AFLW Round 3 – Carlton v Brisbane: You had to be there

7.45 pm
Saturday, February 17th
Ikon Park


Aside from your club allegiance, the biggest factor influencing your reaction to a given game of footy  is whether you were at the ground, or watching on TV. There’s a big difference. It’s one of the paradoxes of the modern AFL that it makes its largest revenue stream via a method that produces the least rewarding experience of the game.


You miss a lot if you’re watching on television. Even in the age of big-screen TV’s, the playing field is too big for the TV camera to properly cover. Because the field ahead is rarely visible, the motives of players in a given situation can be hard to decipher. Hesitation may not be indecision, just a lack of any clear targets ahead. Many aspects of the game are just better understood live.


And then there’s the atmosphere. Footy crowds were always pretty good at creating their own entertainment. This is something the AFL seems incapable of trusting. Perhaps executives are too TV focused themselves? Or perhaps it’s an expression of their true values? Their current mania for the highly produced ‘match day experience’ certainly seems to be an off-shoot of TV values, which by extension also means commercial values. The crowd has to be told what it should be feeling.


I mention all of this because so much of the discussion surrounding the AFLW’s sophomore season has been shaped by the few games that have been televised, as opposed to a consideration of the league as a whole. The AFL’s notorious memo was seemingly a reaction to a dour season opener. But that game was atypical of a first round that actually saw more scoring than last season’s. Those who have followed most subsequent games have been seeing a faster tempo, quicker ball movement, and a significant overall improvement in standard. In most games that has led to more scoring, but not all. That’s football.


In its wisdom, the AFL had given this Friday night’s TV slot over to its speculative new venture, AFLX. That meant this round’s cracking opening contest between Adelaide and the Bulldogs had only been accessible to Pay TV and streaming audiences. It also meant this week’s only free-to-air coverage again fell to the Blues, and the visiting Lions. Given both teams’ previous inclination to get numbers behind the ball, this one never shaped as a goal-fest.


The main topic of speculation amongst the crowd – at least when we could hear each other over the AFL’s attempts to ‘entertain’ us – was Carlton’s response to the loss of skipper Bri Davey. So often in Carlton’s nine previous AFLW matches the team plan had been to give it to Bri, and let her sort it out. Mostly, she had. Her absence loomed large.


It soon became apparent that Carlton’s initial response to Bri-lessness was to park the metaphorical bus. With Brisbane winning midfield, the Blues were trapped in defence, unable to connect to their forwards. As this continued, those Carlton forwards inevitably sagged back to help. The saving grace of having numbers back was that Brisbane created few scoring chances. They led by a solitary behind to zero at ¼ time. You can write all the memos you want, but in a genuine contest players will respond to the game situation.


Brisbane continued to dominate the inside 50’s in term 2. In Kate McCarthy and Kaitlyn Ashmore they had the midfielders who could run and carry, breaking lines and gaining meterage. Carlton lacked an equivalent. But the Blues hung tough. Allison Downie was making a decent fist of minding Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Breann Moody was rucking and getting back to provide much needed defensive cover. Kerryn Harrington and Danielle Hardiman resisted admirably. It was almost half time before Ashmore broke the deadlock.


The 1.2 to 0.2 score line wasn’t that different from the round 7 meeting of these two teams last season. That game had broken open in the second half. Sadly for the Blues, it did so again here, as Brisbane quickly goaled twice: first from a clever tight-angle shot by Jess Wuetschner. The other, to Brittany Gibson, came from an attack begun when a genuinely clueless 50 was paid against Tayla Harris, who was judged to have somehow encroached the protected zone even as she ran away from the ball carrier.


Suddenly chasing the game, the Blues lost all structure and method. They blazed indiscriminately from defence, gifting Brisbane the ball time and again. Emily Bates, Kate Lutkins and Jamie Stanton had a picnic mopping up errant kicks. Carlton were lucky not to fall further behind.


But they didn’t give in. Rallying late in the term, Shae Audley crumbed and handballed to Maddison Gay in the square. Drought broken after almost three quarters. Tayla had had an ordinary game to this point, matched against former team mate Leah Kaslar. Now she won a free from a tackle. From 40 out she missed narrowly left. Brisbane by 11 at the final break.


When Darcy Vescio kicked the first of the final term, the Blues were somehow within a straight kick. But at the next centre bounce another dubious 50 saw Brisbane attack deep, where Sophie Conway out-marked Harrington and restored the margin. Then Conway was left unmarked at the back of a pack and snapped another. Nat Exon got to deliver the final blow against her old team.


Though they remain in the leading bunch with a 2-1 record, the Blues have some worries. They have conceded the least points, but have also scored the fewest. Their midfield is too reliant on having to tackle to win the ball back. It is a very labour intensive way to play. Their kicking efficiency was terrible in this match. As a consequence, they struggled to generate uncontested possession. As the tempo of most teams’ play increases, the Blues feel at risk of being left off the pace.


Next week against the Bulldogs is now critical for both sides.


