As usual, The Doc has his finger on the pulse of AFLW action. Here are his likes and dislikes from Round Two
As good as Gould
The Crows made a solid shift to reaffirm themselves as one of the premiership contenders this year. This win against teams like Richmond away from home makes sides, and the Crows were cleaner, worked harder and put the clamps on a lot of Richmond’s running game.
Up forward was where my concerns with this side lay. Up to the plate stood Caitlin Gould. She showed plenty of promise and threatened at times in the past. The recruitment of Jess Allan this past off-season becomes all the more critical for the Crows because it gives Gould the license to be more forward while she can shoulder the rest of the load in the ruck.
Gould showed that she should be more of a forward presence in conditions that didn’t favour the key forwards. It was wet and greasy at Ikon Park; she took five marks, including one contested spot, and had three goals from six kicks. The Tigers had no answers for her in this game.
She presents like a natural forward, has a great, booming shoe on her, and if this game indicates, she has an innate sense for the goals. It feels a bit clear-cut exactly where to play her.
Now that’s what you call a response
There would’ve been a bit of heat up north on the Suns to perform this week after a dismal performance against a very understrength Carlton outfit. From the word go, they were switched on and, by half time, eclipsed their greatest-ever score in the AFLW and were so close to posting a triple-figure score.
They dominated the Eagles around the contest, led once again by Charlie Rowbottom, who is already thrusting herself into the discussion as one of the game’s greatest midfielders: 33 disposals, 24 contested, as well as 16 clearances and 10 tackles is a monster effort, regardless of the opposition. She also had four goal assists from her nine score involvements.
Another player that has flown under the radar of many is Claudia Whitfort, who also recorded 33 disposals but showed flair at times and looked to be the one that was looking to garner meterage wherever she possibly could; 531 metres gained from her in this game as well as six clearances and five score involvements, including 1.1
But the forwards were disappointing last week; this week, they were on song, and my goodness, it was a fine tune – 13 of their 15 goals belonged to Jamie Stanton, Tara Bohanna and Jacqui Dupuy.
That’s a 50th to remember Stanno
Jamie Stanton saluted her 50th game in the AFLW with a career-best day with six goals. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for her and some journey. She started in Brisbane, travelled to North Melbourne and then found her way back up North to play for the Suns.
Once a solid midfielder capable of winning her fair share of the ball, the arrival of Charlie Rowbottom, Ali Drennan, and Claudia Whitfort meant that she had to adapt and find a different position in the forward 50.
This time last season, she had done a season-ending knee injury in the corresponding fixture. It’s just surreal to know that 12 months down the track, in her 50th game, she had kicked three goals in a masterclass of handling the ground ball, and her six goals showed a sense of poise and goal sense that I’d wager a lot of people outside of the Gold Coast didn’t know about.
The Suns won’t post a score as high as what they produced against the Eagles every week, but it showed they have a forward line capable of kicking winning scores against better sides with what they have.
The Stars are out at Brisbane
The Lions did what they needed to do to get on the board in season 2023 – a 50-point trouncing away from home is an excellent response to a narrow loss the previous week.
With four goals, Dakota Davidson was a star and looked back to her 2021 best; with six contested marks in this game and eight scoring shots, it could’ve yielded even better results. But it was a dominant performance in the air against players still fresh on the scene: Amelie Borg and Alex Ballard.
She needs to be at her best up forward with Wardlaw no longer there, and if they can get an improved output from Taylor Smith, then the Lions will be thereabouts again in the finals series. Analea McKee, who was plucked from the VFLW during the pre-season, kicked two goals and looked handy up forward in just her second game in the big time.
And, of course, the midfielders feasted. A standout performance by the reigning W medallist Ally Anderson and her 36 disposals led the charge. But not to be understated were the performances of Belle Dawes (21 disposals and seven clearances), Sophie Conway (14 disposals, two goals and eight tackles) and Cathy Svarc (16 disposals, one goal and five tackles).
Saturday was one for the goal kickers, and up at North Sydney Oval, another player came through with a match-winning bag in Chloe Scheer.
I predicted on the A3 Footy Podcast that Chloe Scheer, on the back of her blistering second half of the home and away season last year, would carry that form onto this year and take home the league’s leading goal kicker award.
After a quiet first round in a dominating team performance, Scheer was the ultimate beneficiary from the Cats’ slick ball movement at times. She looked so clean below her knees and sharp when she went for the kicks around her body. She’s a dynamic player, so strong for her size but also deceptively quick and elusive once the ball hits the deck.
