Tag: Sarah Allan

Adelaide eyes off third AFL Women’s flag

REIGNING AFL Women’s premiers Adelaide Crows have booked their ticket to the 2021 AFLW Grand Final with a convincing 5.3 (33) to 1.9 (15) defeat of Melbourne in the preliminary final on Saturday at the Adelaide Oval. Although they lost the inside 50 battle 28 to 30, Adelaide were far more efficient going forward and deserve the opportunity to challenge for their third women’s premiership against an impressive Brisbane outfit next week.

Midfielders Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff were the stars for the Crows and clearly the two best players on the ground. Hatchard started the game brilliantly, collecting 18 disposals in the first half and providing plenty of run and carry through the corridor. She finished with 27 disposals, five marks, four tackles and a goal in one of her best ever performances. Partner-in-crime Marinoff was just as prominent, equalling Hatchard’s AFLW record for the most disposals in an AFLW match with 35. She also laid 13 tackles and took five marks in the victory.

Despite the loss, Melbourne midfielders Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks did not have their colours lowered. These two gathered 48 disposals and ten tackles between them and led the Demons to winning the clearance battle 25 to 18. Unfortunately, they did not get much help from their teammates, who were ineffective with their ball use and lacked composure going inside 50.

The match was a tight arm wrestle early, with both sides attacking the ball with ferocity and not allowing their opponents to get many uncontested possessions. Melbourne were on top and repeatedly got the ball inside 50, but Adelaide’s defence held up well under the pressure. Their resistance was led by captain Chelsea Randall until she was involved in a heavy collision halfway through the first term with Melbourne’s Eliza McNamara. Despite both players solely having eyes for the ball, they clashed heads, abruptly left the field and were ruled out of the match with concussion. Due to the AFLW’s 12-day concussion protocol rule, Randall will be unable to compete in the Grand Final. This is a major loss for the home side, as her versatility and leadership has been a key part of the Crows’ resurgence in 2021. Youngster McNamara was a big loss for the Demons in this match as well given her elite running capacity and consistently fierce attack on the ball.

As the two players departed the field, Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips earned a free kick in a marking contest and booted the first goal of the game. While Melbourne were well led in the first term by Paxman (nine disposals) and Hanks (seven disposals), their teammates kept blazing away going forward. This allowed Adelaide defenders to zone off and take easy intercept marks. Late in the term, Kate Hore did well to provide Brenna Tarrant with an opportunity to kick her side’s first, but she hit the post due to some relentless pressure from Sarah Allan.

Early in the second, Shelley Scott got Melbourne fans excited with a spectacular mark at half-back. Melbourne’s pressure went to another level in the second, as they won many holding the ball decisions and gained greater inside 50 dominance. However, this was when Hatchard lifted for the Crows, and she was instrumental in setting up Adelaide’s second major, kicked once again by Phillips. Although Phillips had a quiet first half by her standards, she still kicked the only two goals in that timeframe. Marinoff had 20 disposals and four tackles at the main break.

In the third, draftee Rachelle Martin was the one to break the game open with some explosive passages of play. First, she found forward Chloe Scheer on the lead with a well-weighted kick, and Scheer nailed the set shot from a tight angle to extend Adelaide’s lead to three goals. One minute later, Martin caught Paxman holding the ball with a strong tackle inside 50, which allowed Hatchard to take the advantage kick the Crows’ fourth. Martin continued to apply relentless pressure and bamboozle Melbourne defenders throughout the term, creating many more chances for the Crows that they failed to capitalise on. This meant that they remained less than four goals up at the last break. However, Melbourne were still goalless at three-quarter time, demonstrating how brilliantly Adelaide’s defence was holding up.

