AFLW round five saw Fremantle suffer their first loss in nearly two years, some remarkable individual performances, and a number of players succumbing to injury.
Geelong v Richmond – Friday @ GMHBA Stadium
Geelong 0.0.0 | 0.0.0 | 1.0.6 | 2.1.13
Richmond 2.1.13 | 6.3.39 | 7.4.46 | 9.6.60
Geelong: Richelle Cranston, Amy McDonald
Richmond: Katie Brennan (3), Courtney Wakefield (2), Sabrina Frederick, Kodi Jacques, Ellie McKenzie, Gabby Seymour
Geelong: Olivia Purcell (ACL)
- Richmond’s first ever AFLW win came through team chemistry and connection. Their willingness to make space for one-another and knowledge of how each teammate plays was everything they were lacking in their inaugural season. Now, the polish that players like Monique Conti and Katie Brennan provide sits atop an undercurrent of role players, teamwork and effort.
- Courtney Wakefield continues to be the Tigers’ rock in the forward half—and remains the club’s leading goal kicker with 11, seven of which have been kicked this season. Against the Cats she had 12 disposals, three contested marks and five score involvements—all career highs. On a list boasting Brennan, Sabrina Frederick and Christina Bernardi—all players who have kicked 20+ goals and sit in the competition’s top 20 all-time goal kickers—Courtney Wakefield is the most dangerous forward asset they have.
- At the other end of the ground, Harriet Cordner is proving to be Richmond’s most valuable off-season recruit. The way she was able to create so much attack out of the back half really caught the Cats out. With her 16 disposals, Cordner used the ball at an impressive 81%, and alongside that had a career-best eight marks, seven intercepts and four score involvements.
- While the Tigers might have found their way to play as a team, the Cats seem to have done the reverse. They’re in self-preservation mode, leading to panicked decision-making which puts teammates in tricky positions—handballing to a teammate one metre away who is under just as much pressure. They’re relying on too few to get the job done, and it gets ever more difficult from here given Olivia Purcell is out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.
- In a bleak season, there are two bright spots for the Cats. Captain Meg McDonald has continued to be as reliable as ever in defence—against the Tigers she had 11 intercepts and five rebound 50s—and rising talent Amy McDonald has stepped up in the midfield in the absence of Nina Morrison. The younger McDonald is averaging 3.8 clearances, 18.8 disposals and 5.8 tackles this season. It’s likely the two will go one and two in Geelong’s best and fairest come season’s end.
Western Bulldogs v GWS Giants – Saturday @ Whitten Oval
Western Bulldogs 1.2.8 | 5.2.32 | 7.2.44 | 7.5.47
GWS Giants 1.2.8 | 1.2.8 | 3.3.21 | 3.4.22
Western Bulldogs: Isabel Huntington (3), Bonnie Toogood (3), Kirsten McLeod
GWS Giants: Erin McKinnon, Rebecca Privitelli, Britt Tully
Western Bulldogs: Deanna Berry (knee)
GWS Giants: N/A
- In 2020 the Bulldogs’ leading goal kicker was Kirsten McLeod with five goals in their six-game season. By round five, each of Isabel Huntington, McLeod and Bonnie Toogood have equalled or surpassed that. Huntington’s nine goals has her as the competition’s equal-leading goal kicker this season, while McLeod and Toogood have each kicked five, equalling their respective season bests from 2020 and 2018. This attacking line is also supported by a number of midfielders who have consistently pushed forward and impacted the scoreboard. Last year the Dogs were averaging 29.8 points a game from 8.2 scoring shots. This has increased to 38.4 points from 10.4 scoring shots this year.
- It’s not just their attack which has improved in 2021. The Dogs’ defence has settled, welcoming the additions of Katie Lynch and Sarah Hartwig. They’re conceding two goals a game less than they did in 2021, both thanks to a more cohesive backline and more control higher up the field.
- The even spread Nathan Burke is enjoying from his players really is the key to their success. Sure, they have stars standing out—Ellie Blackburn and Isabel Huntington are hard to ignore—but across the board, players on every line are contributing. Kirsty Lamb sets up play out of the middle, Katie Lynch took four marks in defence, Elisabeth Georgostathis laid ten tackles, Brooke Lochland was lively with 17 disposals. As a team, they’re one of the most connected groups in the competition.
