Only a fortnight remains before the top six sides fight it out for the 2021 AFLW premiership cup and a frantic Fremantle Dockers showed why they are still the team to beat.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Probably a nice way to say 'up yours coach', hey?" GWS Giants' senior coach Alan McConnell comments on the outstanding performance of Rebecca Privitelli, who was dropped from the side last week after a loss to the Western Bulldogs. Privitelli starred up forward with three goals in the Giants' win over the St Kilda Saints.
THE BIG ISSUE
The northern sides continued to get the rough end of the pineapple as the Brisbane Lions were shaken from their reasonably comfortable run of home games by an impromptu trip to Melbourne to face the table-topping Collingwood Magpies after Queensland recorded a case of Covid-19 community transmission. The sweet ride of games in familiar surrounds continued for the Pies - it was the third time in seven games that Collingwood has played away from fortress Victoria Park...yet each away venue was within the same city limits (Richmond, Docklands and Footscray). Compare that to the Lions and Gold Coast Suns, who in stark contrast with their men's sides last year, have rarely graced their backyards, playing just five from thirteen games at home (including a local derby) with several long trips to faraway states in between.
For Gold Coast, it might not count for much in the washup of their 0-7 season to this point, but for the seemingly finals-bound and twice runner-up Lions, it's yet another year of travel, travel, travel in a league that is yet to enter full-time professionalism.
The comeback by the Fremantle Dockers over the Carlton Blues was almost too much to take in as a neutral observer...let alone fans of either side! The Blues' slow start in 2021 confounded most predictions; their supposedly stacked side looked nothing like the team that has turned heads in the past season and a half. However, after two wins from three games marked an uptick in form, the prize of finals footy was almost within reach.
After racing to an early 21-point lead and maintaining their edge for much of the game, Carlton's fortune had seemingly been turned on its head.
Enter Sabreena Duffy.
The enigmatic small forward willed her side from the clouds with two goals in the space of two minutes in the final quarter - then the previously quiet key forward Gemma Houghton made the improbable a reality a couple of minutes later with her first major to put the purple haze ahead.
A heart-stopping finish played out with the Blues desperate to snatch the lead back in the final three minutes, but despite manoeuvring the ball to within striking distance, it was to no avail.
Joy for Fremantle in hostile territory, despair for the now decidedly up against it Blues.
Carlton after dropping the game they had no right to lose. Coach Daniel Harford has had his side on notice for significant portions of the season and with good reason. Teams in Carlton's mould can and should be contending for the upper echelons of the ladder, but for the most part the women of Princes Park have underwhelmed and underperformed all over the ground.
Premiership windows can be fleeting in the women's league more so than the men's, due largely to the consistent upheaval in playing lists and growth of viable game styles the influx of pathway-product draftees help provide. Carlton are by no means over the hill and should welcome back some important names next year, but who's to say they'll have the personnel to keep up with the best in 2022 and beyond?
Carlton and GWS kick off the round with games they must win and win big if either is to sneak into the top six and play finals. Playing away to the winless Gold Coast and Geelong Cats respectively, if both sides are serious about keeping their seasons alive, these results could be bloodbaths.
For what should be more competitive fare look no further than Saturday night's blockbuster clash between the Lions and North Melbourne-Tasmania Kangaroos at a blockbuster venue: the Gabba. Last season's men's grand final location will host its first ever AFLW match in what should be a contest for the ages. After toppling the previously undefeated Magpies in their third road game in a row, the Lions will be out to put on a show for their fans and claim top spot along the way. The Kangaroos have put a horror mid-season run of form behind them and are gunning for four straight victories and a spot in the top four.