Tag: eden zanker

Demons book prelim spot with win over Dockers at windswept Casey Fields

MELBOURNE has earned a chance at toppling two-time AFL Women’s premiers Adelaide in the preliminary final next weekend after defeating Fremantle by 17 points at a windswept Casey Fields yesterday. The Demons kept last year’s minor premiers goalless in the first half, then held on the second half despite some inaccuracy, to win, 5.10 (40) to 3.5 (23). Despite a phenomenal effort from Kiara Bowers with a Bowers-like tackle count of 17, the Demons put together a strong team effort across four quarters to advance through to the penultimate week of the 2021 AFL Women’s season.

After a couple of behinds early in the match, the Demons’ first selection in last year’s draft Alyssa Bannan got them on the board midway through the term, and whilst the Dockers had a couple of chances late in the quarter, could not capitalise and trailed by a straight kick at the first break. Shelley Scott was quick to pile on another major for the Demons, needing just 36 seconds from the restart to slot through the home team’s second goal, and the lead was out to 12. Scott doubled up five minutes later with her second and the Demons’ third, and when Eden Zanker missed a chance, the lead was out to a game-high 19 points at the half. Fremantle was unable to add to its quarter time score of two behinds, and the danger signs were there.

Fremantle had the first chance of the second half through Gemma Houghton, but she scored her second behind of the contest two minutes into the quarter, before Ashley Sharp broke the Dockers’ drought with a crucial major in the fourth minute of the premiership quarter. That cut the deficit to 12, and it did get as low as a 11 points midway through the quarter, before Brenna Tarrant – who had kicked five majors in her VFL Women’s debut earlier in the year – snagged a goal and the Demons had one foot in the preliminary final. Sabreena Duffy had other ideas though, and just as soon as the Demons were looking comfortable, she answered with a goal of her own, and the lead was back to less than two kicks. In the dying moments of the third term, Houghton finally found her range with a great goal and the deficit was just four points heading into the final break.

The first goal of the last term was crucial, but for some reason no matter how many chances they had, the Demons could not split the big sticks. Seven consecutive behinds – including one rushed – opened the term, but the ball was effectively locked inside the Demons 50, when the Dockers needed it up the other end for a chance to win the game. Instead, all of those behinds had pushed the lead from four points to 11 with four minutes on the clock. Eventually it would be the crafty Maddi Gay who put the icing on the cake with a terrific goal in the 15th minute to seal the game for the home team and guarantee them another week in the competition. Unfortunately for the Dockers, it meant the end of the road after their premiership aspirations were cut short last year due to the league cancellation, and now they will head back to go again in 2022. For the Demons, they will take on a red-hot Adelaide in South Australia next week, with the winner to book a place in the 2021 AFL Women’s Grand Final.

Gay was sensational throughout the match, fitting that she kicked the winning goal to go with 19 touches, three marks and nine tackles in the match, while Karen Paxman (20 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s), Lily Mithen (17 disposals, two marks, three inside 50s and two tackles) and Scott (13 disposals, two tackles and two goals) were also prolific. Jacqueline Parry (12 disposals, four marks and four tackles), Zanker (10 disposals, three marks and four tackles) and Lauren Pearce (11 disposals, two tackles, 15 hitouts and three inside 50s) were also strong, as Casey Sherriff, Sarah Lampard, Tegan Cunningham, Kate Hore and Tyla Hanks all hit double-figure disposals.

For the Dockers, Bowers continued her remarkable season with 20 disposals and 17 tackles, six more than her nearest teammates in Steph Cain (14 disposals, five marks and three tackles) and Matilda Sergeant (14 disposals, two tackles). Houghton was forever busy up forward with 1.2 from nine disposals, two marks ad thee tackles, while Philippa Seth had 13 disposals, two marks and six rebound 50s. Mim Strom (12 disposals, two marks, 12 hitouts and six tackles), Ange Stannett (12 disposals, seven tackles and two inside 50s), Hayley Miller (11 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) and Laura Pugh (10 disposals, four tackles and four rebound 50s) were others who not only hit double-figure disposals, but laid plenty of tackles as well.

MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.3 | 4.3 | 5.10 (40)
FREMANTLE 0.2 | 0.2 | 3.5 | 3.5 (23)

GOALS:

Melbourne: S. Scott 2, A. Bannan, B. Tarrant, M. Gay.
Fremantle: A. Sharp, S. Duffy. G. Houghton.

DC BEST:

Melbourne: M. Gay, K. Paxman, L. Mithen, S. Scott, T. Cunningham
Fremantle: K. Bowers, M. Sergeant, M. Strom, H. Miller, S. Cain

Picture credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

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 Saturday wrap: Roos book finals spot with clutch win over Dockers

NORTH Melbourne has produced a clutch performance to come from behind and defeat Fremantle at Arden Street and secure a 2021 AFL Women’s finals spot. The Roos trailed by five points at the final break, but kicked the only goal of the last quarter to grind out a win, 4.6 (30) to 4.5 (29) over the finals-bound Dockers. The win meant North Melbourne held off seventh placed Carlton to secure the post-season series wrap, and confirm the finalists for this year.

Back at their spiritual home, North Melbourne took just 57 seconds to kick the first goal of the game off the boot of Sophie Abbatangelo and race off to a six-point lead. Despite the early goal, it was a tight armwrestle for the first term, with just an Emma O’Driscoll behind added to the scoreboard, and the final 15 minutes seeing neither team add to their total. North Melbourne led by five points at the first break, and much like the first term, were out to a flyer in the second. This time it took less than 90 seconds to convert their second goal, this time through Daria Bannister off a perfectly timed crumb, and the lead was out to two straight kicks. In eerily similar circumstances, the Dockers again hit back with a score at the three-minute mark, but this time it was through the big sticks off Gemma Houghton running into goal.

Beth Lynch missed a chance 90 seconds later to respond, and it was Gabby O’Sullivan who capitalised via a free kick for push in the back midway through the term to cut the half-time deficit to just one point. It was neck-and-neck at the main break as neither side could really break away. The key for the Dockers was not allowing North Melbourne another early goal in the third term, and trying to grab the momentum themselves. But alas for the visitors, Jasmine Garner was the first one to create a major, in the first four minutes, and the gap widened to eight as the Roos were edging closer to a finals berth.

Fremantle refused to give in though, and created their own chances in the third quarter with Kiara Bowers being her usual self after being allowed to play in the crucial contest, kicking a goal midway through the quarter. That major cut the deficit to just two points, and when Kara Antonio goaled in the dying minutes of the quarter, Fremantle was out to a five-point lead. The Dockers held that advantage heading into three quarter time, and the onus was on the home side to return fire if the Roos wanted to play finals in 2021.

A Roxy Roux behind in the opening minute was a chance gone begging after a massive contested mark for the Dockers as they came out firing, and the lead was a team-high six points. Three consecutive behinds over the next eight minutes had plenty of nervous moments for the home fans, as North Melbourne slowly clawed its way back into the contest. Daisy Bateman became the hero with a goal in the tenth minute of the term, with her major putting her side three points up after being knocked over going for the mark. It would not be completely done and dusted just yet, as Fremantle would throw everything at the Roos in the last eight minutes to try and win the game. Ironically it would be Bateman again up the opposite end who would again play the role of hero, almost handing the ball across the line in the dying moments, waiting to be tackled for pressure, and it was enough to secure the one-point win.

Ash Riddell was unbelievable in the win, racking up 33 disposals, three tackles and seven inside 50s to lead all-comers, while Garner (24 disposals, six marks, three tackles, three inside 50s, two rebound 50s and a goal) and Emma Kearney (24 disposals, two tackles and six inside 50s) were also prolific. Bateman’s clutch efforts late were important in getting her side over the line, while Bannister (11 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal) and Emma King (eight disposals, three marks, two tackles and 23 hitouts) were also among the best on the day.

For the Dockers, Bowers was relentless throughout, picking up 19 disposals, two marks, two inside 50s, five rebound 50s and laying seven tackles. Stephanie Cain (14 disposals, six marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Tiah Haynes (14 disposals, three marks and four tackles) were also impressive, while the experience of O’Sullivan (nine disposals, four marks and a goal) and Kara Antonio (nine disposals, two marks, four tackles and a goal) was vital.

North Melbourne’s win means the Roos will finish sixth, but their opponent is yet to be determined. Collingwood plays Adelaide today, and if the Pies get up, the Roos will remain in Melbourne to face the Demons, whilst if Adelaide get up, the margin will depend on whether or not they head to South Australia, Queensland, or remain in Victoria to face the Magpies in the first week of finals. For the Dockers, they are in a similar boat, with fifth place secured, and as of now will head to South Australia if the Crows lose to the Magpies, but could face the Demons in Melbourne if Adelaide wins against Collingwood.

