Tag: Jenna Bruton

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: GWS creates GIANT divide to bottom five sides

GWS GIANTS have won their fourth game of the season to sit eight points clear of the bottom five sides, albeit with some Sunday fixtures to come. The GIANTS won in a low-scoring arm-wrestle against Geelong, which saw just one goal kicked after quarter time, and none in the second half, to secure a seven-point victory at GMHBA Stadium. The 2.4 (16) to 1.3 (9) victory was a hard-fought one, but the battle of defences held up well with the game primarily a battle between the arcs.

Haneen Zreika was on the board early with a goal just four minutes into the match to give the GIANTS an early advantage. This was quickly countered within three minutes from Cats key forward Phoebe McWilliams, in what was shaping to be a potential high-scoring contest. However across the next 65 minutes, just one goal was kicked, coming off the boot of reliable goalkicker Cora Staunton in the second minute of the second quarter. That goal quickly split the difference between the sides that had been level with 1.1 apiece at the first break.

Staunton’s goal put the Giants up by six, with a Darcy Moloney behind four minutes later cutting the half-time deficit to five. Neither team could manage to break the deadlock from there, with the GIANTS adding three points to their total in the third term, and then the Cats returning the serve in the final quarter with a solitary behind through Richelle Cranson for the match to end seven points to the favour of the visiting GIANTS team.

It was an even match across the board, with contest after contest, and the Cats marginally ahead by seven in disposals (207-200), with both teams managing the seven shots on goal, with the GIANTS having one more inside 50 entry (24-23) in another low count. It further emphasised the battle between the arcs, with the teams almost identical in both contested and uncontested possessions, while the Cats took six more contested marks (10-4) despite having 10 less overall marks (35-45). The GIANTS certainly had more opportunities for goals with eight of those 45 marks inside 50, to the Cats’ two, whilst the forward pressure and around the ground was in the Cats’ favour with 68 tackles to 54, of which the forward 50 tackles went 13-12 in the blue hoops’ favour.

The GIANTS dominated the hitouts 36-12, with the clearances being relatively even, though marginally in the GIANTS favour, 23-20. This was helped by the performance of Erin McKinnon (21 hitouts) and Jess Allan (11 hitouts) who took control across the ground. Through the midfield, the in-form Alyce Parker dominated with a match-high 25 disposals, as well as five marks, four tackles, five inside 50s and two rebound 50s, also drawing five free kicks for her efforts. The usual suspects in Elle Bennetts (18 disposals, three marks, three tackles and two rebound 50s), Alicia Eva (18 disposals, three marks, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Rebecca Beeson (15 disposals, two tackles and two inside 50s) were again prominent.

For the Cats, Amy McDonald recorded the most disposals with 21, as well as a whopping 11 tackles, and four inside 50s, while her namesake in Meghan McDonald was not far behind with 19 disposals, six marks, two tackles and six rebound 50s. Julia Crockett-Grills (17 disposals, three marks, seven tackles, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and first-year player Laura Gardiner (17 disposals, 11 tackles and two rebound 50s) were also productive in the loss. Rebecca Webster (14 disposals, four marks and three rebound 50s) and McWilliams (12 disposals, three marks and four inside 50s) were others who aided in the Cats remaining in the hunt at respective ends of the field.

GEELONG 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)
GWS GIANTS 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Geelong: P. McWilliams.
GWS: H. Zreika, C. Staunton.

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. McDonald, M. McDonald, L. Gardiner, J. Crockett-Grills, R. Webster
GWS: A. Parker, A. Eva, E. Bennetts, E. McKinnon, R. Beeson

Picture credit: via GWS GIANTS website

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP PAST SAINTS AND BACK ONTO THE WINNERS LIST

COLLINGWOOD emphatically returned to the winners list on Saturday with a 47-point victory over St Kilda at Victoria Park, solidifying the Magpies’ top two status. A hot start from the home side set an ominous tone, with the Magpies leading at every break and keeping the Saints goalless for two terms across the 8.11 (59) to 2.1 (13) thumping.

