Well, thats it for the AFLW home and away season, and as always (except for last week) The Doc is all over it.
Here are his Likes and Dislikes from Round Ten.
With no Charlie Rowbottom this week, the Suns had to turn to some of their other players to get it done around the source. Claudia Whitfort proved in this one that she’s as every ounce an elite midfielder as Chaz is, and Ali Drennan stepped up around the midfield this week and was a presence around the ball.
But from the first minute to the last, Lucy Single not only won her share of the contested ball but was running and pestering Maddy Prespakis around the ground. And whilst Prespakis finished with a modest 20 touches and four clearances, it felt as if her usual influence in games was well down.
On top of negating her influence, Single went out and got 25 touches herself and a game-high six clearances and 473 metres gained.
A standout play saw her burst through a stoppage and run around about two or three Bombers players en route to a stoppage deep inside the Gold Coast 50. That resulted in a goal just seconds later.
It’s been a breakout year for Single and should see her among the league’s best improvers. This performance, however, was her best yet as it played a vital role in the Suns making finals.
While on it, the Suns have done all they could to cement themselves in with a top-four finish. It’ll be a big test in week one against Sydney, but the Suns have been plucky against the top sides and will give themselves every chance, especially if Charlie’s fit to go.
Whilst the midfielders were mentioned above, this side’s rise this year has come from all areas of the ground. Jamie Stanton has kicked 16 goals for the season and should be at the least in the All-Australian squad.
Recruits like Meara Girvan, Maddy Brancatisano, Niamh McLaughlin and Darcie Davies have given them some depth and versatility they may not have had much of last season.
Most importantly, it’s the improvement from players like Bess Keaney, Daisy D’Arcy, and Jaq Dupuy and collectively, the players mentioned above have got them in this position.
They’ve shown they can be a fun team to watch, and maybe this year won’t be their year, but Suns fans have a lot to be optimistic about in the next few years.
Is the BnF medal around her neck yet?
You can’t help but be in awe every time you watch Jasmine Garner play. It was a travesty that she wasn’t even in the top 10 vote-getters in the count last year, but I hope the umpires took great notice of her this year.
She relishes playing the Dogs; she’s been best on the last few times North have played the Dogs, and, as good as Ash Riddell was out of the middle, you’d be a brave person to give Riddell the three votes over Garner in this game.
What separates the two is that Riddell is an extractor, an accumulator and someone so good at providing the link in North’s transition offence – there was a lot of that against the Bulldogs in this game.
Whereas Garner is more of an all-rounder, so good at the stoppages, so good at gaining territory and is a midfielder that can hit the scoreboard. Although Riddell recorded more metres gained (678) than Garner (434).
Garner kicked 2.2 from 31 disposals and picked up eight clearances, eight tackles, seven marks and seven score involvements. She and Riddell combined for 30 contested possessions and proved to be head and shoulders above the Dogs in their run to the finals.
We know the Roos have been a force to be reckoned with this year, but the losses against Adelaide and Melbourne will weigh. We’re about to find out the real North Melbourne.
Doing it for Erin
It was a special day for Port Adelaide, and it will quickly go down as one of the better wins in the club’s history. Not just for the send-off of one of the AFLW’s original greatest of all-time players but for the performance that accompanied it.
The Power won this game by quarter time; they dominated them around the contest, and Gemma Houghton impressed with two goals and five score involvements by quarter time.
By full-time, however, we were talking about Ash Saint’s five-goal haul, a career-best for the former Crow, Abbey Dowrick completely torching a horrid GWS midfield, and an ultimate send-off gift for Erin Phillips when she took a pack mark at the top of the square and converted dutifully to the delight of the home crowd.
It’s been a tough year for the Power, who will finish the season in 15th with just two wins and a draw to their name. But there’s a platform for Lauren Arnell and the girls next year to jump into for 2024.
They’ll likely land two of the best under-18 talents with Lauren Young and Shineah Goody. And whilst they’ll impact right away next year, it’s salivating finding out just how good they will be in five years.
And if they can keep Erin at the club in an assistant role to some capacity… that’d be invaluable for the kids coming in.
We’re ready to witness Ella’s world
During the week, I was asked about the best players to play AFLW to date – from the top of my head: Erin Phillips, Daisy Pearce, Emma Kearney, Paxy Paxman and Ebony Marinoff. Based on longevity in their successes.
Suppose someone asks me about who is going to be the next great of AFLW. Well, I think Jasmine Garner is the present, but Ella Roberts is the future.
