AFLW Round 5 – Melbourne v Brisbane: Seasons Autumn

Melbourne v Brisbane
7.05pm, Friday, March 2 2018
Casey Fields, Cranbourne

By Ed Carmine


My body has always told me when it is really autumn, and I believe it.


The handover between seasons, for me, has never been dictated by the changing of days, weeks and months, but more often when my mysterious heat rashes disappear from my irritable skin, or when I no longer need to avoid grey shirts to save from sweat stains. The most notable of signs is when my first pseudo bout of man flu afflicts me, as it has only two calendar days in. This familiar, placebic ailment involves a mildly sore throat, a barely running nose and a deep anxiety that my young life could cease at any given moment.


So with my life now in jeopardy, paired with the fact that I have never bothered to obtain a driver’s license, it is destined that my Friday night will again be spent on the couch rather than joining the so-called ‘carmageddon’ to outer ‘Cranbiria’.


It would be stating the obvious to say that there was plenty riding on tonight’s result, but I will anyway – I’ve always been a sucker for a sporting cliché or twelve


A healthy crowd had built seemingly two to three deep around the perimeter of Casey Fields, adorned mainly in navy blue and red. The Demons’ form had not mirrored the Lionesses’ back to back wins over the past fortnight, but the pro-Melbourne crowd still saw these women as their best chance of silverware for upwards of fifty years.


The game began with a manic pace that suggested that both teams were aware of the match’s significance. Lions star Emily Bates was tasked with the job of running with league superstar Daisy Pearce for the night, but found herself facing a herculean task as the Dees skipper was immensely influential with two snapped goals by quarter time. Despite Melbourne’s early dominance on the scoreboard, Brisbane’s back three were strong in regards to shutting down further scoring options and bold with their exit kicks. The backline, led by the integral Kate Lutkins, has become deservingly renowned for their stinginess and near telepathic cohesiveness across the course of two seasons.


As the quarter time siren sang across the playing field and its surrounds, a cacophony of birds, audible over the television, noisily returned to their roosts in the plethora of trees surrounding the oval – desperate to see the remainder of this skilful contest, but in no way silently.


With the wind at their backs in the second quarter, the women from the north surely felt the onus to learn from the home team’s wastefulness in front of goal. Almost immediately Melbourne again began dictating terms, with debutant Eden Zanker denied a goal by Brisbane’s miserly defence, before denying herself with a shanked kick on the run only moments later.


The physicality of the game had risen dramatically from the previous quarter and from many of the previous fixtures this season. Lutkins, again sublime with intercept positions and by foot in attack, repetitively hit the dangerous Jess Wuetschner up the ground.


The ploy of Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich to play his most potent weapon further away from the sticks initially had me sceptical, but the heavily inked forward’s skills shone as she linked with power forward Sabrina Frederick-Traub and speedster Kate McCarthy for continuous repeat forward fifty entries. These now frequent visits into attack eventually lead to Frederick-Traub crashing several defenders from her path before classily snapping the Lions’ first for the night.


With the half drawing to a close and the players heading for the sheds, it could be argued that the Demons’ errant goal kicking was the sole reason the girls from Brisbane town were still within striking distance, but this would be unfair to the tireless work of the Lions deep defence.
I ponder what changes, if any, Starcevich would make for the second half, before I was rudely interrupted by Harry the cat wanting dinner and a succession of sneezes.


Starcevich did have an ace up his sleeve. He moved the mulleted Nat Exon onto the previously off the leash Pearce, with Bates now off the hook for what was the be a frenzied third quarter.


Kaitlyn Ashmore’s superior pace was beginning to shine through as the game progressed. Naturally talented and dangerous on the wing, she floated forward early for a mark on the run, but pushed the fifty-fifty set shot wide.


Lutkins again took her game to another level. She pushed higher up the ground, trusting her defensive sisters to cover her work load (mainly the now impressive Allie Anderson and the hard edged Nicole Hildebrand) as she dragged her other teammates forward literally and metaphorically. These forays forward led to Frederick-Traub’s second for the night – an equally classy snap as her effort from the second quarter, but this time deep into the pocket in front of a pack of the now raucous Demons faithful.


No sooner had Sabrina’s snap gone through and signified yet another shift in momentum, did basketballer Tegan Cunningham murder it with a straight set shot to fatten the Demons lead.
The frenetic quarter wound up as Hildebrand and Cunningham collided sickeningly at warp speed in a contest that was symbolic of the match itself. Hard, uncompromising, fair and undeniably even.


An intercept mark by the league’s most improved player Lutkins and a Brittany Gibson set shot goal started the quarter for the Lionesses and gave them the lead for the first time all night. These continual, unimpeded chains by foot exemplified the ‘Brisbanite’s’ skill by foot – a now notorious trait of theirs.


Kate Hore menacingly bobbed up through a myriad of bodies to restore the Demons early lead just as quickly as they had lost it. The game eventually crept back into a rolling set of heavily numbered contests, with the ball only popping free for mere instants before being returned harshly to the bottom of the countless packs.


Scoring, as well as on field territory, was at an undeniable premium.


Frederich-Traub’s strong body work again proved priceless as she snapped truly from a ruck contest during a rare visit forward to cap a hat trick of skilful majors.


Lutkins again marshalled her troops (employment related pun intended) up field, as the Lions locked the ball in their half for the remainder of the game, with the siren and of course a deserved Melbourne team beating them both with only one straight kick separating them.


I was not sure what this now meant for the ladder or for Brisbane’s top two hopes and a shot at silverware redemption, but I was sure as the season entered its autumn stages and only a few teams at this stage were falling like browning leaves by the mathematical wayside, that the final few rounds still had more surprises in store for us all yet.


Now, has anybody got any cough syrup?


MELBOURNE     2.3   2.6   3.10   4.10  (34)
BRISBANE          0.0   1.1   2.2     4.4    (28)


D. Pearce 2, Cunningham, Hore.
Frederick-Traub 3, Gibson.


MELBOURNE: D. Pearce, O’Dea, Paxman, Hickey
Lutkins, Frederick-Traub, Ashmore, Anderson


MELBOURNE: Cunningham (Head)
BRISBANE: Hildebrand (Head)


UMPIRES: Dore, Buwalda, Atkins

Lutkins (B) 3, D.Pearce (M) 2, Frederick-Traub (B), 1.


About Ed Carmine

Lit grad, luddite and lover of the game.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Honey and lemon with hot water Ed, and a spot of whisky helps too. There’s a recipe for great chicken soup in my book, ‘Siren’s Call’. It cures everything. It’s like a warm hug from Mummy! Back to footy, it was an intense game, and the most experienced Melbourne players saved the day. It could have gone either way, like your sniffles. It’s either nothing or pneumonia.

  2. Ed Carmine says

    G’day Yvette,

    Cheers for the tips! I’m sure both concoctions will be given a fair work out as the temperature falls.
    I can’t argue with your assessment of Melbourne’s top bracket making the difference. Clearly a lesson learnt, as a team, from missing out last year.


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