AFLW Round 1 – Melbourne v Brisbane: Dees v Lions v the weather
On Sunday we saw in form and movement how express and admirable are the Dees and Lions.
We are rusted on fans. And still we were swept up in the excitement of this game as we became part of the traffic jam having turned left at the main intersection in faraway Cranbourne on our way to Casey Fields. Expectation intensified as the car crawled into the Casey Fields sports precinct and we saw family after family carrying eskies and fold up chairs, making their way to the ground.
Having parked two ovals away, we journeyed with other pilgrims to the field of hopes and dreams. On arrival we climbed a small rise and we were there, in the moment. Part of the crowd, surveying the ground, watching players running drills. Just digging the new. If I were younger I would say, it was going orf. You could reach out and touch the goodwill. It was everywhere.
The place was packed. Casey Fields is a great, big suburban footy ground, protected by a grass embankment. As we searched for a good vantage point, all you could see were footy fans, in their tribal colours, scarfs and jumpers and caps. We settled for where we were, on the other side of the ground from the clubrooms, between flank and wing. And tried to make sense of what kind of wonderful was going on.
We bought a Footy Budget to assist us get to know players and any other bite sized trivia that might edge us closer to becoming experts. The Budget was a reasonable package of the AFLW save for the most important section of a Footy Budget … there was not a page dedicated to the game being played! I know, right.
The game started in humid conditions with squally unpredictable winds. Then came the rain, which broke into a thunderstorm, degenerated into torrential rain at times and did not relent through the next few hours. Like others around us, we thought we had come prepared. Thermos of oolong tea, scotch finger biscuits (Aldi version) and a picnic rug. By the second quarter the picnic rug became our pathetic excuse for a collective raincoat, the scotch fingers were lost in the flood and the tea barely warmed the cockles.
A game played in such conditions means teams have to hunker down, hold their defensive line, maintain possession and look for opportunities down the corridor. In a game where the weather is actually another opponent expect scrappy footy while the contest of wills ensues to see who can break the lines. And that’s what we got. Two battle ready sides, with enough firepower to force turnovers and enough leg speed to chance the break. Silky skills may not have been the order of the day but there were classic footy moments. Starting with Cranston’s crunch on Stanton (she got a week for that).
Melbourne were favourites but the Brisbane Lions game plan and midfield, and their wet weather skills left the Dees in the wash. Melbourne started the stronger team, aided by what appeared to be a strong wind. It’s swirling, unpredictable nature meant scoring was not easy. Mifsud lined up just before quarter time for what would normally be a gimme. Kicking with the wind from the dead pocket made the task a lot harder. Her kick saw the ball almost split the middle before the temperamental squall dragged it through for a point.
Even late into the second, the Dees threatened to own the occasion and take the Lions apart. Grierson’s goal had returned them the lead. Then a lengthy break in play, due to a lightning storm, slowed the Dees momentum but not the Lions.
Confusion reigned at the ground as to what was going on when players suddenly left the ground. Was the game over? We had no idea what was happening. A hard rain was falling and with no cover in the outer families started packing up to leave. During this confusion and with no sign the rain would stop, the crowd thinned dramatically. Even when the teams returned to the ground we weren’t sure if the Third quarter was under way. Could the AFL not afford a half decent sound system to communicate with the fans? I can appreciate that the AFL is learning as they go but really, this is Events Management 101.
They played out the remaining three minutes left on the clock from the Second. Brisbane scored their second when Frederick-Traub snapped a beauty in the pocket. At “half time” it was a two point game but the weather was about to get a lot worse, imposing its influence on what had been a cracking contest.
The second half was yer classic scramble of a scrabble in the rain on a waterlogged oval. The difference between the sides was essentially this: the Dees relied too heavily on O’Dea, Paxman and Pearce, with bolted on support from Hickey, Duryea and Scott. The Lions maintained their composure and had a wider spread of good players getting their hands on the ball. Oh, and Bates, Virgo and Randall played blinders. Two 50m frees (one, soft as IMHO – yes, I’m barracking for the Dees) directly leading to Lions’ goals helped deflate the Dees. At game’s end both teams finished with equal possessions and shots on goal but the Lions played the conditions better and let the scoreboard tell the story.
MELBOURNE 0.3 1.4 1.4 1.4 (10)
BRISBANE LIONS 0.0 2.0 2.1 4.1 (25)
Brisbane Lions: McCarthy, Frederick-Traub, Campbell, Gibson
Melbourne: Paxman, O’Dea, D Pearce, Duryea, Scott
Brisbane Lions: Virgo, Bates, Randall, Ashmore, Gibson
Brisbane Lions: Stanton (shoulder)
UMPIRES: Ryan Guy, Martin Rodger, Michael Pell
My votes: Bates (BL) 3, Virgo (BL) 2, Paxman (MD) 1