I didn’t do the column last week because I was away (how dare me for having a life, hey?), but I did catch the Eagles’ loss to the Bulldogs, and Roberts was the one player dragging the team back in the game.
Against an Adelaide side missing some key players, the Eagles gave a good account of themselves and put in a decent shift against a side that, whilst understrength, still flexed enough muscle to be a top-four side at times. That’s commendable.
But she’s just a massive presence around the contest, and it’s a pleasure to see her being utilised these past two weeks more as a pure midfielder. She wins the contest, she can run, she can spread, and she can put a bit of sizzle to the ball when she gets it moving.
She had 27 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles, four clearances and 515 metres gained. How crook is it to put that against Adelaide as an 18-year-old?
Only Emma Swanson had more disposals on the ground, and we all know how good of a player she’s been for the Eagles over the years.
Whoever takes over as head coach for the Eagles next year, whether it’s Dani Laidley, Trent Cooper, Chief Mongrel or the elderly folk across the street from my place, must entrust Ella Roberts to spearhead this midfield next year.
She’s good enough to play in the midfield, so let the kid play.
The Lions will never die
They’ve beaten Adelaide and Melbourne, but they’ve also lost to Richmond, Collingwood and St Kilda – they’re a real Jekyll and Hyde team this season.
But they’ve managed to save their best performance of the season until the last home and away round. They kept the reigning premiers goalless in the second half – the first time that’s happened to Melbourne since 2020.
Brisbane completely dominated the territory in the opening half – recording 19 more entries than the Demons, but worryingly only had four goals to their name and led by just three points going into the premiership quarter.
Sophie Conway proved that she’s the best winger in the competition by sending home two goals in the third quarter, while Bre Koenen put in one of the best captain’s games I’ve seen from her—Minding Kate Hore and limiting her scoring influence, while taking intercept mark after intercept mark – she finished with seven intercept marks and 12 intercept possessions all up.
Jade Ellenger also put in one of her best performances to date – astonishingly, she was outed for disciplinary reasons just over a month ago. Still, when she can get going, she is a pivotal cog in the Lions side: 22 disposals, 536 metres gained and six marks.
And Ally Anderson once again proved her stance as one of the best midfielders in the competition, standing firm in the contest all evening long.
The Tigers end it on a high note
Richmond kicked their biggest score in the history of the club and put paid to Collingwood on their home turf.
The only question I have is: where the hell was this for the whole year?
If it weren’t for poor kicking, they wouldn’t have been four points down at halftime; they would’ve been four goals up. Eventually, they tidied that up and kicked some ridiculous goals in the last quarter in an incredible display.
The Tigers had four goals to three-quarter time and kicked seven alone in the last quarter. They dominated the contested ball, and they outworked the Pie.
Caitlin Greiser’s second goal, an outside-of-the-boot gem from the point post, was freakish. Monique Conti bursting out of the centre bounce and drilling one home from 50 metres out was mesmerising.
Whilst on Mon Con, what a player she is. In a similar boat to Ellie Blackburn at the Dogs, she’s the one who pioneers a hell of a lot of offence coming out of stoppage and centre bounces. We got one last dose of Conti brilliance – 34 disposals, 1.1, 11 clearances, eight tackles and 615 metres gained.
Katie Brennan kicked four goals and looked as good as ever throughout her AFLW career. She provided a presence further up the ground as well, putting up 18 disposals, three clearances and 356 metres gained.
Sydney are playing finals
I said on the A3 Footy Podcast during the week that a spot in the finals is there if Sydney wanted it.
St Kilda’s win over Carlton earlier on Sunday had them in the box seat after Collingwood crashed and burned in their game against the Tigers. It was all up to Sydney; they just needed to win.
Well, at times, it was bloody scrappy and hard to watch, but the Swans found a way in the end, kicking clear to cement themselves in as the eighth-placed side and all set for an exciting elimination final with the Gold Coast Suns.
Chloe Molloy’s two goals were pivotal: Her first got the Swans going in the opening term after having a hard time in front of the big sticks, and her second one practically sealed the Swans into the eight.
But as I wrote about earlier in the week, it’s more than just Molloy, as several players stood up around the ground. Brenna Tarrant was so important down the stretch. Laura Gardiner found another gear around the stoppages (19 contested possessions), and Tanya Kennedy’s desperation for the hardball stood out.
It was almost game for Montana Ham in this one, kicking one goal in the last term, but had another two shots that strayed wide off the mark and had a goal assist en route to seven score involvements from just the nine disposals.
So now it’s onto the Suns. Regardless of the result next weekend, the Swans have exceeded expectations and, daresay, have won some extra fans as they go about their maiden finals campaign.
