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2020 AFL Women's season: Round 2 preview

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Roar Guru
6 days ago
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Round 1 of the 2020 AFL Women’s season is in the books, and now we turn our attention to Round 2, which promises to be massive for a number of reasons.

Despite some hype surrounding the four new teams, in particular Richmond, which built its side around the likes of Katie Brennan, Monique Conti and Sabrina Frederick, each of them lost their inaugural matches, with the Tigers and Eagles both sitting at the bottom of their respective conferences.

The two teams that entered the competition last year, Geelong Cats and North Melbourne, were also both beaten, leaving the Adelaide Crows as the only foundation club that lost over the weekend.

The controversial conference system, which was retained for this season, reared its ugly head with three Conference B teams (Carlton, Melbourne and Fremantle) winning their crossover matches and another two (Western Bulldogs and Collingwood) winning their intra-conference matches quite convincingly.

There were only two winners in Conference A, with the Brisbane Lions and GWS Giants taking care of the Adelaide Crows and Gold Coast Suns in their respective intra-conference matches.

This weekend we will see the two original pioneers of the women’s game, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, face off under the Friday night lights at Whitten Oval, while one new club is almost certainly guaranteed to win when Gold Coast Suns and Richmond go head to head on Saturday.

Other matches will see the Giants head south to Tasmania for the first time to face the Kangaroos, the West Coast Eagles play in Perth for the first time in a local derby against Fremantle and the Adelaide Crows unfurl their premiership flag prior to facing St Kilda at home.

Here is your full preview to Round 2.

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Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne

The first match of Round 2 takes us to the historic Whitten Oval where the Western Bulldogs will play their first home game for the season against Melbourne.

Last week saw the Bulldogs ruin St Kilda’s Moorabbin Oval homecoming and their entry into the AFL Women’s competition, easily accounting for the newcomers by 25 points.

Even without Katie Brennan and Monique Conti, who both crossed over to Richmond during the off-season, the Dogs, now led by Ellie Blackburn, have shown why they could add a second premiership to its trophy cabinet this year.

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Bonnie Toogood lived up to her name in the absence of co-captain Brooke Lochland, while American-born Danielle Marshall marked her AFLW debut with a goal with her first kick.

Meantime, Melbourne defied a modest injury toll and tricky wind conditions at Casey Fields to overcome the Kangaroos by two points, with Daisy Pearce making a triumphant return to the league after taking all of last season off to have twins.

In a match that saw all the goals kicked to the left of screen it was the Dees defence, led by ex-Western Bulldog Libby Birch, that held firm against one of the competition favourites.

Speaking of Birch, it will be the first time she comes up against the team with whom she won the 2018 premiership since being traded away from the club during the trade period last April.

While both teams are coming off contrasting wins, I think the Bulldogs’ impressive form in Round 1 will be too hard to ignore.

Prediction: Western Bulldogs by eight points.

Marvel Stadium

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

North Melbourne vs GWS Giants

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Tasmania’s first opportunity to see AFL football for 2020 will come when North Melbourne and the GWS Giants face off in the Apple Isle this Saturday afternoon in what will be the 100th AFL Women’s premiership match (excluding the five finals that have been played).

Both teams endured narrow results last weekend, with the Giants escaping with a one-point win over the Gold Coast Suns in atrocious conditions in Blacktown, while the Kangaroos were extremely unlucky to go down to Melbourne in windy conditions at Casey Fields.

Giants coach Alan McConnell would not have been happy with his side’s first-half effort, in which they failed to kick a goal nor give any respect to the Suns, who were fielding ex-Giant Brittany Perry in their ranks and who kicked their only goal of the match.

Further, in the frantic final quarter during which neither side managed to score, Giants captain Alicia Eva thought her side was behind rather than ahead on the scoreboard, hence her team’s desperate forays forward in the dying minutes.

Meantime, North Melbourne struggled in the windy conditions against the Dees, failing to kick a goal in the second and fourth quarters. One of the three goals they scored for the afternoon came off the back of a first-quarter 50-metre penalty, with Daisy Bateman the beneficiary.

Coach Scott Gowans has already laid down the law for her side ahead of the match against the Giants in Tasmania, declaring it a “must-win”, while also referring to the fact that the Adelaide Crows didn’t lose again en route to the premiership after dropping their first game last year by one point.