- At the contest, Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson are GWS’ key clearance winners. The pair have been responsible for 63 of the Giants’ 125 clearances this season, including 14 of their 28 against the Dogs. This is a very different story compared to the Western Bulldogs who had 22 clearances, with Lamb’s five the most from an individual. Essentially, GWS is heavily reliant on a handful of players through the middle of the ground, and it simply didn’t stack up against the Dogs’ even spread.
- GWS seem to want to play a style of game that focuses on going through the corridor with short hit-up kicks. The problem with this is that they’re not hitting their targets regularly enough for this game style to be effective, and it sees their defensive line under pressure thanks to fast turnovers. There are some standout ball users in the Giants’ side—Elle Bennetts went at 92% with her 12 disposals—but across the board this is the area that, if improved, will have the biggest impact on the side’s fortunes.
Fremantle v Brisbane – Saturday @ Fremantle Oval
Fremantle 0.2.2 | 0.7.7 | 0.7.7 | 1.8.14
Brisbane 1.1.7 | 1.2.8 | 2.7.19 | 3.7.25
Fremantle: Roxy Roux
Brisbane: Ally Anderson, Courtney Hodder, Orla O’Dwyer
- Kate Lutkins, Breanna Koenen and Shannon Campbell are synonymous with the Brisbane Lions, having been important members of the side since the team’s inception. The maturity with which they structure the defensive line makes life particularly difficult for oppositions, especially given the speed Brisbane has at its disposal. In the few times that Fremantle were able to break through that solid defensive structure, Sophie Conway thwarted scoring attempts on the goal line.
- Compounding the strength of Brisbane’s defence, Fremantle continued their inefficient performance in front of goal. They’re scoring at just 39% this year—well down from their 54% in 2020—and have kicked 8.1, 2.11, 7.1, 7.13 and now 1.8. They’re putting themselves under pressure, simply because they’re not taking their chances.
- Brisbane’s forward pressure was overwhelming, laying 21 tackles within their forward 50, while the Dockers applied just six. This saw Fremantle’s typically calm, systematic defence scrambling to shut down repeat opportunities from the Lions’ forwards.
- On the topic of tackles, this game was just the second time since Kiara Bowers made her debut that she wasn’t the leading tackler on the ground. The first time was in round two, 2019—Bowers’ second game—against the Lions, and again facing Brisbane, Ally Anderson led the field with nine tackles to Bowers’ eight.
- The stand out aspect of Brisbane’s game was how well many of their young players performed without ball in hand. Courtney Hodder’s goal from deep in the pocket might have been flashy, but her tenacity at ground level was crucial. So too Dakota Davidson’s six tackles—four inside 50—and two contested marks. The new crop of Lions are never out of the contest, even if they’re not winning the ball.
North Melbourne v Carlton – Saturday @ UTAS Stadium
North Melbourne 2.1.13 | 2.2.14 | 4.5.29 | 9.5.59
Carlton 0.0.0 | 3.0.18 | 3.0.18 | 6.1.37
North Melbourne: Sophie Abbatangelo (2), Daisy Bateman (2), Daria Bannister, Grace Campbell, Jasmine Garner, Mia King
Carlton: Mimi Hill (2), Darcy Vescio (2), Lauren Brazzale, Nicola Stevens
North Melbourne: N/A
- North Melbourne relies on winning the uncontested ball to win games. Every time they’ve won that metric this year, they’ve won the four points, including against Carlton—166-119. The strength of their midfield only works if they also find ways to impact on the outside, like Ash Riddell, Jenna Bruton and Ellie Gavalas did on Saturday. Riddell and Bruton in particular combined for 28 uncontested possessions, ten inside 50s and 568 metres gained, setting up the Kangaroos beautifully.
- Much of this, however, starts at the contest with North Melbourne winning the clearances 27-18. Limiting their transition from inside to outside ball is the key to stopping North’s attack, which meant that Carlton started a step behind because they were without star Maddy Prespakis, who missed through suspension. The Blues were able to wrestle back control of the midfield after North kicked the first two goals of the game just minutes after the opening bounce, but they simply couldn’t maintain that intensity after half time.