While Melbourne tried to turn the tide in the last, Crows livewire Eloise Jones had other ideas. Jones, who played predominantly in defence throughout the contest, pushed forward and soccerred one of the goals of the year with her opposite foot under significant pressure. Thankfully for the Demons, Hore was able to get out the back of Adelaide’s defence in the ninth minute and slot her side’s first major. It was a well-deserved goal for Hore, who toiled hard all day and was one of Melbourne’s most consistent contributors. The Demons got several more chances to hit the scoreboard in the final term, but they were very inaccurate in front of goal. Despite the windy conditions, a couple of the misses were inexcusable. It did not matter in the end, as Adelaide ran out 18-point victors. In seven days, they will attempt to become the first ever back-to-back AFLW premiers in a rematch of the 2017 AFLW decider.

ADELAIDE 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)
MELBOURNE 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 1.9 (15)

GOALS:

Adelaide: E. Phillips 2, E. Jones, A. Hatchard, C. Scheer.
Melbourne: K. Hore.

DC BEST:

Adelaide: A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff, R. Martin, S. Allan, M. Rajcic
Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, K. Hore, S. Scott, E. Zanker

Picture credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

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

By: Peter Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: via Adelaide FC

ADELAIDE SEND WARNING SHOT WITH RECORD-BREAKING WIN

By: Tom Cheesman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES DOWN SAINTS TO KEEP SEASON ALIVE

By: Sophie Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulldogs build brand and now ready to bite

CENTRAL District coach Shaun Ribbons will head into the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season confident his side can begin to put into place the learnings of the first two seasons to take the next step in the competition.

Playing in a trial match against North Adelaide on the weekend, it was clear to Ribbons that despite the interrupted year in 2020, and the challenges that have come with being a new club entering the league after the majority of others, the Bulldogs are now progressing to beyond just being competitive.

“I think a lot of our girls have now had two or three preseasons and what we find is all the strength and conditioning, fundamentals of the game, footy IQ, it’s just starting to accumulate and they’re just starting to understand what playing at this level is all about,” Ribbons said. “So we’re really seeing a faster progression than I thought we would this season, and we were able to in our trial match on the weekend, give that a bit of a test, and the girls played really well against North Adelaide and their training this year has been at a really high standard.

“We’ve been able to in the first couple of years implement some pretty strong training standards and expectations, and that takes a little while for girls to adjust to when we’ve really taken them from amateur footy and some of them haven’t played much at all, to semi-elite stuff. “It just takes a bit of time, and the group’s been awesome this year, really positive and we’re starting to see a bit of progression.”

Last season the Bulldogs might have taken home the wooden spoon with just the two wins, but it was clear to everyone that despite dropping back a spot on the ladder, Central District had made massive strides going forward. Ribbons said there were times where his side looked to have had momentum in games, it was about making the most of those opportunities, which was something he is expecting in season three.

“We knew that some of the teams we were coming up against were obviously really talented and they’d been in the comp for longer and just played more footy so we based everything in the first two years in building a brand that was competitive, things that we could control,” he said. “We wanted to be a really good tackling team, we didn’t want to shirk any issues and be a team that’s known to compete really well, and then just add layers upon that.

“In terms of how we use the ball, how we defend, we knew our fundamentals, our strength and conditioning and our footy IQ would come at some point. “We’re starting to see that now, but as long as we competed really well, so I think that’s what we achieved in the first two years. “It didn’t matter who we played, we held our own in the contest in terms of competing, but we just have to be a bit patient with some of the other stuff.”

An example Ribbons used was a match against reigning premiers and 2020 grand finalists South Adelaide, where the Bulldogs had 17 more inside 50s, but still went down comfortably.

“There were some good indicators, but obviously some key areas that we just needed to get better at,” Ribbons said. “Some of that is experience, and some of it is just development and a little bit of personnel.”

Last year the Bulldogs had limited AFL Women’s players coming back to the side, with Sarah Allan being a standout performer, but in 2021, the teams will once again be without their top-level experience for the most part, which is something Ribbons said the playing group used for motivation last year, and as a positive coming into this year.