The corresponding match between the Giants and Kangaroos last year saw the newcomers win by 25 points in very atrocious conditions at Drummoyne Oval in Sydney’s inner west, where the start of play was delayed by 43 minutes and the match interrupted by bad lighting.

On that occasion the Roos’ talent won out, and I think it will again this Saturday, when rain is again forecast.

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Prediction: North Melbourne by 12 points.

Emma King

(Josh Elliott/The Roar)

Gold Coast Suns vs Richmond

The second match on Saturday will see two of the newest teams go head to head for the first time when the Gold Coast Suns welcome Richmond to Metricon Stadium in the twilight.

Both teams suffered contrasting defeats first up, with the Suns losing to the GWS Giants by just one point and the Tigers no match for the more experienced Carlton in the women’s version of the annual AFL season opener.

Any excitement and intrigue that surrounded the Tigers’ AFLW debut quickly turned to disappointment as the yellow and black copped a tough initiation lesson from Carlton, with the ‘home’ side not kicking a goal until midway through the fourth quarter.

It was ex-Brisbane Lion Sabrina Frederick who broke through for their maiden AFLW goal before Courtney Wakefield added their second moments later – but by that time the damage had already been done, leaving the Tigers to digest a 34-point defeat, the largest of the round.

Now Tom Hunter’s side must prepare themselves for a potentially tricky trip to the Gold Coast, where they will face a Suns side which very nearly pulled off a surprise against the Giants, losing by a solitary point in trying conditions in Blacktown.

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It was ex-Giant Brittany Perry who kicked their first and only goal of the game in the first quarter, and while they pushed hard for victory for the rest of the match, they couldn’t manage another major thereafter.

Perhaps we will get a better indication of how good this team can be when they step out onto Metricon Stadium for the first time this Saturday night. However, I think the Tigers’ big names will get them home in this one.

Prediction: Richmond by seven points.

Richmond recruit Katie Brennan poses with the football.

(AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

West Coast Eagles vs Fremantle

After three years of waiting, this Saturday we will have our first interstate local derby when the West Coast Eagles play their first match at home against cross-town rivals Fremantle in the inaugural AFL Women’s western derby at Optus Stadium.

Like Richmond and the Gold Coast Suns before them and like St Kilda after, West Coast’s AFLW debut turned into a whimper as they fell to Collingwood by 27 points at Victoria Park.

However, they did start strongly against the Pies, kicking the first goal of the match – and by extension their history – via vice-captain Dana Hooker, but they would not score another major for the rest of the match.

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In the end, with half the side making their AFLW debut, their inexperience proved too much against the more experienced Pies, who entered the new season with a new coach after finishing as the overall wooden spooners last year.

Now the Eagles will prepare for a western derby like no other when they face the Dockers, who after two seasons of struggle may finally be realising their potential.

Preliminary finalists last year, Fremantle started their bid to go one better this year with an impressive 16-point win over the Geelong Cats, with teenage forward Sabreena Duffy booting four majors and Kiara Bowers picking up 22 disposals.

In stark contrast to the AFL men’s competition, where the Eagles got an eight-year, two-flag head start on the Dockers, in the AFLW it is a different story, with the Dockers having enjoyed a three-year head start on the Eagles.

A quarter of a century after the first men’s western derby was played, during which time the Eagles were defending premiers, now the women will get their chance to shine in front of what is expected to be a large crowd at Optus Stadium.

Lighting the fuse for this local derby will be the presence of ex-Dockers Dana Hooker, Kellie Gibson and Ashlee Atkins, among others, in the blue and gold guernsey, which in the past has been worn by the likes of Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and co. for the men.

And while this will officially be an Eagles’ home game, I think the Dockers’ experience will see them spoil the party.

Prediction: Fremantle by 14 points.

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Ebony Antonio

(Will Russell/Getty Images)

Geelong Cats vs Brisbane Lions

The first match on Sunday sees the Geelong Cats welcome the Brisbane Lions to Kardinia Park for their first home game of the season.

After hanging in with last year’s fellow preliminary finalists, Fremantle, for three quarters last Sunday, Paul Hood’s side fell away in the final quarter, losing by 16 points.

