Tag: Libby Birch

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #40-#36

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition we move on with the players ranked 40-36, featuring two key members of the Collingwood spine, a couple of boom recruits, and a thriving young key defender. Check out who made the cut in front of the players ranked 45-41.

#40 EMMA SWANSON (WEST COAST)

6 GAMES AVE: 17 disposals, 2.2 marks, 4.5 tackles, 5 clearances, 2 rebound 50s, 3.3 inside 50s

Swanson proved the perfect partner-in-crime to West Coast star Dana Hooker upon making the switch over from GWS to the incoming Eagles, leading her side for clearances, metres gained, and inside 50s at the end of a terrific 2020 campaign. It was arguably the midfielder’s best season since debuting for the GIANTS back in 2017, and the 25-year-old seems to really be hitting her prime now. Swanson was also one of the Eagles’ best in their lone win for the year, collecting a season-high 22 touches and one goal to help her side upset the Bulldogs in Round 4.

#39 STACEY LIVINGSTONE (COLLINGWOOD)

7 GAMES AVE: 9.9 disposals, 2.4 marks, 1.6 tackles, 4.1 rebound 50s, 5.6 intercept possessions

An uncompromising key defender, Livingstone returned another consistent campaign as the leader of Collingwood’s back five. Her experience and competitiveness proved vital as the Pies made a run for finals in the absence of Ash Brazill, taking on the opposition’s best key forward each week with little fuss. Of course, few could forget the job Livingstone did on Carlton gun Tayla Harris in Collingwood’s first ever win over its arch rival, with her no-frills game the perfect counterpart to many a high-flying spearhead. Despite missing out on a spot in the final All Australian side, Livingstone is one of the league’s finest defenders.

#38 SARAH ALLAN (ADELAIDE) 

6 GAMES AVE: 12.5 disposals, 80% efficiency, 3.5 marks, 1.8 tackles, 1.8 rebound 50s

Allan’s steady rate of improvement over her four-year AFL Women’s career culminated in a season good enough to earn All Australian recognition, with the 22-year-old slotting into the last line of defence after also being named in the 22 Under 22 team. The reliable key defender was again a calm influence in the Crows’ back half, working well on all levels without possession, while also leading her side in disposal efficiency with ball in hand. Allan started the year off with a bang against Brisbane, collecting a season-high 18 disposals, while her seven-mark performance against GWS was also memorable – despite the losses.

#37 LIBBY BIRCH (MELBOUNRE) 

7 GAMES AVE: 12.1 disposals, 3.6 marks, 1.6 tackles, 2.1 rebound 50s, 6.4 intercept possessions

Melbourne’s boom recruit coming into season 2020 was Birch, who justified the hype and price paid with another outstanding season at the top level. The classy defender led her new side for intercept possessions, reading the play typically well across half-back and using her athleticism at 175cm to provide good fold both in the air and at ground level. Some of Birch’s best numbers for the year came in Melbourne’s epic finals win over GWS, as she collected 15 disposals (13 kicks) and clunked five marks to prove her big game experience at just 22 years of age. Remains one of the many former netballers to have made a seamless transition to football.

#36 SHARNI LAYTON (COLLINGWOOD) 

7 GAMES AVE: 10.1 disposals, 2.4 marks, 2.7 tackles, 17.1 hitouts, 1.1 inside 50s

Speaking of former netballers, Layton improved out of sight to become one of the competition’s prime rucks in 2020, cementing a starting spot in the All Australian side. The 188cm cross-coder backed up a promising VFLW campaign with a stellar effort at the top level, finishing second in the league for total hitouts and adding strings to her bow by also hitting the scoreboard on three occasions. Layton’s marking and follow-up work were also key features of her impressive game throughout the year, with her talent how catching up to her towering frame.

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #1 – Mithen saves Demons from finals hell

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, ending with our top pick which saw Melbourne claim a dramatic come-from-behind finals win over GWS via the boot of an unlikely hero. On the road and in their first ever post-season match, the Demons had to raise hell to come out on top.

The match-up produced an opening term befitting of the tense nature of finals time, with both sides going goalless but the contest hot as GWS snuck ahead 2-1 in a scoreline reminiscent of a soccer game.  GIANTS skipper Alicia Eva made her presence felt early on, snapping through the point to put her side ahead while also getting some attention back after pummelling high into Melbourne star, Karen Paxman. The home side looked set to find the big sticks first when Rebecca Privitelli juggled a mark deep inside 50, but her kick held up in the breeze and proved easy picking for the Melbourne defence to prevent a score altogether.

It took a strike from Lily Mithen, who had never previously kicked a goal in her four-year AFL Women’s career to see the first set of six points tick over, converting from a tight angle to put Melbourne ahead after earning a free kick. The excitement was only made more evident in the absence of a crowd, with her teammates duly getting around her. Despite holding territory at what looked like the scoring end, the Demons almost saw their opponent go coast-to-coast in the last 10 minutes, but Aimee Schmidt pulled her shot badly while streaming into goal. She made amends for the miss with a wonderful effort in the final minute of the half, though, benefitting from a spill created by Privitelli at ground level and snapping home the GIANTS’ first major. The buffer was back to just a sole point at the main break, with the famed premiership quarter ahead.

After a tense opening few minutes, Jess Dal Pos earned a free kick within the forward 50 arc and converted a booming set shot to put GWS back in front. It would prove the catalyst for what seemed like a game-breaking run for the GIANTS, owning the term with 2.3 while holding Melbourne scoreless. The GIANTS may have again spurned some guilt-edged chances in front of goal, but another major in the final minute – this time via Cora Staunton and a lucky falcon – had the home side dreaming of a would-be preliminary final berth. The GIANTS were 14 point to the good come the final turn, a margin which exceeded the score Melbourne had put on the board to that point.

The failure to convert in front of goal would come back to haunt GWS though, and Shelley Scott’s accurate set shot gave the Demons a sniff with seven-and-a-half minutes left to play. The pressure only mounted as Adelaide premiership star and 2020 injury top-up player Sarah Perkins slammed home another major, bringing the margin to within a goal. If Melbourne’s pressure hadn’t already set the alarm bells ringing, then the scoreboard would have for GWS. No warning could prevent what eventuated, as Mithen took a terrific one-on-one mark with a tick over a minute left on the clock, and remarkably converted the shot to give her side the lead once again at the ideal time. The final siren would sound with Melbourne once again heading inside forward 50, and scenes of jubilation ensuing.

The cream rose to the top for Melbourne, with all the usual experienced suspects having their say. Daisy Pearce led her side’s disposal count with 22 from defence alongside 15 from Libby Birch, while elite midfield mover Paxman notched 20. The aerial presence of Lauren Pearce and Eden Zanker proved valuable for the winners, but it was Mithen’s two goals which undeniably made her the hero in just her third outing for the season. For the GIANTS, Alyce Parker was at her usual best with a game-high 23 disposals, aided by Rebecca Beeson and Haneen Zreika. The likes of Eva, Schmidt, and Tait Mackrill had what-if games going forward, with their chances adding to the unfortunate statistic of GWS losing despite managing two more scoring shots. The Dees were poised to go on into the preliminary final round, but of course saw the season cut short and a remarkable run, ended.

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
MELBOURNE 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Schmidt, C. Staunton, J. Dal Pos.
Melbourne: L. Mithen 2, S. Scott, S. Perkins.