“For our girls that was a really great learning experience, there’s no doubt about that, and that will hold us in good stead for at least the first part of the year, and I think at times we were able to match it with some of those girls, so that’s the situation we’re in where we don’t have a heap of AFL girls, and we’ve just got to focus on the girls that we do have and building a strong brand within our community and that’s a long-term thing,” Ribbons said.

“We’re pretty hellbent on having good connections within the Barossa and the Northern suburbs in terms of footy growth, and that will be our competitive advantage going forward. “We might not quite have the stimulus of girls coming back from interstate to play for us, but I think we can build something strong if we get it right.”

One aspect the Bulldogs have been able to add over the offseason is experience, with Sturt’s Jess Schulz and Brianna Burt, North Adelaide’s Paige Allan, and South Adelaide’s Nicole Mark providing “an immediate injection of 60 or 60 games”. Ribbons also said the Bulldogs’ good crop of young talents led by Lauren Breguet, Maddy Lane and Laitiah Huynh was promising, in what he described as a “much more balanced group”.

Leading that group is new captain Shelby Smith, who had a remarkable first season in the SANFL Women’s and won the team’s best and fairest, and earned the respect of her teammates enough to be chosen as captain for the 2021 season. Ribbons praised Smith’s ability to represent the brand and herself, whilst still learning the game.

“I remember watching her play at Eastern Park and she’s one of those girls who you know what you’re going to get,” Ribbons said. “She’s just a real competitor, so I was confident in that. “She obviously had a fantastic season, I mean the great thing about her is her attitude, she really fits that brand that we’re trying to drive, and she’s a great learner as well. “She’s still always trying to find ways to improve and I think in terms of what we value at our footy club, she’s just a great role model.

“She has been somebody that anybody within the group can look towards and she’s got so many great attributes, so she’ll be a fantastic captain and leader, and she’s still developing her game because she’s really only played at this level for one year, and we’ve already seen signs that she’s going to be a really strong competitor for us and do well.”

The first match is now just over a week away, with the Bulldogs hosting Woodville-West Torrens Eagles at X Convenience Oval in the second match of a double-header. Ribbons said one focus for the team was improvement in fundamental decision making, which was a focus for the group over the off-season.

“We feel really strong about our brand, but what we’ve been able to do is really try and take the next step in terms of our methods with ball-in-hand,” he said. “We’re probably a team of going forward at all costs, but not necessarily with great method, so we’ve done a lot of work on how we want to exit from contests, and we want to be better users of the ball. “We’ve spent a lot more time on structure and role playing within the preseason.

“Our big improvement will come from how we’re able to use the ball to put teams under pressure, because we had so many times last year where we had opportunities but there’d be a fundamental error, just a dropped mark or a kick where we couldn’t just execute when we had our opportunities, so I think that is our big growth area.”

Picture credit: On the Ball Media

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 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

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

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

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Carlton by 10

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Adelaide by 25

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

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

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

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

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

Tip: Brisbane by 15

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

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

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

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

Tip: Fremantle by 21

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

2021 AFLW: All the practice game results

AFL WOMEN’S sides got their first taste of competitive action for 2021, with a series of scratch matches played behind closed doors around the nation and giving a glimpse into what to expect from the upcoming season. We go around the grounds to bring you the results and key points out of each game as Round 1 edges closer.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Saturday January 16:

West Coast 4.3 (27) def. by Fremantle 5.7 (37) @ Lathlain Park

Fremantle edged local rival, West Coast in a Western Derby sighter at Mineral Resources Park, despite a hot start from the Eagles. The two sides could not have finished any further apart among Conference B in season 2020, but West Coast showed promising signs of improvement by bolting to an Aisling McCarthy-inspired lead in the first half. The former Western Bulldogs Irishwoman booted three of her side’s four goals for the match, all coming within the opening term. In the end, Freo’s experience and depth across the field won out in the 10-point victory, a result which was expected of the premiership contender. Star midfielder Kiara Bowers was at her typical best, while the Eagles looked solid through midfield as prize draftee Bella Lewis got her first taste of senior football.

