Tag: Meg McDonald

2021 VFLW Round 10 wrap: Bulldogs remain in the top six hunt

ROUND 10 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition saw three sides claim wins by over nine goals, as the top six continues to solidify. Outside challengers are lingering though, headlined by the Western Bulldogs who beat Carlton to remain within striking distance of those all-important finals places. All six fixtures were played out on Saturday this past round, making for an intriguing set of results as the state league action begins to heat up. With senior-listed guns and NAB League talents continuing to filter through, things are building nicely with four rounds left to play.

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HAWTHORN 3.0 | 4.3 | 7.5 | 10.9 (69)
DAREBIN FALCONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Hawthorn registered its second win in three weeks, dismantling the Darebin Falcons to the tune of 62 points at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday morning. The Hawks kept their opponents scoreless after the opening term and proved relentless in the second half, pouring on six goals from 10 scoring shots to run out comfortable winners, 10.9 (69) to 1.1 (7). The result sees Hawthorn sit two games outside of the top six, but with the best bottom-six percentage.

Kristy Stratton led a kettle of nine Hawks who found the goals, finishing with two in a best afield outing. The likes of Tamara Luke (24 disposals, 37 hitouts) and Alison Drennan (24 disposals, nine tackles) were also impactful in the win, while second gamer Grace McRae featured in her side’s votes having won 21 touches and laid nine tackles in brown and gold.

Hayley Munro was Darebin’s sole goalkicker on the day, as the ever-reliable Kath Roe topped her side’s disposal charts with 21 (17 kicks) in a gallant display. Victoria Blackwood‘s good form continued for the Falcons, as did that of Alyssa Mifsud. Meanwhile, Annalyse Lister showed no let-up in the heavy loss, laying a whopping 19 tackles for the Falcons as they dropped to 1-9 at the foot of the ladder.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: K. Stratton 2, A. Bush, K. Cox, K. Newton, N. von Bertouch, P. McWilliams, T. Luke, C. O’Malley, D. Carbone
Darebin: H. Munro

BEST:

Hawthorn: K. Stratton, G. McRae, K. Newton, A. Drennan, J. Richardson, T. Luke
Darebin: K. Roe, G. Lawson-Tavan, V. Blackwood, A. Mifsud, A. Lister, S. David

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 | 1.9 | 2.11 | 4.14 (38)
CARLTON 1.1 | 1.2 | 3.2 | 3.6 (24)

The Western Bulldogs’ top six charge got back on track with a 14-point win over Carlton, in what was a high-stakes clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs constantly threatened to break clear in the low-scoring tussle, but their inaccuracy kept Carlton in the contest. Having led at every break, the home side managed to double its goal tally in term four to come away 4.14 (38) to 3.6 (24) winners, sitting just a game outside the top six.

The continued flow of AFLW talent into the state league again proved prominent, with first year Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald putting in a best afield performance from midfield. She topped her side’s disposal chart with 21 alongside Gemma Lagioia, while Eleanor Brown earned full votes from her coaches with 20 touches and eight marks. Second-gamer Stephanie Asciak also got a look-in for the votes, as the Western Jets product notched nine disposals.

Unsurprisingly, the midfield duo of Grace Egan and Abbie McKay played a crucial role for Carlton, as another senior-listed jet in Maddy Guerin led all comers with 32 disposals (28 kicks). Steph Lawrence finished as the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two majors, while Natalie Plane could only manage two behinds from 13 touches in her first game at the level for 2021.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: E. Morrison, S. Ruedin, K. Betts, C. Moody
Carlton: S. Lawrence 2, S. Gibbs

BEST:

Bulldogs: E. Brown, E. Vale, A. Gogos, E. Morrison, G. Lagioia, S. Asciak
Carlton: G. Egan, A. McKay, M. Guerin, S. Lawrence, E. Honybun, B. Gurr

GEELONG 0.3 | 2.5 | 3.7 | 5.9 (39)
ESSENDON 0.0 | 0.2 | 1.4 | 2.4 (16)

Geelong’s winning streak extended to six games on Saturday, as the Cats accounted for Essendon to the tune of 23 points at Deakin University. The deadlock of a goalless opening quarter was broken by a pair of majors to the hosts in the following period, with Essendon taking until term three to get on the board in a major way. Geelong maintained the scoreboard pressure though, boosting up to second spot with the 5.9 (39) to 2.4 (16) victory.

Sophie Van De Huevel was terrific in the hoops, booting two goals from 19 disposals, with Richelle Cranston finishing as the only other multiple goalkicker afield. Claudia Gunjaca gained full votes from the Geelong staff, as Renee Garing and Rebecca Webster led all comers with 23 disposals apiece. Garing also laid a game-high 13 tackles, while tall prospect Rene Caris led her side for hitouts with 16.

Essendon skipper Georgia Nanscawen continued her brilliant season and was the only Bomber to tick over 20 touches, with goalkicker Alana Barba among a trio of players to reach 15. Eloise Ashley-Cooper was also in that group alongside Gold Coast’s Lauren Ahrens, while Alex Morcom played an important role for her team in the loss.

GOALS:

Geelong: S. Van De Heuvel 2, R. Cranston 2, O. Fuller
Essendon: A. Barba, L. Stepnell

BEST:

Geelong: C. Gunjaca, R. Caris, J. Foley, S. Van De Heuvel, R. Webster, M. Keryk
Essendon: A. Morcom, E. Ashley-Cooper, A. Barba, M. Anthony, E. Hosking, G. Nanscawen

PORT MELBOURNE 0.1 | 2.3 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 3.3 | 5.4 | 8.4 | 8.7 (55)

Southern Saints remain a game clear in the top six, after knocking off Port Melbourne by 27 points on enemy territory in the upset of the round. The Saints stamped their authority early with a three-goal to nil opening quarter, before adding another three majors in the third term to set up an even five-goal lead at the final break. It proved a bridge too far for the Borough, who dropped just their second game, 8.7 (55) to 4.4 (28).

The efforts of Alexandra Hynes (eight disposals, 10 tackles, 17 hitouts) was recognised with full votes from her coaches, as the Saints proved their finals credentials. Meanwhile, Hannah Stuart and Alice Burke both notched over 20 disposals as expected, as Tara Bohanna booted a game-high two goals from her 18 touches, and Rebecca Neaves also got on the scoresheet. Hannah Priest played an important role, clunking five marks and laying six tackles to go with 17 disposals.

Emily Harley, one of Port’s four individual goalkickers, was named best afield for her side, while Hannah McLaren registered an equal game-high 21 disposals. Dandenong Stingrays pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (three disposals, one goal) also had their moments on debut, as Richmond-listed midfielder Maddy Brancatisano fared well in her first VFLW appearance for 2021, with 17 touches and four marks.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: A. Richards, C. Bromage, E. Harley, H. Bailey
Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, T. Meyer, T. Kearns, R. Neaves, K. Ripari, A. Harris, M. Capsalis

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Harley, J. Anthony, M. Brancatisano, H. McLaren, M. Kuys
Southern Saints: A. Hynes, A. Burke, H. Stuart, T. Bohanna, K. Ripari, H. Priest

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 (13)
COLLINGWOOD 5.3 | 6.6 | 9.9 | 10.15 (75)

Collingwood’s unblemished run rolled on with a comprehensive 62-point drubbing of North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval, making it 10 wins in a row for the black and whites. Signs were ominous as the Magpies posted five goals to one in the first term, while taking advantage of the scoring end once again after half time as the Kangaroos failed to add to their total, making for the lopsided 10.15 (75) to 2.1 (13) final scoreline.

A trio of Magpies snared two goals each, in Sophie Alexander, Imogen Barnett, and Georgia Ricardo. Alexander could well have finished with a bag, having also registered three behinds. Mikala Cann managed a game-high 28 disposals, but it was Jennifer Guy (15 disposals, one goal) who was adjudged her side’s most valuable player in the big win.

Meagan Kiely had her usual say with a team-high 23 touches, as Molly Eastman was the only other ‘Roo to notch over 20 disposals. Tall recruit Alexia Hamilton made an impact with 13 disposals, 17 hitouts and one of her side’s two goals, while Airlie Runnalls and Nadia Moore also returned solid shifts as North fell to 3-7, with their hopes of making finals getting slimmer.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. Hamilton, L. Taylor
Collingwood: G. Ricardo 2, S. Alexander 2, I. Barnett 2, L. Durante, K. Colborne-Veel, M. Cann, J. Guy

BEST:

North Melbourne: N. Moore, A. Hamilton, M. Eastman, R. Hicks, A. Runnalls, S. Skinner
Collingwood: J. Guy, S. Alexander, I. Barnett, M. Cann, E. Jackson, H. Bowey

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 (0)
CASEY DEMONS 1.0 | 3.1 | 6.4 | 9.5 (59)

Casey became the first team to hold its opponent scoreless throughout an entire game in 2021, defeating Williamstown by 59 points on Saturday night at Downer Oval. Despite being buoyed by GWS-listed talent, the Seagulls were soundly beaten by a finals-bound outfit which poured on six goals from 11 scoring shots after half time. The Demons now sit pretty in fourth after the 9.5 (59) to 0 triumph.

Maddison Gay finished with a game-high three goals and Eden Zanker led all comers with 25 disposals for Casey, but it was Casey Sherriff (16 disposals, two goals) who claimed best afield honours in the win. Meg McDonald also hit the scoreboard from her 20 touches, as Gippsland Power talent Grace Matser got in the votes with seven disposals and 16 hitouts in her state league debut.

Lisa Steane had a team-high 18 disposals as she suited up for the Seagulls, also laying nine tackles. The likes of Elizabeth Keaney (17 disposals) and Georgia Garnett (14) also impressed in their maiden outings, while mainstays Ella Baxter and Aimee Whelan stood up in what was a tough outing for Williamstown.

GOALS:

Williamstown: Nil
Casey: M. Gay 3, C. Sherriff 2, J. Parry 2, A. Kirkwood, M. Macdonald

BEST:

Williamstown: E. Baxter, L. Steane, E. Graham, E. Keaney, G. Garnett, E. Straford
Casey: C. Sherriff, E. Humphries, M. Macdonald, A. Brown, G. Matser, M. Gay

Davey and Bowers crowned best and fairest at 2021 W Awards

THEY were the two favourites coming into the night, and in the end, Collingwood’s Brianna Davey and Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers have capped off fantastic 2021 AFL Women’s seasons by sharing the league’s highest individual honour at the W Awards last night. The pair polled 15 votes apiece, one ahead of Western Bulldogs’ Ellie Blackburn and GWS GIANTS’ Alyce Parker.

Davey averaged 23.8 disposals, 4.8 clearances and won almost 50 per cent of her possessions in a contest, which earned her the AFL Players Association’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Bowers averaged the 21.1 disposals, 11.0 tackles and 6.5 clearances per game, coming second to Davey in the AFLPA MVP Award.

The Magpies co-captain led her side to its first finals win this year, and had a remarkable finish to the season which saw her claim three consecutive best-on-grounds between Rounds 4-6 to take the lead by Round 5 and stretch her lead out to four votes with three rounds remaining.

Bowers drew within a vote in Round 7 and Monique Conti kept in touch with a best on ground effort for the Tigers. Whilst none of the trio would poll in the penultimate round, it led to a tense final round, which saw Bowers pick up a vote in the final round’s loss to North Melbourne. Davey did not poll in the final two rounds, but had done enough to hold on and share the award with the tackling machine.

A late burst from Melbourne’s Karen Paxman and Parker saw them finish inside the top five, with Blackburn polling three in the final round to add to her early lead where she got out to a two-vote advantage after Round 4.

