We’re six rounds into the 2023 AFLW season, and The Doc is all over the action. Here are his Likes and Dislikes from this weekend.
The Blues’ big improvers
The Blues improved their record to 4-2 and are heading towards an unlikely finals berth. With Collingwood, GWS, Essendon and St Kilda all to come in the last month of the season, they could be daring to dream of a potential 8-2 finish. At the very worst, they should be 6-4 by the end of the season, but I’m sure that’s not what Mathew Buck is looking for.
So it begs the question, where has the improvement come from? From the start, I’ve looked at their application to the contest; their offensive and defensive work has been outstanding. This week is more of a focus on their offensive aspect. +13 in contested ball and +13 in inside 50 generation. It’s incredible how quickly the players have bought into the game plan.
We can also look at their recruitment. Harriet Cordner has been a rock in defence from week one. The Irish girls have been lively, and those they drafted last year, such as Marianna Anthony (who didn’t play this week), have come in and have done their role for the side.
Lastly, look at the development of their younger players. Abbie McKay has been more consistent this season. Keeley Sherar (27 disposals, eight tackles) and Keeley Skepper (23 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and 583 metres gained) were outstanding. Mia Austin looks like she will be a hell of a player.
Even look at the development of a player like Jess Good (19 disposals and 17 hitouts) – she and Breann Moody were outstanding, limiting the influence of Alice Edmonds this week.
The Giants got off the mark in 2023 with an incredible win against West Coast in Blacktown.
The Eagles had six scoring shots to nothing in the opening term and were in control, but the Giants got themselves back into the game in the second term before the match was blown apart by one player in the second half.
We saw Ella Roberts threaten to blow this game in the early goings with elite marking abilities and a penchant for getting in good scoring opportunities. Still, by the end of this game, we were in awe of Zarlie Goldsworthy.
She is a gem footballer, and her three second-half goals broke the game open and got the Giants out of the mire to secure their maiden win of the season. She’s a player who has such an incredible football IQ and is so intelligent in her reading of the play, and a lot of talent identifiers thought big of her two years ago, before the draft.
She kicked 3.3 in this game – imagine what her ceiling could be in five to seven years? Teams would work overtime to figure her out, and she’d still be capable of three to four goals in a game.
Statement game by the Crows
This game was hyped as the potential Grand Final and delivered in spades. No one will discount Melbourne out of this game, especially when Eden Zanker lit up Casey Fields for a career-best five goals.
But this game solidifies Adelaide’s belief that they can go all the way in 2023. They kicked six goals in a row after being held scoreless in the opening term to build a four-goal lead and withstood a late Melbourne surge to remain the last unbeaten team in the competition.
Anne Hatchard (33 disposals, two goals and five tackles) and Ebony Marinoff (27 disposals, 14 tackles and two goals) were unreal in the clinches, Stevie-Lee Thompson excelled in her return game, and Madi Newman has been enjoying a purple patch in her young career.
The Crows’ defensive pressure stifled the Dees’ run in this game; +13 in tackles and +13 inside 50 were critical in the turnaround. Teah Charlton and Rachelle Martin combined for nine tackles inside 50 alone.
Kate Hore, who has been in career-best touch this season, was held goalless and kept to three score involvements from her 18 disposals.
The Dees will hit back come finals time, but for now, I’m putting the Crows in the box seat; all the pieces are in play, and they’ve got a winning formula for a fourth flag in eight years of this competition.
The Suns’ great escape
When former Sun and now Richmond top-up Shannon Danckert kicked a goal to put the Tigers in front at the 13th-minute mark of the last term, it felt like a defining moment in the match.
After a tight arm wrestle for most of the day, the Tigers had control of the match midway through the game before the Suns kicked three goals in succession in the third term to take the lead until the Danckert goal.
The Suns got entries late; one was rushed through to tie the score up. And then, in the dying stages, the Suns found wiggle room when there was hardly any and found Tara Bohanna to step up to the plate.
She was about 40 metres out, at a slight angle, and sailed through for what potentially could be the most significant point she’s ever kicked in her career.
It was a great win against a spirited Richmond side, but the Suns solidified themselves as finals footballers with this win. Charlie Rowbottom (31 disposals, 13 tackles and five clearances) got belted from pillar to post, but she dusted herself off and continued with her work – she’s such a stud.
