Author: Sophie Taylor

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #6 – Karen Paxman

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at a player who was unlucky to miss out on the top five, having been a key cog and real champion across all four AFLW seasons. 

#6 KAREN PAXMAN

7 GAMES AVE: 21.3 disposals, 3.0 marks, 4.1 tackles, 3.4 rebound 50s, 2.3 inside 50s

As consistent as they come, Paxman is one of the best in the business and at 31-years-old is yet to show any signs of stopping. With a 71 per cent disposal efficiency and gut-running ability to match, Paxman is a key cog through the midfield for Melbourne and is never not a threatening option with ball in hand. 

Her endurance and speed is a testament to her constant work rate, able to apply pressure both on and off the ball and use her vision to drive off the half back into incoming traffic with ease. Paxman is difficult to stop once she gets going, barrelling through her opposition and showing real fearlessness in the way she attacks the footy to propel it forward.

Paxman may have had just the one goal to her name in 2020 but that did not phase her, consistently plying her trade and using her quality game sense and strong kick to provide options for her forwards inside 50. Where the goal stat went down this season, majority of other statistics went up again from an already phenomenal 2019 season, proving that Paxman is getting better and better as the game evolves. 

With a season high 27 touches against the Blues and arguably having an impact every game, Paxman was influential in the Dees’ inaugural finals appearance against GWS GIANTS, racking up the six tackles and creating plenty of attacking forays to get the Demons over the line.

To top it off, Paxman is just one of two players to be named in the All-Australian team every season since the AFL Women’s inception, also picking up the captaincy in 2020 as reward for yet another stand-out season. 

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #25-21

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at the players ranked from 25-21. This part of the countdown features some exciting stars who have not yet hit their peak despite playing some exceptional footy thus far, bookended by a couple of experienced marquee names who continue to impact the competition.

#25 Daisy Pearce (MELBOURNE)

7 GAMES AVE: 14.9 disposals, 2.9 tackles, 2.7 marks, 1.7 rebounds

The 31-year-old Daisy Pearce returned to the game in 2020 to much fanfare after giving birth to twins last February, doing the impossible and ultimately returning to her pre-baby form – albeit in a different position. Playing off the half-back, Pearce bolstered the Dees’ stocks with her speed and intensity in defence, teaming up with Libby Birch to make a formidable defensive wall. With just under 70 per cent disposal efficiency, Pearce led from the back with her silky ball movement and vision up the ground. While Pearce’s numbers may have dropped this season, it was  somewhat down to her change in role, slipping into the defensive mindset well and becoming a general off the half back. Her resilience to get back on the field is remarkable while her read of the play was crucial coming into Melbourne’s inaugural finals series this season.

#24 Chloe Molloy (COLLINGWOOD)

7 GAMES AVE: 13.3 disposals, 4.6 marks, 2.3 tackles, 1.9 inside 50s, 6 goals

Chloe Molloy’s return to the footy field could not have been better, with the talented 2017 draftee pulling on the boots once more and showcasing her skill from the very start of the season. Booting six goals in seven games – including a bag of three against the Bulldogs in Round 5 – Molloy had no issue finding the footy, averaging 13.3 touches and providing a confident and reliable marking target up the ground thanks to her ability to free herself from her opposition or crash the pack. Her consistency and ability to get hands to the footy enabled her to set handy plays in motion for her teammates while her run and carry down the ground and impressive vision allowed her to be a real thorn in the side for any team she came across. 

#23 Kate Hore (MELBOURNE)

7 GAMES AVE: 12.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles, 3.3 marks, 2.4 inside 50s, 5 goals

The talented Dees forward had a spectacular year, rounded out by a Goal of the Year Award that was testament to her constant drive inside 50 and ability to apply pressure both on the player and the scoreboard. Migrating further up the field in 2020, Kate Hore was one of a number of Demons who had no issue with accuracy in front of the big sticks, and was a handy target up forward able to have an impact both in the air and at ground level. In her best season yet at the club, Hore boosted majority of her stats this season – namely booting four more goals than her 2019 form – and racked up 3.9 tackles per game proving she is a constant threat in and around the footy, unafraid of the contest and able to crumb the ball with ease to her advantage.