Geelong 5.4 (34) def. by Melbourne 8.7 (55) @ Kardinia Park

Melbourne shook off some preseason cobwebs with a 21-point win over Geelong on the road, overcoming a hefty first term deficit to run over the top of the Cats. The home side bolted out of the gates with four-straight majors, but saw its lead quickly dissolve as Melbourne piled on five goals in the second term. Geelong only managed one more major thereafter, seeing Melbourne ride home a reasonably comfortable victory. The return of young gun Denby Taylor will buoy Cats players and fans alike, while fellow 2018 draftee Tyla Hanks starred for Melbourne as she looks to nail down a spot in midfield. Her development looms as all the more important as lynchpin Karen Paxman nurses a leg injury sustained on the day, with Meg Downie (sprained ankle) another unfortunate casualty.

Carlton 6.4 (40) def. St Kilda 5.8 (38) @ Princes Park

A late Breann Moody goal saved Carlton’s blushes against St Kilda, helping the Blues come away with a two-point victory at Princes Park. The two sides shared spurts of momentum throughout a closely-contested game, with Carlton leading by eight points at the main break before falling behind and eventually fighting back to claim a last gasp win. St Kilda’s young talent was on full show with speedy midfielders Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith returning good shifts opposed to the dynamic Georgia Gee and Darcy Vescio, who will look to push into the engine room this year. Tayla Harris watched on from the sidelines, but Carlton unveiled its boom recruit in Elise O’Dea alongside Maddy Guerin and Charlotte Hammans. Bianca Jakobsson suffered a broken collarbone in a big blow to the Saints on the eve of the season, though Tarni White made a strong return from her long-term knee injury.

Richmond 3.11 (29) def. by Western Bulldogs 6.7 (43) @ Punt Road Oval

Five final term goals saw the Western Bulldogs roll Richmond by 14 points at Punt Road Oval, as the top two 2020 draftees went head-to-head in their new colours. The young pups trailed at every break before an inspired last dig produced the desired effect, with skipper Ellie Blackburn chiming in from a more forward-oriented role and prized draftee Jess Fitzgerald showing her wares through midfield. Fellow Northern Knights graduate Ellie McKenzie was also promising for the Tigers, while Bulldogs father-daughter gun Issy Grant was unleashed after missing her entire maiden season. As promised, 2020 Rising Star Izzy Huntington featured up forward in the red, white, and blue but was contained by a well-drilled Richmond defence, though there was no stopping Monique Conti as she dominated in the yellow and black.

Gold Coast 4.2 (26) def. by Brisbane 6.7 (43) @ Metricon 2

Brisbane came out on top in its preseason Q-Clash with Gold Coast, creating a greater wealth of opportunities to come away the 17-point victor. Away from home up at the Metricon Stadium facilities, the Lions’ scoring effort was led by Greta Bodey (two goals), who finished as the game’s sold multiple goalkicker. Prolific young forwards Jesse Wardlaw and Kalinda Howarth also found the big sticks for the respective sides. The Suns named surprise coup Sarah Perkins for her first game in new colours, while another former Saint in Alison Drennan also made her maiden appearance for Gold Coast. While Brisbane young gun Lily Postlethwaite was not named, exciting draftees Zimmorlei Farquharson and Indy Tahau were among the squad which took home a solid win ahead of Round 1.

Sunday January 17:

Collingwood 7.5 (47) def. North Melbourne 5.5 (35) @ Princes Park

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over North Melbourne at Princes Park on Sunday, signalling even more improvement to build on that of 2020. The Magpies were left a couple of talls short after Sharni Norder (late withdrawal, finger) and Erica Fowler (cheekbone) sustained injuries, but conjured enough fluency away from the midfield battle to run away 12-point winners. The magnets were shuffled a touch as Bri Davey spent some time up forward, where fast-developing draftee Amelia Verlardo booted two majors. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown impressed further afield in her first outing, while usual suspects Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner were among North’s best. Returning star Jess Duffin (adductor) was a late out for the Roos, but looms as a high-level inclusion this season.