Lucy Single (16 disposals and seven clearances) was outstanding in the clinches, as was Claudia Whitfort. We saw flashes of what Niamh McLaughlin could do in the first half, Alana Gee showed her football talent in the third term when she had the ball on a string, and Daisy D’Arcy played one of the best games of her career to date.
The Pies’ great escape
You’d suggest Collingwood should’ve lost this game by reckoning the stats sheet.
The Lions were +7 inside 50s, +21 in contested possession, +4 in clearances, and the defensive half was under siege all night, with Brisbane laying 18 tackles inside 50 to four.
But somehow, the Magpies got out of Springfield with another four valuable premiership points and now sit just a percentage outside the eight with four games to go.
This game spoke volumes about the Lions and how they squandered this game. By halftime, they had nine scoring shots to three and on any other night, it could’ve been a sure thing by here.
But that would take away what the Pies had to withstand. The door was kept ajar, and the Pies returned to this contest in the third term.
The Lions are still an excellent team that had an off night. The Pies made the most of their opportunities in front of goal. Bri Davey copped a few heavy hits through the night but was solid as a rock all night.
The hero was Mikala Cann, who kicked the go-ahead goal in the game’s closing minutes to put the Pies in front. She’s an unsung hero in this team at the best of times, with how she thrusts herself into every contest and her penchant to win every contest she can get to. Cann had 14 contested possessions on the night and five clearances in an outstanding effort.
Sarah Rowe (20 disposals, 10 intercept possessions, 443 metres gained) is another who has flown under the radar this season. For a winger, she’s exceptionally consistent and so clean when the going gets tough.
In the same fixture last year at the same home ground of the Power, the Swans only managed just two behinds and were smashed by 11 goals to a Port side who were no worldbeaters.
Fast forward 12 months, and the Swans are finding unbelievable growth as a team. 3-3 after six games is a fair way from where they were last year. Those in the know will acknowledge how good of a coach Scott Gowans is with North Melbourne before the end of his tenure in 2020.
The diehard fans of women’s footy will know him from his days in the VFLW guiding Diamond Creek to a Grand Final. But the casuals will want to acknowledge him as one of the better coaches in women’s footy.
Last week, I saw the Swans implement their slow-tempo style of footy, and you can see that it still is a work in progress, but there were chains of play that worked so well, and once they get the license to take the game on, are as exciting as anyone else in the competition.
The recruits all had a significant impact. Ally Morphett continues her massive redemption season as she storms towards an All-Australian berth, and the kids – Cynthia Hamilton, Sofia Hurley, Montana Ham, and Ella Heads were all shining bright in a stirring win away from home.
I’ve been begging and pleading for Essendon to find some assistance for Bonnie Toogood in the forward line.
I think Nat Wood has given us the answer in Amber Clarke. It’s taken us some time to see her realise her full potential after being taken by the Bombers with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 AFLW Draft.
But Sunday in Warrnambool is a significant step in the right direction for her career. She had four shots on goal for a return of 2.2, but 16 disposals, five score involvements, and three marks for the game is a strong return from a player still finding her feet at the top level.
But for those who have followed her journey through the under-18s, this is what Clarke can do. She’s got a great goal sense, is quick off the mark, and is certainly a player who can impact on her day.
The Bombers needed her today because they could’ve easily been 2-4 after Chloe Scheer kicked two goals in the first term and threatened to do a repeat of their game at Reid Oval last year when she completely dominated up forward.
But the Dons showed how much they want to be in the finals this year, and on the back of this performance, I don’t doubt they can get there in just their second season.
Randall’s Five-star performance
I’ve been waiting for a performance like this from Tahlia Randall since Darren Crocker first decided to switch Tahlia Randall from defence to forward.
From day one, Randall has shown signs that she could be a menace in the forward line for opposition defences. She can leap, strong aerially and suitable for a contested mark. Her set shot for a goal is the one thing that continually lets her down.
I reflect on round one in Hobart, where she had two incredibly torrid misses in the second term. Here we are in round six, and the wheel is turning at this point in her career.
She was too strong for Laura Pugh in this game and made the Dockers pay full price with her set shot kicking, which looks much better than the first time we saw her line up for goal.
Randall notched up a career-best five goals from six scoring shots this week. She only had nine kicks for the game, which is good efficiency, hey? She also took four marks inside 50, three of which were contested in a powerful display.
