Melbourne have returned to their winning ways though a gallant Gold Coast refused to make it easy in one of the hottest games of footy this season.
Melbourne returned to winning ways and solidified its spot in the top four with a 12-point win against a gallant Gold Coast.
It was a record-breaking night in what was the highest pressure game in AFLW history, with both sides combining for 177 tackles to surpass the previous mark of 164, set last season.
The first quarter was hotly contested as the Suns showed off the improvement they have made around the ball this season, winning clearances by three and laying 23 tackles.
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Melbourne dominated territory but were wasteful in front of goal, kicking just three behinds and having a number of shots drop short and be marked in the goal square.
Kate Hore played a big part in keeping the ball inside the Dees’ attacking end of the ground, putting on four tackles.
Alison Drennan led the way for the Suns in the midfield, winning two clearances to go with her four tackles.
An arm wrestle to start the second quarter meant chances were few and far between until Zanker snapped to the top of the square where Tayla Harris marked strongly but sprayed her shot at goal.
When Sarah Perkins grabbed the ball out of the ruck at a forward stoppage and snapped towards goal Drennan read it best and marked 30m from goal.
The 31-year-old kicked truly to give the Suns an unlikely lead.
But it didn’t last for long as the Dees won the centre clearance and moved the ball quickly forward where Daisy Pearce was waiting to rove the ball and kick Melbourne’s first.
A minute later and the Dees had their second through Eliza McNamara, who gave the home side a handy 10-point buffer in the shadows of halftime.
Such was the ferocity of both sides in the opening half they combined for the second-most tackles in a first half of an AFLW game (92).
It was Melbourne who turned up the pressure and came out firing to start the third quarter, and within four minutes added to its lead through Megan Fitzsimon.
A lucky free kick to Harris 20m out from goal handed Melbourne its fourth goal and a 23-point lead halfway through the quarter.
The Suns answered back with a clean passage of play through the middle that resulted in former soccer player Ellie Hampson kicking a goal off the ground from 15m out.
Taking a three-goal lead into the last quarter the Dees were able to quickly extend it and put the game out of the Suns’ reach with an early Harris goal, her second of the game.
The best passage of play for the game belonged to the Suns who went coast-to-coast from a kick out and was capped off with a Jamie Stanton goal from the goal square.
Kalinda Howarth cut the margin to just 12-points with three-minutes remaining with a clean pick up and snap from the forward pocket to give the Suns a sniff.
But there was no further scoring as the Dees kept the Suns at bay to record their fourth win of the season.
No Hanks or Gay, no worries
There were questions about how Melbourne would cover missing midfield stars Tyla Hanks (health and safety protocols) and Maddison Gay (quad).
Hanks and Gay average 32 disposals a game between them (almost 15 per cent of Melbourne’s disposals per game), and coach Mick Stinear left it up to prime movers Eden Zanker and Karen Paxman, along with Lily Mithen and Kate Hore, to fill the void.
Midfield mainstays Zanker (18 disposals) and Paxman (16) were ably assisted by Mithen (16, 12 tackles and five clearances) and Hore (10 disposals, seven tackles and two clearances) who were given the rare opportunity in the centre square.
Suns’ hot footy
Gold Coast has been one of the best tackling sides in AFLW this season and applied the clamps to the Dees, shutting down the home side’s vaunted ball movement.
The Suns had applied 40 tackles with five minutes to play in the second quarter, suffocating Melbourne at every opportunity.
The Suns, who average 70 tackles per game, finished with 91.
Lauren Pearce put on a show in the ruck for Melbourne.
The 29-year-old was not only dominant in giving her midfield first use of the ball with her hit outs but buttered up at ground level and around the ground winning a heap of ball and clearances.
Pearce finished with a game-high 20 disposals, 20 hit outs, seven clearances and three tackles.
