AFLW Round 1 – North Melbourne v Carlton: Skin in the Game


The last couple of years I quite liked the AFLW. Admired the commitment of the girls, both how they put their bodies on the line and how they made it work as semi-professional athletes with lives and jobs. Would often have it on while I was putting together the Sunday night pasta. An occasional attendee of Fitzroy games at the Brunswick Street oval, I kinda sorta adopted Brisbane as a team I would like to see do well. Would probably have recognised a few players if I saw them out and about.


But I didn’t have any skin in the game.


Never checked my phone impatiently on a Thursday eventing for the teams.


Never devoured the midweek videos about how the players are the fittest they’ve ever been and fitting in really well around the club and it’s all about the process and playing as a team and sure it’s a good list on paper but games aren’t won on paper.


Never been invested like I was in how Emma Kearney was first in line to join an expansion club after a decade’s involvement at VFLW level with Melbourne Uni, or Tasmanian product and lifelong North supporter Brit Gibson fulfilling the dream of wearing 18 in the royal blue and white.


Never made a point of clearing out my weekend chores in time to be able to give the game my full attention.


Never had the pang of regret that I couldn’t get to a game the way I couldn’t get to North Hobart for this one.


Never had the sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach when my team worked and worked to manufacture a goal only to have the other side fluke an equaliser moments later.


Never realised how good Jess Duffin is, or Jaz Garner who I really only knew as a trivia question about who kicked the first goal of each of the first two seasons.


Never felt so proud of the lesser lights, like pocket rocket Ash Riddell, overlooked in two drafts but managed to carry the midfield early when Kearney was being tagged out of it, or Nicole Bresnehan, taken at the very end of the draft out of the TSLW and working not only to get picked but acquit herself well in front of a home crowd.


It’s so much more fun with skin in the game.


The narrative about the Kanga girls had been all about the “poaching”, as if expansion teams aren’t supposed to be entitled to make themselves an attractive destination or be competitive straight away, that somehow investing in women’s footy for a decade is cheating. Even so, high profile imports are only about a third of the list, half of the selected 21, and they’ve got to get the rest of the team playing good footy too. Early signs are that Scott Gowans knows what he’s doing, and got the girls playing pretty attractive footy at times.


Mo Hope, maligned at Collingwood despite being their leading goal kicker, seems relaxed and happy, and produced some moments to remind us why she was so highly rated in the beginning: a lovely gather and pirouette leading to a scoring chance, and a nice contested mark that she converted for a goal.


Emma King showed the value of a dominant tall at any level, and was probably the most influential player on the ground with 2 goals, 7 tackles and a dozen contested possessions.


Except for maybe Jess Duffin. Mopping app off half back, here composure and ball use was a highlight.


Sophie Abbatengelo, another Melbourne Uni mature age signing, was dangerous and creative in the forward 50 without converting, but will be a real handful for opposition defenders at times this year.


There seems to be plenty of depth in the engine room too, with the skipper working through the tag to tot up 18 disposals, and Bruton and Stanton influential.


In the end, the girls did it pulling away from a Carlton team that surely hopes to improve on last year, but clearly still has some work ahead of them. In Vescio, Davey, Stevens and Prespakis they have a solid core, but couldn’t get the contributions they needed across the board. They’ll learn more about where they’re at in the next couple of weeks. For North, the upcoming game against GWS shapes as a real test, and they certainly showed enough in their first hitout to make sure I’ll be tuning in.



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  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Nice work Ron. It does help to have a team in the comp and I am waiting for the Saints to join next year. I will sign up immediately. It was a great first game for North, a real statement of intention, a blitzkrieg of goals, and class. They had lots of class. I am so looking forward to all the match ups this week to see how each team progresses. I am fully IN and loving it. Thanks for your piece.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Sorry for type. Nice work Rob!

  3. As a Lions fan, thanks Rob for your placeholder support before your beloved Kangaroos arrived, haha.

    I’ll have a bit of a soft spot for a lot of the women in blue and white, being a Melbourne Uni supporter for quite a few years now. I wish them all well, except for whenever they face Brisbane!

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