ADC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, H. Zreika, J. Allan
Melbourne: K. Paxman, L. Birch, D. Pearce, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

Prespakis claims best and fairest in second season

CARLTON’S Madison Prespakis has capped off a remarkable 2020 AFL Women’s season by taking out the League Best and Fairest Award at tonight’s W Awards ceremony. While the feeling amongst the room might have been different compared to a packed house at a gala event, Prespakis and the other winners were no less deserving of their awards.

The second-year dynamo has collected just about every award there is to collect, already being a dual best and fairest, dual All-Australian and Rising Star winner. The former Calder Cannons skipper and top five pick has not put a foot wrong in two seasons with the Blues, averaging 20.1 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.1 tackles and booting 10 goals across 16 games.

Prespakis won the award with 15 votes with Fremantle Dockers star Kiara Bowers just three votes behind. In at third was the Kangaroos’ Emma Kearney on 11 votes while Anne Hatchard and Jenna Bruton managed 10 votes apiece to round out the top five.

The awards did not stop there with former number one pick Isabel Huntington taking out the Rising Star award. Huntington might be the feel-good story of the 2020 W Awards. Having to overcome various injury setbacks including long-term knee injuries, Huntington repaid the faith the Bulldogs showed in her by selecting her with Pick 1 back in the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft. She had only managed the five games prior to 2020, but doubled that amount this year and averaged 13.0 disposals, 4.8 marks, 2.6 tackles and 3.4 rebounds. It was enough for her to earn All-Australian honours this year.

Caitlin Greiser has known since the season’s conclusion that she would receive the Leading goal kicker award, booting 10 goals in her debut season. The former Western Jets talent missed out on being drafted when she played as an overager, but then crossed from Melbourne University to Southern Saints where coach Peta Searle saw enough to offer her a senior list spot. Coming from a soccer background, Greiser did not look overawed on the big stage, with a season-best three majors against Richmond, and the winning goal against Melbourne to spur the Saints onto victory in both those matches.

Announced the night before, the other major achievement bestowed upon 21 of the league’s finest was the All-Australian team. The team featured 11 debutants in Sarah Allen (Adelaide Crows), Libby Birch (Melbourne), Isabelle Huntington (Western Bulldogs), Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood), Olivia Purcell (Geelong Cats), Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda), Kate Hore (Melbourne), Sharni Layton (Collingwood), Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast SUNS), Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS) and Ash Riddell (North Melbourne). Along with the debutants, two players maintained their unbeaten streak in the league’s best side with Karen Paxman (captain) and Emma Kearney (vice-captain) handed leadership roles for making a remarkable fourth-straight team.

The full team is below:

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #8 – Saints shock unbeaten Dees

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our #8 which saw St Kilda’s historic inaugural win against the then unbeaten Melbourne. Heading into the Round 3 contest, Melbourne had stunned premiership favourites, North Melbourne in the opening round before accounting for the Western Bulldogs in Round 2. St Kilda had gone down to the Bulldogs in the Saints’ first ever match in the league, before losing in a spirited fight on the road against the reigning premiers, Adelaide.

It was a history-making performance by the Saints claiming their inaugural AFLW win and stunning the lacklustre Demons in the meantime. The start was relatively even with an inaccurate Melbourne booting 1.4 to 1.0 in the opening term, with that sole goal proving to be the Dees’ only one of the game. The low-scoring match came down to a strong second half effort from the Saints, who well and truly took advantage of Melbourne’s inaccuracy in front of goal. 22 Under 22 forward Caitlin Greiser impressed booting two goals for the Saints, including the parting blow midway through the final term, using her clean hands and strength to evade Melbourne’s defence and well and truly steal the show. While Melbourne had a heap of experience at its disposal, the Saints went in hard for the footy and outshone the Dees who simply could not convert.

This year’s Best First Year Player, Georgia Patrikios continued her impressive form through the midfield, collecting 15 touches while teammates Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Olivia Vesely topped the disposal count at 16 apiece and high pressure duo Nat Exon and Rosie Dillon combined for 14 tackles. While the Melbourne unit failed to play its typical game – down to constant pressing defence from the Saints cutting off options forward, they still had a plethora of solid performers despite Shelley Scott kicking the Dees’ lone goal in the first quarter. Formidable and experienced trio in Karen Paxman, Elise O’Dea and Daisy Pearce combined to be a formidable force with Paxman taking home the most possessions in the game with 26. O’Dea was not far behind with 20 while Libby Birch and Maddi Gay also found their fair share of the footy but it was not enough to change the end result.

As history would have it, Melbourne still reached the 2020 AFL Women’s finals series, winning a classic contest against GWS GIANTS before the season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saints would win another game and not only avoid the wooden spoon in their Conference, but finish above fellow newcomer West Coast, and foundation side Western Bulldogs as well, the team that knocked them off in the opening round.

ST KILDA 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.1 (19)
MELBOURNE 1.4 | 1.5 | 1.8 | 1.8 (14)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser (2), D. Guttridge.
Melbourne: S. Scott.

BESTS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, T. Lucas-Rodd, G. Patrikios, O. Vesley,
Melbourne: K. Paxman, E. O’Dea, D. Pearce, S. Scott

Molloy leads talented #22Under22 AFLW side as Patrikios is named Best First Year Player

COLLINGWOOD 2018 AFL Women’s Rising Star talent, Chloe Molloy has been announced as captain of the 2020 AFL Women’s #22Under22 Team which was announced this morning. The 2019 Rising Star, Madison Prespakis was named vice-captain in the side, one of three Blues in the team – the most represented side. Of the 14 teams, 13 are represented in the squad, with Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Melbourne, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs all having two players.

Despite their first season being cut short, it did not stop the likes of Gabby Newton, Georgia Patrikios, Roxanne Roux and Caitlin Greiser making the side off limited games. Inaugural Rising Star, Ebony Marinoff joined Molloy and Prespakis as other Rising Stars to earn selection. Patrikios added another accolade to her trophy cabinet today, being named Best First Year Player for 2020.

As well as the Rising Stars, the past three number one picks were also named in the side with Isabel Huntington, Nina Morrison and Newton all making the team. Also among the squad is a raft of talented talls, with Sarah Allen, Eden Zanker and Jesse Wardlaw on the bench, joined by North Melbourne’s Jasmine Grierson and Brisbane’s Sophie Conway in the six-player interchange.

There are also a number of players who have already represented two different sides in their careers, with former Western Bulldogs Monique Conti (Richmond) and Libby Birch (Melbourne), as well as former Lions-turned-Suns Lauren Bella and Kalinda Howarth all named.

Rounding out the remainder of the side are a trio of second year players, Charlotte Wilson, Alyce Parker and Sabreena Duffy, while pocket rocket Georgia Gee earned a spot in the action-packed forward line.

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Melbourne

MELBOURNE earned its first-ever finals berth in 2020 after years of near-misses, claiming a thrilling maiden post-season win in the process to cap off its successful season. Under the tutelage of Mick Stinear, the seasoned Demons side notched four wins despite enduring harsh spates of key injuries and absentees throughout the year, as they enter their premiership window. The return of skipper Daisy Pearce and elevation of Sarah Perkins to the senior squad buoyed the Dees at different points in the year, with the squad’s ability to adapt into makeshift situations its key feature. Relive the highs and lows of Melbourne’s campaign, with a nod to its most outstanding players in our season review.

