We’re officially into the second half of the 2020 season and every game can have a huge impact on ladder positioning and, therefore, finals. With a minimum margin of three goals in AFLW round five, plenty of teams are putting the foot down in order to maintain their percentage and their best chance of making it to the finals.
Gold Coast v Geelong @ Great Barrier Reef Arena
Gold Coast 0.3.3 | 2.4.16 | 2.6.18 | 2.6.18
Geelong 1.2.8 | 1.4.10 | 4.6.30 | 5.8.38
Gold Coast: Stanton, Yorston
Geelong: McWilliams (2), Clarke, Cranston, Teague
Gold Coast: N/A
- This game was effectively the tale of two halves, with the Suns falling away in the second half and being steamrolled by a very balanced Geelong side. In conditions not conducive to footy—28 degrees and 82% humidity—it resembled a wet weather slog more than anything else, and it seemed like Gold Coast simply ran out of puff late in the game. The Cats were able to cover the width of the ground effectively, shutting down Gold Coast’s main method of ball movement and forcing them to rely on individual moments of brilliance to make something happen.
- It was the duo of Jamie Stanton and Kalinda Howarth that really pushed the Suns along early, effortlessly showing off their skills by executing clever passages of play. Their connection with one another is evident, exemplified in the second quarter with the two combining for a beautiful inside 50. Howarth stepped around the mark on the wing, created some space and delivered an absolute bullet 40m to a leading Stanton, giving zero chance for any defender to get a fist in to spoil. Howarth’s ability to hit targets by foot is, quite frankly, among the best in the competition and she is the kind of player any forward would love to lead to.
- Nina Morrison was the standout player of the night, with her consistency from the first siren to the last something other players really struggled with thanks to the conditions. Racking up 22 disposals—second only to Stanton—and seven tackles, the 19-year-old was a huge influence on the Cats’ momentum shift in the second half. Her entries into 50 were clever, allowing them better and more consistent looks at goal than the Suns were able to create. This stemmed from Morrison’s hard word and decision making out of the middle.
- Jade Pregelj, yet again, stood strong in defence for Gold Coast. Her ability to contest in the air is incredible, but also her quick thinking and clean hands on the ground really does catch forwards off guard. Her endeavour was exemplified in the third quarter as Aasta O’Connor lined up for goal from outside 50, Pregelj stood the mark strongly, smothering O’Connor’s kick off the boot—no easy task. Questions will be asked if she’s not at least named in the All Australian squad come season’s end.
- The structure Kate Darby has provided Geelong in the last two weeks has been immense. The way she and McWilliams have alternated pushing up on the wing and providing a reliable aerial target inside 50 has completely changed Geelong’s ball movement. Having that bail out kick option on the wing is an important outlet when Geelong get hemmed into their defence and allows their talls to settle more into their positions. This was an issue earlier in the season, needing McWilliams as that outlet on the wing, but then needing her as an option when going into the forward line too. Each have had three scoring shots across the past two weeks for a 3.3 return.
North Melbourne v Adelaide @ North Hobart Oval
North Melbourne 2.2.14 | 5.5.35 | 7.8.50 | 9.9.63
Adelaide 1.1.7 | 1.1.7 | 1.2.8 | 3.3.21
North Melbourne: Ashmore (4), Abbatangelo (2), Garner (2), Emma King
Adelaide: Thompson (2), Ponter
North Melbourne: N/A
- North Melbourne started this wet game looking a little off, fumbling balls and dropping marks, whereas Adelaide seemed to have come ready for the conditions. Their surge mentality allowed them to slot the first goal through Ponter, but after that it was all North Melbourne. As soon as they got their touch and started to take the ball cleanly, the Roos looked truly unstoppable. They were able to get the ball inside 50 just 36 times for their 18 shots on goal. Even more impressively, they went at 68% disposal efficiency around the ground, really capitalising on their possession to punish the Crows.
- Kaitlyn Ashmore has always been known as a goal kicker, but from the wing dashing forward. Having spent 2020 as a much deeper forward, she has become a totally different danger for oppositions to contain. Ashmore played the consummate small forward’s game, kicking four goals—from a variety of angles and both out of stoppages and from set shots—and creating havoc for Adelaide’s defence who were under pressure all game. She’s now up to eight goals for the season—the most she’s ever recorded in a single season—and even more impressively, Ashmore’s kicked just the two behinds.
