In what is an uncertain time not just in sport but in the world, we were lucky to witness some really great footy over the weekend from AFLW round six—just from our TV screens and not the grounds. We’ve seen more and more bags of goals from young stars like Jasmine Garner, Kalinda Howarth and Caitlin Greiser, and Fremantle proved yet again just how hard they are to beat—even when you have them on the ropes.
Geelong v North Melbourne @ GMHBA Stadium
Geelong 2.1.13 | 3.2.20 | 3.2.20 | 3.2.20
North Melbourne | 0.2.2 | 2.3.15 | 6.4.40 | 10.6.66
Geelong: Crockett-Grills, M. McDonald, McWilliams
North Melbourne: Garner (3), Gibson (2), Abbatangelo, Bateman, Gillespie-Jones, E. King, M. King
Geelong: Morrison (ACL), Ivey (ankle)
North Melbourne: N/A
- The Cats really held strong for the first half of this game, restricting North’s forward line brilliantly and moving the ball well themselves. The turning point came early in the third quarter when young star Nina Morrison went down with what has now been confirmed as a rupture to her ACL graft. In what was a great start, the air really came out of the game at that point—exemplified by captain Melissa Hickey in tears on the field as Morrison was carted off—and North Melbourne well and truly got a handle on it from there on. It wasn’t simply the spirit that flattened Geelong, Morrison to that point had been hugely influential. In what is an unpleasant quirk, both times Morrison has registered 22 disposals in a game, she has injured her ACL the following week. The Kangaroos kicked eight goals in the second half to run over the top of the Cats, who failed to score after half time.
- A key move in the second half for North Melbourne was switching Emma King into the ruck and Vivien Saad into the forward line. It wasn’t so much that Saad was being smashed in the middle, but coming up against Aasta O’Connor is no small task and the more experienced King found herself much more evenly matched. This allowed the Roos mids to get on top in the middle and really generate a lot of possession and control of the game.
- Jasmine Garner, yet again, proved why she’s so valuable. She was part of that concerted push in the second half from the Kangaroos, gathering 18 touches, laying six tackles and kicking three goals. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Jasmine Garner is the best player in the game right now and good luck to anyone assigned to stop her come finals.
- Jenna Bruton’s work without the ball—clocking up 21 pressure acts to go along with her 21 touches—and Ash Riddell’s tenacity—23 touches and seven tackles—is what makes this North Melbourne midfield so dangerous. Their playing styles compliment one another, and while many of the plaudits go to Jasmine Garner (see above) and Emma Kearney, it’s these two that really make the group tick. It’s a risky call, but it appears that Kearney is the least impactful of the quartet, which is a pretty handy situation to be in.
- The teams went toe-to-toe in the clearance department, which is a really positive sign for the young Cats group who were able to hold their own against the aforementioned star quartet in the blue and white. This was obviously impacted by Morrison’s injury, but between Purcell, Crockett-Grills, Van De Heuvel and even Cranston, the Cats know how to win the ball and move it into space.
Brisbane v Collingwood @ Hickey Park
Brisbane 0.1.1 | 0.1.1 | 2.2.14 | 2.2.14
Collingwood 2.4.16 | 3.7.25 | 3.10.28 | 5.13.43
Brisbane: Davidson, Svarc
Collingwood: Alexander, D’Arcy, Membrey, Molloy, Rowe
Brisbane: Keeffe (ankle)
Collingwood: Layton (finger)
- Collingwood were able to do the same as they did last week, get the early jump on their opponent and then keep them at an arm’s length all day. Since their loss to Melbourne, it’s been pretty clear that their aim is to get that fast start to continue to play the game with confidence that they are able to score against whichever opponent they’re facing.
- That being said, questions still hover around the Pies’ forward line. With their conversion of 5.13 they are still searching for that reliable, consistent and accurate goal kicker that can feasibly have an impact in finals, should they get there. Should they miss finals, they will no doubt be rueing this scoreline as they certainly created enough opportunities to boost their percentage and leapfrog Melbourne into the top three of Conference B.
- Brittany Bonnici has always been an impressive player—and good ball winner—for Collingwood, but amongst names like Lambert, Davey and Molloy, she rarely gets the recognition she deserves. This week, however, Bonnici took on the challenge to hold up the Pies’ midfield in the face of Lambert being tagged very well. Her 26 disposals led the field, and her ability to win the loose ball and make use of the space at hand means she more often than not makes really good use of her possession and works hard at bringing teammates into the game.