AFLW LEAGUE BEST AND FAIREST:

Brianna Davey (Collingwood) 15 votes
Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 15 votes
Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs) 14 votes
Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS) 14 votes
Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 13 votes

Brianna Davey accepts her league best and fairest. Picture credit: AFL Twitter

AFLW ALL-AUSTRALIAN TEAM:

B: Sarah Allan (Adelaide) – Meg McDonald (Geelong)
HB: Ruby Schleicher (Collingwood) – Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) – Janelle Cuthbertson (Fremantle)
C: Monique Conti (Richmond) – Kiara Bowers (Fremantle – vc) – Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda)
HF: Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) – Katie Brennan (Richmond) – Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs)
F: Erin Phillips (Adelaide) – Chloe Molloy (Collingwood)
R: Breann Moody (Carlton) – Brianna Davey (Collingwood) – Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS)
INT: Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) – Brittany Bonnici (Collingwood) – Darcy Vescio (Carlton) – Karen Paxman (Melbourne) – Emma Kearney (North Melbourne)

Six debutants and two five-time winners highlighted the 2021 AFL Women’s All-Australian team. North Melbourne’s Emma Kearney and Paxman were both named on the interchange, making it the fifth – maximum – time the pair have achieved the honour. At the other end of the scale, a couple of Pies in Brit Bonnici and Ruby Schleicher made their debuts alongside fellow inaugural AFL Women’s players Breann Moody and Katie Brennan. Fremantle’s Janelle Cuthbertson and the youngest member of the squad, second year player Georgia Patrikios rounded out the half dozen first-timers.

Davey was named as captain with Bowers nominated as vice-captain in the team, whilst Davey’s Magpies were represented the most in the side with four players – Davey, Bonnici, Schleicher and Chloe Molloy – whilst the premiers Brisbane Lions have just the one player in the side – best on ground in the 2021 AFLW Grand Final, Kate Lutkins.

AFLW RISING STAR:

Tyla Hanks (Melbourne) – 48 votes
Ellie McKenzie (Richmond) – 32 votes
Mikayla Bowen (West Coast) – 22 votes
Tyanna Smith (St Kilda) – 19 votes
Nat Grider (Brisbane) – 10 votes

Melbourne dynamo Tyla Hanks capped off a fantastic year by taking out the 2021 AFL Women’s Rising Star Award. The former Gippsland Power midfielder topped the leaderboard with 48 out of a possible 50 votes, finishing 16 votes clear of Richmond number one pick, Ellie McKenzie. West Coast’s Mikayla Bowen polled 22 votes to round out the podium, followed by St Kilda’s Tyanna Smith and Brisbane’s Nat Grider.

LEADING GOALKICKER:

Darcy Vescio (Carlton) 16 goals
Gemma Houghton (Fremantle) 14 goals
Chloe Molloy (Collingwood) 14 goals
Katie Brennan (Richmond) 14 goals
Dakota Davidson (Brisbane) 13 goals

The one award that was no surprise coming into the night was the leading goalkicker, with Vescio becoming the first two-time winner of the accolade. Having taken out the award back in the inaugural season of 2017, the clever forward doubled up with a 16-goal season in 2021. She finished two goals clear of Molloy, Brennan and Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton, with Brisbane’s Dakota Davidson rounding out the top five thanks to 13 goals.

Image credit: AFL Women’s

Eagles soar over Geelong to record 39-point win

DESPITE a scrappy start to the game West Coast found their groove as the match got going, kicking away to a 39-point victory – their highest in history – defeating Geelong last night at Mineral Resources Park 8.5 (53) to 2.2 (14). The loss means Geelong still sit bottom of the ladder with zero wins to their name from seven outings while the Eagles have taken their season tally to two.

Controlling the play for majority of the opening term, it was inaccuracy that hindered the Eagles’ dominance only managing to record four behinds. Two of them could have sailed through for majors but desperate efforts from the Cats defence saw them touched off the boot while the other two simply did not have the accuracy. Geelong on the other hand struggled to find any form of composure with ball in hand not even registering a single behind for the opening term such was the pressure stemming from the Eagles.

After a disappointing start to the game, the Eagles well and truly flicked the switch with a dazzling quarter of football, headlined by Imahra Cameron. The West Coast forward set the field alight with her tenacity and goalkicking tendencies on full display nailing two goals in quick succession. She really set the wheels in motion as the rest of the team piggybacked off her energy and momentum to propel the ball forward and create attacking forays. Her work was not done however, popping up at the five minute mark to take a big contested grab coming in from the side and then kicking truly to push the Eagles out to a 21 point lead. Her second quarter heroics did not go unmatched with the Kelly sisters – Niamh and Grace – also plying their trade and proving to be key facilitators for the Eagles across the ground.

Goalless for the opening half of footy, the Cats were well and truly put on the back foot entering the third quarter and unfortunately it did not get any easier for the Victorian-based side as the Eagles maintained their level of composure. But some magic from Amy McDonald as the clock trickled down in the third saw the Cats get on the board. McDonald pulled out all the tricks, winning the ball out of the ruck, spinning out of a tackle and then banging it home to secure the Cats’ first major for the game. By that stage it was all still too little, too late as the home side had established a 33 point lead.

The final term continued much of the same as the Eagles pressed with their slick ball movement and speed out of the stoppage causing damage. Majority of the quarter was played between the two arcs as the ball ebbed and flowed up and down the ground with tired bodies coming to the fore. Grace Kelly nailed an impressive goal on the run to kickstart the final 15 minutes, but left the ground straight after with a suspected groin injury. Georgia Clarke added some respectability to the Cats’ scoreline with a major before Niamh really rammed home the win for West Coast to cap off an impressive performance from the Irish import.

It was hard to deny the influence of Emma Swanson who continuously popped up for the Eagles any time there was a ball to be won walking away with a team-high 21 disposals, six marks and eight tackles as Aisling McCarthy amassed 19 touches. Niamh Kelly had the ball on a string throughout the game and used her dash off half back to cause all sorts of trouble. Her ability to dart forward and utilise her speed to evade her opponents was impressive as was her strong hands, going up for multiple big pack marks finishing with 18 touches, two goals and three marks. Grace slotted two majors which accompanied her 12 touches and three tackles. Youngster Mikayla Bowen was electric (18 disposals, three marks, three tackles) while Maddy Collier contributed to the win thanks to her 18 touches.

Although it was a difficult outing for the Cats, McDonald impressed slotting the first major for her side while also collecting 24 touches and six tackles. She was ably assisted by Rebecca Webster who managed 16 touches as Renee Garing also made her mark thanks to her 13 disposals and five tackles. The ever-reliable Meg McDonald was once again a pillar of consistency despite having her work cut out for her, picking up 13 touches and three tackles.

 

WEST COAST 0.4 | 4.4 | 6.4 | 8.5 (53)
GEELONG 0.0 | 0.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 (14)

GOALS

West Coast: I. Cameron 3, G.Kelly 2, N.Kelly 2, Caulfield,
Geelong: A. McDonald, G. Clarke

ADC Best: 

West Coast: N. Kelly, I. Cameron, G. Kelly, E. Swanson, A. McCarthy
Geelong: A. McDonald, R. Webster, M. McDonald

Saints fire up to deal further damage to lowly Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Image Credit: AFL Photos

Hungry Dogs win the battle against fiery Cats

THE Western Bulldogs executed their first back-to-back win since 2019 in their AFL Women’s Round 3 encounter against Geelong, winning by 18 points in a tough slog until the bitter end. Whilst the Dogs put the first major on the board during the first, it took the side until the final quarter to really pile on the offensive pressure, eventually running out deserving 3.6 (24) to 1.3 (9) victors. 

The only Victorian-based match with a crowd for Round 3 was always set to be an interesting one, with two sides really looking to prove themselves and make the most of onlookers at the venue. The Cats had plenty of support behind them at home at Kardinia Park, but it was the likes of Ellie Blackburn and opening goal kicker Izzy Huntington who seemed to be the backbone of the Dogs side, especially early on as the former led all comers with both possessions and vision to set up a vital scoring opportunity.

Forced to taking a defensive approach during the first half, the Cats laboured away with Olivia Purcell working hard on and off the ball, aided by Amy McDonald who did not shy away from the contest, utilising her speed and evasiveness to collect a couple of excellent run-down tackles. Phoebe McWilliams also saw plenty of action, booting the Cats’ lone goal in the third quarter credit to an excellent forward press from the Geelong squad, battering the 50 and relentless on their pursuit. Bulldogs’ Ashleigh Guest was never far away from the contest, dealt a blow to the ribs from Steph Williams during the second before coming off in the last quarter with a nasty looking head knock, while all bar three players across both teams picked up at least one tackle, showcasing just how much physicality was felt across the ground.

The final quarter fate was sealed by a huge goal from Bulldogs young gun Jess Fitzgerald, with the former Northern Knights talent taking the footy for a run through the centre of the field, eventually finding the 50-metre line and booting a long goal for what is sure to be a goal of the year contender, extending the lead to the eventual 15-point winning margin. While the hardened Cats – led off the half-back by the combination of Amy McDonald, Aasta O’Connor and Meg McDonald – well and truly showed up in the third, getting within one point of the Dogs as the three quarter time siren sounded, it was not enough to reign supreme as the travellers proved no longer weary, piling on 2.3 in the final quarter to run away with the victory.

A tackle-happy Bulldogs trio of Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb and Gabby Newton landed a combined 26 tackles, and factoring in Blackburn’s 25 touches and Lamb’s 20, the Bulldogs realistically could not be stopped in or around the footy. For the Cats, their third quarter was highly successful not just because of their excellent pressure forcing the Bulldogs back, but also their ability to maintain possession of the footy under pressure. But it was a lack of access to viable ball inside 50, that was the real kicker, with the side only managing the one mark inside 50 compared to Footscray’s nine, with the sides measuring up virtually the same across all other major statistics. As for players, Amy McDonald (20 disposals, nine tackles, six marks) and Purcell (19 and five) were the go-to girls, while Bulldogs father-daughter selection Isabella Grant finally made her way out onto the park, putting the icing on the cake in her dad Chris‘ old number on debut.

GEELONG CATS | 0.0 | 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)
WESTERN BULLDOGS | 1.1 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 3.6 (24)

GOALS:

Geelong: P. McWilliams.
Western Bulldogs: 
I. Huntington, K. McLeod, J. Fitzgerald.

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. Mcdonald, O. Purcell, P. McWilliams, A. O’Connor, M. McDonald
Western Bulldogs: 
E. Blackburn, K. Lamb, I. Huntington, G. Newton, B. Lochland

Image Credit: AFL Photos

AFLW: Players to watch from your club in 2021 – Part 2

As we lead into the 2021 AFL Women’s season, we are highlighting the top players to watch from each club. In Part 1 Draft Central highlighted key players to keep an eye out for from Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood and Fremantle as some big names across the AFLW world return ahead of Round 1 for pre-season. With all of this in mind, here is Part 2 of the series detailing our top players to watch from each club in 2021.


Geelong: Meg McDonald
McDonald won Geelong’s 2019 best and fairest after courageously playing the final three games of the season with a stress fracture in her foot. Her injury woes continued in 2020, as she had to miss the first two rounds with a finger fracture. She produced a strong output when she returned, averaging 14 disposals, four marks, two rebound 50s and two tackles across four matches. The former Bulldog is a great intercept mark and reliable mover of the ball. Expect McDonald to make a significant impact in her fourth AFLW season and be one of the favourites for Geelong’s best and fairest once again.

Gold Coast: Kalinda Howarth
Howarth was one of the unexpected stars of the 2020 AFLW season. The crafty forward kicked nine goals in seven matches, including a four-goal haul against West Coast and three goals in the drawn QClash. She also found plenty of the ball and applied some strong tackling pressure, all of which helped her earn a selection in the 2020 AFLW All-Australian team. The 21-year-old will hope to build on that momentum and lead the Suns to their first finals victory in 2021.

GWS: Alyce Parker
One of AFLW’s youngest stars, 19-year-old Parker was her side’s best midfielder in 2020. She averaged an impressive 21 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s, with her strongest performance coming in round six against the Crows when she had 30 disposals, seven marks and three tackles. GWS were a strong side that finished second in their conference, which only made it more impressive that Parker led the club in disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, clearances, score involvements, inside 50s and rebound 50s. Parker made the All-Australian side for her efforts and looks set to take the next step by challenging for AFLW’s best and fairest award in 2021.

Melbourne: Tyla Hanks
Hanks is undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s brightest young stars and looks set for a huge year in 2021. She had a fantastic second season in 2020, earning more midfield minutes after starting her AFLW career as a forward. The 20-year-old led her side for tackles with an average of just below five per game, and she also averaged ten disposals. Expect her to spend even more time in the middle in 2021 and really showcase that go-get it mentality.

