Big switch pays off as Demons regain spark

Melbourne’s revamped forward line exorcised the team’s accuracy demons to demolish St Kilda with speed and precision at Casey Fields.

Melbourne seem to have exorcised their accuracy demons, looking slick and speedy as they comfortably beat St Kilda under lights at Casey Fields on Saturday night.

After two frustrating losses punctuated by wayward goalkicking, the Dees seemed determined from the get-go, moving the ball quickly and with purpose.

The ball seemed locked in the Dees’ forward 50 for the first quarter, with the Demons booting two goals while the Saints didn’t register an inside 50.

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Daisy Pearce got the Dees on the board early, settling Demon nerves after two weeks of accuracy troubles in front of goal. A second came just minutes later, courtesy of Alyssa Bannan taking advantage of an out-of-position Saints defence.

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The Saints got one back in the second quarter, courtesy of Nat Exon booting her first goal for the red, white and black in her 30th AFLW game. But the Dees capitalised on two free kicks, with Tegan Cunningham and Shelley Scott converting in the before half-time.

The Dees piled on the pain after the main break, booting three unanswered goals.

Melbourne didn’t seem to be missing Daisy Pearce in the midfield, with Karen Paxman, Maddison Gay and Tyla Hanks running rampant, and ruck Lauren Pearce recording 21 hitouts and 22 disposals to match.

The Saints snuck two last-quarter goals through Claudia Whitfort and Tamara Luke, but the Dees got two of their own thanks to Eliza McNamara and Kate Hore.

Peta Searle said her young St Kilda side can’t hide behind their inexperience forever, after the Saints were overrun by a slick Melbourne outfit at Casey Fields on Saturday night.

“When we work on one thing we go well on that one thing but fall away on the other things,” Searle said.

“That’s a bit characteristic of a developing team and a young team, but it’s certainly a characteristic we don’t want to carry with us and we want to grow out of pretty quickly.”

The victory put Melbourne back on the winner’s list after a shaky few weeks, leaving the Saints still searching for their first win away from RSEA Park.

Melbourne AFLW coach Mick Stinear said it was the kind of four-quarter performance he hoped Melbourne could continue to put together.

“I think tonight we got a good snapshot of how we want to play the game, and the girls backed that up with a good level of physicality and intent,” he said. “I just think the girls really competed well and were hungry to win the ball, they were hungry to get it back, and there were moments in offence where they fought their way back through it.”

FRESH AS A DAISY

The composure and experience of Daisy Pearce up forward gave the Dees their first goal in the opening minutes. Playing forward, captain Daisy Pearce had immediate impact, booting the Dees first goal and setting up an important Tyla Hanks goal in the second quarter. Her experience and composure seemed to settle the Demons’ forward line, providing structure and grit.

NEW-LOOK FORWARD LINE

After two weeks of accuracy woes, something needed to change for the Demons.

And change it did, with star midfielder Daisy Pearce playing forward and Dees using their skill and pace to pile pressure on the Saints’ defence.

Stinear sung the praises of captain Daisy Pearce, whose move into attack got the Dees on the scoreboard early, settling nerves after two weeks of inaccuracy in front of goal plagued the Melbourne camp.

“St Kilda challenged us last year defensively, so we wanted one of our more experienced players [to move forward],” Stinear said.

“She’s really like an on-field coach at times to be able to help us get organised ahead of the ball and for her to kick one early certainly helped and inspired the girls.

“She’s an experienced player, and really good one-on-one.”

Young gun Eden Zanker proved dangerous across half-forward, setting up goals and providing dynamism to the new-look Melbourne attacking unit despite shanking a set shot of her own in the final term.

HANKS A LOT

Tyla Hanks’s exceptional run of form continued, with the 157-centimetre-tall forward’s speed and skill on display under lights at Casey Fields.

Racking up 22 touches and four tackles, Hanks looked to be a star of the future.

Setting up several goals and providing valuable run and carry through into Melbourne’s forward 50, Hanks stood out amid a seriously impressive side.

Stinear said his charges would revel in the win after losing two games back-to-back, but it would be quick to focus on the upcoming clash against Adelaide next Saturday night.

“[The players] will obviously enjoy the moment tonight because they worked hard, but then quickly reset and get ready for the week ahead,” he said. “We’ve got to keep winning now and bringing that level of effort week on week.”

SCOREBOARD

MELBOURNE 9.12 (66) def ST KILDA 3.4 (22)

GOALS

MELBOURNE — Bannan 2, D. Pearce 2, Cunningham, McNamara, Parry, Scott, Hore

ST KILDA — Exon, Whitfort, Luke

BEST

MELBOURNE — D. Pearce, Paxman, L. Pearce, Hanks, Zanker, Bannan

ST KILDA — Lucas-Rodd, Priest, Patrikios, Watt

ROOS’ KING IN COMMAND OVER DEPLETED TIGERS

— James Mottershead

North Melbourne put up its second-highest halftime score on the way to defeating a Monique Conti-less Richmond.

