The inaugural Women’s competition started with a bang. Attendances (50,000+ combined crowd in the four games) and TV ratings exceeded the AFL’s expectations, and plenty of talent and competitiveness was put on display. One-sided affairs were the order of the day, but overall this Opening Round was a rousing success for the AFLW. Favourites for the flag and the league best and fairest are already beginning to emerge as we take a closer look at the opening weekend of AFLW.
Carlton 7.4.46 defeated Collingwood 1.5.11 at Ikon park
Gill McLachlan’s half-time announcement that there was a lockout at Ikon Park – with 24,500 fans piled in to the ground – signalled the enormity of the attendance and the enormity of the match in the context of women’s sport. The first contest of the game typified a bunch who were keen to make a statement, with body’s flying all over the centre square. Blues marquee player Darcy Vescio made the biggest statement however, claiming 13 disposals and booting four goals. Her ability to pick the ball up off the deck was something special, and she looms as one of the major contenders for the league best and fairest.
In terms of the scoring, the Pies kicked the first goal in AFLW history and didn’t kick another for the match. The Blues piled on seven unanswered goals, making the most of their opportunities, unlike Collingwood who were wayward in front of the big sticks.
Carlton’s other marquee player Brianna Davey leads the disposal count in the competition after her 26 disposal display. Collingwood sharp shooter Moana Hope was tripled teamed for most of the proceedings, collecting just the four disposals for the day.
You could say she had ‘Mo Hope’ of kicking a snag… (probably not the first or last time that gag will be made).
Adelaide 7.6.48 defeated GWS Giants 1.6.12 at Thebarton Oval
It was always going to be difficult for the Giants with both of their marquee players on the sidelines. The gaping hole left by Renee Forth, Emma Swanson and priority selection Louise Stephenson was apparent throughout the match, as the Crows dominated their club’s first contest in the AFLW. This dominance didn’t necessarily show on the scoreboard considering Adelaide’s wasteful first half, but despite their early goal kicking woes, they managed to keep the Giants goal-less until the last quarter.
For the Crows, Olympic and WNBA basketballer Erin Phillips starred up forward, kicking three majors to go with her 15 disposals. Rhiannon Metcalfe ensured Adelaide got first use in the coalface, monstering ruck opponent Erin McKinnon throughout the match. Already one of the most highly touted women in the comp, Chelsea Randall was amongst the best with 16 disposals and a goal beside her name.
GWS travel interstate again to play the Blues next week in what may be another ugly affair, and the Crows face the imposing Western Bulldogs under lights at Whitten Oval on Friday night.
Western Bulldogs 6.8.44 defeated Fremantle 1.6.12 at Whitten Oval
This matchup was labelled by many as ‘game of the round’, considering these two teams have been touted as the best in the competition. If this is the case, the Bulldogs loom as premiership favourites after an impressive victory at Whitten Oval. The match was in the balance up to half time until the home side put their foot on the accelerator, proving to be just too good for the Dockers – who were goal-less in the second half.
All of the Western Bulldogs’ stars shone in their debut match, especially their biggest name Katie Brennan, who booted two goals and gathered 16 disposals. The power forward’s defensive pressure was phenomenal as well, laying six tackles in her sides 32-point victory.
Priority selection Emma Kearney led the possession count racking up 23 disposals, and marquee signing Ellie Blackburn was among the best with 12 disposals and two goals.
For the Dockers, captain Kara Donnellan fought hard for the purple haze. Her side return to WA next week to face the Lions, where they will be hoping to get on the winners list.
Brisbane 4.1.25 defeated Melbourne 1.4.10 at Casey Fields
It is somewhat ironic that the ugliest match of the first AFLW round gave us the most exciting and close finish. The Lions got their season off to a flying start, upsetting Melbourne by 15 points in the pouring rain at Casey Fields.
The tough, congested start set the tone for the rest of the match, with a strong breeze to one side of the ground making it difficult for both sides early on – highlighted by the 3-0 scoreline at quarter time. Play was interrupted due to lightning just before half time, but luckily the 44 women returned to the field as the rain continued to bucket down harder and harder.
The Lions came into the last quarter up by just three points with the wind on their side, booting two crucial goals to put the result beyond doubt.
Daisy Pearce started her AFLW career promisingly, racking up 19 disposals and laying 10 tackles, but it wasn’t enough to get the Demons over the line.
Many who pencilled Brisbane in to finish in the bottom two may be eating their words if they continue to play with the spirit they showed last night.