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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Fremantle v Hawthorn
Round 3 •
35 5.5
Full Time
22 3.4
Dockers Won By 13

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    Full R3 preview: Blockbuster opens round, stars to meet as Pies host Suns

    Gemma Bastiani previews a round three that includes four first-time match-ups

    Jasmine Garner tackles Meghan McDonald during North Melbourne's elimination final against Geelong in S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

    AS ROUND three approaches, a huge clash between Geelong and North Melbourne has everyone intrigued. 

    Several tight matches look likely as four first-time match-ups are scheduled across the round, while an exciting midfield head-to-head between Brianna Davey and Charlie Rowbottom is slated for Sunday afternoon.  

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

    Geelong v North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium, 5.05pm AEST 

    Arguably the biggest game of the round is its opener between Geelong and North Melbourne. The two sides, who entered the competition together in the very first round of expansion back in 2019, have had different journeys to Friday's game, but are now more evenly matched than ever. Historically, both teams have played very defensively against one another, culminating in last season's tense elimination final. But ultimately this one will come down to who can more effectively get the ball away from congestion and into space. 

    Although both sides boast impressive contested ball players, they are in fact teams who love to use the ball neatly outside of the contest. Geelong disposes of the ball better than anyone, going at 71.4 per cent efficiency, while North Melbourne is the best uncontested ball team, averaging 158 uncontested possessions per game so far this year. The midfield battle of Georgie Prespakis, Amy McDonald and Nina Morrison against Jasmine Garner, Ashleigh Riddell and Mia King will dictate how this game plays out. 

    Tip: Geelong still won't post its first win against the Roos, but won't fall short by much. North Melbourne by two points. 

    03:03

    SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 

    Greater Western Sydney v Richmond at Blacktown International Sports Park, 1.05pm AEST 

    The Giants and the Tigers have played off three times, with the latter snatching the win in their last two meetings. But this time around, Greater Western Sydney has a real opportunity to post its first victory of the season. Richmond's new-look forward line has not been able to really capitalise on its forward entries, taking just six marks in the attacking arc to date, while the Giants have an aggressive rebounding defensive option in Tarni Evans. Taking a big step up this year, Evans is averaging 576m gained and provides a great option to move the ball forward after it's turned over by the Giants' defence. 

    In attack, GWS has the luxury of adding Isabel Huntington, who will play her first game for the side after joining the club last year. Even if Huntington doesn't hit the scoreboard, she will force Richmond's defence to be accountable to both her and Georgia Garnett, providing the latter with an opportunity to find more space. If the Giants can really get their running transition game going, moving the ball by hand rather than kicking long, they will be able to really challenge Richmond whose midfield balance was exposed against the Crows last week. 

    Tip: The Giants will get their first win of the season. GWS by five points. 

    Tarni Evans in action during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Melbourne in round two, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    Adelaide v Essendon at Wigan Oval, 2.45pm ACST 

    Never having faced off before, this is a new challenge for both the Crows and the Bombers. Without Sarah Allan and Najwa Allen in defence, Adelaide is a little stretched in terms of who can cover Essendon's wealth of forward options, but a team so well drilled will certainly revert to a full defensive strategy to support one another, rather than relying on one-on-one match-ups. At the other end of the ground, Essendon's Ellyse Gamble looks likely to get the match-up on dangerous marking forward Caitlin Gould, but it will be important for the Bombers to apply pressure higher up the field to force less efficient forward entries from Adelaide. 

    The first two rounds have shown that if a team is able to pressure Essendon around the footy, its ability to engage neat handballs on the run is limited, becoming fumbly and susceptible to error. Adelaide has the discipline to apply that pressure for the full four quarters, which makes life particularly difficult for the visitors. 

    Tip: The Bombers will have their moments, but it won't quite be enough. Adelaide by 20 points. 

    Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at Casey Fields, 3.05pm AEST 

    The Hampson-Hardeman Cup now reaches its 10 year, and 14th match-up – seventh in the AFLW era. Melbourne has had the control in this head-to-head for some time now, winning five of the seven, including a 64-point win last season at Casey Fields. In a season where the Bulldogs are already struggling due to underdone players and a 0-2 start, a game against reigning premier Melbourne couldn't have come at a worse time. 

