With a game still to play, and two games currently postponed, the 2022 AFLW ladder is beginning to take shape as four teams remain undefeated.
Geelong v Collingwood — Friday @ Kardinia Park
Geelong 1.2.8 | 2.3.15 | 2.4.16 | 3.6.24
Collingwood 1.0.6 | 3.3.21 | 4.3.27 | 5.5.35
Geelong: Kate Darby, Jordan Ivey, Darcy Moloney
Collingwood: Chloe Molloy (2), Sophie Alexander, Eliza James, Aishling Sheridan
Last week the Cats weren’t nearly tight enough when defending their opponents, especially as Carlton rebounded out of defence. This was rectified against Collingwood on Friday night. Geelong’s defensive efforts across half forward were impressive, leading to more control of territory and giving themselves better looks at the goals. While it didn’t necessarily transfer to the scoreboard, it’s an indicator of improvement for the inexperienced side.
Geelong’s record might reflect the 0-3 start to their tough 2021 season, but it’s in fact a very different story. Last year the Cats’ average losing margin over the first three rounds was 35.3, while kicking just 34 points of their own. This year, their average losing margin is a slim 11 points—including games against the highly fancied Pies and Kangaroos. The youth and lack of experience running out each week for Geelong is bound to result in some inconsistency during games, but overall they’ve certainly tightened up and have found some system. 0-3 doesn’t tell the whole story.
At the contest, 41 gamer Jaimee Lambert spent plenty of time going head-to-head with third gamer Georgie Prespakis. The young Cat showed off her skills, gathering 11 disposals, three clearances and laying seven tackles, but was often seen leaving Lambert to go and win her own ball, while the Magpie got to work. This awareness of one’s direct opponent will come with more experience for Prespakis, as Lambert cleverly positioned herself to win 22 disposals, seven clearances and lay nine tackles.
The youth at Geelong has, rightly, received plenty of attention so far this season, but it was a draftee for Collingwood who stole the show on Friday night. In the forward half, Eliza James created some headaches for the Cats’ defence. Ending with 12 disposals and a goal, the eighteen year old’s speed in attack was impressive, and her willingness to attempt second and third efforts to retain the ball inside 50 bodes well for the Pies’ forward line for the long term.
Run and carry isn’t something we’ve seen a lot of from Geelong in recent seasons, but that changed on Friday evening when Sophie Van De Heuvel ran from defence to receive a handball at half back and took off. Evading a tackle, Van De Heuvel analysed her options going forward and neatly kicked to Jordan Ivey in a one-on-one, resulting in the Cats’ first goal of the game. This willingness to take on the game, take some risks and attack with intent has been a significant change for the side.
West Coast v Adelaide — Saturday @ Punt Road
West Coast 1.0.6 | 1.1.7 | 1.3.9 | 1.3.9
Adelaide 1.1.7 | 3.2.20 | 5.4.34 | 6.6.42
West Coast: Aimee Schmidt
Adelaide: Justine Mules (2), Ashleigh Woodland (2), Eloise Jones, Erin Phillips
West Coast: N/A
Adelaide: Anne Hatchard (plantar fascia)
After a tricky week, West Coast started the game strongly around the contest and largely limited Adelaide’s ability to freely use the ball in space. They even managed to jag an early goal through free agent Aimee Schmidt. Unfortunately, this was an unsustainable game style for the Eagles.
West Coast wanted to play it safe, often kicking down the line and ignoring better options inboard. This made them predictable, and easy to combat as talls Montana McKinnon, Sarah Allan and Marjiana Rajcic clogged up the wing and made it hard for the Eagles to maintain possession.
When they were able to get the ball to half forward, too often the Eagle in possession was looking inside 50 to a stagnant forward line. With little movement, the Crows were able to camp back there and as the kicks came in long and high, win the ball in the air. More movement, and a lowering of the eyes when going into attack would do the Eagles well going forward.
After a really strong start to the season, Anne Hatchard was felled by a plantar fascia injury in the third quarter which saw her miss the remainder of the game. As part of Adelaide’s one-two punch in the midfield, someone needed to step up into Hatchard’s hard running, hybrid position—able to win the hard ball and transition to the outside. Eloise Jones has spent much more time up the field than we have seen in the past, and was exactly the player to put her hand up. Ending the game with a career-high 20 disposals and four tackles, Jones also got forward to kick a goal.
It’s easy to look at Ebony Marinoff’s game and just see it as a standard performance from the inaugural Crow, but the standard that Marinoff maintains is elite. Her 23 disposals, while on track with her 2021 average, were used at an impressive 78.3% efficiency, while also racking up 311 metres gained and laying six tackles.
Melbourne v St. Kilda — Saturday @ Casey Fields
Melbourne 1.0.6 | 2.5.17 | 3.5.23 | 9.10.64
St. Kilda 1.2.8 | 2.2.14 | 3.5.23 | 3.5.23
Melbourne: Tayla Harris (3), Tyla Hanks (2), Megan Fitzsimon, Kate Hore, Daisy Pearce, Lauren Pearce
St. Kilda: Molly McDonald, Jacqui Vogt, Nicola Xenos
St. Kilda: N/A
Very few pundits gave the Saints much of a chance in this game against Melbourne. The Dees were flying, coming into the round undefeated and the highest scoring team in the competition, meanwhile St. Kilda was winless and had kicked just five goals for the season. Nevertheless, the Saints hit the ground running at Casey Fields, applying immense pressure which prevented Melbourne from using the ball how they wanted. They laid a massive 75 tackles for the game—22 more than their opponents— and had the game on their terms for three quarters.
In the middle, Tilly Lucas-Rodd continued her great form. She won a game high 22 disposals, had 364 metres gained and laid nine tackles for the match, setting the standard for the Saints right at the source.