RECORD: 3rd (B), 4-2 (1-0 finals), 164.5%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated North Melbourne by 2 points
R2: defeated Western Bulldogs by 12 points
R3: lost to St Kilda by 5 points
R4:
defeated Collingwood by 20 points
R5:
defeated West Coast by 59 points 
R6:
lost to Carlton by 16 points
SF: defeated GWS by 3 points

A stirring Round 1 upset over pre-season premiership fancy, North Melbourne set the ball rolling in an ideal way for Melbourne, and it was backed up by another solid win against the youthful Western Bulldogs in Round 2. But the early momentum was brought to a halt as the Demons unforgivably went down to St Kilda in a low-scoring affair, with subsequent wins over Collingwood and West Coast helping them make the ground back up. For all that good form in consecutive wins, Carlton put another loss on Melbourne’s record via its strong defence, but it was soon forgotten as the Dees romped home to snatch a thrilling finals victory against GWS.

SEASON HIGH: Mithen rescues the Dees from finals hell

There were many highs to choose from among the key moments in Melbourne’s year – knocking off North Melbourne in Round 1, and the returns of Pearce and Perkins to name a couple – but none of them come close to this triumph. Staring a finals defeat in the face with over two goals to make up at the last change, the Dees leant on an unlikely hero to save the day. Enter Lily Mithen, who booted her first two career goals to help her side claim an incredible comeback win at the death in an instant finals classic.

SEASON LOW: Going down to expansion side, St Kilda

For the many lofty heights have come some pretty devastating lows for Melbourne supporters over the years, and this one came out of nowhere. After two impressive wins to open the year, Melbourne was expected to feast on winless expansion side, St Kilda. Instead, the Demons could only muster 1.8 as the Saints came from behind at the final break to claim an incredible upset win – the first in their short history. Melbourne’s tendency for losing winnable games had reared its head once again in a costly lapse.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Karen Paxman (21.3 disposals, 71% efficiency, 3 marks, 4.1 tackles, 5.6 clearances, 2.3 rebound 50s, 3.4 inside 50s, 337 metres gained)

After becoming Melbourne’s prime midfield mover in the absence of Pearce last season, Paxman continued her incredible run of form to stake her claim as one of the competition’s elites. A deserving All Australian squad member, the durable engine room operator led the league for clearances, and her club for disposals, contested possessions, inside 50s, rebound 50s, and metres gained in a remarkable campaign.

Daisy Pearce (14.9 disposals, 69% efficiency, 2.7 marks, 5.7 intercept possessions, 2.9 tackles, 1.7 rebound 50s, 1.6 inside 50s)

Arguably the greatest women’s player of all time prior to the AFL Women’s era, Pearce returned to competition in emphatic style, appearing in all seven games as skipper of her side. Utilised in a slightly different role off half-back, the 31-year-old showcased her terrific skill on the ball in the defensive half and was named in the All Australian squad. Still got it.

Kate Hore (12.7 disposals, 3.3 marks, 3.9 tackles, 2.4 inside 50s, 5 goals)

The third of Melbourne’s All Australian squad members is Hore, who maintained her high standard of performance in another terrific AFLW campaign. The skilful forward continues to find avenues to goal having booted five as her side’s equal-leading goalkicker, but also works hard up the ground to provide avenues into the forward half. Has not missed a beat since her 2018 debut.

Libby Birch (12.1 disposals, 3.6 marks, 6.4 intercept possessions, 1.6 tackles, 2.1 rebound 50s)

Melbourne’s boom recruit coming into 2020 was Birch, and the defender delivered on her already impressive reputation. The former-Bulldog slotted in seamlessly to the Demons’ back five, leading her new side in intercept possessions across all seven games. Birch was the perfect partner in crime to Peace in defence, intercepting with ease and combining with the champ in transition.

Elise O’Dea (14.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, 3.9 tackles, 3 clearances, 2 inside 50s)

The foundation Demon was once again a reliable outlet for her side through midfield, providing that hard inside edge through the engine room alongside the likes of Paxman. O’Dea’s numbers may have been slightly down in comparison to other years, but the former-captain’s value comes through in her selfless work around the ball and undeniable leadership qualities.

THE YOUNG GUN:

Tyla Hanks (10.4 disposals, 1.3 marks, 4.7 tackles, 1.4 inside 50s)

The Demons may possess somewhat of an ageing list, but also lay claim to one of the competition’s most exciting young guns in Hanks. After steadily entering the elite level in a forward role throughout her rookie season, the Gippsland Power graduate enjoyed more midfield minutes this year, and led her side for tackles while showing plenty of promise.

THE MAKESHIFT RUCK

Eden Zanker (10.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, 3.6 tackles, 11 hitouts, 1.7 inside 50s, 4 goals)

Zanker was one to step up and shine in the wake of Melbourne’s desperate injury situation, adding ruck craft to her game while also remaining a threat up forward. In the absence of Lauren Pearce, the 20-year-old used her sizeable leap at 183cm to lead her club for hitouts, and booted four goals during her time inside forward 50. Another promising youngster who thrived in a different role.

THE SPEARHEAD:

Shelley Scott (11.1 disposals, 4 marks, 3.7 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.6 score involvements, 5 goals)

While she may stack up at the same height as fellow leading goalkicker, Hore, Scott played the more traditional key forward role of the two this season. The 170cm spearhead’s five goals made for an equal career-best haul, and her work as a marking target was sensational. Scott led the club for marks (including contested) and score involvements in an impressive season.

VERDICT:

Melbourne is perhaps one of the sides which would have been most disappointed by the shortened season given its ageing list, the fact it had beaten North Melbourne, and that it had not yet faced Fremantle. The premiership window seems to remain ajar, but time may run out soon as the next generation takes over from foundation players. Still, the Demons were right up there at their best and should be in for another tilt at finals next year.

Demons’ remarkable comeback sees inaugural AFL Women’s finals victory

THE second match of the AFL Women’s semi-finals saw GWS GIANTS host Melbourne in a real battle of the midfield with both sides coming in relatively equal. While the Dees had to ensure they had enough players to take the field – with two of their Irish talents heading home prior to the weekend – the GIANTS had the opportunity to bring back some of their big guns and take advantage of a two-game winning streak. Unfortunately for the stalwart GIANTS however, a massive burst in energy and drive was the clincher, with Melbourne digging deep for three straight goals to defeat the home side, 4.5 (29) to 3.8 (26).

Right from the start it was a tough contest, with both sides going in hard for the footy and relentless in their pursuit. While the first quarter was goalless it was not for a lack of trying, thanks to the impressive defensive effort of both sides. Melbourne’s Libby Birch and Daisy Pearce (15 and 22 touches respectively), and GIANTS’ Elle Bennetts and Tanya Hetherington (13 and 10) were doing the job off the half-back for their respective sides and making it tough to penetrate forward 50. Neither side was able to really apply the scoreboard pressure required to guarantee a lead early, and while an inaugural goal for Demons speedster Lily Mithen early in the second did plenty to raise morale it was only just enough to keep the Dees ahead, with Aimee Schmidt looking dangerous up the other end, finishing with 1.2 alongside fellow goalsneak Cora Staunton. While the return of Lauren Pearce was a handy inclusion for the Dees, it was the GIANTS midfield that had it over the Melbourne outfit, forcing errors and turnovers in the Demons’ forward half with Jess Allan producing clean taps to the GIANTS at the centre bounce. While the Dees had 10 more inside 50s, the GIANTS were much more clinical in the third quarter to take a solid lead and leave the Demons in the dirt, rendering the Dees goalless in the third while goals to Schmidt and Jess Dal Pos saw victory inching away from Melbourne’s sights. Eden Zanker continued to bull her way through the contest, aiding Lauren Pearce in the ruck and using her aerial ability to bring ball to ground, with Karen Paxman using her experience to take the footy from there and drive the ball forward.

