ONE of the best days of AFLW footy took place across Saturday, including two games between the top four and the first draw of the season.
The Crows were felled for the first time this year, the Swans nearly reached triple digits in an impressive attacking performance, and a young Giant put the competition on notice.
Each Monday of the AFLW season, Gemma Bastiani will touch on a key talking point from each game, just in case you missed it.
The Tigers are rarely out of it
Heading into the final quarter, Richmond just needs to be within touching distance of the lead to be a threat. Down by nine points at three-quarter time against Hawthorn on Friday, the Tigers piled on 21 points to just one behind in order to record their fourth win of the season. In round four against the Blues, Richmond came from behind at the last break to win, and in round one they were all square with Brisbane at that same break before a last gasp win. This season the Tigers have won six of their eight final quarters, showing that teams need to create more scoreboard distance early in the game if they're to feel secure late in games.
Sydney has found its attack
After going winless in its first season, Sydney has found some genuine attack. Its lowest score of the season, round seven's 26 points, is higher than half of its scores from 2022's season seven. The side is averaging 45.5 points per game this year – more than double that of last season – including a whopping 96-point return against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. Led by Chloe Molloy's record-breaking 17 score involvements, and equal-career-high three goals, the Swans registered not only their highest ever score, but the sixth highest in AFLW history. The young team also enjoyed their broadest spread of goalkickers with nine, and kicked more points against the Bulldogs than any team before.
Adelaide is beatable
When Adelaide defeated Narrm in round six, it was an ominous sign that the Crows might just be impenetrable this season, but Brisbane had other ideas on Saturday. Bringing immense pressure by way of 71 tackles, the Lions didn’t allow the Crows to use the ball freely in attack, resulting in the Crows generating a score from just 26.5 per cent of their inside 50s. At times there were concerns that Brisbane had missed its opportunity, kicking just four goals from 12 scoring shots to half time, after which the Crows had their typical high-scoring third quarter. But the Lions then achieved something only Narrm has done to the Crows this year – held them goalless for a quarter, allowing Brisbane to come from behind to take the narrow win, and blow the top four race wide open.
Goldsworthy has given the Giants some grit
Teenage star Zarlie Goldsworthy's performance against Carlton was one of the best seen across the AFLW, with five goals from 24 disposals, to go with 12 tackles and three contested marks. Without important midfielders Alyce Parker and Bec Beeson in the side for the Giants, Goldsworthy and Haneen Zreika set the standard defensively through the middle of the ground, leading the home team to a new AFLW record for tackles with 104 across the day. It was with this pressure, and persistence, that they toiled away to register a second win of the season despite conceding 10 more inside 50s and 21 more clearances to Carlton. It was a mature, gritty performance from the Giants.
A consistent Yartapuulti can challenge good teams
Coming into its match with Yartapuulti on Saturday afternoon, Gold Coast was looking to remain in touch with the top four as it pushes for a second ever finals series, but the Power had other ideas. Coach Lauren Arnell spoke last week about the goal of consistent pressure and effort across a full four quarters, and despite conceding four goals in the first term, that pressure was evident all day. Led by Maria Moloney and Abbey Dowrick in the middle, who registered 14 tackles each, the Power made life difficult for the Suns, worrying them into their second lowest disposal efficiency of the year, using the ball at just 59.5 per cent. While it came agonisingly short of a win, landing its second draw in as many seasons, Yartapuulti will take confidence out of its ability to slow the dangerous Suns.
The Roos have improved, but not enough
One of the most intriguing storylines coming into the season was whether North Melbourne could close the gap on the 'big three' of Adelaide, Brisbane and Narrm. Now, after matches against two of the three, they are still yet to register a win against them, with Adelaide still to come next week. While still clearly the fourth-best team in the competition, in order to challenge come finals, the Kangaroos need to be able to best these sides, but in the face of expectation they have failed to date. No doubt the Roos will take heed from the fact they kept Narrm to its lowest score of the season and came within two points of the Lions, but the losses have made next week's battle with the Crows all-important.
Sabrina Frederick has found a home in the ruck
Since arriving at Collingwood, Sabrina Frederick has struggled to find consistently good form, but this year playing as the side's No.1 ruck option she has become a vital cog as the Pies push for a fifth consecutive finals series. Backing up her 37 hitouts last week with 39 against Geelong on Sunday afternoon, she gave her midfielders first use of the footy in a game that was always going to be won at the contest. Not only that, Frederick was clean with ball in hand despite wet, windy conditions at Victoria Park and appears to be playing with a newfound confidence.
Orlagh Lally, quiet achiever
One of Walyalup's four Irishwomen, Orlagh Lally's strong season has been somewhat overshadowed by her side's inconsistency, but playing an attacking role out of the middle she has become a damaging player. With 19 disposals, seven inside 50s, and 458 metres gained against St Kilda on Sunday afternoon, she did well to set up forward assets in Gabby O'Sullivan, Hayley Miller, and Aine Tighe to help the Dockers to their highest score of the season as they remained in touch with the top eight.
The Eagles have got some bite
In the most pressure-filled game in AFLW history, where a record 208 tackles were recorded between the teams, West Coast played smart footy to beat an up-and-about Essendon side. After a tough week in the wake of head coach Michael Prior's comments in his post-match press conference last Sunday, the Eagles bounced back on the field, making the Bombers' push for a top-four spot far more difficult. Adapting to the severe wind and using it to their advantage throughout the game, West Coast challenged Essendon's defence, while also interrupting the home side's attempts to transition forward, before standing strong in the dying minutes as the Bombers threatened to snatch victory.