- After moving into a defensive forward role last year, Nicola Stevens has really come into her own, finding a way to regularly hit the scoreboard while also nullifying attacking defenders each week. She had a career-high 19 disposals against the Kangaroos, delivered inside 50 four times, laid three tackles inside 50 and kicked a goal.
- Jasmine Garner yet again rose to the top, with a career-high 32 disposals and nine clearances, not to mention seven marks, four inside 50s, seven score involvements and a goal. She has now kicked six goals for the season, taking her to equal-third on the AFLW’s all-time goal kicking tally with 29 goals, all while spending more time up the field.
- The final quarter of this match broke the record for the highest scoring quarter in AFLW history—8.1.49. Five of those goals were kicked by the Kangaroos, more than doubling their score to put plenty of space between them and Carlton.
Adelaide v St. Kilda – Sunday @ Norwood Oval
Adelaide 1.3.9 | 4.6.30 | 6.10.46 | 8.13.61
St. Kilda 0.0.0 | 0.0.0 | 1.0.6 | 1.2.8
Adelaide: Teah Charlton (2), Justine Mules, Erin Phillips, Danielle Ponter, Chelsea Randall, Jess Sedunary, Ash Woodland
St. Kilda: Kate Shierlaw
Adelaide: Eloise Jones (shoulder)
St. Kilda: N/A
- The Saints really need to find more dare out of the back half. Whenever they won the ball in defence, they stopped, sat back off the mark and looked for an option long down the line. Taking such a slow approach allowed the well-organised Crows to block any meaningful forward movement and just suffocated the Saints. Finding some more speed and willingness to go fast is risky, all or nothing footy, but at half time when they were down by 30 and yet to score, something needed to change and they simply continued to approach it in the same way.
- Adelaide is edging back to their destructive 2019 best, which should send a warning to the rest of the competition. What was key to their ‘19 flag was the sheer number of goal kickers they had, allowing them to score heavily and quickly. They averaged 15.22 scoring shots a game that year, resulting in 59 points from 5.9 goal kickers each week. This year they’re finding 15.4 scoring shots a game, with accuracy the only thing keeping their average score at 47.4—still the highest in the competition. As they continue to build this season, it’s worth noting that in 2019 they took their scoring up a notch in finals, averaging 68 points from 15.5 scoring shots across their post-season games.
- Known as a contested marking key forward, Chloe Scheer has finally made her return to AFLW this year after that famous ACL injury in the 2019 grand final. Yet to kick a goal in her three games so far this year, she is playing a different role than many recall from her debut year, but not something entirely new. Her strength and skill is seeing her playing higher up the field, more as a link to attack from the midfield, and it’s provided the Crows with another dimension in attack. With her 13 disposals, she delivered the ball inside 50 seven times, and was involved in eight scores. Scheer also had a say at the contest with four clearances. Ash Woodland’s addition to Adelaide’s forward line has allowed Scheer to be used this way, and it’s working wonders.
- The way in which Ebony Marinoff has become a more rounded player over her five seasons is impressive. Early on she was known largely for her tackling—averaging 9.5 and 11.71 in each of her first two seasons—Marinoff has started to win more ball in recent years, averaging a career-best 23.8 disposals and 384.6 metres gained in 2021, while also laying five tackles a game. Her nine on the weekend saw her become the first AFLW player to surpass 300 tackles, with 305 in her 35 games.
- Like Marinoff, Anne Hatchard has found more balance in her game too. She’s getting to the outside more regularly and gaining ground with her possessions. Against the Saints she had seven inside 50s to go with her 20 disposals, eight intercepts and 427 metres gained. Hatchard’s power allows her to win the ball and break away from congestion, while her size makes her a tough prospect to bring to ground.
Collingwood v Melbourne – Sunday @ Victoria Park
Collingwood 1.1.7 | 4.3.27 | 4.4.28 | 7.7.49
Melbourne 0.1.1 | 0.2.2 | 1.6.12 | 1.8.14
Collingwood: Chloe Molloy (3), Brianna Davey (2), Mikala Cann, Aishling Sheridan
Melbourne: Lauren Pearce
Collingwood: Jordan Membrey (ACL)
- This game appeared far more lopsided than the statistics suggest. The only metrics where the Pies really dominated—other than the scoreboard—was the contested ball (102-88) and goal accuracy (46.7%-10%). It really did go down to the confidence with which the Pies played.