Lions get third win in twelve days as Pies begin free fall
Reigning AFLW champions Brisbane Lions handled the wind best in Maroochydore defeating Collingwood by 24 points on Saturday to stay ensconced inside the top six.
In contrast to last year’s memorable preliminary final at the Gabba – which Brisbane won by four points – the Lions skipped clear in the second quarter and were never headed to prevail 35-11.
It was the Lions’ third win in 12 days after previously beating Carlton and Geelong.
A little more than a week after posting a club low of seven points in the AFLW against the table-topping Fremantle, the Magpies kicked just the one goal for the second successive week.
Assisted by the powerful wind that whipped up above 40km per hour – followed by rain in the fourth quarter – Collingwood dominated territory early on but failed to capitalise on the scoreboard.
After a goalless first quarter, Brisbane made the most of the south-east wind booting three goals in the second keeping Collingwood scoreless, with forward 19-year-old Zimmorlei Farquharson kicking two of the three.
Brisbane was able to kick a goal against the breeze in the third, courtesy of half forward Emily Bates, then held the advantage with the breeze at their back.
“Obviously we got off to a disappointing start against Adelaide, so we’ve just been rebuilding from there,” Bates said post-match. “This wind was not easy today, but we got it done.”
BATES A STANDOUT FOR LIONS
Bates led the way for the defending premiers notching 22 disposals, 15 kicks, seven handballs and the one goal.
Among the other ball-getters for the victors were Greta Bodey (15 disposals), Alexandra Anderson (14 disposals), Natalie Grider (14 disposals) and Irishwoman Orla O’Dwyer (13 disposals), continuing her stellar form in the mid-field.
For the Pies it was experienced mid-fielder Jaimee Lambert her did her best too keep her side in the contest with 19 disposals, 11 kicks and eight handballs. Ruby Schleicher (17 disposals), Brittany Bonnici (16 disposals), Lauren Butler (14 disposals) and Amelia Velardo (13 disposals) were other notables for Collingwood on the blustery day.
After being named as an emergency for the Lions’ first three matches this season, former Brisbane Roar midfielder Lucinda Pullar became the next cross-code AFLW debutant on Saturday, getting seven disposals.
PULLAR LATEST TO CROSS CODES FOR AFLW DEBUT
Making her debut off the interchange bench, Pullar rubber stamped her switch in Maroochydore joining several others to cross codes headlined by two-time AFLW champion for the Adelaide Crows, Erin Phillips, who claimed WNBA championship rings with Indiana Fever (2012) and the Phoenix Mercury (2014).
Others include basketballer Monique Conti (Richmond), netballer Ash Brazill (Collingwood), cricketer Jess Duffin (North Melbourne) and now retired netball and AFLW star Sharni Norder nee Layton (Collingwood) among many more.
Pullar – 23-year-old medical student at Bond University affectionately known as ‘Lulu’ – was picked up at No. 58 in the 2021 AFLW draft and has just three years of AFL experience behind her.
WIND WREAKS HAVOC ON THE SUNSHINE COAST
Play was hampered by the strong south-east wind throughout the entire contest at Maroochydore Oval on the Sunshine Coast, especially early on.
Such was its power the echoes permeated the acoustics of the ground.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a game where so many players have miss-kicked within such a short period of time,” expert commentator Chyloe Kurdas remarked on Fox Footy early in the second quarter. “Not just the ball in the air, but it is that ball drop, with wind like this makes it really tricky.”
First win in a year: Late goal breaks Cats’ long drought
Geelong held on against a courageous West Coast by three points for its first win in nearly a year.
The Cats, who hadn’t won a home game since February 2019, looked to have lost it late when the Eagles hit the front with just two minutes left, but were led by midfield duo Rebecca Webster and Amy McDonald to a memorable victory.
The Eagles hadn’t played a game in 14 days due to Covid protocols, and an early arm injury to Aisling McCarthy left them a player down, making it one of the club’s most resilient performances in AFLW.
