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The Round Up: AFLW Round Three 2021

No crowds in Victoria, one of the best games we’ve seen yet, four teams undefeated and Fremantle remain unbeatable. AFLW round three had it all.

Isabel Huntington took a career-high nine marks this week against Geelong. Image: Megan Brewer AFLW Round Three
Isabel Huntington took a career-high nine marks this week against Geelong. Image: Megan Brewer

Geelong v Western Bulldogs – Friday @ GMHBA Stadium

Geelong 0.0.0 | 0.1.1 | 1.2.8 | 1.3.9
Western Bulldogs 1.1.7 | 1.3.9 | 1.3.9 | 3.6.24

Goals

Geelong: Phoebe McWilliams
Western Bulldogs: Isabel Huntington, Jess Fitzgerald, Kirsten McLeod

Injuries

Geelong: N/A
Western Bulldogs: Ashleigh Guest (eye)

  • Geelong are still having issues going forward, and that was only exacerbated in this game. Too often is Phoebe McWilliams an outnumbered option forward with little support, but she is also important further up the field. The way she was presenting as an option up on the wing, taking six marks—two contested—and registering 215 metres gained. The issue being, with McWilliams up the field, there wasn’t really a forward target.
  • The same problem was evident when looking at each side’s ability to mark inside 50. McWilliams herself took six marks for the game, just one inside 50—her team’s total tally—whereas the Dogs found nine marks within their forward 50. In the process, Isabel Huntington took a career-best nine marks, four of which were contested. Combined with the likes of Ellie Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb, Bonnie Toogood and Brooke Lochland, the Dogs have found a way to dominate the air in games this year.
  • While Jess Fitzgerald continues to impress in her debut year, kicking another stunning running goal, Sarah Hartwig maintained a reliable, consistent standard in defence. The way she was able to push up onto the wing, win the ball and break out into space—particularly in the first half—was a glimpse of great things to come for the Dogs.
  • The Cats seem to have taken on the key issue facing the Eagles last year—relatively strong in the contest, but unable to take any control on the outside. This leads to consistent pressure when attempting to use the ball, and makes every attempt forward incredibly difficult.
  • Ellie Blackburn, yet again, turned it on. With 25 disposals, the captain might not have kicked a goal for the first time this season, but won five clearances and laid nine tackles. Meanwhile for the Cats, Amy McDonald has continued her career-best form. She won a game-high eight clearances, 23 disposals and laid five tackles for the evening, and had a hand in three of Geelong’s four scores.

GWS Giants v Gold Coast – Saturday @ Blacktown International Sportspark

GWS Giants 2.3.15 | 2.5.17 | 2.6.18 | 2.6.18
Gold Coast 0.0.0 | 0.1.1 | 0.1.1 | 1.2.8

Goals

GWS Giants: Taylah Davies, Alicia Eva
Gold Coast: Jamie Stanton

Injuries

GWS GIants: N/A
Gold Coast: N/A

  • Gold Coast’s issues forward have continued, registering just three scoring shots for the game. They’re finding themselves too focused with getting up the ground to assist in defence, so by the time they’ve won the ball, they’re desperately outnumbered in attack. The Suns also invite a lot of pressure with their ball movement and skill execution, so when they do go inside 50, it’s quite shallow, giving themselves very few meaningful opportunities to score.
  • Alison Drennan has really shown why the Suns were excited to recruit her during the off season, taking control in the midfield given the absence of Jacqui Yorston. Among her 21 disposals was a game high nine clearances and 12 tackles, proving her impact both with and without the ball.
  • On the other side of the contest, Alyce Parker continues her incredible season, having taken her game to a new level after her All Australian 2020 year. She’s averaging six more disposals a game than last year, but more importantly, her disposal efficiency has increased from 58% to 66%. This is seeing her have more damaging impact on games this year than ever previously.
  • Tait Mackrill played her first game of the season, and while gathering just six disposals—all kicks—her impact was obvious early in the game. Thriving in the slippery conditions, she stood tall early in the midfield, both pressuring the opposition and setting up teammates in the forward line. While she did fade as the game went on, it would be encouraging to see Alan McConnell continue to select her to see what sort of steam she can gather over consecutive games.
  • You’d be hard pressed not to find someone not at the very least relieved for the Giants. After the tumultuous off season they’ve experienced, the fact that they’ve even hit the park, let alone been competitive, is miraculous. For them now to have returned to Sydney, and in their first game in front of a home crowd, pulled out a gritty win in wet conditions is a testament to the character of this group.

