CARLTON’S hopes of winning the inaugural NAB AFL Women’s competition were shattered when it lost to Fremantle by 16 points at Domain Stadium on Friday afternoon.

While it was as good as a nail in the coffin of the Blues, now a win and significant percentage behind Adelaide with the Crows still to play, it was the first win for the Dockers women’s team.

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Fremantle started strongly with three goals in the opening term, while restricting Carlton’s forward supply.

The Blues broke Freo’s bind in the second term thanks largely to marquee selections Darcy Vescio and Brianna Davey, both of whom were influential in reducing the deficit to just four points at the long break.

But the Dockers, guilty of second-half fadeouts throughout the season, rallied strongly after half-time, registering 13 scoring shots to Carlton’s two.

Fremantle coach Michelle Cowan said her side needed to make a stand after last week’s one-point loss to Collingwood.

Cowan praised her players’ work ethic, highlighting their determination and focus as hallmark attributes in the historic win.

“We drew the line in the sand essentially and wanted to make a statement,” Cowan said.

“They’ve worked really hard with every pre-season running session that they’ve had and the challenging start to this season.”

“They’re an incredible group that were driven all along.

“The morale around the club has been exceptional, considering the draw and the one-point loss.”

The loss could prove damaging for the Blues, whose finals aspirations will end if Adelaide defeat Melbourne at home on Saturday afternoon. 

However, Carlton coach Damien Keeping said his team’s focus lied beyond reaching the AFLW grand final.

“I don’t think at any stage we’ve been narrowly focused on the scoreboard and the outcome of the scoreboard,” Keeping said.

“We understood that we needed to keep winning, but we wanted to look for those opportunities to grow through every experience.”

“We were dependent on a number of other results to go our way that were out of our control, but we’ve got another game next week and we’ve looked upon this season as seven games.”

Provided Carlton wins its final game, the Blues are still reliant upon the Crows losing their two remaining matches, while Melbourne would need to lose in the final round of the AFLW season. 

Given the Crows’ superior percentage, a finals berth would still remain unlikely. 

Marquee magic
Carlton marquee pair Darcy Vescio and Brianna Davey were comfortably among their side’s best with influential performances at either end of the ground. Manned tightly by half-back Cassie Davidson, Vescio was crafty with her body work and found open space running into goal on several occasions. She finished with three goals and extended her lead atop the AFLW goalkicking table. Davey was equally damaging in her own right, reading the ball superbly to intercept a number of Fremantle’s attacking forays. 

For the home side, Kara Donnellan was best on ground with 24 disposals, eight tackles and a crucial final-quarter goal. The Dockers captain was clean in possession, explosive at stoppages and made good decisions to help her side register its second-highest score in the AFLW to date. 

Did you see that?
Athletic Fremantle utility and former basketballer Gemma Houghton made her presence felt early in the second half with a towering grab inside her attacking 50. As the ball tracked towards a pair of Carlton defenders, Houghton soared in from the side and reeled in an improbable mark before setting herself for a shot on goal. She failed to convert but stamped herself as an imposing option inside 50, emphasised by an intercept mark and goal later in the third term. 

It was over when…
Donnellan put her foot down. With the match still in the balance midway through the last quarter, the star Fremantle midfielder impacted several crucial stoppages and converted a challenging snap around the body the seal the victory. After kicking the goal, Donnellan returned to the centre square and ensured the ball didn’t fall Carlton’s way. 

The ladder now
The win sees Fremantle leapfrog GWS and the Western Bulldogs into sixth position. Carlton remains in third place, but is increasingly reliant on results falling its way to earn a berth in the AFLW Grand Final on 25 March.

Say what?
“This season it’s bigger than wins and losses, it’s about this brand new AFLW competition.” – Fremantle coach Michelle Cowan 

We missed some opportunities early and to chase a score all day is very difficult away from home.” – Carlton coach Damien Keeping

What’s next?
Having completed the last of its home fixtures, Fremantle will travel to Victoria to play the Demons at Casey Fields next Friday. The Blues face the daunting task of hosting the top-of-the-table Brisbane Lions at Ikon Park next Sunday evening.

FREMANTLE                            3.0       4.0       5.5       6.7       (43)
CARLTON                                0.2       3.2       4.3       4.3       (27) 

Fremantle: Donnellan 2, Barr, Filocamo, Antonio, Houghton
Carlton: Vescio 3, Ivey 

Fremantle: Donnellan, Houghton, Antonio, Janz, Hooker, Filocamo
Carlton: Vescio, Arnell, Davey, Jakobsson, Lucas-Rodd 

Fremantle: TBC
Carlton: Hardiman (knee) 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Power, Paton, Kirk-Williams