It’s The Doc’s birthday, and to celebrate living for another 12 months, here are his likes and dislikes from Round Eight of AFLW action.
Wish the man a happy birthday!
Last week, I’d put a line through Richmond and thought this was how it would end, given how relentless Hawthorn brought the pressure to Sydney just six days earlier. Maybe I spoke a split second too soon.
Well, the Hawks brought the heat at Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns for three quarters, and Richmond took advantage of what looked like a gassed and tired Hawthorn and piled on 3.3 to one behind to record a stunning win – their fourth of the season.
Caitlin Greiser’s go-ahead goal late in the fourth quarter might perhaps be the biggest goal of her career after being put under the blowtorch in recent weeks for underperforming in producing goals. Eilish Sheerin had to work hard to overcome defensive attention from Sophie Locke, and Katie Brennan popped up in critical parts of this game and put through two goals.
But once again, we sing the praises of Monique Conti (35 disposals, seven marks, nine tackles and seven clearances), who looked to be in apparent discomfort with her hand during the game yet still produced the goods when it mattered.
Grace Egan (28 disposals, seven tackles and six clearances) was also huge in the contest in this game. Kate Dempsey was again commanding on the wing, and Emelia Yassir looked again dangerous but didn’t fully capitalise on her opportunities.
It’s easy to highlight Chloe Molloy’s performance against the hapless Dogs on Saturday. It was a day for records for the Swans, both from a team and individual sense. Molloy broke the league record of score involvements, with 17 for the game, including eight shots on goal for 3.4 and two goal assists. It could’ve easily been a day to break the league record for goals in a game, too – some of her shots on goal weren’t overly tricky shots.
However, I was equally impressed with Sofia Hurley’s performance. She plays a lot as a high half-forward type, but how she runs and covers the ground, on top of her abilities as a player, there’s no doubt she’s got a good ceiling as a midfielder.
She kicked two goals and picked up 24 disposals (half of them were contested) for 453 metres gained. She also picked up four stoppage clearances and had eight tackles in this game, highlighting how well she can be trusted into a full-time role in the midfield in due time.
But it’s easy to forget that this is a 19-year-old kid entering her second year in the AFLW. Big things are coming for her, that’s for sure – and for the Swans, they’re only sitting percentage out of the eight with two games to go.
Ally Morphett’s season-ending hand injury has opened the door for Zarlie Goldsworthy to swoop in and take the Rising Star award for her own.
Against Carlton on Saturday, she took the opportunity like a shark smelling blood and produced a stunning display against a Carlton side that played like it was life or death – it was, in a sense, the Blues still had finals repercussions on the line.
It’s not been a good year for the Giants, and the loss of Alyce Parker during the week for the rest of the season could’ve been it for the Giants, but the explosive rise of Goldsworthy this season has done more than enough to put the smiles on the faces of Giants supporters.
Goldsworthy finished with team-highs in contested possessions (14), marks (seven), metres gained (372), disposals (22), and most of all, kicked five of the Giants’ eight goals; in doing so, becoming the youngest player in the competition to kick a bag of five. She also picked up 11 tackles in a terrific balanced game.
Some of her goals were bloody impressive; snaps on the run from tough enough spots on the ground, you’d have been mistaken if you believed this wasn’t her second season in the top flight. But her three last-quarter goals emphasised not only that she arrived as a superstar, but she’s become a bums-on-seats player… something the Giants haven’t had many of over the years.
Just when you thought Brisbane was out…
Well, if you’ve watched The Sopranos or The Godfather… you know how the rest of it goes.
After covering the season from day one, you’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after Brisbane made the first two Grand Finals in the competition. And indeed, after their premiership success in 2021.
Even this year, we’ve seen some excellent but ordinary football out of Brisbane. Their win against North Melbourne in Tasmania was bloody extraordinary. Against Adelaide in Springfield this week, they were at their best around the source.
By reckoning the stats, you could’ve argued that Brisbane could’ve won by more, given their chances in front of goal. Yes, the wind was pretty gusty there, but they did a lot right around the contest and nullified the Crows’ ability to win the ball out of stoppage. 17 scoring shots for 5.12 – just as easily the Crows could’ve won, and we’d be talking about how the Lions have rued opportunities again.