Alicia Eva (12 disposals, 10 tackles, two behinds) looked dangerous in the final quarter but was unable to extend the lead – something the GIANTS captain will be ruing as real a missed opportunity, with the side unable to reenter their forward 50 for much of the last quarter. Alyce Parker (23 disposals, four marks) proved why she is such a highly valued player, digging deep and impacting the contest with her ability to find the ball. The GIANTS continued to control much of the ball movement through the middle of the ground, rebounding well with Brittany Tully (11 disposals, six tackles) and Bennetts using their speed to keep the Dees on their toes. But Melbourne’s experience well and truly came to play, with the defensive pressure going up a notch to ensure there were little uncontested marks or clean entries inside their defensive 50. A goal to Shelley Scott had the Dees up on their feet, with a closing margin and all the momentum putting the GIANTS on the defensive. Still down by nine points with less than five minutes to play, Melbourne really came out of the blocks to apply the scoreboard pressure they’d been missing, with a goal to Sarah Perkins putting the Dees within four points of victory. Less than a minute on the clock, and a great mark from Mithen saw the Demon with an opportunity to gift Melbourne its inaugural finals victory and chew up some time – and kicked true for her second career goal. Retaining possession was key for the Dees as the seconds dwindled, with the final siren seeing a massive three-point semi-final victory in the books after trailing for majority of the match. 

Mithen impressed with her two goals and some impressive – and daring – marks getting the job done up the ground for the Dees. Daisy Pearce and Paxman were some of the driving forces in the latter stage of the match, combining for 43 touches, nine tackles and five marks, while Birch was influential as ever down back, consistently providing that rebounding effort with her ability to intercept critical ball. Despite Aleisha Newman being rendered goalless once more – her first goalless season at AFL Women’s level – her drive forward was crucial in the later stages of the match while her speed and intensity saw her collect five tackles, just behind Scott, Perkins and Paxman with six apiece.

For the GIANTS, Jacinda Barclay and Rebecca Privitelli were both kept relatively quiet, and while they were solid targets up the ground, collecting five marks apiece, they were unable to have the impact they have shown in past games. Haneen Zreika and Rebecca Beeson looked dangerous at times, finding plenty of the footy with their respective 17 and 19 disposals, while Eva’s and Tully’s tackling pressure was vital.

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
MELBOURNE 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Schmidt, C. Staunton, J. Dal Pos.
Melbourne: L. Mithen 2, S. Scott, S. Perkins.

ADC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, H. Zreika, J. Allan
Melbourne: K. Paxman, L. Birch, D. Pearce, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

GIANTS host Demons in inaugural AFL Women’s finals appearance

TWO inaugural AFL Women’s finalists will face off in the second match of the semi-finals, with second ranked GWS GIANTS (Conference A) and Melbourne (Conference B) both taking the field in a finals scenario for the first time in the competition’s history. Both sides are sitting on four wins from six matches and among the top sides in their respective conferences, making for an enticing battle between two talented teams.  

GWS GIANTS v. Melbourne
Saturday, 21 March, 2.40pm AEDT
GIANTS Stadium

Melbourne and GIANTS did not play during the home and away season in 2020, making for an interesting battle for the opposing conference teams – especially given if the two conferences were combined, Melbourne would sit in fourth ahead of GIANTS on percentage in fifth. While Melbourne will likely come in as favourites this week, another anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last week – their fifth of the season – sees the Dees down in stocks once more while the GIANTS have the winning streak to get over the line. While the two sides have not come up against each other in 2020, the GIANTS will hope to fight back against recent history with losses to the Dees in both 2018 and 2019 sure to be on their mind, though plenty has changed for both teams since those seasons. 

The GIANTS will hope to welcome back fearless leader Alicia Eva, with the tenacious midfielder a key cog that could help push the Dees to the limit. GIANTS fans are hopeful ruck Jess Allan (averaging 16.8 hitouts) will return to the fray this week after sitting out with sickness in Round 6 to team up with Rebecca Beeson and Alyce Parker who continue to have an influence both on and off the footy, while Brittany Tully is having an impressive season on the track with her tackling pressure, collecting almost seven per match. Cora Staunton and Rebecca Privitelli have been key targets up forward, bearing the brunt of the goalkicking with seven and six respectively, while Elle Bennetts has been influential off the half back averaging 6.3 intercept possessions.

Melbourne will sorely miss dynamic Irish duo in Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy, with the pair called back home during the week in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, making for a tough ask for the Dees to field a team. Defensively the impact of Daisy Pearce and Libby Birch will prove crucial, with both players averaging 6.2 intercept possessions and sending the footy back forward, settling play in motion with patience. Karen Paxman has been the clear standout for the Demons this season, averaging 21.5 touches (10 contested) and five clearances and doing a wealth of work off the ball to provide that option up the ground. Young gun Tyla Hanks has slot in well and leads the tackle count while Eden Zanker has put an impressive season in the books playing out of her depth as an undersized ruck, but is averaging 11.7 hitouts thanks to her impressive leap and has put a score on the board in all but one match in 2020. Kate Hore has come into her own in front of the big sticks this season, booting the five goals – including a goal of the year contender last round – while her work rate and  run and carry has been phenomenal in season 2020.

Blues assert dominance with 16-point win over Dees in Alice Springs

IT was a hot start in hot conditions in Alice Springs on Saturday night, with Conference B rivals Melbourne and Carlton fighting for an elusive finals opportunity with the loser of this match in danger of missing out. While the Demons took out an early lead, the Blues were not to be left behind, keeping a firm hand on the Dees to dominate the second half, denying a goal from the red and blue after half-time, with the hosts going down 3.6 (24) to 6.4 (40).

Both sides switched on early, and while both sides were unable to put a goal on the board for the first half of the quarter there was no lack of pressure across the field with quick movement and little clean chances to put ball to boot. The Dees were more patient with ball in hand, chipping the footy around the ground but wasting chances up forward. Kerryn Harrington was on song early, applying defensive pressure with her read of the play and intensity proving key for the Blues, aided by Vaomua Laloifi who was unafraid going into any contest. Melbourne were quick to take advantage of the Blues playing down, locking up their back 50 thanks to rebounding efforts of Libby Birch and speed of Daisy Pearce and keeping the Blues tracking through the middle of the ground. A head knock to Aliesha Newman had fans scrambling but Kate Hore was quick to create some cheer, sprinting down the wing with three bounces and finding the first goal of the match at the end of it. But Carlton returned fire almost instantly, with Brooke Walker on the end of a Tayla Harris kick at centre bounce to keep the side in the mix. Harrington missed much of the first after a head knock saw her take the bench with a cheekbone issue, with Nat Plane lining up in her place against a real mismatch in opposition against Sarah Perkins. It saw Perkins do what she does best inside 50, booting a goal and getting the Dees up and about and in control once more, owning the footy on the outside to lead by eight and dominating the mark count 22-9 at quarter time.