North Melbourne: Grace Campbell
Campbell was a surprise inclusion for North Melbourne over the trade period and will immediately add to a midfield that already includes the likes of Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney. Coming from Richmond, Campbell has strong contested ball traits and makes good decisions under pressure at stoppages. She averaged 12 disposals, five tackles and two inside 50s in her debut season. Expect her to build on this and help the Kangaroos contend for the 2021 premiership.

2020 AFLW weekend wrap: Round 6 – GIANTS, Blues consolidate finals chances

GWS and Carlton notched huge wins against fellow AFL Women’s finals hopefuls to consolidate their own finals chances in Round 6 of the competition, with reigning premier Adelaide dealt a blow in its premiership defence. Meanwhile, both conference leaders enjoyed wins to continue on their road to the post-season, Collingwood remained in the hunt, while expansion sides Gold Coast and St Kilda both also won out convincingly. In our Match of the Round, Carlton overcame Melbourne in a crucial win in the Top End.

GEELONG 2.1 | 3.2 | 3.2 | 3.2 (20)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 | 2.3 | 6.4 | 10.6 (66)

Peter Williams

North Melbourne has overcome a slow start to run over the top of Geelong in the Friday night fixture at GMHBA Stadium. As the only game allowing fans into the venue for the weekend amid growing fears with the Coronavirus, the Cats put on a show early, booting the only two goals of the first term through Phoebe McWilliams and All-Australian defender, Meg McDonald. By the time Julia Crockett-Grills had converted the Cats’ third major just 62 seconds into the second term, the home team led 3.1 to 0.2 and an upset was brewing. Little did the fans that did turn up know, the visiting team was about to click into gear. While Olivia Purcell again attacked the scoreboard for a behind in the fourth minute, that would turn out to be the last score of the game for the Cats, as the Roos piled on 10.4 to 0.0 over the next hour to completely run away with the match and win by 46 points. Jasmine Garner booted three goals and Brittany Gibson two, with the premiership favourites taking a while, but finally finding their groove in the 10.6 (66) to 3.2 (20) triumph on the road.

Garner finished with 18 disposals, six marks, six tackles and five inside 50s to go with her three goals, while Gibson made the most of her four touches, booting two goals from two marks. In terms of disposals, Ash Riddell continued her fine form with a match-high 23, as well as five marks, three inside 50s and seven tackles. Former Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner, Emma Kearney was prominent again thanks to 22 disposals, six marks, three tackles, six inside 50s and five rebounds. Jenna Bruton (21 disposals, seven tackles and three inside 50s) and Ellie Gavalas (15 disposals, two marks, four tackles and four inside 50s) were busy, while Mia King booted her first AFL Women’s career goal to go with her 12 touches and seven tackles.

For the Cats, Purcell amassed 18 disposals, five tackles and two inside 50s, McDonald had the 14 touches, five marks, three rebounds and a goal, while Amy McDonald had 13 disposals, two marks and four tackles. Also amongst the more prominent ball winners were Crockett-Grills (12 disposals, three marks and five tackles), Danielle Higgins (12 touches, three marks and four tackles) and Madeline Keryk (12 disposals, two marks, three tackles and three rebounds). Unfortunately for the Cats, the loss was further soured by a serious knee injury to Nina Morrison with fears that she had done a second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on the same right leg. The result meant the Roos stretched their lead out to six points a the top of Conference A, with Geelong’s finals hopes coping a knock to sit four points, percentage and a game behind the top three sides.

GOALS:

Geelong: J. Crockett-Grills, P. McWilliams, M. McDonald.
North Melbourne: J. Garner 3, B. Gibson 2, D. Bateman, S. Abbatangelo, K. Gillespie-Jones, E. King, M. King.

BEST:

Geelong: O. Purcell, J. Crockett-Grills, M. McDonald, R. Cranston, R. Garing
North Melbourne: J. Garner, A. Riddell, E. Kearney, J. Bruton, M. King

BRISBANE LIONS 0.1 | 0.1 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
COLLINGWOOD 2.4 | 3.7 | 3.10 | 5.13 (43)

Ryan Dundas

Although Coronavirus halted the fans, Collingwood could not be stopped as they conquered the Brisbane Lions. The last time these two sides met saw the Magpies deny Brisbane finals football and there was a sense of déjà vu for Craig Starcevich’s side as Collingwood cemented early pressure. The Pies were able to control the contested possessions, allowing their side to take an early 15-point lead in the opening term. Led by Brittany Bonnici, a bunch of Magpies were instrumental in providing inside 50s for Collingwood, while seconding to stifle the Lions’ defence. Bonnici was threatening around the contest, offering the Pies options all over the ground. Collingwood’s dictating was not stopped as they kept Brisbane scoreless in the second term.

Down by 24 points at half-time, Brisbane came out strong in the second half and rallied momentum to only trail at the final break by 14. However, the damage was already done as Collingwood controlled the final term to win 5.13 (43) to 2.2 (14). Two consecutive wins for the Magpies ensure they are still in the hunt for a finals berth in the AFLW competition. Conversely, Brisbane’s loss opens the door now for the Gold Coast Suns to obtain the final spot in Conference A.

Bonnici was outstanding in the midfield for Collingwood, recording 26 disposals, three marks and three tackles. Undoubtedly, the best player on the ground, her stocks continue to rise in the AFLW. Sarah D’Arcy‘s willingness to find opportunities in the forward line was also one of Collingwood’s vital strengths against Brisbane. Although 1.4 is not her peak, her best work came off the ball, creating openings for her teammates. Similarly, on the defensive end, Steph Chiocci’s impact against Brisbane influenced the momentum away from the Lions with 18 disposals, six marks and four tackles. For the Brisbane Lions, Rheanne Lugg (18 disposals and eight marks) stepped up in a side that was outplayed by the Collingwood Magpies. Along with her, Sophie Conway in the second half was one of the best players on the ground with 11 disposals and two marks.

GOALS:

Brisbane: D. Davidson, C. Svarc
Collingwood: S. Rowe, S. D’Arcy, C. Molloy, S. Alexander, J. Membrey

ADC BEST:

Brisbane: D. Davidson, R. Lugg, S. Conway, C. Svarc
Collingwood:
S. D’Arcy, B. Bonnici, B. Davey, S. Chiocci, C. Molloy, J. Lambert

ST KILDA 2.1 | 2.1 | 4.5 | 6.6 (42)
RICHMOND 0.0 | 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.3 (3)

Tom Cheesman

“The G-Train” Caitlin Greiser led St Kilda to a dominant 39-point victory over the struggling Richmond at RSEA Park on Saturday. Greiser was unstoppable up forward while Richmond were held to just three points for the match, the lowest score ever recorded in AFLW. It has been a disappointing debut AFLW season for the Tigers, who are yet to record their first win and sit with a lowly percentage of 35.7. St Kilda dominated all the key stats including disposals (206-144), clearances (32-15), contested possessions (106-81) and inside 50s (29-19).

Greiser got the Saints off to a dream start, earning a free kick deep in the forward 50 and kicking her side’s first major. Round 5 Rising Star nominee Olivia Vesely was clean at the clearances early, while Clara Fitzpatrick took some nice intercept marks in defence. Greiser’s second gave the Saints a two-goal lead at the first break. Both teams went goalless in the second term, as Richmond did well to lock it in their forward 50 but could not impact the scoreboard. Sabrina Frederick earned two set shots on goal but failed to convert. With fans locked out due to the coronavirus, both sides’ benches made as much noise as possible to help support their sides.

In the third, the Saints got back to applying strong forward pressure while Richmond struggled to transition the ball past the centre of the ground. Greiser kicked her third before Kate Shierlaw got on the end of some great run and carry from Georgia Patrikios to put through their fourth. St Kilda’s dominance at the contest continued in the last as they ran away to a comfortable victory. Greiser was a clear best on ground with three goals, three marks and four tackles. Meanwhile, Rosie Dillon (17 disposals, seven tackles) and Vesely (16 disposals, five tackles) were very impactful at the clearances. For Richmond, Monique Conti was far and away their strongest performer with 22 disposals, four marks and four tackles.

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser 3, D. Guttridge, K. Shierlaw, N. Xenos
Richmond: Nil

ADC BEST:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, R. Dillon, N. Xenos, C. Fitzpatrick, O. Vesely
Richmond: M. Conti, G. Campbell, S. Frederick

WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.0 | 4.1 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)
FREMANTLE 1.2 | 4.3 | 6.5 | 10.6 (66)

Lachie Abbott

Fremantle remain undefeated after edging out the Western Bulldogs by 15 points in a high scoring contest at Whitten Oval. The Dockers trailed by four points at three-quarter-time, but rallied to kick four goals, while the Bulldogs could only manage one in the final term.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Bulldogs were unable to call upon the support of their home fans to get them off to a flying start, as organisers have closed all AFLW matches from crowds. Nevertheless, the Dogs got off to a strong start with a linking chain of handballs through the centre corridor, with the run of Katy Heron eventually allowing Ellie Blackburn to kick the opening goal of the match.

Hannah Munyard added a second major on the back of a lovely checkside pass from Kirsten McLeod and it was clear the Dogs were up for the fight. However, the Dockers soon showed why they are undefeated and hit back through a strong Kara Antonio mark and set shot, set up by the run of Gemma Houghton from the wing. The Dogs were potent using handballs to drive attacks off half-back through the centre of the ground, whereas the Dockers preferred to keep the ball out of the corridor and utilised their foot skills along the boundary line.

Blackburn began the second term as she finished the first, receiving a handball and firing home from 40 metres to add the much needed classy tough to the Dogs play. The Bulldogs’ defence struggled at times to escape the pressure of Fremantle’s forwards, resulting in several opportunities for the potent Dockers attack, including one set shot for Hayley Miller to cut the margin to four points.

Also up forward for the Dockers, Ashley Sharp was a thorn in the side of the Bulldogs defence for the entirety of the game, scoring multiple opportunistic goals. Laura Pugh added another for the Dockers just before the break after a penetrating inside 50 from Antonio spilled her way. Heading into the main interval, it was the Dockers who had recovered to lead by four points and look ready to break the game open in the second half.

Yet once the second stanza got underway, it was the Dogs who broke the game open. Unfortunately for Katie-Jayne Grieve, she was completely to blame for the first goal of the Dogs’ third-quarter rally, giving away a free kick and two 50-metre penalties to allow an easy goal for the dominant Aisling McCarthy.

Later in the term, McLeod, despite only having six touches for the day, was extremely effective when she got the ball in her hands. The small forward snapped her second major midway through the term to extend the lead back to 10 points with a classy finish. Deanna Berry then added another and suddenly, it looked like the one-win Bulldogs may run away with the match. However, the Dockers roared back into life to kick the last two goals of the quarter through a dribbling Mia-Rae Clifford finish and a strong contested mark from Sharp, on the back of outstanding forward pressure.

With it all to play for at the start of the final term, Ebony Antonio stood up when she was needed most, slotting a classy goal in the early stages of the quarter. Antonio feigned to give off the handball- selling two defenders- before cutting to her right and finishing with poise on the run. Antonio continued to play an inspired final quarter, laying crunching tackles and later drifting back behind the play and taking some important contested marks.

Danielle Marshall responded for the Dogs after almost ruining a golden goal-scoring opportunity by kicking into Kiara Bowers on the mark. Luckily for Marshall, the ricochet fell back into her arms and the American managed to finish from a tight angle. But that was as good as it got for the Bulldogs, and soon after a strong mark from Clifford set up her second. Almost two minutes later, a strong contest from Grieve in the goal square allowed Kate Flood to poke home from close range and suddenly the Dockers had a two goal cushion.

With little time left, the Bulldogs pressed up the field in search of a much needed second major of the term. However, a burst forward on the wing from Houghton made use of the now vacant space in behind the Dogs defence. Sharp knocked Houghton’s kick towards goal and used blistering speed to seal the match. The Dockers defended well in the closing moments to not allow the Bulldogs any clean possession and ultimately claimed their sixth win of the season in a thrilling encounter.