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 4.6 (30)
FREMANTLE 0.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo, D. Bannister, J. Garner, D. Bateman.
Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, G. Houghton, K. Bowers, K. Antonio.

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: A. Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney, D. Bateman, E. King
Fremantle: K. Bowers, S. Cain, T. Haynes, G. O’Sullivan, E. Antonio

 

Picture credit: Robert Cianflone / AFL Photos

 

Image credit: Getty Images

DEMONS CLINCH HOME FINAL FROM LIONS’ CLUTCHES

IT was a two-point ball-game that decided the AFL Women’s top five on Saturday afternoon, as Melbourne pipped Brisbane Lions at the post in a huge battle for a home final next week. Whilst the Lions commanded possession and retained control for much of the middle two thirds, the final quarter was all Demons as the red and blue ran home in front of a home crowd, 6.2 (38) to 6.0 (36).

The win was soured by an early injury though, as Dees superstar Daisy Pearce went down with what appeared to be a knee injury within the opening minutes, which saw the side sent into a flurry rotating the roles to suit the loss. Eden Zanker was pushed up through the midfield and had an immediate impact, piling on 12 touches in the first quarter alone as the Lions stayed in touch by a lone goal to be a minor down at the first break. But the second was where the game broke open, with both sides finding the scoreboard with ease and a tantalising contest became apparent. Dakota Davidson was the first to put a goal on the board in the second term before a huge running goal from Courtney Hodder proved the Lions would not back down on the Dees home turf. The Demons bit back with two of their own as Karen Paxman and Shelley Scott pounced on the ground ball, while a second within the term to Davidson proved the two sides had a game on their hands. A goal to Taylor Smith right on the halftime siren saw the Lions head into the second half with a marginal 11-point lead, with players across the field playing their roles and doing it well to create a phenomenal matchup.

The second half began with another tight quarter, as the two sides remained accurate in front of the big sticks with limited opportunity credit to tight defence. Veteran Lauren Arnell got in on the action and piled on another major to extend the lead, before a third Scott goal showed the Dees would not relent, especially with finals on the line. The match really came to blows in the final term though as the red and blue overcame the 11-point margin and turned it into a two-point win, with two straight goals to young guns Alyssa Bannan and Tyla Hanks, popping up at the right time to force the Lions onto the back foot as the physical matchup went to the dying moments, with Greta Bodey afforded a shot on goal after the siren but falling agonisingly short.

The tight matchup was set up by the likes of Zanker and Cathy Svarc, with the opposing duo both relentless in their own way – Zanker with her game-high 25 touches and Svarc with her whopping 21 tackles. Hodder (eight tackles, 10 touches, one goal), Sophie Conway (10 touches, seven tackles) and Ally Anderson (22 touches, six tackles) also provided plenty of hunt for the Lions, as Lily Mithen (23 touches, five marks), Paxman and Kate Hore (both 18 touches) and Lauren Pearce and Maddi Gay (both 17) were well and truly in the match. Hodder and Eliza McNamara were both lively for their respective sides as Scott’s three goals and Davidson’s two paved the way in the huge matchup.

Next week’s finals encounters will be decided by tomorrow’s Round 9 results, with both sides awaiting confirmation given their guaranteed finals entry, although the Dees will be waiting for news on Pearce’s injury.

MELBOURNE 1.1 3.1 4.1 6.2 (38)
BRISBANE 1.0 5.0 6.0 6.0 (36)

GOALS
Melbourne: S. Scott 3, K. Paxman, A. Bannan, T Hanks.
Brisbane: D. Davidson 2, J. Wardlaw, C. Hodder, T. Smith, L. Arnell.

BEST
Melbourne: E. Zanker, S. Scott, L. Mithen, K. Paxman, L. Pearce, K. Hore
Brisbane: C. Svarc, T. Hickie, A. Anderson, O. O’Dwyer, S. Conway, N. Grider

 

Image Credit: Matt Roberts/AFL Photos

GEELONG GETS UP IN BATTLES OF THE WINLESS

GEELONG claimed its first points of season 2021 at the final time of asking, holding off Gold Coast to win by 17 points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The result sees Gold Coast finish the season as wooden spooners, becoming just the second side in AFLW history to go winless through a full campaign. The Cats’ three-goal burst in the first quarter set up their salute, as they held strong thereafter to come away 6.5 (41) to 3.6 (24) victors.

The Cats had many reasons to celebrate on the day; with young ruck Rene Caris booting her first senior goal during the opening term, women’s footballing stalwart Aasta O’Connor sent off to retirement in style, and Rebecca Webster‘s goal on the final siren proving the cherry on top of a memorable day for travelling side. On the other hand, Gold Coast could not scrounge a saving grace in what was a season which earned them a series of unwanted records.

First year midfielder Laura Gardiner finished as the winners’ highest ball winner on 18 disposals, one ahead of Amy McDonald who was one of her side’s revelations during 2021. Veteran forward Richelle Cranston was the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, while Webster and Olivia Barber were others to prove impactful while hitting the scoreboard.

For Gold Coast, Alison Drennan capped off a terrific individual campaign to lead all comers with 23 touches, as the reliable Lauren Ahrens also fared well for the second year side. Kalinda Howarth tripled her season goal tally in one go with a couple of majors, arcing back to her roots having become an All Australian forward last year.

The 2021 season ends there for both clubs, with just one win between them and plenty to work on heading into the next campaign. With a bunch of exciting youth scattered across either squad, the green shoots have shown and should give these sets of fans plenty more to cheer about going forward.

GOLD COAST 0.1 | 1.3 | 3.3 | 3.6 (24) 
GEELONG 3.2 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 6.5 (41)

GOALS:

Gold Coast: K. Howarth 2, S. Virgo.
Geelong: R. Cranston 2, O. Barber, R. Caris, P. McWilliams, R. Webster.

DC BEST:

Gold Coast: A. Drennan, K. Howarth, L. Ahrens, M. Levi
Geelong: A. McDonald, L. Gardiner, R. Cranston, R. Webster

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Inaccurate Tigers outlast Eagles for maiden home win

RICHMOND won its first ever match on home soil at Punt Road, holding out in a dreary and tough slog against the West Coast Eagles. With proceedings marred by continuous rain and Eagles injuries, the Tigers held on under pressure for the 5.12 (42) to 5.4 (34) victory.

It was an inaccurate win but a win nonetheless for the Tigers, with the yellow and black faithful treated to a dominant first half from the rapidly improving side. Ellie McKenzieMon Conti and Sarah Hosking were critical through the midfield as Tayla Stahl found her form early, booting two quick goals to pile on the pressure as the Eagles struggled to press forward. But the Tigers’ inaccuracy and missed opportunities allowed West Coast to capitalise in the third, booting three in quick succession as Grace KellyImahra Cameron and Mikayla Bowen all got on the board, with Bowen executing an impressive snap from the boundary to put some hunt into the Eagles.

But whilst the Eagles committed to their second half comeback with Niamh Kelly and Maddy Collier also stepping up to the plate to drive the footy forward, a second Katie Brennan major enabled the Tigers to retain the lead, as a smattering of behinds closed out the match with an eight-point margin and plenty to take out of the tight contest.

For the losing side, Bowen was amongst the best with 21 touches and six marks to go with her two majors, whilst Bella Lewis (18 touches, five tackles), Hayley Bullas (12 touches, six tackles) and Amber Ward (22 disposals) led the charge. For the Tigers, Conti (24 touches), McKenzie (22) and Brennan (two goals, 14 touches) were instrumental, while Stahl (two goals), Christina Bernardi (nine tackles, eight touches, one goal) and Sarah D’Arcy (16 touches, three marks) also proved influential in the side’s third win of the season.

The Tigers will take the field in their final match of the season under Friday night lights against the Western Bulldogs at VU Whitten Oval, whilst the Eagles will finish off their home-and-away season in the final match of the round, hosting St Kilda at Mineral Resources Park on Sunday night.

RICHMOND 2.2 | 3.6 | 4.9 | 5.12 (42)
WEST COAST 0.1 | 0.2 | 3.3 | 5.4 (34)

GOALS
Richmond: T. Stahl 2, K. Brennan 2, C. Bernardi
West Coast: M. Bowen 2, G. Kelly, I. Cameron, K Pope

BEST
Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, T. Stahl, K. Brennan, S. D’Arcy
West Coast: M. Bowen, M. Collier, N. Kelly, I. Lewis, K. Gibson

Image credit: Daniel Pockett / Getty Images

 

Image credit: Sarah Reed / Getty Images

High-flying Crows swoop on Dogs

By: Taylah Melki

IT was a blowout over in the South with the Adelaide Crows trouncing the Western Bulldogs 12.6 (78) to 3.4 (22). The one-sided affair really came to the fore in the final term with the Crows piling on four goals to produce a 56-point win. The Bulldogs struggled to generate scoring power throughout the contest booting just three goals for the match and going goalless in the third term, while the Crows had no troubles finding the big sticks.

