The Doc has his finger on the pulse of AFLW, and has his Round Two Preview in the form of what he is looking forward to seeing most.
RICHMOND V ADELAIDE – Is Richmond the Real Deal?
It’s tough to judge the Tigers off just one game this season, but Brisbane up in Queensland has never been easy. That win is one of their best yet, but a win over the Crows in Victoria will have the Tigers poised for a magnificent start. Especially considering they had them dead to rights in their match last season before a pair of unforced turnovers gave the Crows the win.
Following this game, they take on GWS and Carlton – they will be games you can nearly pencil down as wins, and an excellent little 4-0 start will be what Ryan Ferguson is precisely looking for.
It was an interesting first-round win for the Crows, who were undoubtedly handed the challenge in the opening half to Port Adelaide. But led through the likes of Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard and, to the surprise of many, Niamh Kelly, the Crows got the four points.
That’s an exciting midfield battle. Monique Conti was at her brilliant best last week, and it looks like Grace Egan and Ellie McKenzie are both about to find another gear to their games, respectively.
I also look forward to seeing Richmond’s forward line. They got goals out of their recruits last week in Caitlin Greiser and Courtney Jones. Captain Katie Brennan had four scoring shots for a 50 per cent return of 2.2 – The Crows have had to rejig their structure with Sarah Allan not in the side for the near future. Chelsea Biddell was forced to play a more defensively-minded role on Ashleigh Saint last week and shut her out after halftime.
If the Tigers can get another five or six goals from that trio, plus Emelia Yassir, they can get through the Crows in this game.
GOLD COAST V WEST COAST – Battle of the Young Guns
Ella Roberts taking on Charlie Rowbottom in the guts? Oh yes, please!
Roberts was one of two players who deservedly got the Rising Star nominations this week after her best afield effort in the Eagles’ loss to Fremantle in the Western Derby—highly touted as the best player out of last year’s draft class.
And whilst 20 per cent of centre bounce attendances from the weekend suggests that she is still behind the pecking order starting in the middle, her form across the forward half indicates that we’ll see that number rise sooner rather than later. She was still able to be a presence around stoppages, proved her worth in the contest and was able to do so much that suggests she’s every bit the draft experts were talking about.
Of her 24 disposals, 16 were contested, more than anyone on the ground. She also secured five clearances and six intercept possessions. While I’ve noted her misses in the likes and dislikes column from the weekend, the fact that she can still get looks at goal whilst producing a mass body of work in the contested ball is just exciting thinking about what she’s going to do in a few years when she hits her prime years.
We may see very little of her matching up with Charlie Rowbottom on the weekend, but we’ll see these two butt heads with one another for the footy for many years to come – and that’s just great for AFLW.
PORT ADELAIDE V BRISBANE – Erin Phillips is back in the middle
There were a few positives from Port Adelaide’s loss to the Crows in last week’s showdown. I loved Matilda Scholz on debut; they only lost the inside 50 count by three, and there were some pleasing signs from some of their younger players.
But one thing noticeable in the Port side last week was seeing Erin Phillips seeing more minutes in the midfield. Last year, she had just three games where she attended more than 50 per cent of centre bounce attendances. Against Adelaide on the weekend, she attended 69 per cent – only Abbey Dowrick had more out of the Port Adelaide midfield brigade.
She played more in the forward last season, and it felt like it held her back a little. This year, she’s moving more freely and has impacted contests more. She had 22 disposals – 11 contested possessions, nine marks and seven intercept possessions.
I don’t expect Port Adelaide to win this game this week. Still, with Dowrick, Jasmin Stewart and Ebony O’Dea being the primary midfielders in this Power lineup, I look forward to seeing a midfield that’s not to be sneezed at take on one of the best midfield brigades in the competition. Ally Anderson was again outstanding last week, Belle Dawes attacked the ball relentlessly, and Cathy Svarc is as Cathy Svarc does.
Also, who will have answers for Sophie Conway and Orla O’Dwyer on the wings? While Port were admirable in the first half, they also were -74 for uncontested possessions, which means the top sides will run them ragged.
SYDNEY V GEELONG – Can the Cats flex again?
The last time these two sides met, Geelong scored 15.12.102 – the second-highest score in the competition’s history – and smashed a hapless Swans outfit by 75 points.
We won’t see such a match this time around. Whilst you can easily claim how the Cats dismantled the Bulldogs last week, much of the talk has been about how the Swans rose from the proverbial dead on Sunday in their Sydney Derby to pinch what many thought was an unlikely win over the enemy.
The Swans will have their hands full with Geelong’s midfield stars. Georgie Prespakis tuned in one of her best performances against the Bulldogs –a statement game to the rest of the competition. Amy McDonald was again in excellent form, and Nina Morrison, Julia Crockett-Grills and Darcy Moloney were all brilliant without Becky Webster.
The Swans’ backline will have their hands full, too; Brenna Tarrant had some big moments last week, and Ella Heads has been a good find, but there will be some work to do. In the absence of Shelley Scott, Jackie Parry (three goals) and recruit Kate Surman (two goals, 17 disposals and seven tackles) shined, while Chloe Scheer was kept reasonably quiet.
WESTERN BULLDOGS V HAWTHORN – Who will produce the more significant response?
Let’s face it: both teams will be pretty disappointed in their performances last week. But you’d think for where they were last year, being in the final eight, the Dogs have more to play for this week.
