AFLW Round 5 – Carlton v Western Bulldogs: That’s what it’s all about
Carlton v Western Bulldogs
11:35am, Saturday 4 March
Ikon Park, Melbourne
It’s fairly new, it’s a shortish season, and it just continues to surprise and entertain. I’m absolutely loving the AFL Women’s, even if the Dogs have now officially bowed out of the title race, losing a tight game to the Blues who remain in the hunt.
With the girls right across the league continuing to create such great contests, playing the game so demonstrably with both joy and courage, I find it amazing that there remain detractors. Then again, you know you’ve made a big splash when the usual suspects feel the need to come out and explain in loud and loutish terms why they are not watching.
Women from other sports may have a case to make as to why they might feel some discomfort about this newcomer on the scene, but by and large, these women have been very supportive of the new comp and its early success.
Allow me this one moment of mirth before I leave this digression behind. A rugby writer recently expressed his dissatisfaction at the AFL Women’s getting so much media interest, which he felt was unwarranted because of the poor standard of play. One of his key points was that some of the women playing looked overweight. Given he was a rugby fan, I wanted to ask him whether he had ever invited a couple of front rowers over for dinner, and whether there was any food left over.
Now back to our game, and what immediately stood out for me was that this was the first time I had seen the Dogs play in daylight (at a time which was once reserved for the magoos). I’m reminded that we had opened the season with four home games, all night games, and had only managed to win one of them.
The perfect conditions and the clarity of daylight had a positive impact on the girls, and that first half we saw terrific ball movement by both teams, indeed, I think that first half showed our very best efforts of the season in that regard. The openness of play, quick replies, see-sawing momentum, goals scored straight out of the centre square, including some terrific long running goals and snaps, ultimately produced the highest combined score of the season (54 v 48).
The big guns came to play, with marquees from both sides getting amongst the goals: stand-in captain for the Dogs, Ellie Blackburn had 3 first half goals to keep them in touch, including a fabulous running goal from 50m arc.
For Carlton, who else but Darcy Vescio chimed in for 3 goals as well. In Darcy’s case, it was off far fewer possessions, but every one of them counted, and when the game was there to be won, it was Darcy doing what she does best: mesmerising opponents, taking big marks, splitting the sticks when it was needed.
A problem the last few weeks for the Dogs has been that with Katie Brennan out injured, far too much has been left to Blackburn and Kearney, and they just haven’t had any support. On this occasion, it was Jamie Lambert who stood up, playing her best game since round one with 16 disposals, 5 tackles and a fantastic long range goal. In the end, that was not enough.
Carlton was able to get a bit of a break during the 3rd quarter, and after scoring the first goal of the last quarter, held what looked like an unassailable 25 point lead. The Dogs came back with the last three goals of the game, including majors from the big marking Meghan McDonald and an off the ground effort by speed skater Brooke Lochland.
There was plenty of time left on the clock for the Dogs to get one more but ultimately it came down to a lack of composure, failing to hit targets in those final minutes, failing to take advantage when the Dogs had the numbers around the ball. And of course, as usual, nothing could get past Bri Davey!
All in all, Carlton had that extra bit of class around the ground, and their defensive efforts were better than ours, especially in that second half.
I close with a funny story which was relayed at quarter time in an interview with Darcy Vescio’s brother. He had been pulled up for speeding and the policeman recognised the surname, and so he confirmed that he was indeed the brother of the celebrated Darcy Vescio, which was enough to avoid a speeding ticket.
Now, I don’t really want to celebrate what might be viewed as a dodgy bit of policing, but then again, in a funny way, that’s what it’s all about.
Carlton: 2.2 5.3 7.6 8.6 (54)
W Bulldogs: 3.1 4.3 4.5 7.6 (48)
Carlton: Vescio 3, Ayre 2, Moody, Shierlaw, Audley.
W Bulldogs: Blackburn 3, Lambert, Bailey, McDonald, Lochland.
Carlton: Vescio, Ayre, Lucas-Rodd, Davey, Hosking.
W Bulldogs: Blackburn, Kearney, Lambert, Callinan, Lochland.
UMPIRES: Andrew Heffernan, Nick Jankovskis, Ryan Guy.
OUR VOTES: Blackburn (WB) 3, Vescio (Carl) 2, Lambert (WB) 1.