Tag: sabreena duffy

Demons book prelim spot with win over Dockers at windswept Casey Fields

MELBOURNE has earned a chance at toppling two-time AFL Women’s premiers Adelaide in the preliminary final next weekend after defeating Fremantle by 17 points at a windswept Casey Fields yesterday. The Demons kept last year’s minor premiers goalless in the first half, then held on the second half despite some inaccuracy, to win, 5.10 (40) to 3.5 (23). Despite a phenomenal effort from Kiara Bowers with a Bowers-like tackle count of 17, the Demons put together a strong team effort across four quarters to advance through to the penultimate week of the 2021 AFL Women’s season.

After a couple of behinds early in the match, the Demons’ first selection in last year’s draft Alyssa Bannan got them on the board midway through the term, and whilst the Dockers had a couple of chances late in the quarter, could not capitalise and trailed by a straight kick at the first break. Shelley Scott was quick to pile on another major for the Demons, needing just 36 seconds from the restart to slot through the home team’s second goal, and the lead was out to 12. Scott doubled up five minutes later with her second and the Demons’ third, and when Eden Zanker missed a chance, the lead was out to a game-high 19 points at the half. Fremantle was unable to add to its quarter time score of two behinds, and the danger signs were there.

Fremantle had the first chance of the second half through Gemma Houghton, but she scored her second behind of the contest two minutes into the quarter, before Ashley Sharp broke the Dockers’ drought with a crucial major in the fourth minute of the premiership quarter. That cut the deficit to 12, and it did get as low as a 11 points midway through the quarter, before Brenna Tarrant – who had kicked five majors in her VFL Women’s debut earlier in the year – snagged a goal and the Demons had one foot in the preliminary final. Sabreena Duffy had other ideas though, and just as soon as the Demons were looking comfortable, she answered with a goal of her own, and the lead was back to less than two kicks. In the dying moments of the third term, Houghton finally found her range with a great goal and the deficit was just four points heading into the final break.

The first goal of the last term was crucial, but for some reason no matter how many chances they had, the Demons could not split the big sticks. Seven consecutive behinds – including one rushed – opened the term, but the ball was effectively locked inside the Demons 50, when the Dockers needed it up the other end for a chance to win the game. Instead, all of those behinds had pushed the lead from four points to 11 with four minutes on the clock. Eventually it would be the crafty Maddi Gay who put the icing on the cake with a terrific goal in the 15th minute to seal the game for the home team and guarantee them another week in the competition. Unfortunately for the Dockers, it meant the end of the road after their premiership aspirations were cut short last year due to the league cancellation, and now they will head back to go again in 2022. For the Demons, they will take on a red-hot Adelaide in South Australia next week, with the winner to book a place in the 2021 AFL Women’s Grand Final.

Gay was sensational throughout the match, fitting that she kicked the winning goal to go with 19 touches, three marks and nine tackles in the match, while Karen Paxman (20 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s), Lily Mithen (17 disposals, two marks, three inside 50s and two tackles) and Scott (13 disposals, two tackles and two goals) were also prolific. Jacqueline Parry (12 disposals, four marks and four tackles), Zanker (10 disposals, three marks and four tackles) and Lauren Pearce (11 disposals, two tackles, 15 hitouts and three inside 50s) were also strong, as Casey Sherriff, Sarah Lampard, Tegan Cunningham, Kate Hore and Tyla Hanks all hit double-figure disposals.

For the Dockers, Bowers continued her remarkable season with 20 disposals and 17 tackles, six more than her nearest teammates in Steph Cain (14 disposals, five marks and three tackles) and Matilda Sergeant (14 disposals, two tackles). Houghton was forever busy up forward with 1.2 from nine disposals, two marks ad thee tackles, while Philippa Seth had 13 disposals, two marks and six rebound 50s. Mim Strom (12 disposals, two marks, 12 hitouts and six tackles), Ange Stannett (12 disposals, seven tackles and two inside 50s), Hayley Miller (11 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) and Laura Pugh (10 disposals, four tackles and four rebound 50s) were others who not only hit double-figure disposals, but laid plenty of tackles as well.

MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.3 | 4.3 | 5.10 (40)
FREMANTLE 0.2 | 0.2 | 3.5 | 3.5 (23)

GOALS:

Melbourne: S. Scott 2, A. Bannan, B. Tarrant, M. Gay.
Fremantle: A. Sharp, S. Duffy. G. Houghton.

DC BEST:

Melbourne: M. Gay, K. Paxman, L. Mithen, S. Scott, T. Cunningham
Fremantle: K. Bowers, M. Sergeant, M. Strom, H. Miller, S. Cain

Picture credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Dockers come from behind in final quarter showcase

FREMANTLE proved just how good they are with a huge final quarter effort against Carlton on Sunday, downing the Blues by four points credit to a three goal final term. The 6.9 (45) to 6.5 (41) outcome was not a reflection of majority of the match however, with Carlton’s explosive start and continuous pressure well and truly shutting down the Dockers.

