It was a big week in footy for many reasons - here's the biggest takeaways from the AFLW's first round of games for 2021.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Where’s the desk?" Triumphant St Kilda Saints coach Peta Searle enters a Moorabbin press conference with a somewhat more spartan feel than last year due to the pressures of a pandemic.
THE BIG ISSUE
Covid-19 strikes back in 2021. After the season got off to a flyer with several grounds sold out, bone crunching tackles laid, breathtaking runs witnessed, goals kicked from outside fifty metres and one of the all-time great contests between St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs played, that pesky virus reared its awful head once more.
When Western Australia’s government announced that Perth and surrounds were to head into a snap lockdown for five days, the AFLW sides residing in the west were forced to act fast. In scenes reminiscent of The Great Escape, the already under siege Greater Western Sydney Giants spirited away from Perth only to find themselves facing a period of confinement in Adelaide. In a much needed fillip to a horror few months for the Giants, they were thankfully able to jump aboard another flight home to New South Wales shortly after.
After some time spent assessing the situation, the AFL arrived at a decision to carry on with all games not involving the unlucky quartet as per the draw. When and where the outlier games will be played is anyone’s guess for now.
In any other week it would be hard to go past (still!) reigning premiers the Adelaide Crows getting the band back together with Erin Phillips, Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall combining to show the West Coast Eagles how footy is played, but premiership fancies North Melbourne-Tasmania Kangaroos’ utter destruction of Geelong at the Cats’ home ground clinches the title this week. Usual suspects Jas Garner, Emma Kearney, Ash Riddell and Jenna Bruton orchestrated a relentless performance with nary a passenger in sight. The result? The Kangaroos lead all comers with the highest percentage (788.9%) to start a season in AFL/AFLW history. Out they come to play indeed.
What with the ever present risks posed by the pandemic, the blowtorch will be a little cooler on the hundreds of players and staff who entered the season with curbed expectations and an enthusiasm out of step with limited preseason preparation.
That said, a couple of the sides who spent much of 2020 holding up their respective ladders, West Coast and the Richmond Tigers seemed to have few answers for their opponents in Round 1. While there were signs of improvement, particularly at an individual level (including from some exciting draftees), both sides struggled to impart significant influence on how their games played out.
Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson is circumspect about where his side sits, outlining that star players like Monique Conti are simply required to battle through a hard tag due to a lack of cohesive team structure around stoppages at the present time, something he is confident will come soon, though only through experience.
The traditional Pride Match between the Carlton Blues and the Bulldogs returns to the Whitten Oval this year, bringing along the remaining twelve sides in what will now be a more inclusive Pride Round. Several clubs have embraced the occasion, with sides like the Brisbane Lions and Geelong unveiling vibrant new playing strips to be worn this weekend.
On the flip side of such positive news, the four clubs in limbo await the fallout of South Australia’s border restrictions and Western Australia’s lockdown and as such won't take part in a weekend of celebration. Here’s hoping Adelaide, Fremantle Dockers, West Coast and Greater Western Sydney are able to return to some sense of normality soon.