Adelaide 2.21 (33) def. GWS 2.1 (13) @ Norwood Oval

Severe inaccuracy did little to stop Adelaide from picking up a confidence-boosting win over GWS on Sunday, with just two of the Crows’ 23 scoring shots resulting in majors. Despite finishing with an equal amount of goals, the Giants were comfortably adrift both in general play and on the scoreboard, going down by 20 points. Newly-named Crows captain Chelsea Randall made a pleasing return from injury in the win, but the game was cut short in the final term as Giants Irishwoman Brid Stack was taken to hospital with a potential spinal injury. Elsewhere, defender Sarah Allan was trialled up forward and returned one of her side’s two goals, pointing towards her potential versatility this year as the Crows look to bounce back to premiership contention.

Featured Image: St Kilda’s Tyanna Smith fights for a clearance | Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE will aim to catapult itself back into premiership contention after an injury-riddled 2020 season. Head coach Matthew Clarke has made some major changes to his coaching staff, with club greats Scott Thompson and Tom Lynch joining the panel. The trio will restock Adelaide’s side with a number of returning premiership stars.

2020 RECAP
The Crows finished sixth in Conference A last year, winning just two of their six matches. Premiership players Chelsea Randall and Chloe Scheer missed the entire season with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions, while Deni Varnhagen and superstar Erin Phillips only played three matches between them as they returned from their own respective knee issues. Injuries to several other players meant that the Crows were forced to blood more and more youngsters as the season progressed. Adelaide’s two wins came early in the season against St Kilda and Geelong, two sides that did not qualify for finals in 2020. Realistically, the Crows just struggled to move the ball from end to end and failed to apply enough pressure on opposition sides.

A shining light throughout 2020 was midfielder Anne Hatchard, who won their best and fairest and made the AFLW All-Australian side after averaging 25 disposals, six tackles and three inside 50s per game. Tackling machine Ebony Marinoff was effective alongside her at the clearances, but the pair did not get much help from the Crows’ wingers or forwards, particularly late in the season. Sarah Allan was the side’s other strong performer, as she led Adelaide’s defence well and was rewarded with a spot in the All-Australian side.

NEW FACES
Lively forward Jess Sedunary returns to the club after playing one season for expansion side St Kilda. Sedunary was a premiership player for the Crows in 2017 and is a proven goalkicker at senior level. Although she is coming off a broken fibula and may take some time to reach full strength, she will bring a wealth of leadership and experience to the group. Former Giant Lisa Whiteley will be an important addition to the Crows’ defence, while young winger Hannah Munyard, who has good pace and skills, provides some much-needed depth after playing three games for the Bulldogs in her debut season.

Draftees Teah Charlton, Rachelle Martin and Ash Woodland are three readymade recruits that should make an immediate impact for the club. Charlton, taken with pick four in the AFLW Draft, is a talented midfielder and half-forward from South Adelaide with goal sense, effective ball use, overhead marking ability and aggression. Expect her to be in the running for the NAB AFLW Rising Star Award. Midfielder Martin won the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) 2020 best and fairest award (alongside Hatchard) and played a match for the Crows last year as an injury-replacement player. Flexible utility Woodland gained AFLW experience for Melbourne in 2019 before winning North Adelaide’s best and fairest award last year in a premiership side. She also won the SANFLW Leading Goalkicker award in 2020.