#22 Phoebe Monahan (RICHMOND)

6 GAMES AVE: 17.2 disposals, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 tackles, 2.7 marks

Richmond backliner Monahan made the switch from GWS GIANTS ahead of the 2020 season and with the numbers she racked up this season there is no doubt that she flourished in the Tigers environment. The 26-year-old racked up an impressive 6.8 rebounds for the season to go with almost three marks as she put in her best effort to block the footy from entering the Tigers’ back 50. While Richmond did not win a game in their inaugural season, without Monahan’s link from the back end up the ground the results could have been far worse, with the speedy contested player working well through congestion to average 17.2 touches, driving through the midfield to propel the footy forward. Monahan’s form saw her blow her 2018 and 2019 form completely out of the park, playing all six matches for the Tigers and racking up the numbers as she did so.

#21 Ellie Blackburn (WESTERN BULLDOGS)

6 GAMES AVE: 17.3 disposals, 4.2 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 2.2 marks

With an average of 17 disposals across her AFLW career, Western Bulldogs captain and stalwart midfield-forward Ellie Blackburn is as consistent as they come. She continued her impressive form since the AFLW’s inception with another stellar season behind her, albeit a frustrating one for Bulldogs fans with the side only managing one win from its six matches. The impressive ball-winner continued her winning form however, and was a constant threat with ball in hand thanks to her ability to make something out of nothing and transition the footy through the midfield with ease. Blackburn is rarely fazed by the contest, and while she only put the two goals on the board this season, she put her ball-winning skills to good use in other areas, aiding her teammates and forming a crucial link through the midfield. Her tackling pressure also releases some of the load from her teammates, with her 4.2 tackles per game and 2.2 marks creating opportunities further up the ground.

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #30-26

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at the players ranked from 30-26. This part of the countdown features a couple of young gun debutants alongside some of their experienced counterparts, namely from Carlton and St Kilda.

#30 Tayla Harris (CARLTON)

7 GAMES AVE: 10.4 disposals, 3.7 marks, 2.6 inside 50s, 8 goals

One of the most recognisable names in women’s footy, Tayla Harris proved she still has the ability to step up her game along with the competition, raising her stats averages across the board from last season and forming a critical part of a threatening forward line for Carlton. A handy option both in the air and in front of goal, Harris is a crucial part of the Blues’ forward unit thanks to her strength and constant drive for the ball, and forms a massive target for her speedy midfield to bomb the footy to. It’s hard to believe Harris is still only 23-years-old, with her age thus far outweighed by her skill and plenty still left in the tank. Harris equalled her season best goalkicking for the year, replicating her 2019 tally of eight majors – from one less game – while her disposal average was raised by 2.5 touches. Able to work up the ground, Harris’ ability to anticipate the play and use her clean hands and leap to mark the footy gives her a big leg up on her opposition.

#29 Grace Egan (CARLTON)

7 GAMES AVE: 14.3 disposals, 4.6 tackles, 2.0 marks, 2 goals

A young gun with a drive to go one better every time she gets hands to ball, Grace Egan was a great pick up for the Blues at pick number 13 and well and truly proved her worth in her debut season. With an average of 14.3 disposals, there is not much to complain about with the 19-year-old adjusting to AFLW level with ease, putting her good contested ball use and run and carry on show. Unafraid of the contest, Egan averaged almost five tackles per game, showcasing her tenacity week after week. Her best performance on paper was back in Round 2, racking up 11 tackles to go with her 18 touches against the Magpies, but it was her constant work rate that leads her to a spot on our countdown.

#28 Caitlin Greiser (ST KILDA)

6 GAMES AVE: 9.7 disposals, 2.7 marks, 3.2 inside 50s, 10 goals

Debutant Caitlin Greiser was the name that many teams would have been grumbling about after taking on the Saints, and given her ability to take the footy and boot goals with ease. The 21 year old put a score on the board in every match, booting multiple goals on four occasions and winning the Leading Goalkicker award for 2020 thanks to her ability to evade her opposition and use her strong build to barrel through the pack into the open goal. While her disposal efficiency sat just over 50 per cent, Greiser was more than happy to stay home inside 50, able to cleanly get ball to boot to threaten the scoreboard time and time again, using her strong mark and overall accuracy in front of the big sticks to her advantage.

