With the top six facing off, and some down to the wire finishes, AFLW round nine had everything fans could want ahead of the finals.
Western Bulldogs v Richmond – Friday @ Whitten Oval
Western Bulldogs 4.0.24 | 5.0.30 | 5.3.33 | 7.3.45
Richmond 1.0.6 | 2.1.13 | 4.2.26 | 5.2.32
Western Bulldogs: Kirsten McLeod (2), Isabel Huntington, Kirsty Lamb, Brooke Lochland, Nell Morris-Dalton, Bonnie Toogood
Richmond: Katie Brennan (3), Tayla Stahl, Courtney Wakefield
Western Bulldogs: N/A
- The Bulldogs finished their season in style, reminding the competition just how good they will be next year. Their ability to apply pressure around the ball and worry mistakes out of their opponent is impressive, but it’s once they win the ball back and go fast with skill where they become incredibly damaging. Against Richmond, they were able to restrict Monique Conti’s output in a similar way to Brisbane in round one, which allowed the Dogs to take control at the source.
- Kirsty Lamb was key in this respect, too. Her 23 disposals, seven tackles, four clearances and 326 metres gained really got the Dogs going, but it was the way she was throwing her body at every contest almost with an air of desperation that set the tone for her younger teammates.
- We were treated to the Isabel Huntington v Harriet Corder matchup for the majority of the game. Huntington was held to just one mark—she was averaging 4.9 across the previous eight games—and one goal, while Cordner won eight intercepts, two marks and had 15 disposals. Arguably, the Tiger won the battle, but the way Huntington presented at the ball and brought it to ground for her crumbers was impressive.
- At the other end of the ground, Eleanor Brown continued her career-best form, locking down the Dogs’ defence and playing havoc with Richmond’s pressured entries forward. Brown had a massive 14 intercepts—only six times in AFLW history have more been registered—and 336 metres gained from her career-high 19 disposals. She has developed a formidable combination with Katie Lynch and Sarah Hartwig, leaving the Dogs’ backline in safe hands for a long time to come.
- Richmond redeemed themselves from a less than ideal first year, and despite succumbing to the Dogs, showed enough to end the season with pride. With three wins and six losses, it’s their 84.6% that tells more of the story. Comparatively, last year they ended with just 35.7%. This improvement is highlighted by their ability to generate scores—something they desperately struggled to do in 2020. Katie Brennan kicked 14 goals—she kicked just one in 2020—and Courtney Wakefield managed nine goals, after leading the club with four last year.
North Melbourne v Fremantle – Saturday @ Arden Street
North Melbourne 1.0.6 | 2.2.14 | 3.3.21 | 4.6.30
Fremantle 0.1.1 | 2.1.13 | 4.2.26 | 4.5.29
North Melbourne: Sophie Abbatangelo, Daria Bannister, Daisy Bateman, Jasmine Garner
Fremantle: Kara Antonio, Kiara Bowers, Gemma Houghton, Gabby O’Sullivan
North Melbourne: Tahlia Randall (ankle)
- Without Jenna Bruton in the side, Ashleigh Riddell got to work in the midfield filling the gap relatively seamlessly. Averaging 3.5 clearances heading into this game, Riddell won nine clearances to lead the field, along with 33 disposals—a career-high—seven inside 50s and 492 metres gained. She often goes a little unnoticed given the number of big names in the Kangaroos’ side, but Collingwood will need to plan for Riddell this week, because she can really do some damage.
- North Melbourne’s approach was to win the ball in the middle and immediately look laterally to use their wings—who maintain their width—before moving the ball forward. Kaitlyn Ashmore’s maturity and awareness means she isn’t sucked into the contest as other wingers can be, so the Kangaroos always have that outlet available.
- Contrary to this, Fremantle wants to use a direct approach—typically straight up the middle and using their disposal economically. This is why they can be so damaging when winning turnovers across half back, using speed and that drive to gain ground.