It was pure domination from Collingwood, who the early bossed possession and restricted eight Saints players to a grand total of zero touches to quarter time. Meanwhile, Aliesha Newman enjoyed an electric start in black and white with two goals in the first few minutes, though her side spread the scoring well over four quarters despite some greater St Kilda resistance.

Georgia Patrikios proved one of the lone four quarter performers in St Kilda’s tri-colours, leading the charge alongside fellow young gun Tyanna Smith as a heap of more senior players were kept below their usual standards. The Saints now sit 12th with two wins on the board, as Collingwood’s minor premiership tilt heats up.

Newman finished with three majors as the game’s most damaging goalkicker, while Chloe Molloy bagged a double for the winners. Brittany Bonnici led all comers with an equal game-high 29 disposals, with other usual suspects in Bri Davey and Jaimee Lambert also finding plenty of ball. Ruby Schleicher was again outstanding in defence, as Sarah Rowe made a successful return to senior action.

Patrikios also notched 29 touches as the Saint’s best player afield, with Molly McDonald overcoming her slow start to also fare well in the losing team. Smith was another solid performer in black, white and red, as were the likes of Hannah Priest and Rosie Dillon. The Saints may fancy a rebound win as they take on West Coast next week, while Collingwood faces Adelaide in a high stakes battle.

COLLINGWOOD 3.3 | 4.6 | 6.1 | 8.11 (59)
ST KILDA 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 (13)

GOALS:

Collingwood: M. Newman 3, C. Molloy 2, J. Lambert, S. Layton, J. Lin
St Kilda: J. Matin, J. Vogt

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, J. Lambert, B. Bonnici, R. Schleicher, M. Newman
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, M. McDonald, T. Smith, H. Priest, R. Dillon

Image Credit: Jono Searle/AFL Photos

LIONS ROAR TO HISTORIC GABBA WIN

BRISBANE claimed its first ever victory on the Gabba turf, overcoming North Melbourne by 15 points on Saturday afternoon to make it four wins on the trot. The Lions were marginally behind at the first break but fought ahead thereafter, booting two goals in the third term and sealing it in the fourth to take out an important 4.11 (35) to 2.8 (20) result.

The Lions looked happy to be back home despite the wet conditions and some inaccuracy in front of goal, marching on towards a potential top two finish with a terrific pressure game and structural solidity. While North held on for much of the day and was within striking distance, an eye-catching Courtney Hodder goal sealed victory for Brisbane in the final term.

Hodder was among the six single goalkickers for the day, as the likes of Isabel Dawes and Emily Bates excelled for the victors. Experienced heads in Kate Lutkins and Emma Zielke played important roles across the defensive half, while Orla O’Dwyer again proved lively up the other end.

North Melbourne’s typical brigade of ball winners again went to work, with Jenna Bruton (26 disposals) leading all comers as Ash Riddell, Jess Duffin, and Emma Kearney all also ticked over 20 touches apiece. Their ball winning prowess counted for little in the grander result, as North was kept relatively quiet inside forward 50.

BRISBANE 1.2 | 1.8 | 3.9 | 4.11 (35) 
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.3 | 1.4 | 2.5 | 2.8 (20)

GOALS
Brisbane: D. Davidson, J. Wuetschner, S. Conway, C. Hodder.
North Melbourne: Abbatangelo, Bateman.

BEST 
Brisbane: I. Dawes, K. Lutkins, E. Zielke, E. Bates, O. O’Dwyer
North Melbourne: J. Bruton, E. Kearney, A. Riddell, J. Duffin

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

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Dogs salute for four consecutive wins

FIVE consecutive goals to the Western Bulldogs after quarter time has seen them claim a fourth straight win in front of home fans at Whitten Oval. The Dogs proved too clinical up front for GWS GIANTS, with Bonnie Toogood and Isabel Huntington dominating the GIANTS’ defence – particularly in the second term with two goals apiece – to prove too much in Indigenous Round, 7.5 (47) to 3.4 (22).

The first term was an even tussle, with Toogood getting the opening goal seven minutes into the match. A Rebecca Privitelli major five minutes later put the GIANTS in front for the first and only time in the match, with a late behind to Ellie Blackburn levelling the scores at quarter time for both sides to be 1.2 (8).

The second term is where the Dogs lit it up, booting four straight goals to storm to a 24-point lead at half-time. Not conceding a single score, the Bulldogs witnessed their two big key forwards take control, with Huntington snagging two majors, and then it was Toogood’s turn, matching it with two of her own. Despite the GIANTS best efforts, they were unable to match their athleticism and power.

Blackburn was leading her side at half-time with 10 touches alongside Kirsty Lamb, while Alyce Parker was having another standout performance with 11 disposals to the main break. Rebecca Beeson (10 disposals), Naomi Ferres (eight), Alicia Eva (eight) and Cora Staunton (eight) were the other prime ball-winners in the match.

With the game firmly in the Bulldogs’ grip, the home side put through the all-important first major thanks to a brilliant piercing kick from Jess Fitzgerald to Kirsten McLeod. Luckily for the GIANTS, Britt Tully was able to respond, but then an unlucky bounce in the goalsquare off a Taylah Davies intercept at half-forward prevented the GIANTS from nailing back-to-back goals.

Instead it was Huntington who slotted her third major to match Toogood, while a towering mark from Erin McKinnon in the goalsquare helped the visitors maintain some hope heading into the break, cutting the deficit by one back to 23 points. Lamb and Beeson had strong third terms to end the quarter with 17 disposals each with Parker next on 14.

The final term was a tight tussle to start, as the Bulldogs peppered the goals with a couple of behinds. Just when it looked like the game would slowly run to its conclusion, Fitzgerald put in another highlight effort with a couple of bounces running towards inside 50. While the GIANTS manage to spoil a potential mark and clear, it was one highlight in an otherwise tight quarter.

The Western Bulldogs’ win did not come without a cost though, with a number of injuries in the final term, including captain Blackburn, but the more serious one was a knee injury to Deanna Berry who had to be helped from the field. Blackburn returned to the field and almost immediately kicked a goal in the final term, but was rushed through by Tarni Evans on the line.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 | 5.2 | 7.2 | 7.5 (47)
GWS GIANTS 1.2 | 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: B. Toogood 3, I. Huntington 3, K. McLeod
GWS GIANTS: R. Privitelli, B. Tully, E. McKinnon

DC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: I. Huntington, B. Toogood, K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, B. Lochland
GWS GIANTS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, A. Eva, B. Tully, G. Garnett

Image Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

LIONS RAID FREMANTLE TO SNAP DOCKERS’ RECORD RUN

Fremantle’s record 11-game winning run has come to an end at the hands of Brisbane, as the Lions raided the Fremantle Oval fortress and took home an 11-point victory. In a low-scoring armwrestle which saw pressure and structure shine, the visitors established themselves as a bonafide premiership contender by restricting Freo to just seven behinds in the first three terms, before holding on in the clutch to win 3.7 (25) to 1.8 (14).

It took a brilliant feat from Brisbane forward Courtney Hodder to open the major scoring, as she bent home a classy checkside finish late in term one to give Brisbane the ascendancy. The disciplined Lions then structured up and absorbed plenty of pressure to deny Fremantle in the second term, before Orla O’Dwyer soccered home in the third to help set up her side’s defining two-goal buffer. It came on the back of some immense Brisbane pressure, which saw no easy outs from its forward 50.

Late drama ensued in the run home as Brisbane’s lead was threatened in the final two minutes. Fremantle had previous opportunities to cut the margin, but it was left to Roxy Roux to get the Dockers back to within a goal as she cooly sunk a set shot with 90 seconds left. Somehow, Fremantle had the opportunity to strike. The game was put to bed shortly after though, as the Lions won an all-important centre clearance and Ally Anderson finished with class to seal her side’s victory.

Brisbane’s Emily Bates led all comers with 26 disposals in a best afield performance, while the likes of Anderson and O’Dwyer proved productive moving forward and both hit the scoreboard. Hodder and Greta Bodey were others in that boat with terrific run and a bit of spark, as Kate Lutkins and Shannon Campbell were among the Lions’ key figures in the defensive setup.

