AFLW Round 2 – GWS v Carlton: Don’t say this isn’t for real

Despite their round one victory, Carlton had excuses to feel embattled as they faced GWS at Drummoyne Oval, for a second successive Friday night fixture. Coach Damien Keeping had been hospitalised following the Collingwood game, and remained sufficiently unwell as to require assistant coach Nick Rutley to fill in for this game. The timing of this was acute, given the Blues had cause to feel particularly targeted by the AFL’s now notorious memo re playing style and tactics, issued midweek.

Attempts have been made to paint this HQ missive as part of a broader ongoing discussion about congestion issues in the women’s game. There is doubtless some truth to that, but there’s also no doubt that the nature of the intervention served to take attention away from what should normally have been the week’s focus – the anticipated record crowd for the Perth game. It also framed a debate in ways that a part-time, semi-professional competition, in its very early stages of development, couldn’t reasonably hope to win. By empowering the naysayers, the AFL, whatever its intent, scored a significant own-goal.

Carlton concerns would have also been focused on the first round form of a GWS team that pushed a fancied Melbourne outfit to the brink of defeat. The Giants running brigade had proved a match for the Demon’s gun midfielders, and they’d unveiled two impressive mature-age recruits in Courtney Gum and Cora Staunton. The Giants were a real threat, particularly given the problems the Blues’ midfield had experienced the previous week.

So it proved early, as the home team jumped well. A Phoebe McWilliams’ tackle won a free kick, and she goaled from a tight angle. Jess Dal Pos had clearly rebounded from a quiet first week. Amanda Farrugia, Alicia Eva and Gum led a midfield that was a handful early. Erin McKinnon again confirmed she’ll be a presence in the ruck for many years to come. But as the early drizzle intensified, so did Carlton’s defensive pressure.

Sydney’s weather then decided to have the definitive say on matters. A deluge set in, accompanied by dangerous lightning strikes in the vicinity. For the second time in the AFLW’s brief history, play was suspended. A near capacity crowd was left with little shelter. Many sensibly opted for the comforts of home. Those of us watching from afar were literally left in the dark, as the broadcast facilities were engulfed. In keeping with the week’s mixed messaging, I’m informed Foxtel viewers were treated to a replay of a men’s game during the delay.

After half an hour, play resumed, temporarily minus commentary. In such conditions, any game is consigned to be a tough slog. This suited Carlton.

The Giants struggled to recover momentum. The Blues now had their defensive teeth sunk into the opposition and they weren’t letting go. This was the sort of trench warfare to which they’ve shown themselves adept. They only lacked for a straight kick in front of goal. Nicole Stevens finally obliged with a classic front and square snap. Carlton led 13 to 6 at half time.

Third quarter goals to Katie Loynes and Darcy Vescio effectively sealed the contest. GWS were stifled by Carlton’s disciplined structures around stoppages, and their defensive organisation. In a rare moment just on ¾ time they broke free, but skipper Farrugia sprayed the shot after the siren.

Carlton were tenacious and committed. The Hosking sisters are as game as they come. Sarah set a new league record with a massive 16 tackles, as well as winning more than her share of disposal in a great tussle with Eva. Sister Jess again impressed after missing last season through injury. Bri Davey did what Bri Davey does, patrolling across half back, reading the play to turn up in the right spots, winning the ball and setting up play with poise and efficiency. Tayla Harris found her marking limited by the conditions, but she covered all parts of the ground, playing with tremendous physicality and an almost reckless disregard for her own wellbeing.

The Blues had the game well in hand when their skipper went down in obvious pain. A simple change of direction was all it took, and her season was over. The dreaded ACL had struck again. The rest of the game played out in something of an anti-climax. Darcy’s tears at the end were most obviously for Bri, but might have also been a release of the accumulated pressure of the week.

In a competition where the contribution of the elite players is crucial to their team’s performance, Carlton’s gutsy win came at huge cost. This team has shown themselves, this night and others, to be a group of hardnosed competitors. They now face the challenge of continuing without their main playmaker.

The injury toll across this round serves to remind that the AFL’s women players are committing their bodies as unreservedly as their male counterparts, but for a fraction of the financial reward. In their efforts to build on the opportunity at hand, you won’t hear them complain. But if any sense of natural justice is at play amongst the football community, those efforts at least deserve to be respected.

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY   1.0   1.0   1.2   1.3 (9)

CARLTON   0.4   1.7   3.7   3.12 (30)

GOALS
Greater Western Sydney: McWilliams

Carlton: Stevens, Loynes, Vescio

BEST
Greater Western Sydney:  Gum, Farrugia , Eva, Dal Pos, McKinnon

Carlton: S Hosking , Davey, J Hosking,  Harris, Audley, Gee

 

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. “play resumed, minus commentary”. We wish. We wish.
    Hamish is doing a smarmy, less knowledgeable Bruce in Pyeongchang. Basil is growing on me as he tones down the over enthusiasm. The other Richo at the bottom of the hill, or “the mounting yard” as he calls it.

  2. John Butler says:

    G’day PB.

    I’ve largely ignored the efforts of Channel 7’s finest over in snow country. I draw the line at getting excited over someone called Chumpy.

    Basil growing on you? Surely there’s an ointment for that.

    Go to the Freo game at the new digs?

  3. Peter Fuller says:

    Splendid report, John. I’m in furious agreement with you about the intensity of the players’ approach, which was so very much in evidence on Friday night.
    I share your concern about the loss of Bri Davey, both for her personal disappointment, but also on partisan grounds that it makes the remainder of the Blues’ season a huge challenge. She is a superb player and leader but more significantly has that priceless gift of being a calming influence on her co-defenders.

  4. John Butler says:

    Peter, champion defenders don’t come along that often. I reckon Bri will be seen as one by the time her career finishes, if not before.

    You nailed it – the calm eye at the centre of the maelstrom.

    Cheers

  5. Well played, JB.
    I watched three matches on the weekend. It’s for real, alright.

  6. Yvette Wroby says:

    Love your work John. Am interested to see how the game changes on Saturday evening with the missing players. We’ll be there and not dependent on TV coverage.

    When we were watching storm, Foxtel replaced the footy with those old blokes Frawley and the Hawthorn bloke doing stupid things. Then today, I heard Sam Newman may run for Lord Mayor of Melbourne.

    Give me the women’s footy any day of the week. Hope Susan Alberti runs for Lord Mayor!

  7. Basil is likable. But it seems he has taken Sam Pang’s commentary seriously over the years.

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