A slow second term followed up the first, with both sides continuing in similar fashion. While Harrington rejoined the fray, Melbourne’s Irish recruit Sinead Goldrick went down with a corky, leaving the Dees down one in the back half for the rest of the match. Quick hands from Harris saw Georgia Gee put her first on the board as the Blues switched on the pressure, but while they flooded Melbourne’s forward 50 they were unable to take advantage of turnover footy with little option left in their forward half to make the most of opportunities. A late goal from Shelley Scott saw the Dees reestablish an eight-point lead heading into the main change, with a massive second half to come.

The match flipped in the second half, with the Blues doing what the Dees did best early, cleanly and patiently chipping the footy down the field to apply the forward pressure they so sorely lacked early. It was a tense start, with both sides going in hard to the contest but it was the Blues ultimately getting the better of the Dees, coming out full throttle to prove they had plenty left in the tank. Melbourne lost some cleanliness in defence but were lucky to get out relatively unscathed in the early stages of the term, pressured in their back 50 in a way they had not been early in the match. But while the Blues had difficulty applying the scoreboard pressure, all was released with a likely anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to Sarah Lampard, with a much-needed goal from Harris breaking the flood and youngster Grace Egan following up minutes later to put the Blues in front for the first time. The Dees just could not catch a break, down two on the bench and the bounce just not going their way in front of the big sticks, with Newman just one of many who could not apply the scoreboard pressure, with a scarily similar run and bounce down the wing to Hore’s first quarter major dribbling through as a behind. A late knock to Harrington saw the key defender head off the field for the second time, with the Demons finishing the third term with a lacklustre two behinds to Carlton’s two majors.

Both sides started the final term ready for a tough slog, with neither side ready to give up in what shaped up to be an even contest. Carlton’s intensity was paying dividends with Melbourne’s defence tiring thanks to little bench rotations in the heat, with a goal to Maddy Prespakis opening up a crucial nine point lead and all the momentum going the way of the Blues. Plenty of opportunities saw the Dees pepper the scoreboard but to no avail, with the footy continuing to evade the goalposts and the clock ticking down. The last five minutes saw frantic footy, with much of the play in the Melbourne forward 50 but impatience causing more issues from the usually composed side. A second goal to Walker saw the Blues lock up victory with only three minutes left on the clock, extending the lead to 16 points and giving the Dees little chance of taking back the win.

Despite not getting hands to the footy in the first half, Carlton young gun Lucy McEvoy finished among the best with 19 touches, joined by Prespakis who once again starred with 23 disposals, four marks and a goal. Laloifi and Plane provided a crucial defensive buffer down back while Harris and Darcy Vescio put on a veteran performance getting hands to plenty of the footy and creating a constant pressure pushing up the ground. For Melbourne, Paxman lead the charge once more with 27 touches while Hore put on a stellar performance with 19 touches, six marks, six tackles and a goal in her best match of the season so far. Pearce put her experience out on the field, collecting 16 touches and five marks while Maddi Gay racked up 17 touches and five tackles, aided by Eden Zanker who impressed in the ruck with 17 hitouts and 13 touches, while Birch was influential in defence.

Both Melbourne and Carlton will face Fremantle in the coming weeks, with this win leaving the Blues in a good position to get through a rough patch if it comes. Melbourne will have a tough time coming back from this match, with the margin seeing their percentage drop drastically and Collingwood right on their tail with only two rounds left in the books. Carlton take on Conference B cellar dwellers, West Coast Eagles next Saturday at Ikon Park while Melbourne travel to Western Australia to take on undefeated Fremantle on Sunday afternoon at Fremantle Oval.

MELBOURNE 2.3 | 3.3 | 3.5 | 3.6 (24)
CARLTON 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.4 (40)

GOALS:

Melbourne: S. Scott, K. Hore, S. Perkins.
Carlton: B. Walker 2, G. Egan, G Gee, T. Harris, M. Prespakis.

ADC BEST:

Melbourne: K. Hore, K. Paxman, E. Zanker, M. Gay, D. Pearce, C. Sherriff
Carlton: M. Prespakis, N. Plane, L. McEvoy, G. Pound, C. Wilson. V. Laloifi

2020 AFLW Preview: Round 6 – Dees and Blues face off in conference-defining clash

ROUND 6 of AFL Women’s 2020 begins the race to finals with only two rounds to follow and still plenty of changes that could take place on both conference ladders. A few key wins are up for grabs with Richmond still hoping for an inaugural win while North Melbourne and Fremantle will both want to keep top spot on their respective leaderboards. Meanwhile, Melbourne and Carlton will battle it out in what looks like the match of the round.

Geelong v. North Melbourne
Friday 13 March, 7:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Taylah Melki

The Cats host North Melbourne under lights on Friday night. Geelong currently sit fourth on the ladder while the Kangaroos have first spot locked up. North are on a four game winning streak and will be hoping to extend their run of hot form against a trying Geelong side who have won their past two games.

Although Geelong do not have a host of big name recruits, it is their brigade of young guns that is the most damaging aspect of their side. In her first uninterrupted season, Nina Morrison has enjoyed her time out on the park with her natural ball winning ability, game sense and dynamism on full display. Fellow second year player Olivia Purcell will also be hoping to continue her dominant form in the hotly contested match while the bull-like Richelle Cranston has impressed so far this season with her dash across the ground. Renee Garing has been another consistent performer for the Cats while Aasta O’Connor will once again be hoping to show her aerial strength with her marking ability. A livewire up forward, Phoebe McWilliams will be another to keep an eye on given her ability to bob up and hit the scoreboard while Anna Teague will be hoping to add to their goalkicking tally.

North Melbourne have gone from strength to strength so far this season with Emma Kearney leading the way with her contested ball work. Kearney is in a league of her own, constantly working hard to win the footy at the coalface while also showcasing her impressive defensive efforts laying strong tackles. Jenna Bruton is another key contributor for the Roos with her brute force while the likes of Ash Riddell and Jasmine Garner have upped their intensity throughout the season to round out a formidable side. Garner not only increased her influence around the footy but her presence in front of goal too, making her a key component to the Roos’ forward line. Kaitlyn Ashmore is coming off a four goal haul, an effort she will be hoping to repeat this round while Sophie Abbatangelo is also handy in front of the big sticks. Ruck Emma King is also key to the North Melbourne outfit. If King can have a dominant impact out of the middle with her clever taps and ruckwork it will put her side in a good position. Although she is still a young developing player, Mia King is another one to watch out for given her ability to find the footy and most importantly use it effectively.

Tip: 

GEELONG

B: M.Brown 19 M.McMahon 24
HB: M.Keryk 45 M.McDonald 11 M.Hickey – C 18
C: N.Morrison 9 R.Webster 21 S.Van De Heuvel 27
HF: R.Garing 12 P.McWilliams 23 D.Higgins 2
F: R.Cranston 30 J.Ivey 5
Foll: A.O’Connor 14 J.Crockett-Grills 6 O.Purcell 16
I/C: K.Darby 8 G.Rankin 10 A.McDonald 3 A.Teague 40 C.Blakeway 4

Emerg: N.Garner 22 R.Goring 44

In: J.Ivey, C.Blakeway
Out: R.Goring (Omitted), G.Clarke (Omitted)

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: N.Bresnehan 12 T.Randall 16
HB: S.Wright 17 D.Hardiman 31 A.Gilroy 8
C: J.Grierson 19 E.Kearney – C 9 J.Bruton 35
HF: S.Abbatangelo 1 B.Gibson 18 D.Bateman 11
F: E.King 60 K.Ashmore 10
Foll: V.Saad 39 A.Riddell 7 J.Garner 25
I/C: K.Gillespie-Jones 5 J.Trend 21 E.Gavalas 22 M.King 23 T.Nestor 24

Emerg: D.Bannister 2 E.Humphries 6

In: None
Out: None

Brisbane v. Collingwood
Saturday, 14 March, 2.10pm 
Hickey Park

Sophie Taylor 

Brisbane lost top spot in Conference A last round so are sure to be back with a vengeance this week when they host Collingwood on Saturday afternoon. While Brisbane have shone for the most part this season, a few blips in the radar have left them wanting and this chance against the Magpies is one they will want to take with both hands. But while the Magpies have had a hard time on the injury front this season, a solid win last week will have left them confident and ready for a tough slog this week when they travel up the east coast.