- Interestingly, Emma O’Driscoll and Sarah Verrier switched positions for this match—O’Driscoll starting in the forward line, and Verrier in defence. It seemed that O’Driscoll had been assigned the task of limiting Jess Duffin, and did a reasonable job, restricting Duffin to 11 disposals after the Kangaroo had 20+ in the last two rounds.
- Across the 2021 home and away season, Fremantle has scored 3.12.30 in first quarters—just 8% of their total score. These slow starts are regularly putting the Dockers on the back foot, resulting in a number of desperate, last gasp losses. Come finals, this will surely be a focus for the side, given the do-or-die nature of the series.
Melbourne v Brisbane – Saturday @ Casey Fields
Melbourne 1.1.7 | 3.1.19 | 4.1.25 | 6.2.38
Brisbane 1.0.6 | 5.0.30 | 6.0.36 | 6.0.36
Melbourne: Shelley Scott (3), Alyssa Bannan, Tyla Hanks, Karen Paxman
Brisbane: Dakota Davidson (2), Lauren Arnell, Courtney Hodder, Taylor Smith, Jesse Wardlaw
Melbourne: Daisy Pearce (knee)
- Brisbane’s scoring efficiency was 100% for this game, it’s just the fifth time in AFLW history that this has occurred. Interestingly, only once has the side with such accuracy won the game, and Melbourne has been involved in four of these games, for three wins and one loss.
- Courtney Hodder and Dakota Davidson again proved how they’ve changed the face of Brisbane’s attack. Davidson kicked two goals, took three marks and laid four tackles, presenting as a dangerous option that the Demons’ defence needed to be very accountable for. Meanwhile, Courtney Hodder’s forward pressure resulted in eight tackles and, despite direct opponent Shelley Heath’s speed, Hodder managed to break away to kick another goal of the year contender.
- Higher up the ground, Cathy Svarc had a field day, equaling Ebony Marinoff’s tackling record with 21 for the match. Svarc also had 15 disposals and five intercepts, while spending the early part of the game in a direct match up with Karen Paxman.
- Melbourne’s youth has spurred their finals charge. Tyla Hanks has been the most consistent presence for the side, and had another 13 disposals and kicked a goal. Shelley Heath went head-to-head with Courtney Hodder and won eight intercepts and laid four tackles. While Eden Zanker’s 25 disposals, six inside 50s, five clearances and four tackles were indicative of her latter-season form. Not to mention the impact of Alyssa Bannan’s run and carry, and Eliza McNamara’s work rate.
- While the Demons’ youth was on show, veteran Shelley Scott also had a big say in this one, kicking three goals. Scott’s ability to read the play, and gather the ball off a pack situation makes her constantly dangerous for defensive units. Not to mention her leadership in Melbourne’s forward half after captain Daisy Pearce was ruled out for much of the game with a knee injury.
Gold Coast v Geelong – Saturday @ Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast 0.1.1 | 1.3.9 | 3.3.21 | 3.6.24
Geelong 3.2.20 | 3.3.21 | 5.3.33 | 6.5.41
Gold Coast: Kalinda Howarth (3), Sam Virgo
Geelong: Richelle Cranston (2), Olivia Barber, Rene Caris, Phoebe McWilliams, Rebecca Webster
Gold Coast: N/A
- With nothing left to lose, Geelong came out and played fearless, positive, attacking footy and kicked their highest score of the year. The freedom with which they played prevented them from flooding into defence and then being apprehensive to go quickly. The hope from here is that they use this as a lesson heading into 2022 and build on it, rather than going back into their shells.
- For the Suns, a winless season might look dire on paper, but it’s not all doom and gloom. The experience they’ve been able to provide young players like Lucy Single, Maddison Levi and Daisy D’Arcy will only set them up better for coming seasons, and the sparks of brilliance these players showed suggests we’re in for some great footy in the coming years. This is all without mentioning injuries to key players Jacqui Yorston, Jamie Stanton and Sarah Perkins who had to be covered by plenty of the side’s youth.