With Randall, Scheer, Varnhagen, Hannah Button, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Phillips all set for full seasons this year after serious injuries in 2020, they can be considered ‘new faces’ as well. On the other hand, Adelaide loses veteran Courtney Gum along with premiership players Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey and Sophie Li to retirement.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021
Chelsea Randall is the one to watch. She is arguably the most courageous defender in AFLW and her skills, leadership and football IQ were sorely missed last year. With Randall positioned alongside Allan and Marijana Rajcic in defence, Adelaide should prove very difficult to score against.

Justine Mules is the other Crow to keep an eye on. She finished third in Adelaide’s 2020 best and fairest count after averaging 11 disposals, two tackles and two inside 50s per game. The two-time premiership player has shown continuous improvement since her debut season and looks set to have a major impact on a wing in 2021.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT
Two words: premiership experience. With 19 premiership players on their list, the Crows have more of these than any other side in the competition. This experience will prove valuable in finals, and it is well known that the Crows’ top names are made for the biggest stage. With numerous young players rising up the ranks and some veterans nearing the end of their careers, the hunger to recapture premiership glory should be there as well.

QUESTION MARK
Adelaide’s lack of depth is their biggest question mark. This was exposed last season following injuries to their franchise players, as the young Crows struggled to hold up their end of the bargain. However, this experience could prove valuable for the inexperienced players as they should now be more comfortable competing at senior level. Additionally, the inclusions of Sedunary, Whiteley, Munyard and the draftees should help improve their depth.

FINAL WORD
A line-up that includes Randall, Marinoff, Hatchard, Phillips and Allan is a scary proposition for any opposition side. The Crows have elite talents all across the ground and should catapult back into finals contention, but it is unclear whether they are truly premiership contenders. Fremantle, North Melbourne and Carlton were the best sides in 2020 and deserve favouritism ahead of the Crows at this stage.

Much of Adelaide’s hopes depend on the fitness and agility of the seasoned players returning from injury. Their forward line was the main area that struggled last year, as they often failed to lock the ball inside their forward 50 and relied far too heavily on Stevie-Lee Thompson, Eloise Jones and Danielle Ponter. The returns of Scheer, Phillips, Sedunary and Button should help spread the workload in this area.

We we will learn more about the Crows’ premiership aspirations when their season gets underway on the 30th of January against the Demons.



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Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

SANFL Women’s season review: Central District

CENTRAL District is the first team up in our South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season review series as we look at the eight sides in reverse ladder order and who their 2020 seasons went down.

Position: 8th
Wins: 2
Losses: 8

2020 IN A NUTSHELL

Coming off a seventh placed finish in their inaugural season last year, Central District was predicted to show some great signs of improvement. Whilst ultimately they did finish a spot lower and take out the wooden spoon, it is fair to say their overall season was much improved on 2019. They had the two wins from 10 games, which were a Round 1 win over Norwood and a Round 7 triumph over Woodville-West Torrens Eagles. The Bulldogs had a tough second half of the season fixture, and had they potentially played more of the bottom four sides, they could well have notched up another win or two. All in all, their gameplay – which was often fast and exciting – was superior to other teams, it was just about the execution inside 50. If that area can be ironed out, then watch out in 2021.

AFL WOMEN’S ALL-STARS GAME REPRESENTATIVES:

Laitiah Huynh

A 17-year-old speedy mid-forward who could break the lines and cause all sorts of havoc for the opposition. She showed clean hands at ground level, and coupled with her athleticism, was able to be a crucial link in the chain between midfield and the forward 50. Huynh was also not afraid to lay some big tackles on more experienced opponents.

Madison Lane

A versatile player who really settled into defence in the latter half of the season. She was able to improve her one-on-one ability and provide some drive up the defensive end, and showed she has the capability of playing forward, after kicking a goal against Norwood in Round 1. Another 17-year-old prospect who improved well after earning the honour of captaining South Australia at Under 16s level.

Katelyn Rosenzweig

Already having been drafted to the Crows and then unfortunately delisted due to the strength there, Rosenzweig is easily a type who can play at the next level. She is strong overhead, has a sixth sense for goals and is rarely beaten in a wrestle. More often than not she is a reliable shot for goal, and led the club’s goalkicking in season 2020.