In a must-win for Carlton, the side came out firing from all cylinders with three goals to nil in the first as experienced trio Nic StevensDarcy Vescio and Tayla Harris were quick to get on the board, as Charlotte Wilson and Mua Laloifi well and truly shut down the Blues backline and relegated the Dockers to just the one behind. A tighter second quarter was credit to Fremantle’s increased pressure around the footy, lifting in intensity and contesting much better as Kiara BowersHayley Miller and Sabreena Duffy stepped up to win the quarter. The winning end continued in the third as the Blues once again lifted, adding another two majors to their tally, but it was an outstanding final quarter from the Dockers that saw the side really showcase what they are made of and their winning form, booting 3.2 to Carlton’s 1.0 to take their first and only lead of the day at a vital time in the match and coming away with the four point win.

For the winning side, it was a two goal effort from both Jasmin Stewart and Duffy that helped get the side over the line, whilst Gemma Houghton was kept quiet for much of the contest bar a late conversion to seal the win. Bowers was exceptional with 28 disposals and 10 tackles, while Miller (13 touches and 10 tackles), Ebony Antonio and Steph Cain also had an impact. For the Blues, Stevens booted two from 14 touches, whilst Kerryn Harrington was kept busy with 22 touches and Breann Moody collected 19 and six marks, as Maddy Prespakis stepped up once more to create chaos through the middle.

Bar fixture changes due to COVID-19 protocols interstate, Carlton will hope to take on Gold Coast next Friday night in Queensland, while Fremantle will host Melbourne next Sunday night in a do-or-die encounter for the red and blue.

CARLTON 3.4 | 3.5 | 5.5 | 6.5 (41)
FREMANTLE 0.1 | 2.3 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS
Carlton: N. Stevens 2, D. Vescio, T. Harris, S. Gibbs, G. Gee
Fremantle: J. Stewart 2, S. Duffy 2, S. Cain, G. Houghton

BEST
Carlton: M. Prespakis, N. Stevens, B. Moody, D. Vescio, K. Harrington, V. Laloifi
Fremantle: K. Bowers, E. Antonio, S. Duffy, S. Cain, L. Pugh, J. Stewart

Image credit: AAP: James Ross

Image credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

LIONS DISRUPT HOT PIES

A last minute fixture change saw the Brisbane Lions take on the Collingwood Magpies on neutral territory in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon to complete the round, with the Lions taking to Whitten Oval and its lack of crowd like a duck to water, exposing the Magpies in a relatively inaccurate encounter from two of the top sides. The Lions dealt the Pies their first loss of the season, running out three-point victors in the 4.11 (35) to 4.8 (32) matchup in windy conditions.

It was a shocking first quarter from the Lions, booting eight behinds in a huge start that they really did not capitalise upon. The Magpies, to their credit, kept their foot on the accelerator and proved that they could cope defensively but it was realistically Brisbane’s inability to convert off set shots that shot them in the foot, only leading by 13 at the first change despite dominating the inside 50 count. Despite the Magpies applying better pressure for the remainder of the match, their first quarter struggle was too much for the side to come back from even as they kept the Lions to a goal per quarter in the second and third, and put just the one behind on in the last. The Magpies rallied in the final term after losing Jordyn Allen and Lauren Butler before the second half began, mounting their comeback and booting 2.4 in the final term. But it was too little, too late as the Lions held on for the three-point victory, knocking the Magpies out of top spot with huge performances from Ally Anderson (26 disposals and four marks) and Cathy Svarc (10 disposals, five tackles and a goal) topping off a solid day at the office.

Svarc was largely responsible for keeping Bri Davey quiet as Chloe Molloy was also relegated to a quiet performance with just five touches to her name. Sophie Conway (15 touches, three behinds), Nat Grider (13 and six tackles) and Emily Bates (13 and nine) were all impressive for the Lions as Bree Koenen locked down the backline, while for the Pies it was Britt Bonnici (28 touches, five marks and four tackles), Jaimee Lambert (22 touches) and Sharni Norder (Nee Layton, 17 touches, four tackles) who kept the ball rolling.

Next week the Magpies will play yet another match in Victoria as they host St Kilda on Saturday afternoon, while the Lions intend to host North Melbourne during Saturday’s twilight fixture, pending COVID-19 protocols in Queensland.