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: K. McLeod 2, E. Blackburn 2, H. Munyard, D. Marshall, A. McCarthy, D. Berry.
Fremantle: A. Sharp 3, M. Clifford 2, L. Pugh, K. Flood, E. Antonio, K. Antonio, H. Miller.

BEST:

Western Bulldogs: E. Blackburn, A. McCarthy, G. Newton, I. Huntington, H. Munyard, K. McLeod
Fremantle: E. Antonio, K. Bowers, K. Antonio, A. Sharp, H. Miller, M. Clifford

ADELAIDE 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 3.3 (21)
GWS GIANTS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.2 (26)

Michael Alvaro

GWS dealt a crushing blow to Adelaide’s premiership defence on Sunday, knocking over the reigning premiers by five points in a thriller at Hisense Stadium. The GIANTS came up clutch in the low-scoring contest, quickly rectifying an early deficit and holding off the Crows’ last-ditch effort to run out 4.2 (26) to 3.3 (21) victors. Not only does the win mean GWS is in the box seat to secure a finals berth, but it was also the GIANTS’ first-ever AFLW victory over Adelaide.

Fresh off a match winning four-goal haul against Richmond, Cora Staunton picked up right from where she left off in Round 5 by floating through the game’s opening goal. But the Crows would work to even the ledger and sneak ahead late in the first term, with the impact of a returning Erin Phillips proving vital. The two-time AFLW best and fairest winner had a hand in both of her side’s goals for the term; hitting Courtney Gum lace out on the lead, and later belting a stoppage clearance towards the goalsquare to be pounced on by Marijana Rajcic and give the home side ascendancy.

Both sides’ maturity shone through as the tackling pressure and physicality of the contest lifted in response to the tightness of the scoreboard, and it showed with only two goals notched for the entire second and third quarters. They both belonged to the GIANTS, who put their noses in front as Jodie Hicks finished well on the end of a slick chain inside forward 50, and extended their lead via a 50-metre penalty to Brittany Tully in the following term. The GIANTS’ ball movement looked to have lifted, remaining composed in the face of some fierce pressure while inflicting some serious tackling of their own.

The last term began much like the first, with Staunton again earning a free kick and for the second time, wobbling home a six-pointer to lift her side. Holding a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, GWS ensured it would stay on top with much of the same lockdown defensive work. Adelaide’s last roll of the dice came 90 seconds from the final siren as Gum marked strongly close to goal and duly converted the set shot. But the Crows’ attempts to blow down the door came up short as the GIANTS’ defence proved just that, helping them claim a second-consecutive victory.

Alyce Parker was instrumental in GWS’ success, collecting a mammoth 30 disposals and seven marks against some seasoned opponents in midfield. Rebecca Beeson and Tait Mackrill each had 20 touches, while Staunton (12 disposals, six marks, 2.1) and Elle Bennetts (16 disposals, three marks) were terrific as the GIANTS’s bookends. For Adelaide, the midfield combination of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff again proved potent as the pair combined for 41 disposals and 17 tackles, with the pacy Justine Mules also pitching in on the tackling front. The supporting hand of Erin Phillips was also impactful early on, as the champion finished with 13 disposals and three tackles in just her second game for the season.

Sitting pretty at 4-2 and in second place among the Conference A contenders, the GIANTS are now primed for finals with games against the lower-ranked Geelong and Western Bulldogs to come. On the other hand, Adelaide faces a fight to stay alive in season 2020, sixth in Conference A but with fixtures awaiting against expansion sides, Gold Coast and Richmond.

GOALS:

Adelaide: C. Gum 2, M. Rajcic
GWS: C. Staunton 2, J. Hicks, B. Tully

ADC BEST:

Adelaide: A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, C. Gum, C. Biddell, A. Foley
GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, T. Mackrill, B. Tully, E. Bennetts, C. Staunton

WEST COAST EAGLES 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.2 | 1.2 (8)
GOLD COAST SUNS 1.2 | 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.3 (33)

Taylah Melki

It was a convincing performance by the Suns who had control from the get go holding the Eagles goalless for the first three quarters before finally slotting one in the last term. West Coast simply could not generate any forward ball movement mainly in part to Gold Coasts efficiency with ball in hand and ability to shut down options across the ground. Despite having more inside 50s (29-26) the Eagles could not buy a goal showing just how strong the Suns defence was, consistently standing up under pressure and working the ball out of danger areas. Gold Coast pretty much cruised to victory never really challenged on the scoreboard by their opposition and while they lost the possession count and marks tally the Suns somehow managed to assert themselves on the game and claim a 25-point win.

The inaugural captain once again led from the front bullying her way through the packs and applying a wealth of physical pressure with six tackles. Dana Hooker was head and shoulders above the rest racking up 31 touches with 22 of them kicks showcasing her ability to find a target and hit them lace out while also taking six marks in what was a complete performance from the highly talented mid. Imahra Cameron also plied her trade across the ground with 20 disposals while Belinda Smith was constantly involved in the contest with her 18 possessions, three tackles and four marks. Although Hayley Bullas did not win a heap of the footy racking up 10 touches for the game she was the sole goalscorer for the Eagles proving her influence. The reliable Kellie Gibson was up to her usual tricks with 18 disposals while Emma Swanson was not far behind with 16 and five tackles. Despite not being able to post a competitive total the Eagles have plenty of stars that have shown with more time to gel as a side could become a damaging side.

It is fair to say that the ball was relatively evenly shared across the Gold Coast side with 12 players reaching double figures however it was Kate Surman that racked up the most touches of anyone in her squad with 20. Draftee Dee Heslop highlighted her ferocity at the contest multiple times throughout the match with a game high 10 tackles. Fellow youngster Serene Watson also made a lasting impression on the Eagles racking up the touches across the ground with 15 while Jacqui Yorston also inserted herself on the match with nine tackles and 12 disposals. Jamie Stanton, Hannah Dunn and Lauren Aherns managed 16 possessions apiece with the trio creating plenty of excitement with their clever ball use. But when it came to goal kickers, Kalinda Howarth proved to be the go to girl slotting an impressive four goals with two of them coming in the third quarter. Jordann Hickey rounded out the other scorer for the day nailing a major during the second term to help set up the Gold Coast win.

GOALS:

Gold Coast: K. Howarth 4, J. Hickey
West Coast: H. Bullas

BESTS:

Gold Coast: K. Surman, K. Howarth, S. Watson, J. Yorston, J. Stanton
West Coast: D. Hooker, E. Swanson, I. Cameron, B. Smith, K. Gibson

AFL Women’s preview: Round 3 – Make or break games set the scene for third round of action

IT is now or never for a number of teams who sit on a knifes-edge when it comes to their finals aspirations. While some sides will finish the round undefeated with three wins, other teams will head into Monday doing the maths as to how many wins they need to make finals. With many teams at 1-1, this is the earliest junction in the season where sides can make a getaway from the sides around them, or fall back and have to play catch-up football in the run home.

Friday, February 21

St Kilda v. Melbourne at RSEA Park, 7:10pm, AEDT

Taylah Melki

With St Kilda still looking for their first win in AFLW history, Melbourne will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and make it three from three. it has been a tricky initiation for the Saints who have been competitive for large chunks of time but lack that little bit of finesse and experience in the crucial moments as opposed to the Demons. Melbourne have been in hot form downing premiership favourites North Melbourne in Round 1 and dismissing the Dogs by 20 points last round proving just how damaging they can be when on song.

It is hard to deny that Melbourne look like a much better side with Daisy Pearce back in the mix. The skilful footballer can extract the footy out of congestion and use the ball efficiently by hand or foot adding that touch of class to an already strong side. Teammates, Karen Paxman and Elise O’Dea provide an experienced head across the field something they will be hoping to use against a relatively young and inexperienced Saints side. Libby Birch is a ball magnet and will be hoping to once again have a profound impact across the ground with her silky skills. In their second year of AFLW youngsters Tyla Hanks and Shelley Heath have been building into some hot form with their tackling pressure the key aspect of their game play.

Despite taking it to the Crows last round, St Kilda let it slip when it counted and will be hoping for a more rounded four quarter performance against some tough opposition. The Saints have plenty of young talent with Rising Star nominee Georgia Patrikios leading the pack with her cleanliness below her knees, quick hands and spatial awareness. Patrikios has made a seamless transition into AFLW with fellow draftee Tarni White also making a splash with an impressive 18 disposals last round while Molly McDonald and Nicola Xenos will be hoping to leave a lasting imprint this round. Expect the young guns to look to the likes of Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Jessica Sedunary and Rhiannon Watt to lead the way and provide some guidance given their experience and high footy nous.

Tip: Melbourne by 22 points.

ST KILDA

B: T.White 29 T.Luke 22
HB: H.Priest 14 A.Brown 2 T.Lucas-Rodd 18
C: N.Exon 15 J.Sedunary 10 M.McDonald 1
HF: C.Munn 13 K.McCarthy 9 C.Greiser 17
F: K.Shierlaw 12 G.Patrikios 21
Foll: R.Watt – C 7 O.Vesely 23 C.Phillips 35
I/C: D.Guttridge 5 R.Dillon 25 A.Drennan 8 N.Xenos 27 I.Shannon 11

Emerg: S.Johnson 6 P.Kelly 16

In: T.Luke, I.Shannon
Out: C.Fitzpatrick (concussion), C.Whitfort

MELBOURNE

B: L.Birch 9 M.Downie 2
HB: S.Lampard 8 S.Goldrick 23 D.Pearce – C 6
C: S.Heath 30 T.Hanks 28 C.Emonson 11
HF: K.Hore 10 E.Zanker 29 S.Scott 12
F: T.Cunningham 1 A.Newman 16
Foll: H.Cordner 21 K.Paxman 4 M.Gay 3
I/C: G.Colvin 32 C.Sherriff 18 N.McEvoy 17 M.Guerin 22 E.O’Dea 5

Emerg: B.Tarrant 20 K.Petrevski 31

In: M.Guerin
Out: A.Kemp (knee)

Saturday, February 22

Western Bulldogs v. Carlton at Whitten Oval, 3:10pm, AEDT

Taylah Melki

The Western Bulldogs will be hoping to take advantage of their home ground and inflict pain on the Blues who were well and truly shocked last round by Collingwood. The Dogs have had an up and down start to the 2020 season getting an easy win in the opening round and then well held in Round 2 much like their opposition making for an interesting battle on Saturday. Both sides will be vying for their second win and given it is a short season a win here means everything. But after a seething comment last round expect the Blues to come out firing on all cylinders.

After a relatively disappointing outing the Dogs will be hoping to right their wrongs and get back on the winners list. Once again Bonnie Toogood provided the pressure up forward and will have to keep that going if they are to topple the Blues. The likes of Aisling McCarthy and Naomi Ferres have stepped up to the plate with their ball winning ability on full display while the likes of best and fairest winner Ellie Blackburn is in ripping form. Blackburn is a machine in the midfield able to dig deep and provide a constant threat. Both Elisabeth Georgostathis and Gemma Lagioia still have plenty to develop but have shown promising signs with their physical pressure and ability to hunt the footy.

Carlton have a plethora of stars across the ground, none bigger than ball magnet and bull Maddy Prespakis with the 20-year-old not afraid to burrow in. She struggled at times throughout Round 2 given the heavy tag but has shown that she has the class, strength and smarts to think her way through challenges pairing with the likes of fellow youngster Grace Egan. The two proved to be a dominant force last round and will be seeking to replicate their form again this round. After an early goal Tayla Harris faded out of the game against Collingwood something that she won’t let happen twice with the talented footballer able to pluck balls from the sky and kick truly. Another one in the forward brigade that will be seeking retribution is Darcy Vescio who failed to find the big sticks but has shown that she is a force to be reckoned with her goal sense and forward pressure.

Tip: Carlton by 14.