- After copping a heavy knock in an Ebony O’Dea tackle, Sophie Conway returned to the field with her shoulder strapped up and really did do everything she could to get Brisbane in a better position. Her work in the third quarter went a long way toward the Lions’ two goals—and their keeping Collingwood goalless—and simply watching the way she moves with ball in hand is awe inspiring. It’s as if everything goes into slow motion when she gains possession and her ability to think her way through a tight situation is perfection.
- What Collingwood did very well, especially early, was simply possess the ball and not allow Brisbane to feel any sort of control of the game. In the past they’ve not been an uncontested, short kicking team—moreso a group that likes to quickly break from stoppages and then lock the ball down—but by holding onto the ball and hitting targets they just didn’t allow Brisbane a look in and it really set them up for the game.
St Kilda v Richmond @ RSEA Park
St Kilda 2.1.15 | 2.1.15 | 4.5.29 | 6.6.42
Richmond 0.0.0 | 0.2.2 | 0.2.2 | 0.3.3
St Kilda: Greiser (3), Guttridge, Shierlaw, Xenos
St Kilda: N/A
- In what is an unfortunate couple of records to hold, Richmond registered the lowest score in AFLW history and became the first team to fail to kick a goal in an AFLW game. It’s little wonder, though, when looking at the complete lack of movement in their forward line as players prepare to hit up a target. It’s almost as if they all expect Sabrina Frederick to lead and take a contested mark amongst three opposition defenders every time, so they don’t need to run in any sort of patterns or create any alternative options. No matter how hard some of their defenders and mids work up the field, they’re playing right into defenders hands if they’re going to simply stand stagnant within the forward 50.
- Monique Conti worked incredibly hard all day, showcasing silky skills when gathering the ball and attempting to create opportunities for her teammates. She played a lone hand in the midfield, however, with little support to make the most of her hard work. Leaving the field with tears rolling down her cheeks, the star was evidently devastated at the result despite her almost best on ground performance.
- Caitlin Greiser seems to have a bigger impact as each week rolls by. Her athleticism is incredible and makes her such a handful for defenders, with Richmond’s backs very concerned about her and, in turn, giving away multiple holding free kicks. It’s not simply the scoreboard impact that makes her dangerous, however, it’s her repeat efforts and ability to cover a lot of ground that keeps her in the contest even when the ball isn’t getting deep.
- The midfield duo of Georgia Patrikios and Olivia Vesely is becoming one of the premier combinations in the competition. They complement one another so well, with Vesely’s brute force and fast movement out of stoppages, and Patrikios’ almost choreographed and smooth side steps away from congestion. Both have been rightly nominated for the 2020 Rising Star award and look to become a scary prospect for years to come.
- Early in the game it seemed very clear that the way St Kilda wanted to move the ball was to hit up targets in the corridor and move it quickly forward from there. Few teams could really plan and execute such a game style but the highly skilled Saints list had it down pat. It also helped that Richmond’s defensive running could really be improved.
Melbourne v Carlton @ Traeger Park
Melbourne 2.3.15 | 3.3.21 | 3.5.23 | 3.6.24
Carlton 1.1.7 | 2.1.13 | 4.1.25 | 6.4.40
Melbourne: Hore, Perkins, Scott
Carlton: Walker (2), Egan, Gee, Harris, Prespakis
Melbourne: Goldrick (quad), Lampard (knee)
- Melbourne certainly came out with plenty of intent for this one, particularly considering how much was on the line in terms of Conference B positioning, and started the game strongly. They were able to hold Carlton at bay for half the game, but having lost important defenders Sinead Goldrick and Sarah Lampard early in the third quarter, the Blues were able to get a sniff and break through the typically solid Demons defensive structure and kicked two goals in the space of a couple of minutes. From there, Melbourne really struggled to contain Carlton, simply running out of legs in the 32 degree heat thanks to the lost rotations.
- Kate Hore put on a show early, gathering nine possessions in the first half alone, with two coming in her incredible run and goal effort. After gathering the ball on half back, the key forward saw the space ahead of her and her eyes lit up. Three bounces, a pass to Niamh McEvoy and a handball receive later, Hore kicked what may well be the goal of the year from the pocket. She spent much of the game further up the ground in an effort to combat Carlton’s outside run, and certainly didn’t lose any fans in this one.
- Last week The Roundup flagged the maturity of Lucy McEvoy as she found a way to impact the game without having much possession. This week she bounced back to the player we know her to be as she gathered 19 touches and had an immense inside game for the Blues. Her combination with Prespakis really created some havoc for Melbourne who had to work incredibly hard to shut down not one damaging midfielder, but two.