BRISBANE 2.8 | 3.8 | 4.10 | 4.11 (35)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 4.8 (32)

GOALS
Brisbane: C. Hodder, S. Campbell, J. Wuetschner, C. Svarc
Collingwood: A. Sheridan 2, S. Alexander, J. Lin

BEST
Brisbane: A. Anderson, S. Conway, E. Bates, C. Svarc, K. Lutkins
Collingwood: B. Bonnici, S. Norder, R. Schleicher, J. Lambert, S. Chiocci

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Blues keep touch with top six

CARLTON made an emphatic return to the winners list on Sunday, feasting on a winless Geelong side to salute by 33 points at Princes Park. The Blues were in a scoring mood and proved efficient in front of goal, leading at every break and notching their highest total of the season to run out 10.4 (64) to 4.7 (31) victors. The win also sees Carlton keep touch with the top six.

Geelong booted the first goal of the game through Rebecca Webster, but a quick Darcy Vescio double from deep ensured the Blues would claim the lead and never look back. Along with Vescio, Georgia Gee and Serena Gibbs also finished with two goals as the trio accounted for over half of their side’s score.

Reigning league best and fairest Madison Prespakis shook off an early injury concern to lead all comers on the day, finishing with 28 disposals and a goal on her return from suspension. Both sides have some lingering injury issues coming out of the game though, with Carlton’s Mimi Hill (knee) and Geelong’s Millie Brown (hamstring) having their outings cut short.

Prespakis and Vescio were among Carlton’s best, while skipper Kerryn Harrington proved adventurous from half-back and Grace Egan continued her fine form through midfield. Both collected over 20 disposals. Webster proved Geelong’s best afield with 1.2 from her 22 touches, as Amy and Meghan McDonald again played important roles, and Phoebe McWilliams looked lively for her three minor scores.

Both sides face a seven-day turnaround as they again prepare for games on Sunday, with the Blues again hosting at Princes Park as Fremantle rolls into town, while Geelong travels to take on the West Coast Eagles at Mineral Resources Park.

CARLTON 4.0 | 6.1 | 8.3 | 10.4 (64)
GEELONG 2.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 4.7 (31)

GOALS:

Carlton: S. Gibbs 2, D. Vescio 2, G. Gee 2, N. Stevens, G. Pound, M. Prespakis, N. Plane
Geelong: R. Webster, O. Barber, R. Cranston, D. Higgins

DC BEST

Carlton: M. Prespakis, D. Vescio, G. Egan, K. Harrington, E. O’Dea, A. McKay
Geelong: 
R. Webster, A. McDonald, M.McDonald, P. McWilliams, J. Crockett-Gills

Image Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES’ SECOND HALF SWOOP SINKS BULLDOGS

COLLINGWOOD kept its perfect record intact and snapped the Western Bulldogs’ win streak in one fell swoop on Sunday, defeating the Dogs by 36 points at Victoria Park. Having only managed seven behinds in the first half, the Pies sunk as many goals thereafter to remain top of the tree with a comprehensive 7.9 (51) to 2.3 (15) triumph.

Young pup Elizabeth Georgostathis booted the sole major in a one-goal first half, before the contest began to open up and Collingwood soared ahead. The Magpies’ superior spread and daring ball use began to pay dividends as the inexperienced Bulldogs fell away under pressure, making for a match befitting of the old ‘game of two halves’ cliche.

Pies fans were treated to some nostalgia as father-daughter selection Tarni Brown launched a terrific goal at Collingwood’s spiritual home, before finishing with 15 disposals and four marks. Bri Davey was excellent with 28 touches and a goal, while Brittany Bonnici was Collingwood’s other key ball winner. Chloe Molloy again proved lively inside 50, booting two goals alongside debutant Abbi Moloney.

Hardened Bulldogs Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb shouldered a heap of responsibility in the midfield battle, but could not quite spark the rest of their side going forward. Ashleigh Guest was strong in defence with five marks among her 16 touches, while Isabelle Pritchard was afforded some midfield time on debut and spearhead Isabel Huntington was kept goalless for the first time this season.

The ladder leading Magpies take on Brisbane next time out in what should be a blockbuster on the road, while the Western Bulldogs are set for another tough test when they lock horns with North Melbourne in Tasmania.

COLLINGWOOD 0.5 | 0.7 | 4.8 | 7.9 (51)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 2.3 (15)   

GOALS:

Collingwood: C. Molloy 2, A. Moloney 2, S. Layton, B. Davey, T. Brown
Western Bulldogs: E. Georgostathis, J. Fitzgerald

BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, B. Bonnici, C. Molloy, T. Brown, S. Livingstone
Western Bulldogs: E. Blackburn, K. Lamb, A. Guest, B. Lochland, J. Fitzgerald

Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

DOCKERS ROMP RIVALS IN REBOUND WIN

FREMANTLE has rebounded from last week’s loss in style, thumping local rival West Coast by 67 points on Sunday to return to the winners list. A 34-point lead was established by half time and the Dockers never looked back, restricting West Coast to just one goal while piling on the second-highest total in AFLW history to come away 11.9 (75) to 1.2 (8) victors.