A loss to Hawthorn would not just spell game over for their season, but it feels like there should be pressure coming out of the side to perform. Regardless of where the Cats finish come the business of the season, they were out-worked, out-hustled and just looked deflated at the Cattery. They should regain Rylie Wilcox this week after she was a late out, but Elle Bennetts is a massive loss structurally and in terms of figureheads in the team.
One thing that the Hawks have going for them is that they’re looking like they’re going to be in the top three sides for tackling once again – 103 tackles with a +46 differential against the Bombers last week. However, I was once told that tackling means you’re not getting the ball. They were -33 in contested ball, – 43 in uncontested ball and -21 in inside 50s.
Both teams were woeful moving the ball last week, and I suspect this game at Ballarat will not be pretty viewing. It just comes down to something simple – whoever is cleanest with the ball in hand and the more efficient going inside 50 wins this game because neither side looks like it has a forward line capable of taking the game by the neck.
COLLINGWOOD V FREMANTLE – Turbo back in the side
I’m sure the late out of Kiara Bowers would’ve put the dagger in the hearts of many an AFLW fantasy player. Still, providing she becomes another late out in this side, Kiara Bowers will make her season debut for the Dockers this week as they travel to Victoria Park to take on the Pies.
This game looms as a cracker of a battle. Collingwood showed for a half last week that they will be a very competitive side that should be in the considerations for the top eight this year, while Freo did what they needed to do last week to get past the Eagles in Lisa Webb’s first game in charge as coach of the Dockers.
The inclusion of Bowers will bolster the midfield significantly. The leading midfielders last week were Hayley Miller, Dana East and Gabby O’Sullivan, and they all had returns of 12, 12 and 11 disposals, respectively. Against the likes of Emma Swanson, Dana Hooker and Aisling McCarthy, they were second to the footy and beat out around the stoppages significantly.
Against a red-hot Bri Davey this week and a Collingwood midfield that will only gel as we continue into the season, the inclusion of Bowers is so vital because not only will she go in and win the contested ball with such regularity, but her tackling pressure will go a long way into shifting the momentum of the game in their favour.
NORTH MELBOURNE V CARLTON – Can the Roos play under pressure?
If you asked me about this game before the start of the season, I would’ve said North Melbourne by 10 goals, but the results from the weekend are making me slightly alter my thoughts.
Few people expected the Blues to get the chocolates against the Suns on the weekend, but this is an entirely different kettle of fish they come against this week. North put one tick to their name last week when they systematically dismantled St Kilda on the weekend because of terrific kicking and excellent skills in connecting.
We saw the Saints in the third quarter of that game apply pressure to the Roos that saw them fumble and have the ball hemmed into St Kilda’s forward half, and it resulted in scoring opportunities that the Saints mostly failed to convert.
That’s the key for the Blues this weekend if they are to keep themselves near North. They conceded 11 more inside 50 entries to the Suns on the weekend but out-tackled them by 13, recording 91 tackles overall, which is a good number for pressure footy. I like the look of Keeley Sherar as a two-way midfielder, and Marianna Anthony’s tackling was quite good on debut.
ESSENDON V ST KILDA – AFLW at Windy Hill
It’s been 32 years since a competitive match at the top level, but we’re about to see a return to football at Windy Hill. Yep, round 21, 1991, saw the Essendon team claim a shootout win against the Brisbane Bears in front of 12,000 spectators.
It’ll be interesting from the Saints side this week. The heat is on this side; their pants were pulled down in Hobart last weekend. They will probably have more of a chance to win the contest. If they can channel the aggression and not give away so many unnecessary free kicks and fifty-metre penalties, they have every opportunity to respond against the Bombers.
However, it’s hard not to back against the Bombers in this game. The Saints had no answers to that of the North Melbourne midfield last week, and I don’t think there will be an answer to quell the influence of Maddy Prespakis, who still managed to put in a cracking shift last week despite suffering a good whack to the ribs during the game.
There’s a lot to love from Georgia Nanscawen as well, who managed to play her first game and got through unscathed, and Steph Cain is starting to prove herself in the midfield as well. On the other side, I liked the efforts of Liv Vesely in the midfield and the pressure of Nicola Xenos up forward. But I need to see more from their more established players. Jaimee Lambert needs a big game after just nine touches last week, and captain Hannah Priest saw big midfield minutes this year and returned with 11 tackles and 12 touches.
GWS V MELBOURNE – What will Shelley Heath do next?
Last week’s win against Collingwood yielded some heroes instrumental in the second half, where Melbourne ran rampant. Shelley Heath, who I’ve been so high on for years, probably won’t get as much recognition as others, but I continue to be amazed at the jobs she gets handed to her by Mick Stinear and how she does it.
I’ve always loved seeing her compete one-on-one against some of the most dangerous small forwards of the competition – fondly remembering all the times she lined up on Courtney Hodder; that was some must-watch football.
Heath was handed the task in the second half to quell the influence of Bri Davey, who, to half time, had already amassed over 20 touches for the game and a massive impact around stoppage for the Pies.
Davey finished with 35 disposals and maximum coaches votes at the end, but Heath kicked two goals pushing forward when the Demons were running wild in transition.
The thing is, too, Tyla Hanks and Olivia Purcell attended 11 centre bounce attendances – the most of any Melbourne midfielder; Heath attended two fewer, which says she looks ready to make the next step as an AFLW footballer. She can run with opposition players; we’ve seen it repeatedly, but now she also looks like she’s got some tools to her kit.
I’d love to see the matchup on Alyce Parker this week. That’s a must-see contest written all over it.
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