Going forward, St. Kilda has been guilty of not giving their forwards the best opportunity to win the ball. That changed on Saturday as they neatly hit up teammates inside 50 on multiple occasions, highlighted by a beautiful kick from debutant Ashleigh Richards to find Nicola Xenos in the forward pocket. While their 16 inside 50s was their lowest count for the season, they were able to take five marks in the forward arc and make more of those entries than we’ve seen in the past.
Demon Lauren Pearce played the dominant role she has become known for, winning hitouts to advantage then following up when the ball hits the ground. Her 20 hitouts and five clearances were both game highs, but it was her goal in the final quarter that stole the show. Winning the ball out of the ruck at a forward stoppage 35 metres from goal, Pearce turned away from the congestion and jammed the ball on her boot for a stunning goal, and the sixth of her career.
Melbourne’s final quarter flurry broke the hearts of Saints fans, as they made a zero-sum game at three quarter time into a 41 point margin in the space of 15 minutes. The home side kicked six goals from 11 scoring shots in the last term by dominating territory and winning quick and direct clearances out of the middle. Five different players kicked goals in that fourth quarter, proving the spread of options Melbourne has at its disposal.
Richmond v Fremantle — Saturday @ Punt Road
Richmond 0.3.3 | 3.4.22 | 5.4.34 | 7.5.47
Fremantle 1.1.7 | 4.6.30 | 6.8.44 | 11.11.77
Richmond: Christina Bernardi, Katie Brennan, Sarah D’Arcy, Kodi Jacques, Sophie Molan, Tayla Stahl, Emelia Yassir
Fremantle: Kara Antonio (2), Gemma Houghton (2), Ebony Antonio, Dana East, Mikayla Hyde, Hayley Miller, Roxy Roux, Aine Tighe, Makaela Tuhakaraina
Richmond: Harriet Cordner (ACL)
A tight contest early, Richmond went with Fremantle through the middle of the ground and put a defence missing Janelle Cuthbertson under pressure. Unfortunately for the Tigers, a lack of discipline in the second half really allowed the visitors to break away on the scoreboard and win control. An incident between Laura McClelland and Ebony Antonio which saw Antonio on her haunches and eventually leave the field saw emotions erupt as the Dockers went in to bat for their teammate. A fiery start between these two teams who met for the first time on Saturday.
Monique Conti continued a stunning start to the season, breaking Erin Phillips’ record for most consecutive games with 10+ contested possessions. Conti’s ten contested possessions on Saturday saw her extend her streak to a previously unseen ten games, and there is no reason to think that will end soon given the form she is in.
Fremantle adapted to the wind particularly well up forward—no surprise given the notorious wind at the Dockers’ home ground of Fremantle Oval. When kicking with the wind in the second and fourth quarters, Fremantle’s forward line set up very high. One player—typically Gemma Houghton or Roxy Roux—would begin in the goal square to adhere to the 5-6-5 positioning rules, but the remaining four forwards would sit right on the 50m arc ready to run toward the contest once the ball was in play. This created plenty of space up forward so when they won the ball higher up the field, they were able to get the ball in long and out the back into space. This proved fruitful, as they kicked 56 points with the wind, while Richmond was only able to kick 15 points with the wind as an advantage.
Another advantage Fremantle has is their wide array of goal kickers. This was a concern for some coming into the season—who was going to kick their goals?—the answer, as it turns out, is everyone. The Dockers equalled the record for most individual goal kickers with nine, while two players kicked their first ever goal.
In an eerie parallel to the Melbourne v St. Kilda game that immediately preceded it, Fremantle broke the scoreboard open in the final quarter as they piled on five goals. It was captain Hayley Miller’s breakaway from stoppages that set up more than one scoring opportunity, an impressive feat given the 33 degree heat both sides were playing in.
North Melbourne v GWS Giants — Sunday @ Arden Street
North Melbourne 3.3.21 | 5.5.35 | 7.12.54 | 7.12.54
GWS Giants 0.0.0 | 0.0.0 | 1.1.7 | 4.3.27
North Melbourne: Daria Bannister (2), Ellie Gavalas (2), Daisy Bateman, Jasmine Garner, Emma Kearney
GWS Giants: Chloe Dalton, Jess Doyle, Rebecca Privitelli, Cora Staunton
North Melbourne: N/A
GWS Giants: N/A
For three quarters, a lack of proactivity from the Giants effectively handed the win to North Melbourne. As the Giants have become comfortable with relying too heavily on too few, when those players—Alyce Parker, Alicia Eva, Cora Staunton—are limited in their impact, the team is unable to find any meaningful ball movement or control of the game. Eva has averaged 23.5 disposals across the first two rounds, and Parker 20, but against the Kangaroos each player won just 15 disposals, while Staunton was blanketed by an experienced backline.
On the brighter side for GWS, boom recruit Chloe Dalton showed her wares. Streaming down the wing with the ball on multiple occasions, she looked to be their key playmaker to break the monotony of long kicks to packs of players.
North Melbourne used the ball really well, and have been the best team in using the ball so far this season. This allowed them to simply control play at their will, and was assisted in the hard running they were doing right across the field. The Kangaroos are constantly on the move, looking to either create an option for a teammate with the ball, or draw an opponent out of space to allow someone else to use it. Effectively, North Melbourne did to the Giants what Adelaide did to the Kangaroos last week.
They didn’t simply use the ball well, either. North Melbourne won 50 more disposals than their opposition, but also laid 15 more tackles than the Giants. This is a testament to their work rate.
Once again, Ashleigh Riddell got the job done. Ending the game with 23 disposals, six clearances, five tackles and a game high 402 metres gained. Arguably, Riddell has put her hand up as the most important midfielder at the Kangaroos, with consistent output week in, week out.