Having been held to just one major of their own last time out, the Dockers regained their spark forward of centre to overwhelm the Eagles and claim a second Western Derby win in 2021. It was also the largest margin managed among these two sides’ three meetings, and an especially far cry from the nine-point thriller in Round 2.

Kiara Bowers claimed another Western Derby medal as best afield, collecting 24 disposals as the leader of her team’s dominant midfield. Gemma Houghton rocketed to equal-top of the goalkicking charts with five goals, supported wonderfully by Sabreena Duffy (three goals) and Roxy Roux (two) in a dynamic forward trio. Ebony Antonio was also prominent with 23 touches.

Aisling McCarthy was West Coast’s best, the only Eagle to tick over 20 touches as young gun Bella Lewis and Niamh Kelly (both 17) also contributed solidly in the loss. Grace Kelly booted her side’s sole goal of the game and was another to stand up despite the lop-sided scoreline.

Fremantle’s next assignment is a trip to Victoria to face Carlton at Princes Park, while West Coast will remain in its home state and host Geelong at Mineral Resources Park, perhaps fancying a second win for the season.

FREMANTLE 2.2 | 5.5 | 10.6 | 11.9 (75)
WEST COAST 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton 5, S. Duffy 3, R. Roux 2, G. O’Sullivan
West Coast: G. Kelly

BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, G. Houghton, E. Antonio, S. Duffy, R. Roux, G. O’Sullivan
West Coast: A. McCarthy, B. Lewis, N. Kelly, G. Kelly, M. Bowen

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

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

Note: All start times are local.

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

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

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

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

Tip: St Kilda by 10

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

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

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

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

Tip: Carlton by 28

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

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

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

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

Tip: Fremantle by 45

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

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

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

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

Tip: North Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

Tip: Brisbane by 3

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

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

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

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

Tip: Melbourne by 24

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

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

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

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

Tip: GWS by 11

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) North Melbourne FC

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Dockers extend winning streak to double digits

FREMANTLE continues to set the AFL Women’s benchmark after notching a 30-point win over fellow finals fancy, Adelaide on a cracking afternoon at Norwood Oval on Sunday. The 7.1 (43) to 1.7 (13) result was Freo’s tenth-straight win in the competition and puts the Dockers in top spot with a game left to play in Round 3.

Despite both sides managing an equal amount of scoring shots (eight), it was Fremantle’s superior fluency in transition, unrelenting pressure, and capturing of each vital moment which saw it succeed. The Dockers absorbed plenty of pressure, particularly in the first term before hurting Adelaide up the other end with scoreboard pressure, keeping the Crows goalless for three quarters and ensuring they would be made to earn each opportunity.

The game was well and truly alive just after the main break, but the Crows were left to rue missed chances off the boot of Stevie-Lee Thompson early in term three as Fremantle skipped up the other end and added three majors to their mounting lead to put the contest to bed.

There were a couple of blockbuster contests scattered across the field, with stand-in Adelaide skipper Sarah Allan tasked with marking the dynamic Gemma Houghton, while the ever-reliable Kiara Bowers ensured Crows midfield bull Anne Hatchard was not given an inch in the first half.

Allan was terrific on the day with desperate defensive efforts and solid one-on-one work both in the air and on the ground, but could not keep Houghton quiet for the whole day as she finished with two final term goals. Bowers and Hatchard went blow-for-blow at the coalface and had plenty of bone-crunching clashes as two of their respective sides’ most prolific ball winners.

Bowers was in fact Fremantle’s highest disposal getter with 23 to go with her 13 tackles, as Adelaide’s Ebony Marinoff joined her in leading all comers for touches on the day. Hatchard finished with 21 disposals, while a late move forward for Erin Phillips saw her notch six marks and a goal from 14 touches. In her first officially listed outing, Rachelle Martin was lively with 14 disposals, with Thompson another standout and Teah Charlton exciting in the final term for Adelaide.

Ashley Sharp joined Houghton on two goals upon her return, as the likes of Tiah Haynes and Sabreena Duffy joined her on the scoreboard. The run of Stephanie Cain (15 disposals, six marks) and Ebony Antonio (13 disposals, four inside 50s) was vital in creating more open scoring chances for Fremantle, while the defensive solidity of Janelle Cuthbertson (10 disposals, three marks, four rebound 50s) again proved outstanding in the win.

The Dockers are set to face Gold Coast in Round 4, back on home turf, while Adelaide will look to bounce back quickly as it travels up to Queensland to take on another currently undefeated side in Brisbane at Hickey Park on Sunday.

