QUEENSLAND recorded its first win of the NAB AFLW Under-18 Championships on Wednesday, as play in the carnival’s second series shifted to Broadbeach.
Vic Country also continued its winning ways, accounting for an improved Central Allies team (featuring players from South Australia and Northern Territory). Central played with more cohesion in its second run after struggling in its debut outing at Metricon Stadium on Monday.
Vic Country's Lucy McEvoy maintained her place as the competition's leading goalkicker, adding a bag of four to the five she booted against Queensland on Monday.
Queensland caused the first genuine upset of the championships, knocking off the previously undefeated Vic Metro by eight points.
The home side had come off a 56-point thumping at the hands of Vic Country but was able to capitalise on its chances up forward much more frequently than on Monday.
By contrast, Metro struggled to lock the ball inside its forward half and failed to hit targets cleanly.
After a tough opening half, Vic Country broke away from the Central Allies to record a 23-point win.
Central made the most of its opportunities up forward, but just didn't have enough to kick a winning score. Country's spread and run with handballs was again integral to its win.
Western Australia shook off a sluggish start to charge to a 30-point win over the Eastern Allies.
The disciplined Eastern team held Western Australia accountable for much of the match, with two quick goals in the dying minutes of the third quarter drawing the margin to just 12 points.
But class and experience shone through, with Western Australia piling on three goals in quick succession in the final term to put the game beyond reach.
Queensland: Natalie Grider was instrumental in her team’s big win, playing with dare across half-back and through the middle. Eligible to be drafted this year, Grider had 15 touches and four marks, but was most important in the second half when the match was in the balance.
Vic Metro: Key defender Georgia McPherson has been a rock for Vic Metro for a few years now. She held up well under a weight of Queensland forward 50 entries, read the ball well and was impressive in taking several intercept marks. McPherson finished with 10 touches, four marks and three rebound 50s.
Vic Country: Sophie Van De Heuvel's classy skills were on show in the win. Playing through the middle and across the forward line, Van De Heuvel was dangerous with ball in hand and could have had an even better game if she'd kicked straight. She finished with 15 touches and three behinds. Is draft-age this year.
Central Allies: She may only be 159cm, but South Australia's Esther Boles was one of Central's best. Spending time in the midfield and on the wing, she wasn't afraid to put her body on the line or take risks when she had possession. Another draft-age player, Boles had an all-round game with 15 touches, six marks, six tackles and five clearances.
Western Australia: Sonia Dorizzi didn’t nominate for the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft, feeling she wasn’t ready to play at the top level. It was a mature decision which seems to have paid off, with the 19-year-old – granted special permission to play in the under-18s – playing well in the ruck and around the ground. She finished with 16 hit-outs, nine touches and four clearances.
Eastern Allies: It was a twin affair during the match, with Western Australia’s Mikayla and Brianna Hyde and Eastern’s Chloe and Libby Haines taking to the field. Although Mikayla kicked three goals, Chloe and Libby were in their side’s best. The two former basketballers have height and speed. Libby rebounded well out of defence, while Chloe was a constant threat up forward. Both impressed with their defensive pressure.
Seen and heard
Several AFLW senior coaches, including Collingwood's Wayne Siekman, North Melbourne's Scott Gowans (who coached Vic Country at last year's championships) and Western Bulldogs premiership coach Paul Groves were in attendance, casting their eye over the next group of young stars,
St Kilda's VFLW coach Peta Searle (who will also be the club's AFLW coach when it enters the competition in 2020) was on duty in the commentary box, joining Geelong’s boom recruit Melissa Hickey.
Anti-density rule makes its mark
This is the first year the under-18 championships have been played with an anti-density rule in place.
Two forwards from each side must stay inside forward 50 at all times. In games played so far, teams have been keeping a player at the traditional centre-half forward position at the top of the forward 50.
The rule has generally opened up the game, with comparatively high scores kicked on the first day.
Gowans, on the Gold Coast to look for players to complete the club's first AFLW list, said the rule had been working well at VFLW level (where he leads Melbourne University).
"From a coaching perspective it's good because what it does is allow [the players to move] the ball to move up and down the ground," Gowans said.
"If a side can get the ball between the arcs, what happens is they've got players to actually kick to. You're not waiting and holding play up to get players to run forward of the ball and kicking to grass.
"If you look through the VFLW, the scores from the year before aren't that different, but the possession tally is much higher. What happens now is we have behind-the-goals footage in the VFLW… [and the under-18s] is pretty well coached and analysed, so teams' defences have picked up. The defensive side of the game has gone through the roof the last couple of years," he said.
"I like it from the ball movement perspective. The average possession rate is now up to 220 in the VFLW [whereas] many games last year were 150 or 140."
After two games in three days, Thursday is a rest day for players, with recovery sessions and team meetings pencilled in.
Matches resume on Friday at Bond University, with a slightly earlier start (10am AEST). Vic Metro plays the Central Allies, Queensland takes on the Eastern Allies and Vic Country faces Western Australia.
RESULTS FROM NAB AFLW UNDER-18 CHAMPIONSHIPS – WEDNESDAY, JULY 11
QUEENSLAND 0.0 2.0 2.2 4.3 (27)
VIC METRO 0.1 1.1 1.1 3.1 (19)
Queensland: Farquharson 2, Hammans, Dawes
Vic Metro: De Angelis, Bate, Prespakis
Queensland: Postlethwaite, Grider, Yorston, Hampson, Bella, Groves-Little
Vic Metro: McPherson, Newton, Wilson, Brown, Sansonetti, Lynch
VIC COUNTRY 1.1 3.2 5.4 6.6 (42)
CENTRAL ALLIES 0.0 2.0 2.0 3.1 (19)
Vic Country: McEvoy 4, McDonald, Webber
Central Allies: Ponter 2, Rosenzweig
Vic Country: Van De Heuvel, Allen, Morrison, McEvoy, Caris, Hanks
Central Allies: Boles, Gore, Munyard, McKinnon, Ward
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 1.1 3.2 4.3 7.3 (45)
EASTERN ALLIES 0.1 0.1 2.3 2.3 (15)
Western Australia: M. Hyde 3, Hill, Bartlett, A. Dowrick, Verrier
Eastern Allies: C. Haines, Quinlivan
Western Australia: Duffy, Sergeant, B. Hyde, M. Hyde, O’Driscoll, M. Dowrick
Eastern Allies: Garnett, King, Parker, Mitchell, C. Haines, Hamilton