Tag: Emma King

Pies last quarter flurry steals victory after Roos mid-match turnaround

COLLINGWOOD has survived an epic qualifying final at Victoria Park, defeating North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos by just six points to advance through to record its first ever finals victory. Twelve months ago these sides went hammer and tongs at each other for four quarters with the Roos getting up in a thriller at Ikon Park, but fast forward 12 months and it was the black and whites – in front of fans at the Magpies’ spiritual home – that saluted, 7.8 (50) to 7.2 (44). The match had a case for one of the games of the season considering the stakes and the topsy-turvy nature. The Magpies took the early ascendancy, then the Roos looked to run away with it, kicking five consecutive goals – and six of seven – only for Collingwood to storm home in the final term and boot the last three goals of the match to record the most memorable of wins and advance through to next week’s preliminary final against Brisbane.

Key forward Sophie Alexander got the home team up and about early with a goal in the third minute, only for former Pie, Jasmine Garner to counter that with a major of her own five minutes later. It already meant the Roos had more goals on the board than their last match against the Magpies when they could only manage eight behinds in a disappointing loss at Etihad Stadium. Soon Chloe Molloy made her impact known with Collingwood’s second, and by the time Jaimee Lambert hit the scoreboard, the margin was out to 14 points and the crowd was excited. Both these teams were backing themselves to run and move the ball quickly, turning defence into offence. A couple of early behinds for the Magpies in the second term was punished by the Roos through Beth Lynch and Sophie Abbatangelo in the space of 90 seconds, cutting the deficit to just three points at the main break.

Whilst the half-time break might have been long enough for teams to reset, for North Melbourne it was just rolling on from the second term, as Abbatangelo kicked her second within 90 seconds, and the Roos were in front for the first time in the match. Lynch converted a second to match her teammate with a clever snap following a free kick, and then Ash Riddell made Sharni Norder pay following an error through pressure with the tackle, as the tightest of set shots proving no problem for the pocket rocket. With Riddell’s goal, it meant the Roos had slotted five consecutive goals in effectively 20 minutes and were out to a 13-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the third term. Creating something out of nothing, Alexander got boot to ball in a stoppage off a Molloy kick forward, but no sooner had she cut the deficit to seven points, it was back out to 14. Emma King let the home team off with a missed shot 25m out straight in front, but Daria Bannister was not going to make any mistake from point blank range when she crumbed the ball off a pack in the goalsquare.

The largest margin of the game was 14 points, with the Kangaroos now holding a firm advantage in the match and had one foot in the preliminary final. The Magpies needed something, and it came off the boot of Kristy Stratton, who slotted a crucial major less than four minutes into the match. Molloy missed a chance on goal on the run, but the Magpies were trying to play on at every chance, whilst the Roos were trying to control the tempo with possession football. What no one expected was for Molloy to dig deeper than even she had before, pulling out a trick that was unbelievable, snapping quickly under pressure and a right angle bounce that went over the head of the last Roos defender to bounce home and cut the deficit to just one point with 10 minutes to play. North Melbourne rushed it to the Roos’ end, but the Collingwood defence was up to the task and instead got the visitors on transition, booting it to Molloy inside 50, and her presence forced two Roos to spoil, and fortunately for the Magpies, the second black and white player was Tarni Brown who crumbed the ball and ran into an open goal to slam home a major and put her team in front.

After hilariously snapping a goal up the wrong end earlier in the match, Brown made sure she was headed to the right end when she crumbed it cleanly, ran into the open goal and put her side five points up. Alexander had a chance to make it a double-digit lead but missed with a couple of minutes left, making some wonder if the six-point difference might result in a draw. Luckily for the timekeepers it did not, as the Magpies desperately held on despite the Roos’ efforts to move the ball quickly, and Collingwood enjoyed its first finals win, and at Victoria Park to advance through to the preliminary final against Brisbane next week at the Gabba.