CARLTON                  0.0     0.2     1.3     2.6 (18)

BRISBANE                 0.1     1.2     3.2     6.4 (40)

Carlton: Gay, Vescio
Brisbane: Conway 2, Ashmore, Wuetschner, Gibson, Exon

Carlton:  Moody, Gay, Harrington, Stevens, Loynes, Audley
Brisbane: Bates, Lutkins, Stanton, McCarthy ,Exon, Conway

VOTES:  3 Bates (Bris)  2 Lutkins (Bris)  1 Moody (Car)

Umpires:  Rowe, Dore, McGinness

Official crowd: 6,200


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. For all the comments near halftime about 2-1 being a more appropriate score for the EPL than AFLW, I think you hit the nail on the head with your round-ball aphorism of Carlton “parking the bus”. As a Lions supporter watching on, it was frustrating to not see the efforts of the first half rewarded with another goal or three.

    Echoing others, it was a solid contest and an entertaining second half as both teams took the game on, thankfully (biased perspective) the Lions were the more successful at it.

    Really hope the lighting situation gets rectified before next season (despite Livingston’s revelations that there’s no more budgeted funds); it was a real shame from a viewer’s angle that only about 30% of the ground was sufficiently lit; borderline dangerous for the players.

  2. I completely agree that the game is much better live because we can see what’s going on beyond the close-ups of players shown on TV. Soccer coverage gets this right; why can’t AFL broadcasters learn?

    The one downside was that the speaker that stood on a pole to deliver us our unwanted match-day experience blocked the view of part of the ground.

  3. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi all,

    Gill, John Butler moved our Almanac crew further from the speakers than we were last year, so we know exactly what that blockage like. And the ridiculous noise!

    I was totally engaged in this game. At the ground, you see all the pressure, the tackles, the behind the action shots, the mistakes, the whole glorious mess of footy. You miss that when you are taken to where the camera’s go. And commentary on the radio (for this game) at least helps understand what you can’t see on the other side of the ground.

    We should always have at least one radio coverage of these games, and for many this weekend, there was only the new AFLW app to watch the game on. At least this year we have this app and don’t have to scroll to the bottom of the AFL one to find the info we want. Well done on this AFL.

    John, as always, I relive the game (and the surrounding issues) again in your piece. Well done.

  4. JB – The intro to your piece had me wondering again about how much the comparative enthusiasm for the game in Melbourne is a tribal revisiting of past VFL/VFA rivalries and venues. The Adelaide team using the traditional close confines of the Norwood Parade ground also creates its own atmosphere and passion (Rulebook and Dave Brown are drinking in more than Coopers).
    In Perth the sudden competitiveness of the Purple ladies has me a bit intrigued. After a typically lamentable first season, they now seem to be offering something to override my Purple phobia.
    I wonder if Port fans follow the Adelaide women? And Essendon/Geelong supporters in your neck of the woods? Would you be going if the damsels were not in navy blue?
    Venues are an issue here in Perth. The first game at the new XXXXX Stadium attracted 44,000 @ $2 a head. Mostly checking out their seats for AFLM. But a local win stimulated interest.
    Fremantle Oval is a weird venue. Good playing surface though it falls away toward the “members/coast” side. The Dockers have left now for a mega training venue in the outer suburbs. Their clubrooms have been taken over by the local council as administrative quarters. The local WAFL club is South Fremantle and their facilities are 1970’s basic. The old wooden heritage stand is 30 metres back from the boundary at an oblique angle and populated by seagull shit more than people (presumably the playing surface was realigned back in the day). The outer mound steps are a good venue for watching on a pleasant day, but exposed to the wind, rain or setting sun otherwise.
    Making the AFLW game enticing for spectators is a challenge at many levels. Venues among them. Leederville (East Perth) and Claremont are the best WAFL venues, but parochialism prevents their use for AFLW.

  5. John Butler says

    G’day Jarrod. It was interesting that the lighting didn’t draw comment on the first night. From my perspective, it wasn’t so much the dark patches, as the height the lights were positioned- tending to shine in your eyes as you looked to the other side of the ground.

    Brisbane were far too good through the midfield. Without Bri’s calm delivery off half back our kicking tended to indiscriminate too often. Blues with much work to do from here.


  6. John Butler says

    Gill, Yvette – we were conscious to move away from the speakers after round one’s effort. No moment of silence will be left unmolested if the AFL has its way.

    Yvette, given the many subtle ways the AFLW was hidden away from view this weekend, that app is becoming essential.

    PB, ’70’s basic’ would describe most of Princes Park now, even though the Legends Stand was built in the 90’s. Lighting isn’t the only thing the budget doesn’t run to. No one has even bothered to get someone to run around with a Karcher and get rid of all the bird shit.

    The tribal revisiting certainly applies at Royal Parade or Western Oval. Not so much in outer-most Cranbourne or the Olympic Park training oval. I still can’t understand why the Pies aren’t using Vic Park.

    I’d be interested in the AFLW even if the Blues didn’t have a team yet. I think it’s the most interesting social development the AFL has got involved in for a long time. Though having a team running around in Navy Blue certainly hasn’t hurt.

    Cheers all.

  7. JB any footy is better live as you have said so you can see the next play properly.Getting the venues spot on is a must as PB says above re WA and Luke has mentioned about the Holden centre instead of Vic Park.At least in SA it is at the home of footy as for the ridiculous noise grrrrr

  8. Nice words again, JB.

    A rabbi, a priest and an imam?

  9. Boom tish.

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