St. Kilda v Carlton – Saturday @ RSEA Park

St. Kilda 1.1.7 | 1.2.8 | 2.4.16 | 2.4.16
Carlton 0.0.0 | 3.1.19 | 5.1.31 | 6.4.40

Goals

St. Kilda: Caitlin Greiser, Kate Shierlaw
Carlton: Nicola Stevens (2), Lauren Brazzale, Alison Downie, Elise O’Dea, Madison Prespakis

Injuries

St. Kilda: N/A
Carlton: N/A

  • For the second week in a row, St. Kilda co-captain Kate Shierlaw has played with a new confidence. Shierlaw took another eight marks—three of which were contested, making her the second best contested mark in the competition so far this year—and was rewarded this week with a goal. She not only positions herself to be as damaging as possible, but attacks the aerial contest in a way that rarely concedes possession. If Shierlaw isn’t taking the mark, she’s halving the contest and bringing it to ground.
  • The return of Lucy McEvoy might not seem like a massive deal in the context of Gab Pound and Mua Laloifi’s inclusions, but the flexibility her inclusion provides Carlton is significant. Her skill and strength forces opponents to constantly be aware of her, particularly given she can play across all lines. While not winning a lot of the ball—eight disposals—she used it at 100% efficiency.
  • Carlton’s midfield found its rhythm for the first time in 2021. With Madison Prespakis back to her damaging best, others seemed to lift off the back of that leadership. Grace Egan had possibly the best game of her career—24 disposals, six clearances, three tackles—which made this midfield group finally resemble the side we saw last year.
  • The role Elise O’Dea played was quite an interesting one. Assumedly with Daniel Harford anticipating that the wind would cause the ball to live at one end of the ground, O’Dea seemed to stay at that end to either support in defence, or provide another dangerous forward option. In her best outing as a Blue, and her most disposals since 2019, O’Dea kicked a goal and gained 341 metres with her 21 disposals.
  • An enticing duo for years to come, the seeming ease with which Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith move through the contest is brilliant to watch, and will only improve over time. In her debut season, Smith is averaging 14 disposals and five tackles while also kicking two important goals, while Patrikios is averaging 23 disposals, five tackles and just under four clearances. Keep in mind, they’re both still teenagers.

Melbourne v North Melbourne – Saturday @ Casey Fields

Melbourne 1.3.9 | 7.4.46 | 8.4.52 | 9.6.60
North Melbourne 2.1.13 | 3.1.19 | 7.3.45 | 8.3.51

Goals

Melbourne: Jacqueline Parry (3), Tegan Cunningham (2), Shelley Scott (2), Kate Hore, Karen Paxman
North Melbourne: Daria Bannister (2), Jasmine Garner (2), Sophie Abbatangelo, Grace Campbell, Isabella Eddey, Emma Kearney

Injuries

Melbourne: N/A
North Melbourne: N/A

  • Melbourne’s forward line continues to produce the goods, kicking their equal-third highest score ever in AFLW. The resurgence of Tegan Cunningham has had a massive hand in this, kicking another two goals and being involved in five scores with her 12 disposals. Alongside her, Jacqui Parry kicked a game-high three goals, playing closer to the goal square this week while also laying six tackles. The consistency in this forward line is made more obvious, with Cunningham and Kate Hore two of ten players to have kicked a goal in every round this year.
  • The breakdown of each side by quarter this season has been particularly interesting. Melbourne has now kicked 51% of its score—13.3.81—in second quarters, including a massive six goals in the second quarter this week. Meanwhile, prior to this match, the Roos were yet to concede a score in a third quarter, while kicking almost five goals of their own. While they did finally concede a goal in the third to Melbourne, it was also in this quarter that they staged their comeback, with four goals and most of the control.
  • It’s the effort of Jasmine Garner that cannot be ignored when it comes to the Kangaroos. Garner spent the bulk of the first half largely in the forward line, gathering six disposals, laying five tackles and kicking a goal. In the second half, however, she played far more time up around the ball and was incredibly damaging as a result. Ending the game with 15 disposals, 12 tackles, three clearances, two contested marks and two goals. The star has now equalled her personal goal tally of each of her first three AFLW seasons—five goals.
  • Tyla Hanks’ effort in the midfield is worth discussing again. Despite the triumphant return of Maddi Gay—16 disposals, seven tackles, four clearances—and another typical Karen Paxman performance—25 disposals, one goal, four inside 50s, 379 metres gained—Tyla Hanks stole the show. Off the back of her rising star nomination last week, Hanks played brilliant two-way football, registering 22 disposals, nine tackles and seven clearances.
  • It’s worth noting that this was one of the best AFLW games yet—and not simply due to the high scoring nature of it. The beauty of this match was in the small moments. A desperate Daisy Pearce lunge to knock the ball forward, a pouncing Daria Bannister finally getting the most out of her body, a Karen Paxman v Emma Kearney head to head battle, Irish recruits Aileen Gilroy and Sinead Goldrick each playing damaging defensive roles. It was the knowledge that just one team would remain undefeated by the end of it, and that neither side was willing to budge an inch. Now, imagine all of this with full-time athletes able to focus solely on improving their craft.