Stanton’s six-bomb earlier in the day currently holds her in the lead as of writing this on a Saturday night. Still, Scheer is one of a few behind her on six, along with Davidson and Scheer’s teammate Jackie Parry, which must be said, has flown tremendously under the radar.
Parry’s influence and leading patterns have improved significantly in the absence of Shelley Scott, a big reason why the Cats are continuing to score well in games to start this year.
Better from Bodey and the Hawks
In her debut in Hawks colours last week, Greta Bodey had what I would describe as an underwhelming performance that yielded minimal influence against Essendon. Still, she showed her talent this week when they had enough forward 50 supply in this game.
She was brought to the club to generate scores, and you’d be happy with two goals and a direct goal assist from her in this performance, more so when the Hawks needed her. She kicked a goal before three-quarter time to narrow the deficit to less than a goal and then kicked the go-ahead goal.
But the Hawks were outstanding in their efforts against the Dogs. Tilly Lucas-Rodd (21 disposals, one goal, five clearances and seven tackles) and Emily Bates (22 disposals, six tackles and three clearances) led the charge from the middle. Kaitlyn Ashmore (19 disposals, 404 metres gained and five tackles) was superb.
Kristy Stratton only had 10 disposals in this game but led the way for tackles with 12 for the match and had a good influence. She is emerging a good story after being cut by Collingwood a few years ago, having to fight and claw her way through Hawthorn’s VFLW program and finally being rewarded with a list spot in the supplementary draft after season seven.
Sabs in the ruck
There were plenty of winners on the ground for the Pies in their win against Fremantle – Nell was good early with two goals to set the tone, the midfield stars were prolific, and I want to give a special mention here to Sophie Casey, who gave away 20 centimetres to Aine Tighe in Freo’s forward line and gave her a bath to the point where she had to move into the defensive half to become an influence on the contest. Plenty of times, she outbodied her and won her contests.
But another big talking point to come from this game is Sabrina Frederick, who shouldered a lot of the load in the ruck for this game. She’s been an often-maligned player for her lack of tools as a forward, but when you place her around the ball, that’s where she can become an influence.
Against a player in Mim Strom this week, who is no slouch by any means, she exerted her strength upon her, and it was an enjoyable ruck contest. She had to work extra hard once Imogen Barnett came off with an ankle injury late in the first half. But to break even in hitouts (Strom had 28, Frederick had 25) and got her hands on the ball enough (10 disposals and three marks).
We’ll see Erica Fowler back next week to provide a chop out, but in the meantime, the Pies must continue to persist with Frederick in the ruck; she’s got great strength, capable ball winner around the ground, and her fitness base has been on a steady, upward trajectory.
The captain’s knock
With any leadership change, there will always be questions about how the new captain will deliver, what they can add to the side, how they can make them better, or whether they can continue providing their side of the bargain with extra responsibility.
I’ll be honest, I had thought about Kate Hore and whether or not she could back up what an excellent season seven she had thrust into the captaincy with the retirement of Daisy Pearce.
But before the Demons’ season opener, Pearce had a glowing endorsement of Hore. In the first two weeks, we can all see that she will have an emphatic say in how the Dees go about proceedings and how she will impact and inflict damage to the rest of the competition.
The first quarter at Manuka Oval was all the Kate Hore show, with three goals, 13 disposals and five marks in a quarter so dominant; I don’t think since Brooke Lochland in 2018 when she kicked the record bag of seven have I seen such a dominant performance up forward in one quarter.
She would finish up with five for the evening, but was incredibly playing up the field, as well as being a presence in the forward 50 – 23 disposals, eight marks, six tackles, and 420 metres gained are telling numbers for a forward that loves to push up and run back when the ball is in transition.
Gee, she’s good.
This week, I was very close to giving Jasmine Garner another slot in the likes section. Still, we all know how good she was: 36 disposals, 19 contested, one goal, 10 tackles, 2 goal assists, and eight clearances is a testament to her abilities.
But I’d love to talk about someone who has had some criticism for not being consistently involved in games in recent years. There had been a bit of fanfare out of the club about Georgia Gee after a strong pre-season.
She was a solid performer against the Hawks last week, but this week, her game went up to another level, and she was one of a few critical figures against the Saints in their first game at Windy Hill.
Gee’s speed and ability to use the footy and link up well are essential to the side, especially as a wing/high half-forward. There’s good potential in her to have an aerobic capacity similar to Sophie Conway, and the tools to be as damaging as her are there as well – it becomes a matter of putting it all together and consistently at that.
