Tag: Lily Mithen

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Roos book finals spot with clutch win over Dockers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

 

Picture credit: Robert Cianflone / AFL Photos

 

Image credit: Getty Images

DEMONS CLINCH HOME FINAL FROM LIONS’ CLUTCHES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Image Credit: Matt Roberts/AFL Photos

GEELONG GETS UP IN BATTLES OF THE WINLESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images via AFL Photos

ROOS HOLD OFF BULLISH DOGS

By: Michael Alvaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES TURN UP THE HEAT TO CLIP CROWS

By: Michael Alvaro

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

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

By: Peter Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: via Adelaide FC

ADELAIDE SEND WARNING SHOT WITH RECORD-BREAKING WIN

By: Tom Cheesman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES DOWN SAINTS TO KEEP SEASON ALIVE

By: Sophie Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Vintage Phillips drags Crows back onto winners list

A VINTAGE Erin Phillips performance propelled Adelaide back onto the winners list on Sunday, as the Crows handed Brisbane its first loss of the season to the tune of 12 points. Phillips booted the first two goals of the game and a late sealer as Adelaide won out 6.9 (45) to 5.3 (33), moving level on points with the Lions with three wins and a spot well within the top six.

Phillips’ more permanent move forward proved a masterful tactic, as the two-time league best and fairest wasted no time in setting up a defining lead for her side. Her goals were supported up the other end by a first term shutout, which set the tone for Adelaide’s win. The gap proved too far for Brisbane to bridge thereafter despite constantly chipping away and lingering within a goal for most of the final term.

While the Crows did not relinquish their lead throughout the contest, conversion rate remains an area of improvement for the victors who put up an inaccurate 6.9 from their wealth of clear-cut chances. Ashleigh Woodland was a main culprit with 1.4, but her six-pointer came at an ideal time as she reestablished Adelaide’s two-goal buffer right on the half time siren.

The Lions comes away licking their wounds in more ways than one, with a couple of potentially key injuries further scuppering their promising early-season run. Gun youngster Lily Postlethwaite and defensive leader Shannon Campbell both went down in the first half, with the seriousness of those knocks still yet to be fully confirmed.

Emily Bates finished as Brisbane’s leading ball winner with 19 disposals, two ahead of Greta Bodey. The latter also contributed two second half goals which gave the Lions every chance of snatching a victory. Orla O’Dwyer and Ally Anderson were also productive moving forward in the maroon, blue and gold, while defender Breanna Koenen proved pivotal in defence with 14 touches, four marks, and four tackles.

Phillips was far and away the best player afield; finishing with 21 disposals, eight marks, five inside 50s, and four goals. Only Ebony Marinoff saw more of the ball with 28 touches, while fellow midfield maestro Anne Hatchard notched 19 of her own. Woodland was a threat up forward despite her inaccuracy, and skipper Chelsea Randall proved her worth to the side with 13 disposals and seven marks on her return. She may come under match review scrutiny after a heavy bump on Bodey, though.

The freshly minted Round 5 fixtures see Brisbane turn around first for another crucial clash, set to face Fremantle in Western Australia on Saturday. Meanwhile, Adelaide is due to return home to take on St Kilda at Norwood Oval on the Sunday.

BRISBANE 0.0 | 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 (33)
ADELAIDE 2.5 | 4.6 | 5.8 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS:

Brisbane: G. Bodey 2, D. Davidson, C. Hodder, T. Smith
Adelaide: E. Phillips 4, A. Woodland, R. Forth

DC BEST:

Brisbane: G. Bodey, B. Koenen, A. Anderson, E. Bates, O. O’Dwyer, I. Dawes
Adelaide: E. Phillips, E. Marinoff, A. Hatchard, C. Randall, E. Jones, A. Woodland

Featured Image: Adelaide’s Erin Phillips celebrates one of her four goals | Credit: Glenn Hunt/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: (Retrieved via) Melbourne FC

Lacklustre Dees eaten alive by hungry Dogs

It was a disastrous day for an inaccurate Melbourne, outplayed by a sharp shooting Western Bulldogs side on the prowl at VU Whitten Oval in front of a capacity 3180-strong crowd. Whilst both teams traded blows and went goal-for-goal early, it was the Bulldogs that ultimately came away with an excellent 6.1 (37) to 2.11 (23) victory to win their third match on the trot and really kickstart their season. 

The impatient Dees had their work cut out for them from the get-go, struggling to make use of their talls inside 50 and missing the ever reliable Kate Hore who was a late omission. While it was the red and blue that dominated inside 50s early, keeping the footy locked in their front half, a coast to coast flurry from the Bulldogs saw the red, white, and blue boot the first major of the day from their first inside 50 – a set shot from Kirstin McLeod – and maintained constant pressure on the Demons. Whilst a Karen Paxman goal minutes later more than evened the ledger given the Dees’ peppering of the left and right posts, minor missed opportunities became the theme of their day as they failed the apply the scoreboard pressure they so desperately needed.

Another couple of even quarters kept the match flowing up and down the field, with both sides finding the big sticks a couple of times and Izzy Huntington the first to boot two. But while Melbourne were keeping in touch with plenty of hunt on and off the ball, it was the Dogs that had the upper hand in front of a passionate home crowd, and with the Hampson-Hardeman Trophy on the line, it was the underdogs that stepped up when it counted, with the four goal to nil second half more than enough to run over the tired-looking and lacklustre Demons.