ADELAIDE 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.5 | 1.7 (13)
FREMANTLE 0.0 | 2.1 | 5.1 | 7.1 (43)

GOALS:

Adelaide: E. Phillips
Fremantle: A. Sharp 2, G. Houghton 2, T. Haynes, B. Webb, S. Duffy

DC BEST:

Adelaide: E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, S. Allan, A. Hatchard, R. Martin, S. Thompson
Fremantle: K. Bowers, E. Antonio, S. Cain, T. Haynes, G. Houghton, A. Sharp

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Credit: Mike Owen/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP EARLY TO DOWN TRADITIONAL RIVALS

COLLINGWOOD maintained its perfect 2021 record in tact on Sunday afternoon, swooping early to down Richmond by 17 points on enemy territory. In what was the first fixture between these two traditional rivals at Punt Road Oval since 1964, the Magpies set up an unassailable lead at three quarter time and held off the fighting Tigers thereafter to run out 7.6 (48) to 4.7 (31) victors.

The young and inexperienced Richmond side was made to pay for missed opportunities, particularly in the second term when the Tigers owned patches of valuable territory and possession, but could only scrounge three behinds while the Magpies added a vital major. Despite some rawness showing inside 50, both sides showed great intent in looking to move the ball forward quickly and catch either defence off guard.

There were three first year players who kicked their first senior goals on the day, with number one pick Ellie McKenzie booting two for Richmond after Collingwood pair, Joanna Lin and Tarni Brown both capitalised on their opportunities close to the big sticks. Lively Magpies forward Aishling Sheridan continued her good form, matching McKenzie with a game-high two majors in the win.

Brittany Bonnici returned one of the finest statlines in Collingwood AFLW history with 31 disposals, 10 marks and four tackles, while fellow midfielders Bri Davey (25 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Jaimee Lambert (25 disposals, six inside 50s) were also impactful from the engine room. Chloe Molloy worked into the game to finish with a goal from her 12 touches, as Ruby Schleicher again impressed down back with slicing run-and-carry among her 17 disposals and five rebound 50s.

For Richmond, Monique Conti again saw the most ball with 25 disposals, while the likes of Katie Brennan (17 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s) and McKenzie (12 disposals, five tackles, two goals) finished extremely well to lead the fruitless Tigers fightback. Sarah Hosking proved a bright starter before landing on 15 touches overall, while Harriet Cordner continues to hold up the defence and Gabby Seymour gets better each week in the ruck. Debutant Tessa Lavey also fit in seamlessly, gathering 15 disposals from the wing.

The Tigers face another of their traditional rivals in Carlton as Round 4 rolls on, set to light up Saturday afternoon at Princes Park, while Collingwood faces its toughest test yet in a blockbuster clash with North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

RICHMOND 1.0 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 4.7 (31)
COLLINGWOOD 3.0 | 4.2 | 7.6 | 7.6 (48)

GOALS:

Richmond: E. McKenzie 2, C. Wakefield, T. Stahl
Collingwood: A. Sheridan 2, B. Davey, S. Alexander, J. Lin, T. Brown, C. Molloy

BEST:

Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, K. Brennan, S. Hosking, T. Lavey, G. Seymour
Collingwood: J. Lambert, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, A. Sheridan, C. Molloy, R. Schleicher

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

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

Note: All start times are local.

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

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

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

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

Tip: Bulldogs by 13

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

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

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

Tip: Giants by 5

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

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

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

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

Tip: Blues by 15

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

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

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

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

Tip: Kangaroos by 11

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

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

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

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

Tip: Dockers by 1

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

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

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

Tip: Magpies by 33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Jono Searle/Getty Images via AFL Photos

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

HARDENED ROOS HOP PAST SAINTS ON HOME TURF

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images via AFL Photos

CROWS FLY PAST GIANTS IN ROAD ROMP

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos

DOCKERS GIVE EAGLES THE SLIP IN WET WESTERN DERBY

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 2 preview – Pioneer Blues and Bulldogs open Pride Round

PRIDE is the theme of Round 2 in the 2021 AFL Women’s season, as the competition holds its inaugural Pride Round. The Western Bulldogs and Carlton, who have previously hosted annual Pride matches, will open the weekend’s action on Friday night as the remaining fixtures fall into place after multiple shake-ups. Remarkably, all seven games are set to go ahead in the rejigged round, with results as important as ever among the continual pandemic-produced unpredictability.

Note: All start times are local

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton
Friday February 5, 7:45pm
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Carlton kick off Pride Round at Whitten Oval on Friday night, marking a historic and important event on the AFL Women’s calendar. Both sides remain searching for their first wins in 2021 after opening round losses, with a dreaded 0-2 start awaiting the team which goes down once again.

Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke has enacted four changes to the side which lost to St Kilda, with young pups Gemma Lagioia and Britney Gutknecht among the casualties. Carlton has been forced into just one change, as key defender Mua Laloifi misses through the updated concussion protocols and is replaced by Jess Edwards at half-back.