Playing their first ever Friday night game, they were left to rue missed opportunities in front of goal when they had the game on their terms.
The first quarter belonged to Geelong however, and when a long handball out of a scrimmage found Rebecca Webster 35m from goal, the 21-year-old spiralled one straight through the middle for the first goal of the game.
A minute later Phoebe McWilliams took a strong mark and kicked Geelong’s second goal to give them the jump over the Eagles.
Georgie Prespakis was everywhere for the Cats in the opening quarter, collecting a game-high seven disposals to go with three tackles and two clearances.
West Coast dominated the second quarter, but Geelong was able to flood numbers behind the ball to plug holes in its defence and only give the Eagles tough looks at goal, resulting in them kicking three straight behinds.
The dam wall finally broke late in the quarter when Niamh Kelly kicked a beautiful goal off one step from 40m out to cut the margin to just four points.
A sucker punch delivered in the shadows of halftime by the Cats and McWilliams, who kicked her second goal of the game, helped Geelong to a 10-point halftime lead.
An early goal to Mikayla Bowen was as good as the third quarter got as both teams struggled to escape each other’s’ clutches in a fiercely contested 16-minutes of football.
West Coast dominated field position but struggled to penetrate Geelong’s defence, kicking 1.2 for the quarter and trailing the Cats by two-points at the final break.
The tables turned in the last quarter as Geelong had the best of field position for most of the term but were wayward in front of goal.
West Coast took its first big opportunity in front of goal through Aimee Schmidt to give the Eagles the lead with just two minutes left.
But a huge clearance from Rebecca Webster sent the Cats forward again and Darcy Moloney intercepted an Eagles handball as they tried to work their way out of their defensive goalsquare, before putting Geelong back in front.
A late snap from Schmidt bounced at right angles and almost trickled through but grazed the outside of the goalpost and from there the Cats were able to hold on.
McCarthy’s mysterious injury
An innocuous knock landed McCarthy in serious pain during the first quarter to the point the game was stopped while trainers attended to her.
The 25-year-old’s hand appeared to bend back as it got jammed between her and a teammate.
She was later seen cradling her left arm in her jumper as
Prespakis’ best yet
Prespakis played her best game for Geelong yet, helping give the Cats the early jump on the Eagles before continuing to be one of the most influential players on the ground.
The 18-year-old was able to collect 15 disposals to go with seven tackles and three clearances.
Her time forward was also fruitful as she was able to dish off a goal assist.
Swanson back with a bang
Swanson hadn’t played a game since Rd 2, but the Eagles’ captain was back with a bang.
When her side was under the pump early the 26-year-old lifted them around the ball, winning clearances and finding the ball at will.
Swanson finished the game with 27 disposals, eight clearances and three tackles.
Bowers’ league best and fairest dreams dashed
Fremantle star Kiara Bowers’ league best and fairest hopes have turned to dust with the tackling machine dealt a two-match ban for a “dangerous” off-the-ball bump.
Bowers, who shared league honours in 2021 with Magpie Brianna Davey, was found to have intentionally bumped Bulldogs ballwinner Kirsty Lamb 40 metres off the ball in the final quarter of the teams’ Tuesday night meeting.
Lamb grabbed at her jaw and required attention from trainers and was taken from the ground, before returning to the ground for the final minutes of the match.
The AFL Women’s match review officer found that the bump was medium impact and high contact, resulting in an automatic two-match penalty as per the league grading table.
The Dockers could yet appeal the ban ahead of Sunday’s clash with North Melbourne in Hobart.
Brisbane forward Jess Wuetschner labelled the style of bump “dangerous”.
“IMO (in my opinion) bumps like this off the ball when players aren’t expecting it are dangerous,” the All-Australian wrote on Twitter.
“I still remember one I got v Carlton years ago … felt like my ribs went through me.”
Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke said after the match that he thought Lamb “should be OK”, but that the same could potentially not be said for Bowers.
