Main content

AFLW wrap: Serious injuries hit star players

AFLW wrap: Flag fancies injury hit Nat Edwards and Marc McGowan wrap up round two of the AFLW season

INJURIES are an unfortunate reality of sport at any level and round two of the NAB AFL Women's competition saw some top players sidelined by serious injuries.

Carlton captain Brianna Davey's season has ended before it really started, the club's best and fairest winner tearing the ACL in her right knee late in Friday night's win over Greater Western Sydney. 

AFLW: Blues confirm worst result for star's knee

And on Sunday, the Western Bulldogs' No.1 draft pick Isabel Huntington seriously injured her right knee against the Brisbane Lions. 

Huntington, who was in a full knee brace and on crutches after the incident, had scans in Melbourne on Monday and the club has since confirmed she will also miss the rest of the season with a ruptured ACL.

The forward was playing just her second official match since rupturing the ACL in her left knee in September 2016. She has previously broken her right leg. 

The 18-year-old's talent had been on show just before her knee buckled; she took two strong contested marks and kicked two goals in two minutes, ripping the game away from the Lions. 

Coach Paul Groves was quite emotional when interviewed by Fox Footy after the match. 

"What can you say? The kid has done so much to get back to where she is," he said. 

AFLW: No.1 pick suffers serious knee injury

Women are more prone to ACL injuries than men for a variety of reasons, including structural differences (bone shape and size, a wider-set pelvis, looser ligaments) and movement patterns (landing styles). 

Fremantle's Kirby Bentley and Brisbane's Sam Virgo had knee reconstructions in the off-season, while Bulldog Daria Bannister hurt her knee in round one and had reconstructive surgery on Saturday. 

Clubs can sign injury top-up players only if they have less than 23 players available for selection (21 on-field and two emergencies).

The Bulldogs are not quite at that stage yet, but have four players (Bannister, Kim Ebb, Ellyse Gamble and Huntington) on their long-term injury list. They are now down to 26 players to choose from for their match on Saturday against Adelaide.

Ebb (stress fracture) is expected to be reinstated to the main list in the coming weeks.

Former Diamond Creek coach and new North Melbourne AFLW coach Scott Gowans, who is also now in charge of VFLW side Melbourne Uni as part of their alliance with the Kangaroos, spoke about the prevention work his sides do.

"At Diamond Creek we did a lot of work with Jade Haycraft (strength and conditioning coach) with a real focus on pre-hab," Gowans told AFL.com.au.

"We'd do a long, 20 to 25-minute warm-up, compared to a usual 10-minute one, with a real emphasis on engaging the muscle groups around the thighs and knees. We had a much lower injury rate last year as a result.

"There was also a real emphasis on bounding and landing as well. It takes six-to-eight months to get used to that sort of stuff, to change the action. [Injuries] are always going to happen as well."

The AFL has engaged La Trobe University to conduct a pilot ACL injury prevention program with the Melbourne-based AFLW teams. This will test effectiveness of the intervention on movement patterns and balance and strength at pre-season and at the end of the season.

The program started in November and is being managed by the AFL Research Board.

AFLW: Latest news, fixture and results here

The Western Bulldogs fear the worst for Isabel Huntington. Picture: AFL Photos

Flag favourite confirms status

There was a lot of buzz around Melbourne in the lead-up to this season. And two matches in, the Demons have shown they are a genuine chance at taking out the flag.

The addition of former basketballers Kate Hore and Tegan Cunningham has added different elements to the forward line, with Cunningham now drawing the primary defender away from teammate Alyssa Mifsud.

The Demons are the highest scorers in the competition, averaging 50.5 points a match, ahead of the Western Bulldogs (41) and Fremantle (31.5).

The ladder makes for interesting analysis, with Carlton's miserly defence seeing it sit on top with a percentage of 226.1. The Blues have struggled to score (average of 26 points) but have held teams to an extraordinarily low average of just 11.5 points.

The loss of Brianna Davey will seriously hurt Carlton, with its rebound defence built on the back of her strong, bullocking game. Kate Gillespie-Jones and Nat Plane, both defenders who were dropped for round two, loom as the most likely replacements, but neither are as explosive as Davey. 

The Western Bulldogs, who sit second on the ladder, seem the other team most likely to feature on Grand Final day. They struggled once their second forward target, Huntington, left the field.

Aasta O'Connor is one who could play forward, but it would require Tiarna Ernst to ruck the vast majority of the game, rather than the pair splitting time fairly evenly. Former Melbourne forward Jess Anderson could also come into the side. 

AFLW Tipping: Can you pick this round's winners?

The Demons are flying early. Picture: AFL Photos

Last chance saloon 

Collingwood and Adelaide will be desperate for their first wins this weekend, with another loss almost completely ruling them out of Grand Final contention. 

The Giants, Collingwood's opponents, are the other winless side, but expectations were considerably lower for the wooden-spooners than they were for the reigning premiers, Adelaide. 

Collingwood's much-vaunted forward line has failed to fire, scoring just 41 points in two matches. But it's difficult to score if the ball isn't getting forward, with the Magpies also being the worst clearance side in the competition (averaging 16 per game).

It's not great news in the backline either for the Pies, who have been seriously struggling to clear the ball out of defence.

The loss of Nicola Stevens (who requested and received a trade to Carlton) and Meg Hutchins (who simply isn't getting picked) has left the Magpies with a real inability to rebound effectively.

Ash Brazill was drafted to be an eventual replacement for Stevens, but she hasn't played due to a hamstring injury. Darcy Guttridge (broken collarbone) is another who could have played across half-back if fit.

Hutchins was the equal-second leading rebounder in the whole competition last year, while Stevens was the club's third-best rebounder.

Full-back Stacey Livingstone, another rebounder, has struggled with a dislocated shoulder in both matches. 

Adelaide has not been able to cover the injured Erin Phillips and Courtney Cramey.

The loss of All Australian defender Cramey has particularly unsettled the Crows' defence, with Sarah Allan forced to take the opposition's best forward and Talia Radan well down on her 2017 form. 

Heather Anderson, a top-10 pick who played every game in defence last year, wasn't re-signed for this season after seriously dislocating her shoulder for a second time in the Grand Final. 

Kellie Gibson's move to Fremantle may have also affected the Crows more than first thought, with a conspicuous lack of pressure in their attacking half this year compared to last. 

In 2017, Adelaide had the highest number of inside 50s for the competition. This year, it is dead last after two matches.

Can the Crows finally notch their first win of the season? Picture: AFL Photos

Lightning strikes twice

Friday night saw the second AFLW game in two years affected by lightning, with Greater Western Sydney and Carlton players sent off the ground at quarter-time.

Play was delayed until the storm passed. 

It ensured the first AFLW game to be held at Drummoyne Oval would be a memorable one, with Fox Footy's commentators forced to move to the boundary to call the game after the media/broadcasting area flooded.

The start of the second quarter was commentary-free while arrangements were made.

 

A nice little stitch-up 

Collingwood rookie Holly Whitford made her AFLW debut against Fremantle on Saturday afternoon.

It was a big weekend for the small forward. She finished her debut with just four touches but laid five tackles, and also turned 19 on Sunday, the day the team flew back to Melbourne. 

A quiet word from Magpies footy operations manager Mathew James and vice-captain Britt Bonnici saw an announcement over the PA during the Virgin flight east.

The flight attendant wished Whitford a happy birthday and congratulated her on her AFLW debut.

The whole plane then sang her Happy Birthday while Whitford undoubtedly squirmed in her seat.

Holly Whitford made her debut against the Dockers. Picture: AFL Photos