Was this the game of the season so far?
Two desperate teams looking to record their first ever win, playing in front of a boisterous sellout crowd on the Friday night of the biggest week of the footballing calendar. What more could you ask for?
In what was an early audition for the match of the year, two of the AFLW’s newest outfits, Sydney and Hawthorn, threw everything at each other and more in an emotionally-charged contest under the bright lights of Punt Road Oval.
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And after one of the most difficult weeks in the club’s history, it was the mighty fighting Hawks, who despite conceding the first four goals of the game, came from the clouds to secure an unlikely, but memorable first victory by four points.
In fact, it was a quarter-time spray from Hawthorn coach Bec Goddard, which acted as the much-needed catalyst for the Hawks who emerged from the huddle as a completely different outfit.
“I think it’s one of those things you very rarely use and I felt there’s a time and a place for that,” Goddard told Fox Footy.
“And it wasn’t what we expected after the week we had at Hawthorn. We expected to put out a better performance than that and the girls played out of their skins. It was a remarkable three quarters after that.
“It feels like a Grand Final and that’s what you play for. You play for the first 12 seconds after the siren.”
They played with more dare, desire and ferocity around the contest which in turn, led to them finding their attacking groove, something that had sorely lacked in their last three games – having only kicked a single goal for the entirety of each of those contests.
When the Hawks took the lead, they had to be at their absolute best defensively to withstand wave after wave of Sydney attack, who were willed on by a vocal fanbase that had travelled in numbers for the big weekend.
But had it not been for desperate interventions from the likes of Kaitlyn Ashmore, Akec Makur Chuot and debutant Emily Everist, the result could’ve been markedly different, with their defending in the final term helping Hawthorn over the line.
FELLOWS: THE FIRESTARTER
Before Friday, Tahlia Fellows had never kicked an AFLW goal.
But in only her third senior game, Fellows helped turn the tide for the Hawks up forward, acting as a firestarter for their incredible fightback with a sensational showing in the attacking half. Fellows got the Hawks going prior to quarter time with a major from the goalsquare but then really got things going from that point on.
The VFLW Rising Star winner booted goals in each of the second and third term, before playing an important role in kick-starting Aileen Gilroy’s go-ahead goal just before three quarter time.
In an attack that has sorely needed a spark in the opening four games, perhaps Fellows may be part of the answer to helping the Hawks get some more mileage on the scoreboard in the weeks to come.
LOCHLAND’S UNBELIEVABLE START
When Brooke Lochland is firing in-front of goal, she doesn’t do things in half measures.
It’s been four years since Lochland, while still playing for the Western Bulldogs, set an AFLW record with seven goals in a single game – which incredibly all came in the space of 40 minutes. And in the first quarter of the Swans’ demolition of Hawthorn, it looked as if she was on track to beat her own personal best, with an incredible opening 12 minutes.
Lochland reminded the footballing public of just how damaging she can be when she’s in full flight, with an unbelievable first-term showing, booting three goals – including a brilliant snap on her left foot – before the Hawks defence could even blink.
However, from that point on, the Swans attack went limp, not scoring another goal for the remainder of the contest.
HAWKS MAKE STATEMENT
Hawthorn’s women’s side made a statement on Friday afternoon, by proudly wearing their Indigenous jersey for the clash with Sydney.
In response to the alarming allegations bestowed upon former men’s coach Alastair Clarkson and assistant Chris Fagan earlier this week, the Hawks stood in solidarity with past and present First Nations players at the club, by wearing the strip despite Indigenous round coming to an end last weekend.
“I’m so proud of the girls. They wanted to wear their Indigenous jumpers because we are the new face of the club,” Goddard told Fox Footy.
“We are a new part of football, women’s football at Hawthorn. We are inclusive, we are diverse and we know the path that we are on. We treat our job as role models as a privilege to be here and we want to represent the community like that, and do our fans proud.”
Defender Akec Makur Chuot also weighed in on why they decided to wear the Indigenous jersey.
“For us, the women are always the pillars of every club,” Makur Chuot told Fox Footy post-game.
“And for us, as a new team, we just wanted to show that we respect and want to listen to our First Nations people. This is what it means to us.”
SYDNEY 4.2 4.3 4.6 4.7 (31)
HAWTHORN 1.0 3.2 5.3 5.5 (35)
GOALS Swans: Lochland 3, Privitelli, Hawks: Fellows 3, Baskaran, Gilroy
BEST Swans: Lochland, C.Hamilton, Ham, Whelan, Smith, Eastman, Hawks: Fellows, Makur Chuot, Duffin, Fleming, Lucas-Rodd, Wales
VENUE Swinburne Centre
PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTE
T Fellows (HAW)
2. A Makur Chuot (HAW)
1. B Lochland (SYD)
MAGPIES TAKE GAME OF FEW CHANCES
There’s never any love lost when Collingwood and Essendon lock horns, as one of the game’s storied rivalries wrote its first of many chapters in AFLW.