    Melbourne is the fourth best clearance team in the competition to date, while the Bulldogs sit at 13th, and as a result the latter has struggled to get their hands on the footy. But if they are to stand a chance the Dogs need to prevent the Demons from winning easy clearances, because with such a wide spread of threats in attack they can punish sides very quickly. The visitors will also be without important key defender Eleanor Brown and tall utility Elle Bennetts, further thinning their backline stocks. 

    Tip: The Demons will keep on winning. Melbourne by 50 points. 

    Kate Hore and Alyssa Bannan celebrate a goal during Melbourne's clash against Greater Western Sydney in round two, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    Fremantle v Hawthorn at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, 3.05pm AWST 

    Having met just once before, in a tight five-point Fremantle win, this one is shaping as another close bout between the sides. Aine Tighe's four-goal performance was crucial in the win, and she looms as an important player once again. If Fremantle is to claim its second straight win against the Hawks, it needs to clean up its connection in attack. The Dockers tend to break down when sending the ball forward, which is where Hawthorn can capitalise.  

    With quick runners like Aileen Gilroy and Kaitlyn Ashmore at their disposal, the Hawks' ability to turn intercepts into attacking opportunities is immense, and this is where they can catch the Dockers out. As a result, Fremantle needs to maintain its defensive structure behind the ball to prevent masses of space for those quick Hawks to run into. 

    Tip: The Hawks will cause a fright, but the Dockers will ultimately come out on top. Fremantle by four points. 

    Aine Tighe is tackled by Sarah Sansonetti during Fremantle's clash against Collingwood in round two, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 

    St Kilda v Port Adelaide at RSEA Park, 1.05pm AEST 

    When these two teams played last season, the Power had an impressive first half before succumbing to a persistent, albeit inaccurate, St Kilda. This season, however, Port Adelaide has a more potent forward line to better make use of its forward entries. It is winning more footy than last season, getting it on the boot to gain ground and tackling less. 

    St Kilda, which is also yet to register a win for the season, has shown positive footy in patches so far this campaign, but has been unable to maintain this for a full game. Often it is caught guarding space rather than direct opponents, which will allow the Power to capitalise on any lapses in concentration given its dangerous array of forwards including Gemma Houghton, Ashleigh Saint and Hannah Ewings. In the Saints' favour, however, is Grace Kelly's form as a rebounding defender. The Irishwoman offers plenty of speed and power coming out of the backline, and will be an important cog if the Saints are to snag a win. 

    Tip: The Saints love playing at home, but it's going to be the Power's day. Port Adelaide by 10 points. 

    Ashleigh Saint and Gemma Houghton celebrate a goal during Port Adelaide's clash against Adelaide in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    West Coast v Carlton at Mineral Resources Park, 1.05pm AWST 

    Both West Coast and Carlton will be disappointed in their results last week, and looking toward this game as a chance to atone. The Blues need to get back to their forward pressure, territory-controlling game that worked so effectively against the Suns in round one. This requires them to win it at the source, get the ball forward and then pressure any attempts to rebound from the Eagles defenders. 

    For the Eagles, it is important they find some control in the game. Last week they lost the clearances by 27 and the contested possession count by 53 – a smashing by any measure – so all attention is turned to their midfield to set the tone early. Carlton has some talented clearance players in Mimi Hill, Abbie McKay and Keeley Sherar, and West Coast's Emma Swanson, Bella Lewis and Aisling McCarthy must go toe-to-toe at the source to give the side any chance. 

    Tip: The Eagles will show improvement, but not quite enough. Carlton by 12 points. 

    Mimi Hill is tackled by Tess Craven during Carlton's clash against North Melbourne in round two, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Collingwood v Gold Coast at Victoria Park, 3.05pm AEST 

    This game is a real opportunity to get a proper gauge on where both Collingwood and Gold Coast are at, after each posted its first win of the season last week. The Suns dominated at the contest last week, which drove their ability to attack, but it won't be as simple this time around against the Pies. How well the Suns go in the midfield against the Pies will tell us a lot about them, and if they can attack regularly without total control in the midfield. If they can, it is a real opportunity to exploit Collingwood's under-resourced defence. 

    The battle between Brianna Davey and Charlie Rowbottom in the midfield will be one to watch, with the latter the heir to Davey's throne. So far this season Rowbottom leads the competition for clearances with 25 – including a record 16 last week – while Davey has registered 15 over the opening fortnight, but it will come down to which players' teammates provide better support. 

