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The Roundup: AFLW Semi Finals

It’s been an unprecedented week in footy. First the season was proceeding at empty stadiums, then the AFLW Semi Finals were to be fast tracked, and now here we sit with the 2020 season abandoned and no premier to be named. Fremantle end the season with an unblemished record, North Melbourne and Carlton were surging home and Melbourne have to face an all new type of disappointment. This week The Roundup will do its usual job—wrap up all the on field action from the AFLW Semi Finals—and next week it will be a full-season recap, so we still have some great AFLW content to share despite the unsatisfying end to the season.


North Melbourne v Collingwood @ Ikon Park

North Melbourne 1.1.7 | 2.3.15 | 4.4.28 | 5.4.34

Collingwood 1.0.6 | 4.1.25 | 4.1.25 | 5.2.32

Goals

North Melbourne: Abbatangelo, Ashmore, Bateman, Gavalas, Wright

Collingwood: Membrey (2), Cann, D’Arcy, Molloy

Injuries

North Melbourne: N/A

Collingwood: N/A

  • The Pies came out and really put their stamp on the game early, but just weren’t able to make the most of it on the scoreboard. Their improvement throughout the season set them up well for this game, combatting North Melbourne by winning clearances then playing neat, uncontested kick and mark footy that simply didn’t allow the Roos many opportunities to get their hands on the ball.
  • This all began with Sharni Layton, Collingwood’s x-factor of 2020. Her aggression and strength has proved overwhelming for many opposing rucks and she’s really set that standard for her team each week. For this final, Layton was coming off surgery on her finger for a compound fracture sustained the week earlier, but it didn’t do a thing to hamper her. For the best part of three quarters Layton was lining up against Vivien Saad and with a significant height advantage the Magpie dominated the aerial battle and really helped the Pies get control of the game. After what felt like an eternity, Scott Gowans moved Emma King into the ruck and the momentum shifted significantly. While Layton no longer had dominance, she found other ways to impact the game, laying some crucial tackles and important marks. All Australian honours are no doubt headed her way.
  • The Brianna Davey v Jasmine Garner battle was fascinating all day, and while pure stats might suggest Davey won it comfortably, Garner’s efforts definitely proved critical for the Roos. Her willingness to kick the ball to drive it forward, rather than play a handball game has been a really important aspect of her game all year, and her overhead marking in significant moments has saved the day for North Melbourne more than once.
  • It was the Pies’ unreliable forward line that ultimately proved their demise late in this game. Late in the final quarter when they were really pushing to regain the lead, the ball effectively lived in their forward half but they simply couldn’t turn that into any meaningful score. This will no doubt become a big focus for the Pies heading into 2021.
  • At the other end of the ground, North Melbourne laid 13 tackles inside 50 compared to Collingwood’s two, and as they took charge of the game in the third quarter an important part of that was their forward pressure, limiting the Pies’ ability to clear it and creating repeat opportunities for themselves.

GWS Giants v Melbourne @ Giants Stadium

GWS 0.2.2 | 1.4.10 | 3.7.25 | 3.8.26

Melbourne 0.1.1 | 1.5.11 | 1.5.11 | 4.5.29

Goals

GWS: Dal Pos, Schmidt, Staunton

Melbourne: Mithen (2), Perkins, Scott

Injuries

GWS: N/A

Melbourne: N/A

  • The first half of this game felt like a true final—an arm wrestle with little space or free flowing ball movement—and this was evident in the goalless quarter time score. Neither team was able to get clean disposal forward and it was really the captains leading their teams the best way they know how. Alicia Eva laid a game high ten tackles, while Daisy Pearce led Melbourne for disposals with her 22 touches.
  • Melbourne were able to find ways to enter 50 from the second quarter, but played right into the Giants’ hands. Rarely were they putting the ball to their teammates’ advantage, rather giving GWS defenders space to rebound back out quickly. This is backed up by the numbers, with Melbourne registering 30 inside 50s for their nine scoring shots, while the Giants registered 11 shots on goal from their 20 entries.
  • Libby Birch really did keep the Demons in the game for long enough to stage their incredible comeback. Ensuring she sat back off the play throughout the game, Birch did not allow the Giants to score with a long bomb over the back. As she cut off every kick out the back Birch really dictated play from the defensive half, as she’s been known to do all year. Melbourne’s first half really did feel the loss of Sinead Goldrick, with her run usually crucial alongside Birch’s intercept marks. But slowly Casey Sherriff and Shelley Heath found their way into the game and provided that run and carry sorely needed.
  • The Giants were soundly beaten at stoppages—losing the clearances 17 to 28—but their ability to force poor ball use from Melbourne was impressive and their way of combating the strong Melbourne midfield. It was the run of Haneen Zreika and the composure of Jess Dal Pos that really directed play for the home side, and seemed to catch Melbourne off-guard. They were a dangerous prospect heading forward, particularly with the current form of Rebecca Privitelli and Cora Staunton, and it was their third quarter—netting 2.3—that really seemed to put the stake through Melbourne hearts.
  • It was the last quarter, however, that is the real talking point of this game. Down by 14 points and only able to score one goal to three quarter time, Dees fans were no doubt having flashbacks of round three against the Saints, but it was senior players that stepped up and led the charge. The strength of Shelley Scott was crucial, with her lead-up marking making her a true forward target—something Melbourne sorely missed for the previous three quarters. Sarah Perkins’ ability to compete in the air, but also follow it up almost immediately with ground level pressure was exactly what was needed, keeping the ball inside 50 instead of allowing it to repel straight back out. Karen Paxman’s composure at the stoppage and unwillingness to let Alyce Parker’s impeccable form get the better of her allowed her to direct play out of the middle. And Lily Mithen’s match winning goal in the dying minutes was superseded only by her contested mark earning her the tricky set shot.