Brianna Davey had a ridiculous game, with 31 disposals, four marks and nine tackles, a clear best afield in the match. Despite a quiet first three quarters, Brittany Bonnici worked into the game in the final term with some great one-on-one contests to finish with 16 disposals and three marks, whilst Lambert shook off a knock in the third quarter to return to the field in the final term and end the game with 15 touches, two marks, three tackles and a goal herself. The usually-accurate Aisling Sheridan booted three behinds from 13 disposals and seven marks, whilst Stacey Livingstone (13 disposals, three marks and two tackles) and Ruby Schleicher (11 disposals, three marks) were steady as always in defence. Brown (12 disposals, three tackles), Ash Brazill (11 disposals, two marks and two behinds) and Alexander (10 disposals, three marks and two goals) were amongst the best for the winners.

Riddell was the standout Roo with 22 touches, three marks, three tackles and a goal, as her partners-in-crime, Emma Kearney (19 disposals, three marks and three tackles), Kaitlyn Ashmore (17 disposals, two marks and two tackles) and Jenna Bruton (13 disposals, three marks ad three tackles) were all busy. Garner (16 disposals, five marks, nine tackles and a goal) was right up there with Riddell, having an enormous impact on the game, whilst Ellie Gavalas (11 disposals, four marks and three tackles) and Vivian Saad (11 disposals, two mark s and seven tackles) brought the heat around the ball. Unfortunately for North Melbourne though, the loss meant the end of 2021, and the Roos will begin the planning for 2022.

COLLINGWOOD 3.2 | 3.4 | 4.6 | 7.8 (50)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.1 | 7.2 | 7.2 (44)

GOALS:

Collingwood: S. Alexander 2, C. Molloy 2, J. Lambert, K. Stratton, T. Brown.
North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo 2, B. Lynch 2, J. Garner, A. Riddell, D. Bannister.

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, C. Molloy, S. Livingstone, R. Schleicher, J. Lambert
North Melbourne: A. Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney. K. Ashmore, J. Bruton

Picture credit: Getty Images

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

Roos dominant first half sees them home against Tigers

NORTH Melbourne has strung back-to-back wins to get its AFL Women’s season back on track thanks to a dominant 35-point victory over Richmond. The Tigers, who grabbed the first win in their club’s history last week, were on the back foot from the get-go as the Roos piled on the first six goals of the match, and never looked back from there during the 10.7 (67) to 5.2 (32) victory at the Swinburne Centre.

North Melbourne dominated the opening half, scoring 3.2 in the first term and then 3.3 in the second quarter to race out to a 6.5 to 0.2 lead, keeping the Tigers goalless at half-time. After a three-goal effort for Richmond’s VFL Women’s affiliate Port Melbourne last week, Christina Bernardi was the first goalscorer for the yellow and black, coming two minutes into the third term. There was a minor resurgence for the home team, as Richmond, through Tayla Stahl and Courtney Wakefield, brought the margin back to within 21 points at the final break.

Needing at least four goals to cause an almighty upset, it was Georgia Hammond who put the final nail in the coffin early in the last term, kicking a goal to put the result beyond doubt at 27 points. Bernardi went on to kick her second goal moments later, but when Daisy Bateman, Daria Bannister and Emma Kearney all converted majors, the lead was at a blowout 41 points. Katie Brennan got one back for the Tigers for a final deficit of 35 points.

Bateman finished with two goals from 14 disposals, three marks and two tackles, while Emma King snagged two first half goals up forward. In an even team performance, the Roos had eight individual goalkickers, including the red-hot Jasmine Garner (22 disposals, four marks, five tackles and one goal) and Kearney (17 disposals, three marks, two tackles and one goal). The Tigers had Bernardi as the sole multiple goalkicker, also picking up seven touches, two marks and three tackles upon her return.

