Round Three is in the books. Lets jump into The Doc’s Likes and Dislikes
Jasmine Ferguson the All-Australian?
After three games into the season, this player is mounting a strong case as the All-Australian full-back.
I watched her a couple of weeks ago in Hobart and saw her practically beat last year’s leading goal kicker in every one-on-one that came her way. This week, she was again handed the task of minding a very dangerous key forward, this time Chloe Scheer, off a five-goal bag last week and by full time, kept her to three touches and one behind, one of her quieter games.
Ferguson has been a great player to watch over the years. Coming through the VFLW in a Collingwood side that looked impossible to beat over the years, Ferguson’s commitment to the contest and discipline in her position at the Pies has been phenomenal.
It’s bloody refreshing seeing her thrive in an AFLW environment – her defensive craft and ability to nullify the contest and recover the ball so far this year has been second to none.
As of writing (Saturday morning), she currently leads the competition in defensive one-on-ones with 12 and has only lost one so far. She has the lowest percentage out of the top five defenders engaged in one-on-ones.
Alyce Parker kicking goals
The Giants didn’t win, but this lady is so good at this game. With 21 disposals and two snags in a losing effort, I don’t know what else she could have done in this game to help drag the Giants over the line.
Parker also came through with seven tackles and six clearances
No one can deny what Parker brings with her contested work and her ability in close. My one criticism of her from the moment she started in the AFLW is her lack of impact on the scoreboard. In recent years, players like Jasmine Garner and Monique Conti put up 25 disposals quickly and added a goal or two to their side every week.
Parker is on four goals from three games in 2023 – at least hitting the scoresheet in every game, after finishing last season with a career-best goal average of 0.5 per game.
It’s just great to see this development in a player who has been long lauded for her work as a pure midfielder, and whilst the Giants aren’t winning the games right now, they’ll continue to develop the players around the stars and give themselves the best possible shot down the track.
And they’ll have one of the best players in the competition by then.
Better effort by the Dogs
They still lost by seven goals, but don’t let the scoreboard fool you; this was a Dogs side that stuck alongside Melbourne for three quarters.
They chased, they harassed, and they used the ball inside 50 much better than their opening two weeks, creating unpredictability and uncertainty for the Demons’ defenders more often than not.
Questions are still asked about who is lifting around the middle to help Ellie Blackburn – who was again sensational in her work rate and ability to rack clearances together with 29 disposals and seven clearances; see the dislikes section for more.
It’s not Kirsty Lamb, who is playing forward because of a compromised pre-season. Still, she worked her backside off and managed two goals from tricky spots.
But I was impressed with some of the lesser names on this squad: Maggie Gorham looked very comfortable in the defensive half as the game progressed. Keely Coyne gave it a red-hot crack, as did Carruthers and Aurora Smith in her return from an ACL injury, and did plenty of positive things with the ball in hand.
Gabby Newton in the backline had its moments – aerially looked very good, but her disposal left a fair bit to be desired, but considering I had them pencilled in for a 12-15 goal loss, this was a great effort by the Dogs – hopefully that carries into next week.
After being soundly beaten last week by the Pies, it was a solid response by the big Irishwoman this week back in WA. It just seemed that there was just no one capable of matching her pound-for-pound.
Mackenzie Eardley started on her and got out-bodied too easily, and Tighe just had her way. Then it was Jenna Richardson who also struggled in the one-on-ones, then they opted to try for the outnumber on Tighe, and still, she managed to clunk some good grabs in.
She had 12 marks for the game – five marks were contested. Five of those 12 marks were inside 50 and finished with a return of three goals, a handy little bag on an evening where the Dockers reigned supreme in the contest. They needed a focal point up forward to get them over the line, and Tighe had to respond from a poor week.
The Dockers are being forced to rejig their forward line, and I remember writing last week that the likes of Orlagh Lally and Ariana Hetherington are only just starting to find their way as AFL players.