Laloifi’s absence may open the door for the Dogs to excel in attack, leaving Charlotte Wilson to shoulder a heap of intercept work against a forwardline spearheaded by Izzy Huntington. But the ball will have to get there first, with Carlton’s hardened midfield out to prove a point having been definitively blitzed by Collingwood in the second term last time out.

Tip: The Bulldogs are slowly finding their feet, but the Blues should come out firing after a shock loss. Wet weather will play a factor in the margin, Blues by 11.

Collingwood vs. Geelong
Saturday February 6, 3:10pm
Victoria Park

A fixture shuffle has seen Collingwood and Geelong land each other in Round 2, with football returning to the Magpies’ spiritual home of Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon. The Cats are coming off a 62-point drubbing at the hands of North Melbourne, while Collingwood opened the season with an impressive upset victory over traditional rival, Carlton, making for very contrasting formlines.

The Magpies’ midfield was excellent last time out and a new-look forwardline featuring Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey looks poised for more success in 2021. One of the Cats’ best lines is its defence though, with skipper Meghan McDonald supported well by the likes of Maddy McMahon, Amy McDonald, and Millie Brown.

Collingwood will be without recruit Aliesha Newman after she was handed a one-week ban for her sling tackle on Carlton’s Laloifi, but the Pies’ confidence should be sky high nonetheless. On the other hand, Geelong will have to quickly pick up the pieces to recover here, especially after an impotent display forward of centre in Round 1.

Tip: Collingwood looks set to be one of the big risers in 2021 and while Geelong has potential, its young side will likely work in peaks and troughs. Another trough here for the Cats, Pies by 23.

Melbourne vs. Richmond
Saturday February 6, 5:10pm
Casey Fields

Riding the wave of a Round 1 win, Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields on Saturday night looking to go two from two. Both sides took on Queensland teams last week but came out with contrasting results; as the Dees clicked into gear after quarter time to trump Gold Coast, while Richmond could only hang with Brisbane for a half before giving way in a five-goal loss.

The Lions may have uncovered a continued area of weakness for Richmond after tagging Monique Conti out of the first half, with Melbourne’s engine room typically an area of depth and prosperity. The Dees should again thrive in the midfield battle, though look for the likely tussle between first year jets Ellie McKenzie and Eliza McNamara to provide great entertainment on the outer.

Melbourne could quickly stake its claim for another finals berth should it string together some early wins, but the Tigers have shown signs of improvement and will hardly go down easily. Still searching for their maiden AFLW win, the Tigers have plenty to play for and will hope to avoid being the league’s cellar dweller for a second year running.

Tip: Melbourne looks a side determined to keep touch with the true premiership contenders, but cannot be caught lacking against the hungry Tigers. Still, the red and blue side should be too good all around the ground, Dees by 27.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda
Sunday February 7, 1:10pm
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne will be out to build on its formidable early form, if possible, when St Kilda rolls into Arden Street Oval for their Sunday afternoon clash. The Roos set a high ceiling with their maiden 2021 performance, which yielded the greatest opening round percentage in AFL/AFLW history. St Kilda is also in winning form, though having shaken off the Western Bulldogs in Moorabbin.

It is no secret that North Melbourne bats a ridiculously deep midfield, boasting arguably the most damaging brigade of ball winners in the competition. St Kilda’s young pair of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith will do their best to match the forward run-and-carry of North’s prime movers, especially after such promising showings last week.

North Melbourne has plenty of avenues to goal, with rotating ruck Emma King back to her scoring ways after three goals last week, while the Saints also showed they will not be entirely dependant on spearhead Caitlin Greiser to kick a winning score. Matching the Roos’ firepower will be tough, but could be manageable depending on the conditions and North Melbourne’s mood.

Tip: St Kilda will likely provide a much greater test for North and should stick with them in patches, but do not quite have the stock to go with a switched-on blue and white outfit for four quarters, Roos by 21.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast
Sunday February 7, 2:10pm
Hickey Park

The second-ever AFL Women’s Q-Clash is set to go down on Sunday afternoon, as the Lions and Suns meet at Hickey Park having initially been poised against Victorian opponents. The makeshift fixture should provide fireworks, with last year’s inaugural all-Queensland dig ending in an enthralling draw, meaning bragging rights are well and truly up for grabs here.

Brisbane will look to replicate last year’s early run of form with a second win on the trot, while Gold Coast is still out to open its account for the season after an opening round loss to Melbourne. Both sides boast some terrific young talent, with the Lions’ Isabel Dawes fresh off a best-afield performance, and Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth hungry to hit the scoreboard after a goalless outing last week.

The experience is also there, headlined by Brisbane’s strong foundation crop – which may soon be bolstered by Jess Wuetschner – and opposed by Gold Coast’s new-look forwardline, which features vice-captain Sarah Perkins. Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan will have plenty to do in midfield against the Lions’ strong ball winners, making for an intriguing clearance battle.