The top seven ball-winners were all wearing the blue and white, led by Ash Riddell (25 disposals, four marks and five tackles), Garner, Ellie Gavalas (19 disposals), Kaitlyn Ashmore (19 disposals, seven marks) and Jenna Bruton (18 disposals, seven marks and four tackles). For Richmond, number one selection in last year’s draft, Ellie McKenzie had a team-high 16 disposals, as well as four tackles, while Harriet Cordner (13 disposals, seven marks and two tackles), Iilish Ross (12 disposals, two tackles) and Kate Dempsey (12 disposals, three marks) also won their fair share of the ball.

North Melbourne head down to the Apple Isle in Round 7 to face the Western Bulldogs in a 5.10pm fixture on Saturday, while Richmond will have a straight seven days to recover, flying north to Metricon Stadium to face Gold Coast Suns on Friday night.

RICHMOND 0.1 | 0.2 | 3.2 | 5.2 (32)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2  | 6.5 | 6.5 | 10.7 (67)

GOALS
Richmond: 
Bernardi 2, Stahl, Wakefield, Brennan.
North Melbourne: King 2, Bateman 2, Garner, Eddey, Abbatangelo, Hammond, Bannister, Kearney.

DC BEST
Richmond: 
McKenzie, Cordner, Brennan, Bernardi, Hosking,
North Melbourne: Riddell, Garner, Ashmore, Gavalas, Bateman, King

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

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 2 preview – Pioneer Blues and Bulldogs open Pride Round

PRIDE is the theme of Round 2 in the 2021 AFL Women’s season, as the competition holds its inaugural Pride Round. The Western Bulldogs and Carlton, who have previously hosted annual Pride matches, will open the weekend’s action on Friday night as the remaining fixtures fall into place after multiple shake-ups. Remarkably, all seven games are set to go ahead in the rejigged round, with results as important as ever among the continual pandemic-produced unpredictability.

Note: All start times are local

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton
Friday February 5, 7:45pm
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Carlton kick off Pride Round at Whitten Oval on Friday night, marking a historic and important event on the AFL Women’s calendar. Both sides remain searching for their first wins in 2021 after opening round losses, with a dreaded 0-2 start awaiting the team which goes down once again.

Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke has enacted four changes to the side which lost to St Kilda, with young pups Gemma Lagioia and Britney Gutknecht among the casualties. Carlton has been forced into just one change, as key defender Mua Laloifi misses through the updated concussion protocols and is replaced by Jess Edwards at half-back.

Laloifi’s absence may open the door for the Dogs to excel in attack, leaving Charlotte Wilson to shoulder a heap of intercept work against a forwardline spearheaded by Izzy Huntington. But the ball will have to get there first, with Carlton’s hardened midfield out to prove a point having been definitively blitzed by Collingwood in the second term last time out.

Tip: The Bulldogs are slowly finding their feet, but the Blues should come out firing after a shock loss. Wet weather will play a factor in the margin, Blues by 11.

Collingwood vs. Geelong
Saturday February 6, 3:10pm
Victoria Park

A fixture shuffle has seen Collingwood and Geelong land each other in Round 2, with football returning to the Magpies’ spiritual home of Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon. The Cats are coming off a 62-point drubbing at the hands of North Melbourne, while Collingwood opened the season with an impressive upset victory over traditional rival, Carlton, making for very contrasting formlines.

The Magpies’ midfield was excellent last time out and a new-look forwardline featuring Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey looks poised for more success in 2021. One of the Cats’ best lines is its defence though, with skipper Meghan McDonald supported well by the likes of Maddy McMahon, Amy McDonald, and Millie Brown.

Collingwood will be without recruit Aliesha Newman after she was handed a one-week ban for her sling tackle on Carlton’s Laloifi, but the Pies’ confidence should be sky high nonetheless. On the other hand, Geelong will have to quickly pick up the pieces to recover here, especially after an impotent display forward of centre in Round 1.

Tip: Collingwood looks set to be one of the big risers in 2021 and while Geelong has potential, its young side will likely work in peaks and troughs. Another trough here for the Cats, Pies by 23.