The Roos owned the ball in the first half and looked like putting the Tigers to the sword, but a third-quarter fightback led by 18-year-old Ellie McKenzie made sure her side wasn’t embarrassed.

After notching their first win in AFLW history last week, the Richmond mood was dampened pre-game when their best player was ruled out with hamstring soreness.

North was able to capitalise and controlled the first half while Richmond found their feet, recording 145 disposals to Richmond’s 76.

The Tigers battled their way back into the game on the back of McKenzie and Tayla Stahl in the third term and ended up winning the second half.

North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker said the Roos’ first half was the most complete football they’d played this year.

“Everything just came together, all the different concepts and things we’ve been working on, and that we went into the game with, they came together really well,” Crocker said.

“The challenge was to do it for three quarters and build it out to four quarters but weren’t able to do that.

“But when you actually control a game for so much in the first half, it makes it difficult to continue on.”

Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson said not having Conti had an effect but wasn’t to blame for Richmond being so off in the first half.

He said Tigers fans could expect to see her back next week if her recovery stays on track.

“We’re very confident she’ll play next week, we can’t guarantee anything obviously, but she’s tracking well at the moment, so we’ll see how it progresses,” he said.

KING REIGNS SUPREME

When Emma King gets going she’s arguably the hardest player in AFLW to stop.

Unfortunately for Richmond they were faced with that prospect and couldn’t find an answer for the 26-year-old’s utter dominance.

King gave North Melbourne first use out of the middle, getting her hand to the ball first and feeding her star-studded midfield with 21 hit outs.

And when she went forward her height and marking proved too much for an undersized Richmond defence.

Staggeringly, King hadn’t kicked a goal since the Roos’ first quarter of the season, when she slotted three against the Cats, but took her season tally to five.

“Her first half was super, the best footy she’s played for us since Rd 1, the way she started against Geelong,” Crocker said.

“She really helped set the game up for us, any long ball that went down the line if Richmond held us up and defended us well, she was able to give us that presence down the line.”

TIGER CUB LEADS FIGHT

No one felt the brunt of the loss of Conti pregame more than Ellie McKenzie.

The 18-year-old No.1 draft pick was thrust into the lead role in Richmond’s midfield before her time, but she more than answered the challenge.

She fought a lone battle in the first half as North Melbourne’s vaunted midfield took charge of the game. But her effort in the third term ensured Richmond finished the game with plenty to smile about.

LOW TURNOUT

Despite the game being a sellout, a crowd of just 803 filed into Punt Road Oval.

With 50 per cent of Marvel Stadium allowed to watch the Collingwood v Richmond pre-season game, it shaped as the perfect opportunity to get more eyes on the growing AFLW competition with a curtain raiser.

Whether they played this game, or the Collingwood v Western Bulldogs blockbuster before the AFL game, it would’ve made it much easier for fans to access, and a much larger number at that.

SCOREBOARD

RICHMOND 0.1 0.2 3.2 5.2 (32)

NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2 6.5 6.5 10.7 (67)

GOALS

Richmond: Bernardi 2, Stahl, Wakefield, Brennan

North Melbourne: King 2, Bateman 2, Garner, Abbatangelo, Eddey, Hammond, Bannister, Kearney

BEST

Richmond: McKenzie, Cordner, Brennan, Bernardi

North Melbourne: Riddell, Garner, Ashmore, King, Bateman

LIONS DEMOLISH GIANTS, BUT A BIGGER FISH TO FRY LOOMS

—Greg Davis

Brisbane warmed up for the potential AFLW grand final preview against Collingwood next weekend by handing out some capital punishment to GWS in Canberra on Saturday.

The Lions will host the Magpies in a top-of-the-table clash next Sunday (March 14) at Hickey Park where they will face a much tougher test than they encountered at Manuka Oval where Brisbane thrashed the Giants by 38 points.

The 7.13 (55) to 2.5 (17) shellacking helped Brisbane move to a 5-1 record for their 2021 campaign that has the triple threat of a potent forward line, dominant midfield and suffocating backline.

Brisbane’s three-pronged attack was on show from the first bounce in Canberra and they kept the pedal to the metal.

Coming off their outstanding win against the previously unbeaten Fremantle, the Lions were on the board inside the first two minutes through Dakota Davidson and goals to Courtney Hodder and Jess Wuetschner saw the Lions take a commanding 20-point buffer into quarter-time.

Brisbane dominated inside 50 entries, contested possession and won eight free kicks to nil as they were in front of every contest in the opening term.

The demolition job continued in the second term with Davidson adding her second major to go to the top of the goalkicking standings in the AFLW while Jade Ellenger and Isabel Dawes also piled on the pain with goals as the Lions roared to an emphatic 6.7 (43) to 0.2 (2) advantage at the main break.