- Purely looking at numbers, Karen Paxman appears to have been the dominant player on the field, and while that wouldn’t necessarily be wrong it wouldn’t give the deserved credit to Melbourne winger Casey Sherriff. In the first half Sherriff was arguably the best player on the field with her speed a concern for Carlton, and the way she used it not just with the ball, but to pressure without the ball. It was the best of her six game career and will give her confidence moving forward of the impact she can have.
- Once Carlton got some momentum in the second half, they switched on their running game which was doubly effective in the circumstances. The overlap run of Dalton, Walker and Gee is when Carlton is most damaging and a barometer of where they’re at in a game, but it also worked to tire the Dees out, who were down two players on the bench. This became the silver bullet for Melbourne, who simply couldn’t keep up the longer the game went on.
Western Bulldogs v Fremantle @ Whitten Oval
Western Bulldogs 2.0.12 | 4.1.25 | 7.3.45 | 8.3.51
Fremantle 1.2.8 | 4.3.27 | 6.5.41 | 10.6.66
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn (2), McLeod (2), Berry, Marshall, McCarthy, Munyard
Fremantle: Sharp (3), Clifford (2), E. Antonio, K. Antonio, Flood, Miller, Pugh
Western Bulldogs: N/A
- In what many anticipated would be an easy win for the undefeated Fremantle, the Western Bulldogs played the best game of their season to push the Dockers right to the final siren. They used Fremantle’s game against them—inside pressure and outside run. This was exemplified in Ellie Blackburn’s first goal, where Katy Herron gathered the ball in defence, ran to the forward 50, hand-passing to the captain who drilled a flat kick through the goals. Her awareness of the wind and how it might impact the ball in flight was the icing on what was an incredible passage of play, and something we haven’t seen a lot of from the Dogs this year.
- Early in the game Fremantle really struggled to hit targets. The perception in the first quarter was that the wind was impacting their disposal, but they had trouble even with the wind in the second term. It was a combination of skill errors and perceived pressure from the Dogs that really caught the ladder-leaders off guard, and it worked well for the Western Bulldogs for the better part of three quarters.
- In the first half when Fremantle looked that little bit off it was—unsurprisingly—Kiara Bowers who seemed to throw the team on her back and pull them out of the rut they were in. Her work at stoppages should be shown to young midfielders wanting to learn how to position themselves and really attack the contest because she’s so clever, knowing when to go for the ball, when to go for the tackle and when to sit on the outside of the contest to create an outlet for a teammate. The ultimate team player, Bowers’ efforts also seem to often go unnoticed in lieu of flashier actions of her teammates, but she also often creates the chances for her teammates to do those flashy things. The best example of this came early in the final quarter where Bowers battled against two Dogs at the top of the 50 as O’Sullivan got the ball to the running Ebony Antonio, and proceeded to shepherd and create space for Antonio to run through and kick a stunning goal. Antonio’s efforts were rightly applauded, but without Bowers, that goal doesn’t happen.
- It was the lesser-discussed Ashley Sharp (three goals), Hayley Miller (14 disposals, seven tackles & a goal) and Gabby O’Sullivan (14 disposals) that really got Fremantle’s running game back for them in the second half. In a team that typically enjoys a very even contribution across the board, it was this trio, alongside the often mentioned Bowers and Antonios, that were able to wrestle back the game from the Dogs’ grasp and create those scoring opportunities—wind or not.
- The footy world has been crying out for Nell Morris-Dalton’s debut all season, and this week we saw why. Her efforts changed the face of the Western Bulldogs forward line, allowing Kirsten McLeod a little more freedom and requiring the full focus of Evie Gooch. This year Gooch has been a really effective rebounding defender for Fremantle but she wasn’t able to confidently leave Morris-Dalton to impact other contests or push up the ground as much because she had to be hyper aware of what Morris-Dalton was doing. She might not have kicked any of her own goals, but she allowed the Dogs’ forward line to function far more effectively than we’ve seen for weeks because she’s dangerous in the air, strong on the ground, and most importantly very, very clever.
Adelaide v GWS Giants @ Hisense Stadium
Adelaide 2.1.13 | 2.1.13 | 2.3.15 | 3.3.21
GWS Giants 1.1.7 | 2.2.14 | 3.2.20 | 4.2.26
Adelaide: Gum (2), Rajcic
GWS Giants: Staunton (2), Hicks, Tully
Adelaide: Li (AC joint)
GWS Giants: N/A
- Last week Cora Staunton’s four goals came with the caveat that they were scored against a weak Richmond team. This week, however, she presented at the ball beautifully and took strong contested marks against the more experienced Adelaide defence, really proving that she’s back in a fine patch of form. Her goals didn’t come easily off the back of packs, Staunton really stood strong in the contest and kicked nearly text book drop punts to slot her two majors. In what was one of the most impressive performances in the Giants’ history, Staunton was a significant part of that.
