AFLW: Those Lions are Roaring! Can they go all the way?
The Brisbane Lions are tipped to be one of the battlers this season were the headlines in January in the Herald Sun. Maybe Brisbane’s Courier Mail thought similarly, but dared not print such doomsday predictions.
With 22 of their list of 27 players born or bred in the far North – a rugby league and union stronghold – who would have thought that six weeks later, the mighty Lions women would be on top of the ladder and due to host the inaugural Grand Final of Women’s footy!
Facing the highly fancied Demons in Round 1 at Melbourne’s home ground, Casey Fields in Cranbourne East, a southeastern suburb of Melbourne, all AFL followers were somewhat surprised at the 1.4.10 to 4.1.25 win to the Queensland underdogs. Emily Bates, the number 2 pick in the Women’s Draft, shone in this game. Although born in Victoria, she was the Captain of the Queensland Youth Under 18 side for three years in a row, first captaining at the young age of 15, and she has gone on to become a star in the competition.
A week later the Lions flew to Perth to face Freo, where again, they were not highly fancied. Their courageous captain, Emma Zielke, who established the local Coorparoo Women’s team in 2013 after spending her childhood years in Bundaberg’s league territory, starred in this game. Emily Bates, again, showed her class, and Tayla Harris with her spectacular marking and two goals, and Samantha Virgo, the 29 year old recruited from Yeronga South Brisbane WFC, all led the way in creating a 3.5.23 to 5.6.36 stirring victory. Jessica Wuetschner, originally from Tassie, was also influential, kicking two crucial goals, and Sabrina Frederick-Traub, recruited from South Fremantle, and an AFL Multicultural Ambassador, was superb.
These Lions women were impressing everyone.
With a six-day turn around, the Queensland women were back home to perform in the stifling heat and humidity of Brisbane in February, against Collingwood. The South Pine Sports Complex, in Brendale (20+ kms from Brisbane city) hosted the match and the locals turned up in their thousands for their heroes’ first home game. This was indeed a tight one, with the Lions scraping home by under a goal 4.3.27 to 3.5.23. No-one will forget Kate McCarthy’s superb running, 5-bounce goal, and her second for the game ensured a stirring victory.
Round 4, also at home, resulted in their biggest win of the season, so far. GWS was no answer for Emily Bates, Sabrina Fredrick-Traub, Emma Zielke, Tayla Harris and that dynamo Kate McCarthy. The entire team played exactly (or almost) as their coach Craig Starcevich would have wanted in the 6.7.43 to 1.3.9 thrashing.
These Lionesses were now really showing what they are made of.
We were all looking forward to Round 5, heralded as the match of the season. The Lions to face the Crows, who at this stage were sitting top of the ladder. The winner would give us an idea of the eventual leaders in the race to the Grand Final.
This was a cracker of a game, played on Adelaide’s home turf, and it was anybody’s match, right up until the final siren. With only two points separating the teams at the last change, and with Sarah Perkins and her two goals threatening to put a dampener on the Lions’ chances, I, for one, was mightily relieved when the siren went. 4.6.30 to 5.3.33.
Emily Bates – what a player – was best on ground with her 17 touches, and Sabrina Fredrick-Traub’s five strong tackles and nine hit-outs in her 15 possession game was also outstanding. The crowd attendance of between 10,000 and 12,000 certainly proved that this Women’s game is here to stay.
And now to this weekend’s game against the Bulldogs, Round 6. Those Doggies were the preseason favourites to win the Flag. Their supporters, still presumably in Bulldogs Heaven, were also loud in their anticipation in January – but life just ain’t like that: surprises will come along, and our mindsets will get turned upside down. Doggies supporters will know all about that from the October 2016 euphoria! And my Swannies certainly know about it too. (Don’t remind me!!)
With their lowest score for the season, and pretty abysmal kicking for goal, 2.11, it was just enough for the Lions to get over the Bulldogs by seven points on Saturday at the South Pine Sports Complex. Jaimee Lambert’s two consecutive goals for the Dogs towards the end of the game gave Brisbane supporters a real fright, but the final score of 2.11.23 to 2.4.16 ensured a two game advantage and a top of the ladder celebration.
And it was another hot one in Brissie town – the authorities allowing the players a little extra at the half-time break. Maybe the humidity affected the Bulldogs more than the well acclimatised Brisbane players, but it didn’t seem to be the case for Dogs Emma Kearney, with her 30 possessions, and Ellie Blackburn, who worked their butts off throughout. However, their superb efforts just couldn’t get their team over the line.
I have been so impressed with Emily Bates, again with the most possessions for the Lions. Samantha Virgo also stood out in this game, and that powerhouse of a woman, Sabrina Fredrick-Traub – leg strapped and in pain for most of the match – was outstanding. Their captain, Emma Zielke, was, as always, inspirational, and Tayla Harris’ marking never ceases to amaze. I also love to watch Kate McCarthy play, and her infectious smile – red, blue and gold mouthguard protruding proudly – can’t be missed! And, being the first player in the AFLW to compete with a pacemaker, is even more astounding. She’s a beauty!
So, what to make of The Brisbane Lions are tipped to be one of the battlers this season headlines a few months ago.
Rubbish, I say. And how wrong everyone was!
So far, they have proven themselves. They are a team of young women doing what they love. Some have played the game before, others in their first year – some with just six games under their belts. They are all talented athletes, many coming from other elite sports, and they are in it for the long haul. They are out to prove the sceptics wrong – as no doubt are all the women in the competition, and they are doing just that!
I didn’t “have” a team in January, but as soon as those Brisbane gals ran out onto the ground in Round 1, I knew I’d chosen well!
I never thought I’d be saying it, but, Go the Lions!