Against the Saints, she registered 21 disposals, nine contested possessions, five marks and one goal in this game. There were, of course, others who were fantastic – Prespakis was again outstanding, Sophie Alexander was also excellent playing second ruck, and there were lots to like from Amber Clarke in this one, too.
But for the Dons to be a genuine top-eight threat, they need players like Gee to be on and on from the start. This is a promising start.
Got to stick the marks
Richmond got off to a good start – they kicked two goals in the opening quarter and looked like they were on for another cracking game against a premiership contender. Only after quarter time they failed to score anything for the rest of the game.
Does anyone have a statistic for how many times Richmond dropped marks? I’d lost count by half time. It was a rough night for the Tigers as they struggled to move the ball fluently and were almost caught under pressure whenever they looked at moving the ball forward.
They kicked two goals in the opening quarter and failed to score anything for the rest of the game.
By three-quarter time, Richmond had only registered nine marks… nine! Yes, it was a shocking day in Melbourne, and that meant the ball would be difficult to handle, but Adelaide took 31 marks in the first three quarters.
Weather cannot be used as an excuse, considering Adelaide had 11 scoring shots on the back of 24 more inside 50 entries and double the number of uncontested ball they had. It was a toothless effort from the Tigers. Only four players registered multiple marks, and eight didn’t even trouble the stats people for one mark.
Among them were Caitlin Greiser, Katie Brennan, Rebecca Miller and Maddie Shevlin – all of whom are key players in this side.
Where to for the Eagles?
Hopefully, this is just a speed bump, but it has damaged this side, unwinding the excellent work they showed last week. The Eagles were -34 in the inside 50 count, smashed in the clearances by 27, and the Suns destroyed them in the contested possession count 141-88 – that’s over 50 contested possessions more.
It was a demolition in every sense of the word, and Michael Prior labelled it disappointing from his post-match presser. Unacceptable is probably the word I would have used. The Suns would’ve been revved up from a poor performance last week, and the Eagles would’ve sensed it but were just not ready from the word go.
The problem with the Eagles is that it has always been left to too few, and it’s the same few; Ella Roberts was again brilliant around the midfield, Bella Lewis and Emma Swanson were good, and Charlie Thomas and Belinda Smith battled on in the backline. Three goals from Kellie Gibson off limited opportunities was a big tick.
More disappointing was the lack of numbers from the likes of Aisling McCarthy (10 disposals), Dana Hooker (seven touches) and even some of the more highly-touted kids – Courtney Rowley had four touches, Amy Franklin had three and Lauren Wakfer just one.
Where’s Hannah Ewings at?
I’m not in the business of judging player fitness, but what’s happened with Hannah Ewings this season? Last season, she was the second-highest midfielder in attending centre bounces with 67 – from rounds three to ten, she averaged 70 per cent of centre bounce attendances.
She attacked the ball with ferocity, was strong in the contest and was influential in the forward 50, and it was that work rate and talent that saw her claim the league’s Rising Star award.
Against Adelaide last week, she only attended five centre bounces, with four of her teammates favoured more heavily to feature in the middle.
This week against Brisbane, she struggled big time, registering just eight disposals for the game, four of which were effective. Also, all eight touches were in the first three terms because she added zero disposals in the last quarter.
This is just a kid in her second year, so I don’t want to come across as being incredibly harsh, but given how emphatic she was in her games last year, at the very least, the question needs to be asked about her: what’s happening? Is she fit? Is she battling injury? What’s going on with her, and why has she regressed just two games into a new season?
The Bulldogs… again!
Captain Ellie Blackburn spoke out during the week and refused to use the injuries to excuse their efforts against the Cats. What is the excuse against a Hawthorn side this week that is another season or two away from making inroads with the rest of the competition?
Questions should be asked about the Dogs – After an elimination final exit, they were inactive in the trade period and had 12 months to prepare for a new season. Already, they are down to just 24 players to pick from, with injuries from the pre-season affecting several players who played on Sunday. What the hell is going on over there?
On-field, they are stuck in the well with the same players who do their best every week to get them out. They won the clearances count, the contested possession count and even the uncontested possession count. But inside 50 entries were in favour of the Hawks.
Issy Pritchard (26 disposals, five clearances) was huge at the coal face, as was Ellie Blackburn (20 disposals and nine clearances), and Jess Fitzgerald looks like she’ll go another level this year. But the ball movement towards the forward half continues to flounder.
Kirsten McLeod kicked two first-quarter goals and disappeared, and as admirable as Gab Newton and Sarah Hartwig are, they cannot be the only ones that will contribute to a winning score. I need more from the likes of Daisy Bateman, Bailey Hunt and Celine Moody – none of them have been inspiring, to say the least, at the start of the season.
