AFLW: Round one leaves fans wanting more

Tiah Haynes of the Dockers is tackled by Katie Brennan of the Bulldogs during the 2018 AFLW Round 01 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Fremantle Dockers at VU Whitten Oval on February 4, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.

The first round of the 2018 AFLW season has been completed and every Monday morning, we’ll have a round review covering every match. While the first match of the season was slightly anticlimactic, the other three games provided plenty of excitement and leaving fans eager for what is to come. The scoring overall has been higher in the first week of the year, which will happen naturally as the game continues to develop.

Carlton 3.4 (22) def Collingwood 2.2 (14)

The opening match of the AFLW season attracted a crowd of slightly under 20,000, however its poor quality left a lot to be desired. With many tipping Carlton to feature in the Grand Final at the very least, it was a less-than-impressive showing against a Collingwood team that will likely struggle in 2018.

There were two clear positives coming out of the match. Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy made her highly anticipated debut and was superb. The 19-year-old, who was the VFLW’s joint leading goalkicker last season, played behind the ball and finished with 20 disposals and four rebound 50s. Her ball use stood out and after just one game, Molloy already looks a class above.

Tayla Harris was the second big positive coming out of Friday night’s game, proving to be a dominating figure on the game. The former Brisbane forward played the best match of her career, finishing with 10 disposals, five marks and a goal. The 20-year-old was rated “below average” by Champion Data based on her first season, however her great performance against the Magpies is sure to elevate her to another level.

Genuine concerns about Carlton’s midfield arose, with Katie Loynes and Jess Hosking the only two midfielders to reach the 10-disposals mark. Loynes was fantastic overall, continuing on from a strong first season in the competition, however the Blues desperately need Shae Audley to collect more of the ball in future weeks (five disposals, 10 tackles), while Lauren Arnell’s one-tackle game was hopefully an aberration.

Collingwood forward Sarah D’Arcy will likely face a suspension after an ugly incident in which she kicked Carlton’s Jess Hosking, placing a further sour note on the match. Her importance to the Magpies should not be underestimated, and it looks like the Magpies will still take another season for the game plan to click.

Melbourne 7.3 (45) def GWS 6.3 (39)

We’re only a round into the season and there’s already a contender for match of the year, with the Demons and Giants playing out a nail-biter on Saturday afternoon. The Giants were without key midfielder Emma Swanson, however Melbourne star Karen Paxman only lasted 10 minutes before succumbing to back spasms.

Tactically, the Giants made a change to their attacking set up which should see them rise up the ladder this season. New coach Alan McConnell went with three key forwards, which released pressure on forward Phoebe McWilliams, who kicked three goals. Jacinda Barclay was even more impressive, finishing with 14 disposals, six tackles and two goals, receiving a bit of time through the middle.

At the other end, it was Richelle Cranston who was the hero for the Demons, booting three goals as well, including the winner with under two minutes remaining. After failing to hit the scoreboard much in the first season of AFLW, Cranston was able to have a huge impact in attack while also showing her athleticism with some fantastic clean pick-ups in crucial situations.

It’s clear that the Demons have a complete midfield that can do it all, while GWS will rely on strong tackling from key players in order to feed the ball to the better ball users. In her club debut, Alicia Eva finished with 14 disposals and 13 tackles, highlighting on “Women’s Footy” that she would be playing a lot more midfield at the Giants. Britt Tully also had 11 tackles while Jess Dal Pos will recover from her shocking outing first up, having averaged seven tackles last season.

The trio of Daisy Pearce, Elise O’Dea and Karen Paxman may be the best midfield group in the competition, with Pearce and O’Dea leading from the front against the Giants. Already, both have entered the league MVP conversation and will fight it out for best-on-ground honours.

After flying under the radar last season, Shelley Scott was once again fantastic for the Demons. On the back of 12 disposals, seven tackles and two goals, make sure to watch Scott’s consistent performances this season.

The Demons are the real deal, while the Giants will be up there in 2018.