How lucky are the Bombers?
Let’s be honest: if Collingwood didn’t blow it, and St Kilda won by a little extra, we may not have talked about Essendon still being alive in the premiership race.
Two weeks ago, Essendon squandered a golden opportunity to cement themselves in the top eight with a loss to the lowly West Coast at home.
After a tremendous response last week against Carlton, this was there for the taking against a Suns side without their best midfielder, and it was another missed opportunity.
The Bombers had one more scoring shot, one more inside 50 entry and lost by 14. Some of their ball use throughout this game was reminiscent of their loss against West Coast; it was rushed, careless at times and just outright sloppy.
To outline how dumb the Bombers can play footy at times, Sophie Van De Heuvel marks the ball in the defensive half in the second term with a minute to go until halftime. She blazes away, turns the ball over at the middle of the ground, and Darcie Davies kicks a goal right before the halftime horn.
Regarding the metrics, they were fine around the contest: -1 in clearances, -6 in the contested ball and -21 in the uncontested ball is a slight concern.
But the ruck battle was an apparent whitewash in favour of the Suns. Steph Wales had very little help in the ruck and around the ground as Lauren Bella, Darcie Davies and Jaq Dupuy all were influential in one area of the ground or another.
It’s finally over for the Dogs
Well… on the field, at least. The Dogs are the wooden spooners and tied their lowest score in the club’s history against North Melbourne.
Don’t let the scoreline fool you; poor kicking for goal from North Melbourne spared the Dogs’ blushes significantly. A few put their head up: Ellie Blackburn, Georgostathis, Gabby Newton, Alice Edmonds picked up after quarter time and Issy Grant.
But the Dogs should have the footage of the second quarter on repeat throughout the off-season. It was hemmed in their defensive end for 90 per cent of the time, and they made unforced error after unforced error, and it was just fitting of the 18th-placed team.
North’s press is elite against sides that aren’t in the top four, but the Dogs certainly don’t help themselves when they can’t even hit targets laterally.
And what of Nathan Burke? He has a year to run on his contract and remains buoyed by the girl’s enthusiasm.
“I put up my hand; it was tough in the middle of it. We were sort of four (losses) and zero, five and zero, and it was tough. But you can’t help being swept up by their enthusiasm… I owe it to them not to lose my passion.” Burke said post-game.
I’ve said a bit about the Dogs this year, and a lot of it hasn’t been positive – it’s hard to find positives – so I’ll leave with this.
Nathan Burke has been in charge of the club since 2020. He has coached the side to 19 wins in 46 games. We’ve seen improvement in players that have since left. The club has had very little compensation from the league from the players leaving expansion, if any. The club needs to get to the bottom of what happened in the pre-season and why so many players were battling injuries throughout.
Thanks for the time, Burkey, but it’s time to move on.
What’s next for the Giants?
Another season has flown by the Giants, and if it weren’t for the Dogs being complete crap, we’d be assessing how Cam Bernasconi is going with his team, and it probably isn’t going how he’d envision it.
Sydney has jumped them and jumped them significantly, but then again, when was the last time we’ve seen this Giants side being given a handout from the league? I can’t think of one.
So it’s going to have to come through the natural development. Zarlie Goldsworthy has been a considerable tick this year and still managed to kick two goals and 20-plus touches in a thumping. Tarni Evans has had a breakout year, and games were put into Jess Doyle and Fleur Davies this year.
And I reckon Izzy Huntington will be better off with the games she played this year heading into 2024; she must stay healthy. And Rebecca Beeson out playing footy again after a lengthy spell with injury was pleasing.
But in saying that, certain players need to lift: Georgia Garnett went backwards this year, Nicola Barr is in the middle of the road, and I’m still not sure about players like Jasmine Grierson, Katherine Smith and Chloe Dalton – I’m not feeling any of them moving the needle for the Giants beyond this year.
They got spanked around contest against Port in this game, and you can’t expect either Zarlie or Alyce Parker or Alicia Eva to do all the heavy lifting for the Giants next year and beyond.
Need a big launch from Hawthorn next year
Hawthorn has been a side that has given it a fair crack most, if not all, weeks, but as people often say, you don’t win premiership points for effort.
Saturday’s game against Geelong may be disappointing regarding the lack of potency in the forward half. Maybe it’s just how they reacted to Geelong’s territory dominance.
The Cats could keep the ball in their forward half for 64 per cent of the game. They smashed the Hawks in the inside 50 count 40-19.
Since coming into the competition, the Hawks have hung their hat on their tackle pressure. They were +24 against Geelong and are ranked first in the competition for tackle differential.