#27 Georgia Patrikios (ST KILDA)

6 GAMES AVE: 15.7 disposals, 3.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 1.8 marks

Another youngster who made her mark in her debut season was Georgia Patrikios, with the speedy midfielder forming a crucial part of St Kilda’s inaugural team thanks to her excellent agility and use of the footy. With a clever footy brain and clean hands to match, Patrikios did not let her smaller 169cm frame stop her against bigger opposition, using her speed and footwork to evade her opposition and clear the ball with ease. Able to have an impact both on and off the ball, Patrikios was a consistent threat around the footy, able to get into the pack and take on some of the pressure, willing to contest and do so constantly. Clean and composed with ball in hand, Patrikios’ start to her AFLW career proves she has plenty more success in her future.

#26 Brianna Davey (COLLINGWOOD)

7 GAMES AVE: 20.5 disposals, 5.3 tackles, 2.5 marks

The oldest player on this part of the countdown – and still only 25-years-old – Bri Davey has been an impressive name in the AFLW since its inception but well and truly lifted her form another peg this year. After defecting from Carlton at 2019 seasons end, Davey dominated in a much stronger Collingwood outfit in 2020, bolstering the Magpies’ ranks with her ability to come in and make a difference on the game with ease. Much like Harris, Davey’s stats rocketed this season, playing only the six games but averaging over 20 disposals thanks to her constant drive for the footy and ability to snatch it up and clear it into space. Davey collected 30 touches and racked up 10 tackles in her clear best performance of the season in Round 5, but was as consistent as they come for the Magpies who played their first finals match this season.

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #2 – North Melbourne take the win in epic battle against Magpies

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our #2 which saw North Melbourne wage a massive comeback against Collingwood for a 5.4 (34) to 5.2 (32) semi-final win at Ikon Park. It was both sides’ inaugural AFL Women’s final, making the outcome that much more intense.

It was an intense battle from the get-go with the two sides unable to be split throughout the first quarter, and while each quarter saw a new intensity brew for each side, it came down to the last seconds of the game. The ball was still in the Magpies’ forward half with a minute remaining on the clock and much of the momentum, but a Jasmine Garner intercept mark at half-back in the last 15 seconds of the game helped keep the Roos’ premiership hopes alive. Both teams started well, booting a goal apiece before the first change thanks to North’s Daisy Bateman – through an uncharacteristic error from Magpies veteran Stacey Livingstone – before the Pies bounced back, cleaning up their act as Jordan Membrey got on the board for her first of two. Terrific Magpies efforts saw ball magnets Britt Bonnici, Jaimee Lambert and Bri Davey be their typical threatening selves, unafraid of the contest and doing anything they could to find the footy. While the Kangaroos had much of the momentum in the early stages of the match, again booting the opening goal of the second, they were unable to stay in control with the Magpies hot on their heels, as a punch over the line from Sharni Layton spoiled an almost certain goal which could have seen results go very differently. Collingwood kicked their way ahead with flair and energy, building off their efforts and booting three goals in just over five minutes through the middle of the quarter to be well in control of the Roos coming into half time. 

But the see-sawing affair continued in the third as the Kangaroos took back some control, booting two and keeping the Pies scoreless to get ahead by three points with 15 minutes left on the clock. Defensively both sides were constant and consistent, with Kaitlyn Ashmore and Livingstone rebounding continuously and providing threatening shadows in defence, storming down their opposition at any opportunity. Ash Riddell continued to hold strong with Ellie Gavalas and captain Emma Kearney, with the trio building their way to dominate at stoppages always getting first hands to the ball. A massive and closely contested final quarter was a testament to the skill-level running amock on the field, with neither team able to penetrate their forward with ease to pile on the goals, instead having to work their way around the field poking at defensive holes to puncture. Both teams managed just the one goal in the final quarter and to the Pies’ detriment was the loss of best on ground, Bonnici, who came off for an untimely concussion test – but fortunately sneakily returned later in the quarter to bolster the Pies’ ranks once more. With less than 20 seconds on the clock, one last roll of the dice saw the Magpies kick to a Layton-Emma King one-on-one but it was Garner who came over the top to take the match-saving mark and win the game for her side by just two points.