WESTERN BULLDOGS

B: A.Gogos 36 L.Spark 11
HB: K.Herron 31 E.Gamble 14 N.Ferres 16
C: B.Hunt 21 K.Lamb 27 G.Lagioia 12
HF: G.Newton 5 B.Toogood 8 K.McLeod 6
F: E.Georgostathis 17 D.Berry 7
Foll: K.Rennie 24 E.Blackburn – C 2 A.McCarthy 15
I/C: E.Brown 9 D.Marshall 26 I.Huntington 4 H.Scott 22 B.Lochland 1

Emerg: N.Callinan 10 H.Munyard 20

In: I.Huntington, B.Lochland
Out: N.Callinan, A.Van Oosterwijck

CARLTON

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

Emerg: B.Vernon 31 C.Jones 22

In: J.Edwards
Out: J.Doonan

Gold Coast v Brisbane, Metricon Stadium, 4.10pm AEST

Tom Cheesman

The first ever AFLW Q Clash will be played on Saturday in the Sunshine State, as expansion side Gold Coast look to topple their undefeated Conference A rival Brisbane. The Lions are sitting pretty on top of the table thanks to a dominant round one victory over Adelaide and a come-from-behind win on the road against Geelong. Meanwhile, the Suns evened their ledger at 1-1 last weekend with an 11-point victory over fellow newcomers Richmond. Both sides have strong percentages to work with and are building momentum heading into round three, so this contest should be a belter.

Ex-North Melbourne and Brisbane midfielder Jamie Stanton has been Gold Coast’s most reliable player through the opening two rounds, rated best for the SUNS by Draft Central in both matches. She averages 18 disposals, four tackles and two marks so far this season. Leah Kaslar was great last week with 15 disposals and four tackles, while Kate Surman is proving to be an excitement machine for the Suns up forward. Northern Territory recruit Tayla Thorn will look to make an impact in defence for the hosts in what will be her first match of the season.

Brisbane NAB rising star nominee Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw plans on replicating last week’s entertaining three-goal performance. She trails Fremantle’s Sabreena Duffy by one in the race for the AFLW Leading Goalkicker award and would love to take the lead through a dominant performance against the Suns. Lion midfielders Emily Bates and Ally Anderson led from the front in Geelong with 38 disposals between them, while Lily Postlethwaite is showing plenty of physicality early in her debut season. She has amassed 11 tackles over the first two rounds and with a physical clash set to take place on Saturday, this number should continue to rise.

Tip: Brisbane by 9.

GOLD COAST

B: J.Pregelj 42 J.Hickey 4
HB: S.Virgo – C 22 L.Ahrens 7 S.Watson 14
C: T.Ernst 19 H.Dunn 24 C.Hammond 29
HF: B.Perry 16 L.Kaslar 11 K.Surman 26
F: E.Hampson 21 K.Howarth 23
Foll: L.Bella 2 J.Yorston 5 J.Stanton 17
I/C: J.Hewett 20 D.Heslop 25 P.Parker 1 M.Ritson 12 T.Thorn 15

Emerg: S.Riley 8 A.Hamilton 30

In: T.Thorn
Out: S.Riley

BRISBANE

B: C.Svarc 25 S.Webb 4
HB: R.Lugg 11 K.Lutkins 13 S.Campbell 20
C: E.Zielke – C 8 B.Koenen 3 N.Grider 10
HF: L.Arnell 16 J.Wardlaw 30 G.Bodey 15
F: D.Davidson 14 S.Conway 12
Foll: J.Keeffe 27 A.Anderson 18 E.Bates 1
I/C: I.Dawes 17 O.O’Dwyer 9 L.Postlethwaite 6 G.Collingwood 7 M.Moloney 28

Emerg: J.Ellenger 5 J.Zanchetta 2

In: None
Out: None

Fremantle v. Collingwood at Fremantle Oval, 7:10pm

Taylah Melki

The top of the table clash will bring plenty of excitement with both sides undefeated and looking to make it three straight wins. It is fair to say that both the Dockers and Collingwood have shocked the competition with just how well they are going with Fremantle romping it home last round against cross-town rivals. Collingwood have found a new lease on life with their running style of play paying dividends and often giving them first purchase on the footy whereas the Dockers have a more attacking style.

Scoring has proven no issue for the Dockers posting some hefty totals already this season with the likes of leading goal kicker Sabreena Duffy doing a wealth of damage on the scoreboard. Both Kara Antonio and Ebony Antonio have proven to be a deadly duo with their tackling pressure and intensity a constant feature of their game. Roxy Roux bounded into Rising Star contention last week with a couple of impressive grabs and two goals to her name an effort she will want to repeat again this week while Mim Strom is continuing to ply her trade. Kiara Bowers had a best on field performance last week getting her hands to ball with ease and disposing of it cleanly with teammates Evangeline Gooch and Katie-Jayne Greive others who can inflict pain on the Pies if left unattended.

The return of Magpies star Chloe Molloy has been everything the club could have asked for with her running ability, hard edge and cleanliness along with her versatility a key aspect to the line-up. Molloy is a real excitement machine while livewire Jaimee Lambert has gone from strength to strength already and it is only entering Round 3. The potential return of the injured Bri Davey could further bolster Collingwood’s midfield stocks making them an ominous threat for the Dockers. Defensively the Pies have stood up to the task with damaging duo Stacey Livingstone and Ash Brazill acting as a wall down back and propelling anything that comes their way while in the ruck Sharni Layton has taken her craft to a whole other level. Brittany Bonnici and Mikayla Cann have been in ripping form for the black and white army and will be hoping to front up once again to get their side over the line.

Tip: Fremantle by 10.

FREMANTLE

B: J.Cuthbertson 29 E.Gooch 8
HB: A.Stannett 24 P.Seth 18 L.Mascall 14
C: K.Grieve 13 H.Miller 19 B.Webb 26
HF: E.Antonio 12 R.Roux 17 A.Sharp 1
F: S.Duffy 6 G.Houghton 27
Foll: M.Strom 21 K.Bowers 2 K.Antonio – C 15
I/C: K.Flood 44 J.Stewart 7 L.Pugh 32 L.Rohde 11 G.O’Sullivan 22

Emerg: E.O’Driscoll 3 M.Clifford 4

In: None
Out: None

COLLINGWOOD

B: A.Porter 9 S.Livingstone 12
HB: L.Butler 23 A.Brazill 10 C.Molloy 2
C: S.Rowe 7 S.Casey 22 S.Chiocci – C 17
HF: A.Sheridan 14 J.Lambert 13 B.Bonnici 8
F: M.Cann 25 R.Schleicher 18
Foll: S.Layton 1 E.Fowler 15 S.D’Arcy 4
I/C: S.Dargan 46 B.Davey 3 J.Allen 6 J.Membrey 21 K.Stratton 41

Emerg: M.Shevlin 35 E.O’Dea 50

In: R.Schleicher, B.Davey, K.Stratton
Out: E.O’Dea, S.Alexander, M.Shevlin

Sunday, February 23

Greater Western Sydney v West Coast, Blacktown International Stadium, 1.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

Kicking off proceedings on Sunday, one of the expansion clubs makes its longest trip yet when West Coast crosses the country to face GWS GIANTS at Blacktown. The Eagles have shown signs in their opening two games, but have ultimately been overwhelmed, while the GIANTS survived an almighty scare in Round 1 to just get the points against Gold Coast, before going down to North Melbourne last week. It was lucky the GIANTS did get the win against the SUNS, or they could be all but out of the finals race if they dropped this match as well. As it stands, that is the predicament facing West Coast, with realistically three losses the maximum a team could have and still make finals, though not many would expect West Coast to make the post-season series in its first season. The GIANTS on the otherhand are desperate to get there having not yet tasted finals action in three seasons.

The GIANTS have a consistent list across the board with a lot of underrated stars. Alicia Eva and Alyce Parker are a damaging duo in the competition, with Parker one of the top few talents in her second year. She has worked well winning the hard ball out of the middle and using her skills, while Eva’s evasion and speed make her a damaging prospect out of congestion or in space on a wing. The GIANTS have an experienced defence that just nullifies opposition forwards, with Tanya Hetherington and Pepa Randall back on the last line, and Jess Dal Pos providing the touch of class off half-back. Up forward, Cora Staunton is always a player you have to watch out for as an opposition defender, while Rebecca Privitelli is enjoying career-best form. Also in good form is ex-Crow Jess Allen, who becomes even more crucial in this clash in the absence of All-Australian ruck Erin McKinnon.

Parris Laurie will look to continue her great form through the middle as the leading tap ruck, amassing more than 20 hitouts a game so far. She has a very strong midfield at her feet, with Dana Hooker a top five player in the league, and captain Emma Swanson a real talent with ball-in-hand. Imahra Cameron has genuinely lit up moments in games with her breakaway speed and has been a huge inclusion into the side as a mature-age recruit. Mikayla Bowen provides the toughness around the contest, and McKenzie Dowrick adds the class and skill playing off half-back. While the Eagles forward line is still learning to function as a unit, former Dockers, Kellie Gibson and Ashlee Atkins make a damaging duo, and once the midfield and forward lines can link-up regularly, they will be a strong force.

Tip: GWS by 20.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

B: P.Randall 21 T.Hetherington 9
HB: J.Dal Pos 7 E.Bennetts 22 A.Lister 14
C: Y.Bonner 27 A.Eva – C 2 R.Beeson 6
HF: A.Schmidt 11 C.Staunton 13 J.Hicks 5
F: I.Nielsen 25 R.Privitelli 19
Foll: J.Allan 39 B.Tully 36 A.Parker 3
I/C: N.Barr 8 L.Steane 20 J.Barclay 34 L.Stephenson 12 H.Zreika 24 T.Mackrill 32 S.Halvorsen 30

In: J.Barclay, T.Mackrill, S.Halvorsen
Out: E.McKinnon

WEST COAST

B: C.Perera 27 T.Radan 26
HB: B.Smith 14 S.McDonald 35 M.Dowrick 5
C: M.Bowen 1 I.Cameron 19 N.Kelly 12
HF: A.Atkins 9 K.Gibson 2 M.Collier 8
F: G.Kelly 15 T.Tester 23
Foll: P.Laurie 25 D.Hooker 17 E.Swanson – C 13
I/C: B.Devlyn 7 C.Guard 4 H.Bullas 24 E.Bonser 6 K.Orme 32 C.Davidson 33 D.Pisconeri 11

In: E.Bonser, C.Davidson
Out: None

Richmond v North Melbourne, Ikon Park, 3.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

The Sunday mid-afternoon game pits an expansion side against one of last year’s expansion teams when Richmond plays host to North Melbourne at Ikon Park. The Tigers enter this game without a win on the board just yet, and suffered defeats at the hands of Carlton and Gold Coast SUNS who are also 1-1 having lost their other respective matches. North Melbourne also sits at 1-1 from its two games, having gone down to Melbourne in a tight one out at Casey Fields, before bouncing back with a win over the GIANTS in Tasmania last week. It is fair to say the star-studded talent of North Melbourne will head in as strong favourites for this game, but with a number of fresh faces coming into Richmond’s team, it will be interesting to see how they line-up.

Joining Richmond’s extended squad in the game are debutant Ella Wood – with the former Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels midfielder named on the wing – as well as potential debutants, Ciara Fitzgerald and surprise non-listed call-up, Hannah McLaren. Both have been named on the extended bench in case of any injuries, while Tayla Stahl misses with a hamstring problem. The Tigers have a strong top-end with Monique Conti and Katie Brennan leading the midfield. Brennan copped flak throughout the week in the media and is likely to come out firing to silence the critics, which the North Melbourne midfield will have to be aware of for this game. Up forward, Sabrina Frederick provides a tall marking target, while Christina Bernardi and Kodi Jacques have been in good form this season. In defence, Akec Makur Chuot and Phoebe Monahan are just quietly going about their business but are statistically the top one-two duo when thinking about marks and rebounds. Wood adds extra hardness at the contest, and joins GWV teammate Sophie Molan, and a number of other youngsters, such as Laura McClelland and Sarah Sansonetti in the team.