Dawes kicked her second goal of the match in the third term when the Giants finally kicked their first goal through Katherine Smith.

Key defender Kate Lutkins was at her All-Australian best with 19 disposals and five marks while Lions midfielders Ally Anderson and Emily Bates had 19 touches each. Alicia Eva had 22 disposals for GWS.

GOTY CONTENDER THAT WASN’T

After a spectacular banana kick against Fremantle last week, Brisbane’s Courtney Hodder had another Goal of the Year contender in the offing when she sprinted out of the centre of the ground, bounced multiple times only to then spray the kick straight in front of goal.

BRAVE JESS THE WEAPON

On the day where Jess Wuetschner bravely opened up in the media about battling her mental health demons in the wake of being struck by lightning last year, the Lions utility kicked her 30th AFLW goal in her 30th career game. A fit and healthy Wuetschner is a major weapon for Brisbane.

TOUGH TIME OF IT

Last season Brisbane’s Cathy Svarc towelled up GWS ball magnet Alyce Parker while getting plenty of the Sherrin herself. Svarc went to Parker from the first bounce to renew acquaintances but had just the seven touches. Although she did limit Parker’s impact with the Giant collecting 16 disposals.

FOOTY’S BACK AT MANUKA

Manuka Oval shone brightly as a venue during the BBL and it was great to have footy back at the Canberra venue after an extended absence. It had been the best part of two years since the AFLW graced the nation’s capital and almost 18 months since Hawthorn and GWS played in the snow 18 months ago in the AFL.

SCOREBOARD

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.1 0.2 1.3 2.5 (17)

lost to

BRISBANE 3.3 6.7 7.11 7.13 (55)

GOALS

Giants: Smith, Bennetts

Lions: Davidson 2, Dawes 2, Hodder, Wuetschner, Ellenger

BEST

Giants: Eva, Tully, Garnett, Bennetts, Goodsir, Parker

Lions: Lutkins, Davidson, Anderson, Bates, Dawes, Wuetschner, Hodder

INJURIES

Giants: Nil

Brisbane: Nil

Reports: Nil

Crowd: 1847 at Manuka Oval

CROWS DEVASTATING LOSS IN HUNT FOR AFLW PREMIERSHIP

—Warren Partland

Adelaide is almost certain to be chasing the AFLW premiership without Nikki Gore after she was taken to hospital for scans on a suspected broken ankle.

The South Adelaide product was helped from the ground less than two minutes into the Norwood Oval contest against Gold Coast on Saturday and her season is under a cloud.

The Crows are optimistic Hannah Button has escaped serious damage to her shoulder and will be involved in the final three minor rounds. Button had her arm in a sling and shoulder heavily iced at three-quarter time.

Crows coach Matthew Clarke said Button’s shoulder had popped back in immediately.

The positive injury news for the home side was the successful comeback of dual premiership player Deni Varnhagen, making her season debut following knee and thigh problems.

The Suns, still seeking their first win of the season, also have injury concerns after arguably their best player Jamie Stanton was stretchered from the field just five minutes into the game because of foot issue.

The Crows climbed to second on the ladder after thumping the Suns by 70 points, failing by just one point to match the Western Bulldogs’ 86 as the highest score in the competition’s history.

“I wasn’t aware of the score and record,” Clarke said. “But I’m not complaining because we kicked more goals than points.

“It was a strong performance although the injuries sour it quite a bit.”

Clarke said the priority was to finish in the top six to give the Crows a crack at the title.

“The way the draw is, it is going to be good for the competition,” he said. “The teams in the top six play each other and the reality is whoever wins will get the better run to the finals.

“The final five or six weeks is going to be exciting for the AFLW.”

Suns coach David Lake said the clash against the Crows was a prime chance for his young side to gain another valuable lesson.

He noted his line-up contained 10 players under 21 years, while adding the stats were around the mark.

“Understanding where we are at as a footy club,” Lake said. “This was a great opportunity to learn against a really good footy side.

“Last year we had two and a half wins. There are still three opportunities in front of us at home.”

SCOREBOARD

ADELAIDE Crows 2.1 7.2 10.5 13.7 (85)

beat

GOLD COAST Suns 0.0 2.2 2.2 2.3 (15)

GOALS

Adelaide: Ponter 4, Phillips 2, Randall 2, Hatchard, Woodland, Martin, Scheer, Thompson

Gold Coast: Kaslar, Surman

BEST

Adelaide: Ponter, Phillips, Hatchard, Marinoff, Randall, Thompson

Gold Coast: Drennan, Ahrens, Surman, Groves-Little

INJURIES

Adelaide: Gore (ankle), Button (shoulder)

Gold Coast: Stanton (ankle)

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