AFL W Round 3 Preview – Thebarton blockbuster highlights big weekend

With only seven rounds in the inaugural AFL Women’s season, the pressure is already on the three teams who have not registered a win in the first two weeks to get their season going or risk being left behind.

Week 3 sees two of those teams, Fremantle and GWS, open the round in a must-win match, while the other winless side, Collingwood travel to Brisbane to face the competition’s surprise packet the Lions. The AFLW’s two top sides, Carlton and Adelaide meet on Sunday at Thebarton Oval, while the two traditional rivals of women’s football, the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne,play at Whitten Oval on Saturday night.

Greater Western Sydney v Fremantle, Blacktown, 12:05pm AEDT, Saturday February 18

GWS were always expected to struggle in the inaugural season with their three best players out of action for the first two rounds. But halfway through last week’s match against Carlton, they looked a big chance of causing an upset, taking a two-goal lead before conceding five of the final six goals of the match to lose by 13 points.

There were plenty of positives in that match with Jess Dal Pos, Ashleigh Guest and Aimee Schmidt all showing their class. The great positive ahead of this match for GWS is the return of marquee player Emma Swanson, who has been sidelined with a hamstring strain, and the call-up of teenager Kate Stanton.

Fremantle have had a week to reflect on what was frankly a disappointing performance against Brisbane last week. Compounding that result was the loss of Kim Mickle and Brianna Green to season-ending injuries and the Dockers now face a mountain to climb in they are to get back into the fight for the Grand Final.

Kara Donnellan was typically tough around the ball, while defenders Kirby Bentley and Alex Maku Chuot offered some resistance but their forward line looked inept. Just one goal was created from 22 inside 50s, with the other two majors coming from 50m penalties.

Coach Michelle Cowan has got some work to do ahead of this match and has called back Ebony Antonio after a week’s suspension and gives forward Kira Phillips a debut.

Brisbane Lions v Collingwood, South Pine Sports Complex, Brisbane, 4:35pm AEDT, Saturday February 18     

The match sees two of the best forwards in the AFL W line-up with Tayla Harris leading Brisbane into battle against Collingwood and Moana Hope.

Harris was a crucial part off the Lions’ upset win over the Dockers last week, kicking two goals and taking six contested marks, including one of the best pack marks you’ll ever see late in the game. The 19-year-old was nominated for the Rising Star as a result of the performance and you get the feeling she will be a marquee name in this competition for the next decade.

But she was hardly alone in lifting the Lions with Sabrina Frederick-Traub also important, while Emily Bates and Emma Zielke won plenty of the ball. Craig Starcevich has got his players playing smart, efficient footy and a win here could see them assume favouritism for the premiership.

Hope’s introduction to the big league has been less than ideal and she has just eight kicks and one goal to show for two games to date. The Pies are simply not playing good footy and are not delivering the ball well up forward. They matched Melbourne in most major stats last week, created 28 inside 50s and led by 19 points at half time, but simply compounded late to lose comfortably.

Coach Wayne Siekman has made three changes with Georgia Walker to make her debut and Lauren Tesoriero and Ruby Schleicher recalled.

Brisbane had yet to name their final team as of Thursday night.

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne, Whitten Oval, 7:40pm, Saturday February 18

This is a huge rivalry match between two clubs that have been the foundation of AFL W in Victoria and with both teams at 1-1 it shapes as a crossroads for their seasons.

The Bulldogs were outplayed by Adelaide last week, costing themselves with wasteful efforts on front of goal as they kicked 2.11 for the match. It was a match they would have expected to win, but they found the skilful and physical Crows too hard to hold out.

What would have worried coach Paul Groves was a lack of discipline with the Dogs giving away 30 free kicks and several 50m penalties.

They go into this match without inspirational leader Katie Brennan, who has an ankle injury, while Laura Bailey was suspended. In come Jaimee Lambert and Kirsty Lamb, who missed out last week, while veteran defender Kimberly Ebb will play her first match. Ellie Blackburn is captain in Brennan’s absence, while Emma Kearney, the league’s equal leading ball winner, will also be asked to step up.

Melbourne got things back on track last week thanks to a brilliant second half against Collingwood, where they orchestrated a 38-point turnaround.

Spurring that comeback was Cat Phillips, who kicked two goals and showed her dash around the field. Lily Mithen earned a Rising Star award for her performance while Daisy Pearce’s class and experience shone through.

They would have taken much confidence from that performance but were dealt a blow with confirmation that Meg Downie and Steph De Bortoli would miss the rest of the season with injuries.

The Demons are yet to name their side as of Thursday night.

Adelaide v Carlton, Thebarton Oval 12:05pm AEDT, Saturday February 18

This top of the table clash shapes as an early-season blockbuster with both sides playing fantastic footy over the first two weeks.

Footy Prophet’s Nic Negropontis named the top nine contenders for the ALFW inaugural MVP award earlier this week and four of the nine are playing in this match.

Adelaide have taken everyone by surprise, but they are well coached and their strong and skilful approach has seen them comfortably win both their opening matches.

Erin Phillips is star with a round ball and has proven a gun with an oval one, while Ebony Marinoff is such a prodigious talent in the midfield. She has looked classes above her rivals.

So too has Brianna Davey, who backed up her mighty performance in the opener with another big effort against the Giants. She is equal leader in the league in possessions and has been the driving force behind the Blues’ midfield.

Darcy Vescio was always going to be a star in this competition, but her first two matches have shown us exactly why. She has the best hands in the business and also excels when the ball hits the ground.

But this is far from Phillips/Marinoff v Davey/Vescio as both team have clearly got a lot of depth. The Blues had eight players get more than 10 touches last week, while the Crows also spread the load with six separate goalkickers.

This could well be the Grand Final preview.

The Blues are on the road for the first time and have called back Bella Ayre and Madeline Kerryk into their team while the Crows have lost Sophie Armitstead for the rest of the season, with midfielders Monique Hollick and Justine Mules, and young key-position player Sarah Allan added to an extended squad.

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