- Adelaide lost Najwa Allen just before the bounce to a calf strain, and while late inclusion Chelsea Biddell worked hard in defence all day, the Crows could have really used Allen on the ball when attempting to combat the enviably deep North Melbourne midfield. The usual suspects won their fair share of the ball for Adelaide—Marinoff with 26 and Hatchard with 23—but it was a war of attrition against the quartet of Kearney (26), Bruton (25), Garner (24) and Riddell (24) who all starred on the ball for the home side.
- Jasmine Garner might just have announced herself as the best player in the competition this year with her move onto the ball. She has gathered an average of 22 touches a game—up nine on last year—doubled her average tackles to 4.4 and kicked five goals in the same number of games, equaling her goal kicking tally of each of her last three seasons. It’s not just statistics, either. Garner’s ball use is always constructive, whether it’s a shot at goal or putting the ball to the advantage of a teammate, she’s able to bring her teammates into the game. To go along with all of that, Garner is just so hard to defend and will prove very damaging come finals.
- The state of Adelaide’s season is likely not something too many predicted before the season began. Despite their deep list, injuries have really cruelled them and they’ve really struggled to string together good form. Their ability to score has fallen away since last year, and more resembles their 2018 season. What do these two seasons have in common? An injured Erin Phillips. Their reliance on her is immense, and hurting them. Adelaide needs to find a solution to this, and quickly, if they’re to remain the dominant team we all anticipated.
GWS Giants v Richmond @ Robertson Oval
GWS Giants 2.5.17 | 3.8.26 | 4.13.37 | 7.14.56
Richmond 1.1.7 | 1.2.8 | 1.3.9 | 1.5.11
GWS Giants: Staunton (4), Privitelli (2), Halvorsen
GWS Giants: Nicola Barr (Hamstring)
- Few Tigers can hold their head high after this game, as the group reverted to the undisciplined, unsociable footy displayed in round one as soon as the Giants got control of the game in the second quarter. Once turning to that style of footy, the situation only got worse for them as their undisciplined acts gave the Giants further control through a series of free kicks. After a positive performance last week, taking it to the Cats, Richmond have put their hand up as the least impressive expansion team of 2020.
- It’s become typical to see Richmond outnumbered at every contest, with a couple of Tigers sucked to the ball and no-one on the outside. They’re a stagnant team that the Giants simply ran circles around all day. Tayla Stahl, Christina Bernardi, Monique Conti, Phoebe Monahan and Sabrina Frederick worked hard all day trying to swing the momentum their way, but received little support from their teammates once the ball was won.
- Cora Staunton played her best game in over two years, taking advantage of the overwhelmed Richmond defence and getting back into some form. It wasn’t simply that she kicked the four goals, it was her ability to react quickly to the situation at hand and move into the right positions—things Staunton hasn’t been doing very consistently this year—that really stood out. The real challenge now will be if she can continue this form next week against the Crows.
- The Giants really should have won this one by a lot more, with almost four times the scoring shots as Richmond, but registering just 7.14. In the tight tussle for finals, and fellow Conference A team Geelong starting to hit some real form, they would hope that this inaccuracy doesn’t come back to bite them.
- GWS are yet to put together a convincing performance against a non-expansion side. It may sound harsh, but they’ve scraped over the line against the Suns and been bullish against the Eagles and now Tigers, but against genuine contenders North Melbourne and Brisbane they looked hapless. Until they can strut their stuff against a better equipped team, they won’t be considered alongside those more impressive teams.
Carlton v St Kilda @ Ikon Park
Carlton 3.0.18 | 4.1.25 | 7.2.44 | 8.2.50
St Kilda 2.0.12 | 3.0.18 | 3.2.20 | 4.5.29
Carlton: S. Hosking (2), Egan, Gee, Harris, McEvoy, Stevens, Walker
St Kilda: Greiser (2), Shierlaw, Watt
St Kilda: N/A
- The past two weeks have seen St Kilda contain strong sides with a defensive, shut down game style. Coming into this game they clearly wanted to find more of a balance between defence and attack, and in the first half they certainly matched Carlton in that respect. Registering eight more inside 50s than the Blues and doing their best to keep the ball there—laying 11 tackles inside 50—the Saints just lacked the class and efficiency to finish the job. It is, however, a hugely positive sign for the expansion side as they look to become more attacking; they know they can create the opportunities against one of the best sides in the competition. The next step is to make the most of the chances they create.
- Nat Exon was one of the most improved players in the competition last year, but hasn’t quite reached those heights yet in 2020. Against the Blues, however, she was among the best on ground. She might have had just the ten touches trailing a host of young teammates, but her nine kicks really got them moving and her hard running, resulting in eight tackles, really led the way for the Saints. One moment in particular stood out with the ex-Blue involved in multiple contests down the field, surging the ball forward until finally gathering clean possession and drilling a pass inside 50. Her unwillingness to give up and repeated efforts did not go unnoticed.
