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The Round Up: AFLW Round Eight 2021

Carlton’s Darcy Vescio decided that AFLW round eight was hers, kicking five goals and becoming the leading goal kicker in the competition’s five year history.

Richmond persisted through West Coast's strong second half. AFLW Round Eight Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
Richmond persisted through West Coast’s strong second half. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line

Gold Coast v Carlton – Friday @ Metricon Stadium

Gold Coast 3.1.19 | 4.2.26 | 4.2.26 | 4.3.27
Carlton 1.1.7 | 4.4.28 | 9.5.59 | 13.9.87

Goals

Gold Coast: Alison Drennan, Maddison Levi, Lucy Single, Sam Virgo
Carlton: Darcy Vescio (5), Natalie Plane (2), Lauren Brazzale, Lucy McEvoy, Breann Moody, Elise O’Dea, Nicola Stevens, Brooke Walker

Injuries

Gold Coast: N/A
Carlton: N/A

  • Teams have threatened to break the AFLW’s all-time scoring record all season, but it took until round eight for Carlton to surpass the Dogs’ 12.14.86 of round four, 2018. In somewhat of a full circle moment, Carlton was on the receiving end of that previous record. Along with this, the Blues kicked 13 goals—the equal-most in AFLW history—and had eight individual goal kickers. They ran away with the match after quarter time, kicking 12.8 to Gold Coast’s 1.2.
  • This wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for Darcy Vescio and her five goals. The star became just the third player to kick more than four goals in a game, and Vescio also had a career-high 15 disposals and six marks—one of which will appear in highlight reels for years to come. More impressive, however, was how Vescio chose to bring her teammates into the game when she was running hot, notably setting up Elise O’Dea’s goal in the final quarter when she herself could have added to her own tally.
  • Another Blue who had one of the best games of her career was ruck Breann Moody. Her 16 disposals, 22 hitouts, five clearances and five inside 50s were topped off with her first goal of the season. Moody’s athleticism defies her height, and with such strength below her knees she is regularly the dominant Blue in the middle of the ground.
  • Speaking of Carlton’s midfield, it was a rare quiet day for Maddy Prespakis. The competition’s reigning best and fairest winner had just 11 disposals—the fewest of her career—just one clearance and no inside 50s. The positive for Carlton is the way they systematically broke the Suns down without as much input from Prespakis as they are typically used to having.
  • While the 60 point margin looks poor for the Suns, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The biggest thing to glean from this matchup was that Gold Coast has a group of young players to build their team around. Maddison Levi yet again presented as a strong key forward, kicking another goal after the first of her career last week. Daisy D’Arcy is improving with every game, regularly impacting contests out of half back and up on the wing, with her toughness shining through. And Lucy Single’s strength, run and confidence through the middle of the ground stood out—especially her efforts starting at half back which resulted in her first AFLW goal. If Kate Hore’s 2020 goal of the year is anything to go by, Single has absolutely put her hand up for this year’s edition. Notably, all three are just 18 years of age, and look keen to stick around for the long haul.

Geelong v GWS Giants – Saturday @ GMHBA Stadium

Geelong 1.1.7 | 1.2.8 | 1.2.8 | 1.3.9
GWS Giants 1.1.7 | 2.1.13 | 2.4.16 | 2.4.16