Tip: You can never count the fighting Suns out, especially with their youthful exuberance, but the Lions look a slight step ahead and should come away with bragging rights over their neighbours. Lions by 10.

GWS vs. Adelaide
Sunday February 7, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

GWS is back home after a well-travelled preseason, set to host Adelaide at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday evening. Both teams were thrown into isolation after Round 1 and have undergone improvised solo training sessions for most of the week, which will inevitably show in how either side adjusts to the disruptions thrown their way.

Adelaide looks like quickly returning to its fearsome best in 2021, with the Crows’ many stars aligning to win big las week. Erin Phillips will hope to again take hold as she gets a clean run at it, while some added dynamism in the potential moving parts of Chelsea Randall, Ebony Marinoff, and Sarah Allan will give GWS plenty of headaches.

The Giants have showcased their fighting spirit and have the experience to give the Crows a good run here. An even five-goal loss to Fremantle in Round 1 was less than ideal on a pure results basis, but some strong contested work in the first half should put GWS in good stead to compete against top sides, like Adelaide, for periods of time.

Tip: Revenge will be in mind after GWS ended Adelaide’s finals hopes last year, and the visitors should have too much grunt going forward from midfield. Crows by 26.

Fremantle vs. West Coast
Sunday February 7, 4:15pm
Fremantle Oval

The Western Derby is on in Round 2 after last-minute confirmation of the bout came today, with Fremantle and West Coast set to lock horns in the weekend’s closing fixture. Akin to players in the Adelaide-GWS clash, both teams have been limited training-wise with just an hour of exercise permitted under Western Australia’s lockdown laws.

Freo looks every bit the powerhouse last year’s undefeated run suggested, maintaining their winning streak with a powerful Round 1 victory. West Coast looks an improved side despite falling well short of Adelaide in the end. While the Eagles managed 2.6 (18), the Dockers excelled with 8.10 (58) in their opening fixture.

That immense gap in scoring should again prove telling, with Fremantle’s dynamic and game-breaking forward movers in Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy difficult to keep down, especially as Kara Antonio and Kiara Bowers move the ball forward with class from the outside and inside of midfield.

Tip: Fremantle has the early bragging rights in this rivalry and will likely continue to hold as much after Sunday’s clash. With too much going forward, Dockers by 40.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Roos romp to record-breaking opening round victory

NORTH Melbourne sent an early statement to the rest of the competition on Sunday, romping to a mammoth 62-point win over Geelong at Kardinia Park. The Roos took little time to establish their dominance as tall forward Emma King booted three majors in the opening term, setting a strong platform for the 11.5 (71) to 1.3 (9) victory. The result made for North’s largest-ever winning margin, and sets a new record for the highest Round 1 percentage in AFL/AFLW history.

The hardened Kangaroos outfit proved too big and strong both around the ball and up forward for a youthful Geelong side, seeing them accelerate in each term and form a formidable lead. Having been held scoreless for the first three terms, the Cats got on the board early in the final quarter before veteran ruck Aasta O’Connor booted her side’s lone major of the game in the dying minutes.

Along with King, second year forward/midfielder Ellie Gavalas chimed in with three majors of her own, while league best and fairest chance Jasmine Garner snared two to go with 18 disposals. Isabella Eddey had a debut to remember as she also found the big sticks, manufactured by some fearsome work from Daria Bannister as the play unfolded. Emma Kearney (22 disposals), Ash Riddell (20), and Jenna Bruton (19) were typically productive around the ball and far too polished on the attack for Geelong’s lineup to maintain.

Superfluous to say, most of Geelong’s biggest contributors were stationed in defence, with youngster Amy McDonald starting her season on the right foot with an 18-disposal effort. The 23-year-old was a cool head in Geelong’s defensive crisis, but could only do so much on the counter as the ball consistently found its way back. Skipper Meghan McDonald had a tough job on her hands among the undersized and under-siege backline but fared well, while star midfielder Olivia Purcell picked up from where she left off with 17 touches and seven tackles.

The Cats face another tough ask in travelling to face Brisbane next Sunday afternoon, as North Melbourne returns to home base to take on fellow Round 1 winner, St Kilda earlier on the same day. While one side looks every bit the premiership contender, the other will be licking its wounds after a harsh opening to season 2021.

