




  1. Bad kicking

Well as that old saying goes; bad kicking is bad football and for Geelong had 41 inside 50s for just nine scoring opportunities and one goal. They’ll head into the off-season thinking about what got away from them. Shelley Scott had two opportunities to put them in front late – albeit from really difficult angles, but sprayed them both. But if we’re being honest, others had shots on goal throughout the game that went begging.

Squandering shots in football kills you, especially in finals and hopefully this result lights a fire in both Dan Lowther and the players for next year, because this was an extremely disappointing way to bow out after an outstanding second half to the year. Their kicking inside 50 was extremely diabolical – Chloe Scheer never stood a chance against two North defenders – Jasmine Ferguson was often one of them.

Where do the Cats go from here? Their midfield is bloody strong, and the defence showed on Saturday that they’re impeccable on their day. They need a good off-season built around forward cohesion. Scheer and Scott are the keys, but others around need to lift. Jackie Parry had the five disposals and was very disappointing. Kate Darby plays second ruck but needs to impact the scoreboard a bit more and playing midfielders like Julia Crockett-Grills, Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney – for as good as the mark and goal was – just isn’t it.


  1. To those who knock the score line

I’m getting sick of seeing comments calling the game boring because three goals being kicked in the entire match. If you put a choice in front of me between a goal-kicking feast and a dour struggle like this one, I’ll concede I’m a goal-kicking kind of person, so my choice immediately deviates to the former.

Steve Price (yuck) penned a piece about preferring to watch teenage boys play football than the women’s competition, just days after Richmond pulled off a miraculous upset over the Brisbane Lions, and if you watched the game like I did – you would’ve witnessed a fantastic game with which Richmond showed glimpses of dominance of territory and finished with them clinging on to their lead for dear life.

This was a similar game with which North Melbourne showed that they were able to make the most of their opportunities, meanwhile they were clinging on to their lead as Geelong heaped unbelievable pressure with their repeat inside 50 entries. I will admit, there were many times where the skills went missing, but the pressure put on by both teams was that insurmountable, it was always going to be about which team could grasp their chances. Bugger the scoreline, it was a solid and intense game of football.



Collingwood v Western Bulldogs




  1. The Eliza James Show

When I wrote up the match previews on the Mongrel prior to the weekend, the biggest concern was where the Pies were going to get their goals from. Chloe Molloy was well-contained in the middle in this game and Sabrina Frederick was well held up forward. The match-winner was Eliza James with her four goals – could’ve easily have been five if she didn’t squander the first shot in the opening minutes of this game.

No one has kicked four goals in a final until now, which continues to prove that the competition is only going onwards and upwards. Eliza James is going to be in the top echelon of small forwards in the years that come and it is somewhat baffling that the Pies managed to swoop her late in the second round of the 2021 AFLW Draft. She went at pick 29, the Dogs could’ve snared her a couple of picks earlier, but opted with Elizabeth Snell – who has been serviceable in the games she has played.

But whilst Snell has the hunger and the tackle pressure of a small forward, she lacks the killer instinct and the finishing touches that James has, and it makes me wonder what Nathan Burke was thinking when Georgostathis was the match-up in the first half until she kicked the second goal, but by then the move was too little, too late, because she had caught fire and proceeded to kick another two as the game progressed.


  1. The Dogs Twin Towers

Could’ve easily had marked down Stacey Livingstone’s game here, but I think the Dogs helped her with their poor disposal forward of centre, so I’d like to pinpoint two players that at least held up and played with a lot of desperation. Without them, the game would’ve been over by half time – and that’s Katie Lynch and Issy Grant.

I know I’ve harped on about Lynch’s disposal heading out of the defensive half at length this season, but her marking hands have been consistently strong all year round and this was no different – nine intercept possessions and six marks (two contested) from 20 disposals and five tackles. Her efforts to run the ball forward during the second half in the time of need is everything you need to know about players standing up. Against her old side, this was the best performance I’ve seen from her since coming across from the Bulldogs.

As for Issy Grant, each week that I see her play continues to remind me about how her father used to play. She’s on a slow rise to being a top-line key position player and does just about everything. She’s aerially dominant, she’s smooth with the ball in hand and clean enough at ground level to get things to work. She had the job on Sabrina Frederick for most of the game and kept her to just four disposals and no impact anytime she went up forward. Grant herself had 10 touches, eight intercept possessions and five marks to go with that.




  1. The Bulldogs’ first quarter

Collingwood had 11 inside 50s for seven scoring shots – this should’ve been a five-goal quarter time deficit and the game over, but the Dogs continually got away with it. Collingwood missing quite easy kicks for goal in the first quarter. It was just simply a diabolically putrid opening term by the Dogs and if it wasn’t for some errant kicking for goal in the second term, perhaps they should’ve pinched this game.

We could be playing ifs and buts all day long with this mob, but the bottom line was that it was their inability to hit targets inside 50 and their lack of work rate in the opening term that cost them this game. If you caught the television broadcast, you might’ve noticed the whiteboard in the Bulldogs’ huddle at quarter time that had an emoji that resembled a pile of excrement and next to it had ‘work rate = crap’ and ‘effort = crap’ – that’s what it was and it was pleasing to see Nathan Burke pull no punches with the girls for their efforts at quarter time.

Terry Wallace gave his infamous ‘I’ll spew up’ speech against the Pies in a home and away game in 1996. In that game, The Dogs coughed up a 44-point lead at quarter time and bounced back to lose by a goal. This contest has an eerily similar feel to it, and I hope Burkey lets them know that their second half is a great reminder of the potential the team can produce.


  1. The injury toll growing for Collingwood

The other little subplot out of this game was the injury list at Collingwood. Sarah Rowe was seen with ice strapped to her knee and Ruby Schleicher was helped off by the trainers with an apparent ankle injury and against an Adelaide side that would be seething by their efforts against Melbourne on Friday night, that’s the last thing that they need.

The early word from a few Collingwood supporters is that they sense a Crows’ blowout coming, and I fear the same as well. The Dogs out-ran them in the last quarter and the Pies nearly looked as if they were running on fumes. Imogen Barnett took a bloody good grab out of defence in the dying stages, but can the Magpies get away with a defensively-minded game style against the Crows?

Schleicher spent more time in the defensive half in this game and alongside Livingstone, was bloody strong in building the Collingwood wall across the game. But if she goes down, it adds more pressure on the defenders to nullify the likes of Woodland, Ponter and even someone like Caitlin Gould, who got very dangerous when the ball was in Adelaide’s forward half in the opening term. They’ve got guts the Pies, but how much is left in the tank when they get to Adelaide?



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