If they continue on this trajectory, the Dockers should see themselves back up the ladder in no time – two wins from three games, regardless of how they’ve won them – is a good start for Lisa Webb in life as a senior coach.
Port’s Forward Line
Give them some time to click and gel, and Port’s three-pronged attack approach of Gemma Houghton, Ashleigh Saint and Indy Tahau could cause many side headaches in the following years.
Tahau, in particular, might not have had a positional change from defence to forward on her bingo card when she moved from Brisbane. But it’s a move that has proven to be a masterstroke from the coaching playbook of Lauren Arnell.
Between the three of them, they had 12 scoring shots (four each) and 16 score involvements- Tahau and Saint kicked two each, and Houghton could’ve been on for a bag if she didn’t squander her shots on goal with three behinds, but had two goal assists to go with her seven score involvements.
It’s also worth mentioning Hannah Ewings responding and responding hard to a very lean start to the season; she kicked two awe-inspiring long-range goals and was a decisive factor in the second half when the Power had things go in their favour.
But Tahau is the one for mine that has got to fire to get everything going – she’s clean with the ball in her hands, has a raking shoe on her and is proving to be a valuable asset on the scoreboard.
Where do you start with this team? Pre-game on WARF Radio, I mentioned the Suns had more to lose than the Pies did ahead of this game. They were handed the challenge by this Pies side for a lot of the afternoon and answered in the manner of a side that has everything to play for this year.
Where the Pies failed in front of the big sticks on Sunday, the Suns turned to Jamie Stanton, who made the most of her shots on goal, finishing with three goals to take her up to 10 from her opening three games.
But it wasn’t just her; several players stood up in the last term and throughout the game. Jaq Dupuy stood up with several big marks as the spare behind the play. Charlie Rowbottom came to life in the last term, but Claudia Whitfort (19 disposals and seven clearances) emerged as a bona fide midfielder.
Lucy Single had the job of running with Bri Davey in the opening half and kept her to just six disposals to half time and was running with both Davey and Brit Bonnici at different moments during the second half. On top of that, she finished up with 19 disposals and seven tackles in a strong offensive performance.
Niamh McLaughlin looks like she’ll be a great pickup, and Meara Girvan showed plenty of reasons why she’ll also be an excellent acquisition this past off-season.
Skep in the Step
On an afternoon in the West where the Blues had many match-winners on the ground, the name people kept coming back to in the post-game wash-up was Keeley Skepper. In her 12th game in her career, she showed the AFLW world that she will be a serious player in the years to come.
Forget the quality of the opposition collectively; her abilities in terms of her finishing, her ability to be thrust into the contest, and her impact as a teenager will only hold her in good stead in the future.
Skepper had 23 disposals but kicked three goals out of seven score involvements and had six intercept possessions.
Mathew Buck was asked about Skepper in the post-game and said she’s on a great journey. The following quote was from his presser post-game.
“She plays a variety of roles for us, so we know she’s pretty dangerous forward with that penetrating left foot… She’s also creative up around the ball. We try to find a balance between those two roles throughout the game, so she’ll always play a couple of different roles just to free her up.”
Laura Gardiner can play footy
The Lions were too good for a Sydney side that, while more competitive than last season, are still some ways away from being a genuine threat to the top eight.
They were blown apart in the opening term, and the game was done by half time. The Swans can look at small wins from here, and one of them was the performance of Laura Gardiner, who fell just one disposal shy of equalling the league record of most disposals in a game.
She’d finish with 41 disposals, 15 contested, nine tackles and 622 metres gained for this match, and whilst Brisbane had winners in other areas of the ground, there’s no knock on Gardiner’s work rate and her ability to get her hands on the ball with regularity.
I continually say with Gardiner that it gets to the point where it’s a broken record, but she’s a pure midfielder and needs to stay in the guts on high minutes. She will at least get you the ball, move it around and willingly push it forward.