A final quarter flurry from the Dogs and a couple of gutsy plays saw the Dees rendered goalless after three quarter time and run down by the feisty Dogs who relentlessly attacked and fought tooth and nail for the footy. Rushed kicks were the side’s downfall, especially when it counted in the latter stages, as the Bulldogs manned up and disrupted the play, roving seamlessly and plucking off some unbelievable marks in an impressive victory at Whitten Oval.

Whilst she was kept quiet for much of the match, Ellie Blackburn was the star of the show in the final quarter, booting a crucial goal to go with her 16 touches – down from her typical output – and seal the deal for the Bulldogs, also leading the side for disposals in a shared team effort. Jess Fitzgerald joined Huntington in the multiple majors club, booting two of her own to go with 12 touches and eight tackles, whilst Kirsty Lamb (12 touches, six tackles) and Bonnie Toogood (seven tackles) were excellent applying physical pressure. For the Dees, Paxman stole the show with 27 touches and a goal, whilst Shelley Scott slotted the side’s second major from her 16 disposals and six marks. Maddi Gay (19 disposals, four tackles), Tyla Hanks (16 and seven) and Lily Mithen (16 and five) also proved critical around the ball but to no avail as they were eaten alive by the hungry Dogs.

The Western Bulldogs will return to the kennel once more next round, hosting GWS Giants on Saturday afternoon, while Melbourne will look to bounce back against Collingwood on Sunday at Victoria Park.

WESTERN BULLDOGS | 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
MELBOURNE 1.4 | 1.6 | 2.8 | 2.12 (24)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: J. Fitzgerald 2, I. Huntington 2, E. Blackburn, K. McLeod
Melbourne: K. Paxman, S. Scott 

DC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: J. Fitzgerald, K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, I. Huntington, B. Toogood
Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, M. Gay, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

Credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Staunton stunners see Giants step past Eagles

Veteran Greater Western Sydney (GWS) forward Cora Staunton proved the difference in her side’s 20-point win over West Coast on Sunday, booting four of the Giants’ seven majors to help seal their second win on the trot. With the game on the line after a goalless third term, the Irishwomen came up clutch with two goals in as many minutes during the final stanza to ultimately ice the 7.6 (48) to 4.4 (28) victory.

While Staunton’s two goals were the only majors seen in the second half, the game opened up with a flurry of scoring. A combined 7.3 (45) made for the second-highest first term total in AFLW history, setting the platform for a hotly contested match. Both sides were up to the challenge and cracked in hard as the game endured at a high pace.

But as has often been the case throughout the Eagles’ short history, scoring dried up and they fell away late to allow the Giants’ experienced heads to take control when it mattered. A fourth quarter knee injury to boom recruit Aisling McCarthy has potential to further sour West Coast’s winless season, adding to its already mounting injury toll.

Game-changer, Staunton finished with 4.2 from her 16 disposals and two marks, proving she still has it at 39 years of age. She was the lone multiple goalkicker on the day, while Alyce Parker was unsurprisingly atop the disposal charts with 25 touches. Partner-in-crime Rebecca Beeson had it 22 times and laid eight tackles, while the likes of Nicola Barr (16 disposals, six marks) and Alicia Eva (18 disposals) returned solid outings.

Young midfielder Bella Lewis led all comers for the Eagles with 16 disposals and got her hands dirty with nine tackles, as did Tayla Bresland (seven). Skipper Emma Swanson again led from the front with 15 touches, while the likes of Maddy Collier, Ashlee Atkins, and Mikayla Bowen were all productive and also snared a goal each in the loss.

West Coast’s search for win number one in 2021 lands back home next week as the Eagles host Gold Coast in another winnable fixture, while GWS takes on a red hot Western Bulldogs outfit on the road at Whitten Oval.

GWS GIANTS 4.2 | 5.3 | 5.4 | 7.6 (48)
WEST COAST 3.1 | 4.1 | 4.3 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

GWS: C. Staunton 4, J. Dal Pos, T. Mackrill, R. Beeson
West Coast: A. Atkins, P. Laurie, M. Bowen, M. Collier

DC BEST:

GWS: C. Staunton, A. Parker, R. Beeson, A. Eva, N. Barr
West Coast: E. Swanson, A. McCarthy, B. Lewis, T. Bresland, M. Bowen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Getty Images

Experienced Blues overawe Saints

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Getty Images

Dees triumph thanks to second term

demolition

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST: 

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

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

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

Note: All start times are local.

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

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

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

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

Tip: Bulldogs by 13

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

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

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

Tip: Giants by 5

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

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

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

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

Tip: Blues by 15

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

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

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

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

Tip: Kangaroos by 11

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

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

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

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

Tip: Dockers by 1

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

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

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

Tip: Magpies by 33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEMONS ACCELERATE AWAY FROM TOOTHLESS TIGERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

2021 AFLW Preview: Melbourne Demons

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

2020 RECAP

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

NEW FACES

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

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

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

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

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

QUESTION MARK

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

FINAL WORD

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

Image Credit: Michael Willson via AFL Photos

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