Melbourne vs. Richmond
Saturday February 6, 5:10pm
Casey Fields

Riding the wave of a Round 1 win, Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields on Saturday night looking to go two from two. Both sides took on Queensland teams last week but came out with contrasting results; as the Dees clicked into gear after quarter time to trump Gold Coast, while Richmond could only hang with Brisbane for a half before giving way in a five-goal loss.

The Lions may have uncovered a continued area of weakness for Richmond after tagging Monique Conti out of the first half, with Melbourne’s engine room typically an area of depth and prosperity. The Dees should again thrive in the midfield battle, though look for the likely tussle between first year jets Ellie McKenzie and Eliza McNamara to provide great entertainment on the outer.

Melbourne could quickly stake its claim for another finals berth should it string together some early wins, but the Tigers have shown signs of improvement and will hardly go down easily. Still searching for their maiden AFLW win, the Tigers have plenty to play for and will hope to avoid being the league’s cellar dweller for a second year running.

Tip: Melbourne looks a side determined to keep touch with the true premiership contenders, but cannot be caught lacking against the hungry Tigers. Still, the red and blue side should be too good all around the ground, Dees by 27.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda
Sunday February 7, 1:10pm
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne will be out to build on its formidable early form, if possible, when St Kilda rolls into Arden Street Oval for their Sunday afternoon clash. The Roos set a high ceiling with their maiden 2021 performance, which yielded the greatest opening round percentage in AFL/AFLW history. St Kilda is also in winning form, though having shaken off the Western Bulldogs in Moorabbin.

It is no secret that North Melbourne bats a ridiculously deep midfield, boasting arguably the most damaging brigade of ball winners in the competition. St Kilda’s young pair of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith will do their best to match the forward run-and-carry of North’s prime movers, especially after such promising showings last week.

North Melbourne has plenty of avenues to goal, with rotating ruck Emma King back to her scoring ways after three goals last week, while the Saints also showed they will not be entirely dependant on spearhead Caitlin Greiser to kick a winning score. Matching the Roos’ firepower will be tough, but could be manageable depending on the conditions and North Melbourne’s mood.

Tip: St Kilda will likely provide a much greater test for North and should stick with them in patches, but do not quite have the stock to go with a switched-on blue and white outfit for four quarters, Roos by 21.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast
Sunday February 7, 2:10pm
Hickey Park

The second-ever AFL Women’s Q-Clash is set to go down on Sunday afternoon, as the Lions and Suns meet at Hickey Park having initially been poised against Victorian opponents. The makeshift fixture should provide fireworks, with last year’s inaugural all-Queensland dig ending in an enthralling draw, meaning bragging rights are well and truly up for grabs here.

Brisbane will look to replicate last year’s early run of form with a second win on the trot, while Gold Coast is still out to open its account for the season after an opening round loss to Melbourne. Both sides boast some terrific young talent, with the Lions’ Isabel Dawes fresh off a best-afield performance, and Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth hungry to hit the scoreboard after a goalless outing last week.

The experience is also there, headlined by Brisbane’s strong foundation crop – which may soon be bolstered by Jess Wuetschner – and opposed by Gold Coast’s new-look forwardline, which features vice-captain Sarah Perkins. Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan will have plenty to do in midfield against the Lions’ strong ball winners, making for an intriguing clearance battle.

Tip: You can never count the fighting Suns out, especially with their youthful exuberance, but the Lions look a slight step ahead and should come away with bragging rights over their neighbours. Lions by 10.

GWS vs. Adelaide
Sunday February 7, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

GWS is back home after a well-travelled preseason, set to host Adelaide at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday evening. Both teams were thrown into isolation after Round 1 and have undergone improvised solo training sessions for most of the week, which will inevitably show in how either side adjusts to the disruptions thrown their way.

Adelaide looks like quickly returning to its fearsome best in 2021, with the Crows’ many stars aligning to win big las week. Erin Phillips will hope to again take hold as she gets a clean run at it, while some added dynamism in the potential moving parts of Chelsea Randall, Ebony Marinoff, and Sarah Allan will give GWS plenty of headaches.