    Tip: Gold Coast will show plenty, but the Pies will get up for Brit Bonnici's 50th game. Collingwood by 15 points. 

    Brit Bonnici and Brianna Davey celebrate during Collingwood's clash against Melbourne in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Brisbane v Sydney at Brighton Homes Arena, 5.05pm AEST 

    In their first meeting in the AFLW, the Lions will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing the Swans on their quick home deck in Springfield. Although Brisbane will be without Taylor Smith due to a hamstring injury, it still has a lot of weapons the visitors will need to shut down, needing to remain strong at the contest to protect their backline from what Dakota Davidson can do. Davidson, who took six marks inside 50 and kicked four goals last week, is relishing the opportunity to be the main target in attack and is riding high on momentum. 

    This year Brisbane has found a really even balance between contested and uncontested ball, while the Swans are largely winning the contested footy. As a result, if the Lions can continue their neat transition to outside runners like Sophie Conway and Orla O'Dwyer, they will be well placed to claim their first victory at Brighton Homes Arena. The battle between rucks Tahlia Hickie and Ally Morphett, however, will be the most enthralling of all. Hickie has started the season well, showing off her neat tap work and athleticism around the field, while Morphett has emerged as a damaging, physical ruck who can hit the scoreboard. 

    Tip: Sydney will continue to show improvement, but not enough to knock off the Lions. Brisbane by 25 points.

    Dakota Davidson celebrates a goal during Brisbane's clash against Richmond in round one, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Luck of the Irish: Tighe steers Dockers to win over Hawks

    Aine Tighe has booted three goals to lead Fremantle to a 13-point win over Hawthorn

    Orlagh Lally and Hayley Miller celebrate a goal during the match between Fremantle and Hawthorn at Fremantle Oval in round three, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    IRISH sensation Aine Tighe has monstered Hawthorn to deliver Fremantle a 13-point victory and its second win of the season.

    The key forward starred, booting three goals and hauling in 12 marks (five contested) and 20 disposals as the Dockers prevailed 5.5 (35) to 3.4 (22) at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

    DOCKERS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats

    Incredibly, six of the game's eight goals were kicked by Irish players, but Tighe was clearly the star of the show.

    02:40

    The 31-year-old teed up teammate Orlagh Lally for a first-quarter goal while Hawks Aine McDonagh and Aileen Gilroy kicked a major apiece.

    Fremantle midfield duo Kiara Bowers (25 disposals and eight clearances) and Hayley Miller (22 touches, six clearances) were busy throughout.

    04:41

    For the Hawks, midfield recruit Emily Bates (22) and Tilly Lucas-Rodd (21 touches, five clearances) were impressive.

    Fremantle got off to the perfect start when Tighe clunked an early mark and kicked truly.

    00:38

    The forward booted two first-quarter majors and had a hand in another to nudge the Dockers out to an early three-goal lead.

    The Hawks responded and kicked the next three goals, via Gilroy, Greta Bodey and McDonagh.

    Fremantle appeared on the ropes when McDonagh burst away and ran into an open goal to cut the deficit to a point early in the third term.

    00:43

    But Tighe stood tall at the top of the goal square to take her 10th mark, over Kaitlyn Ashmore, and converted to give the Dockers some breathing room.

    The ever-reliable Ebony Antonio then pulled off a classy pick-up and kicked what proved to be the sealing goal early in the fourth quarter.

    00:39

    The Dockers (2-1) travel to play Essendon (2-1) next Sunday, while Hawthorn (1-2) next face reigning premiers Melbourne (3-0) on Friday night.

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    FREMANTLE        3.1     3.2     4.4     5.5 (35)
    HAWTHORN        0.0     2.2     3.2     3.4 (22)

    GOALS
    Fremantle: Tighe 3, Antonio, Lally
    Hawthorn: Bodey, Gilroy, McDonagh

    BEST 
    Fremantle: Tighe, Bowers, Miller, Lally, East
    Hawthorn: Ashmore, Bates, Stratton, Lucas-Rodd, Richardson

    INJURIES 
    Fremantle: Nil
    Hawthorn: Nil

    Reports: Nil 

    Crowd: 2,092 at Fremantle Community Bank Oval

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