But let’s talk about how good they were around the contest. +23 in the tackle count, +15 in the contested ball, they smashed the Crows in the centre bounces nine to three and kicked 4.6 to two behinds in the stoppages.
Sophie Conway (26 disposals, eight marks and 701 metres gained) played one of the best games I’ve seen from her date, which is something, considering how dangerous she can be in front of goal. Her quantity of disposals was as good as I’ve seen, and her ball use was still steady.
This game blew the top four wide open.
It was an evening to remember for Melbourne supporters as they flexed their muscles and broke down a North Melbourne side, who have now appeared again to have more questions than answers about their legitimacy as a top-four side.
They stifled the key contributors well through their stars winning the ball through the contest.
Tyla Hanks and Liv Purcell combined for 12 clearances and 29 contested possessions, and they tirelessly outworked and outplayed their counterparts. Jasmine Garner had 21 disposals and 492 metres gained this week, but her influence compared to past weeks was held well by Shelley Heath and Eliza West, rotating through Ash Riddell, and Jenna Bruton was also rock solid.
They were also staunch in keeping the ball locked in their forward half for significant stints in this contest. North were +11 in the tackle count, but Melbourne laid 16 tackles inside 50 to North’s seven.
The leading tacklers inside 50 were Megan Fitzsimon, Casey Sherriff and Georgia Campbell – it’s fair to say they’re not superstar names, but they’re players who are either young or there to fill the role. Campbell’s development has been a big highlight this season for the Demons as the understudy to Lauren Pearce.
And there’s also something to be said about the defensive trio of Tahlia Gillard, Libby Birch and Charlotte Wilson, who kept the key forward trio of Kate Shierlaw, Tahlia Randall and Emma King goalless.
Pies are on the march
A month ago, it would’ve been laughed at if one suggested Collingwood would be in arms reach of being in the top four.
Their last loss was a two-goal defeat against St Kilda after they led by nearly four goals. But since then, they’ve beaten Essendon, Brisbane, Carlton and Geelong – three of those sides are in the top eight after eight rounds, and the other side is sitting percentage out in ninth.
Have they got your attention now?
For three quarters, they’d nullified Geelong’s ability to score and move the ball fluently, granted the conditions certainly didn’t help; the Cats only managed just one goal and four scoring shots in that period.
Once again, something must be said about the Pies falling asleep in the last quarter, as the Cats registered five scoring shots in the last term and nearly completed what looked like an unlikely come-from-behind victory.
Mikala Cann (24 disposals, 17 contested possessions, one goal, four clearances and five tackles) continued on her excellent form and continues to fly under the radar. Sabrina Frederick continues to grow in confidence as the number one ruck – she dominated both Kate Darby and Liv Fuller in the ruck contest and around the ground.
Giving it the Heave Ho
From when Aine Tighe kicked the opening goal within the first 30 seconds of their game against St Kilda, we witnessed a much different Fremantle side than in previous weeks.
By quarter time, they kicked their highest score in any quarter this season, and they kept their distance on the Saints throughout the afternoon in the west. They bullied them around the contest: +19 in the contested possessions and smothered them when the Saints had the ball: 88 tackles to 75.
Kiara Bowers had a solid return to the side, picking up 18 disposals and seven tackles, but players lifted around her. Ange Stannett (16 disposals, 10 tackles, four clearances and one goal) was huge in the contest. Hayley Miller went forward, kicked two goals, and played perhaps her best game of the season.
We saw the best of Orlagh Lally in this game, her ability to gain territory on the wing; they’ve found a great running mate with Airlie Runnalls on the other wing, who has churned out consistently solid footy this year. Dana East (11 contested possessions and four clearances) has been in good form the past few weeks, and Megan Kauffman (nine tackles and 15 touches) was industrious at half-forward.
Freo has won four games, but in terms of mixing it with the top half of the ladder, there hasn’t been much to smile about in Lisa Webb’s first season as coach, but this win has been her finest hour.
A week removed from everyone lambasting Michael Prior’s comments and questioning his coaching tactics, the Eagles pulled off one of the year’s upsets.