Shelby Smith

One of the surprise packets of the competition this year. Expect her to potentially take out the Bulldogs best and fairest after a sensational year on debut. At 28-years-old, Smith was hard at the ball, loved a scrap and never took a backwards step. She was a clearance gem and beat a few experienced AFL Women’s talents at times around the contest.

OTHERS WHO STOOD OUT:

  • Sarah Allan
  • Demi Sonneman
  • Alicia Butler
  • Lauren Smith
  • Lauren Breguet
  • Caitlen Teague

It is hard to look past the consistency of AFL Women’s ruck/key defender Sarah Allan, and 2019 best and fairest winner, Demi Sonneman. Allan came into the team after the break and was exactly what they needed – a tall marking target with a booming kick – while Sonneman hardly played a bad game. She had the toughest job on the last line of defence, and even if she made mistakes, would back up and go again. Others who stepped in season 2020 included Caitlen Teague, Alicia Butler and Lauren Smith through the midfield, and 16-year-old Lauren Breguet who came into the side in Round 3 and continually improved until the end of the season, which will make her better for 2021.

Summary

Central District was one of the more exciting teams to watch, particularly in the second half of the season. Yes, the Bulldogs made mistakes going inside 50 and the counter attack on turnover could often be costly, but the way they tried to move the ball with speed and cause hazardous inside 50 entries worked at times. Even against South Adelaide late in the season, if they had been cleaner and made more of their opportunities, they could have caused a boil-over. All in all, Central should be really excited about the future because their 2020 season was a step up from their 2019 one, regardless of ladder position.

SANFL Women’s League Best & Fairest preview

TONIGHT is the night that the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Best and Fairest award is run and won ahead of Sunday afternoon’s decider. From 7.45pm, the league will announce its top player of the season, as well as the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year. North Adelaide’s Ashleigh Woodland already claimed the leading goalkicker award this season, and is among a host of favourites for the overall gong.

CENTRAL DISTRICT:

Top Contender: Shelby Smith

The midfielder played consistent four quarter football throughout the season to be named among her team’s best seven of a possible 10 times this year. The only issue for her will be that Central only won a couple of games, so if she picks up votes it will be the minor votes. Still a ripping season.

Other contenders: Demi Sonneman, Katelyn Rosenzweig, Sarah Allan

Last year’s club best and fairest winner in Sonneman has held up at full-back throughout the year and has dash and dare which catches the umpire’s eye. Rosenzweig was unstoppable when on fire and took out the club’s leading goalkicker award again with 14 majors in 10 games, while Allan only played the six games, but will no doubt pick up some votes as she was among the best on ground even in some losses.

GLENELG:

Top Contender: Caitlin Gould

The Bays are a tough one to determine because they had players that stepped up in different games, but probably not enough, nor enough wins to really cement a standout player for the award. Gould is one who catches the eye with her ruck work, forward craft and goalkicking, and she played seven games which is more than the other AFL Women’s talent on the list.

Other possible contenders: Madisyn Freeman, Sam Franson, Ellie Kellock

It was a very even team performance this year from Glenelg, and hard to determine who will take the votes. It is imagined that they will split the votes very evenly this season, with teenager Freeman always a popular one with the coaches – eight of 10 bests – as well as the tenacious Franson working hard, and Kellock rotating between midfield and defence.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

Top Contender: Ash Woodland

Coming off a brilliant season where Woodland claimed the SANFL Women’s goalkicking award, the mid/forward also shone being named among the best in nearly all of her matches. She looms as the top chance from the minor premiership-winning side, but in terms of votes, expect it to be spread.