Adelaide v Fremantle – Sunday @ Norwood Oval

Adelaide 0.2.2 | 0.2.2 | 0.5.5 | 1.7.13
Fremantle 0.0.0 | 2.1.13 | 5.1.31 | 7.1.43

Goals

Adelaide: Erin Phillips
Fremantle: Gemma Houghton (2), Ashley Sharp (2), Sabreena Duffy, Tiah Haynes, Bianca Webb

Injuries

Adelaide: N/A
Fremantle: N/A

Related—The Round Up AFLW Round Two 2021

  • It’s impossible to talk about this game without focusing heavily on Kiara Bowers. Everyone is well aware of the contested side of her game—the in and under work and tackling—but the thing that lifts her above a typical inside midfielder is the way in which she methodically works from contest to contest and finds space to use the ball. There were effectively two phases of this game—the early arm wrestle and the more free-flowing second half—and Kiara Bowers excels at both styles. Winning a game-high 13 tackles, an equal game-high 23 disposals, three inside 50s and six clearances, she works as hard as anyone in the competition and should certainly be considered a more rounded player than she currently is. 
  • Leading into the round, this game stood out as the most enticing offering. There was plenty to like—Fremantle’s last home and away loss was against the Crows, the Dockers were on the longest winning streak in AFLW history, Adelaide looked to be back in their stunning 2019 form. While it didn’t end up being the kind of outside running shootout many expected, the match was certainly enthralling nonetheless. With their victory, Fremantle has now won ten games in a row—their last loss being their 2019 preliminary final win against Carlton—and are headed home to face Gold Coast on Saturday.
  • Janelle Cuthbertson’s work when Erin Phillips played forward was key to the Dockers’ success in this one. While Phillips ended the match with 19 disposals, six marks and a goal, she was unable to impact the game as we know she can—and this was largely thanks to Cuthbertson wearing the star like a glove. Cuthbertson had ten disposals, three marks, four rebound 50s and, crucially, eight intercepts for the match, continuing her stellar form this season.
  • The absence of Chelsea Randall due to concussion greatly impacted the Crows’ ball movement, especially when going forward. Randall is so clever, and because of this regularly delivers the ball forward in a way that best advantages her Crows teammates. Without Randall sending the ball forward, they did struggle to score, and even when they did score it was at just 13% efficiency.
  • Another feel-good story of the round is Tiah Haynes—previously listed by the Dockers, she lost her spot because of multiple persistent injuries. Re-drafted this year, she has been an important contributor in the midfield and defence, but this week snuck forward and kicked the first goal of her nine-game AFLW career. The response from her teammates could not be matched, and it’s wonderful to see Tiah Haynes making a strong return to the competition.

Richmond v Collingwood – Sunday @ Swinburne Centre

Richmond 1.0.6 | 1.3.9 | 2.4.16 | 4.7.31
Collingwood 3.0.18 | 4.2.26 | 7.6.48 | 7.6.48

Goals

Richmond: Ellie McKenzie (2), Tayla Stahl, Courtney Wakefield
Collingwood: Aishling Sheridan (2), Sophie Alexander, Tarni Brown, Brianna Davey, Joanna Lin, Chloe Molloy