“They might be a different story,” he said.
“But we’ll see how that plays out.”
Bowers, who has been on the road with the Dockers in Melbourne for a month, leads the competition for tackles with a tally of 62 – virtually double her closest rival.
Freo’s flying start continues against gutsy Dogs
A gutsy six-point win against the Western Bulldogs has helped premiership favourites Fremantle move to 5-0.
It was far from the Dockers’ best showing of the season, but their grit was on full display, kicking all their goals into a strong wind.
It wasn’t until an Ebony Antonio goal with two-minutes left on the clock that Fremantle sealed the win.
The Bulldogs will rue missed opportunities in the last quarter in front of goal, kicking three behinds despite dominating territory.
Both sides failed to kick a goal in the first quarter as Fremantle enjoyed a strong wind at their back which helped them dominate field position with 16 inside 50s to two.
Ashleigh Guest proved impenetrable as the Dogs flooded players behind the ball to only find themselves two points down at the first break.
Playing her first game after being drafted last year, Amy Franklin kicked the game’s first goal six-minutes into the second quarter after a fortuitous 50m penalty.
It ignited a wave of scoring as seconds later the 18-year-old took a strong contested mark just 15m out from goal and kicked her second to give Fremantle reward for their territory domination.
A minute later the Bulldogs kicked their much needed first through Bonnie Toogood who marked a long kick in the goalsquare and played on.
When Kirsty Lamb, who was the Dogs’ best player in the first half, added a second goal for the hosts they were just two points adrift of the premiership favourites.
The third quarter played out much the same as the first, with Fremantle dominating field position as it enjoyed a strong wind advantage, but failed to capitalise on its dominance, kicking just three behinds.
Two early Bulldogs behinds brought the margin back to just one point for much of the quarter, until Ebony Antonio kicked the goal of the match from 35m out on a tight angle into the wind to give the Dockers a seven-point advantage.
Young guns shine
The Western Bulldogs broke an AFLW record by having 10 players under 21-years-old in their side, the most ever, and it was one of their young stars who shone in the first half.
Jess Fitzgerald, 19, had 9 disposals and 177m gained in the first half and provided a key link between the Bulldogs’ defence and attack.
Franklin was Fremantle’s first selection at last year’s draft, going at pick 14, and when the game needed a spark as both sides struggled to find the goals it was the 18-year-old who delivered it with two second quarter goals.
Premiership favourite. Highest scoring team. Kicking with the wind.
It was a recipe for disaster for the young Bulldogs defence in the first quarter and conceding 15 inside 50s would normally have resulted in a flurry of Fremantle goals.
But thanks to Guest, who had a game-high eight disposals and three intercepts, the Dogs were able to stay within reach of their highly revered opposition.
Blackburn v Bowers
It was the matchup that shaped the game in the end as Kiara Bowers got the better of Ellie Blackburn in a tense final term.
Bowers had an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the game but managed to put the clamps on Blackburn as the star Dog began to get on top of the Fremantle midfield.
Bowers finished with 20 disposals, 12 tackles and four clearances, while Blackburn was able to notch 19 disposals, two tackles and three clearances.
BULLDOGS: 0.1 2.4 2.4 2.7 (19)
DOCKERS: 0.3 2.4 2.7 3.7 (25)
Bulldogs: Lamb, Blackburn, Brown, Guest, Moody.
Dockers: Bowers, Miller, E. Antonio, O’Sullivan.
Bulldogs: Toogood, Lamb.
Dockers: Franklin 2, E.Antonio.
Bulldogs: Lagioia (concussion).
Dockers: Sergeant (concussion).
982 at Victoria University Whitten Oval
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JAMES MOTTERSHEAD’S VOTES
3 K. Bowers (FREM)
2 K. Lamb (WB)
1 H. Miller (FREM)
Originally published as AFLW 2022: All the action and results from Round 5