As per usual, The Doc is all over the ypcomong AFLW action.
Here is what he is looking forward to in Round Five
GEELONG V MELBOURNE
This round is book-ended with two games of the round contenders. Thursday night’s game will put Geelong through another significant test against the game’s benchmarks.
Against North Melbourne, they showcased their talent for a half and then fell off completely. At home this week against another premiership contender, this week presents another excellent opportunity to test themselves against the best side in the competition.
It was nice to see Chloe Scheer respond last week with four goals after being completely towelled up the week before by North Melbourne. This week will be another big match-up, as I expect Libby Birch will get the direct match-up on her.
There are three players inside the top 10 for defensive one-on-one contests who have a percentage below 15 per cent of defensive contest losses: Birch, Jasmine Ferguson, who Scheer played in round three, and Amelie Borg – who’s only lost one contest from 11 this year in a stat no one has talked about.
Scheer needs a bag of three or four again this week if the Cats are a sneaky chance because Melbourne will have the fitness to close the game out. They also need some of the forwards around her to stand up and hope the on-ball brigade can negate the influences of Liv Purcell and Tyla Hanks.
RICHMOND V FREMANTLE
They’re 2-2 and in 10th place on the AFLW ladder, but this is a make-or-break game for Fremantle on Friday. In Lisa Webb’s first month in charge, the Dockers did enough against West Coast and Hawthorn to secure wins, but they’re far from a convincing outfit.
I haven’t been too convinced with Richmond’s wins either this year. They barely got over the line against a spirited Carlton side last week, and the week before, they had to work hard to secure a victory over the Giants in Blacktown.
No Kiara Bowers for this game is a massive blow for the Dockers and makes the task of stopping Richmond’s midfield. Grace Egan is fresh off a career-best game and will be looking to continue on her way. You know what you will get from Monique Conti every week, and Sarah Hosking is someone you can rely on when the chips are down.
This week is a big one for Hayley Miller. The Freo captain had her colours lowered last week with five disposals and minimal impact from 77 per cent game time. I’d also like to see more from Ebony Antonio in this game, who had just nine disposals.
The leaders need to stand up in this game – we’re at that stage of the season now where teams are starting to show signs of improvement – we’ve seen it with St Kilda last week; the Dogs have been competitive in recent weeks, and Sydney are getting better every week.
CARLTON V SYDNEY
This has a lot of potential to be the game of the round. Both sides sit at 2-2 and just outside the top eight. I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly didn’t expect them to be 9th and 11th on the ladder after the opening month, but they’ve been welcome surprises.
The Swans have been belted by top sides Brisbane and Geelong this season but have shown plenty of glimpses of their capabilities. Carlton scored a surprise win against Gold Coast at the start of the season, belted West Coast and were competitive against Richmond last week.
You’d hope it’ll be an entertaining affair, but given Carlton’s identity as a big tackling side, averaging nearly 76 per game in 2023, you’d expect this game will be scrappy, and goals will be at a premium.
It makes the influence of Chloe Molloy all the more important in this game. She and Laura Gardiner are the two key pillars in the Swans engine room this year, and whilst I’ve made a big deal about Gardiner’s blue-collared style in how she plays the game, Molloy is the box office player.
She puts bums on seats with her ability to power out of stoppage and kick miraculous goals forward of centre. Whilst predominantly a midfielder this year, she’s averaging over a goal per game for the first time since 2021.
She averages 14.8 disposals per game this year –a career-high, but compared to other star midfielders, it’s well below. But the thing with her is that she’s purely an impact-per-possessions player – she is averaging career-highs in metres gained, clearances, inside 50s and score involvements.
It’s clear that Gardiner gets all the touches and is thriving, and Molloy is the one who helps get them there – it makes this midfield so much more fun to watch.
WESTERN BULLDOGS V ST KILDA
It’s put up for the Western Bulldogs this week as they play at Whitten Oval for the first time since season six. They didn’t play there last season due to redevelopments, and while it’s still ongoing, it’ll be interesting to see it play out – they’ve won six of their past ten matches at home.
