AFLW Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: Blues too seasoned for raw Tigers

 

The desire to schedule ‘’big’’ Melbourne clubs for the AFLW season opener makes clear sense from a TV ratings perspective, but it has produced mixed results in terms of producing a showcase game for the emerging competition. That magical first night back in 2017, when Carlton and Collingwood kicked off the whole AFLW experience, was always likely to be a tough act to follow. You only really ever get one first, no matter how many teams you continue to add along the journey. So it was that the next two season openers happened to feature low scoring, dour games, contested by teams who proved to be only middling to poor during those respective campaigns. That is the nature of sport. There are few guarantees. But footy fans live in hope, and few times are more hopeful than the start of a season.

 

The Tiger faithful who began queuing well before the gates opened on Friday night certainly appeared hopeful about their first game. Their club has given them much in recent years. And they’ve talked a confident game upon entering AFLW. But Carlton fans were at home, despite this being notionally a Richmond-hosted affair. The last time these two clubs had met in anger at Princes Park was the final round of 1997. Richmond came from behind in that final term to tip Carlton out of the finals. They were jubilant that day, but that win made the “Unleash The Geish’’ momentum unstoppable. And we all know how that turned out. The story of both clubs since that distant day would take a very large tome to record. And no few tears.

 

None of this would have concerned the women who lined up to start this new kind of season, in a new kind of league. Many wouldn’t have been born in 1997. The AFLW is really for those who look forward, rather than back.

 

Carlton’s Breann Moody set the tone of the night from the very first bounce, sharking her own tap and launching the ball into the Blues’ goal square. Carlton set up camp in their forward half. It would be 15 minutes before Richmond would venture inside their forward 50. The Tigers were getting smashed around the clearances, struggled to move the ball under the continuous Carlton pressure, but defended grimly. Though the Blues dominated,  they were allowed few clear shots on goal.

 

As she often does, Katie Loynes set the tone early. With Moody dominant in the ruck, Loynes and Sarah Hosking led the charge out of the middle. It was fitting that Loynes finally produced the first goal from a set shot. But 1.5.11 had failed to put much reward on the scoreboard, despite Richmond’s scoreless quarter.

 

The second term was more of the same. Carlton would win the clearance, get the ball forward, and it was then a question of Richmond hanging on. They did so admirably, mainly through the efforts of Phoebe Monahan, the smart positioning of Akec Makur Chuot, and the  willingness of Christina Bernadi and Monique Conti to press back from the midfield to support. Somehow, they kept the Blues to only three behinds for the term, whilst managing a couple themselves. A single goal in a half is the kind of score line to frustrate ad-hungry broadcasters. One wondered if Steve Hocking was contemplating another of his memos.

 

Despite the scoreboard, the football had held our interest. Under Daniel Harford, Carlton have increasingly positive intent, looking to use the pace of Chloe Dalton and Brooke Walker to get out the back of defenses. Combined with Tayla Harris’ contested marking and Darcy Vescio’s craftiness, it has made for a promising forward mix. All that had been lacking tonight was finishing.

 

That mix finally began to pay off in the third term. Walker, Vescio and Harris all added goals. So did Maddy Prespakis, who had had a challenging night. Finding herself the object of an early hard tag from Alana Woodward, Maddy had worked her way into the game through the second term. She broke the shackles well and truly after half time. The Blues would have also seen more than enough from youngsters Lucy McEvoy and Grace Egan to feel their draft choices justified.

 

With the result beyond question by the final change, Richmond persisted. Big name recruits Katie Brennan and Sabrina Frederick had struggled to exert much influence, but a well weighted Brennan kick finally gave Frederick the opportunity to score the Tigers’ first goal. Then sheep farmer and mother of two, Courtney Wakefield, added their second. This was deserved. Though Richmond’s forward line had been starvation alley for most of the game, Wakefield had been much their most consistently hopeful target. To their credit, the Richmond crowd stuck fast on a dirty night. Both goals produced a mighty roar. Richmond coach Tom Hunter got the spirit of the occasion right when he suggested there was more going on than football.

 

As a football spectacle this night will soon pass from the memory. A strangely hazy, humid day had produced a dewy evening, which didn’t assist clean ball handling. As we have seen in the early years of AFLW, defensive skills are often the easiest to coach and first to be acquired. Effective ball movement requires cohesion. Though Carlton’s three previous AFLW seasons collectively don’t add up to one men’s season in terms of minutes played, it still left them much the better prepared and cohesive unit. The Blues will take plenty of positives away. Richmond have made a start, didn’t want for effort, and now have a clearer idea of what’s required.

 

The crowd of 15,000 was somewhat below expectations, but memories of that first night in 2017 have tended to warp expectations. The AFLW matches attract the cameras and attention, but the fate of this competition isn’t really hanging on a few thousand attendees one way or another. The real revolution that has stirred is happening away from the cameras, in the suburbs and the regions, as the many thousands of women and girls who have taken up the game hone their skills, experience the joy of play, the fun of teammates, and maybe dream some bigger dreams.

 

 

RICHMOND     0.0    0.2     0.2     2.2     (14)

CARLTON         1.5    1.8     5.9    6.12     (48)

 

GOALS
Richmond: Frederick, Wakefield
Carlton: Loynes, Vescio, Walker, Harris, Prespakis, Downie

 

BEST
Richmond: Conti, Makur Chuot, Monahan, Bernardi, Wakefield
Carlton: Prespakis, Loynes, Moody, McEvoy, Plane, Harris,

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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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 is in his 40th year as a Carlton member.

Comments

  1. Thanks John, a fair report of a historic night. Blues were much too good from the first bounce but I hope Richmond will learn from their first game at this level, and improve steadily. Prespakis was BOG and lit up the game while the Tiges big names with AFLW experience didn’t have the impact I was hoping to see. The goals were celebrated with equal parts joy and relief.

    But as you report Tom Hunter saying, for one night the result was not all-important. I really hope 100k Richmond Members get behind the team, learn their names and numbers and come along for the ride. More than most footy fans they should understand that the wins are sweeter when you’ve been there in the crowd for the losses.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Lovely report as always John, it was great sharing the night with you and Marion and my mate David (who has never been to women’s footy before but loves his Tigers). Experience shone through all weekend. It was great being back at Ikon with my mates and watching women’s footy from the stands.

    When Carlton scored, it felt like there were 25,000 there!

  3. You have a great way of capturing nuggets from the passing carnival, JB.

    Every now & then on Friday night we could hear the roar of Princes Park from Brunswick.
    Tribal.
    What value the roar of thousands on the local population?

    Had me wondering whether I should start supporting Carlton.

  4. G’day John,

    The season opener seemed similar to Sunday afternoon’s Saints versus Bulldogs at Morrabbin.

    Carlton showed more experiences towards the new comet of Richmond.

    And both Richmond and my St Kilda had expectations in the women’s sides.

    Thanks for your match report JB. It was an interesting read.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  5. John Butler says

    Chris, I couldn’t agree more.

    Yvette, hopefully Dave enjoyed himself, in spite of the scoreboard (and my sledging). It was good to be back sitting in the Pratt Stand (which won’t be there much longer, according to ground redevelopment plans).

    ER, careful of those heretical thoughts. They can lead a man into murky waters. :)

    Yoshi, thank you. The Saints will improve. Peta knows what she’s doing.

    Cheers all.

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