And it was Collingwood who came away with the nine-point win.
It was tight, it was fierce and it was played on a knife’s edge, with neither side able to gain the all-important breathing room until late in the contest, as both teams threw everything at each-other at the AIA Centre.
Ultimately, it came down to whoever could take their few and far between chances in-front of the big sticks and it was the Magpies, who were able to not only take those additional shots on goal to aplomb, but also stay firm under enormous Essendon pressure.
After Chloe Molloy fired her side ahead with an incredible snap late in the second term, Collingwood never looked back with Eliza James kicking the only two goals of the second half to help Stephen Symonds’ side to an 11-point win, which locks the Magpies into second place on the ladder.
The Bombers smashed the Magpies in the territory battle (33-19 inside 50s) and brought all the effort around the coalface which has been a trademark of their first few games in the competition.
However, they struggled to convert their dominance into scores, with inaccuracy (2.5), coupled by Collingwood’s brilliant defensive effort keeping their attack – who were missing Jess Wuetschner with illness – at bay.
THE PRESPAKIS SHOW
It’s Maddy Prespakis’ world and we are just living in it.
After being tagged out of the game by Sarah Hosking a week prior, Prespakis put her quietest game of the season behind her with a dominant showing against the Pies, taking control of proceedings in the middle and almost leading the Bombers to a historic win against their rivals.
The former Blue got going early and never looked back, setting the tone in the middle. In the second half, she was given more direct attention by the Pies midfield as they tried to quell her influence – which was to no avail.
At times, it looked as if Prespakis would will the Bombers over the line by herself, and despite finishing with a personal best 31 disposals and one goal, she wasn‘t able to will her side to a third win of the season
50 FOR AN OG
It was a special day for one of ‘The OG’s’, with Stacey Livingstone bringing up her 50th AFLW game, and becoming the first to do so in a Collingwood jersey.
Livingstone has been there from the start and has been a constant since day one, leading literally from the back as the lynch-pin at the heart of the Magpies’ defence. The milestone is a testament to her longevity, having only missed five games of football since her debut in the opening game of 2017.
Along with Brittany Bonnici, Sophie Casey, Ruby Schleicher and Steph Chiocci, the ever reliable defender is one of only five players left on Collingwood’s list from their first season, with Chiocci also set to bring up the 50 game milestone next weekend against St Kilda.
It was another trademark showing from Livingstone, who held former teammate Sophie Alexander to a single goal and patrolled things brilliantly all afternoon against the Bombers‘ repeat entries.
BRAZILL VS BOMBERS
It’s easy to forget just how good Ash Brazill is, but Essendon certainly haven’t.
After taking a break from the game to win Commonwealth Games gold in netball, Brazill returned to the side last weekend in the Pies’ narrow loss against Adelaide in a new role in-front of the ball – switching defence for attack.
When she returned from a devastating knee injury in 2021, the All-Australian key defender had a taste of playing up forward during the Magpies’ run to the Preliminary Final, but never had an extended run, beyond the small sample size, due to her hiatus from the game.
Brazill was everywhere in the first term against the Bombers, providing an option as a link-up forward and clean set of hands in the wet conditions, as she got busy in the opening term with 11 disposals.
However, her impact dipped as the game wore on, only tallying another three possessions as the Bombers defence were able to curtail her influence.
EARLIER in the day, a capacity crowd at Punt Road Oval saw North Melbourne end the Western Bulldogs’ unbeaten start to season seven.
Jasmine Garner starred yet again in the 15-point win, with a 26 disposal outing, along with accumulating seven marks and eight clearances, as she kick-started everything from defence all the way to attack.
It was the hottest ticket in town as the game was declared a lockout at half-time, with ticketless fans being forced to peer through the fence to catch a glimmer of the action.
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 2.2 3.3 4.4 (28)
ESSENDON 1.1 2.1 2.4 2.5 (17)
GOALS Magpies: James 2, Butler, Molloy, Bombers: Alexander, Prespakis
BEST Magpies: Cann, Butler, Brazill, James, Molloy, Schleicher, Bombers: Prespakis, Phillips, Bannister, Cain, Wales, Van de Heuvel
Bombers: Gamble (calf)
VENUE AIA Centre
PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTES
3. M Prespakis (ESS)
2. L Butler (COLL)
1. M Cann (COLL)