North Melbourne’s depth is one of the envies of the competition and there is a reason the Roos headed into the 2020 season as the premiership favourites. With a strong list despite missing one of its stars in Jess Duffin (maternity leave), North Melbourne has more players that stand up in big moments than any other side. Emma Kearney is a Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner a couple of seasons ago and well heralded, but the work of Jenna Bruton and recently, Ash Riddell should not be underestimated. With Jasmine Garner in career-best form – which is saying something – and Kaitlyn Ashmore roving at the feet of Emma King up forward, the Roos have plenty of scoring options.They are missing that Duffin-type role off half-back, though Tahlia Randall and Danielle Hardiman have provided good strength in the air for the midfielders who drop back and help out to run the ball down the field. Overall, this North Melbourne side on paper should win this game fairly easily, but as we know with any match, games are not won on paper.

Tip: North Melbourne by 28.

RICHMOND

B: S.Sansonetti 18 A.Makur Chuot 34
HB: L.McClelland 16 P.Monahan 2 G.Seymour 28
C: E.Wood 17 K.Brennan – C 3 R.Miller 15
HF: S.Frederick 14 K.Jacques 10 C.Bernardi 6
F: C.Wakefield 8 M.Brancatisano 5
Foll: A.Edmonds 11 M.Conti 4 G.Campbell 43
I/C: L.Tesoriero 7 L.Bailey 12 S.Molan 1 A.Woodward 13 H.Burchell 9 H.McLaren 29 C.Fitzgerald 26

In: E.Wood, H.McLaren, C.Fitzgerald
Out: T.Stahl (hamstring)

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: T.Randall 16 B.Gibson 18
HB: T.Nestor 24 D.Hardiman 31 J.Grierson 19
C: J.Trend 21 A.Riddell 7 E.Kearney – C 9
HF: S.Abbatangelo 1 K.Gillespie-Jones 5 E.King 4
F: E.King 60 K.Ashmore 10
Foll: V.Saad 39 J.Garner 25 J.Bruton 35
I/C: A.Gilroy 8 D.Bateman 11 S.Wright 17 B.Lynch 20 E.Gavalas 22 M.King 23 A.Green 26

In: B.Lynch, M.King
Out: None

Geelong v Adelaide, GMHBA Stadium, 5.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

The final game of the round might well be the best of the lot, perhaps barring the top of the table clash between the Dockers and Magpies. Geelong is hungry for a win, sitting at 0-2 despite statistically looking pretty good across the board and plenty of their teenage talents stepping up already in season 2020. Adelaide has been the walking wounded, having to bring in a top-up player back in Round 1 due to the multitude of injuries, and then bouncing back with a win – albeit not entirely convincing – over newcomers St Kilda. This feels like a game that could make or break both these side’s seasons. Geelong win, and the Cats are back in contention, while they lose and it is pretty much curtains for season 2020 unless they really get on a roll. Adelaide win, and the Crows are flying high on confidence and can sustain it long enough to receive some extra troops in the run home to finals, while they lose and the reigning premiers will be in a bit of trouble for their title defence aspirations.

Geelong lost at home last week to Brisbane, and will want to give the home fans who turn up for the second week in a row something to cheer about. The Cats have lost promising youngster, Denby Taylor to an ankle injury, but have regained All-Australian defender Meg McDonald, which would be a huge relief for coach Paul Hood. Maddy Boyd and Rebecca Goring have been added to the squad as well for the clash, as Geelong understands the importance of a win here for its finals calculations. The core group of second year players in the blue and white hoops have been simply sensational and a blueprint for clubs going forward. Olivia Purcell is in the top five ball winners across the league, while Rebecca Webster has been a marking machine and is the most improved player in the competition. Along with Sophie Van De Heuvel and 2018 AFL Women’s number one draft pick Nina Morrison, the Cats have a plethora of talent across the board. They still have more to get out of some of the depth around the ground, but with McDonald back, it releases some of the pressure off captain Mel Hickey, while Phoebe McWilliams will enjoy having Boyd back in the side as another target up forward.

The Crows go in with top selection from last year’s draft, Montana McKinnon – who dominated in the SANFL Women’s competition last week – and Courtney Cramey of whom both have been added to the extended side. The midfield duo of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff is ranked first and second in terms of disposals won, while Eloise Jones have gained some important minutes in the absence of star, Erin Phillips. Up forward, Nikki Gore and Danielle Ponter have improved in their second year, adding extra dimensions to the side, while Courtney Gum‘s new role as a deep forward has been important in providing leadership around the young players. The midfield battle between these teams will be fascinating, and if the Crows can continue their ball-winning and stoppage ways, then expect their forwards to have a good day in Geelong. But if the Cats can neutralise the midfield, then they will also have a huge chance of taking out the contest.

Tip: Geelong by 4.

GEELONG

B: M.Brown 19 M.McMahon 24
HB: M.Keryk 45 M.McDonald 11 M.Hickey – C 18
C: S.Van De Heuvel 27 R.Webster 21 N.Morrison 9
HF: J.Crockett-Grills 6 P.McWilliams 23 J.Ivey 5
F: M.Boyd 26 R.Garing 12
Foll: A.O’Connor 14 R.Cranston 30 O.Purcell 16
I/C: M.Maguire 7 D.Higgins 2 G.Rankin 10 R.Caris 1 G.Clarke 17 R.Goring 44 A.McDonald 3

In: M.McDonald, M.Boyd, R.Goring
Out: D.Taylor (ankle)

ADELAIDE

B: D.Cox 31 S.Allan 39
HB: S.Li 19 M.Rajcic 32 C.Cramey 22
C: A.Foley – C 3 A.Hatchard 33 J.Mules 23
HF: N.Gore 7 C.Gould 1 S.Thompson 14
F: C.Gum 5 D.Ponter 15
Foll: J.Foley 24 E.Marinoff 10 E.Jones 2
I/C: A.Considine 16 M.McKinnon 21 C.Biddell 12 N.Allen 8 M.Newman 17 N.Campbell 20 R.Forth 27

In: C.Cramey, M.McKinnon
Out: None

ROUND 3 TIPS: [Total tips in brackets]

Michael Alvaro [10]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Fremantle / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide
Taylah Melki [12]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Collingwood / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide
Sophie Taylor [10]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Fremantle / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide
Peter Williams [9]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Fremantle / GWS / North Melbourne / Geelong

2020 AFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Expansion sides to face off as inaugural sides do battle under lights tonight

ROUND 2 of the AFL Women’s is sure to bring plenty of big clashes and ignite old rivalries with Collingwood and Carlton set to do battle on Sunday while Fremantle and West Coast will take place in their inaugural Western Derby.

Friday, February 14

Western Bulldogs v. Melbourne at Whitten Oval, 7:40pm, AEDT

Taylah Melki

With one win on the board each expect a high intensity battle from the opening bounce in search of each teams’ respective second win. The Demons announced themselves to the rest of the competition last round, downing premiership favourites North Melbourne by two points and will be riding a wave of confidence heading into their Round 2 match-up. Similarly, the Dogs inflicted their fair share of pain on newcomers St Kilda with an impressive 25-point win. The Bulldogs were slick from the beginning, exploiting their oppositions’ inexperience and making them pay while the Dees fought hard to just get over the line and set up the makings of what could be a strong season.

After waiting 693 days the return of Daisy Pearce was exactly what the doctor ordered for Melbourne and their fans. The talented midfielder-turned-defender was right back in the mix, throwing her weight around and winning plenty of the pill around the contest, something that was sorely missed last season. Karen Paxman is as experienced as they come, able to sense the moment and have an impact while the likes of Elise O’Dea and Lily Mithen could prove a handful for the Dogs who lost a couple of key players during the off-season. Forward, Tegan Cunningham will be looking to have a big game after failing to trouble the scorers last round, only registering a point. But if Cunningham and Kate Hore get going the two could pose a dominant force inside forward 50, plus throw in the likes of Eden Zanker and the Dees have a lot to work with.

With Katie Brennan and Monique Conti both departing the kennel, the likes of Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb have taken their game to another level and will be hoping to have the same dominant impact as last round. Blackburn is a class act, able to read the play, apply strong tackles and consistently get involved while Hannah Scott has upped the ante. Number one draft pick Gabby Newton did not look out of place in Round 1 with her contested ball work and cleanliness, but will be keen to prove it was not a one-off with a strong showing against Melbourne. Up forward, Bonnie Toogood will have to deliver for the Dogs if they are to apply scoreboard pressure and get over the line.

Tip: Melbourne by 15.

WESTERN BULLDOGS

B: A.Gogos 36 L.Spark 11
HB: K.Herron 31 E.Gamble 14 N.Ferres 16
C: B.Hunt 21 K.Lamb 27 G.Lagioia 12
HF: G.Newton 5 B.Toogood 8 K.McLeod 6
F: E.Georgostathis 17 D.Berry 7
Foll: K.Rennie 24 E.Blackburn – C 2 A.McCarthy 15
I/C: E.Brown 9 D.Marshall 26 N.Callinan 10 H.Scott 22 A.Van Oosterwijck 28
Emerg: N.Morris-Dalton 25 H.Munyard 20

In: E.Brown, A.Van Oosterwijck
Out: I.Huntington (concussion), C.Moody (ankle)

MELBOURNE

B: L.Birch 9 M.Downie 2
HB: S.Lampard 8 S.Goldrick 23 D.Pearce – C 6
C: S.Heath 30 T.Hanks 28 C.Emonson 11
HF: K.Hore 10 E.Zanker 29 S.Scott 12
F: T.Cunningham 1 A.Newman 16
Foll: H.Cordner 21 K.Paxman 4 M.Gay 3
I/C: G.Colvin 32 C.Sherriff 18 N.McEvoy 17 A.Kemp 36 E.O’Dea 5
Emerg: B.Tarrant 20 M.Guerin 22

In: N.McEvoy
Out: M.Guerin

Saturday, February 15 

North Melbourne v. GWS GIANTS at University of Tasmania Stadium, 3:10pm AEDT

Michael Alvaro

North Melbourne will be looking to make good on a shock Round 1 loss when it hosts the GWS GIANTS in Launceston. Premiership points may soon become a premium for Scott Gowans‘ side as it looks to top a tricky Conference A, and the pre-season premiership fancies will expect to pick up their first set in this clash. But the GIANTS are one of the few sides which can match the ‘Roos for experience throughout their squad, and already ground out a win against league newcomer, Gold Coast in an opening round thriller. While North’s home ground advantage paid dividends in its inaugural season, the GIANTS were already made to endure tough conditions last time out, which should put them in good stead to tackle the often-windy Launceston afternoons. Last year’s result – which swung convincingly to the way of the ‘Roos – will also be in the back of players’ minds, but North knows it cannot take anything for granted.

The debut of Lisa Steane looms as one of the stories of the weekend, with the 24-year-old teacher surprised mid-week with news of her inclusion while working. Steane’s replacement of Ellie Brush in the side is the only change for GWS, with its strong and experienced core remaining for what should be a tough test. The midfield combination of skipper Alicia Eva and young gun Alyce Parker will again look to lead from the engine room, and their work will be cut out for them given the depth and strength of North’s midfield. The Kangaroos have made two changes as Daria Bannister (collarbone) and Bethany Lynch come out of the side for Jas Grierson and local girl, Abbey Green, whose inclusion could free up Emma King to play a more permanent key forward role. It makes the North Melbourne forward line one to behold, with a couple of capable tall targets and the likes of Daisy Bateman and Katlyn Ashmore at their feet.

Given how deep the hosts’ talent runs through midfield and around the ground, they are rightly fancied to bounce back to more typical form. The ‘Roos should also take solace in the feats of reigning premier Adelaide, as the Crows overcame a surprise first round loss in 2019 to go undefeated throughout the rest of the season. While last week’s outcome should drive North Melbourne to better results, the pressure will be on given not many would expect GWS to trouble them a whole lot. Nonetheless, the Kangaroos should fare much better in this clash against a side which looks like battling for mid-conference status, so do not be surprised if a statement is made.