Goals

Geelong: Phoebe McWilliams
GWS Giants: Cora Staunton, Haneen Zreika

Injuries

Geelong: Denby Taylor (shoulder)
GWS Giants: N/A

  • The biggest concern for the Cats last week was a lack of intent, a lack of repeat efforts. Against the Giants, this was absolutely not the case. They laid 68 tackles—their second-most of the year—and were focused on closing down space and forcing the Giants into poor decisions and hurried disposal.
  • Yet again, Amy McDonald led the Cats. The 23-year-old had 21 disposals, 11 tackles, five clearances and six intercepts. McDonald doesn’t just impact in the midfield either, the way she covers the ground to support in defence and create an option up forward is important—particularly given the absence of Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell.
  • Despite their improved intent, Geelong’s forward issues remain. Their hard work across the ground simply breaks down forward of centre, lacking personnel and structure. They took just two marks inside 50—the Giants managed eight—and had just one fewer entry forward than their opponents. This is an unfortunate theme for Geelong. They’ve registered a score of 1.3.9 three times in 2021, each time coming close to equalling their opposition’s inside 50 count but struggled to find any kind of efficiency.
  • That being said, the Giants were far from an efficient scoring side at the other end of the ground. Their 24 entries resulted in just 2.4.16—and no score in the second half. It’s an interesting comparison, particularly to last year where the Giants generated more scoring shots on average than they ever had before, but let themselves down with poor accuracy. This season, they’re averaging eight scores a game—two fewer than 2020—but that has amounted to just 2.6 points less each game, and their scoring accuracy has improved to 43%.
  • Speaking of last season, GWS won four games and reached finals for the first time in their history. To this point of the season, they’ve now registered four wins but look unlikely to make finals, given the longer season and improvement of the competition as a whole.

Collingwood v St Kilda – Saturday @ Victoria Park

Collingwood 3.3.21 | 4.6.30 | 6.1.37 | 8.11.59
St Kilda 1.0.6 | 1.1.7 | 1.1.7 | 2.1.13

Goals

Collingwood: Aliesha Newman (3), Chloe Molloy (2), Jaimee Lambert, Joanna Lin, Sharni Norder
St Kilda: Jess Matin, Jacqui Vogt

Injuries

Collingwood: N/A
St Kilda: N/A

  • The timing of Ash Brazill’s return couldn’t have been more ideal for the Magpies. Season-ending injuries to Jordyn Allen and Lauren Butler had the potential to expose Collingwood’s defence—their strongest area of the ground—but Brazill slotted back in without skipping a beat. Her clean ball use, breakaway run and quick thinking was crucial in moments that the Saints threatened to score.
  • Also on that defensive line was Ruby Schleicher, who is undoubtedly having the best season of her career. Her 23 disposals and 11 intercepts—both personal bests—were key to the way Collingwood suffocated the Saints. Schleicher played quite high, winning the bulk of her disposals in the middle of the ground, with her ability to read the ball and close down space making it increasingly difficult for St Kilda to penetrate their forward half.
  • On the rare occasions that the Saints did find some run in attack, they seemed to lack the awareness of what was around them. On more than one occasion, Saints forwards were run down heading toward goal. Warnings from teammates didn’t seem forthcoming and it was this disconnect that Collingwood exploited.
  • Georgia Patrikios has continued her strong form in the middle, however, gathering another 29 disposals, six tackles, nine clearances and 529 metres gained. In future seasons Patrikios will benefit from a bit more protection around the ball, which will see her game improve yet again.
  • The way Collingwood is controlling game play, combined with the emergence of strong defenders alongside Stacey Livingstone, has led them conceding an average of just 19.88 points each week—down more than a goal compared to 2020. Only Fremantle is conceding fewer points this season.

Brisbane v North Melbourne – Saturday @ GABBA

Brisbane 1.2.8 | 1.8.14 | 3.9.27 | 4.11.35
North Melbourne 1.3.9 | 1.4.10 | 2.5.17 | 2.8.20

Goals

Brisbane: Sophie Conway, Dakota Davidson, Courtney Hodder, Jess Wuetschner
North Melbourne: Sophie Abbatangelo, Daisy Bateman