It did not take long for the Crows to land the first blow with Chloe Sheer making her presence immediately felt on the scoreboard with a major. Her energy trickled through to her teammates as Adelaide moved the ball with tenacity and ease before Erin Phillips slotted her first major of the game moments later. Trying to keep her side afloat Bonnie Toogood stepped up to the plate for the Doggies kicking a major of her own but her efforts were quickly overshadowed by Caitlin Gould.

Playing with confidence the Crows amped up the pressure in the second term forcing turnovers from the Western Bulldogs and capitalising with Gould and Sheer registering their second majors for the game. Applying scoreboard pressure and stifling the Dogs’ ball movement, the home side extended their lead out to as much as 33 points at half time.

Scoring dried up for both sides in the third quarter with only one goal added to the tally coming off the boot of Ash Woodland. Western Bulldogs could not find the big sticks in the third quarter, unable to slot a single goal as the game turned into an arm wrestle of sorts. Despite holding a commanding lead heading into the final change, Adelaide still had plenty to pprove replicating that hot form from earlier in the game and getting down to business in the fourth. Piling on four goals to one in the last stanza the Crows flexed their muscles, spearheaded by Sheer who seemed to have her kicking boots on while Danielle Ponter sent tongues wagging with a stellar mark.

It was a good day at the office for Sheer who managed three goals from her 13 touches while Gould was also electric nailing two majors and picking up 10 touches. Woodland was the other player to score multiple goals with two as five other players managed to add a sole goal to the Crows winning margin. Ebony Marinoff could not be denied with the star midfielder involved in just about everything to top the table with 25 disposals and six marks. Partner in crime, Anne Hatchard was at her usual dominant best recording 19 touches, five marks and six tackles while 21-year-old Eloise Jones left her mark thanks to her 14 touches, four marks and goal. Stevie-Lee Thompson and Phillips managed 14 disposals apiece as Teah Charlton also threw her weight around to walk away with 12 touches and an impressive seven tackles.

Unfortunately it was a tough day at the office for the Dogs but the efforts of Toogood and Brooke Lochland did not go unnoticed. Toogood was the main port of call inside 50 nailing two goals while Lochland racked up the possessions with a team-high 20. Ellie Blackburn was a strong force for the Dogs amassing 19 touches as Eleanor Brown finished with 15 touches and six tackles. Kirsty Lamb chimed in across the ground, not afraid to put her body on the line and tackle hard in what was a solid outing by the 26-year-old who managed 14 touches, a goal and five tackles.

ADELAIDE 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.4 | 12.6 (78)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.2 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS
Adelaide: C. Scheer 3, C. Gould 2, A. Woodland 2, E. Phillips, E. Jones, R. Martin, H. Button, C. Randall
Western Bulldogs: B. Toogood 2, K. Lamb

BEST
Adelaide: C. Scheer, E. Marinoff, A. Hatchard, E. Phillips, A. Woodland, E. Jones
Western Bulldogs: E. Blackburn, B. Lochland, K. Lamb, B. Toogood

 

Image credit: Getty Images

Dees nab finals spot with clutch win over Dockers

By: Sophie Taylor

MELBOURNE has cemented its finals chances with a clutch win over a fast-finishing Fremantle outfit, leading for majority of the contest and holding on in a hugely pressurised final few minutes to run out victors 5.7 (37) to 4.8 (32).

It was an explosive start from the Dees that allowed them to hang on under pressure, with a four goal half time lead whittled down to just five points at the final siren. Two first half goals to Kate Hore set the tone as the Demons commanded ball from the get-go on enemy soil, as Karen Paxman led the way around the ground, with the support across the ground allowing the side to maintain control during the hard fought and physical battle. Tempers fired during the third as Roxy Roux intercepted and kicked truly inside 50, as the likes of Kiara Bowers and Hayley Miller worked their way into the match, setting up a huge final term as the margin closed between the two sides. While Bowers was well held early by a rotation of taggers, proceedings seemed to be getting going on the Dockers’ terms during the final quarter with the Dees soon down a rotation as Sinead Goldrick went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, as Roux booted a second and Gemma Houghton put Fremantle in front for the first time with less than 10 minutes on the clock. But Lauren Pearce‘s consistency and ability to take control through the centre continued to pay off, with the Dees benefiting off her vision and taps with Eliza McNamara and Maddi Gay rarely far from the action, with the latter booting the final goal of the game to seal victory and a spot in the top six a week shy of finals.

To the Demons’ credit, it was not just their first half forward pressure that won them the match, but also the side’s ability to maintain pressure during the Dockers’ excellent comeback, controlling proceedings and creating stoppage after stoppage to whittle down the clock and force Fremantle to take risks downfield. Paxman (24 disposals, six marks), McNamara (21 disposals, four tackles, one goal) and Pearce (20 touches, 16 hitouts) were amongst the best for the Dees, while Gay and Hore stepped up during crucial moments and Eden Zanker had some excellent passages under pressure. For the Dockers, Bowers was kept to just 12 touches but still laid 11 tackles, while Miller (13 touches, seven tackles), Tiah Haynes (16 and six) and Roux (two goals, eight touches, five tackles) also showcased some great form.

Both sides head to Victoria for the final round, and while neither require a Round 9 win given they have secured finals positions, both the Dees and Dockers will look to capitalise on their form ahead of the post-season when they come up against fellow finals-bound sides in North Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.

FREMANTLE 0.1 | 0.5 | 2.7 | 4.8 (32)
MELBOURNE 3.2 | 4.5 | 4.7 | 5.7 (37)

GOALS
Fremantle: R. Roux 2, G. O’Sullivan, G. Houghton
Melbourne: K. Hore 2, D. Pearce, E. McNamara, M. Gay

BEST
Fremantle: R. Roux, H. Miller, E. Antonio, G. O’Sullivan, T. Haynes
Melbourne: L. Pearce, K. Paxman, S. Scott, D. Pearce, M. Gay

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: GIANTS strike early to hold off Saints in wet

GWS GIANTS have picked up an important victory on the road, downing St Kilda Saints by 20 points in a traditional wet weather match at RSEA Park. Despite being a mid-afternoon fixture, both sides soon found the going tough with heavy rain impacting the match and drenching not only the players, but the supporters in the almost exclusively outdoor viewing venue. By the time the final siren sounded for everyone to dry off, the GIANTS had got the job done, 7.3 (45) to 3.7 (25).

Coming back into the line-up Rebecca Privitelli made her presence felt with a goal in the opening three minutes with a clever snap to get the visitors on the board. Soon it was new recruit Katherine Smith who doubled the margin, before Cora Staunton, and then Privitelli with her second piling on the pain for the home team at Moorabbin and making the quarter time margin a massive 23 points. The Saints were held goalless in the opening term, and it would not be until Kate Shierlaw struck in the third minute of the second quarter before the home crowd had something to cheer about. Back-to-back behinds to Molly McDonald, and then Jacqueline Vogt‘s miss left some wondering if they might rue the misses, though the conditions were not making it easy on the players. When Darcy Guttridge finally put one through the big sticks at the 11-minute mark, followed by a late Tamara Luke behind, the Saints had clawed their way back to a five-point deficit at the main break.

The third term was an arm-wrestle as neither side could get on the board in the first half of the quarter, and it took some Staunton class in the wet for the GIANTS to gain some much needed breathing space. Then inclusion Privitelli booted her third, and the pair had five of the six goals for the GIANTS, and the lead was back out to 20 points at the final break. When Staunton matched Privitelli with her third major of the contest two minutes into the final term, the game was effectively done and dusted, and the GIANTS were out to a match-high 26-point lead. The final score of the match was a late goal to Caitlin Greiser who slotted one to cut the final deficit to 20 points, but it would be the orange and charcoal visitors who would be making a Big Sound from Tullamarine back to western Sydney.

The wet made it challenging for disposal efficiency, with the GIANTS able to win more of the ball with a plus-28 in that category, and despite having two less inside 50s (23-25) won the rebound 50s count comfortably (22-15). They also dominated the contested possessions (120-86) and won the uncontested possessions as well (80-63), taking five contested marks of 24 to the Saints’ one of 14. To the Saints credit, the home side dominated the tackle count wit ha. whopping 103 tackles to 46, which ensured the GIANTS did not have many easy exits.