Other possible contenders: Hannah Ewings, Anne Hatchard, Katelyn Pope

Legitimately there could be a list into double-digits such is the depth of the club. Hatchard should rack up multiple best on grounds and despite only playing the five games, could pick up double-digit votes easily. Ewings is eye-catching with her speed and ability to hit the scoreboard, with the 16-year-old having a remarkable debut season. Pope is another who catches the eye with her run down the wings, but she played a couple less games than the others which may hurt the voting chances.

NORWOOD:

Top Contender: Matilda Zander

Much like North Adelaide, the players will share votes and it could well be one of a number of players who gets lucky enough to poll plenty. In this case we have opted for Zander because of her ability to hit the scoreboard, provide forward pressure and also run around the ground. But there could be half a dozen names that deserve to be there.

Other possible contenders: Sophie Armitstead, Najwa Allen, Jess Macolino

Last year’s winner in Allen always has to be considered given it is proven she catches the umpire’s eye. With only six games this season though, will it be enough? She had others who will fight for votes off her such as the reliable Armitstead who could really be a surprise packet for the Redlegs in the vote count, while Macolino burst onto the scene late and was named in the best in each of her six games.

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

Top Contender: Teah Charlton

It feels like even when Charlton is not amongst the best players on the ground, she does something that catches the eye in the match that umpires will remember later. While it is hard to pick how South’s votes will go down with so many players lining up, Charlton will no doubt be amongst it given how much ball she wins and can kick goals.

Other possible contenders: Tahlia Meyer, Indy Tahau, Nicole Campbell

As already mentioned, it is likely players will take votes off each other with the greatest depth going through the list. Meyer might be the most consistent of the lost each week, whiler Campbell managed the eight games which should be enough for votes ahead of some other AFL Women’s talents. Tahau always does something that features in the highlights so will naturally attract votes.

STURT:

Top Contender: Zoe Prowse

The 2021 AFL Women’s Draft prospect might be a sneaky chance here, but it will depend on how favourable the umpires are to giving votes in a losing team effort. Prowse was by far the most dominant ruck in the competition for a stretch with her athleticism and consistency despite being overwhelmed on the scoreboard, which is where it might not quite be enough as the votes will likely be minor ones.

Other possible contenders: Georgia Bevan, Maya Rigter, Kate Harris

The co-captains were consistent all year and Bevan will arguably attract the most, potentially even more than Prowse given league best and fairests are midfielder’s awards. Rigter has worked hard throughout the season, while Harris has stepped up playing every game and was named amongst the best six times.

WEST ADELAIDE:

Top Contender: Rachelle Martin

For the overall winner, our prediction is pocket rocket Martin. The uncompromising midfielder was named among the best just about every single week and deservedly so. She made our Team of the Week seven times, and the Westies won more than enough games to suggest she will pick up some threes for best on ground.

Other possible contenders: Zoe Venning, Maddie Newman, Stevie-Lee Thompson

When it comes to umpire votes, it is often those who catch the eye the most, and the Bloods have no shortage of players that fit the bill. Venning had a huge season through the midfield and playing forward, Newman has a super boot that you cannot miss, and Thompson was a match winner on more than one occasion. They might split the votes as a team.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS:

Top Contender: Kiana Lee

The Eagles were the most even team in terms of best players this season in our opinion, and Lee just gets the nod for her work at both ends. Kicking 11 goals in 10 games, which included playing out of full-back late in the year, her contested marking and long kicking will no doubt be something the umpires look at for votes.

Other possible contenders: Jovanka Zecevic, Tesharna Maher, Amie Blanden

It is hard to pinpoint those who will take the votes given the evenness of the team, but Zecevic was one of the most consistent Eagles throughout the year, Maher provided line-breaking speed out of defence, and Blanden was always solid through the middle going forward.

PREDICTION:

It is far from obvious which way the votes will go this year, but our tip is West Adelaide’s Rachelle Martin who had the most consistent season of any player, and was able to play every game. Others who will challenge her include Teah Charlton, Ash Woodland, Anne Hatchard and possibly Zoe Prowse.