Riddell picked an equal game-high 22 disposals for the Roos, as well as five marks and six tackles, while Garner (15 disposals, five marks and five tackles), Kearney (17 disposals, four tackles) and Gavalas (13 disposals, three marks, six tackles and a goal) all impressed afield. For the Magpies, Bonnici was the best-on with 20 disposals, three marks and three tackles, while Lambert and Davey combined for 44 disposals, 11 marks and 10 tackles in the loss. 

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.4 (34)
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 | 4.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 (32) 

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo, S. Wright, K. Ashmore, E. Gavalas, D. Bateman.
Collingwood: J. Membrey 2, M. Cann, S. D’Arcy, C. Molloy.

ADC BEST:

North Melbourne: A. Riddell, E. Gavalas, E. Kearney, J. Garner, J. Bruton, K. Ashmore
Collingwood: B. Bonnici, B. Davey, J. Lambert, S. Chiocci, C. Molloy, J. Membrey

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #4 – Fremantle hold on to top spot despite swooping Magpies

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our number four which saw a scintillating top two clash between Fremantle and Collingwood that could have seen the season go far different if the Pies had managed the win.

Round 3 saw a top of the Conference B table clash where Fremantle popped Collingwood at the post by just three points on home turf. While the Dockers had the early lead the Pies brought the intensity in the second, booting 2.4 and keeping Fremantle scoreless but failed to convert at a number of crucial moments putting the Magpies ahead at the main change but not by winning margin. Pressure mounted in the final stages of the match with Britt Bonnici gifted two opportunities to take a lead once more but ultimately went astray, seeing Fremantle remain undefeated.

It was a typical see-sawing affair between the two ladder leading sides, with Fremantle owning possession early before the Pies kicked their way back into the match. Despite the inaccuracy at the goal front, the Magpies seemed to have all the momentum looking to the second half, but just like the Dockers they failed to apply the scoreboard pressure, coming undone with just one goal in the third term which kept them close.

Jaimee Lambert was her usual influential self, seemingly having the ball on a string in the early stages and collecting a whopping 21 touches by halftime. She was kept quiet in the second half in comparison, taking her tally to 32 overall among her eight tackles but it was that first half form – and goal – that saw the Pies take the lead. Bri Davey returned to collect 18 disposals and six tackles while Sarah Rowe impressed with 22 possessions. Cross-coders Sharni Layton and Ash Brazil also continued their impressive form, with Layton hitting the scoreboard and Brazil racking up the 17 touches.

It was the consistent team-wide effort that got the job done for the Dockers with a host of players getting them over the line and bouncing back after the frustrating second term. Hayley Miller collected a team-high 13 disposals while Philipa Seth got 12 to her name, showcasing that team effort with no one player standing out on the possession count. Regular performer Kiara Bowers was physical as ever with the 14 tackles while Roxy Roux booted a goal and collected four tackles in a solid effort for the 18-year-old.

FREMANTLE 3.0 | 3.0 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 | 3.5 | 4.5 | 4.6 (30)

GOALS:

Fremantle: R. Roux, E. Antonio, G. O’Sullivan, K. Flood, A. Sharp.
Collingwood: A. Sheridan, J. Lambert, S. Layton, J. Membrey.

BESTS:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, H. Miller, P. Seth, R. Roux
Collingwood: J. Lambert, S. Rowe, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, A. Brazill

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #8 – Saints shock unbeaten Dees

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our #8 which saw St Kilda’s historic inaugural win against the then unbeaten Melbourne. Heading into the Round 3 contest, Melbourne had stunned premiership favourites, North Melbourne in the opening round before accounting for the Western Bulldogs in Round 2. St Kilda had gone down to the Bulldogs in the Saints’ first ever match in the league, before losing in a spirited fight on the road against the reigning premiers, Adelaide.

It was a history-making performance by the Saints claiming their inaugural AFLW win and stunning the lacklustre Demons in the meantime. The start was relatively even with an inaccurate Melbourne booting 1.4 to 1.0 in the opening term, with that sole goal proving to be the Dees’ only one of the game. The low-scoring match came down to a strong second half effort from the Saints, who well and truly took advantage of Melbourne’s inaccuracy in front of goal. 22 Under 22 forward Caitlin Greiser impressed booting two goals for the Saints, including the parting blow midway through the final term, using her clean hands and strength to evade Melbourne’s defence and well and truly steal the show. While Melbourne had a heap of experience at its disposal, the Saints went in hard for the footy and outshone the Dees who simply could not convert.

This year’s Best First Year Player, Georgia Patrikios continued her impressive form through the midfield, collecting 15 touches while teammates Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Olivia Vesely topped the disposal count at 16 apiece and high pressure duo Nat Exon and Rosie Dillon combined for 14 tackles. While the Melbourne unit failed to play its typical game – down to constant pressing defence from the Saints cutting off options forward, they still had a plethora of solid performers despite Shelley Scott kicking the Dees’ lone goal in the first quarter. Formidable and experienced trio in Karen Paxman, Elise O’Dea and Daisy Pearce combined to be a formidable force with Paxman taking home the most possessions in the game with 26. O’Dea was not far behind with 20 while Libby Birch and Maddi Gay also found their fair share of the footy but it was not enough to change the end result.

As history would have it, Melbourne still reached the 2020 AFL Women’s finals series, winning a classic contest against GWS GIANTS before the season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saints would win another game and not only avoid the wooden spoon in their Conference, but finish above fellow newcomer West Coast, and foundation side Western Bulldogs as well, the team that knocked them off in the opening round.

ST KILDA 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.1 (19)
MELBOURNE 1.4 | 1.5 | 1.8 | 1.8 (14)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser (2), D. Guttridge.
Melbourne: S. Scott.

BESTS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, T. Lucas-Rodd, G. Patrikios, O. Vesley,
Melbourne: K. Paxman, E. O’Dea, D. Pearce, S. Scott

Fremantle finishes AFL Women’s season undefeated after semi-final win

IT was a mammoth effort from the ladder leaders in Fremantle that led to a phenomenal 70-point win over expansion side, Gold Coast Suns. While the Dockers were undefeated coming into this match and the Suns with only two wins to their name, little could have expected the final margin, with Fremantle far too good at home, winning 12.8 (80) to 1.4 (10). While Gold Coast struggled under Fremantle’s wrath, the home side was clinical and if it had hit more targets inside 50 the result could have been far worse.

A relatively even first quarter saw plenty of intensity with Gold Coast competing well without Fremantle’s crowd to deter the Suns from testing the Dockers early. While Fremantle headed into the second quarter eight points up, it was a solid defensive effort from the Suns that kept them on their toes and forcing hasty kicks on goal. But after the first the Dockers came out all guns blaring, not conceding a major for the rest of the match and denying the Suns any clean penetration of their forward 50, with the side only marking once from 26 inside 50s, a real credit to the defensive pressure and constant tackling effort from the Dockers, combining for 59 tackles compared to Gold Coast’s 33 – lead by Kiara Bowers who racked up 14 to go with her 22 touches. The first saw Sabreena Duffy’s first of three, with the talented goalsneak finding plenty of the footy thanks to her tenacity while her small stature and burst of speed made her hard to stop. Jacqui Yorston and Kate Surman were solid down the field finding plenty of the ball but falling short of options inside 50, with Fremantle’s defensive pressure creating a real buffer downfield.