Injuries

Richmond: N/A
Collingwood: N/A

  • Frustrating is the most apt descriptor of this game. Richmond had more control around the ball than we’ve previously seen, but they lacked any sort of composure when going forward. It was very much a kick and hope game from many senior Tigers, consistently kicking either to an outnumber inside 50, or directly to an opponent set up well in defence. Only a handful of times did Richmond lower their eyes when moving inside 50, and actually gave their teammates the opportunity to mark on a lead or protect the ball—a particular Maddy Brancatisano forward entry in the final quarter leaps to mind—but it just wasn’t enough.
  • Meanwhile, Collingwood’s strong, smart defensive unit lapped up their opponents’ wasteful forward movement. Again led by Stacey Livingstone, the likes of Lauren Butler and Ruby Schleicher continued their aggressive, attacking style of defence and had a big hand in developing Collingwood’s early lead. It must also be mentioned that this is a defensive group yet to welcome back Ash Brazill.
  • Ellie McKenzie stood tall for the Tigers and, after her first two rounds largely playing as a big-bodied midfielder, showed what she could do out in space and up forward. The buzz word again is composure, and the teenager has it in droves—this being more obvious given the utter lack of it from many of her senior teammates. McKenzie led her team with two goals, gathered 12 disposals, five tackles and three clearances. The kid can do it all.
  • McKenzie wasn’t the only young player to kick her first goal in this game, either. Enthusiastic Collingwood second-gamer Joanna Lin beautifully snapped her first from a deft Aishling Sheridan handpass, as did Tarni Brown from a free kick in the goal square. Brown also dug in defensively to lay seven tackles for the game. It’s been said countless times, but it’s worth repeating; isn’t it incredible to see the young talent breaking through now that girls aren’t forced out of footy at age 12.
  • Brittany Bonnici, yet again, put her hand up as one of the hardest working players in the AFLW. With another casual 31 disposals—the second most by a Collingwood player in the AFLW—Bonnici regularly disposes of the ball and then runs to become another outlet for the ball carrier. This led to ten marks around the ground in this game, as well as five clearances and 380 metres gained. She is the most consistent Magpie, week in, week out.

Brisbane v West Coast – Monday @ Hickey Park

Brisbane 1.0.6 | 3.1.19 | 8.5.53 | 10.5.65
West Coast 1.5.11 | 2.6.18 | 2.6.18 | 2.8.20

Goals

Brisbane: Taylor Smith (3), Dakota Davidson (2), Ally Anderson, Lauren Arnell, Emily Bates, Greta Bodey, Jesse Wardlaw
West Coast: Andrea Gilmore, Aisling McCarthy

Injuries

Brisbane: N/A
West Coast: Andrea Gilmore (head)

  • Pressure from West Coast was the most obvious aspect of the game in the first quarter. The Eagles came out and were aware of how much Brisbane wanted to get the ball cleanly in the hands of outside runners like Sophie Conway and Orla O’Dwyer. By pressuring each disposal from the Lions and dominating the clearances in the first quarter, West Coast were able to limit any free ball movement that has become synonymous with the Lions’ style of play. It proved relatively effective, controlling the territory for much of the first quarter.
  • That being said, while they had control, the Eagles simply didn’t make the most of it. Kicking one goal from six scoring shots in the first quarter, they had plenty of chances to really do some damage but many of their snap shots on goal just faded or cruelly bounced to the wrong side of the goal post. Encouragingly, ten scoring shots is their equal-highest with just accuracy the only thing preventing them from matching their highest score of 30—registered in round four of 2020 when they beat the Western Bulldogs.
  • When the Lions got that outside game going, they took charge of this game. Runners Greta Bodey and Conway each gathered 15 disposals to force it back on Brisbane’s terms, while Lauren Arnell was a calm head, directing play with her 18 disposals and three clearances.
  • Brisbane’s scoring—much like Melbourne’s—has been a revelation this year. Last year the Lions averaged 30.43 points each game, and failed to kick ten goals in their seven games. This year, however, they’ve breached 60 points twice already, and are averaging 57 points across three games. They’re also scoring through more players each week, averaging just under five goal kickers this year, compared to just 3.3 last year.
  • Taylor Smith has really grasped her second chance at AFLW level with both hands and isn’t letting go. She has presented well around the ground as an extra tall so far this season, but this week went to a new level. Early, while West Coast controlled the territory, Smith provided an outlet on the wing for the Lions defenders to get some relief, taking five marks—three contested. But later in the game when Brisbane won control, she pushed forward and took her chances in front of goal. Smith used her 11 disposals at 82% efficiency, and kicked three goals as she continues to grow with this exciting young group.

Listen to The Play On Review with Rana Hussain & Gemma Bastiani:

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