Tag: Georgia Patrikios

Saints fire up to deal further damage to lowly Cats

CROWDS returned to Victorian AFL Women’s matches on Friday night as St Kilda hosted Geelong to open Round 4, with the Saints well and truly getting the points on the board at home at RSEA Park in Moorabbin in a hotly contested clash, 7.9 (51) to 3.4 (22).

It was very much a midfield-dominated game in the early stage of the match, with the visitors unable to apply the forward pressure required to get on the board despite a couple of early opportunities and both sides using their pressing defence. An excellent bomb forward directly into the hands of Caitlin Greiser proved the Saints were there to play, with the star forward booting her first of the evening, and despite a couple of nervous moments in the latter stages of the quarter, it was the Saints that prevailed in a tight contest to lead at the first change, albeit by a meagre five points. 

The tight contest continued in the second, with both sides applying a wealth of defensive pressure and denying any easy clearances. But an early 50-metre penalty and goal from Richelle Cranston saw the Cats take a one-point lead, with the physical contest showcasing plenty of talent as the experienced names across the ground piled on the pressure as much as the young stars of the game. Quick ball movement was the theme of the quarter with both teams under a wealth of pressure, but a couple of missed opportunities from both sides kept the scores low as the match fired up. 

But whilst the Cats, led from the back by Meg McDonald, piled on the defensive pressure to continuously propel ball outside of their back 50, the defensive unit from the Saints had a setup and stuck with it, forcing the ball back forward with Kate Shierlaw and Darcy Guttridge looking dangerous around the pack. Some more patient kicking allowed the Cats to get some separation through the midfield to drive forward, but a defensive flood back from the Saints made life hard as the two sides could not be separated. Rosie Dillon and Olivia Purcell both had the game on their terms throughout the first half, proving strangleholds for their respective sides.

Tilly Lucas-Rodd made her presence felt early in the second half with a couple of excellent forward forays, but the Saints’ efforts went unrewarded inside 50 as inaccuracy forward continued to plague the home side, controlling the airways but unable to capitalise. A quieter first half from Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith was quick to change as the young firecrackers were in everything to start the second half, while it was Shierlaw who finally managed to break through the Cats defence, booting a cracking running goal to extend the lead to 10 points. A Bella Shannon goal extended the Saints to an 18-point lead, with the Saints peppering the scoreboard as the tired-looking Cats struggled to stop the Saints through the midfield. What looked like a certain goal from Geelong’s Steph Williams was spoiled by the Saints’ backline brigade, as the momentum had well and truly turned. A Greiser goal after the siren was the icing on the cake to finish off an excellent quarter for the Saints, with a whopping 25-point lead at the final change, rendering the Cats scoreless.

Despite a lighting issue at RSEA Park, the final quarter continued with Geelong flying out of the blocks with nothing to lose. Once more it was the likes of Patrikios and Smith creating the goods around the ground with their excellent one-two punch, with a beautiful spearpoint kick to Jacqui Vogt being rewarded with a 50m penalty and goal, whilst a third Greiser major add further insult to injury as the scoreline extended to 37 points. A maiden Georgie Rankin goal lessened the margin a fraction as the Cats put their first goal on the board since the five-minute mark of the first, and while it was followed by a Phoebe McWilliams goal not long after, it was too little, too late from the Cats. A Kate McCarthy major well and truly put the nail in the coffin for Geelong, as they head home with a fourth straight loss to start the season.

What started out as a hard fought slog turned into a slaughter, as the Saints piled on the pressure for an excellent 29-point victory. Rebecca Webster and Amy McDonald led all-comers in the loss, racking up 24 and 21 touches respectively, while it was Lucas-Rodd who led the Saints charge with19 touches. But the combination of Patrikios (17 disposals, two tackles) and Smith (16 and 11) continues to work wonders, with the duo using their game smarts to mop up the competition. Greiser equalled her personal best with three goals on the board from nine touches and three marks, while Nat Exon and McDonald both piled on the physicality with six tackles apiece.

ST KILDA | 1.1 | 1.3 | 4.9 | 7.9 (51)
GEELONG | 0.2 | 1.2 | 1.2 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser 3, I. Shannon, K McCarthy, J. Vogt, K. Shierlaw.
Geelong: R. Cranston, P. McWilliams, G. Rankin.