- It would be unsurprising to see a Saint win the Rising Star award this year. The question is, which one? Georgia Patrikios seems the obvious frontrunner, but Caitlin Greiser’s influence on games is immense. Not only is her goal kicking important—now with seven to her name in 2020—but her strength up forward, booming kick and new found ability to push into defence to steady the ship makes her such an asset to this small and nimble St Kilda team. In a very tight rising star race this year, either of these Saints would be more than worthy winners.
- Speaking of young stars, Lucy McEvoy showed another reason why she is so highly touted. Registering just the four disposals, she didn’t let her lack of possession get to her, instead she adapted her game to impact in different ways, laying eight tackles and running in ways that spread St Kilda’s defence and created space for her teammates. Not to mention her goal as the Blues started to push away in the third quarter. It’s easy for a typically prolific ball winner to hang their head if they’re not getting a touch early, but McEvoy’s ability to put that aside and find other ways to help the team proved her maturity.
- Carlton’s 8.2 is a far cry from their 6.12 and 3.6 score lines of round one and two respectively. They seemed able to show off their assets as they’ve done in the past, but finally register the score to back it up. The outside run and overlap created by quicker players like Georgia Gee, Chloe Dalton and Brooke Walker was stunning to watch, but more importantly the Blues were able to capitalise up forward by keeping their structures or having the likes of Vescio, Hosking and Stevens read the play and get into useful forward positions. The connection as a team that we saw late last season from them has amplified their talent and makes them a dangerous finals prospect.
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs @ Morwell Recreation Reserve
Collingwood 3.0.18 | 4.2.26 | 6.3.39 | 8.5.53
Western Bulldogs 0.1.1 | 0.2.2 | 2.3.15 | 3.3.21
Collingwood: Molloy (3), Alexander (2), Rowe (2), Membrey
Western Bulldogs: McLeod (2), Lamb
Western Bulldogs: N/A
- Frankly quite disappointing from the Western Bulldogs. They allowed Collingwood to do to them what they did to St Kilda in round one. The Pies got the jump early and put a gap between them that the Dogs simply couldn’t close, even after evening the contest up. Their lackadaisical approach put them on the back foot early and their second half surge simply came too late.
- Brianna Davey played one of the all time great midfield games. The first AFLW player to register 30 touches and ten tackles—the epitome of two way running—Davey was involved in everything. Her leg and core strength makes her so hard to bring down in a tackle, allowing her more time than most with the ball and because of that she tends to use it really well. It’s taken a few rounds for Davey to really settle into the season, but this week Collingwood fans really got to see what she’s made of, and it’s exciting.
- The Dogs are crying out for a big key forward target. Bonnie Toogood was playing that role, but upon her injury they’ve put Kirsten McLeod in there. While McLeod has certainly been impressive, and playing well beyond her size, this means they’ve lost some of their little outside speed and it’s really hurting them. Once again, the question is: if Nell Morris-Dalton is fit—and there hasn’t been anything to suggest that she isn’t—why isn’t she debuting?
- Sarah Rowe played her best game in her two years in the black and white, becoming a real forward target for Collingwood and helping to stretch the Dogs’ defence. With her two goals and 21 touches, her running and strength allowed Chloe Molloy to play more freely in the forward line—resulting in three goals of her own. Rowe has been threatening a game like this all season, going to another level, and she ran rings around the Dogs. The more she plays the game, the more her footy IQ grows and this is seeing her get into better positions to impact the game and her ability to read the play has grown exponentially.
- Is this something all too familiar from Collingwood? Their lack of reliable forward options seemed a thing of the past after their win over Carlton, with D’Arcy, Membrey and Allen stepping up, but since then they faded into the background. This time it’s Molloy, Rowe and Alexander against a weakened Bulldogs side. The Pies will need to show their forward line can function across consecutive weeks before fans get ahead of themselves and start thinking about finals.
Melbourne v West Coast @ Casey Fields
Melbourne 2.0.12 | 3.0.18 | 8.3.51 | 10.6.66
West Coast 0.0.0 | 1.1.7 | 1.1.7 | 1.1.7
Melbourne: Zanker (2), Cunningham, Emonson, Hore, Lampard, McEvoy, Parry, Perkins, Scott
West Coast: Collier
West Coast: N/A
- Melbourne’s disposal efficiency around the ground was impressive, their performance against St Kilda a distant memory, and something their fans are no doubt excited to see. It allowed them to hit better targets heading forward and have more control of the game. This was led by the expected—Paxman, Pearce, Birch, O’Dea—and the unexpected—Newman, Perkins, Parry. This relieved pressure on their defence that was without the important Meg Downie, allowing them to make the ground really small, pushing up the field and forming a barrier across the ground to retain the ball in their forward half for much of the game.
