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Skills up, scoring too! Five talking points from AFL Women's Round 2

Melbourne players celebrate a win over collingwood during their AFLW match at the Ikon Stadium in Melbourne on Saturday, February 11, 2017. (AAP Image/Mal Fairclough)
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12th February, 2017
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Those who’ve sought to criticise AFL Women’s in the week since it launched have often hit upon the poor skills and lack of scoring that were prominent in the first round of the competition.

Well, it has only taken a week for those complaints to seem a little silly – while the skills aren’t at the level of the fully professional men’s game yet, they’ve already improved noticeably.

Last week I said that, among several other factors, the nerves of debuting in a new competition, the process of adjusting to a smaller-shaped ball, and that of learning to sync with new teammates were holding the skill level back.

What was a life-changing week for every player to step on the field in Round 1 is already becoming a little more routine in Round 2. The players are finding their rhythm and the skill level is lifting.

As a result we’ve seen more running play, better use of the ball, and most appreciably, more goals being kicked. There were 28 majors kicked in Round 1, but we outstripped that by a wide margin in Round 2 with 40.

On top of that the games have been appreciably competitive too. No losing team managed more than a single goal in Round 1, but this week every side has kicked multiple goals, and we’ve seen close games and comebacks in spades.

There’s still some longer-term challenges to be overcome and when they are the skill level will lift. But right now, AFL Women’s is proving itself to be very watchable, as well as ground-breaking. What more could you want?

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Sarah Perkins, superstar

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We’ve been introduced to more than a few great characters so far in two weeks of AFL Women’s, but Sarah Perkins is arguably the most impressive of the lot.

Perkins shed a massive 40kg in her quest to be drafted to an AFL Women’s team, then had to go through the disappointment of not being picked up on draft day.

She was given a late call-up by the Adelaide Crows as a free agent and has proved to be a recruiting masterstroke.

If Perkins was an average player, well, it’d be a nice story that she had made the grade. But after two goals this week, helping Adelaide to an interstate win that has kept them undefeated and put them on top of the ladder? She’s a bonafide superstar.

Crows versus Carlton will be a cracker

The fixture has fallen into place pretty nicely for us – next week, two of the competition’s undefeated and most impressive teams, the Adelaide Crows and the Carlton Blues, meet on Sunday afternoon.

The Crows have been impressive so far. Their demolition job on GWS in Round 1 wasn’t unexpected, but what really lifted them in the eyes of the fans was an upset win on the road against the Bulldogs on Friday night.

Carlton on the other hand have demolished Collingwood in Round 1 and then this week survived a scare against GWS. While they might have liked to have won that one more comfortably, the maturity they showed coming back from a deficit will hold them in good stead.

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As a result the match on Saturday afternoon looks like it could shape who makes the grand final, or even be a grand final preview. The Crows are lucky enough to be on South Australian soil, and they’ll go in as favourites, but it promises to be awesome watching either way.

Of course, speaking of undefeated sides, it’d be remiss of me not to mention that…

Brisbane are the league’s big surprise

I tipped the Lions to be premiers in this inaugural year of AFL Women’s, given the excellent strength that the women’s game enjoys in Queensland, but even I’ll say I’m blown away by the form of what has clearly been the most impressive team so far.

The Lions haven’t had the chance to play at home yet but that hasn’t phased them. Consider this – not only did they knock off Melbourne in Melbourne first up, they then made the longest road trip possible in the game and topped the highly-rated Dockers on Sunday.

They have absolutely nailed their marquee selections. Sabrina Frederick-Taub and Tayla Harris offer great versatility and are having an enormous influence wherever they play.

Harris’ awesome pack mark and ice cold clutch goal to seal the win against the Dockers in the final minutes was without a doubt the moment of the round, and the kind of football phenomenon that will get any supporter off the couch.

Now the Lions have two home games against Collingwood and GWS in the lead-up to what will no doubt be an epic encounter with Adelaide in Round 5. Brisbane fans, forget the troubles of your men’s team, sit back and enjoy what is looking like an awesome ride.

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Pies under the pump

Two weeks into the AFL Women’s season, you’d have to say Collingwood are the most disappointing team in the mix so far.

Fremantle are the others in the mix for that dubious honour – tipped to be premiers by many they’re now close to out of the running after an 0-2 start, but have faced two tough sides and had only the one home game.

The Pies may have kicked the first ever AFL Women’s goal in Round 1, but were blasted off the park by Darcy Vescio and the Blues quickly after.

They looked to have a win set up in Round 2 against Melbourne, but after half-time dare I say the ‘Colliwobbbles’ of old set in and the Demons ran over them to victory.

They’re not the only 0-2 side in the competition, but they are the only one to have played out both their losses in their home state.

Short version: they’ve got some work to do. Mo Hope up forward is as big a weapon as any team has, though, and showed us why with a brilliant snap off what was really only half a chance this week. Find a way to get her more opportunities, and they’ll improve quickly.

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