Fremantle v Gold Coast @ Fremantle Oval

Fremantle 2.3.15 | 5.5.35 | 8.6.54 | 12.8.80

Gold Coast 1.1.7 | 1.2.8 | 1.3.9 | 1.4.10

Goals

Fremantle: Duffy (3), Flood (2), Houghton (2), O’Sullivan (2), E. Antonio, Roux, Sharp

Gold Coast: Parker

Injuries

Fremantle: N/A

Gold Coast: Hewett (concussion), Ernst (concussion)

  • In a very similar game to last year’s preliminary final between Adelaide and Geelong, this was effectively the best team in the competition beating up on an expansion team. Gold Coast’s season has been remarkable, and has won the club as a whole many fans, but they simply weren’t up to the task to take on the undefeated Fremantle.
  • A team that has become known for its pressure, Gold Coast were smashed in the tackle stat, laying just 33 to Fremantle’s 59. This prevented them from being able to limit Fremantle’s outside ball movement and in turn, prevented them from getting any sort of handle on the game. The typically prolific Hannah Dunn and Jacqui Yorston laid just seven tackles between them, and twelve Suns registered one tackle or less for the game.
  • Roxy Roux returned after being rested against the Dogs, and boy did she remind everyone why she was Fremantle’s first draft pick ahead of the season. At 170cm she’s not the tallest of key position players, but her leap is remarkable, and her confidence to jump into packs to take contested marks has created many highlights this year. Against the Suns, Roux came from three deep in the air to pluck one of the better marks this year and—more importantly—cooly went back and slotted the goal. The moment that really stood out for her, however, was after a contest up forward where Roux won a free kick and her Gold Coast opponent was hurt. The young star was more interested in getting her opponent medical assistance than receiving the ball from a teammate. This of course isn’t the first time Roux has displayed such care, after a similar incident during her dominant U18 Championship performance.
  • Kiara Bowers has featured heavily in The Roundup throughout the 2020 season, but for good reason. The marquee Docker finished the year with 99 tackles at an average of 14.14—taking her career total across 15 games to 188—and has been one of the most consistent performers since debut. Setting the standard for her teammates, players like Katie-Jayne Grieve and Jasmin Stewart seem to really be working hard to come up to her level when it comes to pressure, and Ebony Antonio has been the ideal complimentary player to Bowers. 
  • For the first quarter and a half, Gold Coast were really running with Fremantle, and it was Mim Strom’s intercept marking in the back half that stood out as key to her team withstanding the Suns’ press. Strom’s repeat efforts and positioning have been super all year, with the young ruck following up at ground level then moving to fill gaps in their defensive line to provide support. The footy brain and team ethic Strom has displayed this year came to a head in this final, and one can only imagine just how much better she’ll be in 2021 after another preseason of strategy and training.

Related—Feature Interview: Mim Strom & Trent Cooper


Carlton v Brisbane @ Ikon Park

Carlton 1.0.6 | 2.2.14 | 4.6.30 | 6.8.44

Brisbane 1.2.8 | 1.2.8 | 2.3.15 | 2.3.15

Goals

Carlton: Gee (3), Harris, McEvoy, Vescio

Brisbane: Wardlaw, Wuetschner

Injuries

Carlton: Prespakis (ankle)

Brisbane: Campbell (back)

  • Carlton have looked their best this year when they’ve been able to get the ball on the outside, and that was a clear directive from coach Daniel Harford. It was co-captain Kerryn Harrington and first year defender Mua Laloifi who really got that ball rolling for the Blues and signalled the increased difference in the second half. The run and carry Laloifi in particular offered out of the back half was instrumental in Carlton’s control of the game after a tight first half, and certainly brought the best out of other outside runners like Walker, Dalton and Gee.
  • The Lions began the season surprising the AFLW world with their strong, high scoring performances putting them at the top of Conference A’s ladder, but their season petered away as teams found out how to limit their forward output. This game was very much their season in a nutshell—starting strongly and showing more fight than maybe was expected, but unable to sustain it for the full four quarters. By no means does this lose them respect, however, it’s simply a sign of a young team that just didn’t have the endurance more experienced sides enjoy.
  • While Carlton dominated possession, Brisbane did work particularly hard to win the ball back, laying 60 tackles to Carlton’s 28. This might seem an obvious result of a team winning less ball, but is rarely the case and certainly deserves recognition and indicates a well-drilled young team hitting the basics when they’re on the back foot. 
  • Georgia Gee’s three goals takes her to a total of eight for the season and ten for her career. Statistically she’s maintained her form of last year, with an average of 10.14 disposals and 3.57 tackles a game, but her ability to hit the scoreboard consistently this year has really elevated Carlton’s versatility in their forward half and made them that much harder to beat. She really stood out this year with her smooth, agile movements out of stoppages—very similar to the praise of Georgia Patrikios and Daisy Pearce—juxtaposed the strength of Madison Prespakis and Lucy McEvoy and amplified Carlton’s ability to clear the ball from congestion.
  • Jess Wuetschner’s game—and ability to even play this season—needs to be commended. Gathering 11 disposals, three tackles and a goal to round out a tough 2020, she offered strength and resilience in the Lions’ forward line even after taking a huge hit from Tayla Harris. Her goal put her at the top of the all time AFLW goal kicking leaderboard with 29 goals—Erin Phillips and Darcy Vescio on her heels with 28 each—and this was all off the back of her loyalty to the Lions despite many an expansion offer and being struck by lightning weeks out from the competition’s commencement. Wuetschner exemplifies the strength of AFLW players in general and in a tough year, she deserves recognition for what she was able to achieve.

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