One highlight, however, of the Cats’ performance was a terrific goal from Richelle Cranston, for which she broke free at half-forward and then handballed to herself before converting on the run from inside the forward 50.

That alone showed why they will be one of the teams to watch in 2020 as they look to build on last year’s preliminary final showing.

On the other hand, the Brisbane Lions defied a playing list decimated by expansion to upset the injury-hit Adelaide Crows by 13 points at home last Saturday night in what was the 100th AFL Women’s match since its inception in 2017 (this figure includes two preliminary finals and three grand finals).

Defying preseason predictions that their best may be beyond them, Craig Starcevich’s side jumped the Crows early, keeping the premiers scoreless in the opening quarter and being served well by the likes of Lauren Arnell, Emily Bates and captain Emma Zielke.

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Sophie Conway also made a successful return from an ACL injury, which saw her miss the entirety of last season, while Rheanna Lugg had a quiet debut game in Lions colours after crossing from the Crows at the end of last season.

While Kardinia Park may be a fortress in the men’s competition, I don’t think the Lions will be fazed by the surroundings and should come away with the win, which would be the first for any Brisbane Lions side at the venue since 2003.

Prediction: Brisbane Lions by six points.

Jess Wuetschner

(Chris Hyde/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Carlton vs Collingwood

Two great rivals will go head to head when Carlton and Collingwood face off in what is expected to be a large crowd at Ikon Park in the middle of the day.

Both teams enjoyed first-up victories over newly entered clubs, with the Blues taking care of Richmond on Friday night and the Pies, last year’s wooden spooners, doing likewise against West Coast at Victoria Park.

Carlton’s thumping win over the Tigers was highlighted by the performance of last year’s Rising Star winner, Maddy Prespakis, while Lucy McEvoy earned a Rising Star nomination for her eye-catching debut.

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The sight of these two combining in the midfield for years to come would make for good news for Blues fans, with their club expected to be among the Victorian contenders for this year’s premiership.

Collingwood, meanwhile, broke its Round 1 hoodoo when they handed AFLW newcomers West Coast a 27-point defeat, with Chloe Molloy kicking a goal in her return to the league and cross-coder Sharni Layton also kicking her first AFLW goal in the final quarter.

However, there was also a scary moment for Pies fans, who saw star recruit Brianna Davey go down with a leg injury in the second half, placing her in doubt for the grudge match against the Blues this Sunday.

It was still an encouraging start under new coach Steve Symonds, who took over from Wayne Siekman at the end of last season. Just whether they can keep it going will remain to be seen.

In the end the Blues’ talent, experience and more recent success will give them the edge in this one.

Prediction: Carlton by 15 points.

Tayla Harris

(Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Adelaide Crows vs St Kilda

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The final match of Round 2 takes us to the City of Churches, where the Adelaide Crows will unfurl their second premiership flag in three years against newcomers St Kilda.

Without both co-captains in Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall, as well as ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe, out to knee injuries suffered last year, the Crows’ title defence got off to a slow start, being jumped in the first quarter by the Brisbane Lions and eventually losing by 13 points.

However, midfielder Anne Hatchard broke a new record for disposals in an AFLW match, racking up 34 touches – breaking the record formerly held by teammate Ebony Marinoff by just one disposal.

While Phillips and Metcalfe remain week-to-week propositions, Randall won’t play at all in 2020 after suffering the dreaded ACL injury during preseason training last November.

Meantime, the Saints endured a tough initiation into the AFL Women’s league, beaten by the Western Bulldogs by 25 points in what was also the first professional Australian Rules football match to be played at Moorabbin Oval since 1992.

It was a disappointing result in what was a return to the club’s spiritual home, where a lockout crowd of 8000 people packed in hoping to see their side make an impact against the 2018 premiers.

Adding salt to the wound is the news that Nadia Von Bertouch won’t play again this year after suffering a serious knee injury in the second half of the match.

However, No. 5 draft pick Georgia Patrikios impressed in her debut match, earning herself a Rising Star nomination for the round after picking up 18 disposals and playing the entire game.

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Now Peta Searle’s side face the tough task of heading to Adelaide in an attempt to break their duck, and it will not come easy against a side keen to mark the unfurling of their premiership flag with a win in front of their fans.

That being said, the Crows should bounce back here.

Prediction: Adelaide Crows by ten points.