REIGNING premiers Peel Thunder unfurled the flag and then unleashed their potential – albeit after a comical mishap in hindsight – to win by 32 points over a vastly-different East Fremantle side on the weekend. Opening up the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, the Thunder and Sharks were set to battle in repeat of last year’s preliminary final. On both occasions the Thunder emerged victorious, and this time it was 8.7 (55) to 3.5 (23).
After celebrating their 2020 WAFL Women’s flag in front of home fans, the Thunder players were so delirious they actually went to the wrong end of the field, with the defenders and forwards needing to switch and re-evaluate. Within 46 seconds, East Fremantle had a goal on the board through returning Sharks talent, Rachel Ashley. It would be the first of two goals for the talented utility who was moved forward after previously playing in defence.
After the first minute of mayhem for the Thunder, the reigning premiers steadied and took full control of the match, starting with a clever snap from Kate Bartlett and then one from star bottom-ager Ella Roberts. Having announced herself in last year’s grand final, the 16-year-old again came to the party for Peel, booting two ridiculous goals – one from long-range into the breeze and another in the second term under pressure tight on the boundary – and having an array of eye-catching moments.
East Fremantle locked down on her in the second half to limit her influence, but they could not contain the entire team, as Roberts was just one of three multiple goalkickers. Bartlett slotted three – including a final term ripper that was arguably the goal of the day to seal the match – and fellow youngster Jade Briggs booted two. With Ashley icing up a hamstring in the second half, the Sharks struggled to find avenues to goal, and aside from Ann McMahon kicking a consolation major in the fourth, went a full 36 minutes without a goal.
Roberts was clearly among the best-on in the first half before being tagged in the second half, with fellow youngsters Briggs, Courtney Rowley and Beth Schilling all showing some serious talent. From a more experienced point of view, Katie-Jayne Grieve and Nel Baxter were also impressive, as was Tanisha Anderson coming off half-back.
For the Sharks, Kate Inglis-Hodge stood out, with Amber Kinnane, Sharon Wong, Hayley O’Donnell and debutant Mylee Leitch having some impressive moments. While East Fremantle showed some potential, the loss of their experience due to AFL Women’s showed a team bringing through plenty of new faces.
The other two matches provided a couple of thrillers as Swan Districts ground out a narrow six-point win over Claremont in hot conditions yesterday afternoon. The Swans got up 2.6 (18) to 1.6 (12) at Steel Blue Oval, with the teams both going goalless in the second half. Claremont did hit back with three behinds to one, but the Tigers not taking their chances really hurt.
Young gun Bella Edgley showed some promising signs with a couple of second quarter goals – one from a set shot and another from a tight angle – to be the chief destroyer for the home team, while AFL Women’s Academy member Amy Franklin showed off her athleticism to get goalside and take plenty of grass on her way to slamming home the opening major of the day.
Franklin was a standout up forward as a target and roaming up the ground, whilst Jess Low was everywhere on the day. Emily Bennett had a great day out for the Tigers, while Rachel Ortlepp and captain Ella Smith also won their fair share of the footy despite the loss.
Swan Districts had a real even team performance across the board, with Bianca Webb and Mikayla Hyde showing off their AFL Women’s experience with great defensive efforts and athleticism respectively. Youngsters Tara Stribley and Emma Nanut had some great moments, as did 15-year-old Jamie Henry, while Emily McGuire was rock solid as usual in the back half, and Sarah Wielstra provided a tall target inside 50.
Meanwhile an inaccurate Subiaco escaped with the win against a fast-finishing and much improved South Fremantle. While the Bulldogs did not manage to breakthrough for their maiden victory, they certainly gave the Lions a scare, piling on three goals to three behinds in the final term, only to fall short by three points.
Casey Byrne was the standout goalscorer on the day, slotting home three majors for the losing side, while Ella Higgins and Lauren Vecchio both added goals to their name. Maggie MacLachlan looked to have benefited from a preseason at AFL Women’s level, kicking two majors for the winners, while Amy Hunt and Jamie Rust both slotted one apiece.
WAFL Women’s Round 1 results:
Peel Thunder 8.7 (55) defeated East Fremantle 3.5 (23)
Subiaco 4.13 (37) defeated South Fremantle 5.4 (34)
Swan Districts 2.6 (18) defeated Claremont 1.6 (12)
Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder