Tag: Ebony Antonio

AFL Women’s finals preview: Melbourne and Collingwood to host qualifiers

NINE huge rounds of AFL Women’s action has culminated in the closest finals race of the league’s history, with the 2021 season proving hugely exciting with more and more developing players making their mark and the entire competition kicking up a notch this year. With a tight finish and the first six-team finals series in the competition’s five-year history, hopes are high with realistically all six clubs in with a chance of taking out the trophy this year. With minor premiers Adelaide Crows and runners-up Brisbane Lions handed a week off credit to finishing within the top two, just two matches will play out on Easter Saturday.

Melbourne vs. Fremantle
Saturday April 3, 1:05pm
Casey Fields

Expect another huge clash between the Demons and Dockers to open the qualifying finals proceedings, with the two sides only just split the last time they met. An explosive first term from the Dees set the tone on enemy territory as the Dockers appeared stunned, struggling to connect up the ground or find the big sticks. But a scrappy second half from the Dees saw Roxy Roux lead the charge as Freo came knocking and booted 4.3 to Melbourne’s 1.0 to trail by just five points, with missed chances and the footy inside 50 on the siren telling the story of a disappointing game for Fremantle.

Realistically, both sides are more than capable of coming home with a win in this match, although the Dees’ first chance for finals footy at home at Casey Fields could be a real gamechanger given their continued dominance on home turf. They also have a 4-1 win record across the past five rounds, with four straight wins – a confidence-boosting 44-point blasting of St Kilda before downing fellow top six sides Adelaide, Freo and Brisbane – to complete the season. Comparatively, Fremantle’s past few weeks have not been much to be too excited about, with losses to Melbourne and North Melbourne, as well as a tight four-point victory over Carlton. However, a huge 11.9 (75) to 1.2 (8) victory over West Coast in Round 6 shows just how much the side is capable of, so there should be no discounting the Dockers when they get in the groove.

For the Dees, Daisy Pearce is a definite out for the Dees in a huge blow for the side after the veteran went down in the early stages of Round 9. Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks have starred for the side this season through the midfield with Lauren Pearce‘s past few rounds proving just what she is capable of and Eden Zanker and Kate Hore always dangerous around the footy. For the Dockers, Kiara Bowers is the one to stop given her ability to impact the play whilst Hayley Miller, Steph Cain and Ebony Antonio have all impressed throughout the season. Gemma Houghton and Roux can spark their side into action in a split second.

Records:
Melbourne:
7-2 (4th)
Fremantle: 6-3 (5th)

Last 5:
Melbourne: 4-1
Fremantle: 2-3

2021 meeting:
Round 8
– Melbourne by 5

Most goals:
Melbourne:
Kate Hore (11)
Fremantle:
Gemma Houghton (14)

Collingwood vs. North Melbourne
Saturday April 3, 3:10pm
Victoria Park

Last time these two sides met, a crunching battle was expected with the results overturned by a fired-up Magpies outfit which rendered North Melbourne goalless for the first time in the side’s short history. The Kangaroos allowed the Magpies to get off to a stellar start, and whilst they limited the scoreboard impact in the second half it was not quite enough with inaccuracy and an inability to shut down the Pies’ plethora of midfield standouts. But expect a very different North side this time around, having learned from their mistakes and lost just one match since then – to fellow top side Brisbane in Round 8 –  while the Magpies narrowly missed out on the minor premiership with a Round 9 loss to Adelaide.

Like the other match, both side have plenty to prove coming into this contest and both are more than capable of flying out of the blocks and producing an epic win. Both sides boast a wealth of scoring prowess and viable options across the field, with star players scattered throughout and more than capable of stepping up in the big moments. Realistically, this match will be won and lost through the midfield, with North’s hardened types needing to serve ball on a silver platter up forward and evade the Magpies’ stellar defence, with the black and white leading the competition for the least points conceded. That being said, an even spread of forward firepower from the Roos could be hard to stop.

For the Pies, the trio of Bri DaveyJaimee Lambert and Britt Bonnici has been key throughout the season, able to all rotate across the ground and create forward forays, whilst Chloe Molloy is one to watch out for inside 50 and Stacey Livingstone is a consistent barricade down back. As for North, the combination of Ash RiddellJas Garner and Emma Kearney never fails to withstand pressure and will be a real match for Collingwood’s mids. Kait Ashmore and Emma King are up there for effectiveness with ball in hand, while the Roos will hope to welcome back Jenna Bruton following a one-match ban for rough conduct.

Records:
Collingwood: 
7-2 (3rd)
North Melbourne: 6-3 (6th)

Last 5:

Collingwood: 3-2
North Melbourne: 4-1

2021 meeting:
Round 4
 – Collingwood by 20

Most goals:
Collingwood: Chloe Molloy (14)
North Melbourne: Jasmine Garner, Daisy Bateman (8)

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Dockers come from behind in final quarter showcase

FREMANTLE proved just how good they are with a huge final quarter effort against Carlton on Sunday, downing the Blues by four points credit to a three goal final term. The 6.9 (45) to 6.5 (41) outcome was not a reflection of majority of the match however, with Carlton’s explosive start and continuous pressure well and truly shutting down the Dockers.

In a must-win for Carlton, the side came out firing from all cylinders with three goals to nil in the first as experienced trio Nic StevensDarcy Vescio and Tayla Harris were quick to get on the board, as Charlotte Wilson and Mua Laloifi well and truly shut down the Blues backline and relegated the Dockers to just the one behind. A tighter second quarter was credit to Fremantle’s increased pressure around the footy, lifting in intensity and contesting much better as Kiara BowersHayley Miller and Sabreena Duffy stepped up to win the quarter. The winning end continued in the third as the Blues once again lifted, adding another two majors to their tally, but it was an outstanding final quarter from the Dockers that saw the side really showcase what they are made of and their winning form, booting 3.2 to Carlton’s 1.0 to take their first and only lead of the day at a vital time in the match and coming away with the four point win.

For the winning side, it was a two goal effort from both Jasmin Stewart and Duffy that helped get the side over the line, whilst Gemma Houghton was kept quiet for much of the contest bar a late conversion to seal the win. Bowers was exceptional with 28 disposals and 10 tackles, while Miller (13 touches and 10 tackles), Ebony Antonio and Steph Cain also had an impact. For the Blues, Stevens booted two from 14 touches, whilst Kerryn Harrington was kept busy with 22 touches and Breann Moody collected 19 and six marks, as Maddy Prespakis stepped up once more to create chaos through the middle.

Bar fixture changes due to COVID-19 protocols interstate, Carlton will hope to take on Gold Coast next Friday night in Queensland, while Fremantle will host Melbourne next Sunday night in a do-or-die encounter for the red and blue.

CARLTON 3.4 | 3.5 | 5.5 | 6.5 (41)
FREMANTLE 0.1 | 2.3 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS
Carlton: N. Stevens 2, D. Vescio, T. Harris, S. Gibbs, G. Gee
Fremantle: J. Stewart 2, S. Duffy 2, S. Cain, G. Houghton

BEST
Carlton: M. Prespakis, N. Stevens, B. Moody, D. Vescio, K. Harrington, V. Laloifi
Fremantle: K. Bowers, E. Antonio, S. Duffy, S. Cain, L. Pugh, J. Stewart

Image credit: AAP: James Ross

Image credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

LIONS DISRUPT HOT PIES

A last minute fixture change saw the Brisbane Lions take on the Collingwood Magpies on neutral territory in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon to complete the round, with the Lions taking to Whitten Oval and its lack of crowd like a duck to water, exposing the Magpies in a relatively inaccurate encounter from two of the top sides. The Lions dealt the Pies their first loss of the season, running out three-point victors in the 4.11 (35) to 4.8 (32) matchup in windy conditions.

It was a shocking first quarter from the Lions, booting eight behinds in a huge start that they really did not capitalise upon. The Magpies, to their credit, kept their foot on the accelerator and proved that they could cope defensively but it was realistically Brisbane’s inability to convert off set shots that shot them in the foot, only leading by 13 at the first change despite dominating the inside 50 count. Despite the Magpies applying better pressure for the remainder of the match, their first quarter struggle was too much for the side to come back from even as they kept the Lions to a goal per quarter in the second and third, and put just the one behind on in the last. The Magpies rallied in the final term after losing Jordyn Allen and Lauren Butler before the second half began, mounting their comeback and booting 2.4 in the final term. But it was too little, too late as the Lions held on for the three-point victory, knocking the Magpies out of top spot with huge performances from Ally Anderson (26 disposals and four marks) and Cathy Svarc (10 disposals, five tackles and a goal) topping off a solid day at the office.

Svarc was largely responsible for keeping Bri Davey quiet as Chloe Molloy was also relegated to a quiet performance with just five touches to her name. Sophie Conway (15 touches, three behinds), Nat Grider (13 and six tackles) and Emily Bates (13 and nine) were all impressive for the Lions as Bree Koenen locked down the backline, while for the Pies it was Britt Bonnici (28 touches, five marks and four tackles), Jaimee Lambert (22 touches) and Sharni Norder (Nee Layton, 17 touches, four tackles) who kept the ball rolling.

Next week the Magpies will play yet another match in Victoria as they host St Kilda on Saturday afternoon, while the Lions intend to host North Melbourne during Saturday’s twilight fixture, pending COVID-19 protocols in Queensland.

BRISBANE 2.8 | 3.8 | 4.10 | 4.11 (35)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 4.8 (32)

GOALS
Brisbane: C. Hodder, S. Campbell, J. Wuetschner, C. Svarc
Collingwood: A. Sheridan 2, S. Alexander, J. Lin

BEST
Brisbane: A. Anderson, S. Conway, E. Bates, C. Svarc, K. Lutkins
Collingwood: B. Bonnici, S. Norder, R. Schleicher, J. Lambert, S. Chiocci

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Blues keep touch with top six

CARLTON made an emphatic return to the winners list on Sunday, feasting on a winless Geelong side to salute by 33 points at Princes Park. The Blues were in a scoring mood and proved efficient in front of goal, leading at every break and notching their highest total of the season to run out 10.4 (64) to 4.7 (31) victors. The win also sees Carlton keep touch with the top six.

Geelong booted the first goal of the game through Rebecca Webster, but a quick Darcy Vescio double from deep ensured the Blues would claim the lead and never look back. Along with Vescio, Georgia Gee and Serena Gibbs also finished with two goals as the trio accounted for over half of their side’s score.

Reigning league best and fairest Madison Prespakis shook off an early injury concern to lead all comers on the day, finishing with 28 disposals and a goal on her return from suspension. Both sides have some lingering injury issues coming out of the game though, with Carlton’s Mimi Hill (knee) and Geelong’s Millie Brown (hamstring) having their outings cut short.

Prespakis and Vescio were among Carlton’s best, while skipper Kerryn Harrington proved adventurous from half-back and Grace Egan continued her fine form through midfield. Both collected over 20 disposals. Webster proved Geelong’s best afield with 1.2 from her 22 touches, as Amy and Meghan McDonald again played important roles, and Phoebe McWilliams looked lively for her three minor scores.

Both sides face a seven-day turnaround as they again prepare for games on Sunday, with the Blues again hosting at Princes Park as Fremantle rolls into town, while Geelong travels to take on the West Coast Eagles at Mineral Resources Park.

CARLTON 4.0 | 6.1 | 8.3 | 10.4 (64)
GEELONG 2.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 4.7 (31)

GOALS:

Carlton: S. Gibbs 2, D. Vescio 2, G. Gee 2, N. Stevens, G. Pound, M. Prespakis, N. Plane
Geelong: R. Webster, O. Barber, R. Cranston, D. Higgins

DC BEST

Carlton: M. Prespakis, D. Vescio, G. Egan, K. Harrington, E. O’Dea, A. McKay
Geelong: 
R. Webster, A. McDonald, M.McDonald, P. McWilliams, J. Crockett-Gills

Image Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES’ SECOND HALF SWOOP SINKS BULLDOGS

COLLINGWOOD kept its perfect record intact and snapped the Western Bulldogs’ win streak in one fell swoop on Sunday, defeating the Dogs by 36 points at Victoria Park. Having only managed seven behinds in the first half, the Pies sunk as many goals thereafter to remain top of the tree with a comprehensive 7.9 (51) to 2.3 (15) triumph.

Young pup Elizabeth Georgostathis booted the sole major in a one-goal first half, before the contest began to open up and Collingwood soared ahead. The Magpies’ superior spread and daring ball use began to pay dividends as the inexperienced Bulldogs fell away under pressure, making for a match befitting of the old ‘game of two halves’ cliche.

Pies fans were treated to some nostalgia as father-daughter selection Tarni Brown launched a terrific goal at Collingwood’s spiritual home, before finishing with 15 disposals and four marks. Bri Davey was excellent with 28 touches and a goal, while Brittany Bonnici was Collingwood’s other key ball winner. Chloe Molloy again proved lively inside 50, booting two goals alongside debutant Abbi Moloney.

Hardened Bulldogs Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb shouldered a heap of responsibility in the midfield battle, but could not quite spark the rest of their side going forward. Ashleigh Guest was strong in defence with five marks among her 16 touches, while Isabelle Pritchard was afforded some midfield time on debut and spearhead Isabel Huntington was kept goalless for the first time this season.

The ladder leading Magpies take on Brisbane next time out in what should be a blockbuster on the road, while the Western Bulldogs are set for another tough test when they lock horns with North Melbourne in Tasmania.

COLLINGWOOD 0.5 | 0.7 | 4.8 | 7.9 (51)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 2.3 (15)   

GOALS:

Collingwood: C. Molloy 2, A. Moloney 2, S. Layton, B. Davey, T. Brown
Western Bulldogs: E. Georgostathis, J. Fitzgerald

BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, B. Bonnici, C. Molloy, T. Brown, S. Livingstone
Western Bulldogs: E. Blackburn, K. Lamb, A. Guest, B. Lochland, J. Fitzgerald

Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

DOCKERS ROMP RIVALS IN REBOUND WIN

FREMANTLE has rebounded from last week’s loss in style, thumping local rival West Coast by 67 points on Sunday to return to the winners list. A 34-point lead was established by half time and the Dockers never looked back, restricting West Coast to just one goal while piling on the second-highest total in AFLW history to come away 11.9 (75) to 1.2 (8) victors.

Having been held to just one major of their own last time out, the Dockers regained their spark forward of centre to overwhelm the Eagles and claim a second Western Derby win in 2021. It was also the largest margin managed among these two sides’ three meetings, and an especially far cry from the nine-point thriller in Round 2.

Kiara Bowers claimed another Western Derby medal as best afield, collecting 24 disposals as the leader of her team’s dominant midfield. Gemma Houghton rocketed to equal-top of the goalkicking charts with five goals, supported wonderfully by Sabreena Duffy (three goals) and Roxy Roux (two) in a dynamic forward trio. Ebony Antonio was also prominent with 23 touches.

Aisling McCarthy was West Coast’s best, the only Eagle to tick over 20 touches as young gun Bella Lewis and Niamh Kelly (both 17) also contributed solidly in the loss. Grace Kelly booted her side’s sole goal of the game and was another to stand up despite the lop-sided scoreline.

Fremantle’s next assignment is a trip to Victoria to face Carlton at Princes Park, while West Coast will remain in its home state and host Geelong at Mineral Resources Park, perhaps fancying a second win for the season.

FREMANTLE 2.2 | 5.5 | 10.6 | 11.9 (75)
WEST COAST 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton 5, S. Duffy 3, R. Roux 2, G. O’Sullivan
West Coast: G. Kelly

BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, G. Houghton, E. Antonio, S. Duffy, R. Roux, G. O’Sullivan
West Coast: A. McCarthy, B. Lewis, N. Kelly, G. Kelly, M. Bowen

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Prespakis, Vescio inspire almighty Blues escape

CARLTON overcame a horror start on Saturday afternoon to ward off a roaring Richmond outfit at Princes Park, escaping five-point victors against its traditional rival. The Tigers got the jump with the first four goals of the game, before reigning league best and fairest Maddy Prespakis sparked the Blues to life with two second term goals to help claim an unlikely half time lead. From there, the Darcy Vescio show took full toll to help Carlton kick a winning score, eventually reading 8.3 (51) to Richmond’s 7.4 (46).

While still winless in the AFL Women’s competition, green shoots are beginning to appear for Richmond after arguably its best performance to date. The Tigers’ poor conversion and attacking penetration have been a lead story thus far, but that was far from the case on Saturday as they surged forward with ruthless pace and efficiency to catch Carlton unawares on multiple occasions.

The Tigers’ pressure and early midfield dominance were other key signs of their upside, before Carlton’s prime movers began to take the game over. Having started the season at 0-2, the Blues’ finals hopes are still kicking as they sit just outside the top six, but a much more consistent run of form will be required from here on out.

Much of the hype coming into this clash surrounded the potential matchup of twins Jess and Sarah Hosking, who would take little time to acquaint themselves as opponents at the first centre bounce. It marked somewhat of another new role for Carlton’s Jess, who has been utilised up either end of the ground, while Richmond’s Sarah was typically reliable in midfield.

The Hosking in navy blue finished with 19 disposals, while her sibling managed 15 touches to go with six marks and seven tackles despite missing a chunk of action through concussion protocols. The Prespakis tackle which put Hosking out of action was deemed dangerous at the time, and could see Carlton’s star midfielder face more scrutiny from the match review officer this season.

Richmond’s Monique Conti was busy as ever, leading all comers with 26 disposals and seven inside 50s. Skipper Katie Brennan looked lively in the front half, notching two goals among her 17 touches and five marks with strong work in the air and across the ground. Others to impress in yellow and black included Ellie McKenzie (14 disposals, four marks) and the forward duo of Courtney Wakefield (three goals) and Tayla Stahl (two), who helped materialise each of their side’s momentum grabs.

Prespakis dragged her side back into the contest with 19 disposals, five tackles and two goals, aided by the forward 50 presence of Vescio, who clunked six marks and booted 3.2. Grace Egan was excellent as the Blues’ highest ball winner (21 disposals), while skipper Kerryn Harrington formed a wall in defence alongside Charlotte Wilson with seven rebound 50s.

CARLTON 0.2 | 4.2 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)
RICHMOND 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.1 | 7.4 (46)

GOALS:

Carlton: D. Vescio 3, M. Prespakis 2, N. Stevens, L. McEvoy, T. Harris
Richmond: C. Wakefield 3, K. Brennan 2, T. Stahl 2

DC BEST:

Carlton: D. Vescio, M. Prespakis, G. Egan, K. Harrington, J. Hosking, L. McEvoy
Richmond: M. Conti, K. Brennan, S. Hosking, C. Wakefield, R. Miller, E. McKenzie

credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

Dockers endure slow start to overrun Suns

FREMANTLE added another huge win to its premiership tilt as the Dockers overcame the Gold Coast Suns in convincing fashion in Perth, 7.13 (55) to 1.0 (6). Whilst the Suns got the early jump on the premiership contenders, leading for much of the first and boasting a close margin at half time as the Dockers failed to capitalise on opportunities, it was Fremantle that ran down its foes in an excellent six goal second half to maintain top spot on the ladder. 

In an opening term that was dominated by the underdogs, things began with plenty of excitement as an early goal from Leah Kaslar got the ball rolling with the Dockers seemingly unable to find purchase within a tight contest. But whilst Kaslar’s major was the only score of the quarter, it went on to be the Suns’ only major of the match as, from quarter time onwards, the footy was well within the home side’s grasps with plenty of intent and drive into attack. Whilst the Dockers were ultimately unable to provide the scoreboard danger to rival their offensive pressure, producing a 1.5 (11) to 1.0 (6) scoreline to marginally lead at the main change, a huge second half loomed with much of the momentum going the way of the Dockers with Ebony Antonio and Gabby O’Sullivan unsuccessful but proving dangerous inside 50.

The second half saw the match well and truly open up for Fremantle, as its pressing backline led by Janelle Cuthbertson gained further control and confidence to propel ball forward into its waiting forward line. Back-to-back majors from Antonio and O’Sullivan and a maiden goal from Sarah Verrier created a tough buffer for the Suns to crack as the scoreline extended to 25 points by the time the final change arrived. Despite being tagged for much of the contest, Kiara Bowers shone as the match opened up further, proving unstoppable as Suns’ Jamie Stanton worked up a storm for the opposition but to no avail. 

A huge final term saw the Dockers’ class complete their second half rundown of the opposition, piling on another three goals and six minors as O’Sullivan got her second on the board, whilst Hayley Miller and Ash Sharp piled on the offensive pressure. Another inaccurate term could have seen a huge margin from the premiership contenders – who have now won 11 straight – but the side will surely be content with the 49-point victory as they continue to lead the way atop the tables.

Despite being down in contested ball and clearances in the first quarter, once the Dockers stepped up their game there was no stopping them as the work-rate lifted with a whopping 73 tackles to 46, as Bowers stole the show with 15 tackles to go with her 17 touches (15 kicks). Bowers was only beaten on the possessions count by Stanton, who led her side with 18 and five tackles, while Lucy Single showed some glimpses of what she is capable of with a great tag on Bowers, completing the match with seven tackles as Lauren Bella dominated the ruck contest. O’Sullivan was the lone multiple goalkicker with two from her 16 touches, whilst Miller also showcased her ball-magnet ways with 17 disposals and six tackles to her name. 

FREMANTLE | 0.0 | 1.5 | 4.7 | 7.13 (55)
GOLD COAST | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 (6)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan 2, R. Roux, H. Miller, A. Sharp, E. Antonio, S.Verrier
Gold Coast: L. Kaslar

DC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, J. Cuthbertson, G. O’Sullivan, H. Miller, R. Roux, J.Stewart
Gold Coast: J. Stanton, L. Bella, L. Single, K. Surman, K. Howarth

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Hot Pies down shaky Roos in ladder-leading encounter

It was a showstopper waiting to happen, with a fired up North Melbourne side looking to right the wrongs of their Round 3 loss to Melbourne and put another win on the board, coming in hot favourites against an improved Collingwood outfit. But it seemed that once again, the Kangaroos could not compete with a hardened side bursting through the midfield. The side was unable to contain the hot Pies who sit undefeated on four from four, with a low-scoring contest seeing the Roos rendered goalless for the first time, going down 4-4 (28) to 0.8 (8).

An impressive opening term well and truly set the tone for the match, as the Magpies piled on the pressure around the ground to negate any easy forward 50 forays from the Roos. With so many excellent targets within the Kangaroos’ grasps, an Aishling Sheridan goal was exactly what the Magpies needed to spur the side into action as the contest across the field continued to grow, pressurising the midfield as Chloe Molloy looked the goods with an early major to her name. Whilst the Roos forced a tighter contest in the second quarter, it seemingly was already too little, too late as the Magpies had all the momentum and ran with it. Three minors the way of the Roos did little to worry the Pies as Jordan Membrey kicked truly at the other end, with Bri DaveyJaimee Lambert and Molloy running rampant and well and truly outclassing the Kangaroos.

Inaccuracy and a lack of opportunity were the themes of the second half as neither side was really able to exit the tight contest, with North keeping Collingwood to just 1.2 in the second half after a stellar start but also failing to find the big sticks with five more behinds on the board well and truly putting the nail in their own coffin. Despite huge efforts from Jasmine GarnerKait Ashmore and Jenna Bruton, it was not enough as Molloy sealed the deal with a final goal in the last to propel the Magpies up the ladder with the 20-point victory.

For the Magpies, Davey and Lambert led all-comers, with 31 and 27 disposals respectively, whilst Davey racked up six marks and Lambert piled on the pressure with six tackles. Britt Bonnici and Steph Chiocci rang true with 21 and 20 touches, while Molloy’s goal sense saw her finish with two from her 12 touches, four marks and three tackles. Stacey Livingstone was a moving barricade down back with eight marks and seven rebounds. For the flailing Roos, Garner’s 19 disposals led the pack while Bruton (18 and five tackles), Ashmore (17 and six, one behind) and Emma Kearney (15 and five, one behind) also plied their trade.

NORTH MELBOURNE | 0.0 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 0.8 (8)
COLLINGWOOD | 2.2 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:
North Melbourne: 
Nil
Collingwood: C. Molloy 2, A. Sheridan, J. Membrey

DC BEST:
North Melbourne:
J. Garner, K. Ashmore, A. Riddell, J. Bruton
Collingwood: B. Davey, J. Lambert, B. Bonnici, S. Livingstone, C. Molloy

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Dockers extend winning streak to double digits

FREMANTLE continues to set the AFL Women’s benchmark after notching a 30-point win over fellow finals fancy, Adelaide on a cracking afternoon at Norwood Oval on Sunday. The 7.1 (43) to 1.7 (13) result was Freo’s tenth-straight win in the competition and puts the Dockers in top spot with a game left to play in Round 3.

Despite both sides managing an equal amount of scoring shots (eight), it was Fremantle’s superior fluency in transition, unrelenting pressure, and capturing of each vital moment which saw it succeed. The Dockers absorbed plenty of pressure, particularly in the first term before hurting Adelaide up the other end with scoreboard pressure, keeping the Crows goalless for three quarters and ensuring they would be made to earn each opportunity.

The game was well and truly alive just after the main break, but the Crows were left to rue missed chances off the boot of Stevie-Lee Thompson early in term three as Fremantle skipped up the other end and added three majors to their mounting lead to put the contest to bed.

There were a couple of blockbuster contests scattered across the field, with stand-in Adelaide skipper Sarah Allan tasked with marking the dynamic Gemma Houghton, while the ever-reliable Kiara Bowers ensured Crows midfield bull Anne Hatchard was not given an inch in the first half.

Allan was terrific on the day with desperate defensive efforts and solid one-on-one work both in the air and on the ground, but could not keep Houghton quiet for the whole day as she finished with two final term goals. Bowers and Hatchard went blow-for-blow at the coalface and had plenty of bone-crunching clashes as two of their respective sides’ most prolific ball winners.

Bowers was in fact Fremantle’s highest disposal getter with 23 to go with her 13 tackles, as Adelaide’s Ebony Marinoff joined her in leading all comers for touches on the day. Hatchard finished with 21 disposals, while a late move forward for Erin Phillips saw her notch six marks and a goal from 14 touches. In her first officially listed outing, Rachelle Martin was lively with 14 disposals, with Thompson another standout and Teah Charlton exciting in the final term for Adelaide.

Ashley Sharp joined Houghton on two goals upon her return, as the likes of Tiah Haynes and Sabreena Duffy joined her on the scoreboard. The run of Stephanie Cain (15 disposals, six marks) and Ebony Antonio (13 disposals, four inside 50s) was vital in creating more open scoring chances for Fremantle, while the defensive solidity of Janelle Cuthbertson (10 disposals, three marks, four rebound 50s) again proved outstanding in the win.

The Dockers are set to face Gold Coast in Round 4, back on home turf, while Adelaide will look to bounce back quickly as it travels up to Queensland to take on another currently undefeated side in Brisbane at Hickey Park on Sunday.

ADELAIDE 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.5 | 1.7 (13)
FREMANTLE 0.0 | 2.1 | 5.1 | 7.1 (43)

GOALS:

Adelaide: E. Phillips
Fremantle: A. Sharp 2, G. Houghton 2, T. Haynes, B. Webb, S. Duffy

DC BEST:

Adelaide: E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, S. Allan, A. Hatchard, R. Martin, S. Thompson
Fremantle: K. Bowers, E. Antonio, S. Cain, T. Haynes, G. Houghton, A. Sharp

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Credit: Mike Owen/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP EARLY TO DOWN TRADITIONAL RIVALS

COLLINGWOOD maintained its perfect 2021 record in tact on Sunday afternoon, swooping early to down Richmond by 17 points on enemy territory. In what was the first fixture between these two traditional rivals at Punt Road Oval since 1964, the Magpies set up an unassailable lead at three quarter time and held off the fighting Tigers thereafter to run out 7.6 (48) to 4.7 (31) victors.

The young and inexperienced Richmond side was made to pay for missed opportunities, particularly in the second term when the Tigers owned patches of valuable territory and possession, but could only scrounge three behinds while the Magpies added a vital major. Despite some rawness showing inside 50, both sides showed great intent in looking to move the ball forward quickly and catch either defence off guard.

There were three first year players who kicked their first senior goals on the day, with number one pick Ellie McKenzie booting two for Richmond after Collingwood pair, Joanna Lin and Tarni Brown both capitalised on their opportunities close to the big sticks. Lively Magpies forward Aishling Sheridan continued her good form, matching McKenzie with a game-high two majors in the win.

Brittany Bonnici returned one of the finest statlines in Collingwood AFLW history with 31 disposals, 10 marks and four tackles, while fellow midfielders Bri Davey (25 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Jaimee Lambert (25 disposals, six inside 50s) were also impactful from the engine room. Chloe Molloy worked into the game to finish with a goal from her 12 touches, as Ruby Schleicher again impressed down back with slicing run-and-carry among her 17 disposals and five rebound 50s.

For Richmond, Monique Conti again saw the most ball with 25 disposals, while the likes of Katie Brennan (17 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s) and McKenzie (12 disposals, five tackles, two goals) finished extremely well to lead the fruitless Tigers fightback. Sarah Hosking proved a bright starter before landing on 15 touches overall, while Harriet Cordner continues to hold up the defence and Gabby Seymour gets better each week in the ruck. Debutant Tessa Lavey also fit in seamlessly, gathering 15 disposals from the wing.

The Tigers face another of their traditional rivals in Carlton as Round 4 rolls on, set to light up Saturday afternoon at Princes Park, while Collingwood faces its toughest test yet in a blockbuster clash with North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

RICHMOND 1.0 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 4.7 (31)
COLLINGWOOD 3.0 | 4.2 | 7.6 | 7.6 (48)

GOALS:

Richmond: E. McKenzie 2, C. Wakefield, T. Stahl
Collingwood: A. Sheridan 2, B. Davey, S. Alexander, J. Lin, T. Brown, C. Molloy

BEST:

Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, K. Brennan, S. Hosking, T. Lavey, G. Seymour
Collingwood: J. Lambert, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, A. Sheridan, C. Molloy, R. Schleicher

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Fremantle Dockers

FREMANTLE snuck up on the competition and put together a near-perfect season, eventually only being stopped by a global pandemic and a controversially premature ruling.

2020 RECAP

Fremantle might have lost a number of players to cross-state expansion side West Coast – led by star Dana Hooker – but showed they had more than the required depth to get the job done. Kiara Bowers went from strength to strength, averaging a ridiculous 14.1 tackles per game and falling one short of her century in a short season, while Hayley Miller, Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio and Gemma Houghton all provided great support. Young guns, Mim Strom and Roxy Roux were among those who caught the eye in standout debut seasons, while Sabreena Duffy backed up her first season with a strong season.

NEW FACES

A quiet trade period in terms of inclusions showed the side to be relatively settled and ready for a second crack at the title, with the Dockers heading to the AFL Women’s Draft instead. They grabbed two elite young talents in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, while also bringing in the likes of Maggie Maclachlan and Tiah Haynes who had shown great form throughout the WAFL Women’s season.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Providing she can have a run of luck, it will be exciting to see what Sarah Verrier can provide at the next level. Unfortunately, the teenager had injury issues that impacted her 2020 season, but she has terrific balance between inside and outside traits, and can play just about anywhere on the field. Long-term, Verrier can settle into an already impressive midfield group, and hold her own with her ball-winning ability and high-level skills.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

It is fairly straightforward to suggest the Dockers can go all the way in 2021, having been in the best position to do so in 2020 before it was called off. The only undefeated side heading into the 2020 finals series, Fremantle was destroying teams like few others, and while no doubt they could have been pushed by some – as shown by Collingwood – they were a tough, united squad.

QUESTION MARK

Could the Dockers repeat history? Any football season is long and tough, and for Fremantle, they did all the work to go undefeated and then be two wins away from a premiership that few externally saw coming. Internally the belief was clearly through the roof, but now the challenge is getting them back to that position again. They should have the hunger which is a great tick, but how will other clubs adapt to their style that saw their success ultimately unrewarded by season’s end?

FINAL WORD

Fremantle should be considered one of, if not the team to beat. Adelaide, North Melbourne and Carlton in particular all have claims to be a title contender, but the Dockers have not lost since 2019, and have such a well-balanced team that has lost little, but gained some superb young talents. Expect the purple army to be in full force this season, because it would be a shock not to see Fremantle at the pointy end of the season.

Davison provides high-flying highlight, but just happy to be out there

IF you are a West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s fan, chances are you have heard of talented AFL Women’s Academy member, Shanae Davison. Her fan base increased on the weekend when she took a massive pack mark in the dying minutes of Swan Districts’ loss to Claremont. While the mark has not defined her career, it has certainly put her in the spotlight this week and she spoke to Draft Central about that moment and her Australian rules football journey.

I’ve talked about it for ages actually,” Davison said of the mark. “I had a bet last year with Ebony Antonio that if I could take a screamer, she’d give me $100. “It was a bit of a build up from last year. “I think the ball was set up very nicely and I actually just went up for a normal mark and ended up getting my knee in her back, which was good, and I just kind of carried.”

While she missed the subsequent set shot, as well as not collecting her reward, she did not have to wait long for a second chance, taking a second mark, albeit a little closer to the ground and nailed that goal with the final kick of the game. The loss marked Swan Districts’ first after winning their opening game of the season a week earlier. Davison said she had enjoyed just running around given the current climate and restrictions in other parts of the country.

It’s been good,” she said. “I’ve just been happy to play again. “(It’s been a) very long preseason and I was injured for most of it. “To be out and just run around and kick the footy again, it was really good to get back out.”

That injury was a serious one resulting in a number of torn ligaments in her ankle, something that is still “a bit of a niggle” but manageable. She certainly showed no signs of issues with her leap on Sunday, and admitted the season delay had helped her have extra preparation.

Oh yeah 100 per cent (the delay helped),” she said. “I think I would have missed a couple of games of footy if it wasn’t delayed.”

Rewinding the clock back to the beginning of her football journey, Davison said she was always a fan of the oblong ball game even as a young child.

I always played footy,” she said. “I grew up in Broome and I played with the boys but when I moved to Perth, one of the girls was like we kind of need more numbers to play community footy so I started there. “Went through all the talent pathways and made my way to Swans and was lucky enough to debut in the first game for League.”

Having originally expected to run out with the Under 18s (Rogers Cup), Davison was fast-tracked into the senior team after showing some impressive form on the track under a pretty talented coach.

I was actually there for Rogers Cup, but I trained with the League girls and Kara Antonio was the coach and she always said it doesn’t matter how old you are and if you could play you were going to be on the field,” Davison said. “So I was very lucky to have her as a coach and the development from her was really good.”

Davison’s love for football blossomed through her family’s support, with her grandfather being a “massive” Geelong supporter. The Swan Districts forward credits both him and her uncle for helping develop her love for the game by having kick-to-kicks and sitting on the couch watching the blue and white hoops.

While last year Davison did not play in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, she spent her time in the Western Australia Academy over summer, and developed through the Swan Districts program over the past few seasons. Last year one of her teammates at the Swans was pre-listed for expansion club West Coast, in Mikayla Bowen.

“We played at Swans together and she’s just such a good person,” Davison said. “She’s always checking on you, seeing how you are. “Making sure you feel comfortable with what you’re doing. “We actually ended up being really good friends and we still are now. It’s been really good to watch her go through what she did last year and the success she had so it’s really helped me to see where she’s at now and that’s where I want to be.”

Even after Bowen was drafted, Davison said the teenager kept in touch with her and was always there offering advice or support.

“I think I’ve asked her a couple of things how she’s going and she’s asked me how I’m feeling about the draft and things like that,” she said. “So it’s really good to have someone to talk to like Mikayla Bowen. “Even a couple of the other girls like Kellie Gibson and that. It’s just been good to have a chat. “But I’m really not trying to think too far into it, just play some footy and have fun.”

In 2020, Davison is just one of a number of talented AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls coming through the program, with fellow Academy member Mikayla Morrison crossing from East Perth, as well as other West Australian talents in Nyra Anderson and Mikayla and Brianna Hyde. Davison said she believed having a strong group of players all aiming for the same thing – being drafted into the AFL Women’s – helped drive the team forward.

Yeah I think that really helped,” Davison said. “I notice that we push each other at training and we can all see that we all want to get drafted, so at training it’s always very competitive, especially the Hyde twins. “I’m really good friends with them, so it’s just the good chats with them about how we’re feeling and I think we’ve just settled each other’s nerves a bit.”

It also helped Davison settle into the West Australian Academy with so many familiar faces. Then came the call about the AFL Women’s National Academy. It was an announcement that surprised the humble forward.

Yeah that was pretty exciting,” she said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting that and that was a very good experience.”

Through the AFL Women’s National Academy, Davison travelled to Darwin and mingled with the most talented players from across the country. It gave her a broader perspective on the talent out there, and from then she took more notice in what was happening around the country. When asked if she was a bit of a ‘footy head’, she was becoming more and more involved in other leagues.

“I am a little bit,” she said. “Honestly last year I didn’t really know much about what was happening in the other states. “It wasn’t until I met the girls and we got talking and things like that. “I think this year I’ve definitely followed it a little bit closer and it’s definitely been cool to see some of the girls’ names chucked in some articles and things like that who I’ve trained and had some really good connections with.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented plenty of challenges, Davison said the Academy players kept in touch over the past few months following the camp. While not able to physically see her friends from the camp, Davison is happy with the West Australian group who are always pushing each other to succeed.

I’ve mainly talked to the WA girls,” she said. “I’ve talked to a couple of girls in Queensland. “I haven’t really had a chat with anyone in Victoria but I imagine it would be very hard over there, especially just when you want to play footy and you can see the other states getting their season along. “We kinda kept in contact just after the camp and COVID we kept in contact, but it’s kinda just drifted off a little bit now.”

Considering the mark on the weekend, it is no surprise that the Swan Districts talent rates her marking as one of her strengths, but also her ability to read the play. Davison is keen to improve her bodywork in one-on-one situations to be able to “do the work early”, enabling her to win more contests.

While she would love to spend some time onball in the future, Davison is just happy to be out there and loving playing football. She is not too sure what the future might hold, but consistency is the key. After missing a bulk of the preseason through her ankle injury, Davison is raring to go and intent on building her fitness week by week and improve her football in any way possible. As for Swan Districts, Davison is quietly confident they will fare well in season 2020.

I think we’ll go alright,” Davison said. “We have a very new team, very young. “But I think we’ll really just want to win, so I think this week we have Subi and that will be a really good test to see where we’re at as a group.”

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #50-#46

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.

#50 Olivia Vesely (St Kilda)

6 GAMES AVE: 15.2 disposals, 2.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.8 inside 50s, 1 goal

The first player making our countdown is a debutant this year in former Sandringham Dragons turned-Southern Saints talent, Olivia Vesely. Having only turned 20 in December last year, Vesely still has plenty of years ahead of her and showed her talent playing through the midfield and helping her team get the ball inside 50. She averaged more than 15 touches and four tackles per game, not afraid of bringing down stronger opponents. Vesely played every game in her debut season and looked ultra-impressive picking up at least 13 disposals in every match.

#49 Elle Bennetts (GWS GIANTS)

7 GAMES AVE: 12.4 disposals, 3.0 marks, 1.9 tackles, 1.6 rebounds

An elite-level netballer to go with her AFL Women’s achievements, Bennetts had a career-best year in 2020 by making the All-Australian squad. She picked up 12.4 disposals, 3.0 marks and laid almost two tackles per game, using the ball well coming out of defence. She has been a consistent player over the past few years transferring her game from her work with GIANTS Netball, and has lifted her number. Having already forged out 21 games, Bennetts looks to be getting better each year and will now return to the Suncorp Super Netball where she is a training partner with the GIANTS.

#48 Ebony Antonio (Fremantle)

7 GAMES AVE: 12.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds, 4 goals

After a quieter year last year, the Fremantle talent stepped up again in 2020, almost reaching the numbers she achieved in her 2018 season. Impressively, Antonio continued the trend of playing further up the ground than in defence like she often did in 2018, instead playing that midfield-forward role this year with a success fo 12.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s and four goals to her name from seven games. She has now booted 12 goals from 22 games and remains a key part of the Dockers line-up. Turning 29 at the end of the year, Antonio still showed she has some football left in her by making the All-Australian squad.

#47 Steph Chiocci (Collingwood)

7 GAMES AVE: 15.6 disposals, 3.6 marks, 3.1 tackles, 2.9 inside 50s, 1 goal

This year felt like a resurgence for the Colllingwood captain who on more than a few occasions stepped up and led her side brilliantly. Having had some inconsistent times in 2019, it seemed 2020 was mostly all pretty strong across the board and to be honest she was pretty stiff to miss out on the All-Australian squad. Her stats were up by a massive five disposals, a mark and an inside 50, with her fantasy numbers – which can be an indicator – lifting from 47.1 to 63.9. But her influence across the ground, stepping up when required was the biggest thing, laying crucial tackles or taking the game on, just making her presence felt if it seemed like the game was slipping away from the Pies. Her last three matches were her best, racking up 18 touches and six marks against both Brisbane and North Melbourne.

#46 Hayley Miller (Fremantle)

7 GAMES AVE: 13.9 disposals, 2.9 markks, 4.1 tackles, 3.6 inside 50s, 1.6 rebounds, 1 goal

The second Docker to enter this list is one who was unlucky to miss out on the All-Australian team after a career-best season. Having been a consistent member of the side over the last couple of years like Antonio, Miller stepped it up in 2020 to provide more spread across the ground. It boosted her numbers and influence, averaging career-high disposals (13.9), marks (2.9), tackles (4.1) and inside 50s (3.6). More impressively her work rate lift was shown most prominently by her ability to rebound the ball more than once per game, while lifting her forward half touches. She only kicked the one goal, but her work from half-back to half-forward was strong and it showed with Fremantle’s success and depth to take the Dockers through the season undefeated.

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Fremantle

FREMANTLE entered its fourth AFL Women’s campaign with little fanfare despite a six-win season in 2019, but backed it up with an unblemished 6-0 run to deliver what would have been a second straight preliminary final appearance. Having undergone a heavy list turnover in the wake of West Coast’s introduction to the league, the Dockers proved their resilience and shrewd list management skills to finish as the competition’s first ever undefeated side. With coach Trent Cooper adjudged the AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and four stars named in the All-Australian squad, there is plenty to dissect out of the highs and lows of Fremantle’s season.

RECORD: 1st (B), 6-0 (1-0 finals), 154.7%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated Geelong by 16 points
R2: defeated West Coast by 45 points
R3: defeated Collingwood by 3 points
R4:
defeated St Kilda by 1 points
R5:
defeated Brisbane by 18 points 
R6:
defeated Western Bulldogs by 15 points
SF: defeated Gold Coast by 70 points

While the 6-0 regular season record may make Fremantle’s season seem relatively straightforward, there were plenty of talking points to come from each fixture. Geelong provided a test first-up but could not hang with the Dockers for longer than three quarters, while West Coast supplied even less resistance in the maiden AFLW Western Derby. Fremantle’s second real test spawned a somewhat sketchy mid-season run, with Collingwood only just falling short of the sturdy home side, while St Kilda were unlucky not to come away with at least two points in a thriller at Moorabbin. It meant Brisbane had every chance to get up in Round 5’s clash between undefeated teams, but the Dockers duly returned to their best before another barnburner against the Bulldogs and an emphatic finals win against Gold Coast. For all the impressive form, it would have been interesting to see how the Dockers would have fared against the next-best sides among the final four; North Melbourne, Carlton, and Melbourne.