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: T.Randall 16 B.Gibson 18
HB: T.Nestor 24 D.Hardiman 31 A.Gilroy 8
C: J.Trend 21 E.Kearney – C 9 A.Riddell 7
HF: S.Abbatangelo 1 K.Gillespie-Jones 5 K.Ashmore 10
F: E.King 60 D.Bateman 11
Foll: V.Saad 39 J.Garner 25 J.Bruton 35
I/C: E.King 4 S.Wright 17 J.Grierson 19 E.Gavalas 22 A.Green 26
Emerg: M.King 23 B.Lynch 20

In: J.Grierson, A.Green
Out: D.Bannister (collarbone), B.Lynch

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

B: P.Randall 21 T.Hetherington 9
HB: R.Beeson 6 L.Stephenson 12 A.Lister 14
C: E.Bennetts 22 A.Eva – C 2 N.Barr 8
HF: H.Zreika 24 C.Staunton 13 J.Hicks 5
F: R.Privitelli 19 I.Nielsen 25
Foll: E.McKinnon 23 J.Dal Pos 7 A.Parker 3
I/C: Y.Bonner 27 L.Steane 20 J.Allan 39 A.Schmidt 11 B.Tully 36
Emerg: T.Mackrill 32 S.Halvorsen 30

In: L.Steane
Out: E.Brush (unavailable)

Tip: North Melbourne by 20 points

Gold Coast v. Richmond at Metricon Stadium, 5:10pm AEDT

Taylah Melki

Two expansion teams are set to face off in an exciting clash at Metricon Stadium, the Suns’ first home game of the season. Both teams will be looking for their inaugural AFLW win, meaning there is plenty at stake for each side. The Suns were highly competitive over the weekend, narrowly edged out by the Giants by a mere one point while the Tigers simply had no answers for the rampaging Blues. Gold Coast went down in trying conditions with rain and wind impacting their ability to handle the ball cleanly and hit the scoreboard. On the other hand, Richmond were simply outclassed – unable to combat the torrential storm that was Carlton credit to their onslaught of pressure in the forward 50. But the girls in yellow and black know how to fight, not willing to be bullied across the field and will be hoping to assert themselves on a relatively young and inexperienced Gold Coast Suns outfit.

Richmond has a plethora of star power across the footy field, none bigger than captain Katie Brennan who has showcased her ability to turn a game on its head. Brennan will have to push up through the midfield, more to give players a chop out and provide added support despite her best work being done inside forward 50 with her leading patterns and strong hands. Full forward Sabrina Frederick could prove to be a handful for the Suns given her strength around the contest and ability to gobble up anything that comes her way while the nifty Monique Conti has shown she is all class with ball in hand, able to hit a target from a mile away. Phoebe Monahan was a ball magnet last round along with Christina Bernardi. The two will have to combine once again if they are to trouble the Suns.

Despite not being top-loaded in a-list class the Suns have a wealth of young up and coming stars that can do damage anywhere on the field. Youngsters in Serene Watson and Ellie Hampson offer plenty of excitement for the Suns’ line-up which could give them that upper hand thanks to their raw talent and unpredictability. Lauren Aherns led from the front last round, recording an equal team-high 15 touches running around ragged and burrowing in hard while Jamie Stanton was strong across the ground for the Suns. Captain Leah Kaslar will have her work cut out for her up against a strong Tigers side.

Tip: Richmond by 5.

GOLD COAST

B: J.Pregelj 42 J.Hickey 4
HB: S.Virgo 22 L.Ahrens 7 S.Watson 14
C: T.Ernst 19 J.Stanton 17 C.Hammond 29
HF: P.Parker 1 K.Surman 26 L.Kaslar – C 11
F: E.Hampson 21 B.Perry 16
Foll: L.Bella 2 J.Yorston 5 H.Dunn 24
I/C: J.Hewett 20 M.Ritson 12 S.Riley 8 D.Heslop 25 K.Howarth 23
Emerg: T.Thorn 15 T.Groves-Little 3

In: E.Hampson
Out: A.Hamilton

RICHMOND

B: R.Miller 15 G.Seymour 28
HB: S.Sansonetti 18 P.Monahan 2 A.Makur Chuot 34
C: K.Jacques 10 K.Brennan – C 3 H.Burchell 9
HF: S.Frederick 14 C.Wakefield 8 T.Stahl 24
F: L.McClelland 16 C.Bernardi 6
Foll: A.Edmonds 11 M.Conti 4 A.Woodward 13
I/C: L.Tesoriero 7 L.Bailey 12 S.Molan 1 M.Brancatisano 5 G.Campbell 43
Emerg: E.Wood 17 C.Fitzgerald 26

In: G.Campbell
Out: H.Whitford (injured)

West Coast Eagles v. Fremantle Dockers at Optus Stadium 7:10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

The Western Derby is the pride of Western Australia and for the first time ever at AFL Women’s level, the two sides can continue the tradition. West Coast and Fremantle go head-to-head in a Saturday night blockbuster with both teams coming off varying form. Last week, West Coast looked strong up against Collingwood at Victoria Park, booting the first goal and holding the Magpies scoreless in the opening term, before Collingwood took control and ran away comfortable victors in the end. Fremantle on the other hand did finish the job, knocking over fellow finalist Geelong in Western Australia in an effort that saw youngster, Sabreena Duffy win Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the week with four of her side’s six goals in the win. Both in Conference B – the more competitive conference – every win is absolutely crucial and neither side will want to relent against its biggest rival.

West Coast is the new kid on the block and they showed last week that they will be competitive, it will just be for how long. Dana Hooker plays her former side this week and it will unlikely faze the star who booted the club’s inaugural – and in the end, only – goal last week with a clever snap out of the pack. She was simply sensational across the four quarters, while Emma Swanson was also impressive with the pair leading from the front as vice-captain and captain respectively. Mikayla Bowen brought her tackling pressure from the Under 18s up to the elite level, while Imahra Cameron showed she has a nice set of wheels to burst away from stoppages and cause headaches for the opposition. Add in the smooth skills of McKenzie Dowrick coming off half-back and the reliability of Chantella Perera and Talia Radan on the last line and the Eagles are strong defensively. The Eagles have made just the one change for the this game, with the club’s social media coordinator Kate Orme making her debut for the injured Ashton Hill.

The expansion side will need to be strong defensively against a forward line that has plenty of excitement and X-factor, including Roxanne Roux, who showed exactly why she was the first West Australian taken last year with her high leaping and booming kick. She is a franchise player at centre half-forward, and with fellow teenage talent Mim Strom, the Dockers have a couple of gems they can build a side around through the ruck and key forward spots. Also up forward is Duffy who was simply sensational, and Ebony Antonio, who with partner and captain Kara and tackling machine Kiara Bowers rotating inside 50, there is no shortage of scoring options. The Dockers have made two changes for the team in Round 2 with Leah Mascall and debutant Bianca Webb coming in for Steph Cain – who unfortunately did her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – and Mia-Rae Clifford. The question this season will be around the Dockers’ defence given the young rucks have already earned their stripes, but against an Eagles side still looking to gel, they should be able to contain their yellow and blue state-based rivals. In order to win they will want to shut down Hooker and restrict the flow forward while putting plenty of pressure on the opposition defence. Given many of the Eagles have come from the Dockers, the remaining Fremantle players would love nothing more than to get one-up on them early in the season and it will likely happen.

Tip: Fremantle by 35.

WEST COAST

B: C.Perera 27 T.Radan 26
HB: B.Smith 14 S.McDonald 35 M.Dowrick 5
C: M.Collier 8 I.Cameron 19 N.Kelly 12
HF: A.Atkins 9 K.Gibson 2 M.Bowen 1
F: G.Kelly 15 D.Pisconeri 11
Foll: P.Laurie 25 D.Hooker 17 E.Swanson – C 13
I/C: T.Tester 23 C.Guard 4 H.Bullas 24 B.Devlyn 7 K.Orme 32
Emerg: E.Bonser 6 C.Davidson 33

In: K.Orme
Out: A.Hill (knee)

FREMANTLE

B: J.Cuthbertson 29 L.Pugh 32
HB: A.Stannett 24 E.Gooch 8 L.Mascall 14
C: L.Rohde 11 H.Miller 19 J.Stewart 7
HF: E.Antonio 12 R.Roux 17 S.Duffy 6
F: G.O’Sullivan 22 G.Houghton 27
Foll: M.Strom 21 K.Bowers 2 K.Antonio – C 15
I/C: K.Flood 44 B.Webb 26 P.Seth 18 K.Grieve 13 A.Sharp 1
Emerg: E.O’Driscoll 3 M.Clifford 4

In: L.Mascall, B.Webb
Out: S.Cain (knee), M.Clifford

Sunday, February 16

Geelong Cats v. Brisbane Lions at GMHBA Stadium, 1:10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

This Conference A clash on Sunday looms as one of the more intriguing contests of the weekend. The teams head into the match with differing results from Round 1, as Brisbane toppled the Crows at home while the Cats fell to a Duffy-inspired Dockers outfit in the west. Heading into the clash, Geelong will start favourites against the current conference leaders, playing at home and with more experience in the line-up. For the Lions, they have youthful excitement about them and will worry a few teams. They will not win every game in the manner they did in Round 1, but you get the feeling they will push most teams and show that they are building something special for the future.

The Cats have not had to make any major changes to its line-up that fell to the Dockers last Sunday evening, bringing in Rene Caris and Maddy Boyd to their extended squad. Last week it was the developing midfield of Olivia Purcell and Rebecca Webster, teaming with fellow 19-year-olds, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Nina Morrison, while Julia Crockett-Grills found plenty of the ball as well. They are still missing All Australian defender, Meg McDonald from their back five, but the Cats have the reliable Mel Hickey and Maddy McMahon helping youngsters Millie Brown and Denby Taylor. Geelong is growing a great culture of youth all coming through together, and with Phoebe McWilliams and Richelle Cranston bringing experience to the forward half, there is a nice balance of talent that should get the job done in this match.

Brisbane does not necessarily have the names on paper that Geelong has, but some of the players will become household names sooner rather than later. Jess Wuetschner is a big loss for the Lions, having been rested after being struck by lightning on the eve of the season. While she got through the first game, the Lions have erred on the side of caution for a game-by-game basis. Coming into the side on an extended bench are Gabby Collingwood, Jordan Zanchetta and Jade Ellenger. Of the trio, Ellenger has played just the two games and is one of a number of teenagers who are in the Lions line-up alongside recent draftees, Lily Postlethwaite and Isabel Dawes, and second year players, Nat Grider and Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw. Sophie Conway made a successful return from a long term knee injury last round, and along with Ally Anderson and Emily Bates providing plenty of run and hardness through the midfield. Throw in the impenetrable Kate Lutkins at centre half-back and they have enough about them to worry the Cats.

Tip: Geelong by 15.

GEELONG

B: M.Brown 19 M.McMahon 24
HB: M.Keryk 45 M.Hickey – C 18 D.Taylor 28
C: S.Van De Heuvel 27 R.Cranston 30 N.Morrison 9
HF: J.Crockett-Grills 6 M.Maguire 7 R.Garing 12
F: P.McWilliams 23 J.Ivey 5
Foll: A.O’Connor 14 R.Webster 21 O.Purcell 16
I/C: A.McDonald 3 D.Higgins 2 G.Rankin 10 R.Goring 44 G.Clarke 17 R.Caris 1 M.Boyd 26

In: R.Caris, M.Boyd
Out: None

BRISBANE

B: N.Grider 10 S.Campbell 20
HB: R.Lugg 11 K.Lutkins 13 C.Svarc 25
C: E.Zielke – C 8 B.Koenen 3 S.Webb 4
HF: L.Arnell 16 J.Tawhiao-Wardlaw 30 S.Conway 12
F: D.Davidson 14 G.Bodey 15
Foll: J.Keeffe 27 A.Anderson 18 E.Bates 1
I/C: I.Dawes 17 M.Moloney 28 G.Collingwood 7 O.O’Dwyer 9 L.Postlethwaite 6 J.Zanchetta 2 J.Ellenger 5

In: G.Collingwood, J.Zanchetta, J.Ellenger
Out: J.Wuetschner (managed)

Carlton v. Collingwood at Ikon Park, 3:10pm AEDT

Michael Alvaro

Traditional rivals and Conference B hopefuls Carlton and Collingwood are set to do battle at Ikon Park for a four time in their histories, in what promises to be a test of either sides’ true credentials. Both teams come in having feasted on competition newcomers in their opening fixtures, both running out on home turf in comfortable starts to the season. Bizarrely, last week’s season opener was an away match for Carlton, but the Blues once again hold home status against the ‘Pies in this match-up. While the extended history between these two powerhouse clubs is storied, their AFLW meetings have been much more one-sided – with Carlton taking out all three fixtures but the Magpies getting closer to a win every year. The Blues also fared much better in season 2019, embarking on a grand final run while Collingwood floundered and took out the Conference B wooden spoon. But with marked improvement already shown, Collingwood has the elite talent to take it to the Blues.