Kiara Bowers continued her outstanding form in purple to record 24 touches and eight tackles in a trying effort, with the experience and class of Kara Antonio also proving important. Laura Pugh and Hayley Miller were others to contribute well for the Dockers in their first loss at Fremantle Oval since 2017.

The newly minted Round 6 fixture sees Brisbane travel again to face GWS at Manuka Oval, while Fremantle will look to reload and rebound with a second Western Derby for the season, taking on West Coast at Optus Stadium.

FREMANTLE 0.2 | 0.7 | 0.7 | 1.8 (14)
BRISBANE 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.7 | 3.7 (25)

GOALS:

Fremantle: R. Roux
Brisbane: C. Hodder, O. O’Dwyer, A. Anderson

DC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, K. Antonio, L. Pugh, H. Miller, R. Roux
Brisbane: E. Bates, A. Anderson, G. Bodey, K. Lutkins, O. O’Dwyer

Image Credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images via AFL Photos

ROOS SHAKE OFF BLUES TO BOUNCE BACK ONTO WINNERS LIST

North Melbourne returned to the winners list on Saturday night, kicking clear of Carlton to finish 22-point victors at UTAS Stadium. After two-straight losses, the Roos rebounded in style with seven goals to Carlton’s three during the second half, seeing them reclaim the lead and a momentary spot in the top six with the 9.5 (59) to 6.1 (37) result.

North skipped away to a two-goal lead thanks to snaps from Kate Gillespie-Jones and Jasmine Garner within the first three minutes, but the Blues charged back into the game in term two via Darcy Vescio. The dynamic forward booted two goals and assisted another to inspire her side to a half time lead, which would carry on late into the third stanza.

Daisy Bateman slotted a set shot chance to put the Kangaroos back in front, but Daria Bannister‘s one-on-two mark deep inside 50 proved the pivotal moment. The grab may have initially been handled by Blues defender Mua Laloifi, but that mattered little as Bannister converted and gave her side an 11-point lead at the final break.

Despite the best efforts of first year Blue Mimi Hill, who twice cut the margin in the final term, Carlton fell short of North Melbourne’s firepower and could not resist it for long enough. The absence of league best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis through suspension played an inevitable role in the Blues’ fortunes, with the Roos’ midfield strong as ever.

Garner led North’s fab four ball winners with 32 and a goal, as the quartet all managed to gather over 23 disposals. Skipper Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, and Ash Riddell were the other members of that group, which has overpowered many an opposition midfield. Bateman and Sophie Abbatangelo both finished on two goals, while Jess Duffin made her long-awaited return to the Roos’ defence.

Nicola Stevens was outstanding for Carlton, leading the way with 19 touches and a goal up forward. The two-goal bursts of Vescio and Hill very nearly proved game-changing, while Jess Hosking was typically reliable and Laloifi helped hold up the defence in another balanced display. Young tall Serena Gibbs had four touches and two marks in her senior debut.

North Melbourne’s fight to establish a spot within the top six continues with a clash against Richmond at Punt Road Oval in Round 6, while Carlton will fancy a bounce-back win of its own when it hosts Geelong at Princes Park next time out.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo 2, D. Bateman 2, K. Gillespie-Jones, J. Garner, D. Bannister, G. Campbell, M. King
Carlton: D. Vescio 2, M. Hill 2, L. Brazzale, N. Stevens

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, J. Bruton, A. Riddell, S. Abbatangelo
Carlton: N. Stevens, M. Hill, D. Vescio, J. Hosking, M. Laloifi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

Dockers endure slow start to overrun Suns

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Hot Pies down shaky Roos in ladder-leading encounter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 4 preview – Victorian crowds return for blockbuster fixtures

RETURNING crowds are set to light up some blockbuster fixtures in Round 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, with four top-six foes locking horns while inaugural sides Melbourne and Western Bulldogs play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup. The ladder is beginning to take shape with four teams remaining undefeated and another four still out to claim their first points, but things can change very quickly in the middle order – starting this weekend.