DC BEST:

St Kilda: R. Dillon, T. Smith, G. Patrikios, T. Lucas-Rodd, C. Greiser
Geelong: R. Webster, O. Purcell, A. McDonald, M. McDonald, S. Van De Heuvel

Image Credit: AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Giants outlast Suns in wet conditions for maiden 2021 win

THE Greater Western Sydney Giants finally put a win on the board on Saturday afternoon, defeating Gold Coast Suns in a rain-affected encounter at Blacktown International Sportspark, 2.6 (18) to 1.2 (8). Both teams were coming into this match off the back of comprehensive Round 2 losses, and while the Suns pressed hard after a tough first quarter, it was to no avail in the wet weather as they failed to put a major on the board until the final minutes of the match.

In an excellent start to the match the Giants were just about unstoppable, hogging the footy as Alyce Parker and Bec Beeson could not be separated from the action, as Taylah Davies and Alicia Eva slotted early goals to open proceedings and put some space between them and the traveling Suns. While the Suns were relatively composed running out of half back and dominated the marking contest, led by Jade Pregelj who collected a number of rebounds and Alison Drennan who piled on the physicality, the side could not clear the footy through the tightly contested Giants as a clogged midfield continuously sent the ball soaring back inside 50. While the tides changed in the second, with a clear scoring end coming to fruition as the Suns piled on the offensive pressure, the away side just could not pile on the scoreboard intensity they needed with the footy continuously rebounding between Lauren Ahrens and Elle Bennetts. A 15-point margin at quarter time only slightly changed to 16 points as the main break came around, with both sides failing to put a goal on the board.

Whilst the weather cleared up in the second half, the slippery conditions remained as frantic footy was played through the midfield and a tight one-on-one defence from both sides denied any easy chances for clearances. While the Suns denied the Giants a single goal after the first term and Jamie Stanton finally broke the drought with a Suns goal in the last minutes of the match, it was a tough slog for the Suns in a much tighter encounter than the scoreline suggested.

The trio of Parker (24 disposals and five tackles), Beeson (23 and seven) and Eva (15 and one goal) was impressive as ever, while Haneen Zreika was unstoppable early to finish with seven tackles and opposing rucks Erin McKinnon and Lauren Bella racked up 20 hitouts apiece. The Suns’ physicality was excellent with Drennan (22 disposals, 12 tackles) combing well with Serene Watson and Hannah Dunn (eight and seven tackles, respectively) while Ahrens and Stanton were also solid.

Image Credit: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

GWS GIANTS | 2.3 | 2.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
GOLD COAST SUNS | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Giants: T. Davies, A. Eva
Suns: J. Stanton

DC BEST:

Giants: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, A. Eva, B. Tully
Suns: A. Drennan, J. Stanton, L. Ahrens, M. Levi, S. Watson

Credit: Getty Images

Experienced Blues overawe Saints

The second match of the evening saw the Saints host the Blues at Moorabbin, in the first crowd-less matchup of the round. Perfect conditions in Melbourne saw the home side get off to the perfect start, as Caitlin Greiser would not be rendered goalless for the second straight round and put the first goal through for the match with minute left in the quarter as the Saints dominated the early stages. With Greiser taking centre stage up forward for the Saints, the Blues would not be left wondering what could be playing an extra back to lighten the load of the likes of Mua Laloifi, but Greiser’s beautiful gather and goal from an angle well and truly outclassed the Blues backwoman on return from injury, allowing the Saints some breathing space and a slight seven-point upper hand heading into the first change.

But it was not all doom and gloom for Carlton, as the side picked up their game as the second term rolled around with two shocking weeks behind them and no desire to head in that same direction once more, as the side well and truly took advantage of the blustery wind to pile on the scoreboard pressure in the second quarter. It took only a perfect start from Elise O’Dea who was sent forward to do what she does best, hitting the scoreboard quickly and seeing the rest of the side pick up their game immediately as Maddy Prespakis got in on the action with a snap out of the back of a contest, and seeing a couple of excellent chains of handballs keep the footy moving fast down the field, evading Saints’ possession. While it was the experienced Blues cohort that got the show on the road in the second quarter, it was the young talent that lifted in the second half as Prespakis was aided by Grace Egan, Georgia Gee and Abbie McKay, with the latter two finding much more of the footy as the match opened up. A Kate Shierlaw purple patch – including the Saints’ second goal – was cut short as the tall was briefly sent off the field for a head knock, whilst the likes of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith were influential around the footy, matching up well against the Blues’ talent but unable to apply the offensive pressure the side so sorely needed.