It was also an excellent cameo performance from Kate Shierlaw in this one, who bobbed up with a couple of goals and had six score involvements of her own. It’s a dangerous duo that we’re going to see over the next month gel and prove why North should be considered bona fide premiership contenders.
The Bulldogs just flat-out stink
I’m sick of talking about this team, watching them, and the confusing excuses Nathan Burke is making of this team week after week.
I’ll give the girls this: I could sense the desperation and the effort this week. They out-tackled the Blues on Friday night, so it tells me that the intent is there. The problem is their continuity when they have the ball and the stupid decision-making that comes with it.
Gabby Newton took a kick in and put it straight to Kirsty Lamb, outnumbered three to one. That was a turnover goal. Katie Lynch ignores two open teammates closer to the goal and then has a shot that sprays left. Players pick out options that allow the opposition to run in for an easy intercept, leading to a scoring shot.
Nathan Burke last week threw players under the bus in the post-game press conference for a lack of fitness and ill-preparation for football games. This week, he backtracked and blamed the AFLW system for compromising the lesser players in the group. Then followed up with this:
‘The stuff that’s killing us is stuff that I’m a half-decent coach, I should be able to fix.’
Burke is contracted until the end of next season, and the team is destined to finish winless. The players are trying, but how much more can Dogs fans put up with a coach pointing fingers everywhere else at a side performing parallel to an unmitigated disaster?
She’s had several bad misses over the past couple of weeks, and now it’s becoming a worrying trend for Caitlin Greiser.
She had the number of the Suns a few times in this one; the defenders panicked and gave away free kicks with jumper tugs, which you need to make dead certainties of.
Her kick in the third quarter was from about 20 metres out and not a lot of angle to speak of – it was harder not to register a score than actually to score, but that’s what she did on that occasion.
And in the last quarter, she was granted another shot on goal from a straightforward spot on the ground and missed horribly to the right.
I get it; many key forwards get to this phase of their careers where doubt creeps in, and what would usually be a specific method to a set shot falls by haywire. I still believe in Greiser as a player; she presents well, bodies up well against her opposition and gets herself into dangerous positions to generate scores.
It just so happens that her kicking was a key reason the Tigers lost this game this week. It’s not the only reason – The Tigers were hammered in contested ball by 26, and the Suns’ run and spread looked like they, at times, overpowered the Tigers.
More of the same at Port
Lauren Arnell must be scratching her head at her charges after their loss to the Swans. For the second straight week, she’s been lamenting about silly decisions and poor disposal that hurt her team when it mattered.
Both Port Adelaide and Sydney had 15 scoring shots in this game – Port were again wasteful in front of goal with 3.12 – Gemma Houghton had five shots on goal for 1.3 – Erin Phillips and Hannah Ewings had two shots on goal each for a combined total of two points.
Port is simply playing bad football, and again, Arnell was questioning her team’s lack of discipline in the post-game press conference, saying it has to be addressed.
“Post-game, we get a lot of player ownership, but it has to be in the moment. For me, it’s a key indicator of maturity and a lack of discipline in key moments in games.” Arnell said.
In terms of on-field output, Abbey Dowrick (21 disposals, seven tackles and six clearances) was again doing everything in her power to will the Power over the line around the contest at times. Erin Phillips (17 disposals) was a much better showing this time, and Amelie Borg (10 intercept possessions and two contested marks) was elite in defence.
Port will get talented youngsters Lauren Young and Shineah Goody next year, and if there’s one thing the Power needs more than anything else, it’s midfield talent because right now, it’s Dowrick take on the world.
Steph Chiocci was only on the ground for under four minutes when she was caught in a Kaitlyn Ashmore tackle, and an innocuous twist during the tackle as she was being pulled up was enough to rupture the anterior cruciate ligament to the right knee.
ACL injuries in AFLW are bloody gutwrenching at the worst of times, but when it comes to someone like Chiocci, who’s been one of the faces of women’s football since the AFL introduced the exhibition games, it is a cruel twist to the tale.
It isn’t good for the Saints, who are just starting to get on a roll, having won three wins on the trot. But it’s equally as heartbreaking for Chiocci, who will not only miss the remainder of this season, but you’d wager she misses most, if not all, of next season, too.