FINAL SCORE:

GEELONG 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.3 (9)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.0 | 5.2 | 8.4 | 11.5 (71)

GOALS:

Geelong: A. O’Connor
North Melbourne: E. King 3, E. Gavalas 3, J. Garner 2, I. Eddey, S. Abbatangelo, K. Ashmore

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. McDonald, O. Purcell, M. McDonald
North Melbourne: E. King, J. Garner, E. Kearney, E. Gavalas, J. Bruton, A. Riddell

Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

ROARING SECOND HALF SEES LIONS TOPPLE THE TIGERS

Brisbane opened its account for season 2021 at the first time of asking, shaking off Richmond after half time to secure a 29-point win on the road. In the first ever AFL Women’s fixture held at Punt Road Oval, the Tigers’ homecoming was spoiled by Brisbane’s three-goal to nil second half which set up the 5.11 (41) to 1.6 (12) final scoreline.

As expected on the back of its concession-aided recruitment drive, Richmond made noticeable improvements after a winless maiden campaign and was only a goal adrift at the main break. It came after Brisbane utilised the scoring end well in the opening term, gaining good early momentum through its control of the engine room and typically sturdy defensive structure in the face of Richmond’s quick ball movement.

While it was hardly a case of the floodgates being forced open, Brisbane prettied up the scoreboard nicely with a closing effort beyond the years of its young squad, all while keeping the Tigers goalless after half time. Courtney Wakefield‘s second term major from the goalsquare proved her side’s lone goal for the game, as skipper Katie Brennan could only manage a hat-trick of behinds.

Gun Richmond midfielder Monique Conti was contained well by Cathy Svarc, who collected nine of her 10 touches in the opening half, while Gabrielle Seymour led the Tigers’ count with 16 disposals. Under-the-radar recruit Harriet Cordner was also terrific down back in the losing effort, while number one draft pick Ellie McKenzie showed promise on the outer in her AFLW debut.

For the Lions, 19-year-old Isabel Dawes looks a big improver having notched a career-high 21 disposals, leading all comers for the day. Nat Grider is another in that boat as she gathered 16 touches from defence, while Emily Bates and Sophie Conway were not far behind from midfield. Greta Bodey was the game’s only multiple goalkicker with two, as speedy debutant Courtney Hodder managed 1.2.

The Lions will be looking to form an early winning streak as they carry their momentum back home ahead of hosting Geelong at Hickey Park, while Richmond is set to take on Melbourne at Casey Fields in what looks like a tough assignment – if Round 1 results are anything to go by, at least.

FINAL SCORE:

RICHMOND 0.2 | 1.4 | 1.6 | 1.6 (12)
BRISBANE 2.3 | 2.4 | 4.8 | 5.11 (41)

GOALS:

Richmond: C. Wakefield
Brisbane: G. Bodey 2, C. Hodder, T. Hickie, D. Davidson

DC BEST:

Richmond: H. Cordner, G. Seymour, E. McKenzie
Brisbane: I. Dawes, N. Grider, E. Bates, S. Conway, C. Svarc

Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos

DOCKERS DEMOLISH GIANTS IN SPARKLING SECOND HALF

Fremantle’s undefeated streak and dominant home record extended into 2021, as the Dockers accounted for a spirited GWS side by 30 points at Fremantle Oval on Sunday. It was a game of great emotion, most significantly for those in charcoal and orange as they commemorated inaugural Giant, Jacinda Barclay, who passed away in October last year.

The travelling team was largely competitive in the early stages, trailing by just five points at each of the first two breaks. But Fremantle’s smothering tackling pressure, dynamism and searing run forward of centre proved too much to handle after half time, with the 8.10 (58) to 4.4 (28) result coming thanks to the Dockers’ five-goal to three second half.

The forward wombo combo of tall Gemma Houghton and small Sabreena Duffy again worked wonders for Freo, with the pair both snaring three goals in scintillating displays. Houghton came to life after the main break to find all of her three goals as the game opened up, with her dual threat of pace and aerial presence a true handful. Duffy was also menacing inside 50, displaying her rare goal sense.

Ever-consistent midfielder Kiara Bowers will again be a key feature through midfield as she amassed a team-high 21 touches, partnered well by Jasmin Stewart on the inside while skipper Kara Antonio bossed the outer. Alyce Parker returned a stellar display for the Giants with 28 touches, a game-high tally matched by teammate Rebecca Beeson.

GWS is booked to face West Coast at Norwood Oval next having escaped Western Australia in time before the state’s proposed lockdown period, while Fremantle has fellow opening round victor, Adelaide next on the agenda at the same venue.

FINAL SCORE:

FREMANTLE 1.2 | 2.3 | 5.8 | 8.10 (58)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.3 | 1.4 | 2.4 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton 3, S. Duffy 3, K. Antonio, M. Hyde
GWS: A. Schmidt, R. Beeson, T. Davies, E. Bennetts

DC BEST:

Fremantle: G. Houghton, K. Bowers, S. Duffy, J. Stewart, K. Antonio
GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, A. Eva

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

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

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Carlton by 10

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Adelaide by 25

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

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

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

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

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

Tip: Brisbane by 15

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

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

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

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

Tip: Fremantle by 21

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