Note: All start times are local.

ST KILDA (9th, 1-2) vs. GEELONG (14th, 0-3)
Friday February 19, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

Geelong will be out to break its duck in season 2021, but faces a tricky task in doing so as an away trip to face St Kilda awaits on Friday night. The Saints got on the board at the first time of asking this year but have fallen short of strong opposition since. Still, a third outing at their home of RSEA Park in four rounds should serve them well against their winless visitors from up the highway.

Both sides are set to blood debutants, with another of Geelong’s 2020 draftees in Laura Gardiner named on the bench for her maiden senior appearance, replacing Rebecca Goring (managed). St Kilda injury replacement Rebecca Ott is the game’s other debutant, brought in as part of four total changes for the Saints. While they will miss the likes of Molly McDonald (quad) and Nadia von Bertouch (foot), defender Bianca Jakobsson is among the relieving inclusions.

The Cats rank last for points scored and while the Saints have not been all that flash in converting up forward either, they should have enough firepower to boot a winning score. Geelong’s defence is known to be reasonably reliable though, so capitalising on the midfield battle will be key to either team getting on top.

Tip: St Kilda by 10

CARLTON (8th, 1-2) vs. RICHMOND (11th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 3:10pm
Princes Park

Traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond lock horns at Princes Park on Saturday, with the hosts eager to shake off a rough start and begin their push towards finals. A premiership hopeful coming into the season, Carlton dropped its first two games but got back on track last week and will fancy its chances against the winless Tigers. Richmond has shown some added bite in 2021 though, shoring up in defence and streaming forward more dangerously.

The Tigers have conceded no more than seven goals against some stiff opposition across the first three rounds, but have a lingering sense of rawness when it comes to their efficiency in attack. A total score of seven goals and 17 behinds does not make for good reading, and such impotence will likely prove costly against the more polished Blues, who are also quite bullish in defence.

Carlton’s strong midfield is set to play a factor too, led by reigning league best and fairest, Madison Prespakis. She may well find herself matched up by former-Blue Sarah Hosking at the centre bounces, with star Richmond ball winner Monique Conti arguably her side’s biggest threat in that department. The Blues’ dynamism and depth across the ground will also prove telling, especially if Richmond put together a good patch.

Tip: Carlton by 28

FREMANTLE (2nd, 3-0) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 2:10pm
Fremantle Oval

Fremantle will fancy its chances of extending its record winning run to 11 matches on Saturday afternoon, when the Gold Coast Suns come to town looking for their first points this season. The Dockers have been in irresistible form, picking up from where they left off in 2020 with three-straight wins – including a crucial one against Adelaide last week in what was their first true test for 2021.

After a promising start against Melbourne, Gold Coast has registered a combined 10 points in its last two outings; first suffering a Q-Clash drubbing and then being edged by GWS in torrential conditions. Needless to say, scoring is a sore point for the Suns, but they have decent stock in a forwardline led by Sarah Perkins, should the ball get there. That is not to mention All Australian Kalinda Howarth, who is yet to register a goal this season.

They will need all the firepower they can get to match that of Fremantle, who have an array of scoring options. Spearhead Gemma Houghton was held relatively well last week but still managed to live up to her two-goal average, while the likes of Sabreena Duffy and Kara Antonio have also proven handy avenues forward. Gold Coast will have its hands full in midfield as well, though the reliable partnership of Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan should provide some resistance to the Kiara Bowers juggernaut.

Tip: Fremantle by 45

NORTH MELBOURNE (5th, 2-1) vs. COLLINGWOOD (3rd, 3-0)
Saturday February 20, 7:10pm
Marvel Stadium

Marvel Stadium hosts one of the games of the round as Victorian powerhouses North Melbourne and Collingwood do battle on Saturday night. Returning fans should be treated to a mouthwatering spectacle, with the elements set to play no factor in hindering North Melbourne’s slick ball movement by foot, or Collingwood’s flowing run-and-gun style under the Marvel Stadium roof.