- Alison Drennan’s first year up north was nothing short of excellent. Taking control in the midfield, her consistency was outstanding—particularly given she was carrying an ankle injury for much of the season. Averaging career-high disposals (19.4), tackles (6.9), clearances (4.2) and inside 50s (1.6), Drennan did all she could to list her teammates each week.
- Sally Riley was chaired off post-match, and has since announced her retirement from the AFLW. Riley was part of Adelaide’s 2017 premiership team, and played 23 games across the Crows and Suns. Importantly, she brought a level of maturity and leadership to the Suns upon their entry to the competition in 2020.
- Appropriately, Aasta O’Connor’s playing career ended in Queensland, where it all began. O’Connor played in multiple premierships at local club Logan—alongside Gold Coast Sun Jade Pregej—before moving to Victoria and joining powerhouse club the Darebin Falcons. O’Connor is a pioneer of the AFLW, playing in the 2013-2016 exhibition games, and as an inaugural Bulldog played in their 2018 premiership. Her 32 games across the Dogs and the Cats were important to the establishment of the AFLW, and the sacrifices O’Connor has made will see girls and women benefit for years to come.
Adelaide v Collingwood – Sunday @ Norwood Oval
Adelaide 2.2.14 3.4.22 4.5.29 4.7.31
Collingwood 1.1.7 1.1.7 1.2.8 2.5.17
Adelaide Teah Charlton, Anne Hatchard, Justine Mules, Ashleigh Woodland
Collingwood Jaimee Lambert, Chloe Molloy
Collingwood Sophie Casey (concussion), Erica Fowler (shoulder)
- Adelaide approached this match like a chess match, with key strategies to suppress Collingwood and, importantly, the assets to execute said strategies. At the source, they brought pressure to the ball carrier which immediately set the tone for the match. Rachelle Martin and Hannah Button led the way in this respect, with ten and nine tackles respectively. Because of this, at no point was Collingwood able to get a handle on the game.
- Anne Hatchard made the most of the pressure her teammates were applying, winning a lot of the outside ball and delivering it forward. This is the balance Adelaide’s midfield lacked last year, and the return of Button, and addition of Martin has helped even that out. Hatchard finished the game with 22 disposals—13 of which were kicks—six marks, five inside 50s and 309 metres gained.
- Another piece of the Crows’ strategy was to force Stacey Livingstone to play one-on-one, accountable footy, forcing her out of her comfort zone. Ashleigh Woodland took the job, and her speed and agility caught Livingstone out on more than one occasion, resulting in Woodland’s three scoring shots—albeit just one goal. Livingstone won the aerial battle, taking four marks to Woodland’s zero, and won eight intercepts. Effectively, the battle was a nil-all draw, which from an Adelaide perspective is a positive given the huge impact Livingstone has regularly had all season.
- While Livingstone was preoccupied with Woodland, Ruby Schleicher continued her attacking defensive game style, pushing high up the field and looking to deliver the ball forward. In the second half when the Pies needed to approach the game a little differently if they were to bridge the gap on the scoreboard, it was Schleicher who created much of their positive play.
- The match up to which most eyes were drawn, however, was between Erin Phillips and Brianna Davey. Both played largely in the midfield and their strength was closely matched resulting in an enthralling battle. Phillips finished the match with 16 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s, while Davey had 22 disposals, ten tackles and eight clearances to win the battle, while losing the war.
GWS Giants v Carlton – Sunday @ Blacktown International Sportspark
GWS Giants 1.0.6 | 2.1.13 | 3.5.23 | 4.7.31
Carlton 1.1.7 | 3.8.26 | 4.8.32 | 4.8.32
GWS Giants: Tait Mackrill (2), Cora Staunton (2)
Carlton: Darcy Vescio (2), Lauren Brazzale, Brook Walker
GWS Giants: N/A
- Darcy Vescio continues to be a star of the AFLW. After winning the inaugural leading goal kicker award with 14 goals in 2017, Vescio became the first player to kick 15+ goals in a season, and to win the award for a second time. Not only did Vescio kick two crucial goals to get the Blues going, she dropped into defence and took some important goal-saving marks late to ice the game.