I was there live to see and call St Kilda’s extraordinary come-from-behind win last week at Moorabbin, and there’s no doubt that it gets the wheels rolling, and they will be confident in themselves this week.
The Dogs need to find some inspired football themselves. They were great in patches last week against the Suns, but in the dying stages, they collapsed trying to move the ball forward and cost them the game.
They can’t afford to squander their scoring opportunities this week. I’m still bemused about how Jess Fitzgerald didn’t even score from practically the goal square last week. The Dogs had 37 more inside 50s than the Suns last week and had an efficiency of 35 per cent.
The forward line is beginning to settle; I’ve liked Bri McFarlane hitting the scoreboard more consistently the past few weeks, and Hartwig is improving as a target up forward. But this week is on everyone in this team – the skills were still remarkably sloppy, and the decision-making under pressure leaves much to be desired.
That’s what the Saints have to do this week – they were excellent in their pressure work and worked hard to make Collingwood wilt in the last quarter and run away with it. If they can do that again, they can enjoy back-to-back wins.
WEST COAST V PORT ADELAIDE
The Power go into this game with no Ash Saint this weekend and no Indy Tahau for the rest of the season, which means the pressure to get a winning score will fall on the shoulders of Gemma Houghton.
She’s a fascinating player. She has the consistency that makes you marvel in awe at her skills and abilities one week, and then the next week, she leaves you frustrated with a lot of nothing and maybe four or five disposal games with no influence.
On the back of a three-goal bag last week against the Cats, there’s an excellent opportunity for her to add to her five goals this season with a nice haul. I expect Sophie McDonald will get the job on her from the get-go, and as rubbish of a side as West Coast are currently, McDonald is a player who quietly goes about her job as the number one key defender at the club.
Houghton’s ability to push up and win the ball has been a critical improvement this year in her game. No one has questioned her athleticism; she’s got some elite traits and was a player who did a lot of running at Fremantle. But her ability to find the ball and link up in scoring chains has been the stand-out this year.
Her disposal average went up from seven touches per game in an injury-interrupted season to 14.5 per game this season – including 18 disposals last week. She’s also averaging five score involvements per game –the highest since season four.
The Eagles were much more competitive this week against the Swans, but the facts remain that they still lost, and they’re facing down the barrel of being 0-5 this week. How much though, remains to be seen.
COLLINGWOOD V ESSENDON
It’s a big weekend for both sides but for different reasons. The Bombers are well poised to be 4-1 as we head into the midway part of the season, while the Pies are on struggle street and, with an injury list that is slowly growing by the week, are in significant danger of falling even further away from the top eight.
Last week, they let a 26-point lead slip to St Kilda and allowed them to dominate and run all over them through the contest, and when they had a chance to take control of the game late, they’d cough it up through silly turnovers.
Bri Davey has had a couple of lean weeks regarding what we expect from her as a star midfielder, but she has a good chance to redeem herself against a Bombers midfield that is just starting to find a great combination to help Maddy Prespakis. Steph Cain is a solid player, Jacqui Vogt has been a revelation in the midfield, and Georgia Nanscawen gets better every game she plays.
I also look forward to the match-up between Sabrina Frederick and Steph Wales in the ruck. Wales was impressive against a much more established ruck in Mim Strom, while we’re starting to see Frederick’s strength and ability to make an impact around the contest much more frequently. However, we saw Jesse Wardlaw move into the ruck in the last quarter, which changed the game’s complexion.
Who stands up for Collingwood up forward this week? Two of their five goals last week came from players stationed in the forward line. Tarni White got on the end of two great goals, but you can’t rely on her to be there every week. I like Em Smith’s development as a small forward, but she still has some ways to go.
NORTH MELBOURNE V GWS GIANTS
I’m sorry, GWS fans, but I don’t have much to say about your team this week; they’ll get Alicia Eva back from suspension, which is nice. But it would take cloning a considerable number of her to get on top of a professional North Melbourne side so far this year.
