AFLW Round 1 – Western Bulldogs v Fremantle: Heave Oh!

AFLW Round 1 – Western Bulldogs v Fremantle: Heave Oh!


Western Bulldogs v Fremantle

5.05pm, Sunday 4 February

VU Whitten Oval


Danae Gibson


What’s the cliché? A week’s a long time in footy?  Well, a year is a bloody long time, eh?


As I settle into the lounge room recliner to watch the my beloved Freo Dockers play in the opening round of AFLW, a year feels like a lifetime.


Twelve months ago, I was at Whitten Oval to watch the Western Bulldogs take on the Fremantle in the second ever game of AFLW. It was hot, it was exciting, it was all so new.


Today I am in Perth. I’ve made the move, as they say in the classics, for family reasons. The benefits of being back home are many; I love my job, my family and friends and I’m no longer outnumbered by Hawthorn supporters everywhere I go.


There are challenges of course. The time difference between west and east coast means I was watching the WBBL final over Sunday breakfast oats, but that’s a gripe for another time.


There are surprises too. I had forgotten what watching footy with my partner is like. Frankly, it’s loud and a little sweary. Today it was very sweary.


I was nervous about how the game might pan out for weeks. Fremantle’s pre-season game against Adelaide in Darwin was encouraging in part (Stacey Barr kicked three goals, Hayley Miller and Evie Gooch caught my eye) but devastating too. Kellie Gibson’s injury looked awful, Bea Devlyn went down too and the loss of Kirby Bentley through the Victoria v Allies State of Origin game way back in September and Kiara Bowers still yet to play… well, I couldn’t help but think Freo had been cruelled by injury again. And the season hadn’t even started.


The first surprise of the game was Aasta O’Connor taking on Alicia Janz in the ruck. I don’t know why it surprised me, I just expected Tiarna Ernst to start the game. Anyway, the Bulldogs began with their first choice ruck and from there, the game followed the Bulldogs’ script. The home team was clean with hand and foot and the visitors were receiving plenty of long distance encouragement to keep eyes on the ball and hold their marks. It wasn’t all sweary but there were a few “not quite” and “almost” moments. The Dockers’ first quarter could only be graded on endeavour, for the Western Bulldogs it was an A+ term.  Katie Brennan’s goal from the pocket was a thing of beauty. I was fortunate to see Brennan play a bunch of great games for the Darebin Falcons in 2017 and I’m thrilled that she was able to show a national audience her best in this game. Well, mostly thrilled.


QT: Western Bulldogs 3.2 (20), Fremantle 0.0 (0)


The Bulldogs’ first half had much for fans to enjoy: a great start to the season from the joint fairest and best champs Emma Kearney and Ellie Blackburn, skipper Brennan kicked three and debutant Isabel Huntington relished the opportunity. The home crowd enjoyed every moment in the sun. The crowd at my home, small but vocal, was not so happy. At half time the Bulldogs had 19 inside 50s and Fremantle just five. Sigh.


HT: Western Bulldogs: 5. 4 (34), Fremantle 0.0. (0)


The third quarter was – thankfully – far more encouraging for the purple haze. Clearly, the breeze was favouring the end to which Freo was kicking and they held the ball in their forward 50 for sustained periods to kick three goals: two to Amy Lavell and a beauty to Ashley Sharp. The Bulldogs were kept goalless for the quarter and purple hearts resumed a regular rhythm.


3QT: Western Bulldogs 5.6 (36), Fremantle 3.3 (21)


The first goal of the final quarter went to the Bulldogs and with the result clear, I took time to take stock. It’s not a neat summary but I felt pretty messy by the end of the game. The Bulldogs played as I had expected, and barring injury to half the team in a non-authorised karaoke misadventure, they will match all teams in height, speed, experience and enthusiasm. Fremantle will hope that the first game will be their worst performance for 2018. Basic errors (too many players in the square giving away a free kick, breaching the goal square during the kick in from a behind) can be rectified. The experience of playing in the swirling breeze at Whitten Oval will make the unknown conditions of Perth Stadium easier. Surely.


There was a moment when I thought the goal umpire might have thought the the goal kicked by Ebony Antonio was touched by the hand of god (or dog, depending how you looked at it). I don’t like the last touch over the boundary line penalty free kick, I reckon it robs us of ruck play. I love ruck play, and I especially love it deep in the forward pockets. And finally, any talk of Fremantle’s playing list depth and management is problematic.  I’m going to guess it might be more appealing to up sticks and move from Melbourne/Vic to Sydney/NSW for the short AFLW season than it is to head to Cockburn. But that’s another topic for another time.


FT: The Western Bulldogs dominated everywhere it mattered: marks, kicks, tackles, inside 50s.


Western Bulldogs      3.2     5.4     5.6     7.7  (49)
Fremantle                   0.0     0.0    3.3     3.5  (23)


Western Bulldogs: Brennan 3; Blackburn, Lochland, Toogood, O’Connor
Fremantle: Lavell 2; Sharp


Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Brennan, Kearney, Lochland, Lamb
Fremantle:  Hooker, Lavell, Miller, Donnellan, Antonio


Umpires: Guy, Young, Burns


Official crowd: 8,500 at Whitten Oval


OUR VOTES Blackburn (Bulldogs) 3, Brennan (Bulldogs) 2,  Kearney (Bulldogs) 1.


I'm a rusted on Fremantle Dockers supporter. Radio is my first love, followed closely by cricket. I coordinate the Broadcast Journalism Diploma at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Thanks Danae, good report. You might have to update your profile on the site seeing you are now way way out west. It will be interesting to see what the improvements are for the game and teams this weekend. Enjoy the massive crowd. I assume you are going?

  2. Danae Gibson says

    Thanks Yvette, yes I’ll be there! I’m going with my beloved, some work mates and folk who have never been to a footy game before. I’ll have A LOT to say about it on the Almanac.

    And yes, I thought I’d saved my changes to my profile but will check again – thanks.

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