Alyce Parker and Georgia Patrikios thrived in the wet for their respective sides, as Parker racked up 28 touches, six marks and four tackles, while Patrikios was not far behind with 27 disposals, one mark and 10 tackles. Catherine Phillips laid a huge 12 tackles to go with her 15 disposals for the Saints, while Alice Burke also hit double-figure tackles with 10, the same amount as her disposals, as did Tyanna Smith (a match-high 14 tackles for nine disposals. Jayde Van Dyk (14 disposals) and Tilly Lucas-Rodd (11 disposals, six tackles) also impressed, while for the GIANTS, Rebecca Beeson (18 disposals, two marks and six tackles), Jess Dal Pos (15 disposals, two tackles), Britt Tully (14 disposals, two tackles) and Tarni Evans (11 disposals, two marks) all found plenty of it. The combined six goals of Privitelli and Staunton proved crucial for the GIANTS in wet conditions, with the pair also combining for 21 disposals and six tackles in the win.

ST KILDA 0.1 | 2.7 | 2.7 | 3.7 (25)
GWS GIANTS 4.0 | 4.0 | 6.3 | 7.3 (45)

GOALS:

St Kilda: K. Shierlaw, D. Guttridge, C. Greiser
GWS: C. Staunton 3, R. Privitelli 3, K. Smith.

DC BEST:

St Kilda: G. Patrikios, C. Phillips, T. White, T. Smith, K. Shierlaw
GWS: A. Parker, R. Privitelli, C. Staunton, R. Beeson, B. Tully

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images via AFL Photos

ROOS HOLD OFF BULLISH DOGS

By: Michael Alvaro

NORTH Melbourne held off a determined Western Bulldogs outfit on Saturday, earning an 11-point victory at North Hobart Oval to strengthen its spot in the top six. The Roos skipped away to a three-goal buffer at quarter time and while they led at every break, were challenged in the final term as the Bulldogs pressured with five scoring shots to nil, but ultimately came up short in the 5.7 (37) to 3.8 (26) result.

The young pups were made to rue early lapses and a lack of killer instinct once the game was on their terms, seeing North Melbourne hop to an unassailable lead before holding out despite a scoreless final stanza. It means the Bulldogs have it all to do in the final couple of home-and-away rounds, currently sitting a game and percentage outside of the top six and with a couple of teams breathing down their necks.

Superstar Roos Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner again showed their class to lead North to victory, with the former booting a couple of clutch goals in the process. The latter, meanwhile, led all comers with 28 disposals. Ash Riddell was another of the midfield brigade to snare a major, while Ellie Gavalas proved productive playing in her home state and Jess Duffin had her best outing since returning in Round 5.

Spearhead Izzy Huntington returned to scoring form with two of the Bulldogs’ three goals, as partner-in-crime Bonnie Toogood snared the other. It was no surprise to see skipper Ellie Blackburn and the hardened Kirtsy Lamb top their side’s disposal charts once again, proving reliable figures in midfield. Speedy forward Kirsten McLeod suffered a head knock late in the piece and did not play any further part in the match.

Both sides will prepare to take on top six opposition in Round 8. North faces a slightly shorter turnaround for its next match as Brisbane awaits at the Gabba on Saturday, while the Western Bulldogs are also set to travel to take on Adelaide at Norwood Oval on Sunday.

NORTH MELBOURNE 3.0 | 4.2 | 5.7 | 5.7 (37)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 | 2.3 | 2.4 | 3.8 (26)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: E. Kearney 2, D.Bateman, E. King, A. Riddell.
Western Bulldogs: I. Huntington 2, B. Toogood.

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, A. Riddell, E. Gavalas, J. Duffin
Western Bulldogs: K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, I. Huntington, B. Toogood

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES TURN UP THE HEAT TO CLIP CROWS

By: Michael Alvaro

MELBOURNE consolidated its top six status with a stirring 28-point win over fellow contender, Adelaide at Casey Fields on Saturday night. In damp conditions on their home patch, the Demons turned up the heat with a terrific pressure game and discipline in their structure to down the star-studded Crows 6.7 (43) to 2.3 (15).

Adelaide was essentially beaten at its own game, unable to get on top in midfield and being strangled up forward with two goalless quarters. Meanwhile, Melbourne led at every break and continually applied scoreboard pressure to earn a victory which does wonders for its finals hopes with just a fortnight left in the home-and-away season.

Young midfielder Tyla Hanks was at the core of her side’s triumph, bossing the engine room with a game-high 25 disposals to go with four marks, five tackles, and one goal. The likes of Lily Mithen and Karen Paxman also ticked over 20 touches, while Kate Hore‘s forward nous was good for three important goals, and Eden Zanker proved lively with four marks and a major.

Ebony Marinoff led the Crows disposal count with 24, aided as usual by Anne Hatchard through midfield. Sarah Allan was kept busy in defence along with Angela Foley, while champion Crows Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall did their best to create some sort of spark moving forward. While the latter booted a goal, the Phillips finished without one for the first time in 2021.

The Crows will look to regroup and rebound with another tricky test against the Western Bulldogs in Round 8, while Melbourne faces another massive test in the form of Fremantle. Both sides are set to play on Sunday evening.

GOALS:

Melbourne: K. Hore 3, E. Zanker, T. Hanks, L. Pearce.
Adelaide: C. Randall, R. Martin.

DC BEST:

Melbourne: T. Hanks, K. Hore, K. Paxman, L. Mithen, E. Zanker, M. Gay
Adelaide: E. Marinoff, S. Allan, A. Hatchard, C. Randall E. Phillips, A. Foley

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Lions set up potential top of the table clash

By: Peter Williams

BRISBANE Lions have set up a potential top of the table clash with Collingwood – provided the Pies win today – after grabbing their fifth win of the season against GWS GIANTS yesterday. The Lions were a touch inaccurate, booting 7.13 (55) to 2.5 (17), but it was enough to secure the comfortable 38-point win and temporarily move into top spot. With five individual goalkickers for their seven goals, the Lions shared the goals around on the afternoon, and moved to a 5-1 record heading into the final three rounds of the season.

Dakota Davidson was quick off the mark, scoring a goal in the opening two minutes of the match to get the visitors up and about early. New recruit Courtney Hodder soon added her first at the 12-minute mark with a remarkable effort close to goal in tight space under pressure, and Jess Wuetschner in her second game back converted one, and the Lions were out to an 18-point lead with a few minutes remaining in the first term. The quarter time margin – which extended by one from that point courtesy of a Hodder behind – was 20 points, and the Lions were already looking in control of the match.

That only increased in the second term, as Isabel Dawes scored an early goal two minutes into the quarter, and fellow youngster Jade Ellenger drove the dagger in further with a fifth individual goalkicker in the match. When Davidson snagged her second of the contest late in the quarter, the margin had blown out to 39 points, and would by 41 by half-time. The GIANTS were unable to put one through the big sticks, while the Lions were sharing the ball around going inside 50 and reaping the rewards of doing so.

Dawes kicked her second major of the game again early in the third, as the six-and-a-half minute mark ticked past and Brisbane was out to a 49-point lead. It was at this point, the GIANTS began to rise. Katherine Smith was the first to respond two minutes later, and the goal drought was broken. Whilst the GIANTS would not kick another major until the final stanza through Emily Bennetts, they restricted the visitors to just three behinds in the final half an hour of action. The dried up scoring mattered little for the Lions however, as they claimed the important win.

Davidson snagged two goals from 10 disposals, four marks and five tackles to be lively in the first half, while Dawes managed the 11 disposals and four tackles to go with her two majors. Emily Bates was the top disposal winner for the Lions, picking up 20 touches, three marks and three tackles, while fellow midfielder Ally Anderson, and All-Australian defender Kate Lutkins racked up the 19 disposals. Tahlia Hickie was influential in the ruck, and Wuetschner was again lively, kicking a goal from 12 touches, three marks and four tackles.

For the GIANTS, Alicia Eva picked up 22 disposals, four marks and two tackles, ahead of Britt Tully (19 disposals, three marks and three tackles). Young gun Alyce Parker was again busy across the game with 16 disposals, two marks and six tackles, as was Rebecca Beeson (16 disposals, four tackles) and another rising star talent in Georgia Garnett (15 disposals, three marks and three tackles). Bennetts not only kicked the final goal of the game, but had 15 disposals and five marks to boot as well. Brisbane Lions set their sights on Collingwood next Sunday at Hickey Park, while the GIANTS head to RSEA Park on Saturday to clash with the Saints in what are both expected to be tight contests.