Brisbane have a host of talent that they aren’t afraid to put out on the field, with forward Jesse Wardlaw up there in the goal count across the competition and a keen eye in front of goal, able to have an impact inside 50 with her clever movement and tenacity going for the ground ball. Wardlaw has booted at least one goal per game this season and was knocked off the goalkicking perch last round so will want to continue her consistency with another bag this week. Emily Bates and Alex Anderson continue to be real threats across the field, averaging 22.6 and 20.8 disposals respectively, and creating a formidable opposition. Meanwhile, the side will rely on the likes of Catherine Svarc and Sophie Conway to continue their tackling ways and maintain possession. Young gun Lily Postlethwaite has had a solid few weeks on the track so will want to replicate that form while Jess Wuetschner booted two goals last round to prove she’s back with a vengeance.

For Collingwood, this is ultimately a make or break game. A win here would see them slot in nicely in the top four of Conference B and set up a good run home, but a loss could see the Magpies miss out on finals contention once more. Jaimee Lambert has continued her impeccable form in recent rounds, leading the way and proving a key cog in attack. Chloe Molloy has an ability to impact wherever she is on the field, creating an exciting contest with her intensity and clean hands. Meanwhile, Sharni Layton leads the hitout tally for the season so far and has had a breakout season in the ruck, with her strength, height and ability to get first to the footy making her a tough opponent to come across. Layton has been named across half back in the absence of Ash Brazill to injury, so will work with the likes of Stacey Livingstone to hold down the fort in defence. Britt Bonnici and Bri Davey have continued their consistent form, backing up Molloy and Lambert in their efforts.

Tip: Brisbane by 14 points.

BRISBANE

B: S.Webb 4 S.Campbell 20
HB: C.Svarc 25 K.Lutkins 13 E.Zielke – C 8
C: R.Lugg 11 A.Anderson 18 S.Conway 12
HF: L.Arnell 16 J.Wardlaw 30 J.Wuetschner 23
F: D.Davidson 14 I.Dawes 17
Foll: J.Keeffe 27 B.Koenen 3 E.Bates 1
I/C: N.Grider 10 O.O’Dwyer 9 L.Postlethwaite 6 M.Moloney 28 L.Bellinger 26

Emerg: J.Zanchetta 2 S.Priest 19

In: L.Bellinger
Out: G.Bodey (Injured)

COLLINGWOOD

B: A.Porter 9 S.Livingstone 12
HB: L.Butler 23 S.Casey 22 S.Layton 1
C: S.Rowe 7 M.Cann 25 S.Chiocci – C 17
HF: S.Alexander 24 S.D’Arcy 4 B.Davey 3
F: J.Lambert 13 C.Molloy 2
Foll: A.Sheridan 14 B.Bonnici 8 E.Fowler 15
I/C: E.Hynes 11 M.Shevlin 35 J.Allen 6 J.Membrey 21 E.O’Dea 50

Emerg: K.Stratton 41 S.Dargan 46

In: None
Out: None

St Kilda v. Richmond
Saturday, 14 March, 5.10pm AEDT
RSEA Park

Sophie Taylor

This match pits two lower ranked sides against each other, with both St Kilda and Richmond sitting at the bottom of their respective conferences. While St Kilda have at least gotten a win on the board, this match is a real opportunity for Richmond to get an inaugural victory before the season is up. Both teams omitted a plethora of names heading into this match, leaving both sides with fresh bodies out on the field in hope of getting a win on the board.

St Kilda are sure to put up a big fight against the ailing Tigers, with some solid form throughout the season despite not necessarily getting the wins. The side has continued to compete throughout the season, going close but no cigar with difficulty putting goals on the board a real issue. Caitlin Greiser will want to continue her solid form which sees her as the leading goalkicker for the Saints with seven majors for the season. Her ability to use her body to find the footy and follow up going for the ground ball is what makes her a real excitement machine for the side, and having booted two goals on three occasions this season, expect her to go one better this week. Georgia Patrikios and Olivia Vesely have been real ball magnets for the side throughout the season while Tilly Lucas-Rodd has been a machine off the half back with 36 intercept possessions and Nat Exon is averaging 6.2 tackles per game, applying solid pressure.

The Tigers will miss Katie Brennan again this week with the captain sidelined once more with concussion, making this a tough battle for Richmond as they continue to fight for their first win of the season. While the side has struggled to stop goals this season, they have also had a tough time putting goals on the board which is the real catch, unable to reduce the margin and ultimately putting in all the effort downfield but getting no return. Monique Conti has been a shining light throughout the season with the 20-year-old proving a constant threat while Sabrina Frederick has been left wanting forward, not having the desired impact but ultimately not getting the footy much inside 50. Kodi Jacques and Phoebe Monahan have continued to ply their trade and apply pressure while the loss of Lauren Tesoriero to precautionary coronavirus isolation is a frustrating blow to an already struggling side.

Tip: St Kilda by 29 points.

ST KILDA

B: T.Luke 22 C.Fitzpatrick 24
HB: H.Priest 14 A.Brown 2 T.Lucas-Rodd 18
C: N.Exon 15 R.Dillon 25 M.McDonald 1
HF: D.Guttridge 5 J.Sedunary 10 C.Greiser 17
F: K.Shierlaw 12 O.Vesely 23
Foll: R.Watt – C 7 N.Xenos 27 C.Phillips 35
I/C: C.Whitfort 4 P.Kelly 16 G.Patrikios 21 A.Drennan 8 I.Shannon 11

Emerg: E.Mackie 3 K.O’Neill 20

In: T.Luke, J.Sedunary, C.Whitfort
Out: K.O’Neill (Omitted), E.Mackie (Omitted), S.Johnson (Omitted)

RICHMOND

B: A.Makur Chuot 34 G.Seymour 28
HB: H.Whitford 20 I.Ross 21 P.Monahan 2
C: C.Bernardi – C 6 S.Molan 1 K.Dempsey 19
HF: M.Brancatisano 5 S.Frederick 14 R.Miller 15
F: C.Wakefield 8 T.Stahl 24
Foll: A.Edmonds 11 M.Conti 4 G.Campbell 43
I/C: C.Fitzgerald 26 K.Jacques 10 H.Burchell 9 N.Butler 22 A.Woodward 13

Emerg: L.Bailey 12 E.Wood 17

In: I.Ross, C.Wakefield, C.Fitzgerald, N.Butler, A.Woodward
Out: L.Bailey (Omitted), E.Wood (Omitted), L.McClelland (Suspension), L.Tesoriero (Illness), S.Sansonetti (Rested)

Melbourne v Carlton
Saturday, 14 March, 7.40pm AEST
TIO Traeger Park

Sophie Taylor

Melbourne and Carlton head into Round 6 unchanged from last round, with both sides having put impressive wins on the board last week and only separated by percentage heading into the run home. Likely to be the best match of the round, the battle between the Dees and Blues is set to be a close one with both sides boasting a number of key players across the field.