- At risk of sounding like a broken record, the Eagles simply rely on too few players to get the job done. The quartet of Swanson, Hooker, Laurie and Cameron do much of the heavy lifting and until more of an even performance becomes their regular showing, they’ll continue to be belted. Unlike some other performances we’ve seen result in heavy losses, it’s not from lack of trying. The Eagles have lifted their pressure and do push for turnovers, but ball in hand they too often succumb to that pressure coming the other way and through broken structures and some poor choices, they hand control to their more experienced opposition. Skillful senior players like Kellie Gibson and Cassie Davidson need to get more involved in games and have more of an influence to share that reliance a little wider.
- Melbourne’s setup was interesting to observe. With Lauren Pearce out they rotated the ruck between Zanker, Cordner, Cunningham and Perkins which worked well against strong tap ruck Parris Laurie, and also provided assistance at ground level. Each proved important across their own line, too, with Zanker’s two goals and six tackles, Cunningham’s goal, six tackles and deft touch assisting teammates, Cordner’s strength and marking in defence and Perkins’ beautiful kicking, marking, tackling and goal. Ideally for the Dees Lauren Pearce comes back for their clash with Carlton next week, but they at least know that this quartet is versatile enough to get the job done.
- Once again, Melbourne enjoyed a spread of goal kickers which created havoc for the Eagles’ defence. They’ve had 12 players kick a goal this year, and countless others threaten to do the same. This is the kind of forward line required to take on the best defensive units. Tegan Cunningham, while not the contested marking player of last year, has found other ways to impact the game, and Shelley Scott adds so much to Melbourne’s setup ahead of the ball. Her lead up ability and elite kick make her one of the most dangerous players in the competition.
- The Dees’ defence has been outstanding all year, conceding just 84 points—the least of any team by more than six goals—allowing them to boast the highest percentage in the league after round five. More impressive is that this has largely been done with Cordner sitting in the ruck. The additions of Libby Birch and Daisy Pearce into that backline has been a game changer for Melbourne, not just in terms of their possession but their awareness to always retain their structure and not get sucked up to the the ball making them vulnerable to the quick ball over the back. The real challenge for them will be the forward lines of Carlton and Fremantle in the coming weeks.
Fremantle v Brisbane @ Fremantle Oval
Fremantle 5.2.32 | 6.3.39 | 6.4.40 | 7.8.50
Brisbane 2.2.14 | 3.3.21 | 4.6.30 | 4.8.32
Fremantle: Duffy (4), Sharp (2), E. Antonio
Brisbane: Wuetschner (2), Lugg, Wardlaw
Fremantle: Roxy Roux (eye)
- Fremantle well and truly got their quick game style back against the team who was meant to be their biggest challenge yet: the previously undefeated Lions. Settling straight into their groove, the Dockers opened up an unassailable three goal lead in the first quarter that Brisbane simply could not rein in. They now remain the only undefeated team in the competition, sitting atop the Conference B ladder with huge games against the chasing Melbourne and Carlton ahead.
- The run and carry provided by players like Sharp and Houghton in the first quarter certainly caught Brisbane off guard as they simply couldn’t keep up. Capitalising was Sabreena Duffy whose first six disposals were shots on goal. In a game that somewhat mirrored her round one performance, the small forward was at her destructive best, jumping on every opportunity and—save for some slight inaccuracy—could have driven the dagger through Brisbane’s hearts even further with her eight scoring shots netting 4.4.
- The other key part of the Dockers’ game style is their pressure, and they used it to their advantage beautifully, worrying turnovers out of the typically solid Brisbane defence and unsettling their back five. A nervous backline group combined with the wide array of dangerous forwards Fremantle boasts was a recipe for disaster in Brisbane’s books. Kiara Bowers’ casual 15 tackles certainly assisted this.
- As we’ve seen for much of the season, Fremantle’s midfield is happy to concede the clearance count and win the ball back on the outside instead of getting pulled into a really contested game without their spread—as happened in their tight clash with the Saints last week.
- A hard ask, but Svarc was unable to come close to her performance last week—against a much tougher opposition no doubt—registering the 12 touches and six tackles. In a positive for the Lions, however, Jess Wuetschner registered her first goals for the season, proving she hasn’t lost her uncanny goal sense and is starting to hum as finals approach.