The Giants have showcased their fighting spirit and have the experience to give the Crows a good run here. An even five-goal loss to Fremantle in Round 1 was less than ideal on a pure results basis, but some strong contested work in the first half should put GWS in good stead to compete against top sides, like Adelaide, for periods of time.

Tip: Revenge will be in mind after GWS ended Adelaide’s finals hopes last year, and the visitors should have too much grunt going forward from midfield. Crows by 26.

Fremantle vs. West Coast
Sunday February 7, 4:15pm
Fremantle Oval

The Western Derby is on in Round 2 after last-minute confirmation of the bout came today, with Fremantle and West Coast set to lock horns in the weekend’s closing fixture. Akin to players in the Adelaide-GWS clash, both teams have been limited training-wise with just an hour of exercise permitted under Western Australia’s lockdown laws.

Freo looks every bit the powerhouse last year’s undefeated run suggested, maintaining their winning streak with a powerful Round 1 victory. West Coast looks an improved side despite falling well short of Adelaide in the end. While the Eagles managed 2.6 (18), the Dockers excelled with 8.10 (58) in their opening fixture.

That immense gap in scoring should again prove telling, with Fremantle’s dynamic and game-breaking forward movers in Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy difficult to keep down, especially as Kara Antonio and Kiara Bowers move the ball forward with class from the outside and inside of midfield.

Tip: Fremantle has the early bragging rights in this rivalry and will likely continue to hold as much after Sunday’s clash. With too much going forward, Dockers by 40.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Roos romp to record-breaking opening round victory

NORTH Melbourne sent an early statement to the rest of the competition on Sunday, romping to a mammoth 62-point win over Geelong at Kardinia Park. The Roos took little time to establish their dominance as tall forward Emma King booted three majors in the opening term, setting a strong platform for the 11.5 (71) to 1.3 (9) victory. The result made for North’s largest-ever winning margin, and sets a new record for the highest Round 1 percentage in AFL/AFLW history.

The hardened Kangaroos outfit proved too big and strong both around the ball and up forward for a youthful Geelong side, seeing them accelerate in each term and form a formidable lead. Having been held scoreless for the first three terms, the Cats got on the board early in the final quarter before veteran ruck Aasta O’Connor booted her side’s lone major of the game in the dying minutes.

Along with King, second year forward/midfielder Ellie Gavalas chimed in with three majors of her own, while league best and fairest chance Jasmine Garner snared two to go with 18 disposals. Isabella Eddey had a debut to remember as she also found the big sticks, manufactured by some fearsome work from Daria Bannister as the play unfolded. Emma Kearney (22 disposals), Ash Riddell (20), and Jenna Bruton (19) were typically productive around the ball and far too polished on the attack for Geelong’s lineup to maintain.

Superfluous to say, most of Geelong’s biggest contributors were stationed in defence, with youngster Amy McDonald starting her season on the right foot with an 18-disposal effort. The 23-year-old was a cool head in Geelong’s defensive crisis, but could only do so much on the counter as the ball consistently found its way back. Skipper Meghan McDonald had a tough job on her hands among the undersized and under-siege backline but fared well, while star midfielder Olivia Purcell picked up from where she left off with 17 touches and seven tackles.

The Cats face another tough ask in travelling to face Brisbane next Sunday afternoon, as North Melbourne returns to home base to take on fellow Round 1 winner, St Kilda earlier on the same day. While one side looks every bit the premiership contender, the other will be licking its wounds after a harsh opening to season 2021.

FINAL SCORE:

GEELONG 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.3 (9)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.0 | 5.2 | 8.4 | 11.5 (71)

GOALS:

Geelong: A. O’Connor
North Melbourne: E. King 3, E. Gavalas 3, J. Garner 2, I. Eddey, S. Abbatangelo, K. Ashmore

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. McDonald, O. Purcell, M. McDonald
North Melbourne: E. King, J. Garner, E. Kearney, E. Gavalas, J. Bruton, A. Riddell

Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

ROARING SECOND HALF SEES LIONS TOPPLE THE TIGERS

Brisbane opened its account for season 2021 at the first time of asking, shaking off Richmond after half time to secure a 29-point win on the road. In the first ever AFL Women’s fixture held at Punt Road Oval, the Tigers’ homecoming was spoiled by Brisbane’s three-goal to nil second half which set up the 5.11 (41) to 1.6 (12) final scoreline.

As expected on the back of its concession-aided recruitment drive, Richmond made noticeable improvements after a winless maiden campaign and was only a goal adrift at the main break. It came after Brisbane utilised the scoring end well in the opening term, gaining good early momentum through its control of the engine room and typically sturdy defensive structure in the face of Richmond’s quick ball movement.

While it was hardly a case of the floodgates being forced open, Brisbane prettied up the scoreboard nicely with a closing effort beyond the years of its young squad, all while keeping the Tigers goalless after half time. Courtney Wakefield‘s second term major from the goalsquare proved her side’s lone goal for the game, as skipper Katie Brennan could only manage a hat-trick of behinds.

Gun Richmond midfielder Monique Conti was contained well by Cathy Svarc, who collected nine of her 10 touches in the opening half, while Gabrielle Seymour led the Tigers’ count with 16 disposals. Under-the-radar recruit Harriet Cordner was also terrific down back in the losing effort, while number one draft pick Ellie McKenzie showed promise on the outer in her AFLW debut.

For the Lions, 19-year-old Isabel Dawes looks a big improver having notched a career-high 21 disposals, leading all comers for the day. Nat Grider is another in that boat as she gathered 16 touches from defence, while Emily Bates and Sophie Conway were not far behind from midfield. Greta Bodey was the game’s only multiple goalkicker with two, as speedy debutant Courtney Hodder managed 1.2.

The Lions will be looking to form an early winning streak as they carry their momentum back home ahead of hosting Geelong at Hickey Park, while Richmond is set to take on Melbourne at Casey Fields in what looks like a tough assignment – if Round 1 results are anything to go by, at least.

FINAL SCORE:

RICHMOND 0.2 | 1.4 | 1.6 | 1.6 (12)
BRISBANE 2.3 | 2.4 | 4.8 | 5.11 (41)

GOALS:

Richmond: C. Wakefield
Brisbane: G. Bodey 2, C. Hodder, T. Hickie, D. Davidson

DC BEST:

Richmond: H. Cordner, G. Seymour, E. McKenzie
Brisbane: I. Dawes, N. Grider, E. Bates, S. Conway, C. Svarc

Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos

DOCKERS DEMOLISH GIANTS IN SPARKLING SECOND HALF

Fremantle’s undefeated streak and dominant home record extended into 2021, as the Dockers accounted for a spirited GWS side by 30 points at Fremantle Oval on Sunday. It was a game of great emotion, most significantly for those in charcoal and orange as they commemorated inaugural Giant, Jacinda Barclay, who passed away in October last year.

The travelling team was largely competitive in the early stages, trailing by just five points at each of the first two breaks. But Fremantle’s smothering tackling pressure, dynamism and searing run forward of centre proved too much to handle after half time, with the 8.10 (58) to 4.4 (28) result coming thanks to the Dockers’ five-goal to three second half.

The forward wombo combo of tall Gemma Houghton and small Sabreena Duffy again worked wonders for Freo, with the pair both snaring three goals in scintillating displays. Houghton came to life after the main break to find all of her three goals as the game opened up, with her dual threat of pace and aerial presence a true handful. Duffy was also menacing inside 50, displaying her rare goal sense.

Ever-consistent midfielder Kiara Bowers will again be a key feature through midfield as she amassed a team-high 21 touches, partnered well by Jasmin Stewart on the inside while skipper Kara Antonio bossed the outer. Alyce Parker returned a stellar display for the Giants with 28 touches, a game-high tally matched by teammate Rebecca Beeson.