Karen Paxman has been a ball magnet for the Dees in 2020, making her mark with clean hands, good run and carry and an ability to hit targets with ease, while the defensive pressure of Libby Birch, Daisy Pearce and Harriet Cordner down back has been a real task to be reckoned with, with the work off the half back relieving plenty of pressure close to goal. But while the Dees have a smattering of key players in the mix, they had a rough start last week against West Coast and they just can’t afford that this week against the Blues. Eden Zanker has had a breakout season for the Demons in the ruck and heading forward, booting four goals and ultimately a solid threat wherever she is on the field with her aerial ability and clean hands – traits she shares with fellow joint-leading goalkicker Kate Hore.

An even spread of talent across Carlton’s lineup is what will ultimately worry the Demons this round, with consistency and an ability to score quickly both real threats to a Melbourne victory. Maddy Prespakis has thus far backed up a stellar first season of footy, averaging 22 touches per game this season and providing a key run down the field for the Blues. Off the half back, Kerryn Harrington and Vaomua Laloifi have applied some solid pressure with the duo working well to crowd the play and bring the footy to ground, enabling Prespakis and fellow young gun Grace Egan to clear the footy. Tayla Harris continues to be a big threat up forward, having booted at least one goal every match this season and a great target up forward.

Tip: Melbourne by five points.

MELBOURNE

B: H.Cordner 21 L.Birch 9
HB: S.Lampard 8 D.Pearce – C 6 S.Goldrick 23
C: C.Sherriff 18 T.Hanks 28 C.Emonson 11
HF: K.Hore 10 A.Newman 16 S.Scott 12
F: T.Cunningham 1 N.McEvoy 17
Foll: E.Zanker 29 K.Paxman 4 M.Gay 3
I/C: J.Parry 19 E.O’Dea 5 S.Perkins 33 B.Tarrant 20 L.Mithen 14

Emerg: K.Petrevski 31 G.Colvin 32

In: None
Out: None

CARLTON

B: G.Pound 6 C.Wilson 20
HB: K.Harrington 9 V.Laloifi 8 J.Edwards 25
C: L.Brazzale 12 C.Dalton 15 S.Hosking 10
HF: N.Stevens 21 T.Harris 7 D.Vescio 3
F: A.Downie 30 L.McEvoy 13
Foll: B.Moody 16 G.Egan 1 M.Prespakis 4
I/C: N.Plane 32 K.Loynes – C 2 B.Walker 14 G.Gee 19 J.Hosking 11

Emerg: B.Vernon 31 J.Doonan 26

In: None
Out: None

Western Bulldogs v. Fremantle
Sunday, 15 March, 1.10pm AEDT
VU Whitten Oval

Michael Alvaro

Fremantle’s undefeated record is once again on the line as it travels to Melbourne for a second time this season, taking on the battling Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval. The Dockers stamped their authority as the league’s leading side with an impressive win over Brisbane last time out to take their record to 5-0, and will fancy their chances against a developing Dogs lineup. But in front of an adoring home crowd in Footscray, the young pups will be keen to arrest a four-game losing streak and showcase the promise their list reverberates on paper.

Another member of the class of 2019 is set to debut for the home side, with top 10 pick Nell Morris-Dalton beating out former Northern Knights teammate Britney Gutknecht for the final spot in the Dogs’ lineup to join her Under 18 skipper, Gabby Newton at the top level. Nicole Callinan was the other player in contention to replace the omitted Hannah Scott, but fell just short of returning for her first game since Round 2. Morris-Dalton should add some strength in the air for the Bulldogs inside forward 50, with fellow 2019 draftee Gemma Lagioia swapping defensive duties to lineup at her feet in the pocket. The midfield trio of Ellie Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb, and Aisling McCarthy will take their form into this clash, with their work set to be cut out for them against a strong Fremantle following set.

The Dockers are set to come in with just one change of their own, resting electric draftee Roxy Roux with Mia-Rae Clifford, Sarah Garstone, and Bianca Webb lined up to take the vacant spot. Fremantle will look to stretch the Bulldogs up forward, as is the case most weeks, with the match-up between Gemma Houghton and Isabel Huntington set to catch the eye. The Dockers’ dynamism with Sabreena Duffy – coming off four goals – and Ebony Antonio at ground level makes them hard to stop, and midfield service from Kiara Bowers and Kara Antonio constantly sets the tone for their success.

Expect the Dockers’ weapons from midfield to forward to be too much for the developing Bulldogs, but the travel factor may come into effect later on in the contest, with the Dogs a chance to snatch an unlikely win if they can stay in the contest for long enough.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

WESTERN BULLDOGS

B: A.Guest 19 L.Spark 11
HB: E.Brown 9 I.Huntington 4 N.Ferres 16
C: B.Hunt 21 K.Lamb 27 B.Lochland 1
HF: G.Newton 5 K.Rennie 24 K.McLeod 6
F: N.Morris-Dalton 25 G.Lagioia 12
Foll: C.Moody 13 E.Blackburn – C 2 A.McCarthy 15
I/C: K.Herron 31 D.Berry 7 E.Georgostathis 17 D.Marshall 26 H.Munyard 20 B.Gutknecht 18 N.Callinan 10

In: N.Morris-Dalton, B.Gutknecht, N.Callinan
Out: H.Scott (Omitted)

FREMANTLE

B: L.Mascall 14 J.Cuthbertson 29
HB: E.O’Driscoll 3 P.Seth 18 L.Pugh 32
C: K.Antonio – C 15 H.Miller 19 J.Stewart 7
HF: E.Antonio 12 A.Sharp 1 G.O’Sullivan 22
F: G.Houghton 27 S.Duffy 6
Foll: M.Strom 21 K.Bowers 2 K.Grieve 13
I/C: K.Flood 44 A.Stannett 24 E.Gooch 8 L.Rohde 11 S.Garstone 16 B.Webb 26 M.Clifford 4

In: B.Webb, S.Garstone, M.Clifford
Out: R.Roux (Rested)

Adelaide v. Greater Western Sydney
Sunday, 15 March, 3.10pm AEST
Hisense Stadium

Michael Alvaro

Adelaide will be out to make good on a two-game losing run when it hosts GWS at Hisense Stadium on Sunday. The reining premiers have endured an indifferent first half to their flag defence, holding a negative 2-3 record on the back of an injury-hit campaign to date and bearing the brunt of a tricky draw over the last fortnight. On the other hand, the 3-2 GIANTS have taken full advantage of the games they were expected to win – albeit with each one coming over three of the four 2020 expansion teams. The step-up in competition has proven difficult for the Sydneysiders, and Adelaide will provide as tough a test as any team despite its shortcomings this season.

Four inclusions are set to make the Crows side that bit more formidable this week, with dual AFL Women’s best and fairest Erin Phillips headlining the quartet of returnees. The Adelaide champ comes in alongside fellow midfielder Najwa Allen, while Deni Varnhagen and Eloise Jones also crack the extended squad. Coming the other way in terms of omissions will be Madison Newman and ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe, with 2019 draftee Montana McKinnon impressing in the tri-colours on debut last week and retaining her spot. The Crows’ midfield looks to be running smoothly with the combination of Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard winning plenty of ball, so the additional target of Phillips will hopefully aid them in terms of fluency going forward.