- Jess Hosking has had, arguably, the best season of her career, taking more responsibility through the midfield and forward half. Hosking averaged 13.1 disposals, 3.3 tackles, 2.1 inside 50s and 196.8 metres gained for the year—most of which are career-high numbers for the inaugural Blue. It’s important to see her take more control on the field given the loss of some senior players for next season.
- Two of Carlton’s senior—and inaugural—players who won’t appear in 2022 are Alison Downie and co-captain Katie Loynes who have both announced their retirement. Alison Downie ends her impressive AFLW career after 39 games—three of which were finals—and having had a significant impact in both the ruck and defence for Carlton, while Loynes played 36 games—including three finals—and often set the tone in the middle. They will be tough to cover for the Blues, both on and off the field.
- Tait Mackrill is developing a habit of hitting her best form late in the season. Last year she earned a rising star nomination for her 20 disposal, four clearance game against Adelaide in round six. This season she peaked in round nine with 13 disposals, six intercepts and a career-high two goals. After the 2020 season, Mackrill signed a two year contract with the Giants, so it will be interesting to watch her build on this form into next season.
- Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson finished the season boasting 50.3% of the Giants’ clearances across the nine rounds. The duo have lifted their side in the middle in what has been an incredibly rough season. Parker’s brute strength complements the quick-footed agility of Beeson, creating a tough combination to shut down. It’s once the clearance is won, however, that the Giants do struggle to find efficient ball use, which will no doubt be a focus heading into 2022.
West Coast v St. Kilda – Sunday @ Mineral Resources Park
West Coast 2.0.12 | 2.0.12 | 3.0.18 | 3.2.20
St. Kilda 1.2.8 | 5.4.34 | 6.9.45 | 11.10.76
West Coast: Grace Kelly (2), Melissa Caulfield
St. Kilda: Jessica Matin (3), Caitlin Greiser (2), Darcy Guttridge, Molly McDonald, Georgia Patrikios, Kate Shierlaw, Tyanna Smith, Claudia Whitfort
West Coast: Parris Laurie (ankle)
St. Kilda: Jacqui Vogt (head)
- The Kelly sisters have been shining lights for the Eagles this year, regularly having a significant say in games. Grace has ended the season with seven goals—including two bags of two—and really solidified herself as the focal point of West Coast’s forward line. Meanwhile, Niamh has done everything to set the standard for effort and attack everywhere else on the field. Her willingness to hit contests at speed, back into packs and take the game on is a joy, and she creates so many opportunities for the Eagles with that daring mindset. Against the Saints, she had 13 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and three running bounces.
- The Eagles were in a tricky position for this game given their immense injury list. Already without captain Emma Swanson and vice captain Dana Hooker, stand-in captain Parris Laurie hurt her ankle in the warm up but unfortunately couldn’t be replaced in the side and had to battle through.
- Similar to Geelong, the Saints approached this game with nothing to lose, so attacked it with a confidence that we’ve rarely seen this season. This is the kind of confidence they need to have when taking on the best teams in the competition, not just those closer to their level. St. Kilda’s 11.10.76 was the highest score in their short history, so too their eight individual goal kickers.
- Georgia Patrikios ended her second season reminding the competition just how good she is. Her 30 disposals, seven score involvements and a goal wreaked havoc with the Eagles’ depleted defence.
- Going hand-in-hand with Patrikios was Tyanna Smith who, despite needing to get her nose patched up and playing out much of the game with strapping around her face, moved so effortlessly around the contest. Smith had 397 metres gained from her 24 disposals, but crucially, she also had seven inside 50s and kicked a goal.