GWS GIANTS 0.1 | 0.2 | 1.3 | 2.5 (17)
BRISBANE 3.3 | 6.7 | 7.11 | 7.13 (55)

GOALS:
Greater Western Sydney: Smith, Bennetts.
Brisbane: Davidson 2, Dawes 2, Hodder, Wuetschner, Ellenger

DC BEST:
Greater Western Sydney: Eva, Parker, Beeson, Bennetts, Garnett
Brisbane: Davidson, Lutkins, Bates, Dawes, Anderson

Picture credit: via Adelaide FC

ADELAIDE SEND WARNING SHOT WITH RECORD-BREAKING WIN

By: Tom Cheesman

ADELAIDE has continued its strong run of form with a 70-point smashing of Gold Coast at Norwood Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Crows held their opponents scoreless in the first and third terms while piling on 13 goals of their own for the match, an AFLW record. Adelaide controlled the inside 50s (41-19) and were far more efficient with their disposals inside 50 (56 to 37 per cent). Stevie-Lee Thompson (17 disposals, two marks, one goal) provided plenty of run and carry all day for the Crows, while Anne Hatchard (21 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Ebony Marinoff (20 disposals, eight tackles) were influential in the midfield. Superstar Erin Phillips and Danielle Ponter kicked six goals (and had 10 scoring shots) between them, while Alison Drennan (29 disposals, seven tackles) and Kalinda Howarth (18 disposals) worked tirelessly for the visitors.

There were major injury issues for both sides in the opening minutes of the contest. First, Adelaide small defender Nikki Gore courageously flew from the side into a marking contest and went down with a suspected ankle fracture. Two minutes later, Gold Coast midfielder Jamie Stanton‘s ankle buckled underneath her when she laid a tackle in her side’s defensive 50. She was taken from the ground on a stretcher and was seen on crutches after the match. Once the match got going, Sarah Allan immediately set the tone for Adelaide in defence. She made a significant impact defensively but also initiated some counterattacking ball movement with effective forward handballs off half-back. Hatchard was able to kick the Crows’ first after a perfect pass from Phillips, and captain Chelsea Randall soccered through her side’s  second soon after.

For the fourth consecutive week, Adelaide held their opponents scoreless in the opening term. Regardless, it was not all doom-and-gloom for the Suns early. Howarth was classy with her ball use coming out of congestion, Kate Surman found plenty of the ball, and Tori Groves-Little took some spectacular marks up forward in her first quarter of the season. The Suns looked positive at the start of the second term, as Daisy D’Arcy found Leah Kaslar on the lead for their first goal of the day. However, the Crows noticed that the Suns were within a goal and quickly got the game back on their terms.

Ash Woodland earned a free for a hold and kicked truly from 30 metres out, and then Chloe Scheer set up Ponter for her first. Second-gamer Rachelle Martin redeemed herself after dropping a mark inside 50 by applying relentless forward pressure, earning a free kick and snapping her first goal in AFLW. Gold Coast’s only chance to score was from centre clearances at this point because, much like St Kilda last Sunday, they were unable to cleanly move the ball out of their defensive 50 through Adelaide’s zone.

In stark contest, Adelaide ran the ball out of their defence very easily, picking holes in Gold Coast’s defence at will. After Ponter and Phillips kicked back-to-back goals, Gold Coast won a centre clearance and got a late goal through Surman. Although Surman and Drennan had a whopping 33 touches between them at the main break, the Crows held a convincing 30-point lead. Ferocious Adelaide player Scheer extended her side’s lead at the start of the third by earning a free and putting through a set shot. Phillips set the ground alight when she unloaded a huge barrel off half-back, but unfortunately for the home fans it went straight to Elizabeth Keaney, who took several intercept marks in the third term. Thompson continued her impressive performance by running onto a loose ball and drilling the Crows’ ninth, and it was very clear that the Suns had no answers on how to stop Adelaide’s momentum.

After some relentless pressure from Teah Charlton and Woodland, Phillips earned a free for being blocked in a marking contest and kicked her second. Things soured for the Crows at the end of the third term, as Hannah Button dislocated her shoulder while reaching to lay a tackle and left the field in the hands of trainers. Adelaide did not slow down to start the fourth, continuing to pepper the goals and refusing to let the ball out of their forward half. This led to Ponter kicking another, this time from a forward 50 stoppage. Soon after, a duck through traffic and clever handball over the shoulder from Phillips set up Ponter for her fourth.

On the other side, all of Gold Coast’s forward movement came through Groves-Little, who got little-to-no support at that end of the ground. When Crows captain Randall got on the end of some unselfish ball movement from Phillips and Thompson to kick her second, Adelaide’s score moved to 85 points, just one behind shy of the highest score in AFLW history (12.14.86 by the 2018 Western Bulldogs). As Adelaide went for the record, the Suns were finally able to lock the ball in their forward 50 for an extended period. Sally Riley had some good moments during this stretch, but the Suns failed to capitalise on her hard work and only added one behind to their total.

After a late end-to-end transition by the Crows, Dee Heslop laid a brilliant tackle on Ponter in the goal square to save a certain score and keep the Bulldogs’ scoring record intact. Regardless, it was a percentage-boosting win that Adelaide’s coaches will be pleased with as they move into the final three rounds of the home and away season.

Next week, Adelaide hit the road to face Melbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Gold Coast will aim to get their first win of 2021 when they take on the Tigers in a Friday night clash at Metricon.

ADELAIDE 2.1 | 7.2 | 10.5 | 13.7 (85)
GOLD COAST 0.0 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.3 (15)

GOALS:
Adelaide: D. Ponter 4, E. Phillips, C. Randall 2, S. Thompson, A. Woodland, R. Martin, C. Scheer, A. Hatchard.
Gold Coast: L. Kaslar, K. Surman.

DC BEST:
Adelaide: S. Thompson, E. Phillips, D. Ponter, A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, T. Groves-Little, K. Howarth, K. Surman, S. Riley

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES DOWN SAINTS TO KEEP SEASON ALIVE

By: Sophie Taylor

IT was a tight encounter between Melbourne and St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides looking to get back on the winners list this season after big losses last round. It was the Demons that got a confident and comfortable percentage-boosting victory on the board on home soil at Casey Fields, running out 9.12 (66) to 3.4 (22) victors, credit to a consistent four-quarter effort.

The Dees were on the offensive from the get-go, driving forward and flooding the 50m to lock the ball in attack. It appeared the Melbourne coaching staff were not afraid to switch things up a bit heading into this matchup, with a couple of shaky matches over the last few weeks making for a different approach in the forward line. A classy kick from Maddi Gay hit Daisy Pearce on a lead at the top of the square with the Dees legend putting the first goal of the game through, before minutes later Alyssa Bannan rid herself off her recent goal drought with an excellent running goal to put a second on the board. The Saints were still yet to make it inside their own 50m though despite piling pressure on through midfield, with the Dees making it tough to clear the footy. Gay and Tyla Hanks were never far from the footy as Sainters Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Cat Phillips contested well, while Kate Shierlaw also kept on the pressure around the ground, rarely beaten.

The remainder of the first was hotly contested with Melbourne unable to put a third major on the board despite locking the footy inside 50, and leading 14-0 at the first change. A huge inside 50 from Georgia Patrikios started the second quarter, surging the footy forward, and while it did not work to the Saints’ favour, the effort paid off with the Saints given a couple of chances to put on the scoreboard pressure, all to no avail. An excellent run down midfield from Hanks earned a free kick down field for a late push in the back, with a goal right in front from Shelley Scott undoing all the hard work the Saints had done early to lock the footy inside 50. While she was well held early, Patrikios fired up in the second quarter, throwing herself at the contest and doing everything she could to pile on the pressure around the ground.

The Saints strung some great minutes together in forward 50 as Nat Exon finally put the Saints on the board, reducing the margin and seeing the Saints build up their confidence with a couple more attempts coming in thick and fast but to no avail. The Dees’ midfield was on fire, and led by Hanks and Karen Paxman, they were crucial in quickly and efficiently driving down the centre. A free kick to Tegan Cunningham kept the scoreboard ticking over, seeing an 18-point half-time margin and an intense contest brewing.

A huge first few minutes of the third quarter saw plenty of argy bargy from both sides, with a tough battle through the midfield and Melbourne’s midfielders doing the trick to drive the footy forward, while St Kilda’s defence was just staying ahead of the pack to maintain possession. Lauren Pearce continued her excellent first half efforts utilising her height and footy smarts, before an excellent passage from Eden Zanker saw the forward kick directly to Daisy Pearce at the top of the square once more, before another goal to Bannan saw the second half kick off to an eerily similar way to the beginning of the match, though this time seeing a 31-point margin with 10 left in the third quarter. 

A goal to Jackie Parry saw the Dees extend their lead further, with the remainder of the match played on Melbourne’s terms as Caitlin Greiser was moved down back to help work the Saints back into the match but to no avail as Rosie Dillon, Rhi Watt and Hannah Priest continued to throw themselves into the contest. But it was a second scoreless term for the Saints, trailing by 39 points at the final change. The Dees needed a percentage boost ahead of the remaining three rounds of the season, and that’s what they got as the Saints failed to close the margin.

Zanker continued her solid work across the ground, putting a couple of behinds on the board and worrying the Saints but ultimately unable to find the big sticks, before Eliza McNamara topped off an excellent effort with her maiden goal. A maiden Claudia Whitfort goal reduced the margin a fraction but it was not enough, with the Dees creating a highlight reel up forward with their continuous hunt on the footy, and Kate Hore joining the party inside 50 with some slick skills towards the latter stage of the match. A Tamara Luke goal with just over two minutes of the clock did plenty for the Saints’ work rate but unfortunately not enough to really shake the Dees, with the home side running out 44-point winners credit to a solid four quarter effort.

For the losing side, Priest, Patrikios and Phillips were the leading ball-winners with 17 disposals apiece, and combining for 15 tackles between them. Dillion picked up 12 touches and eight tackles, whilst Watt (15 touches and five marks) also proved crucial. For the Dees, Lauren Pearce was a revelation in the ruck with 22 touches, 21 hitouts, four tackles, four marks and a behind, whilst Hanks (22 and four tackles), Zanker (23, eight marks and three behinds) and Paxman (24 touches)  were also heavily involved in the contest. Daisy Pearce booted her two from 13 touches and six marks, whilst Lily Mithen and Scott piled on the pressure with six tackles each.

The Dees will have their work cut out for them in the remaining three rounds of the season, currently sitting just outside the top six and matches against Adelaide (second), Fremantle (fourth) and Brisbane (first) awaiting. They host Adelaide during the same Saturday evening timeslot in a week’s time, whilst the Saints host the Giants in the early Saturday timeslot at RSEA Park.

MELBOURNE | 2.2 | 4.3 | 7.6 | 9.12 (66)
ST KILDA | 0.0 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS
Melbourne: D. Pearce 2, A. Bannan 2, S. Scott, T. Cunningham, J. Parry, E. McNamara, K. Hore.
St Kilda: N. Exon, C. Whitfort, T. Luke.

DC BEST
Melbourne: L. Pearce, T. Hanks, D. Pearce, E. Zanker, M. Gay
St Kilda: H. Priest, G. Patrikios, C. Phillips, R. Watt, R. Dillon

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 3 preview – Four of the top six lock horns on blockbuster weekend

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season sees two sets of undefeated sides lock horns to find out whose ‘0’ will go, while teams just outside the top six battle to emerge as finals threats. As was the case last time around, fixtures have been shuffled and one matchup – between Brisbane and West Coast – is on hold. But with a couple of mouthwatering clashes and one Victorian grudge match set to go down, there is still plenty to look forward to from this weekend’s action.

Note: All start times are local.

GEELONG (14th, 0-2) vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 1-1)
Friday February 12, 7:10pm
Kardinia Park

History will be made in red, white, and blue on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs’ first ever father-daughter selection, Isabella Grant makes her AFLW debut against Geelong at Kardinia Park. The daughter of 341-game Bulldogs champion, Chris missed all of her maiden season through injury, but comes into a winning side in place of the injured Bailey Hunt (calf). Her team will be sniffing out a positive record here, especially seeing that Geelong is currently bolted to bottom spot after losses of a combined 91 points.

The Cats have made a couple of changes, with the experienced Bec Goring called up to help bolster her side’s defence, while mature-age coup Nicole Garner also comes in for her senior debut. The pair’s additions come at the expense of youngsters Darcy Moloney and Georgia Clarke. Having lost handily to premiership fancy North Melbourne at home in Round 1, the Cats will be keen to make good on their advantage this time around and give fans something to cheer about.

The Bulldogs’ youthful exuberance and counter-attacking nature may pose some problems for Geelong, especially given the home side has only scrounged three majors in its first two outings. The Cats are also known for their young talent, but that has seen them fall away in lapses of concentration after positive periods. That could be a worrying factor if they don’t get up or stay level early, because we all saw how the ‘Dogs came back with force against Carlton last week.

Tip: Bulldogs by 13

GWS (11th, 0-2) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 3:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Two sides coming off hefty losses will look to get off the mark for season 2021, when Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosts Gold Coast in Blacktown on Saturday afternoon. The Suns were kept to the lowest-ever AFLW score (two points) last time out in a one-sided Q-Clash, which should serve as fuel enough for this game. GWS went down to somewhat a rival of its own in Adelaide last week, making this a clash between two winless teams in desperate need of a confidence boost.

An improved Suns forwardline saw hardly any of the ball last week, but showed in Round 1 that when given the opportunity, goals will come. GWS has also had trouble moving forward with its fluency on the ball – or lack thereof – underselling the dominance of Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson at the clearances. Whichever team can click into gear quicker and find its groove in the front half should coast clear for a much-needed maiden win.

Tip: Giants by 5

ST KILDA (8th, 1-1) vs. CARLTON (9th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 5:10pm
RSEA Park

Carlton faces a tricky must-win fixture as it rolls into Moorabbin to take on St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides poised outside the top six. Touted as a premiership chance coming into the season, the Blues have stumbled in two surprise losses with short bursts from opposition sides hurting them in the long run. The Saints loom as another tricky test having beaten the Blues’ last opponent and remained competitive against North Melbourne a week later.

Perhaps mercifully, the Carlton looks likely to call upon the recently recovered trio of Lucy McEvoy, Mua Laloifi, and Gab Pound, who would all normally feature in the starting lineup. While McEvoy will prove another classy midfield choice, the latter two should shore up the backline. Sturdiness will be important against an improve Saints attack, spearhead by Caitlin Greiser.

The midfield battle will also be an interesting one, with the likes of McEvoy and Maddy Prespakis locking horns with in-form St Kilda jets Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith. The hardened ball winning ability of Carlton’s pair against the classy running Saints should form an intriguing matchup of styles. Making the most of their impact will be key for either side, especially after their respective faults up forward thus far.

Tip: Blues by 15

MELBOURNE (4th, 2-0) vs. NORTH MELBOURNE (2nd, 2-0)
Saturday February 13, 7:10pm
Casey Fields

A mouthwatering contest between two undefeated Victorian sides goes down at Casey Fields on Saturday night, as Melbourne takes on North Melbourne. The Roos have been near-flawless across the opening two rounds; first dismantling Geelong on the road and then pulling away from the plucky St Kilda last week. Melbourne has found its grove after slow starts in both of its opening two fixtures, but now faces easily its toughest test to date.

While the Roos are renowned for their vast avenues to goal, Melbourne has proven somewhat of a surprise packet through its seemingly revitalised attacking nous. The engine room has played a big part, with Tyla Hanks slotting in seamlessly alongside Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, but North is known to boss the ball and bat incredibly deep. A Kangas midfield quintet of Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, and Ellie Gavalas has proven unbeatable across four quarters thus far, and will be tough to top.

The ruck battle will be another area of interest given how much class lies in either sides’ midfields, with Melbourne’s Lauren Pearce set to tackle an in-form Emma King. King, who has also rediscovered her scoring form, averages nearly double her opponent’s hitouts, but aide from rotating key forward Eden Zanker will likely even the contest up.

Tip: Kangaroos by 11

ADELAIDE (3rd, 2-0) vs. FREMANTLE (5th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 12:40pm
Norwood Oval

The round’s second top six clash sees Adelaide do battle with Fremantle at Norwood Oval, with the two undefeated teams battling to maintain their perfect records. Freo’s nine-game unblemished run has continued on from last season and while a tense derby only saw them get up by nine points with two majors on the board last week, the Dockers look every bit the premiership contender. Adelaide is right up there as well, emphatically returning to form in 2021 with the chance now to prove just how serious its flag tilt will be.

The Crows’ elite ball winners in Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips will be difficult to match, while the dynamic wildcard that is Chelsea Randall could prove a game-breaking factor in roles at either end. A heap of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers in midfield, though a greater team spread up and down the spine is more the Dockers’ go.

It is no secret that Gemma Houghton poses a massive threat up forward alongside Sabreena Duffy, while Janelle Cuthbertson has been an absolute rock down back. With running power on the outer and many avenues to goal, Freo should have little trouble managing a winning score. Adelaide will again look to its midfield to fill out the scorebook, while the likes of Danielle Ponter, Ashleigh Woodland, and Teah Charlton loom as individuals who can break the game open.

Tip: Dockers by 1

RICHMOND (12th, 0-2) vs. COLLINGWOOD (6th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 3:10pm
Punt Road Oval

A late fixture shuffle sees traditional rivals Richmond and Collingwood go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon, set to provide some nostalgia to fans at Punt Road Oval. The Tigers are still out to claim their first points in the competition having shown signs of improvement thus far, but ultimately fallen short of better opposition. Collingwood looms as another difficult test, currently holding up the top six with a perfect 2-0 record.

The two sides have not yet met in the women’s competition, making for a fresh start and opportunity for either team to grab bragging rights. Collingwood’s rejigged forwardline which boasts Chloe Molloy and Brianna Davey benefitted last week with the inclusion of Sarah Rowe, and will again be in good shape to overpower the opposition. Conversely, scoring continues to be a sore spot for Richmond despite the dominance of Monique Conti in midfield and promise of Ellie McKenzie on the outer.