Injuries

Brisbane: Shannon Campbell (head knock)
North Melbourne: N/A

  • Courtney Hodder has had some stunning moments in her eight AFLW games, but none have been as impressive as her goal against the Kangaroos. Her speed and work rate came to the fore. Closing the gap between herself—up on the 50m arc—and a waiting Danielle Hardiman, Hodder intercepted the ball, gathered it in the pocket and had the composure to slot the goal. Outside of this, Hodder laid eight tackles—the most of her career—won two clearances and had five score involvements.
  • Another young Lion who really led the way was Isabel Dawes. After a standout game in round one, earning her a rising star nomination, Dawes has been a consistent performer for Brisbane. Against the Kangaroos, however, Dawes played similarly to that round one game. Her 19 disposals, four inside 50s, four clearances and seven intercepts were combined with a level of calmness that few second-year players boast.
  • For the first time in 2021, North Melbourne lost a game despite winning the uncontested possession count. They won it convincingly 109-146, but the Lions had planned for that. Allowing the Kangaroos to possess the ball in their defensive half, while closing off those options forward stunted North’s transition into attack. This was largely thanks to the mature, well-drilled defensive set up of the Lions. Emma Zielke, Kate Lutkins, Breanna Koenen and Shannon Campbell combined for 14 rebound 50s—all four benefitting from having led Brisbane’s defence as a group since the AFLW’s inception—and they did well to worry the Roos out of the free-flowing attack they typically enjoy.
  • Cathy Svarc’s role on Jasmine Garner also had a big say in North Melbourne’s stunted ball movement. Garner was held to 14 disposals—her fewest since round seven, 2019—and just one clearance, after she broke the AFLW’s all-time clearance record last week. Svarc is fast becoming the toughest one-on-one midfield match up in the competition, with her combination of power and speed particularly difficult to combat.
  • If there is a knock on the Lions’ recent form, it’s that they’ve been unable to capitalise on their dominance when it comes to the scoreboard. They’ve kicked 4.11.35 in each of their past two games, and 7.13.55 in the week preceding that. Come finals, they’ll no doubt be keen to adjust that scoring accuracy to make the most of their form.

Richmond v West Coast – Sunday @ Punt Road

Richmond 2.2.14 | 3.6.24 | 4.9.33 | 5.12.42
West Coast 0.1.1 | 0.2.2 | 3.3.21 | 5.4.34

Goals

Richmond: Katie Brennan (2), Tayla Stahl (2), Christina Bernardi
West Coast: Mikayla Bowen (2), Imahra Cameron, Grace Kelly, Katelyn Pope

Injuries

Richmond: N/A
West Coast: Maddy Collier (head), Aisling McCarthy (knee)

  • Wet conditions in Melbourne meant this game was going to be about which side could adapt better. Straight out of the blocks it seemed that Richmond was going to run rings around the Eagles as they scored two quick goals through Tayla Stahl in the opening minutes. It was how clean they were despite how difficult the ball was to handle that was certainly impressive.
  • Amongst Richmond’s dominance, the efforts of Niamh Kelly didn’t go unnoticed. Her courage and speed meant she was crashing through contests with little regard for her own safety, but did so in a way that helped wrestle control back for the Eagles. This was all highlighted by an incredible contested mark running back with the flight in the Eagles’ forward line. Kelly has undoubtedly been one of their best this season.
Niamh Kelly was crucial for the Eagles in AFLW round eight. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
Niamh Kelly was crucial for the Eagles in AFLW round eight. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
  • Another of the Eagles’ best, Mikayla Bowen, sparked their second half resurgence with a stunning bending goal from the pocket. Her 21 disposals were scattered right across the field, resulting in seven intercepts, six marks, four tackles and two goals.
  • In the second half, the Eagles threatened to snatch it, kicking 5.2.32 to the Tigers’ 2.6.18 and really dominated the territory. There were a number of individual efforts that stood out, including a handful of touches from injury replacement signing Katelyn Pope. Her positioning around the Eagles’ forward 50 arc was really important, but even more important was the finesse with which she set up teammates once she gathered the ball. This was topped off with her first goal in AFLW, too.
  • Statistically, Katie Brennan didn’t necessarily have a standout game—14 disposals, seven score involvements, two goals—but the composure and maturity with which she played was outstanding. Earlier in the season Brennan was playing well, but with what seemed like an underlying panic when using the ball—under pressure and often just throwing the ball on her boot. This was certainly not the case against the Eagles. This was most obvious in the final quarter when West Coast got within a kick, and Brennan went back, 35 metres out on a reasonable angle and slotted it to make the win all but certain. This was a display of leadership.
Katie Brennan celebrates her match winning goal in AFLW round eight. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
Katie Brennan celebrates her match winning goal in AFLW round eight. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line

Adelaide v Western Bulldogs – Sunday @ Norwood Oval

Adelaide 3.1.19 | 7.3.45 | 8.4.52 | 12.6.78
Western Bulldogs 1.0.6 | 2.0.12 | 2.2.14 | 3.4.22