Adelaide 3.1 (19) def by Brisbane 4.7 (31)

A scoreless second half by the Crows allowed the dominant Brisbane Lions to jump right over the top of them in the Grand Final replay between the two teams on Saturday night. Adelaide entered the match without star midfielder Erin Phillips, who missed with a quad injury and half-back Courtney Cramey, who had 23 disposals and 177 rankings points in the triumphant Grand Final win last season. Key forward Sarah Perkins also appeared to struggle with a calf injury.

These omissions, however, cannot overshadow the performance of the Lions. Sabrina Frederick-Traub’s domination was a continuation from the first season of AFLW, where she was the best key forward in the competition. The 182cm forward took an astonishing seven contested marks and looked way too strong for Adelaide’s players. Through the midfield, Zielke, Stanton and Bates were all fantastic but it was 21-year-old Alexandra Anderson who really impressed. Known for her pressure, she received a lot more game time than the 40 minutes she averaged per outing in 2017 and made the most of it, finishing with 15 disposals, five marks and 12 tackles.

The Crows certainly had their depth tested on the day and with nine players finishing with less than five disposals, it didn’t stand up to the pressure quite as well as the club would’ve hoped. Chelsea Randall and Ebony Marinoff were elite, as expected, and former Matilda Ruth Wallace was great on debut, finishing with 14 disposals and a goal. Eloise Jones and Jess Allan looked as though they will take a game or two to adjust to senior level footy as teenagers, but the signs were there.

How good is it to be back! 💥 #AFLW #AFLWCrowsLions

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Brisbane went a little smaller in defence than they had been last season, with Leah Kaslar and Kate Lutkins playing higher up the field than expected against the Crows. Both collected a lot of the ball and showed some good skills as strong outlets for Brisbane.

These two teams should score highly this season, making them entertaining prospects in whichever matches they participate in. Expect the Crows to be far more competitive, pending the fitness of Erin Phillips.

Sing it LOUD! 🦁 This is what it’s all about 🙌 #AFLW #AFLWCrowsLions

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Western Bulldogs 7.7 (49) def. Fremantle 3.5 (23)

The 26-point margin is perhaps slightly flattering for Fremantle, given 22 of the team’s 23 points came in the third quarter. Despite the poor nature of the way the Dockers played, it’s clear that the Bulldogs can do some serious damage this season. Ellie Blackburn is a genuine star, as is Katie Brennan, and with a number of depth players constantly on the improve, it makes for a good team to watch.

Fremantle’s scoreless first half came from the fact they looked tired from the outset. The Bulldogs were crushing the uncontested possession count and spreading wide. The Dockers switched to a kick-and-chase style in the third quarter, which worked well, as they tried to run into open goals. It was a difficult game overall for Fremantle’s forwards, however Amy Lavell can hold her head up high with seven disposals and two goals.

Brennan was extremely damaging in attack for the Bulldogs, finishing with three goals from 12 disposals and six marks. The captain has a genuine shot at winning the league’s MVP award if she stays fit, given her incredible impact on the contest. Blackburn finished with 23 disposals, seven marks and 1.2 in a fantastic midfield performance, while young Aisling Utri, a potential Australian representative in hockey, was extremely impressive with the way she was able to read the ball in the air. Aasta O’Connor may be “Ms. Fix-It” this season, with her ability to play all positions on the ground.

Feels. ❤️⚪️💙 #proud

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Fitness appears to be a concern at the Dockers and given there’ll be plenty of matches in hot weather, it will be concerning. Dana Hooker and Kara Donnellan are the club’s two best players and both finished with 12 disposals, however they failed to have much of an impact. Donnellan’s third quarter helped drive the Dockers within three goals, but a comeback never looked likely. Hayley Miller was Fremantle’s best player on the day, with the former number four pick looking to take the next step, particularly Kiara Bowers to miss up to a month.

Overall, the two teams will likely feature at opposite ends of the ladder in 2018 and this result wasn’t surprising. Bowers hasn’t played a game for the club due to injuries, which has hurt the Dockers, given she is one of the two marquee players. They’ll be eagerly awaiting her injection into the team before improving overall.

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