MELBOURNE has secured a 14-point win over the Western Bulldogs in its third-round AFLW clash at the Whitten Oval thanks to some fine efforts from its regular contributors.
The Demons had good supply through the midfield, led by Elise O'Dea and captain Daisy Pearce, a forward target with Alyssa Mifsud and a solid defence marshalled by Mel Hickey.
In contrast, the Bulldogs were far too reliant on prolific possession-winners, acting captain Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney.
The home team missed the forward presence of injured skipper Katie Brennan and struggled for goals, especially after failing to capitalise on first use of a southerly wind.
The Bulldogs made a promising start to peg back the 14 point half-time deficit with quick goals from Jess Gardner and Kirsten McLeod.
But Melbourne just had all the answers. A deft sidestep by Mifsud to goal from close range against the run of play was followed by her third after a mark to restore order.
The Western Bulldogs wasted first use of the strong wind, particularly with the midfield feed from the rampaging Blackburn.
An early goal from a free kick to ruckman Courtney Clarkson was a promising start, but the Bulldogs struggled to find a target up forward.
A strong pack mark and goal by young Demon Harriet Cordner against the run of play was virtually double in value to keep Melbourne on level terms on the quarter time siren.
And Melbourne was far more effective with the wind at their backs in the second quarter.
With Hickey rebounding off half-back and O'Dea, Pearce and Karen Paxman matching Blackburn's midfield dominance, the Demons controlled the game in the second term.
Deanna Berry was offline with a long, hurried shot and she quickly made amends shortly after with a brilliant snapshot to fire the Demons into the lead.
Melbourne found an alternate target to powerful forward Richelle Cranston, returning from suspension. This time it was Mifsud who presented on the lead.
When Mifsud outbodied her opponent in a one-out contest and bounced through another goal in the second term, it pushed the Demons lead out to 14 points at the long break. And the visitors withstood the Dogs third quarter fightback to steady for their second successive victory.
It was a telling show of unity before Melbourne's women's team ran out onto Whitten Oval. Joining the group of young flag-waving fans were the entire Demons' men's team, led by skippers Nathan Jones and Jack Viney, to form an impressive guard of honour after their own game. Young Jayden Hunt even got down on his knees to chat eye-to-eye with a couple of eager fans flanking him in the line-up.
Melbourne's men captain Nathan Jones cheered the women's team onto Whitten Oval. Picture: AFL Photos
One to watch
As history continues to be created in AFLW, one young Demon restored a famous name on the scoresheet. Older Melbourne fans can reminisce after Harriet Cordner hauled down a pack mark on the edge of the goalsquare and slotted the set shot in the opening quarter. Teammates mobbed Cordner who is the grand-daughter of former club great Dr Don Cordner, the 1946 Brownlow Medallist.
A midfielder with 26 possessions. That would be a proficient day-out for any of the AFL's top playmakers. For Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce to accumulate 26 possessions was outstanding, particularly considering she had only half the game-time as the men with the AFLW's 15-minute quarters and time-on only after goals and major stoppages.
Daisy Pearce had a massive night for the dees. Picture: AFL Photos
Would the fans desert the women after watching the men? Not this time as the 8000-strong crowd stuck around after the JLT Community Series match. And the Bulldogs supporters had an excuse when their underdone boys lost the curtain-raiser. Instead, they stood firm in the West and most even stayed until the final siren in cold conditions as the Doggies' women also lost a close one to the Demons.
"We continue that improvement and by the look in the girls' eyes, they want to get better. We understand there's work to be done, but we just want to keep improving."
- Melbourne coach Mick Stinear
"Credit to them (Melbourne), their older stars played bloody good footy. We were able to quell them early and then Daisy (Pearce) goes into the middle and starts tearing us apart."
- Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves
Melbourne hosts Carlton in a home game at Casey Fields in Cranbourne next Saturday and the Western Bulldogs play Collingwood at Whitten Oval on Saturday night.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.3 1.3 3.4 4,5 (29)
MELBOURNE 1.1 3.5 5.7 6.7 (43)
Western Bulldogs: McLeod, Wildes, Clarkson
Melbourne: Mifsud 3, Berry, Cordner, Hickey
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Kearney, Scott, Wildes
Melbourne: O'Dea, D Pearce, Mifsud, Hickey, Paxman, Mithen
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Melbourne: L Pearce (shin)
Umpires: Michael Pell, Ryan Guy, Nathan Toner
Crowd: 8000 (estimate) at the Whitten Oval