Presented by Ida Sports. There has only been one game, but it was a spectacle nonetheless as Fremantle won its way through to a prelim.
North Melbourne v Fremantle — Saturday @ Arden Street
North Melbourne 1.4.10 | 3.5.23 | 3.7.25 | 4.7.31
Fremantle 1.1.7 | 5.2.32 | 8.2.50 | 11.3.69
North Melbourne: Sophie Abbatangelo, Jasmine Garner, Ellie Gavalas, Tahlia Randall
Fremantle: Mikayla Hyde (2), Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio, Dana East, Gemma Houghton, Hayley Miller, Gabby O’Sullivan, Roxy Roux, Aine Tighe, Bianca Webb
North Melbourne: Kim Rennie (concussion)
Fremantle: Sarah Wielstra (ankle)
This game was a good example of how important a player can be to a side’s structure. Key defender Janelle Cuthbertson returned for her first game since January 16th due to a fractured cheekbone and it changed the face of Fremantle. Not only did Cuthbertson register 12 intercepts—the equal second most in an AFLW final ever—and six marks, but her inclusion released Aine Tighe to return to the forward line. The Dockers were also assisted by Kim Rennie’s unavailability for a large portion of the game due to concussion, meaning Cuthbertson’s direct opponent in Emma King was forced back into the ruck.
Tighe’s positioning in the forward line meant Fremantle was able to maintain its attacking structure far more effectively than it has in recent weeks. Registering six disposals at 100% efficiency, three score involvements and kicking a goal of her own, it was her ability to set up teammates close to goal that stood out. Only coming to Aussie Rules footy a few years ago, Tighe’s vision when she has the ball is spectacular, able to sum up a situation immediately, make the right decision and then execute that choice. Added to this, her work rate and willingness to apply pressure in the forward half helped her side get repeat opportunities to score.
They made the most of those repeat opportunities, too, goaling through a record ten different players. Coming into the game, the Dockers averaged 4.1 individual goalkickers throughout 2022, but the workrate of their midfield to get forward to support in attack resulted in many options when going for goal. Mikayla Hyde was the only player to register multiple goals for the game. Thanks to this, the Dockers handed North Melbourne its biggest loss in AFLW history, and piled on the biggest score against the Kangaroos.
The attacking half of North Melbourne, however, didn’t enjoy such spread or efficiency. Throughout the first quarter where they were largely controlling the game, the Kangaroos simply didn’t make the most of their chances in front of goal, kicking one goal from five scoring shots. Despite having the best disposal efficiency in the competition this year, they have the second worst goal accuracy of any finals side, and kicked a goal from just 12.9% of their forward 50 entries, compared to Fremantle’s 39.3%.
Much of the Kangaroos’ early control in play came from Emma Kearney’s ability to find space in the back half. Often Kearney would be found alone in defence, able to easily intercept the ball and drive it into attack, regularly using her workrate to gather the ball more than once in a single passage of play. Kearney ended the game with 22 disposals, seven intercepts and 359 metres gained which typically spells disaster for opponents, but much of that damage was done in the first half of the game, after which the Dockers closed down her space more efficiently.