A tough contest was had in the final term, and while the Saints proved they were more than capable of taking the game on, it was not enough as the Blues had the momentum and wind going in their favour. Whilst the Saints midfield and back-end worked in overdrive to push the footy forward once more, the Blues shut down the centre corridor and minimised options on the wing to continuously propel the footy back inside their attacking 50. Nic Stevens‘ second goal of the game – a soccer off the ground from within the square – well and truly put the ice on the cake for the then-winless Blues, as the side ran home with a solid 6-4 (40) to 2.4 (16) victory.

For the successful Blues, Prespakis and Egan led the way with 24 touches apiece, combining for eight tackles between them while McKay was not far behind with 17 touches and seven tackles alone. O’Dea had her best match in the navy blue, piling 21 disposals onto her season tally and booting the side’s opening goal, while Jess Hosking and Breann Moody were solid as ever. For the Saints, Patrikios was excellent with 20 disposals and five tackles, while Hannah Priest (18 disposals, six tackles and five marks) and Rosie Dillon (14 disposals and nine tackles) were also solid targets around the ground.

ST KILDA | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)
CARLTON | 0.0 | 3.1 | 5.1 | 6.4 (40)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, K. Shierlaw
Carlton: N. Stevens 2, L. Brazzale, M. Downie, E. O’Dea, M. Prespakis

DC BEST:

St Kilda: G. Patrikios, R. Dillon, H. Priest, K. Shierlaw, T. Lucas-Rodd
Carlton: M. Prespakis, G. Egan, E. O’Dea, A. McKay, J. Hosking

Credit: Getty Images

Dees triumph thanks to second term

demolition

Melbourne reigned supreme in an almighty top four battle as the Demons came from behind to claim an emphatic nine-point win over North Melbourne 9.6 (60) to 8.3 (51). Both sides headed into the Round 3 match undefeated but Melbourne proved their status as a powerhouse side in the AFL Women’s competition. highlighting their attacking mentality and peppering away at the goals in the second term to flip the script.

Despite multiple chances throughout the opening term the Dees struggled to find their kicking boots early while North Melbourne nailed the first two goals of the game. With the ball spending majority of time inside 50 for Melbourne, the Demons finally struck their first major as the clock ticked down to quarter time reducing the deficit to three points at the break. That momentum trickled into the second term as the Demons showcased their ability to link up with handballs and weave their way forward to steal the lead and slot four consecutive goals. Tegan Cunningham and Jackie Parry inspired the comeback second term with the pair combining for four goals in that quarter alone, showcasing their ability to get the job done both in the air and at ground level with Parry roving the pack and slotting a nice goal to really give Melbourne the ascendancy heading into half time.

Melbourne stretched the lead out to as much as 25 points before the Kangaroos tightened things up in the third term to pile on the scoreboard pressure and nullify the influence of the Dees. With a number of key cogs in the blue and white, the Roos found a way to be damaging as Daria Bannister picked up the slack with two goals in her side’s four goal term. But sensing a momentum switch, the Demons regathered their composure in the final stanza to keep North Melbourne at bay, trapping the ball inside 50 despite the margin getting as close as three points with only moments to spare.

It was the usual suspects for the Kangaroos that stood up in the contest as Jasmine Garner took the game into her own hands as shown through her mammoth 15 disposals, 12 tackles and two goal effort. Emma Kearney chimed in, amassing 16 touches while also slotting a timely goal to keep the Roos within touching distance of the Demons. Ashleigh Riddell was a key contributor with her 17 disposals as was Kaitlyn Ashmore who managed to find plenty of the footy thanks to her 16 disposals and two tackle performance. Jenna Bruton threw her weight around laying six tackles to accompany her 14 touches while Bannister kept the scoreboard ticking over banging home two majors.

