We’re already at the halfway point of the AFLW season and the conference system has worked as intended, setting up some interesting battles for finals spots.
We saw the Blues get Grand Final revenge, the Saints lose in heartbreaking fashion, West Coast get their first win, Brisbane made a statement and it was another week heavily impacted by serious injuries.
Here’s what we learned:
1. It’s time to ditch the 50m penalty
As a concept, an additional penalty after paying a free kick needs to exist, but 50 metres is broken in the AFLW competition.
St Kilda’s Molly McDonald was penalised with a minute left on the clock and her team up by six points, simply for not giving the ball back to Fremantle’s Kate Flood correctly.
While the umpire made the right call in this case, the 50m aspect of the free kick is disproportionate to the infringement.
That is not an overreaction to one decision, it has quietly been an issue for multiple seasons. Today was simply the first time it directly changed a result.
In the men’s competition, it makes sense, but 50 metres in AFLW is far more damaging given the shorter kicking and how important every single scoring opportunity is.
On top of that, the standard of umpiring is not consistent enough to give them the power to break games with the penalty.
The solution is simple. Reduce it to 30m in the off-season, which will take away the impact it has, while still advancing the ball.
2. The Blues got Grand Final vengeance
Adelaide came into this game with a returning Erin Phillips and looking to officially celebrate their 2019 Grand Final victory in front of their home fans, but Carlton was having none of that.
Daniel Harford’s girls came in with a clear plan to kick short and control possession - breaking the record for most marks ever in an AFLW game with 100 - and they wanted to stretch the field, kick wide and force the Crows to defend the full width of the field.
It worked brilliantly with the Blues controlling the entire game, with the exception of some inaccurate goal kicking, allowing Adelaide to stay in the match.
Maddy Prespakis showed again why she is one of the game’s premiere midfielders, Kerryn Harrington took 13 marks (the most by a player in a single game ever), Tayla Harris was rather useful, kicking 2.3 and looking unbeatable in the air and Darcy Vescio had the most impact on the game thanks to her stellar decision making.
Carlton finally kicked away in the last quarter, gaining a hugely important and much deserved four points and breaking four straight losses to Adelaide.
Phillips meanwhile did not look her usual self and clearly will need time to find her match fitness, spending most of the game deep forward.
3. Where to from here for Richmond?
Unfortunately for the Tigers, their struggles have been compounded by the other three expansion teams finding their feet.
Gold Coast was hugely impressive against flag favourites North Melbourne, St Kilda led Fremantle until the dying moments of the game and West Coast picked up their first ever win, downing the Bulldogs.
The Tigers meanwhile allowed Geelong to kick their highest ever score … before half-time.
Monique Conti has held up her end of the bargain and was outstanding against the Cats, while Katie Brennan’s last two games have been fine.
Grace Campbell, Phoebe Monahan and Courtney Wakefield have also been good for them, but too much is being left to too few and they’re not getting anywhere near enough game impact from star recruits Sabrina Frederick and Christina Bernardi.
Frederick in particular has struggled, averaging career lows for disposals and marks.
4. Melbourne were the big winners of the week
That Friday night game at Marvel Stadium was a perfect example of how far the skills of the competition have come, played in perfect conditions under the roof.
The Demons looked fantastic, cutting the Pies off at half forward and hurting them badly on the rebound.
They picked up a vital four points in doing so, allowing them to jump from fourth to second.
Collingwood meanwhile slumps to fourth and now sits a win behind Melbourne and Carlton, two behind Fremantle.
The Dockers getting a last-second win and Carlton upsetting Adelaide were huge results in Conference B and made that Melbourne victory even more important.
All four Conference B contenders play at home and will go in favourites next week and there is no room for any slip ups, especially now for the Magpies.