AFLW Round 1 – Carlton v Collingwood: A Second Act With A Future

February 3, 2017 remains a magnificent, glowing memory for all those who attended AFLW’s opening night.


It was a night of expectation, revelation, and of a communal goodwill rarely experienced at any sporting event. It is a night with a certain poetry in its retelling. AFLW’s second season is about consolidating the achievements of a most promising beginning. That is a much more prosaic task.


Conscious of last year’s lockout, many arrived early. Time provided the chance to consider Princes Park in all its faded glory. It remains very much a 20th Century venue. Some minor sprucing up had been attempted. The weathered  bench seating had seen various timbers replaced, though funds were obviously limited, considering the state of many that remained. Upstairs in the Pratt Stand, the evidence of more than a decade’s occupation by our feathered brethren remained abundantly undisturbed. In a few spots, guano monoliths had collected in such ornate complexity that  you suspect Gaudi has a kindred spirit in the bird world. You don’t visit old footy grounds for the glamour.


Afternoon gave way to evening. It was game time. As is the AFL way, some faces familiar from last season now wore different colours. Newer faces wore the anxious anticipation of the debutant. All of us were speculating on how the play might be different this season.


When considering the impact of exposure to AFL-level coaching and preparation, amongst the first areas you’d expect to see visible difference would be fitness and defensive organisation.  The effects of another pre-season were evident in the changed body shapes of many players. As play unfolded, both teams showed greater running capacity.


In last season’s opener, Collingwood had been unable to crack Carlton’s defensive zone. After Jasi Garner reprised her season opening major from last year, the Pies again found Bri Davey, Danielle Hardiman and Nicola Stevens continually thwarting their best efforts.


The Blues kicked the next three goals. Kate Shierlaw kicked truly after a free, Tayla Harris scored from a great pack mark, then Tayla centred the ball early in the second term for Allison Downie to mark dead in front. Carlton’s big name recruit captured the eye with her fearless flying and her majestic kicking style.


Though the Blues threatened to take control, they couldn’t really clinch the deal. From late in the second term they struggled to win sufficient midfield ball. Nor could they maintain possession or structure.


Collingwood had the greater balance of play from that point on, but failed to produce many clear chances, largely due to the Blues sustained tackling pressure. Shae Audley and Katie Loynes, with 10 and 9 tackles respectively, led a concerted Carlton pressure effort that frequently dispossessed their opponents.


The goalless second half was a classic example of pressure skills overwhelming creative skills. Though the contest remained fierce to the end, the spectacle dwindled. Aussie rules fans are conditioned to scoring. If that fails to eventuate, some frustration is inevitable.


The AFL introduced rule changes for this year’s competition with the stated intent of reducing congestion and increasing scoring. The evidence of this night suggested that the new out-of-bounds rule might actually reduce scoring opportunities. On several occasions a kick to a forward pocket rolled out of play. Instead of producing a throw-in, and the chance of a crumbed goal, the defence instead found itself gifted a clearing kick.


Micro managing playing style through rule tweaking is an inexact science at the best of times. The tactical intent of coaches will usually count for more. As currently constituted, the AFLW completion is almost sudden death: one loss leaves you on the brink of finding a top-two spot out of reach. This is as likely to induce caution in coaches as encourage boldness. The tactical approach of both teams tonight felt risk-averse.


It is a tribute to the achievements of the first AFLW season that the final crowd figure of 19.852 was met with a slight sense of anti-climax. If, thirteen months ago, you’d informed the AFL they would get that attendance to a game of women’s football they would have been punching the air in triumph. The romance of that first season will inevitably give way to more practical considerations, but the abundance of young girls at every game is proof of the enormous potential for development in the years to come. Tonight was just the start of a second act with a long run ahead of it.



CARLTON              2.1   3.1   3.4   3.4   (22)

COLLINGWOOD    1.0   2.1   2.1   2.2   (14)


Carlton: Shierlaw, Harris, Downie

Collingwood: Garner, Barden


Carlton: Hardiman, Harris, Davey,  Audley, Loynes, Moody

Collingwood: Molloy,  Lambert, Chiocci, McIntosh, Garner, Kuys


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 passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. I think you might be onto something with the out of bounds rule stifling scoring opportunities. I’m not a fan of having different rules for men and women.

    And I’m not sure that the romance of an old suburban ground would be the same on a freezing midwinter’s day as it is on a warm summer evening. You might find us pining for the comforts of the MCC members stand :)

  2. John Butler says

    Gill, I’ll freely concede my attachment to Princes Park is sentimental. Condition-wise, the old ground is suffering from lack of use.

    I found the reasoning given for the rule changes pretty flimsy. At this early stage of the women’s comp I’d be inclined to just leave it to develop. The impulse to tinker suggests insecurity on behalf of HQ. I don’t think that’s justified.


  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great report JB.
    What happened to the Heatley Stand? Such a cauldron of arrogance that spot !
    I enjoyed the atmosphere and the skills are a work in progress. Running bounces and longer kicking will open it up…if coaches allow it.
    Did you DADADADADA just a little at the end?

  4. John Butler says

    A few changes Phil, mainly funded by the public purse, as at other grounds. Though we’ve enjoyed nothing like the largesse down in Geelong.

    Heatley Stand long gone. Menzies would have to get his Roller driven through the Geoffrey Edelston cafe now to get a view of the ground.


  5. Yvette Wroby says

    Nice write up John, as usual. I would like the game to settle without more changes, and it’s a good point you make re the large cost of the ball returning to the opposition when you are trying to get it forward, albeit awkwardly. There so much more pressure on the women: shorter quarters, no time to settle into a rhythm, changes to the rules, less on the field. Leave it be AFL! Experiment with AFLM!

  6. David Henricus says

    My main concern with Princess Park is the use of it at night. It looked good on TV but in the stands, fans were left shielding their eyes due to the low level of the lights and indeed wondering at times what was going on over on the other side of the ground – “can’t wait to watch the replay!” was the catch-cry after half time!

    Otherwise, I enjoyed the game. I was so taken by the competitiveness of it, that I didn’t realise that the second half failed to produce a goal. Both teams played an extra player in defence so wayward kicks were repelled immediately. It was a game between the two fifties. If the ‘last touch’ rule remains as is, the team that can find a target will dominate.

    AFLW is its own game. The expectation on it is at times, unfair and unwarranted. The majority of these current players had interrupted careers or at best a staggered pathway to this point. How good would Gary Ablett had been now if he was not allowed to play between 12 and 17?

    Let’s focus on the competition between the 8 teams and enjoy that, even if there is the odd fumble.

  7. Yvette Wroby says

    Well said David

  8. John Butler says

    All good points , David. As with most subjects, some seem to be in an awful rush to judge this new comp. You’d suspect a high degree of confirmation bias going on there.

    Yvette, I agree. Everyone just take a breath and let it unfold at its own pace.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    A pity Victoria Park hasn’t in it’s faded glory been considered for this season of AFLW. Great to see a decent crowd again at Princes Park.
    Any loss to Carlton hurts, no matter how early in a season. At least a new years eve loss to the Blues looks unlikely to be repeated.

  10. John Butler says

    Luke, Carlton has done plenty wrong this century, but at least we haven’t deserted Princes Park.

    Olympic Park oval remains a practice ground, not any sort of real venue. And you’re welcome to the Lexus Centre, or whatever it’s called this month.

    We’ll stick to our bird shit and busted seats, thanks.

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