For the Demons, Karen Paxman was a force to be reckoned with directing traffic and picking up a game-high 25 disposals. Paxman was involved in just about everything and made full use of her physical nature to match up against Kearney through the middle while on the goal-scoring front Cunningham was proving too big and too strong, outmuscling her opponents and kicking true out the front. Cunningham finished with two goals for the game as teammate Parry impressed with her three majors. Youngster Tyla Hanks provided that element of run and carry across the ground picking up 23 touches and nine tackles as Kate Hore was a real livewire with 15 touches and three marks. Maddison Gay made her presence felt recording seven tackles and 16 disposals in the win with Lily Mithen also a key playmaker for the Dees amassing 21 touches.

MELBOURNE | 1.3 | 7.4 | 8.4 | 9.6 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE | 2.1 | 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)

GOALS:

Melbourne: J. Parry 3, T. Cunningham 2, S. Scott 2, K. Hore, K. Paxman
North Melbourne: J. Garner 2, D. Bannister 2, G. Campbell, E. Kearney, S, Abbatangelo, I. Eddey

DC BEST: 

Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, L. Mithen, M. Gay, T. Cunningham,
North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, A. Riddell,  J.Bruton, K. Ashmore

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

WAFL Women’s to return on February 20

THE wait for the return of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition is almost over, with the 2021 season fixture released this week and teams set to do battle from the weekend of February 20. Initially touted to start next weekend, the season was pushed back a week, with the 2021 WAFL Women’s Grand Final to be played on the weekend of July 3.

Before that though, the six teams – Claremont, East Fremantle, Peel Thunder, South Fremantle, Subiaco and Swan Districts – will face off in 15 rounds, where they will play every other team three times, and have two league-wide byes along the way. The earlier fixture allows those players from Fremantle and West Coast AFL Women’s teams to continue match fitness whilst trying to force their way back into the sides, while also enabling the entire season to wrap up prior to the 2021 AFL Women’s Draft which has been touted to be moved a couple of months earlier than its annual October date.

Round 1 kicks off with reigning premiers Peel Thunder able to unfurl the flag at David Grays Arena up against the previous premiers, East Fremantle. Runners-up Subiaco will head to play last year’s wooden spooners, South Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, while Swan Districts hosts Claremont at Steel Blue Oval. Fans will not have to wait long for a WAFL Women’s Grand Final rematch, with the Thunder and Lions set to do battle in Round 2 on the weekend of February 27.

The two bye weekends are on April 3 and May 15, with the 2021 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships to be played in the second week of April as well. For those interested in some young guns to watch for the upcoming season, it is hard to look past Peel Thunder jet, Courtney Rowley who has been a strong performer at the level for a number of years now. Coming into her top-age year, Rowley is touted to be the top West Australian talent, with the smooth-moving skilful outside player one who shares similar traits to St Kilda’s Georgia Patrikios.

Another player to keep an eye on is Subiaco’s Charlotte Thomas, with her ball use sublime playing off half-forward. She is so clever around goals and can hit the scoreboard, but also push up the ground and have an impact as well. Speaking of hitting the scoreboard, Amy Franklin is a 180cm key forward who can clunk grabs, but then cause sleepless nights for defenders because when the ball hits the ground she can burst away with great acceleration for a player of her height.

A number of other names to keep an eye out on include East Fremantle’s Chloe Reilly who has terrific goal sense and knows who to take marks, whilst Peel Thunder’s talent does not stop at Rowley, with Bethlyn Pasco and Beth Schilling also amongst the talent there. Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut was a reliable source of composure in the back half for the Swans last season, but is versatile just about anywhere, while South Fremantle’s Tayla Whincup and Poppy Stockwell are other names to remember throughout the 2021 WAFL Women’s season.

Some over and mature-age talent to remember include Subiaco’s Abbey Dowrick – sister of West Coast’s McKenzie – as well as Claremont’s Jess Low and East Fremantle’s Rosie Walsh, who all earned AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites last year. Swan Districts’ Nyra Anderson remains a natural ball winner, while her teammate Sarah Wielstra is an example of a player who came a long way in a short time and will be one to watch this year.

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Lions secure roaring Q-Clash victory

BRISBANE roared to a record-breaking Q-Clash win on Sunday, gaining bragging rights over its local rival with a 63-point thrashing of Gold Coast at Hickey Park. The 10.5 (65) to 0.2 (2) result served as the first Q-Clash win in AFL Women’s history, while also making for Brisbane’s highest ever score in the competition. On the flip-side, Gold Coast’s two behinds became the lowest-ever total and just the second goalless effort on record.