They’ve got enough players there to win the ball. Emily Bates, Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Jas Fleming all had over 20 touches of the ball, but they didn’t have the forwards to make it happen. They average just over 30 points per game this year, and that’s nowhere near good enough – the better sides are averaging well over seven goals per game.
Aine McDonagh has been a shining light this year in the forward line, and I’ve loved watching Kristy Stratton this year, but who else steps up when the going gets tough? Greta Bodey, despite a four-goal bag last week, has been a thorough disappointment this year. I’m not sure about Tahlia Fellows’ development this season, either.
On top of that, they’ve bid farewell to four players who will give their depth a massive whack: Tamara Luke, Cat Brown, Tegan Cunningham and Akec Makur Chuot.
The Hawks must continue to attack over the off-season and draft well with their first few picks if they make inroads next year because I can see them sticking around the bottom five of the ladder for another few years while the young girls continue to grow.
How do you describe that from Collingwood?
Shambolic. Putrid. Unacceptable.
It’s been a rollercoaster, to say the least, for Collingwood fans: disappointing start where they were 1-3 in the opening month, won four in a row, including wins against finals-bound teams Geelong, Essendon and Brisbane.
And then a loss last week to a surging Sydney side set it all up against a struggling Richmond side. And that was their best shot?
Richmond had the ball 71 more times than them, 13 more inside 50s, belted in the clearances 36-22 and stomped around the contest – Richmond nearly had 40 more contested possessions.
It was a lifeless display after halftime. The big fight on the wing in the last quarter resembled any fight the Pies had in that second half. By then, they were about seven goals down.
Eight Pies players had four disposals or less. Among these are Tarni White, Stacey Livingstone, Sarah Sansonetti and Grace Campbell.
Their lack of depth has shown out at times, and you can see with players like Em Smith and Eleri Morris in the forward line – they’ve shown glimpses at times, but they’re not consistent enough that’ll help drag the Pies over the line.
Bri Davey and Brit Bonnici were well down on their usual influence, and that raises many eyebrows: Can you stop this side if you stop these two from winning the lion’s share of the footy?
The Pies will finish 11th at 4-4 and an awful percentage of 83. There’ll be a bit of pressure on Steve Symonds next year to get this side back up the ladder quickly.
What could’ve been for the Saints
It was a stirring win for the Saints, and really, it’s a season that will bring great optimism heading into 2024.
By round three, the vultures circled Nick Dal Santo and his coaching career. Winless and seemingly looked like they had no answers for what was happening on the field, but things clicked, and from round four onwards, they went 6-1
Unfortunately, those losses in the opening three weeks were costly, but that’ll serve the Saints well as they now look into preparation for the 2024 season.
Tyanna Smith has been in fine touch all year, and I think she can prime herself for an All-Australian calibre season with another pre-season under her belt. Georgia Patrkios had 25 disposals and looked back to her best pre-Covid pandemic. Jaimee Lambert will spearhead that midfield next year and, barring injury, will be fired up.
I’ve loved an injury-free campaign from Liv Vesely; she makes that on-ball unit walk a fraction taller, and Jesse Wardlaw, moving into the ruck more often in the second half of the year, has proven to be one of Dal Santo’s greatest aces.
No excuses next year, though, for Dal and the Saints: finals is a non-negotiable.
The week one schedule.
Fans in Queensland and South Australia will be treated to spectacular games on Saturday. I’m excited to see what happens: Can Adelaide right what happened in Queensland against Brisbane a few weeks ago? And who out of Gold Coast and Sydney will continue their fairytale story?
Meanwhile, Sunday is an all-Victorian schedule with not-so-friendly time constraints. Geelong and Essendon in Geelong are going to be a belter in the 1:05 slot, and then two hours later, Melbourne vs North Melbourne at Ikon Park in what should be a massive game for North Melbourne to prove the doubters wrong that they can beat a top side.
Why does the league treat fans with such contempt that Victorian neutral supporters can’t possibly get to both games this weekend? At worst, it’ll just give it a slight increase in sales and attendance.
Instead, Victorians will now be debating whether or not they want to trek to Geelong or watch the game at Ikon Park. As a neutral, I know what game I’d head to next Sunday.
They were especially considering that the AFL dangled the carrot in front of the fans to add an extra game next season if they got a target number.
Well, it’d be pretty hard getting to games at 5:05 on a Friday night or 11:05 on a Saturday morning. Stupid timeslots in locations, some would argue, would prove to be more of an inconvenience to get to.
I just don’t get it with this league sometimes.
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