Essendon had a lot to play for, but from the first bounce, the Eagles were switched on, beat the Bombers down early with their clearance work, and ground it out with their tackle pressure. Both teams recorded 104 tackles, the most any team has done this year.
As a result of their tackle pressure and nullification around stoppages, they held Essendon goalless in three-quarters of footy before they had to stave off a torrid fightback in the last term.
Before this game, the Eagles only averaged 65 per game, ranked 14th in the competition. It was such a stunning turnaround to turn up to Windy Hill and beat a side destined to get a home elimination final at worst.
They had a lot of winners. Emma Swanson (25 disposals, 12 tackles and eight clearances) starred as only the captain can with this team. Aisling McCarthy (18 touches, one goal and seven clearances) was prolific, and Dana Hooker’s tackle pressure (14, with two inside 50) was first-rate.
Sophie McDonald fought hard to keep Bonnie Toogood to just one goal and 14 touches, Ella Roberts continues to shine this year, and Charlie Thomas had a sizeable last term holding off the Essendon onslaught.
The Eagles will avoid the spoon this year and have a great chance to win their third game of the season against the Bulldogs.
What’s up with Tilly Lucas-Rodd?
One of our Hawthorn-loving Mongrels asked about Hawthorn captain Tilly Lucas-Rodd after the Hawks’ loss to Richmond.
There’s a lot to like about the side now; young players like Bridie Hipwell, Charlotte Baskaran, and Jasmine Fleming are all finding form. Aine McDonough continues emerging as a star, and Kaitlyn Ashmore and Jenna Richardson are having career-best seasons. Emily Bates has been a good pick-up for them this season, too.
But after only touching the ball nine times in this game, one has to ask, where’s Tilly?
I thought they had a great first year at the Hawks. And while this year has seen a small spike in disposals, Tilly’s had games where they’ve looked nowhere near it, and despite putting up 11 tackles, the tackle numbers have gone down slightly this year.
I think the addition of Bates has been a significant cause, but I’m just not feeling the same impact on games Tilly’s had this year compared to the past two seasons. Maybe it’s nitpicking, but you need more out of your leaders in games like these.
Another week, another disappointing Bulldogs performance.
Seven or eight players were missing from this team through injury on the weekend, who are surefire best 21 players, but as my parents have said about competition, the opposition has the same arms and legs as you.
Except for maybe 10 per cent of the game, the defensive pressure from the Dogs was utterly pathetic. Too often were the Swans forwards allowed to waltz into space, making the complex look like a Sunday stroll.
Structurally, it was a mess; players like Issy Grant were caught ball-watching too many times, and other players were left pointing fingers at what was sloppy organisation.
What was also sloppy was their execution by hand and foot. Sydney scored 61 of their 96 points off of Bulldogs turnovers, and what’s worse about it for the Dogs supporters is that they are now, statistically, the worst defensive team in the competition.
Since Saturday, I’ve had people raise the question to me: how can the club justify Nathan Burke keeping his job? After everything that has happened and he has said in his press conferences.
Over the off-season, there will be more than soul-searching and challenging discussions with players and coaches. The club is destined to finish winless this year and, on-field at least, they’re in all sorts. Collectively, the club never got going this year, with the number of injuries they were carrying heading into round one, and it raises the question of how serious this team wants it.
We know some there play with their heart – Ellie Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb – thought Gabby Newton, Rylie Wilcox and Issy Pritchard were outstanding on the weekend.
But who else is going to take that next step? I don’t see many.
Adelaide supporters were up and about after missed free kicks potentially cost them opportunities to post a memorable win in Queensland.
Let’s clarify: no one cost Adelaide this game more than themselves. They wilted under Brisbane’s tackle pressure, struggled around the contest, and having 34 inside 50s for just nine scoring shots, might be the damning stat to take out of this game.
“That final connect was just a bit off.” He said following the game.
Perhaps, like Melbourne when the Crows beat them a few weeks ago, this was the loss they had to have, but they would’ve been disappointed that they didn’t capitalise on Brisbane’s inefficiency in front of goals.
And probably the kicker for the Crows is that they gave up the top spot to Melbourne at the end of the weekend.
But next weekend against North Melbourne… that’s a juicy game to redeem yourselves.