Dynamic Brisbane tall forward Jesse Wardlaw was awarded the Q-Clash Medal as best afield, booting goals in each quarter and having a hand in plenty more as she dominated both in the air and around the ground. She was a key benefactor of the Lions’ slick and quick ball movement on the outside, which put the Suns’ defence under enormous pressure.

While the scoreboard only showed two goals for Brisbane’s early ascendancy, signs were ominous when the Lions headed into the main break 29 points clear – all while keeping Gold Coast scoreless. In a sign of maturity for the maroon, blue, and gold, they put the foot down after half time with six-straight goals to run away comfortable winners.

Dakota Davidson let fans know it was party time as she sunk four majors for the Lions, while speedy second-year jet Greta Bodey added two more goals to her career tally in an electric display. Ally Anderson and Nat Grider (20 disposals) led all comers, with the likes of Emily Bates (17 disposals), Lauren Arnell (15), and Sophie Conway (14) were prolific going forward.

Lauren Aherns was Gold Coast’s leading ball winner with 19 touches, followed closely by Alison Drennan and Hannah Dunn on 18 apiece. A knee injury to prized 2020 draftee Annise Bradfield in the first term only rubs salt into the wound of Gold Coast’s mammoth loss, on top of an 0-2 record.

Image Credit: Jono Searle/Getty Images via AFL Photos

BRISBANE 2.4 | 4.5 | 6.5 | 10.5 (65)
GOLD COAST 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.2 (2)

GOALS:

Brisbane: J. Wardlaw 4, D. Davidson 4, G. Bodey 2
Gold Coast: Nil.

DC BEST:

Brisbane: J. Wardlaw, E. Bates, S. Conway, D. Davidson, N. Grider, L. Arnell
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, H. Dunn, L. Aherns, J. Pregelj

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

HARDENED ROOS HOP PAST SAINTS ON HOME TURF

NORTH Melbourne secured its eighth-straight AFL Women’s victory on Sunday with a 26-point triumph over St Kilda at Arden Street Oval, but it was not enough to hold onto top spot. The Roos were tested for a half and only led by five points at the main break, but kept St Kilda scoreless thereafter to run out 5.6 (36) to 1.4 (10) winners.

The home side was met by a tenacious Saints outfit keen to compete, with the pressure gauge turned up in a competitive contest. But the more mature side, North Melbourne, was able to keep its foot on the gas for longer and eventually opened the game up on its own terms with more fluid ball movement and relentless attack at the contest.

Skipper Emma Kearney led the way for her Roos, collecting 22 touches in a vintage display of her class. Jemma Bruton was North’s leading ball winner with 23 disposals, while Ash Riddell was lively and sunk the sealing goal to boot. Jasmine Garner (18 disposals) and Ellie Gavalas (17) were the other second-half goalkickers who helped North pull away.

Georgia Patrikios broke her own record for the most disposals by a Saint in the AFLW, collecting 27 touches as she continues to go from strength to strength. Second-gamer Tyanna Smith was her side’s lone goalkicker in another promising display, while Cat Phillips (21 disposals) was also influential. The hard luck continues for Bianca Jakobsson though, as she was injured in her club debut, and first game back from collarbone surgery.

NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 | 2.3 | 3.6 | 5.6 (36)
ST KILDA 0.1 | 1.4 | 1.4 | 1.4 (10)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: J. Garner, A. Riddell, D. Bateman, E. Gavalas, T. Randall
St Kilda: T. Smith

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: E. Kearney, A. Riddell, J. Bruton, J. Garner, E. Gavalas
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, C. Phillips, T. Smith, H. Priest, K. Shierlaw

Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images via AFL Photos

CROWS FLY PAST GIANTS IN ROAD ROMP

ADELAIDE looks every bit the premiership contender after another convincing win, this time over the GWS Giants by 47 points at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday. Signs were ominous early as the Crows opened with three quick goals, before closing even better to secure the emphatic 9.8 (62) to 2.3 (15) result.

Danielle Ponter opened the game up in the first half with three majors, causing headaches inside 50 as Adelaide’s scoreboard pressure quickly began to mount. GWS was competitive at the coalface but had little to show for it in goalless second and third terms, a factor which eventually became telling as the Crows cruised to victory.