Goals

Adelaide: Chloe Scheer (3), Caitlin Gould (2), Ashleigh Woodland (2), Hannah Button, Eloise Jones, Rachelle Martin, Erin Phillips, Chelsea Randall
Western Bulldogs: Bonnie Toogood (2), Kirsty Lamb

Related—The Round Up: AFLW Round Seven 2021

Injuries

Adelaide: N/A
Western Bulldogs: N/A

  • The Crows got the game back on their terms this week after being outplayed last round in a way that few expected. They controlled the territory, kicking two goals before the Dogs even registered an inside 50, and from there they simply didn’t let up.
  • Part of this was their scoring spread. They registered 12 goals and, for the second time this season, had eight individual goal kickers. The potential problem being that these big wins have come against somewhat struggling teams at home. The only top six side that they’ve beaten to this stage of the season was Brisbane in round four, but they’ve been felled by both Fremantle and Melbourne.
  • Rachelle Martin’s inclusion into this Adelaide team cannot be ignored. An injury replacement player in round one last year, she has added a tenacity and attack to Adelaide this season. She provides a bit of protection and pressure around the ball and inside 50, while also hitting the scoreboard.
  • Eloise Jones has also added another dynamic. Last year the forward was squeezed out of the side, but has approached this season as more of a half-forward/wing, spending a lot of time up the field. She’s tough and quick, worrying the opposition as she approaches contests with speed. Jones has worked incredibly hard to re-establish herself in the side’s first 21, and Adelaide is certainly reaping the benefits.
  • The Dogs have performed roughly as predicted—moments of brilliance, challenging great teams, but unable to sustain it all season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. It’s a young list with some outstanding talent, building for the long term and not their immediate future.

Fremantle v Melbourne – Sunday @ Fremantle Oval

Fremantle 0.1.1 | 0.6.6 | 2.7.19 | 4.8.32
Melbourne 3.2.20 | 4.5.29 | 4.7.31 | 5.7.37

Goals

Fremantle: Roxy Roux (2), Gemma Houghton, Gabby O’Sullivan
Melbourne: Kate Hore (2), Maddi Gay, Eliza McNamara, Daisy Pearce

Injuries

Fremantle: N/A
Melbourne: Sinead Goldrick (hamstring)

  • This season, Fremantle has registered just 8% of its score in first quarters, kicking just three first quarter goals across eight rounds. The Demons capitalised on this, kicking three quick goals to take a 19 point lead into quarter time. They did so in a similar way to last week, controlling the territory and limiting any clean Fremantle exit from defence. This was aided by Kiara Bowers’ one disposal, one tackle first quarter.
  • When it comes to the Dockers, however, their slow starts ramp up to big second halves, and typically big comebacks. 67% of their scoring this year has been done in second halves, and Melbourne—although prepared for this—struggled to maintain that control they enjoyed earlier in the game. Fremantle’s ability to get the ball into space and back in their speed was apparent, as they made the Demons look slow in ground ball chases.
  • This momentum swing was largely led by Hayley Miller, whose 13 disposals resulted in 310 metres gained, while her seven tackles helped quell Melbourne’s ground ball game. Miller also played a crucial one-on-one role against Eden Zanker in the midfield. Her height and strength was the ideal match up for the Demon.
  • In the Dockers’ forward line, Sinead Goldrick was sent to Gemma Houghton. While Goldrick was giving up plenty of height, her speed limited the space Houghton wanted to create, whether on a lead or streaming down the wing toward goal. Late in the game, a hamstring injury to Goldrick spelled danger for Melbourne, with Houghton ready to save the day for the second week running, but Gabrielle Colvin did well to go with the star forward.
  • Lauren Pearce has done just about everything she can to earn a second All Australian nod, with yet another crucial performance. Her awareness of the state of play, and her willingness to take the ball out of the ruck contest proved to be vital late in this game. With 20 disposals, 16 hitouts and six clearances, she effectively provided Melbourne with an extra big-bodied midfielder to combat the Bowers, Miller and Haynes combination. Averaging 14.38 disposals, 2.75 marks, 13.75 hitouts and 3.63 clearances this season, Pearce’s return to full fitness has been huge for the Demons. 

Listen—The Play On Review of AFLW Round Eight with Gemma Bastiani and Rana Hussain

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