Regardless of where the Swans finish in 2023, they can at least tick off that they’ve got a midfield to work with. Ally Morphett will run in the race for the All-Australian ruck spot, Chloe Molloy is the star, and Gardiner is the ball magnet, gun mid.
I’ve also liked the cut of Tanya Kennedy’s jib the past fortnight. She gives it a good crack.
The Cats still can’t beat them
After an impressive opening fortnight, they needed to win this game to establish themselves as a bona fide top-four side. There are still seven games to go, so I’m not prepared to write them off yet, but this loss hurts and hurts badly.
It was a promising start from the Cats. Mikayla Bowen kicked two snags in the opening term, and when Georgie Prespakis kicked one eight minutes into the second term, the Cats were up by three goals.
So, where did it go wrong for the Cats? We can point to the forward line: Scheer was well beaten, Jackie Parry kicked two behinds, and Kate Surman failed to impact the scoreboard.
But the clearance count is another matter of concern, particularly around the stoppages; North were +20 in stoppage clearances. Jasmine Garner was again in incredible touch with 12 clearances for the game, and Mia King, with eight, played a tremendous second-up role.
Nina Morrison, Georgie Prespakis and Amy McDonald had just eight clearances combined. Prespakis and Morrison tried their guts inside and around general play, but McDonald’s influence was well quelled.
Simmer down Scotty
We all love Paige Scott here, right? I do; I’m a massive fan of her ability to crash and bash, her goal sense is sensational, and there’s a lot of energy and potential in her game that suggests she’ll go incredibly far when she hits her prime.
I’m not a fan of players who carry on like they’ve kicked a game-defining goal when the reality is that they’re getting pumped, and that’s precisely what we saw with Scotty on Saturday at Wigan Oval: an admirable goal getting out the back and a good finish from 15.
The Bombers were eight goals down at that point, and they finished about eight goals behind them at the final siren – the Crows stomped them with repeat inside 50 entries and capitalised on their sloppy disposal. Scott herself only had the eight touches and minimal impact with the other seven disposals she had.
It’s a long bow, considering the Dons were probably never really considered against an Adelaide side that is fast re-emerging as a premiership threat. But it would be best if you toned that down when you’ve been handed it to you by players like Hatchard, Marinoff and Ponter.
Jess Fitzgerald, stand up
Some of her defensive efforts in this game were incredible to watch, and it felt as if she worked hard, but sometimes it isn’t your day. However, I need to start seeing more from Jess Fitzgerald in this Dogs’ midfield offensively.
Whether or not the system needs to be altered so the Dogs get more bang for their buck with what they’ve got in the midfield, but for someone who was taken pick two right behind Ellie McKenzie in the 2020 AFLW Draft.
The Dogs bypassed Alyssa Bannan, Tyanna Smith and Darcy Moloney in the top 10 of that draft. There’s no question Bannan has been a better player. If Smith hadn’t done that knee injury on the eve of season six, in terms of impact, she would likely been in front of Fitzgerald, too. One can argue that Moloney is performing better, and she’s a second-string midfielder and is still offering plenty offensively.
Fitzgerald has attended more centre bounces at the Dogs than anyone in the first two weeks and is averaging career-highs in disposals, metres gained and tackles. But eight disposals and 105 metres gained against the competition’s benchmark means what she’s produced the past two weeks isn’t worth a great deal.
Big game next week against the Suns; you’ve got to stand up and deliver.
Not enough on board at the Hawks
Once again, they let a winnable match slip from their grasp. I’ll give it to the Hawks because they responded brilliantly after a slow start and got some reward for their repeat inside 50 entries.
After half time, they struggled to get any clean looks going inside 50, and that will be an ongoing issue with the Hawks – not just in the forward line, but around the ground: who stands up when the chips are down?
They can’t continue to rely on just Aine McDonagh and Greta Bodey to get their goals week in and week out, but there are very few in that Hawthorn 21 looks likely to help the Hawks kick winning scores consistently.