- In what has been an unconvincing year from the Giants, their ball movement this weekend was their best yet. They were hitting targets consistently for the first time this season and the numbers back it up as they recorded a whopping 70% disposal efficiency around the ground. Players like Rebecca Beeson, Jess Dal Pos and Haneen Zreika really led the way in this respect, and this sort of disposal really threw the typically skilful Adelaide off and cut right through their defences.
- Tait Mackrill seems to be ever the fringe player at the Giants, but in her two games so far this year, she has made a clear step up in her impact on games. Gathering a career-high 20 disposals, she provided immense support in the middle of the ground for the usual names. This seemed to catch some Crows out as they likely didn’t anticipate Mackrill as a super damaging player that required containing.
- Talking about damaging midfielders, Alyce Parker seems to finally be living up to the incredible accolades and expectation heaped on her. Parker has always been a great ball winner, but her disposal has been a little rushed or ill-considered. In the past two weeks, however, Parker has broken out of those habits and makes a far more concerted effort to move away from stoppages and take her time when disposing of the ball, and it’s made the world of difference for the whole team. The change seems to have come since Parker was well shut down by Lion Cathy Svarc, so that was potentially the circuit breaker needed to adjust her game for the better.
- The only real highlight for Adelaide in this game was the connection between senior players Courtney Gum and Erin Phillips. The pair teamed up for both of Gum’s goals and worked beautifully together across the duration of the game. In a season that very much mirrors that of 2018 for the Crows, it’s small highlights that they’ll no doubt be leaning on week to week, and this is their highlight of round six.
West Coast v Gold Coast @ Mineral Resources Park
West Coast 0.0.0 | 0.1.1 | 0.2.2 | 1.2.8
Gold Coast 1.2.8 | 2.2.14 | 4.3.27 | 5.3.33
West Coast: Bullas
Gold Coast: Howarth (4), Hickey
West Coast: G. Kelly (knee)
Gold Coast: Surman (nose)
- Ignoring the scoreline, this was a fairly even contest, West Coast just really struggled when it came to converting opportunities inside 50. Even with Emily McGuire, Danika Pisconeri and Grace Kelly in the side, they just didn’t have any meaningful shots on goal. With their bigger targets not firing, attention moves to their small forwards and the sort of impact they’ve been able to have. West Coast enjoyed three more inside 50s than the Suns but were able to register just three scoring shots to the Suns’ eight, and this really exemplifies this whole game for them.
- Dana Hooker was, as usual, a real driving force for the Eagles not only moving forward, but also defensively. Her 31 disposals, six marks and six tackles really saw her lead by example and put her body on the line. In what has effectively been their pattern this season, Hooker and Swanson dominated but the team’s lack of real connection between midfield and forward became their downfall. It’s easy to say that with time this will improve, but the reality is that the Eagles need to find a forward or two who can finish off the hard work of their leaders.
- Gold Coast were able to bring their trademark pressure and in doing so, they really matched the inside game of the Eagles. Without Hannah Dunn in the side, Dee Heslop stepped up to help Yorston out, laying ten and nine tackles respectively. This contested ball work wasn’t limited to the ground ball, either. Gold Coast took five contested marks to West Coast’s one and this was a key part of their scoreboard dominance. The Suns are a team who have clearly all bought into the plan and, unlike their opponents, this creates a connection between each part of the ground and allows them to be more concerted in their movements.
- Kalinda Howarth continues her incredible season with another four goals to her name, taking her tally to nine for the season. Somewhat emulating Danielle Ponter’s 2019 season, Howarth’s ability to create something out of nothing and kick multiple goals in multiple games is something that has stood out this year for a number of reasons. Not only is the Sun’s skill level incredible, she consistently makes the right choices and makes her teammates look better, topped off with an impressive goal sense as she can seemingly kick them from anywhere.
- In what was the second all-expansion clash of the round, the speed in which each team has been able to find a brand and connect with one another was evident. While both teams compiled their inaugural list similarly—a couple of big name players from their cross town rivals, second chances for a few delisted players from around the country and a myriad of academy signings—the Suns seem to have found their personality more consistently, and effectively. West Coast are yet to prove what they’re about other than Hooker and Swanson winning the hard ball, whereas the Suns have found some real consistency across their season. Everyone knows that they’re going to get with the Suns—tackling, pressure, outside speed and an agile forward line—and while oppositions know what to expect, the difficult part is working out how to combat it. The fact that Gold Coast is still in the running for finals is a win for the competition.