And to top it all off, they’ve got the reigning premiers in Casey next week – Melbourne by how much do you reckon?
The last quarter was flattering for the Dockers because they were comprehensively beaten around the contested ball by the Pies in the first three quarters. Their ball movement to their forwards was diabolical. They had 16 inside 50s in the last quarter alone for 2.4 after managing just one goal in three quarters.
It was great to see Kiara Bowers back in the side, and Turbo is as Turbo does – 23 disposals and 17 tackles for her in her season debut was awesome to watch, but the Dockers had too few fly the flag for them. Without Emma O’Driscoll, the Pies would’ve won the game by over 10 goals, you’d imagine.
I can’t understate the shoulder injury to Gabby O’Sullivan in the early doors of the match. Her influence last week in the guts was crucial, and it looked like she was tasked with minding Bri Davey to start the game.
Few of their key players were well down; Sophie Casey beat Aine Tighe in a mismatch that should’ve seen Tighe win and win comfortably, but credit to Casey, she was strong in her body and held her own as an undersized key defender. Ebony Antonio kicked an admirable goal but only touched the ball eight times, and Laura Pugh also struggled.
But I liked the endeavour of Ari Hetherington, Joanne Cregg and Sarah Wielstra – they’ll be better for it in the long run.
Singing the Blues
On top one week and back to rock bottom the following week. I’ll cut a bit of slack to the Blues because there’s no doubt North Melbourne will be there when we get to the season’s pointy end. Meanwhile, the Blues are finding themselves again and what they stand for under Mathew Buck.
A positive for the Blues this week is they registered another 81 tackles against a North side and made them earn their goals this week, but the facts are they did not report their first score of the match until the 12th-minute mark of the final term – and it came off the boot of a second-game Irishwoman.
The Blues only had 15 inside 50s for the game and had an efficiency of under seven per cent. The contested metrics were acceptable: only -3 in clearances and -4 in the contested ball.
They had no system in their ball movement when they got their chance. Once again, we’re asking questions of Jess Dal Pos (five disposals) and Darcy Vescio (seven touches) – both of whom were good last week, but they seem to disappear massively when the chips are against them.
Many of us will probably agree that the Blues are freshly reset on the premiership clock, but the Saints were appalling last week for three quarters and scored in double figures. This performance was okay for their endeavour, but skills and execution were flat-out abysmal.
Are the Saints in trouble?
It was a better performance this week from Nick Dal Santo and his troops, but this would’ve been a game they’ve viewed as a winnable opportunity and fell short of the mark. Realistically, their first quarter did them in, and they couldn’t score in a last-quarter stalemate, which is concerning.
The Saints have games against Port Adelaide, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn next month. Questions were raised about Dal Santo following a shambolic performance in round one – imagine what happens if they are 0-5 at the midway mark of the season? The Saints fans will be ravenous for blood beyond belief.
This week, there were positives: Lambert responded with a good performance in the middle, Tyanna Smith showed her grit and determination, Nicola Xenos only had one tackle this week but has been a solid presence in the forward line with her pressure and Grace Kelly in defence has looked a good move.
However, Jesse Wardlaw remains goalless to start the season, and her fellow tall forwards haven’t looked any better – Nicola Stevens had just four touches, and Ella Friend has been used more forward and only had three touches for the match.
Maybe they need some time to gel, but until that happens, it’s heading towards a long year for the Saints.
And what of the Giants?
They were never going to beat Melbourne, but the fact they’re 0-2 when they should at least have a win to their name by round two is a worry. A seven or eight-goal loss would be honourable, but they conceded seven goals in the last quarter and were completely blown apart by a side that will take some doing to beat them.
There were many questions about their midfield – they had no answers for Tyla Hanks (30 disposals and 12 clearances) and Liv Purcell (28 disposals and two goals). They also destroyed them in clearances (+13) and contested possessions (+28).
So what of their personnel? Alyce Parker had 20 touches but felt her impact offensively was negated. Nic Barr had nine clearances and looked very damaging, and there were some good signs from last year’s top draftee, Zarlie Goldsworthy, and Tarni Evans (20 disposals and 581 metres gained) is poised for a breakout season.
Rebecca Beeson is another player who is only starting to find her feet again after a lengthy injury spell, and I thought she cracked in at various points in this game.
It’s a disappointing start to the season, and I’m wondering if they will take some steps back to go forward. I like their forward line, but until the midfield gets it all together, it will be another season of being also-rans.
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