It's feeling like Groundhog Day with the fixture tightrope in the AFLW, but we made it out the other side unscathed...here's the ins and outs of Round 3.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"It won’t happen overnight...but it will happen." Geelong Cats coach Paul Hood taps into his inner shampoo commercial after his side fell to the Western Bulldogs after a much improved effort on previous weeks.
THE BIG ISSUE
We spoke too soon last week. Covid-19 made another huge impact, causing the snap lockdown of Victoria and as a result all but one of the games in the state were held behind closed doors. Widely lauded as one of the greatest AFLW games of all time, the clash between the Melbourne Demons and North Melbourne-Tasmania Kangaroos at Casey Fields was stripped of the cheering masses it so richly deserved. The fallout wasn’t restricted to the Garden State, as the Brisbane Lions were forced to host the West Coast Eagles from an empty Hickey Park in what was the first ever Monday match in the history of the league.
What is frustrating for fans is fraught for players and staff; the nature of the competition means that the majority of the league rely on income from jobs outside of their clubs. Getting time off work to fly to another state is hard enough with adequate forewarning; giving 48 hours notice borders on the ridiculous.
The frustrated fans had an anxious wait until well after restrictions had been lifted to find out that tickets would be available to all Round 4 games. A just reward for five days of sacrifice; let’s hope the virus plays ball.
It’s difficult to split the Fremantle Dockers and Brisbane after their emphatic wins in Round 3. Fremantle for their ability to play away from Perth under the cloud of a potential ‘mini-hub’, only to dismantle the league heavyweights Adelaide in Norwood had the rest of the competition on notice; Brisbane held firm against a spirited West Coast for a quarter and a half before unleashing a barrage of goals to run out 45 point winners and remain top of the table with an astounding 502%. With over half the regular season plus finals still to play out, teams like the Kangaroos, Bulldogs, Carlton Blues and especially Demons will remain confident of their potential to stay with the two pacesetters, but no side should be counting on a win against them in their current scary form.
While the gap between the top and bottom of the ladder appeared to widen, perhaps the Crows are under the most pressure. The high expectations driven by multiple premierships and a footy mad one-team town behind them mean it’s hard for Erin Phillips’ and Matthew Clarke’s women to avoid the spotlight. Down arguably several best 16 players (most notably co-captain Chelsea Randall), questions are being asked about the brittle nature of the Crows’ list and amount of depth they possess to cover for the inevitable injuries that follow all sides in the AFLW.
For now, there is a sense of stability with this week’s fixture (famous last words). The jewel in the crown so to speak is the first game held at Docklands’ Marvel Stadium in 2021; Collingwood Magpies vs North Melbourne-Tasmania. Both teams have lost few admirers so far, with Collingwood undefeated and the Kangaroos unlucky not to also remain unblemished thanks to their run-in with the indomitable Demons. The Crows have a shot at redemption in Queensland, but it won’t be easy against the Lions and their rampaging forward line which boasts three of the top five goalkickers for this year to date. Joining them on Sunday are original AFLW rivals, the Bulldogs and Demons. Ellie Blackburn and Izzy Huntington and their array of talented teammates will try to do what the Kangaroos couldn’t in front of what should be another bumper crowd at the Whitten Oval.