- Collingwood took their chances—fourteen scoring shots from 29 inside 50s—and created something from nothing on a number of occasions. Several goals came from forward stoppages, where Collingwood set themselves up well, but more importantly were willing to take the shot without overthinking it.
- Melbourne did the exact opposite. They seemed to lack confidence up forward, taking ten marks inside 50 but still regularly looking to pass the ball off, and this often resulting in a turnover. The Demons needed to back themselves in and take the shot, take the responsibility, but they seem to have lost the confidence they boasted earlier this season.
- That lack of confidence played right into the hands of Collingwood’s defence. To break through the well-drilled structure of Stacey Livingstone, Ruby Schleicher and Lauren Butler, you simply can’t kick long and hope for a mark. You need to use speed and run the ball forward—something Melbourne is certainly capable of, yet didn’t take the game on like we’ve seen this year. Unfortunately this saw long kicks intercepted by Livingstone regularly, making scoring an incredibly difficult prospect for the Demons.
- On a bleak day for Melbourne, Tyla Hanks was a certain highlight. Hanks has risen to almost become the Demons’ most important midfielder. With 22 disposals, six marks, six tackles and five clearances—the equal-most on the field with Britt Bonnici and Brianna Davey—Hanks did all she could to keep her side in the game, particularly given it was a rare down game from Karen Paxman.
West Coast v Gold Coast – Sunday @ Mineral Resources Park
West Coast 3.1.19 | 3.1.19 | 4.3.27 | 5.4.34
Gold Coast 0.4.4 | 1.5.11 | 3.7.25 | 4.9.33
West Coast: Mikayla Bowen, Imahra Cameron, Melissa Caulfield, Grace Kelly, Kate Orme
Gold Coast: Kalinda Howarth, Paige Parker, Sarah Perkins, Jamie Stanton
West Coast: Tayla Bresland (hamstring), Imahra Cameron (leg), Aisling McCarthy (knee, replaced in side by Kate Orme)
Gold Coast: Sarah Perkins (knee), Leah Kaslar (ankle, replaced in side by Georgia Bevan)
- Mikayla Bowen might just be the Eagles’ most important player. With no Aisling McCarthy or Dana Hooker, Bowen really took on a leadership role and worked incredibly hard all day. Her 21 disposals, seven marks, nine bounces, four inside 50s, 389 metres gained and goal saw her involved in everything. In a side that has needed to find some outside control, Bowen could be the answer. Even better for the Eagles, she’s still just 19 years old.
- In their first win of the season—and just second in their history—the Eagles managed to kick their highest score, including a goal in three of the four quarters for the first time this year. Still without a big, damaging key forward, a host of players are relied upon to hit the scoreboard, including five separate goal kickers this weekend.
- Alison Drennan’s work at the contest for the Suns is really crucial to how they want to play their footy. Her nine contested possessions, 11 tackles and four clearances led their midfield, and allowed Jamie Stanton to sneak forward. Once Sarah Perkins was ruled out of the game with a knee injury, Stanton became Gold Coast’s most dangerous forward—albeit kicking 1.3—and that simply couldn’t have happened without Drennan’s work on the ball.
- With each game she plays, Maddison Levi is growing in confidence and is really beginning to show why the Suns were so excited to draft her in October. Despite being a key forward, it’s her work at ground level that is particularly important. Against the Eagles she laid six tackles—four of which were inside 50—but she just needs a bit more polish to finish off her hard work, kicking just three behinds.
- Another young Sun working her way into the season is Daisy D’Arcy. She started the season working out of half back, but played far higher against the Eagles which saw her more involved from the outset. D’Arcy had her career-high 11 disposals, eight tackles, five intercepts, two inside 50s and used the ball at 73% efficiency. She’s starting to emerge as an important player for the Suns, alongside the aforementioned Levi, Lucy Single and Bess Keaney.