A four-goal second quarter sparked a significant lead heading into half-time, with near misses giving the Suns some opportunities to get on the board but going scoreless after the second minute mark, with a frustrating miss 15m out from Tiarna Ernst in reward for a brave contest – who later left the field with symptoms of concussion – that could have well and truly changed the game if it had been converted. Gemma Houghton and Kate Flood (two goals apiece) opened their account in the second, joined by young gun Roxy Roux who returned to the side after a brief stint on the sidelines, taking a 27-point lead into the main break and sending an ominous message to the competition with another all-round effort in the forward half producing a dominant performance. Hayley Miller impressed with her tenacity in a great finish to her best season yet, with her consistency clear through the midfield, collecting 20 touches, seven marks and three tackles.

While Fremantle continued to go from strength to strength, the Suns would not give up, with the likes of Jade Pregelj consistent as ever in defence, collecting an equal season-high 16 touches and contributing well to force errant kicks on goal from the Dockers. Lauren Ahrens was equally solid off the half back, managing 17 disposals and three marks in a tough contest. An interesting battle waged between rucks with young gun Mim Strom providing vital footy to her mids, managing 14 hitouts, eight touches and two tackles, while Suns’ Lauren Bella led the hitout count with 17 but did not have the backup required to propel the footy downfield, with Fremantle taking much more advantage of the tap. Gabby O’Sullivan added a second goal to her tally in the third, while a crucial kick on goal late in the third from Jordann Hickey went unrewarded, seeing the margin extend further despite all efforts.

A four-goal final quarter haul from the home side saw Fremantle well and truly shake off any semi-finals worry, with the side enjoying the 70-point victory and plenty of standouts putting the win into practice. Fremantle’s four multiple goalkickers in Duffy (who now finishes ahead of St Kilda’s Caitlin Greiser as leading goalkicker in 2020), O’Sullivan (17 touches), Flood and Houghton allowed veterans the likes of Bowers, Ebony Antonio (20 disposals, eight marks, one goal) and Kara Antonio (19 disposals, seven marks) used their experience to provide plenty of footy up the field. Paige Parker was the sole goalkicker for the Suns on a tough day on the track, while Yorston and Surman both enjoyed impressive stats to finish their respective inaugural seasons, racking up 22 and 20 touches and combining for seven tackles. Dangerous forward Kalinda Howarth was unable to have her usual impact on the scoreboard, with the small forward working up the ground with Jamie Stanton, who also was rendered far less impactful than her typical work rate thanks to Fremantle’s constant pressure.

FREMANTLE 2.3 | 5.5 | 8.6 | 12.8 (80)
GOLD COAST 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10)

GOALS:

Fremantle: S. Duffy 3, K. Flood 2, G. O’Sullivan 2, G. Houghton 2, R. Roux, E.Antonio, A. Sharp.
Gold Coast: P. Parker.

ADC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, E.Antonio, G. O’Sullivan, K. Antonio, H. Miller, S. Duffy
Gold Coast: J. Yorston, J. Pregelj, K. Surman, L. Ahrens,  J. Stanton

Demons’ remarkable comeback sees inaugural AFL Women’s finals victory

THE second match of the AFL Women’s semi-finals saw GWS GIANTS host Melbourne in a real battle of the midfield with both sides coming in relatively equal. While the Dees had to ensure they had enough players to take the field – with two of their Irish talents heading home prior to the weekend – the GIANTS had the opportunity to bring back some of their big guns and take advantage of a two-game winning streak. Unfortunately for the stalwart GIANTS however, a massive burst in energy and drive was the clincher, with Melbourne digging deep for three straight goals to defeat the home side, 4.5 (29) to 3.8 (26).

Right from the start it was a tough contest, with both sides going in hard for the footy and relentless in their pursuit. While the first quarter was goalless it was not for a lack of trying, thanks to the impressive defensive effort of both sides. Melbourne’s Libby Birch and Daisy Pearce (15 and 22 touches respectively), and GIANTS’ Elle Bennetts and Tanya Hetherington (13 and 10) were doing the job off the half-back for their respective sides and making it tough to penetrate forward 50. Neither side was able to really apply the scoreboard pressure required to guarantee a lead early, and while an inaugural goal for Demons speedster Lily Mithen early in the second did plenty to raise morale it was only just enough to keep the Dees ahead, with Aimee Schmidt looking dangerous up the other end, finishing with 1.2 alongside fellow goalsneak Cora Staunton. While the return of Lauren Pearce was a handy inclusion for the Dees, it was the GIANTS midfield that had it over the Melbourne outfit, forcing errors and turnovers in the Demons’ forward half with Jess Allan producing clean taps to the GIANTS at the centre bounce. While the Dees had 10 more inside 50s, the GIANTS were much more clinical in the third quarter to take a solid lead and leave the Demons in the dirt, rendering the Dees goalless in the third while goals to Schmidt and Jess Dal Pos saw victory inching away from Melbourne’s sights. Eden Zanker continued to bull her way through the contest, aiding Lauren Pearce in the ruck and using her aerial ability to bring ball to ground, with Karen Paxman using her experience to take the footy from there and drive the ball forward.