Why did Sophie Locke only play 28 per cent of game time? And equally important, why did she not register a single disposal? She’s a player capable of lifting a side out of the mire, and to see her spending more time on the bench than not is one of the more bizarre things out of this football side.
Further afield, the Hawks are continually looking through Jas Fleming, Emily Bates and Tilly Lucas-Rodd to push them forward, but a simple lack of connection will do the Hawks in against better sides of the comp.
The pressure mounts on the Saints
When Jesse Wardlaw kicked her first goal in Saints colours, it was midway through the third term, and the Saints held a 20-point lead and were seemingly in control.
I was on the call for the Gold Coast and Collingwood game for WARF Radio. I got in early to watch some of it as we set up, along with a great caller and diehard Saints man Ollie Walker-Peel – and says before going on air: ‘Watch the Saints bottle it from here’.
They choked a game they led for virtually three-quarters of the game. Port slammed on five goals quickly and ran away eight-point victors, but you have to ask, where did it go wrong?
There are way too many lapses in concentration for the Saints. A case in point was Indy Tahau’s kick in the third term that was heading for a point. Nat Plane inexplicably failed to touch the ball as it bounced inches from the goal line at the absurd right angle and trickled through the goal square and over the line through the big sticks.
That moment killed the Saints, which was incredibly poor for a player with significant football experience. But it’s not just her; several players got caught out as Port moved the ball so quickly and easily at numerous points during that charge, and the Saints lacked composure.
Nick Dal Santo has won just five games since taking over from Peta Searle in late 2021, and questions will magnify the longer this team goes without a win – making their game against Collingwood next week as big a game for the Saints as it gets.
The Pressure Is well and truly on the Eagles
West Coast have had an absolute stinker these past two games, having lost to Carlton and Gold Coast by an aggregate total of 126 points.
I’d argue this week’s performance for the Eagles was worse than last week. Seeing what the Suns did at Victoria Park against a Collingwood side that won’t make it easy for many teams this year is a pretty good achievement, and it tells me that they are in the business of being in the eight.
Carlton? Well, not many would’ve pencilled them in to be 2-1 three games into the season, but it was beyond disappointing to play at home against a side tipped to struggle and get pumped entirely in the last three quarters without barely a whimper. In fact, embarrassing is how I’d describe this effort.
The Blues piled on seven goals unanswered after quarter time to set this game up. Once again, the Eagles were battered around the contest (+26 contested possessions), and too few were working to pick up the slack.
I know the Eagles have had many coaches come and go since coming into the comp in 2020, but Michael Prior is entering his third season with the club, and they look like they’re going anywhere but forward. How he opted to leave Sarah Lakay out of this game is beggars belief. The pair of Moody and Good completely belted Lauren Wakfer.
Bad kicking Pies
The age-old saying ‘bad kicking is bad football’ claimed another victim on the weekend and it came at the expense of a Collingwood side that had every right to win that game.
The Pies had more scoring opportunities in the first term. Still, they were comprehensively beaten around the clearances 13-3 in the opening term but found a way to nullify the Suns’ influence around the source and looked more clinical, moving the ball forward for much of this match.
But the Pies just had too many simple shots on goal that went begging: Em Smith missed a gimme goal off a crumb in the second term, Bri Davey hit the post from 25 metres out dead in front, and Nell Morris-Dalton fluffed a crucial shot in the last term that would’ve levelled the scores.
The Pies were 1.6 from the set shot and had 31 inside 50s – they could’ve used an Eliza James in this game, a player that is so dangerous around goal and so clinical. Ash Brazill was the only other player up forward who looked capable of doing anything, and she still had to push up the ground to try and generate something in the second half.
It’s not for a lack of effort, but this forward line will be the reason why this Pies team does not go anywhere.
The Alana Porter experiment up forward has not worked so far. Eleri Morris was a non-factor and Morris-Dalton had a real putrid performance. I’m just struggling to see where the winning score comes from with this Pies team.
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