The Magpies should come in with a great deal of confidence having passed every test put in front of them thus far, but this will easily be their biggest challenge yet. While they dropped points last week, the Kangaroos have the advantage of competing in one of the competition’s most high-level encounters, ever, putting them in good stead for this potential finals sighter.

Collingwood midfield brigade is one of the few which could well match it with North Melbourne at the centre bounces, with ball magnets Jaimee Lambert, Brittany Bonnici, and the dynamic Bri Davey all averaging over 19 disposals. North Melbourne’s depth runs a touch deeper though, with Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell, and Jenna Bruton among five Roos to average over 16 touches. The other two, Jasmine Garner and Ellie Gavalas, have also booted five and four goals respectively.

Tip: North Melbourne by 5

BRISBANE (1st, 3-0) vs. ADELAIDE (6th, 2-1)
Sunday February 21, 12:10pm
Hickey Park

League frontrunner, Brisbane hosts Adelaide on Sunday afternoon in another game of the round contender, making for Brisbane’s first top six assignment this year. The Lions have been flawless thus far, albeit against three of the bottom four teams, with the league’s most potent attack and stingiest defence. Adelaide went down to Fremantle last week, but has shown its quality as a bonafide premiership threat. This, another clash of contenders, will prove telling.

The Lions’ key forward partnership of Dakota Davidson and Jesse Wardlaw has produced a combined 12 goals this season, as teams have struggled to combat their one-two punch. Add to that the speed of Greta Bodey (five goals) and Courtney Hodder at ground level, and Brisbane’s attack has plenty of bases which need covering.

Adelaide will always back its midfield, consisting of Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips to set it on the right foot, while a defence set to be bolstered by skipper Chelsea Randall should combat Brisbane’s firepower well. Having been thrown deep forward with good success last week, Phillips looms as a handy wildcard for the Crows who were incredibly wasteful inside attacking 50 last week. They will need to be on song to kick a winning score in this one.

Tip: Brisbane by 3

WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 2-1) vs. MELBOURNE (4th, 3-0)
Sunday February 21, 3:10pm
Whitten Oval

Pioneer clubs Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup at Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon, with just one game separating them so far this season. Nathan Burke‘s young pups have been ultra impressive in registering their 2-1 record, but the hardness and class of Melbourne’s undefeated side should prove a steep mountain to climb.

The Dees’ new-found scoring power and free-flowing style has been built on the back of some continued solidity in midfield, with stalwart Karen Paxman reliable as ever in 2021 alongside Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks – all of whom average over 20 disposals per game. Up forward, a tall attack led by Tegan Cunningham has been difficult to counter in the air, while Kate Hore continues to damage at ground level.

Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn has been inspirational as ever this season, dragging her side over the line on two occasions and leading the Dogs for disposals, clearances, inside 50s, and score involvements. She is also top of the tree alongside Izzy Huntington for goals (both four), with the latter a contested marking phenomenon. Plenty of young guns, including Jessica Fitzgerald will have to step up for the Dogs here in what looms as an extremely daunting task.

Tip: Melbourne by 24

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (10th, 1-2) vs. WEST COAST (12th, 0-3)
Sunday February 21, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Round 4’s final game sees Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosting once again against the winless West Coast Eagles, who have proven quite plucky in patches this season. The Giants broke through last week with a 10-point win over Gold Coast, another winless side, to get some points on the board, but West Coast has thrice fallen short of the mark against quality opposition.

This presents as the Eagles’ best chance to get on the board so far in 2021, with a solid half of smothering tackling pressure against Brisbane fresh in their memory. The problems for West Coast have come via a lack of efficiency and class inside forward 50, while the Eagles’ defence has also conceded the most points of any side this season.

Young guns Bella Lewis and Mikayla Bowen have tried hard alongside Emma Swanson and ruck Parris Laurie at the centre bounces, but will be tasked with combating the dominance of powerhouse GWS pair Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson. Both have been among the top three disposal and contested ball winners in the first three rounds, but have seen their hard work come unstuck further afield. The Giants should be able to see the game out better on the basis of experience, but will have to be wary.

Tip: GWS by 11

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) North Melbourne FC

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 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: 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