The Crows’ prime movers in Anne Hatchard (23 disposals), Erin Phillips (19), and skipper Chelsea Randall (14) were all prolific while managing to secure second half goals, while Ebony Marinoff was her side’s leading ball winner with 24 touches. Ponter finished as the game’s lone multiple goalkicker in a game-breaking performance.

Alyce Parker was again the Giants’ most valuable asset, proving monstrous at the contest to lead all comers with 27 disposals – including 16 contested possessions. She put the cherry on top of a big individual game with her first-ever AFLW goal in the final term. Rebecca Beeson also stood up in the charcoal and orange with 22 touches.

GWS 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.3 (15)
ADELAIDE 3.1 | 5.2 | 5.4 | 9.8 (62)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Parker, H. Zreika
Adelaide: D. Ponter 3, C. Randall, A. Woodland, M. Newman, E. Phillips, E. Jones, A. Hatchard

DC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, H. Zreika
Adelaide: E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, A. Hatchard, D. Ponter, S. Allan, C. Randall

Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos

DOCKERS GIVE EAGLES THE SLIP IN WET WESTERN DERBY

Fremantle slipped, slid, and secured its ninth-consecutive AFL Women’s victory on Sunday, defeating West Coast by nine points in a wet Western Derby. The heavens opened above Fremantle Oval and a hard-fought, contested scrap ensued as the local rivals searched for ascendancy. Having been drawn back to within just six points in the final term, Freo was able to hold on and win 2.11 (23) to 2.2 (14) in an enthralling encounter.

West Coast struck first through Aisling McCarthy, who teamed up with fellow Irishwoman Niamh Kelly for a precise opening goal considering the conditions. But another glorious feat in the wet from Docker Gemma Houghton put Fremantle ahead in the second term, before Kiara Bowers bombed home from 50 to give her side a handy 12-point buffer at the final break. It proved enough, despite Imahra Cameron‘s six-pointer making the final exchanges all the more dramatic in the fourth term.

Bowers won the best afield medal having come up clutch with her goal and led all comers on the back of 23 disposals and 14 tackles in a game which was seemingly made for her. Stephanie Cain (12 disposals, two behinds) and Hayley Miller (15 disposals) both worked two ways with six tackles apiece, while Sabreena Duffy was lively in the front half.

Young gun Mikayla Bowen (18 disposals) was West Coast’s leading ball winner, followed closely by Belinda Smith (17) and skipper Emma Swanson (16). Kelly and McCarthy were also prominent for the Eagles, who came away worse for ware with multiple injuries throughout the bruising battle. The two sides remain on opposite records, with Freo flying at 2-0 while West Coast remains on the hunt for points at 0-2.

FREMANTLE 0.3 | 1.6 | 2.8 | 2.11 (23)
WEST COAST 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.2 (14)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton, K. Bowers
West Coast: I. Cameron, A. McCarthy

BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, S. Cain, H. Miller, S. Duffy, G. Houghton,
West Coast: M. Bowen, B. Smith, E. Swanson, A. McCarthy

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

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

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

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

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Carlton by 10

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Adelaide by 25

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

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

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

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

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

Tip: Brisbane by 15

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

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

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

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

Tip: Fremantle by 21

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

2021 AFLW Preview: St Kilda Saints

ST KILDA’S inaugural AFL Women’s campaign produced some notable highlights as the Saints brought football back to Moorabbin, with solid building blocks now in place for an improved second season. Another promising draft crop and handy additions during trade period will only add to the Saints’ emerging squad, which will again look to knock on the door of finals in 2021.

2020 RECAP

As one of the better performed expansion sides, St Kilda finished fifth in the stronger Conference A at 2-4. Losses in the first two rounds were quickly forgotten as the Saints upset foundation club, Melbourne by five points to open Round 3, making for a memorable maiden win. A heartbreaking one-point loss to Fremantle followed, but showed that the Saints could hang with the best on their day.

They would be rewarded for competitive form with another victory in Round 6 after keeping Richmond goalless, capping off a very respectable first crack at the top flight. Leading goalkicker and joint best and fairest, Caitlin Greiser was the sole Saint to earn All Australian honours, also finishing one spot ahead of fellow first year gun Georgia Patrikios (equal-third) in the Rising Star voting.