GWS is booked to face West Coast at Norwood Oval next having escaped Western Australia in time before the state’s proposed lockdown period, while Fremantle has fellow opening round victor, Adelaide next on the agenda at the same venue.

FINAL SCORE:

FREMANTLE 1.2 | 2.3 | 5.8 | 8.10 (58)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.3 | 1.4 | 2.4 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton 3, S. Duffy 3, K. Antonio, M. Hyde
GWS: A. Schmidt, R. Beeson, T. Davies, E. Bennetts

DC BEST:

Fremantle: G. Houghton, K. Bowers, S. Duffy, J. Stewart, K. Antonio
GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, A. Eva

Draft Central’s 2021 AFLW season predictions

WITH the 2021 AFL Women’s season bouncing down tomorrow night, the Draft Central editors have penned their predictions for this year’s proceedings. Below are our favourites in the premiership race, the potential risers and sliders, leading goalkicker candidates, rising star contenders, and the competition best and fairest contenders.

>> SCROLL to see our full predictions

Among the trends, three of the four tipsters predicted grand final heartbreak for North Melbourne, with Fremantle the favourite choice for premiership glory. Carlton and Adelaide were also tipped for top two finishes, with the Crows also a popular selection in the riser category after their disappointing 2020 campaign. Melbourne and GWS will be out to prove the Draft Central crew wrong, selected twice each as this year’s most likely slider.

In terms of individual honours, Carlton midfielder Madison Prespakis was backed to take out consecutive best and fairest awards, with Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn and Collingwood gun Jaimee Lambert also in the conversation. Another in contention is North Melbourne’s Jasmine Garner, who was also a surprise leading goalkicker tip. Iconic Carlton high-flyer Tayla Harris was the most popular choice though, while Chloe Molloy could prove a shrewd pick as she looks to swing forward this year.

It was no surprise to see the 2020 number one pick, Ellie McKenzie backed most often for the rising star award, with other identified challengers including former Northern Knights teammate Jess Fitzgerald and fellow NAB League graduate Tyanna Smith. All three were taken within the top six selections and are primed for full seasons of first team football.

Outside of the nominated entires, Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers will almost inevitably feature highly in the league best and fairest count, while Karen Paxman is also a good shout depending on how Melbourne fare this time around. North skipper Emma Kearney is still considered by many to be the competition’s best player, while Adelaide ball magnets Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff (if cleared), Erin Phillips, Bri Davey, Monique Conti, and Dana Hooker could also be thereabouts. Do not be surprised to see young guns Alyce Parker and Olivia Purcell move into the elite category too, if they had not already.

2020 regular season leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser was surprisingly overlooked for the same award by our editors this time around, while dynamic Fremantle duo Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy. will be sure to trouble the scorers aplenty. Brisbane spearhead Jesse Wardlaw should be up there again alongside teammate Jess Wuetschner, while North’s Emma King will hope for an improved season in front of goal, Kalinda Howarth is always dangerous, and Kaitlyn Ashmore should not be forgotten either. Geelong’s Phoebe McWilliams is another in that boat, primed for a big season.

SEASON PREDICTIONS

Michael Alvaro
AFL(W) Draft Editor

Premier: Carlton
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: GWS
B&F: Jaimee Lambert
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Jess Fitzgerald
Headline: Morrison makes a midseason splash as Cats push for finals

Taylah Melki
Managing Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Prespakis wins back-to-back best and fairest awards

Sophie Taylor
Senior Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: Carlton
Riser: Collingwood
Slider: GWS
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Jasmine Garner
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Dees dump doubters to make finals

Peter Williams
Chief Editor

Premier: Adelaide
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Ellie Blackburn
Leading goalkicker: Chloe Molloy
Rising star: Tyanna Smith
Headline: Triple treat for Crows as Adelaide wins third flag

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis is the clubhouse best and fairest favourite | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: North Melbourne Kangaroos

PERENNIAL premiership contender, North Melbourne will be hoping to bounce into consecutive finals series’ after its promising 2020 run was cut short. The Roos managed to maintain much of their strong core heading into this season and have added even more quality – not just to the overall squad, but also to the starting lineup with a star returnee. Under new head coach, Darren Crocker, expectations will be high at Arden Street.