They were unlucky to be behind by the final siren; last week’s game against Brisbane was a cracking war of attrition, and as good as North Melbourne was up to halftime, Brisbane rallied hard in the second half, and there were no answers to their third-quarter onslaught, which cost them in the end.
We know Jasmine Garner has had more than her share of the flowers this year, and Ash Riddell is pumping out a stellar season in her own right, but one player that has flown under the radar this year has been the inside work of Mia King.
She was highly lauded as the best Tasmanian prospect coming out of the 2019 Draft, and whilst it’s been a slow burn working behind the likes of Garner, Riddell, Emma Kearney a few years back and Jenna Bruton as well, she’s thrived playing in more minutes in the midfield.
Compared to her seasons six and seven, Mia King averaged just over 50 per cent in centre bounce attendance. This year, she’s averaging 78 per cent – just a smidge below both Riddell and Garner, but also averaging career-high numbers in nearly every statistical category.
Fresh off an eight-clearance performance against a highly-fancied midfield, sit back and watch her go to work.
HAWTHORN V BRISBANE
As we like to say on the A3 Footy Podcast, whenever someone plays against their old team – it’s a good old-fashioned revenge game, as Greta Bodey and Emily Bates take on their old side for the first time since signing with the Hawks.
Bodey has been the more disappointing of the two players easily, whilst the stats averages show that the numbers are slightly down; she just hasn’t had a significant impact on games in the manner she used to back at Brisbane. I think it’s because she’s adapting to a new system and new teammates, which takes some time to adjust.
Batesy has been a good contributor in the midfield for the Hawks. She’s averaging over 20 touches per game, career-high numbers in tackles, averaging over nine per game, is good in the clearances and has proven to be handy with her intercepts. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of reaction the Lions girls give her.
It also doesn’t help the Hawks have difficulty delivering the ball forward, which means it’ll be a lovely day in the office for Phoebe Monahan, Nat Grider and Breanna Koenen, all of whom enjoy intercept possessions.
This is another game that could get ugly. Their corresponding match last year resulted in a comfortable Brisbane win, and given that they’re on a three-game winning streak, they’ll get back Dakota Davidson this week from suspension as well.
The Hawks showed some signs last week against Melbourne, but against another top side this week, it’ll be another struggle for them.
ADELAIDE V GOLD COAST
Now, this is going to be an excellent game to watch. The Suns have been splendid since the round one defeat to Carlton, but they come up against superior opposition for the first time this year.
The Crows were clinical in the second half of their rout against the Giants last week, underlining just how dangerous they can be this season. There’s no shortage of scoring options up forward; Danielle Ponter is starting to click, Caitlin Gould is proving to be a towering presence up forward, and Eloise Jones showed last week with her four goals that she can be a menace, too.
It’s also their midfield too. Charlie Rowbottom is in good form once again, and it will be interesting to see where Lucy Single heads at the opening bounce. In the past two weeks, she’s taken care of Bri Davey and dulled the influence of Ellie Blackburn last week in their win against the Bulldogs.
Against a white-hot Ebony Marinoff, fresh off a 40-disposal game against the Giants last week, and Anne Hatchard, who is just continuing to go about her own business without causing much fanfare (well, here in Victoria, at least), the midfield will be where it’s well and indeed won.
Claudia Whitfort is in All-Australian form, so how do the Crows stop her influence when she has the ball in her hands? That’s going to be an intriguing subplot to keep an eye out for as we go further into this game. Her clearance and contested ball work have been sensational this year.
And who gets the job on Jamie Stanton this week? After four rounds, she continues to impress with her forward craft and is two goals clear of Kate Hore and Chloe Scheer. Could it be Kiera Mueller? I expect Zoe Prowse and Chelsea Biddell to get the match-ups on Jaq Dupuy and Tara Bohanna, respectively.
We’ll find out where the Suns well and truly sit by the end of the weekend.
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