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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Collingwood v Gold Coast SUNS
Round 3 •
21 2.9
Full Time
33 5.3
SUNS Won By 12

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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

    Good as Gold Coast: Stanton masterclass sees Suns stun Pies

    Jamie Stanton kicked three goals as the Suns powered to a 12-point win over Collingwood

    Gold Coast players celebrate a win during round three, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    ANOTHER Jamie Stanton masterclass has caused an almighty upset, as Gold Coast registered its first ever win over Collingwood by 12 points. 

    The Suns simply made more of their opportunities forward, kicking 5.3 (33) to the Pies' 2.9 (21) as Stanton kicked three crucial goals for the visitors. 

    Gold Coast midfielder Lucy Single was handed the role of containing Collingwood captain Brianna Davey, keeping the Pie to just five disposals to half time. Davey started the third quarter in the forward line in an effort to break the tag, leaving Single to run with Brit Bonnici in her 50th career game. 

    Claudia Whitfort (19 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s) continued her impressive season in the midfield, while Charlie Rowbottom (18 disposals, six tackles) was caught in an enthralling battle with Collingwood midfielder Aishling Sheridan (13 disposals, two clearances) all afternoon. 

    04:36

    Collingwood took a leaf out of Carlton's book and worked exceptionally hard to pressure the Suns' attempts to exit defence. It forced the visitors into poor disposal on the rebound and, as a result, repeat entries for the Pies. 

    Unfortunately for the Pies it didn't result in scoreboard pressure in the first half, converting just one goal from seven scores. It made for a frustrating half for the home side who simply couldn't break past the defensive wall of Lauren Ahrens (six intercepts, seven marks), Clara Fitzpatrick (seven disposals, two marks) and Daisy D'Arcy (five intercepts, 17 disposals, eight tackles). 

    MAGPIES v SUNS Full match coverage and stats

    When the Suns went inside 50, however, they looked especially dangerous thanks to the marking power of Jac Dupuy and Tara Bohanna, with the likes of Stanton and former Pie Jordan Membrey at their feet.  

    Late in the game as Collingwood was threatening to snatch the lead, Dupuy was thrown behind the ball to be an extra contested marking presence, taking some crucial late marks to save the game. 

    Sarah Rowe (18 disposals, 304 metres gained) worked exceptionally hard to break lines and give her side best chance when going forward, while Lauren Brazzale had an impact on the wing early with 10 disposals in the first half. 

    00:38

    The tag 
    When preparing to face Collingwood, priority number one is limiting Brianna Davey, and Gold Coast was able to do just that. Suns midfielder Lucy Single was handed the daunting task of running with Davey and took the role on with aplomb. Single kept Davey to just five disposals to half time, ultimately resulting in Davey's shift into attack, with the Sun then shifting her focus to another star Pie in Brit Bonnici. In the process of limiting her direct opponents, Single finished the game with 19 disposals, seven tackles and three clearances in an outstanding performance. 

    Lucy Single tackles Brittany Bonnici during round three, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Jamie Stanton, danger forward 
    Off the back of six goals last week, Jamie Stanton brought the scoreboard pressure again slotting three goals to take her season tally to 10. Prior to this year Stanton had never kicked more than three goals in a season, but now stationed in the forward line full-time and working at the feet of talls Jac Dupuy and Tara Bohanna, she is relishing a new lease on life. 

    00:38

    Up next 
    Collingwood will head to Moorabbin to take on a winless St Kilda, while Gold Coast will return home to host another winless side in the Western Bulldogs. 

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    COLLINGWOOD          1.3    1.6    2.8   2.9 (21) 
    GOLD COAST               0.2    2.2    3.2   5.3 (33)

    GOALS   
    Collingwood: Davey, Brazill 
    Gold Coast: Stanton 3, Dupuy, Membrey 

    BEST   
    Collingwood: Rowe, Bonnici, Allen, White, Sheridan 
    Gold Coast: Single, Whitfort, D'Arcy, Stanton, Dupuy 

    INJURIES   
    Collingwood: Nil 
    Gold Coast: Nil 

    Crowd: 2,537 at Victoria Park 

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