SEASON HIGH: Stamping authority in battle of the conference leaders

There was much hype surrounding the Round 5 fixture between Fremantle and Brisbane, with either side the only two left in the competition to boast undefeated records as leaders in their respective conferences. In the fortnight leading in, the Dockers let Collingwood and St Kilda within a goal of victory, so a big lift was required. At home, the hosts delivered a game-breaking first term with five goals to two to set up an unassailable lead, coasting home by 18 points to keep their perfect record in tact.

SEASON LOW: Being robbed of the opportunity to achieve more

This may seem like somewhat of a cop-out, but it is genuinely difficult to pinpoint any real lowlights among Fremantle’s season given the positives shown by its playing list, and the ultimately unblemished record. The only thing which takes away from it all is that the season was cut short, leaving an asterisk next to the feat of becoming the league’s first ever undefeated side, and the lingering unknown of whether the Dockers would have gone all the way for premiership success. While they were the undeniable flag favourites and already achieved so much, we cannot say for sure that the Dockers would have won it all – unfair is an understatement.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Kiara Bowers (17.6 disposals, 2.6 marks, 14.1 tackles, 3.7 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 4.9 intercept possessions, 323 metres gained)

Voted by her peers as the competition’s most courageous player, the Fremantle vice-captain enjoyed another stellar year as one of the elite midfielders to earn All-Australian squad status. Bower’s effort in leading the competition for tackles – one shy of 100 in total – and her side for disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, intercept possessions, and inside 50s was remarkable, helping her blossom from an underrated workhorse to an bonafide star.

Ebony Antonio (12.1 disposals, 71% efficiency, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.4 score involvements, 4 goals)

One of the classiest players in Fremantle’s squad is Antonio, who continued to bring her game-breaking ability to the fore in her fourth AFLW campaign. The foundation Docker was again lively going forward, mixing her time between half-forward and the midfield to good effect across all seven of her side’s games. The 28-year-old hit the scoreboard in four seperate outings, earning All-Australian squad honours in the process.

Sabreena Duffy (8.3 disposals, 1.4 marks, 1.6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 score involvements, 12 goals)

In what was a stellar season for the second-year forward, Duffy finished as the competition’s leading goalkicker (12), while also being named in the All-Australian and 22 Under 22 squads – all at just 20 years of age. A live-wire around the big sticks, Duffy may undergo quiet patches, but proved her match-winning ability with three bags of multiple goals across seven games. The most impressive was her 4.4 effort against Brisbane, with all-but two of her 10 disposals registering a score.

Gemma Houghton (11.1 disposals, 3.7 marks, 2.9 tackles, 3.1 inside 50s, 271 metres gained, 4.9 score involvements, 4 goals)

While forwards are sometimes only as good as the service provided from midfield, Houghton shredded the old adage as one the most important players to Fremantle’s structure this year. The 179cm forward target possesses great athleticism, using it to dominate in the air and double back quickly towards goal to match the Docker’s transition style to a t. The 26-year-old may still prove quite raw in her finishing, but has all the makings to continue as a dominant new-age key forward.

Hayley Miller (13.9 disposals, 2.9 marks, 4.1 tackles, 4 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 300 metres gained)

The perfect fold for Bowers in the engine room, Miller returned career-best numbers in almost every key stat in her fourth AFLW season as a mainstay through midfield. The 24-year-old has the 171cm frame to suit her inside midfield role, and led Fremantle for clearances and inside 50s to show her ability to keep up with the competition’s best in her vice-captain. With her rate of development on the up, Miller is gaining on the elite group of midfielders.

THE STALWART:

Kara Antonio (11.4 disposals, 76% efficiency, 3.6 marks, 5.1 tackles, 1.7 rebound 50s, 1.9 inside 50s)

If there is anyone across the whole competition who deserves the ultimate team success, it is Fremantle skipper, Antonio. The 28-year-old inaugural Docker worked tirelessly once again on the outside for her side, making the wing her own in each of Fremantle’s seven games. As an experienced head, Antonio provided great class on the ball to lead her side for disposal efficiency (76 per cent), while returning a terrific back-end to the season.

THE BIG IMPROVER:

Katie-Jayne Grieve (10.6 disposals, 1 mark, 7.3 tackles, 4 clearances, 2.3 inside 50s, 257 metres gained, 2 goals)

One of the quiet achievers among Fremantle’s midfield group is Grieve, who returned a much-improved campaign in her third AFLW season. Another strong body in the engine room, Grieve was an equal-leader for her side for clearances, while finishing second for tackles to Bowers across the entire competition. The 23-year-old is another who looked to be coming into her own in 2020, almost doubling her output in every key stat as a great forward driver.

THE YOUNG TALLS:

Roxanne Roux (6.7 disposals, 2.2 marks, 2 tackles, 5 hitouts, 2.5 inside 50s, 5 goals)

There is just something about Roux, who enjoyed an exciting debut AFLW season having previously staked her claim as an outstanding junior. The high-marking, athletic key forward/ruck showed she has all the tropes to be a real star of the future, earning a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 and missing just one game (rested) to eventually be named in the 2020 22 Under 22 squad.

Mim Strom (7 disposals, 1.4 marks, 3 tackles, 1.6 clearances, 1 inside 50, 16.3 hitouts)

Fremantle’s second pick in last year’s draft, Strom quickly became an integral part of the Docker’s line-up, taking up the primary ruck spot in the wake of injuries and hardly missing a beat across all seven games. A consistent performer, the 184cm tall played her role well throughout the season and impressed with her ability to follow up at ground level after her ruck craft was won and done. Will form a formidable partnership with Roux for years to come.

VERDICT:

There is not much to nit-pick from Fremantle’s roaringly successful season, with the Dockers making history in a year unfortunately cut short. With some exciting youngsters, developing prospects standing up, and some hardened leaders through the middle, the Dockers should fare well again after consecutive six-win campaigns. It would have been great to see them compete against the remainder of the final four, but Fremantle’s status as the competition’s benchmark this year cannot be denied.