Are North the ‘flat-track bullies’?
We’ve heard murmurs over the last couple of seasons, and this year, they’re becoming massively loud about where North Melbourne is at.
I’m a bit disappointed, to be honest, because I believed at the start of the season that it was the turning of the page; the stars looked aligned, and they were flexing their muscle against those that came before them.
I wasn’t worried about the loss to Brisbane; I understand that sometimes it doesn’t go your way or it’s a bad day, but two losses now against top-four teams is a huge concern. It makes next week’s game against Adelaide a must-win for their belief more than anything else.
After Ruby Tripodi registered a minor score in the 14th minute of the first quarter, North scored nothing until the 18th-minute mark of the last term.
Melbourne stomped them around the contest, their main ball winners were well down at the source, and the key forwards were of very little influence.
This year was big for Darren Crocker and the Roos, especially considering who they brought to finalise their side. If they can’t break through the ‘big three’ barrier, it’ll be a failure and nothing more.
Speaking of flat-track…
Chloe Scheer, come on down.
She’s developing a lousy record of faltering against specialist one-on-one defenders. Against North Melbourne, it was just three touches and one behind. Against Melbourne, it was three touches and no score a few weeks ago.
This week against Collingwood, she was matched up against Sophie Casey for most of the afternoon. While the conditions were miserable, Casey wore Scheer like a cheap suit, keeping her to just another three touches and zero scoreboard impact.
It’s nothing on Casey; she’s a tremendous lockdown player. Alex Catalano believes she’s the best in the competition at her defensive craft. I reckon very few players can go pound for pound as a mid-sized defender.
But for Scheer to disappear in games like these, where the Cats need their big guns firing, is confronting. The Cats look like their pretenders when they can’t get the game on their terms, and if the forwards can’t score, then who does?
Shelley Scott had just five touches, Jackie Parry kicked 1.2 but had seven touches, and Kate Surman had nine touches for little impact.
Who does the draw speak more of?
In all honesty, it doesn’t speak any louder about one than it does the other. It was an enthralling contest that delivered in a pulsating final few minutes.
It speaks volumes about the Suns for squandering a winnable opportunity away from home. After producing a four-goal-to-one start, they fell asleep by coughing up 17 more inside 50s to Port Adelaide and scored 4.3 to nothing, and up until the last five minutes, they barely looked like kicking a winning score.
A win here would’ve kept them a game behind the top four; instead, it allowed Essendon and Collingwood to jump them on the ladder, and there are no guarantees about them getting a home elimination final now.
The draw speaks volumes about Port Adelaide because they were two goals up with five minutes to go, and they blew it. It’s improbable they get the wooden spoon from here, but a win would’ve made it mathematically impossible.
They were brave to come back from what was a good start by the Suns; we’ve seen the Power go into their shells a bit at times this season, but this was a reasonable effort despite the end of it. In defence of the Power, they are still a side still learning the ropes, whereas the Suns are meant to be in a finals contender window.
What was that, Essendon?
Speaking of blown opportunities, a win for Essendon this week would’ve had them level on points with North Melbourne and Brisbane in the top four – the Bombers would’ve just been percentage out.
Instead, they allowed themselves to be played into the hands of the West Coast, who played as if they had something to prove after a rough week through the media, mainly due to the comments Michael Prior made and the smashings they’ve been put through this year.
Essendon had 11 more inside 50s, but you rarely saw a clean inside 50 entry. The Eagles’ pressure forced them to rush and forced them into making bad decisions with the ball in hand.
Aside from the regulars – Maddy Prespakis, Bonnie Toogood, Steph Wales, Georgia Nanscawen – very few players can say they put their hand up. They lost Steph Cain to injury early, which hurts a lot from a leadership standpoint.
To be goalless in three quarters is egregious and ugly football, and Nat Wood can’t afford her side to be ugly at this point of the season. They play Carlton and Gold Coast in the next fortnight. They lose to Carlton and risk being caught in the logjam for seventh and eighth.
God help them if they blow it and lose both of them.
The Doc is the heart and soul of our AFLW coverage. He pours himself into it to provide the best in the business. If you come here for AFLW stuff and enjoy what he does, please consider buying him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.