Tip: Magpies by 33

Note: The Brisbane Lions vs. West Coast Eagles fixture is TBC.

Featured Image: Western Bulldogs’ Isabella Grant (right) with her famous father, Chris | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Pies’ final quarter finishing too much for Cats

COLLINGWOOD made it two for two after a strong final term saw it take the four points against Geelong at Victoria Park, 6.9 (45) to 2.4 (16). It was a high pressure and hotly contested game throughout, with both teams’ backlines showing strong understanding of team structures and the opposition ball movement.

The Cats started off looking to rectify the result of Round 1, earning themselves the first goal, coming from first gamer Olivia Barber, within the first minute of the game. The opportunity came from a smother on a Ruby Schleicher kick by Richelle Cranston, setting the tone for the intensity of pressure the Cats would continue for the quarter. Schleicher would respond four minutes later, earning herself a free kick and 50-metre penalty after receiving high contact when attempting to intercept a wayward kick out of the Pies’ forward line. With both teams using the ball well and constantly looking threatening it was a quarter that saw the backlines shine.

The Cats clean ball use and preparation around stoppages ended up earning them their second goal from Madeline Boyd. The quarter ended with Collingwood’s Mikala Cann getting a back-to-back 50-metre penalties for herself and kicking a goal from the square right on the siren.

The second quarter started where the first left off, both teams maintaining the tackling pressure that was present earlier, and having their backlines set up well for any attack. Despite having majority of the early play in their forward half, the Pies were largely wasteful in the second, missing some clear cut opportunities with minor scores. The second half of the quarter saw the cats have control, constantly sieging the Pies defence who did well to not concede a goal. We wouldn’t see our first goal until the 14th minute, with Chloe Molloy kicking a brilliant snap out the back of a pack. The efforts of Brittany Bonnici, Brianna Davey, Olivia Purcell and Julia Crockett-Grills made it difficult for either team to have a clear run heading inside forward 50.

The start of the second half was a supreme defensive effort from Geelong, with Jordan Ivey, Meghan McDonald and Rebecca Webster doing everything they could to resist a relentless Pies attack. The Pies found scoring opportunities coming fairly often throughout the quarter, but were unable to capitalise only getting three minor scores for their hard work. It was Sophie Alexander getting herself involved in everything up forward, with one effort from outside of 50 being deemed a touched behind after being chased down by cats players, she also showcased her marking ability with a contested grab that, unfortunately, didn’t eventuate into a score.

With the margin just 10 points despite the Pies controlling most of the third, the Cats were still in with a chance to snatch the game away. The fourth started similar to the last three quarters, hotly contested footy, with both backlines dealing with entries without much trouble and the midfields being hot on each other, not allowing any easy disposal. The Pies got themselves the first of the quarter to extend their lead, Davey finding time in all the chaos to sneak one in. They quickly followed up, with the previous goal kicker booting the ball in long from the centre bounce, having teammate Sarah Rowe reward the effort in her return game. Collingwood’s defence didn’t get complacent despite the lead, consistently repelling Geelong attacks into the late end of the quarter, with Schleicher even using an intercept possession to set up teammate, Alexander for a late goal.

It was a strong game for Davey and with 25 disposals and a goal she’ll be happy with her impact around the ground, as well as teammate, Bonnicci with 24 disposals and nine marks.

Webster and Purcell led the way for the Cats with 18 and 17 disposals respectively, and Crockett-Grills leading all comers for tackles with six. Debutants Barber, Stephanie Williams (Geelong) and Joanna Lin (Collingwood) all had good moments throughout the match as well, showing promise for the future.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD 2.0 | 3.4 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)
GEELONG 2.2 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Collingwood: S. Alexander, M. Cann, B. Davey, C. Molloy, R. Schleicher, S. Rowe
Geelong: O. Barber, M. Boyd

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, R. Schleicher, B. Bonnici, J. Lambert, S. Livingstone
Geelong: R. Webster, O. Purcell, A. O’Connor, J. Crockett-Grills, A. McDonald

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEMONS ACCELERATE AWAY FROM TOOTHLESS TIGERS

Melbourne’s perfect start to the season continued on Saturday as the Demons accelerated away from Richmond after quarter time to win by 28 points at Casey Fields. Having booted the opening goal of the game through Sabrina Frederick, the Tigers were kept goalless until the final term as Melbourne steadily increased its advantage, running out 7.2 (44) to 2.4 (16) victors on home turf.

The Demons snuck ahead in the second term via the boot of prize draftee Alyssa Bannan, who snared her first two senior goals in as many minutes to open up a handy buffer. Melbourne’s tall timbers up forward, which included the likes of Bannan, Tegan Cunningham, and Eden Zanker, proved a handful for the Richmond defence as the Dees’ midfield began to get on top of the seemingly single-string Tigers engine room.

Two-goal blocks per term saw Melbourne built insurmountable scoreboard pressure, advancing 34-points clear before new Richmond vice-captain Sarah Hosking claimed her first major in the yellow and black. The goal came with just a couple of minutes left on the clock after the former Carlton midfielder was caught in a dangerous tackle at the top of the goalsquare.

In the end, Melbourne’s hardness at the ball and greater avenues to goal saw them through, with bouncy transition in the second half also proving telling in the result. The Demons’ victory was only soured by what looked to be a serious hamstring injury to young forward Krstel Petrevski, who limped off in the ground in the third quarter.

At the core of Melbourne’s midfield success, the centre bounce combination of Lily Mithen (20 disposals, seven tackles), Tyla Hanks (19 disposals, six tackles), and Karen Paxman (19 disposals, one goal) worked wonders in the win. All Australian Kate Hore was typically productive forward of centre, booting a game-high two goals alongside Bannan.

Monique Conti was unsurprisingly back to her best for Richmond, leading all comers with 27 touches after a touch less opposition attention than last round. 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie was again prominent with her explosiveness on the attack, gathering 15 disposals, while talls Frederick and Harriet Cordner dug in at either end of the ground.

The result leaves Richmond 0-2 and with plenty to do to get something out of season 2021, while Melbourne is poised beautifully at 2-0 and looks every bit the finals contender having been thereabouts for many consecutive seasons.

MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.1 | 5.2 | 7.2 (44)
RICHMOND 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Melbourne: A. Bannan 2, K. Hore 2, T. Cunningham, S. Scott, K. Paxman
Richmond: S. Frederick, S. Hosking

DC BEST:

Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, H. Cordner, S. Frederick
Melbourne: L. Mithen, K. Hore, T. Hanks, K. Paxman, A. Bannan, E. Zanker

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Dees dismantle Suns with five-goal second term

MELBOURNE Demons have opened their season with a win on the road, toppling Gold Coast Suns by 21 points at Metricon Stadium yesterday. Led by a dominant duo of Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, the Demons started slowly but recovered to win, 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35) in front of more than 1900 fans.

The original fixture had the Demons at home against Adelaide, but despite the Sunshine State being a fair distance from Casey Fields, Melbourne was determined to make it a home away from home. It did not look that way early when Jamie Stanton converted a goal in the first 30 seconds of the match. Six minutes later and Leah Kaslar had the Suns’ second and the margin was out to 12. It took until past the midway point of the quarter before known goalsneak Kate Hore finally put through a major, and when Tegan Cunningham converted her first of the 2021 season, the scores were level again. A strong pack mark from Gold Coast recruit Sarah Perkins in the dying seconds of the term resulted in her new side taking a seven-point lead into quarter time.

The second quarter belonged to the visitors though, as Melbourne piled on five goals, starting with an Eden Zanker major in the opening minute of the term. Krstel Petrevski and Shelley Heath provided spark at ground level and brought up their first goals, while Cunningham kicked another and when Hore converted her second in the final minute, Melbourne was out to a 22-point lead at the main break. Petrevski became the third multiple goalkicker with a major six minutes into the term, which meant the Demons had kicked 6.1 to 0.2 since quarter time, turning a seven-point deficit into a whopping 28-point lead in just 26 minutes of action.

Brittany Perry finally broke the drought for the home side a couple of minutes later, only for Mithen to counter with another major for the red and blue. Perkins kicked her second to prove her worth as a target inside 50, but despite their best efforts, the Suns had only shaved the half-time deficit by one point to 20 at the final change.

Needing a miracle, Leah Kaslar had a chance but missed, and in what was an anticlimactic finish – though more than suitable for Melbourne – the teams only managed the one behind apiece in the final term for the siren to sound with Melbourne winning 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35).

For the most part it looked like Paxman might rack up a record with 19 disposals at half-time, to finish with 25, as well as three marks and four tackles, while Mithen picked up 22 disposals and two marks to go with her goal. Tyla Hanks and Eliza McNamara battled above their heights to pick up 18 touches and lay six tackles between them, with McNamara’s debut one to remember. Jacqueline Parry (17 disposals) and both the Pearces – Daisy and Lauren – were also impressive, racking up 15 touches.