2020 RECAP

A shock opening round loss to Melbourne could have derailed North Melbourne’s season before it even started, but instead served to emphatically kick the Roos into gear. The Roos got on the board with a steady three-goal win over GWS in Round 2 and never looked back, notching three victories of over 40 points among a fearsome undefeated run heading into finals. After finishing top of Conference A at 5-1, North was very nearly handed another upset loss in the postseason, but narrowly accounted for Collingwood to qualify for the would-have-been preliminary finals round. Skipper Emma Kearney was named vice-captain of the All Australian squad, joined by fellow midfielders Jasmine Garner and Ash Riddell in the side as outstanding individual performers. Kaitlyn Ashmore finished as leading goalkicker with 10 goals, one major ahead of Garner in the most potent side competition-wide.

NEW FACES

A handful of draftees were joined by emerging former-Richmond midfielder Grace Campbell in finding their way to Arden Street, adding some spark and plenty of potential to the Roos’ squad depth. 25-year-old Campbell is a raw talent who brings plenty of speed and tenacity to the engine room, making the squeeze for spots all the more tight after five appearances in her debut AFLW season.

Bella Eddey headlined the Roos’ draft haul at pick 13 and is aptly nicknamed ‘Silk’, credit to her wonderful skill on the ball. The 18-year-old will likely start forward alongside fellow NAB League graduate Alice O’Loughlin, but both have the potential to move through midfield in future. Also among the fresh faces are surprise father-daughter selection Amy Smith, VFLW coup Georgia Hammond, and Tasmanian Brooke Brown. North VFLW product Katelyn Cox was also given a chance through unlisted free agency after Elisha King‘s season-ending hamstring injury.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Fans of all clubs will likely be looking forward to seeing what Jess Duffin can produce upon her return in 2021, with the former Magpie ready to add to her seven outings in the blue and white during 2019. An All Australian that season, the 31-year-old is far from finished in the top flight and will slot straight back into the Roos’ defensive setup. Her clean skills will only aid North’s ability to move the ball efficiently via foot, only raising her side’s potential to hurt the opposition going forward. With stars aplenty already littered across the Roos’ starting side, Duffin looks primed to serve a reminder of her own talents.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Kearney, Garner, Riddell, Jenna Bruton – the list goes on. This North Melbourne side is stacked through the midfield and as has already been showcased, the Roos are as lethal as any side going forward. Dominating out of the middle goes a long way to doing exactly that on the scoreboard, which is the most significant factor in North’s premiership potential. Kearney and Garner can find the goals, there’s Emma King rotating forward through the ruck, Kate Gillespie-Jones standing tall, and the dynamic duo of Ashmore and Daisy Bateman inside 50 – all of whom prove that North has the stock to capitalise on its engine room prowess.

QUESTION MARK

It is difficult to find a fault with this North Melbourne side on paper, but one may ponder whether the Roos have missed the boat. 2019 may have been their inaugural season, but the Roos missed finals despite looking like a top two contender. Their run was cut short last year through no fault of their own, so can they maintain that level of performance for a third year running? Other teams like Fremantle and Carlton are only getting better, while Adelaide will be hungry to bounce back from a down season. The Roos have the stock and have only added to that, but the pressure will be on.

FINAL WORD

One of the competition’s powerhouse teams will surely accept nothing less than another finals win in 2021, with the chance for a maiden AFL Women’s premiership beckoning. The Roos’ stars are aligning and there are very few weaknesses to be exploited across the ground, making Crocker’s side one of the teams to beat once again. A tough early-mid-season fixture will truly test North’s credentials.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

ADC BEST:

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