A BAPTISM of fire awaited Richmond in its highly-anticipated inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, going winless in the shortened six-round season despite having made one of the more eye-catching expansion team recruiting drives. Skippered by veteran former-Bulldog marquee Katie Brennan, the Tigers began life in the elite competition with a 34-point thumping at the hands of Carlton, and never quite recovered.
Brennan missed the last month of the season, leaving much of the on-field leadership down to Monique Conti‘s brilliance through midfield, while a relatively inexperienced list exterior needed time to settle in. Starting from the bottom, relive the highs and lows of Richmond’s maiden AFLW run in our first of 14 club-by-club reviews, with key players highlighted throughout.
R1: lost to Carlton by 34 points
R2: lost to Gold Coast by 11 points
R3: lost to North Melbourne by 56 points
R4: lost to Geelong by 22 points
R5: lost to GWS by 45 points
R6: lost to St Kilda by 39 points
Five losses by over 22 points tell the story of Richmond’s efforts this season, which were capped off by a record breaking effort in Round 6 – for the wrong reasons – in becoming the first AFLW side to be held goalless for an entire match. There were a total of 17 goalless terms for the Tigers in a season where they clearly struggled for territory and thus, goals. The closest the Tigers came to victory was in Round 2 against fellow expansion team, Gold Coast on the road, but they kicked themselves out of the contest with 0.8 after quarter time. It was tough going from that point with a 56-point loss to North Melbourne coming next, but an entertaining game against Geelong was a relative high point, as the Tigers booted a season-best 7.3 (45).
SEASON HIGH: The four-goal third term against Geelong
While it may not sound like much of a high, Richmond’s big third term effort against Geelong gave fans a taste of what may be to come once the Tigers can jell. In a game where Richmond eclipsed its goal effort from the entire first three rounds, over half of them came in that third quarter and gave the Tigers a sniff of victory. While it was not to be, the four majors across a scintillating 10 minutes contributed to the side’s greatest AFLW score in what was Brennan’s final game for the year.
SEASON LOW: Posting the first ever goalless game against St Kilda
Becoming the competition’s first side to go through a game without a goal is disappointing enough, but to do it against a fellow expansion side would have compounded the hurt following Richmond’s Round 6 fixture. The Tigers were also held scoreless for half the match, with their three points scored over the second and fourth terms at Moorabbin. Credit must go to the fantastic Saints, who were simply on fire on home turf against the lacklustre Tigers.
FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:
Katie Brennan (12.3 disposals, 1.5 marks, 4 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 1.8 inside 50s, 0.25 goals)
A transition to midfield beckoned for Brennan as her fresh start began, with the experienced former-forward looking to lead from the engine room. While her leadership and invaluable experience put the Tigers in good stead, Brennan unfortunately struggled to get her own game going at times with a season-high disposal haul of 14. Brennan’s season was unfortunately cut short in Round 4 due to concussion, with her best form evading her.
Monique Conti (19.8 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.8 tackles, 2.7 rebound 50s, 3.2 inside 50s)
Far and away Richmond’s best performer across the whole season, Conti was simply phenomenal as the Tigers’ prime ball winner. In just her third AFLW season, the former prize draft pick became an out-and-out star in returning her greatest disposal average across the six games, while also showing her tenacity on the defensive side. An ever-present for the Tigers, Conti can hold her head up – particularly for her form in the final three weeks when her side struggled most in Brennan’s absence.
Akec Makur Chuot (9.5 disposals, 1.3 marks, 2 tackles, 3.7 rebound 50s, 0.8 inside 50s)
One of the great finds for Richmond this season was 27-year-old Makur Chuot, who worked to provide a cool head among Richmond’s back six in her maiden AFLW season. The 178cm defender impressed on debut in Round 1 against Carlton with her positioning and ability to impact a number of contests, while her rebound 50 numbers across the entire season serve as a reminder of her willingness to turn defence into attack. Full credit for playing a difficult role well.
Phoebe Monahan (17.2 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2.8 tackles, 6.8 rebound 50s, 1.8 inside 50s)
Perhaps one of the less-heralded recruits for Richmond among a raft of big names was Monahan, who played arguably the most important and difficult role in the struggling Tigers side. After two seasons with GWS, the 26-year-old upped her numbers massively in shouldering the brunt of her side’s defensive duties. Monahan mopped up as well as any defender this year and was aggressive on the rebound with much of the ball spent in her own half. A fantastic pick-up, who is now a pivotal leader in the side.
Courtney Wakefield (6.4 disposals, 3.8 marks, 2.6 tackles, 4 goals)
One of the great success stories out of this season is that of Wakefield, who flourished upon being involved in the Richmond set-up as early as in its VFLW campaign. The 180cm key forward combined well with marquee recruit Sabrina Frederick close to goal, providing a target but with limited opportunity. She finished as the Tiger’s leading goalkicker (four) in their inaugural season, with her personal best of three majors coming against Geelong in Round 4.
Kodi Jacques (8.2 disposals, 1.2 marks, 5.3 tackles, 1.2 rebound 50s, 1.2 inside 50s)
Another to be picked up out of Richmond’s VFLW list, Jacques took her opportunity at the elite level with both hands after being overlooked in her draft year. The tenacious midfielder may not have won bucketloads of the ball, but contributed around the contest with her fierce defensive work to keep the Tigers in the hunt. The 19-year-old led her side for tackles (32), and looked comfortable in her debut top flight season with a good base to now improve upon.
Grace Campbell (12.4 disposals, 5.6 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 2 inside 50s)
Yes, another who represented the Tigers at VFLW level. Campbell more than justified her berth in the AFLW squad and captured fans’ attention with a spirited Round 2 debut against Gold Coast. Thrust straight into the midfield, Campbell’s speed and courage at stoppages made her an instant hit and while she may still possess very raw skills, has plenty of time to improve upon a promising first year at just 24 years of age. Another who can work both ways, and works hard.
Others who have stood out: Christina Bernardi, Sabrina Frederick, Sophie Molan
An odd combination of players among the others to have stood out, with big-name recruits Bernardi and Frederick showing glimpses of their outstanding best, while prize draftee Molan had a solid debut campaign. Frederick could arguably have been in the top five performers group on the back of a three-goal season where she led the club for contested marks, but perhaps did not deliver on lofty standards set. Bernardi was a touch unlucky throughout the season in front of goal and had limited opportunities as a permanent forward, but definitely had more expected of her – especially after the first two rounds. Molan, as diligent a worker as any draftee, worked into her first taste of elite senior football well, applying good work at the contest to round out the group.