Chiocci will turn 35 in December, and there will be discussions had with the club on her playing future and where to go from here. Undoubtedly, she’ll continue supporting the Saints’ younger core of players, and there’ll be a mentoring role in some capacity.
I doubt we won’t see the last of Steph Chiocci, but if her playing career ends like this, it’s heartbreaking for the game.
What’s going on with Brisbane?
I was a bit bemused at the team selections on Thursday night, with Craig Starcevich dropping Jade Ellenger from the side. She is a player who has been reliable, handy in many positions during her career so far and deadly on her day.
We got a good reason why that was the case from Starcevich post-game on Saturday night; the Lions head coach opted to drop her and first-year player Poppy Boltz for not meeting professional standards, with Starcevich citing in the post-game presser the pair suffered from a lack of sleep.
‘We’re in a tight competition and if you drop your standards, you’re going to get hurt one way or the other… every now and then the team needs a bit of a wake-up call as to what’s acceptable and what’s not, and that’s what happened.’ He said.
This one got away for the Lions. I’d jot it down to a blip on the radar, but the Lions were dreadful in front of the big sticks. 19 shots on goal for a return of 3.10 is unacceptable for a top-four side.
The Lions kicked 1.6 in the second term but had their opportunities to put it away in the last quarter. I was thoroughly disappointed with Ally Anderson’s set shot in that final term. It looked rushed and as if she was unsure of what she wanted to do, which you don’t expect from a great midfielder.
It was a foul night for Taylor Smith, who missed two gettable set shots in this game, one in the second term where she hit the post from five metres out, albeit on a tough angle, and one in the last quarter where there was less than an angle but still about 15 metres out from goal.
Brisbane remain in the top four, but a loss like that has them falling behind Adelaide, Melbourne and North Melbourne in the race for the flag.
Next week against the Suns will be a must-watch game, as the two Queensland sides sit at 4-2, and the Suns percentage outside the four. After that, they have Adelaide and Melbourne in the final three rounds – thankfully, both at home.
It’s time to bring in the score review system
Geelong are lucky they’re not in this segment this week, but Fremantle at home next week looms as a must-win for the 4-2 Cats.
But my ire in this game goes in the first quarter. Georgia Clarke denied Georgie Prespakis’s long-range goal after Clarke pleaded to the goal umpire that she had touched it before it went over the line. A later replay showed it may have cleared the line.
Fortunately, this was not one of those games where the Cats lost by a kick. But imagine what would happen in the women’s comp if a goal umpiring decision like this eventually cost the Cats a game and potentially their season?
We got a massive uproar over the goal umpire’s decision not to take Ben Keays’ kick for goal up for review when it clearly should’ve. This is just as outrageous as we still have footage to override the initial decision in the AFLW.
We won’t get the best seat in the house, maybe ever, to make calls like these. But come on, AFL, we’ve got to start implementing a score review for the women’s game soon, don’t we?
It’s just pathetic from the AFL that they still have no goal review system after eight seasons. If the head body wanted to ensure it gets a great result and is as accurate to the target as possible, they’d be implementing every measure in the book to ensure everything gets checked and looked at.
I didn’t expect Fremantle to beat North Melbourne in this game, but this was disappointing after such a stirring win away from home last week.
The 45-point win perhaps flattered them to an extent, considering North had kicked 1.5 in the opening term. Still, the Dockers showed some fight in the opening half before North Melbourne destroyed them in the second half, kicking six goals to nothing to run out big winners away from home.
What is more damning to Dockers fans is the stats: Contested ball, they were beaten by 21. Uncontested possessions, they were belted by 73. Inside 50 count? North Melbourne walloped them by 30, with the Roos registering 48 inside 50s for the game.
I shudder to think what the scoreline would’ve read if Emma O’Driscoll didn’t play like she was a one-woman show in defence. She did everything she could to hold the fort down without it blowing out into an even worse result. It was an excellent performance and solidified her standing as one of the game’s most improved players this season.
Unfortunately, some of their other senior stars were poor. Ebony Antonio kicked one of their goals, but four disposals are nowhere near good enough. Gabby O’Sullivan had just four disposals after being such a livewire the previous week, and captain Hayley Miller had just seven.
They miss Kiara Bowers. For as much as she’s relied on to do the tackling and contested work and everything else in between, the side invariably walks taller with her in the side.
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