The Suns had a number of impressive players, with Stanton leading the way thanks to 18 disposals, three marks, two tackles and a goal, while Alison Drennan had 17 touches and nine tackles. Bess Keaney starred on debut herself with 15 disposals and six tackles. Looking ahead to Round 2, Gold Coast travel to Victoria Park on Saturday for an afternoon game, while Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields in the evening game.

GOLD COAST  3.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 5.5 (35)
MELBOURNE 2.0  | 7.1 | 9.1 | 9.2 (56)

GOALS
Gold Coast: Perkins 2, Stanton, Kaslar, Perry.
Melbourne: Cunningham 2, Hore 2, Petrevski 2, Zanker, Mithen, Heath.

ADC BEST 
Gold Coast: 
Stanton, Perkins, Keaney, Drennan, Ahrens
Melbourne: Paxman, Mithen, McNamara, L.Pearce, Cunningham, Hanks

Picture credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Phillips and Randall lead the Crows to a winning start

By: Tom Cheesman

Adelaide has produced a dominant second half to run away convincing 38-point winners against a young West Coast side at Mineral Resources Park. Premiership superstars Erin Phillips (23 disposals, five tackles, five marks, two goals) and Chelsea Randall (19 disposals, three marks, three tackles) led from the front and were a class above throughout the contest. Once numerous other premiership Crows stepped up in the second half, the Eagles struggled to get the ball into their forward 50 and could not overcome the Crows’ immense tackling pressure.

Chelsea Biddell gave her side a strong start when she collected the ball cleanly in congestion and kicked the first major of the match from 30-metres out. Draftee Ashleigh Woodland followed this up by kicking a nice snap goal with her first kick for the club, which was one of many impressive signs she showed on the day. Captain Randall, who missed the entire 2020 season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, started the game at half-forward and made an immediate impact by providing a focal point for her side and continually moving the ball forward. West Coast’s quarter went from bad to worse when Brianna Green exited the field with an ankle injury after a heavy collision in a marking contest. Najwa Allen’s ball movement out of defence was a highlight for the visitors early, as was their pressure game.

The Crows led the tackle count 25 to 14 at the first break, which was particularly important because this was an area that they struggled in last season. This was led by debutant Teah Charlton, who had a remarkable six tackles in just the opening quarter. West Coast started the second term with more aggression and won plenty of contested balls at centre clearances and around the ground. The Eagles got their first goal through Mikayla Bowen after a nice pass from Shanae Davison, but Woodland immediately responded with her second after some clean ball movement from Randall. An uncharacteristic poor turnover from ex-Giant Lisa Whiteley led to some great counter-attacking play from Ashlee Atkins, which Niamh Kelly used her pace to get on the end of and kick her first goal in AFLW. Just minutes later, Kellie Gibson had a golden chance to bring the Eagles to within a point but missed the running shot on goal. Phillips was a sole shining light for Adelaide in the second term, as she was powerful in the contest and turning around opponents very crisply on the outside.

The Crows were lucky to go into the main break with a five-point lead given West Coast’s dominance in that term. Early in the third, Phillips received a 50-metre penalty for an encroachment by the woman on the mark and kicked truly from the goal square. Encroachment 50-metre penalties were a theme of the day in AFLW, as Gold Coast were penalised heavily for them in their match against Melbourne earlier in the afternoon. Just minutes after kicking her first, Phillips kicked another goal, this time on her left after cleverly selling some candy in congestion. Adelaide’s pressure up forward continued to cause problems for the Eagles, as Charlton and Woodland created another turnover and the latter found Marinoff by foot for another major. Speedster Eloise Jones was tripped inside 50 and kicked truly after the siren to give Adelaide a 32-point lead at three-quarter time.

The Crows dominated the inside 50s again early in the last term but missed a few opportunities to extend their lead. This was until Phillips won a free kick on the 50-metre arc and found Ailish Considine with a nice pass, who kicked Adelaide’s eighth goal from 30 metres out. Although no more goals were kicked for the rest of the match, Gibson was dangerous up forward late and created some chances for the Eagles in the closing minutes. Former Bulldog Aisling McCarthy (15 disposals, two marks, seven tackles) and Emma Swanson (17 disposals, 11 tackles, two marks) were two shining lights for the Eagles throughout the contest. The Eagles will look to rebound next week against the relocated GWS Giants on Saturday at Norwood Oval. Meanwhile, Adelaide will look to build on their impressive second half when they take on Fremantle in a Sunday blockbuster.

WEST COAST 0.1 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 (18)
ADELAIDE 2.1 | 3.2 | 7.5 | 8.8 (56)

GOALS:
West Coast: M. Bowen, N. Kelly 1.
Adelaide: E. Phillips 2, A. Woodland 2, C. Biddell, E. Marinoff, E. Jones, A. Considine 1.

ADC BEST:
West Coast: E. Swanson, A. McCarthy, D. Hooker, A. Atkins, M. Bowen, N. Kelly
Adelaide: E. Phillips, C. Randall, N. Allen, E. Marinoff, N. Gore, T. Charlton

2021 AFLW Preview: Melbourne Demons

ONE of the most consistent sides in the competition, there is no doubt Melbourne have a great team at their disposal with plenty of gamechangers amongst the playing group and exciting talent in their midst. But a mass exodus and flurry of young newcomers in 2021 could see a highly different campaign this season, with many wondering what is next for the Demons and whether they can take that next step in the competition.

2020 RECAP

The Dees took a great step forward in season 2020, launching their maiden finals campaign and winning some excellent matches while they were at it, including a three-point come-from-behind cliffhanger over GWS GIANTS in the semi-final, a 59-point blitz against West Coast Eagles and a 20-point victory over fellow finalists, Collingwood. But losses to newcomer St Kilda and star-studded Carlton did the side no favours, while a constant injury cloud seemed to hang over the club with Ainsley Kemp, Shae Sloane and now-Blue Maddy Guerin sidelined with respective season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and both Lily Mithen and Lauren Pearce missing in action throughout the season in patches. Factor in Daisy Pearce’s return from having twins in 2019, and the side exceeded all expectations to finish third in Conference B and on the overall ladder in 2020. Quiet achiever Shelley Scott won the club’s Best and Fairest, while influential trio Karen Paxman, Libby Birch and Goal of the Year winner Kate Hore were all selected for the 2020 AFL Women’s All-Australian team.

NEW FACES

Melbourne welcomed a flurry of newcomers for 2021, adding six new faces during the 2020 AFLW Draft, following a huge trade period in which six experienced names departed the club. The Dees rocketed up the draft order though, leaping into top 10 contention – top three in Victoria – and picking up six young guns – Alyssa Bannan, Eliza McNamara, dual athlete Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons – who will help drive the side into the future. The Dees also picked up a third Irish recruit in Lauren Magee to join the likes of Niamh McEvoy and Sinead Goldrick, who joined the club for 2020.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

With so many talented players at their disposal, any number of Melbourne’s players could be the key link in season 2021. But with big departures across the field, this could be Tyla Hanks’ year to really take the midfield by storm after playing much of her first few seasons up the ground. The 2018 draftee will now enter her third season after showing plenty of promise across her first few seasons, and with an excellent turn of speed and sticky fingers, Hanks’ work rate and impact around the ground are unquestionable.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

While the Dees seem to be one of those sides that continuously sits outside finals contention over the past few seasons, something that could give the side a boost is their consistency. From finishing third in the first two seasons, to sitting fourth overall during the first conference season in 2019 and making finals in 2020 – again finishing overall third if we were to combine the two conference ladders, Melbourne certainly has the ability to remain a clear contender, especially given the talent at their disposal with Mithen, Hore and Eden Zanker all making clear strides last season. But consistency means nothing though if there is no development, so fans will hope for another step forward this season.

QUESTION MARK

Realistically, the main question mark hovering over the Dees in 2021 is how they will fare after losing a heap of experience over the off-season. The loss of goalsneak Aliesha Newman was one thing, but former co-captain Elise O’Dea also departed the club for Carlton – as did Guerin, with both players looking for a fresh start – sees a loss of depth through the midfield and driving forward. Factor in the additional losses of stalwarts Bianca Jakobsson, Harriet Cordner and Kat Smith, and the Dees have quite a few significant holes to fill. 

FINAL WORD

The fact that they have been unable to go that one step further over the past few seasons could be detrimental to the side as it looks to navigate a new season with a flurry of new faces. That being said, the Dees no doubt have the talent at their disposal, but will just need to create some more consistency through a much younger midfield this season. Expect the hunger to well and truly be there after an incomplete season, and a competitive playing group in 2021.

Image Credit: Michael Willson via AFL Photos