NEW FACES

Having already formed a solid foundational core, the Saints picked up another couple of established players to accompany their exciting draft hand. The dynamic Bianca Jakobsson was a terrific coup, but has recently undergone surgery to repair a broken collarbone sustained in a scratch match on the eve of season proper. Jayde Van Dyk was the other trade acquisition, set to help shore up the defence after crossing from Carlton.

Tyanna Smith headlined St Kilda’s draft effort and will likely prove an absolute steal at pick six. The Dandenong Stingrays graduate adds to the Saints’ exciting young midfield with her searing pace and capacity to play both inside and outside. Father-daughter selection Alice Burke was another value pick at 24, again bolstering her new side’s engine room with toughness and great tackling pressure.

The versatile Renee Saulitis was another shrewd selection, able to add some spark going forward and allow the Saints’ second year guns to perhaps spend more time in midfield. Southern Saints recruit Jacqueline Vogt rounded out St Kilda’s draft hand, with Tahlia Meyer taken after the fact and Jess Matin getting her chance in place of Irishwoman, Clara Fitzpatrick.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Prized draftee, Smith is one to watch for St Kilda, especially after the level of performance from the likes of Patrikios, Molly McDonald, and Isabella Shannon in their debut seasons. Smith represents the next generation of talent which has taken over the competition of late and only adds to St Kilda’s exciting young depth. Her athletic traits blend nicely with high-level skill and good balance in midfield, pointing towards the kind of upside which could see her prove to be one of the top two players of her draft class.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Saints are fierce and love to compete. Headed by a strong, established leadership group and backed by competitive youngsters with plenty of class, the Saints are well balanced in terms of their squad profile and have plenty of players who can come in and push highly-fancied opposition. Peta Searle‘s side suffered a season-high loss of 25 points in 2020, while also going down by just 13 points to the reigning premier and a single score to the undefeated Fremantle. If they can continue to rattle established teams and lean on the experience of year one, these Saints could well exceed expectations.

QUESTION MARK

A relatively heavy turnover of players means the Saints will be tested for squad cohesion and depth, but they have proven strong in the face of such challenges thus far. Scoring may be an area of concern with not much in the way of firepower aside from Greiser and the 30-mark cracked just once last season – against the winless Richmond. Kicking a winning score will be key to not just competing with the top sides, but getting the better of them on any given day.

FINAL WORD

St Kilda showed up in its maiden AFL Women’s season and proved plenty of doubters wrong with strong performances each week. A couple of wins is a solid base to work off and notching at least one more in 2021 would be a decent pass mark with finals contention in the Saints’ sights. Should they again bind together to overcome injury disruptions, this exciting young unit could cause a few big upsets.

Image Credit: AFL Photos (Retrieved from St Kilda FC)

2021 AFLW: All the practice game results

AFL WOMEN’S sides got their first taste of competitive action for 2021, with a series of scratch matches played behind closed doors around the nation and giving a glimpse into what to expect from the upcoming season. We go around the grounds to bring you the results and key points out of each game as Round 1 edges closer.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Saturday January 16:

West Coast 4.3 (27) def. by Fremantle 5.7 (37) @ Lathlain Park

Fremantle edged local rival, West Coast in a Western Derby sighter at Mineral Resources Park, despite a hot start from the Eagles. The two sides could not have finished any further apart among Conference B in season 2020, but West Coast showed promising signs of improvement by bolting to an Aisling McCarthy-inspired lead in the first half. The former Western Bulldogs Irishwoman booted three of her side’s four goals for the match, all coming within the opening term. In the end, Freo’s experience and depth across the field won out in the 10-point victory, a result which was expected of the premiership contender. Star midfielder Kiara Bowers was at her typical best, while the Eagles looked solid through midfield as prize draftee Bella Lewis got her first taste of senior football.

Geelong 5.4 (34) def. by Melbourne 8.7 (55) @ Kardinia Park

Melbourne shook off some preseason cobwebs with a 21-point win over Geelong on the road, overcoming a hefty first term deficit to run over the top of the Cats. The home side bolted out of the gates with four-straight majors, but saw its lead quickly dissolve as Melbourne piled on five goals in the second term. Geelong only managed one more major thereafter, seeing Melbourne ride home a reasonably comfortable victory. The return of young gun Denby Taylor will buoy Cats players and fans alike, while fellow 2018 draftee Tyla Hanks starred for Melbourne as she looks to nail down a spot in midfield. Her development looms as all the more important as lynchpin Karen Paxman nurses a leg injury sustained on the day, with Meg Downie (sprained ankle) another unfortunate casualty.