Alicia Eva (12 disposals, 10 tackles, two behinds) looked dangerous in the final quarter but was unable to extend the lead – something the GIANTS captain will be ruing as real a missed opportunity, with the side unable to reenter their forward 50 for much of the last quarter. Alyce Parker (23 disposals, four marks) proved why she is such a highly valued player, digging deep and impacting the contest with her ability to find the ball. The GIANTS continued to control much of the ball movement through the middle of the ground, rebounding well with Brittany Tully (11 disposals, six tackles) and Bennetts using their speed to keep the Dees on their toes. But Melbourne’s experience well and truly came to play, with the defensive pressure going up a notch to ensure there were little uncontested marks or clean entries inside their defensive 50. A goal to Shelley Scott had the Dees up on their feet, with a closing margin and all the momentum putting the GIANTS on the defensive. Still down by nine points with less than five minutes to play, Melbourne really came out of the blocks to apply the scoreboard pressure they’d been missing, with a goal to Sarah Perkins putting the Dees within four points of victory. Less than a minute on the clock, and a great mark from Mithen saw the Demon with an opportunity to gift Melbourne its inaugural finals victory and chew up some time – and kicked true for her second career goal. Retaining possession was key for the Dees as the seconds dwindled, with the final siren seeing a massive three-point semi-final victory in the books after trailing for majority of the match. 

Mithen impressed with her two goals and some impressive – and daring – marks getting the job done up the ground for the Dees. Daisy Pearce and Paxman were some of the driving forces in the latter stage of the match, combining for 43 touches, nine tackles and five marks, while Birch was influential as ever down back, consistently providing that rebounding effort with her ability to intercept critical ball. Despite Aleisha Newman being rendered goalless once more – her first goalless season at AFL Women’s level – her drive forward was crucial in the later stages of the match while her speed and intensity saw her collect five tackles, just behind Scott, Perkins and Paxman with six apiece.

For the GIANTS, Jacinda Barclay and Rebecca Privitelli were both kept relatively quiet, and while they were solid targets up the ground, collecting five marks apiece, they were unable to have the impact they have shown in past games. Haneen Zreika and Rebecca Beeson looked dangerous at times, finding plenty of the footy with their respective 17 and 19 disposals, while Eva’s and Tully’s tackling pressure was vital.

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
MELBOURNE 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Schmidt, C. Staunton, J. Dal Pos.
Melbourne: L. Mithen 2, S. Scott, S. Perkins.

ADC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, H. Zreika, J. Allan
Melbourne: K. Paxman, L. Birch, D. Pearce, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

GIANTS host Demons in inaugural AFL Women’s finals appearance

TWO inaugural AFL Women’s finalists will face off in the second match of the semi-finals, with second ranked GWS GIANTS (Conference A) and Melbourne (Conference B) both taking the field in a finals scenario for the first time in the competition’s history. Both sides are sitting on four wins from six matches and among the top sides in their respective conferences, making for an enticing battle between two talented teams.  

GWS GIANTS v. Melbourne
Saturday, 21 March, 2.40pm AEDT
GIANTS Stadium

Melbourne and GIANTS did not play during the home and away season in 2020, making for an interesting battle for the opposing conference teams – especially given if the two conferences were combined, Melbourne would sit in fourth ahead of GIANTS on percentage in fifth. While Melbourne will likely come in as favourites this week, another anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last week – their fifth of the season – sees the Dees down in stocks once more while the GIANTS have the winning streak to get over the line. While the two sides have not come up against each other in 2020, the GIANTS will hope to fight back against recent history with losses to the Dees in both 2018 and 2019 sure to be on their mind, though plenty has changed for both teams since those seasons. 