A trio of inclusions will be vying for one spot in the GIANTS’ side as Nicola Barr finds herself hamstrung, with Taylah Davies, Georgia Garnett, and Emily Goodsir all up for selection in the 23-player squad. The GIANTS’ wealth of experience will definitely match that of the Crows, with stand-in skipper Jess Dal Pos heading a team which is capable of returning consistent performances. Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson make up a dynamic midfield duo in the continued absence of Alicia Eva, with Beeson also set to rotate forward alongside Haneen Zreika. It may be fitting that the injury blows finally benefit Adelaide, and the fortnight of key casualties for GWS will really test its depth, but that experience should see the GIANTS through to a competitive result.

Speaking of depth, Adelaide’s wealth of genuine options to run through the middle of the ground should prove to be a vital factor as it comes into the game as favourite on home turf, with Phillips adding that third prong despite likely playing predominantly forward. The hard-nosed nature of Hatchard and Marinoff should hold up very well against the more athletic pairing of Parker and Beeson, with McKinnon’s job in the ruck crucial against GWS’ Jessica Allan. Count the GIANTS out at your own peril, but the Crows’ hard edge and top-end talent should see them over the line in front of home fans, with a win able to draw the two sides level on points in Conference A.

Tip: Adelaide by 18

ADELAIDE

B: D.Cox 31 S.Allan 39
HB: A.Foley 3 M.Rajcic 32 S.Li 19
C: J.Mules 23 E.Marinoff 10 A.Considine 16
HF: E.Jones 2 E.Phillips – C 13 S.Thompson 14
F: D.Ponter 15 C.Gum 5
Foll: M.McKinnon 21 A.Hatchard 33 N.Gore 7
I/C: N.Campbell 20 N.Allen 8 R.Forth 27 J.Tabb 28 C.Biddell 12 D.Varnhagen 9 C.Gould 1

In: E.Jones, E.Phillips, N.Allen, D.Varnhagen
Out: M.Newman (Omitted), R.Metcalfe (Omitted)

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

B: P.Randall 21 T.Hetherington 9
HB: L.Steane 20 E.Bennetts 22 A.Lister 14
C: J.Dal Pos – C 7 B.Tully 36 A.Schmidt 11
HF: S.Halvorsen 30 R.Privitelli 19 J.Hicks 5
F: C.Staunton 13 J.Barclay 34
Foll: J.Allan 39 A.Parker 3 R.Beeson 6
I/C: H.Zreika 24 E.McKinnon 23 T.Mackrill 32 L.Stephenson 12 T.Davies 16 E.Goodsir 1 G.Garnett 17

In: E.Goodsir, T.Davies, G.Garnett
Out: N.Barr (Hamstring)

West Coast v. Gold Coast
Sunday, 15 March, 5.10pm AEST
Mineral Resources Park

Michael Alvaro

Two sides coming off losses meet to round out the weekend’s action, with West Coast set to host Gold Coast in a battle of 2020 expansion clubs. The Eagles were hauled back down to earth with a thud in Round 5 after picking up their maiden AFL Women’s win the week before, copping a 59-point thumping at the hands of Melbourne. Gold Coast, only half a game to the better of its weekend opponent, has suffered consecutive losses for the first time in its short history, but the SUNS’ competitive spirit should put them in good stead for an improved performance in this clash.

The visitors are set to welcome back Hannah Dunn after a week on the sidelines, slotting straight back into the SUNS’ midfield to boost their ball winning stocks. Debutant Sally Riley also comes into the lineup as the second confirmed inclusion, with Tori Groves-Little and Jasmyn Hewett the two unlucky omissions while Maddy Roberts and Taylor Smith find their way onto an extended bench. Gold Coast’s engine room has been a highlight in its inaugural campaign, with Dunn adding to the likes of Jacqui Yorston and the red-hot Jamie Stanton this week, while Leah Kaslar and Lauren Aherns heading up a promising back five which features three 2019 draftees.

West Coast’s changes are a touch more forced, with McKenzie Dowrick and Emily Bonser both ruled out through illness, with Melissa Caulfield attached to the managed tag this week. Chantella Perera, the player to be managed in Round 5, returns to her customary full back role in a boost for the Eagles, with Mhicca Carter the second inclusion for the hosts. On an extended bench, Tarnee Tester, Katherine Orme, and Danika Pisconeri are all chances to sneak their way into the side should any more disruptions arise. While the midfield pairing of Dana Hooker and Emma Swanson has worked admirably for the Eagles, they have struggled to find a consistent spread across the field in 2020. The competition’s least potent attack and second most leaky defence are titles which do not bode well against any side, especially given the SUNS’ strength and competitiveness in the back five.

While both teams can only boast one win in their maiden campaigns, the SUNS have arguably made the bigger inroads and have been able to keep each game competitive on the scoreboard. Their better spread of contributors across the field, and an especially stingy defence in this game should carry them to a second AFL Women’s victory. But on home turf, the Eagles will be sure to put up a better fight than the previous week, though the travel factor may be lessened given West Coast is coming off a game in Melbourne.

Tip: Gold Coast by 13

WEST COAST

B: S.McDonald 35 C.Perera 27
HB: C.Davidson 33 B.Smith 14 C.Guard 4
C: M.Bowen 1 N.Kelly 12 K.Gibson 2
HF: M.Collier 8 G.Kelly 15 I.Cameron 19
F: A.Atkins 9 M.Carter 21
Foll: P.Laurie 25 D.Hooker 17 E.Swanson – C 13
I/C: T.Tester 23 E.McGuire 31 H.Bullas 24 K.Orme 32 B.Devlyn 7 D.Pisconeri 11 T.Radan 26

In: C.Perera, M.Carter, T.Tester, K.Orme, D.Pisconeri
Out: M.Caulfield (Managed), M.Dowrick (Illness), E.Bonser (Illness)

GOLD COAST

B: J.Pregelj 42 S.Watson 14
HB: L.Kaslar – C 11 L.Ahrens 7 E.Hampson 21
C: T.Ernst 19 J.Stanton 17 P.Parker 1
HF: K.Surman 26 B.Perry 16 K.Howarth 23
F: T.Smith 13 S.Riley 8
Foll: L.Bella 2 H.Dunn 24 J.Yorston 5
I/C: C.Hammond 29 D.Heslop 25 J.Hickey 4 M.Ritson 12 M.Roberts 10 T.Thorn 15 S.Virgo 22

In: T.Smith, S.Riley, H.Dunn, M.Roberts
Out: T.Groves-Little (Omitted), J.Hewett (Omitted)

ROUND 6 TIPS: [Total tips in brackets]

Michael Alvaro [27]: North Melbourne, Brisbane, St Kilda, Melbourne, Fremantle, Adelaide, Gold Coast
Taylah Melki [27]: North Melbourne, Collingwood, St Kilda, Carlton, Fremantle, Adelaide, Gold Coast
Sophie Taylor [26]: North Melbourne, Brisbane, St Kilda, Melbourne, Fremantle, GIANTS, Gold Coast
Peter Williams [24]: North Melbourne, Collingwood, St Kilda, Carlton, Fremantle, GIANTS, West Coast