Much of the off-season talk and narrative coming in to the match surrounded ex-Carlton skipper and new Magpie, Bri Davey. Unfortunately for both neutrals and ‘Pies fans, the 2017 All Australian is set to miss this game after picking up a lower leg injury in Round 1. Davey’s sole omission opens the door for one of Kristy Stratton, Eliza Hynes, or Ebony O’Dea to enter the winning lineup, which has struggled at times to fill out depth outside of its formidable spine. With Davey out, the emphasis down back will be firmly placed on the pairing of Stacey Livingstone and Ash Brazill, while Brittany Bonnici and skipper Stephanie Chiocci will have to dig in hard to combat a powerhouse Carlton midfield. The ruck battle between Sharni Layton and Carlton’s pairing of Breann Moody and Alison Downie will also be one to watch, with Layton’s ability to provide use to her midfielders potentially key to shutting down a usually dominant Carlton engine room.

Twins Sarah and Jess Hosking will take the field together for the first time this year in navy blue, as the latter slots in on the wing while Jess Edwards and Abbie McKay help make up an extended bench. The Carlton core of Madison Prespakis, co-captain Katie Loynes, Grace Egan, and Georgia Gee remains, while the forward targets of Tayla Harris, Darcy Vescio, and Nicola Stevens should also work to stretch the aerial capabilities of Collingwood’s back five. Round 1 Rising Star nominee Lucy McEvoy is also primed to back up an eye-catching debut performance as part of the midfield-forward rotation, only adding to the hardness of Carlton’s overall unit. The only potential concern for the Blues may come down back as Jayde Van Dyk exits the side through injury, but the half back line of Kerryn Harrington, Lauren Brazzale, and popular mature-age draftee Vaomua Laloifi has already proven solid and will have to be as much against the likes of Chloe Molloy and Sarah Dargan. While this fixture has been somewhat of a mismatch in previous years, the increasing number of intriguing match-ups on across the field suggests this one should be a corker, with the Pies looking to elevate their game against the better-established Blues.

CARLTON

B: G.Pound 6 C.Wilson 20
HB: K.Harrington – C 9 V.Laloifi 8 L.Brazzale 12
C: C.Dalton 15 G.Gee 19 J.Hosking 11
HF: N.Stevens 21 T.Harris 7 L.McEvoy 13
F: A.Downie 30 J.Doonan 26
Foll: B.Moody 16 G.Egan 1 M.Prespakis 4
I/C: S.Hosking 10 N.Plane 32 B.Walker 14 K.Loynes 2 D.Vescio 3 J.Edwards 25 A.McKay 5

In: J.Hosking, J.Edwards, A.McKay
Out: J.Van Dyk (injured)

COLLINGWOOD

B: A.Porter 9 S.Livingstone 12
HB: L.Butler 23 A.Brazill 10 E.Fowler 15
C: S.Rowe 7 B.Bonnici 8 S.Chiocci – C 17
HF: C.Molloy 2 S.D’Arcy 4 S.Dargan 46
F: M.Cann 25 J.Allen 6
Foll: S.Layton 1 A.Sheridan 14 J.Lambert 13
I/C: S.Casey 22 K.Stratton 41 S.Alexander 24 J.Membrey 21 M.Shevlin 35 E.Hynes 11 E.O’Dea 50

In: K.Stratton, E.Hynes, E.O’Dea
Out: B.Davey (shin)

Adelaide Crows v. St Kilda at Hisense Stadium, 5:10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

This is expected to be an exciting show of talent for the future, with one side having been there and done it all – twice – while the other is still looking to find its feet in the new league as part of the expansion. A wounded Adelaide Crows side welcomes back some troops for the Round 2 clash against St Kilda with this match considered a must-win contest for the reigning premiers. The Crows were well beaten by a hungry Brisbane Lions side in Queensland, showing how tight the competition has become. Not even a record-breaking disposal count from Anne Hatchard (35) was enough to help the Crows get up in Round 1, and they will want to get a win on the board before the top sides in their conference get too far away. The benefit for the Crows was that fellow premiership contender, North Melbourne also lost, while last year’s finalist Geelong went down too. For the Saints, there are no expectations on their season with such a young list, but being competitive is the bare minimum expected, and after a nervous first quarter last week, the Saints settled and seemed to match it with the Western Bulldogs for large parts of the second half.

The Crows are still missing a host of names heading into this game led by Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall – the latter of whom will play no further part in the season – but have brought in a couple of debutants in Caitlin Gould and Montana McKinnon. Gould hails from Glenelg and provides a tall presence up either end, while McKinnon is a dual All-Australian at Under 18s level, and could genuinely start ruck if they required her to. Expect her to spend time as a forward however, a role she played in South Adelaide’s premiership side, while rotating through the ruck and providing some strong contested marking ability around the ground. Ebony Marinoff, Hatchard and SANFL Women’s best and fairest winner Najwa Allen form a strong onball brigade and with former MVP, Courtney Gum in the team up forward alongside Danielle Ponter and Stevie-Lee Thompson, they still have the firepower to get the job done. Sophie Li has also come into the side for the Crows, as the only omission was Rachelle Martin – a top-up player who was brought on due to Adelaide’s expansive injury list.

The Saints have made three confirmed changes, with South Australian Nadia Von Bertouch – missing a return to the state where she captained North Adelaide last season – while Kelly O’Neill and Emma Mackie have been omitted. Coming into the side is a mix of youth and experience with former Collingwood talent, Darcy Guttridge and ex-North Melbourne players Alison Drennan and Courteney Munn named in the extended side. Also in to potentially make their debuts are ruck, Poppy Kelly and tall utility, Isabella Shannon who continue the trend of youth at the club. Georgia Patrikios starred in Round 1 with a Rising Star nomination, and expect her to show just as much excitement out on Hisense Stadium. Teaming up with the likes of Molly McDonald, Nicola Xenos and Tarni White, the youth of the Saints will come good in time. They still have experience on the list, with former Crow Jess Sedunary set to make her return to the AFL Women’s having kicked one of the Saints’ two goals last week. While the Saints have plenty to like, expect the Crows to do enough to win in a tight one, even with a few still out. They are desperate, hungry and at home, so a win is non-negotiable when it comes to their premiership aspirations.

ADELAIDE

B: D.Cox 31 C.Biddell 12
HB: A.Foley 3 S.Allan 39 M.Rajcic 32
C: S.Li 19 E.Marinoff 10 J.Mules 23
HF: E.Jones 2 C.Gum 5 R.Forth 27
F: D.Ponter 15 S.Thompson 14
Foll: J.Foley – C 24 A.Hatchard 33 N.Allen 8
I/C: C.Gould 1 A.Considine 16 M.Newman 17 N.Campbell 20 N.Gore 7 M.McKinnon 21 J.Tabb 28

In: S.Li, C.Gould, M.McKinnon
Out: R.Martin (ineligible)

ST KILDA

B: T.White 29 C.Fitzpatrick 24
HB: H.Priest 14 C.Phillips 35 T.Lucas-Rodd 18
C: D.Guttridge 5 J.Sedunary 10 M.McDonald 1
HF: N.Exon 15 K.McCarthy 9 C.Greiser 17
F: K.Shierlaw 12 G.Patrikios 21
Foll: R.Watt – C 7 O.Vesely 23 R.Dillon 25
I/C: I.Shannon 11 A.Brown 2 C.Munn 13 N.Xenos 27 C.Whitfort 4 A.Drennan 8 P.Kelly 16

In: D.Guttridge, I.Shannon, C.Munn, A.Drennan, P.Kelly
Out: K.O’Neill, N.Von Bertouch (knee), E.Mackie

ROUND 2 TIPS: [Total tips in brackets]

Michael Alvaro [5]: Melbourne / North Melbourne / Richmond / Fremantle / Geelong / Carlton / Adelaide
Taylah Melki [5]: Melbourne / North Melbourne / Richmond / Fremantle / Brisbane / Collingwood / Adelaide
Sophie Taylor [4]: Melbourne / North Melbourne / Richmond / Fremantle / Brisbane / Carlton / Adelaide
Peter Williams [4]: Melbourne / North Melbourne / Richmond / Fremantle / Geelong / Carlton / Adelaide

2020 AFL Women’s team preview: Geelong

HAVING qualified for finals in their maiden AFLW campaign with a negative record, the Geelong Cats will look to build on a promising year 2019 with a settled list and some experience under their belts. The off-season was rather quiet for the Cats, but they added some solid depth and mature bodies to compliment their already strong leadership group and promising batch of youngsters. Versatility, adaptability, and a home ground fortress will be key to the Cats’ campaign, with a second finals and a positive record again the goal in a new conference. It seems the Cats will be fighting the battle for third spot with two very strong sides poised to top Conference A, but will have their work cut out for them.

KEY PLAYER:

Meg McDonald (defender)

Perhaps not the first name thought of, but McDonald solidified herself as one of the Cats’ star players in a 2019 season good enough for All Australian and best and fairest honours. An intercept marking machine who maintained a high level of performance, the former Darebin Falcons mainstay excels across defensive 50 with her reading of the play and assuredness in possession. Those traits will again be important for the Cats as they look to back up a campaign good enough for finals last time out, with the leadership and organisation McDonald brings to the fore key to any great side. Teams build from the back, and Geelong can do exactly that off their newly-named vice captain.

RISING STAR:

Nina Morrison (outside midfielder)

A player who needs no introduction, the 2018 number one pick will be itching to add to her one senior game this year as one of the favourites for the Rising Star award. Morrison’s maiden AFLW campaign was agonisingly cut short when she ruptured her ACL during training in the week after an outstanding debut, where she was arguably best afield in Geelong’s opening AFLW fixture and win. While the Cats have somewhat filled out their midfield, Morrison is good enough to slot straight back in on a wing or through the engine room, but will more likely feature on a flank as she builds into what is set to be a big year for her. Undeniably classy on the outside and able to rack up possessions, Morrison will be hard to miss out there.

WATCH FOR:

Rebecca Webster (utility)

Among the 2018 draft crop headlined by Morrison was Webster, a Murray Bushrangers graduate who only featured in four AFLW games in 2019 after being selected with pick seven. But a best and fairest winning VFLW campaign has seen her take her game to new heights, transitioning from her usual defensive role to become more of a utility with time spent up forward and through the midfield. The trait of versatility is one that carries through most of the Geelong list and if she can make the step-up, Webster may well be a key asset for the Cats in 2020.

CONFERENCE OPPONENTS: Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, GWS GIANTS, North Melbourne, Richmond.

FIXTURE:

Round 1 – @ Fremantle
Round 2 – vs. Brisbane
Round 3 – vs. Adelaide
Round 4 – @ Richmond
Round 5 – @ Gold Coast
Round 6 – vs. North Melbourne
Round  7 – @ GWS
Round 8 – vs. Collingwood

Finding consistency will be the main priority for Geelong amid somewhat of a rollercoaster draw early on, with two very tough fixtures against Fremantle and Adelaide coming in the first month. While anything can happen, the games in-between against Brisbane and Richmond become must-win propositions, and will make it easier for the Cats to get into the groove later on with a game against GWS in Round 7 one which could decide third spot. A second crossover game comes against Collingwood to round out the year, which may be a deceptively difficult task despite the Magpies’ lowly 2019 standing.

PREDICTION: 3rd/4th Conference A

While it would be silly to assume anything in this game, Adelaide and North Melbourne look like the obvious choices to fill two of the finals spots in Conference A, and a high finish in last year’s campaign means the Cats now face a tougher draw than perhaps they deserve coming off a 3-4 season. But with some added experience, good dynamism and the return of Morrison, Geelong look like a leading candidate to slot into third should they win the important games and ones they are favourite for.