The GIANTS will hope to welcome back fearless leader Alicia Eva, with the tenacious midfielder a key cog that could help push the Dees to the limit. GIANTS fans are hopeful ruck Jess Allan (averaging 16.8 hitouts) will return to the fray this week after sitting out with sickness in Round 6 to team up with Rebecca Beeson and Alyce Parker who continue to have an influence both on and off the footy, while Brittany Tully is having an impressive season on the track with her tackling pressure, collecting almost seven per match. Cora Staunton and Rebecca Privitelli have been key targets up forward, bearing the brunt of the goalkicking with seven and six respectively, while Elle Bennetts has been influential off the half back averaging 6.3 intercept possessions.

Melbourne will sorely miss dynamic Irish duo in Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy, with the pair called back home during the week in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, making for a tough ask for the Dees to field a team. Defensively the impact of Daisy Pearce and Libby Birch will prove crucial, with both players averaging 6.2 intercept possessions and sending the footy back forward, settling play in motion with patience. Karen Paxman has been the clear standout for the Demons this season, averaging 21.5 touches (10 contested) and five clearances and doing a wealth of work off the ball to provide that option up the ground. Young gun Tyla Hanks has slot in well and leads the tackle count while Eden Zanker has put an impressive season in the books playing out of her depth as an undersized ruck, but is averaging 11.7 hitouts thanks to her impressive leap and has put a score on the board in all but one match in 2020. Kate Hore has come into her own in front of the big sticks this season, booting the five goals – including a goal of the year contender last round – while her work rate and  run and carry has been phenomenal in season 2020.

Blues and Lions to draw from experience in AFL Women’s semi-final

CARLTON is in a great position to follow up from a fantastic win over Melbourne last week to well and truly show Brisbane who’s boss in the standalone AFL Women’s semi final on Sunday. Taking on the Lions for the first time in 2020, the Blues are sure to make the most of their home ground advantage – despite not having any spectators at the venue – and put their best foot forward for a chance at a fifth straight win. No strangers to finals footy with both teams having played in grand finals, this match could go either way.

Carlton v. Brisbane
Sunday, 22 March, 1.10pm AEDT
IKON Park

Two sides that have plenty of firepower, this matchup between Carlton and Brisbane will be a real test for both teams with young talent taking centre stage this season backed up by veterans of the game. The likes of Kerryn Harrington and Tayla Harris have helped to guide the Blues in 2020, letting young guns Maddy Prespakis, Lucy McEvoy and Grace Egan do what they do best around the footy with all three excelling under the big lights. Prespakis is among the best of the best across the competition, averaging 21.8 touches in her second year while Egan and McEvoy have impressed off the footy, with 5.3 and 4.3 tackles per match in their respective inaugural seasons. Down back with Harrington is first year Vaomua Laloifi who has been stellar off the half back with her tenacity and confidence proven in her rebounding efforts – averaging 2.5 to Harrington’s 2.7 – while Nat Plane had a fantastic game last week so will hope to build on some of that momentum.

Brisbane has had a bit of a topsy-turvy season, with a strong start to the season failing them in recent weeks and two tough losses on the trot rounding out their home and away season. But while they may not have gotten the wins in the past few rounds, they have retained their intensity in and around the footy and will do what they can to make it hard for Carlton to clear the footy and push forward. Emily Bates and Alexandra Anderson have been consistent as ever collecting plenty of the footy while Catherine Svarc has been influential off the half back, averaging 9.8 contested possessions and 6.2 intercepts, while fellow backliner Kate Lutkins leads the rebound tally with 3.0 and 4.7 marks. Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw continues to lead the team’s goal count with eight despite only finding the behind post last round while Jessy Keeffe could be challenged in the ruck, averaging 17.0 hitouts to Carlton ruck, Breann Moody‘s 16.8.