Carlton 6.4 (40) def. St Kilda 5.8 (38) @ Princes Park

A late Breann Moody goal saved Carlton’s blushes against St Kilda, helping the Blues come away with a two-point victory at Princes Park. The two sides shared spurts of momentum throughout a closely-contested game, with Carlton leading by eight points at the main break before falling behind and eventually fighting back to claim a last gasp win. St Kilda’s young talent was on full show with speedy midfielders Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith returning good shifts opposed to the dynamic Georgia Gee and Darcy Vescio, who will look to push into the engine room this year. Tayla Harris watched on from the sidelines, but Carlton unveiled its boom recruit in Elise O’Dea alongside Maddy Guerin and Charlotte Hammans. Bianca Jakobsson suffered a broken collarbone in a big blow to the Saints on the eve of the season, though Tarni White made a strong return from her long-term knee injury.

Richmond 3.11 (29) def. by Western Bulldogs 6.7 (43) @ Punt Road Oval

Five final term goals saw the Western Bulldogs roll Richmond by 14 points at Punt Road Oval, as the top two 2020 draftees went head-to-head in their new colours. The young pups trailed at every break before an inspired last dig produced the desired effect, with skipper Ellie Blackburn chiming in from a more forward-oriented role and prized draftee Jess Fitzgerald showing her wares through midfield. Fellow Northern Knights graduate Ellie McKenzie was also promising for the Tigers, while Bulldogs father-daughter gun Issy Grant was unleashed after missing her entire maiden season. As promised, 2020 Rising Star Izzy Huntington featured up forward in the red, white, and blue but was contained by a well-drilled Richmond defence, though there was no stopping Monique Conti as she dominated in the yellow and black.

Gold Coast 4.2 (26) def. by Brisbane 6.7 (43) @ Metricon 2

Brisbane came out on top in its preseason Q-Clash with Gold Coast, creating a greater wealth of opportunities to come away the 17-point victor. Away from home up at the Metricon Stadium facilities, the Lions’ scoring effort was led by Greta Bodey (two goals), who finished as the game’s sold multiple goalkicker. Prolific young forwards Jesse Wardlaw and Kalinda Howarth also found the big sticks for the respective sides. The Suns named surprise coup Sarah Perkins for her first game in new colours, while another former Saint in Alison Drennan also made her maiden appearance for Gold Coast. While Brisbane young gun Lily Postlethwaite was not named, exciting draftees Zimmorlei Farquharson and Indy Tahau were among the squad which took home a solid win ahead of Round 1.

Sunday January 17:

Collingwood 7.5 (47) def. North Melbourne 5.5 (35) @ Princes Park

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over North Melbourne at Princes Park on Sunday, signalling even more improvement to build on that of 2020. The Magpies were left a couple of talls short after Sharni Norder (late withdrawal, finger) and Erica Fowler (cheekbone) sustained injuries, but conjured enough fluency away from the midfield battle to run away 12-point winners. The magnets were shuffled a touch as Bri Davey spent some time up forward, where fast-developing draftee Amelia Verlardo booted two majors. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown impressed further afield in her first outing, while usual suspects Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner were among North’s best. Returning star Jess Duffin (adductor) was a late out for the Roos, but looms as a high-level inclusion this season.

Adelaide 2.21 (33) def. GWS 2.1 (13) @ Norwood Oval

Severe inaccuracy did little to stop Adelaide from picking up a confidence-boosting win over GWS on Sunday, with just two of the Crows’ 23 scoring shots resulting in majors. Despite finishing with an equal amount of goals, the Giants were comfortably adrift both in general play and on the scoreboard, going down by 20 points. Newly-named Crows captain Chelsea Randall made a pleasing return from injury in the win, but the game was cut short in the final term as Giants Irishwoman Brid Stack was taken to hospital with a potential spinal injury. Elsewhere, defender Sarah Allan was trialled up forward and returned one of her side’s two goals, pointing towards her potential versatility this year as the Crows look to bounce back to premiership contention.

Featured Image: St Kilda’s Tyanna Smith fights for a clearance | Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos