Sunday 17 February 2019

Venue: Hickey, Opposition: Sucked

After the defence-free Round 1 loss to Fremantle, last week's victory over the proven putrid Collingwood was as least convincing as you're ever likely to get while holding a team goalless until the last four minutes. That - and the fact that we've been drawn in the good team 'conference' (spew) instead of Jabroni Alley - made this the rubber match to decide whether we stayed alive or started calling Daisy's obstetrician to see if she'll be right to return next season. Speaking of rubber, the game was played at Hickey Park, which sounds like a Makeout Creek style colloquial name for somewhere teenagers go to have it off.

A tune up game against another pox Conference B team would have been preferable to away against two time grand finalists, until we treated them with contempt (both spiritually, and in Tegan Cunningham's case physically) on the way to the second biggest win in club history. Didn't say that coming, and neither did the Brisbane players going by the looks on their faces as we chipped it around and didn't let them get a kick. Makes my moaning after the first game - especially now that the Dockers are good - seem even more NQR.

Those of you who are into omens, sorcery and the dark arts would have been bleeding when our gigantic curtained banner neatly tore asunder on the breeze just as the players approached. I suspect it went out in grief at seeing Brisbane's perfectly normal curtainless crepe banner, which had a clever mid-riff design that meant the players could just run underneath it without the prospect of being coathangered.

The standard for banners in women's football remains:
Based on continued ruck titancy of Lauren Pearce, I was convinced we were the better team within the first couple of minutes but as always the concern was converting enough chances to insure us against the other sides kicking a couple of arsey goals and winning by three points. The first chance came from Pearce hitting a leading Eden Zanker with a perfect pass. The only issue is that at this stage of the AFLW's life there's no point taking set shots from 40 metres out, and when nobody could mark her kick to the square the first of what originally promised to be a million missed chances went begging.

Speaking of Zankers, the bloke commentating was a bit of an Eden. I'm all for new people having a go, but this bloke clearly thinks that the route straight to the top of his chosen profession is Triple M style buffoonery. The crumbtastic Aleisha Newman was referred to as Paul (we think because of the actor and not the MFC 2004 rookie), and Tyla Hanks was said to have a "Green Mile ahead of her" (because, you see her name is Hanks and... no wait, that's the extent of it), ignoring that the titular mile was the walk to the electric chair. Nor had the callers been briefed beyond the most basic of fun facts, leading us to the "Brad Green at Manchester United" style anecdotes around Harriet Cordner's family and Cat Phillips being a frisbee guru.

In a backline that was almost unbeaten, Cordner was a revelation on the usually dangerous Sabrina Frederick-Traub. In two previous starts she'd had less disposals against us than any other team in the competition but still kicked four of 15 career goals. It's a half-Kingsley, where the player doesn't play particularly well but still stitches you up. Not this time, the delivery forward was awful and every time she went near it Cordner et al jumped on her. Result - two kicks and not even the remotest threat of a match-winning performance.

Down the other end, our flawless ball movement set up Newman to trot through their forward 50 on her own to pop through an open goal. It was as well set up a goal as you'll see in any grade, and worthy of a spot on the end of season highlights laser disc/VHS/DVD/Blueray/digital download or YouTube compilation. Presumably it will get shunted off for a flashier goal featuring somebody kicking over their head, or as in the case of the reigning Goal of the Year winner's second, a player expertly crumbing off a pack and plowing through the opposition defence like a freight train obliterating a flock of sheep.

Even with Zanker missing the lot from the forward pocket our attack looks plenty more potent than last week against (arguably) better opposition. She might have missed, but the idea that we've got a player who can take overhead grabs in the general vicinity of the square is thrilling. The fancy banana kicks from the pocket or running out to improve the angle will come later, she will be a star after another couple of seasons of VFL and AFL games.

As Newman's second went through the prospect of a thrashing came into play, but that was it for us in the first quarter. Brisbane even got one back, threatening to waste all our good work in the traditional manner. It fell to the thrillingly named Jesse Tawhiow-Wardlaw, with the commentators steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the first half of her surname as if it was a) a taboo subject, or b) nobody had told them how to pronounce it. Ever Jasper McMillan-Pittard got the courtesy of them saying his full surname before he snubbed the McMillan wing of the family by ejecting them from his professional life.

That goal led to one of Brisbane's few threatening patches, but endless panic bombing towards Frederick-Traub (who got the reverse Tawhiow-Wardlaw treatment and was just referred to as 'Serena') came to nowt and they were left on one goal at the first change. It's not for me to tell them how to conduct their business, but it can't have helped having a player getting around in long sleeves. Either somebody had packed the wrong jumper, she has a genetic disorder which stops her from feeling heat, or I'm stereotyping Brisbane weather as tropical and she was just a bit chilly.

Like most of the quarters in the history of this fledgling organisation, the second started with us poised to put them out of their misery but we couldn't land a killer blow. Another perfect pass out of the middle by Pearce came marginally too far out for a goal, and Brisbane narrowly avoided paying full price from the resulting a kick-in disaster. Somehow from a near total stranglehold on the game we nearly conceded the opening goal of the second, with only a last ditch tackle from Emonson stopping them from walking into goal unchallenged.

Like most quarters in the history of the AFLW club, the second opened with us poised to put them away but lacking the killer blow. Another killer pass to a lead by Pearce came marginally too far out, and Brisbane only narrowly avoided conceding full points from the resulting kick-in disaster. Almost still conceded the first goal, with a last ditch tackle from Emonson the only thing between us and a counter-attack trot through an open goal.

As our forwards were having trouble putting the biscuit in the basket it was left to Cat Smith to wander forward and unexpectedly snap one off a pack. This meant Fox Footy had to halt their replay of Tegan Cunningham assassinating an opponent behind the play. It didn't help her cause as she was immediately reported anyway. There wasn't much in it but she'll probably get suspended anyway because they don't want parents to shit themselves and stop their daughters playing the game.

Of course there was a high probability that if you'd just let the Brisbane player run around unchallenged long enough she'd have blown her ACL, but that lacks the outrage points of a forearm to the back behind the play. Somebody must have lagged her to the umpire, because if he was going to report her anyway how come there wasn't a free kick in the first place?

With at least one Brisbane player trying to regain her equilibrium the next chance flowed closely behind, another entrant in the Festival of Kicking To A Lead. Somebody's gone back and watched all the tapes, because for possibly the first time ever the player (Zanker again) marked 40 metres out and didn't just try to kick the cover of it. She spotted Paxman in acres of space and hit her with a perfect pass instead and the floodgates sprung open. Zanker got her reward for setting up the last goal with another snapped around the body, before going into the ruck and winning a centre clearance that indirectly led to Newman's throwing another log on the bonfire with her third. The discount commentators spruiked a 32 point lead, it was actually 34 but Brisbane were not going to recover from either.

Things were going so well that we could afford the comical scenario of Zanker running onto a loose ball with no opponent within the same area code, then taking a half shot/half pass to a loose player in the square that did neither and rolled across the face of goal for nothing. She is the new Jakovich, capable of doing remarkable things one minute then stuffing up the blindingly obvious the next. It didn't matter, as Fox Footy's countdown clock failed for the second consecutive week, Bianca Jakobsson ran into an open goal and the landslide was on.

After half time our transition kicking remained top shelf, but for the first time all day Brisbane looked half-threatening going forward. Freewheeling, rampant Melbourne quarters are usually followed by ones where we're lucky to get one goal, and in this case that came in the last 10 seconds when a lolkick across the face of Brisbane's goal landed with Jakobsson for another. Unlike most times this season the wind helped us, holding her kick just inside the left post and getting us out of an average quarter (compared to the second anyway) at one goal each.

Until that kick - reminiscent of Jack Viney in that pre-season game against a fill-in laden Essendon - the highlight of the quarter was Cunningham clattering into the same player for a second time, running into her so hard she wasn't just seeing stars but constellations. Lucky she didn't got back for a third because it was veering into Muhammad Ali "I'll hit him so hard his ancestors will feel it" territory and a head-start on WNBL pre-season training.

With victory guaranteed, the last quarter was basically just Brisbane trying to avoid losing by 100. They stacked the backline, and late in the quarter had 2% time in their forward half. It made scoring difficult - and in the future of 6-6-6 positions being introduced everywhere I suppose they'd just be expected to get thrashed - but we still should have had the first. That woman Zanker set up Newman to run into an empty goal, but high on equally Richelle Cranston's record for three goals in a game the livewire forward tried the trick shot off the ground instead of just waltzing into an open goal. Nevertheless it helped confirm Brisbane weren't going to threaten.

The coup de grace came via the dangerous Cunningham marking, banging through her set shot and resisting the urge to go and knock that same Brisbane player over in celebration. It was one of 11 marks inside 50, which must be up there for the most ever in an AFLW game.

Brisbane's lack of interest in forward play saw them only register two inside 50s for the quarter. One where one of their players was closely pursued by three of ours, with nil but Demons downfield. That didn't end well. Her with long sleeves got a token one after the siren, which wouldn't seem to be too much of a problem except that we're in an absolute snakepit of a group that will probably be decided by such marginal percentage that the lost six points here will keep us out, while on the other side the top team has a 3-4 record.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
5 - Lauren Pearce
4 - Harriet Cordner
3 - Aleisha Newman
2 - Karen Paxman
1 - Elise O'Dea

Major apologies to Zanker, Phillips and Jakobsson.

There's a boilover brewing. I don't profess to know enough to set a betting market for the Daisy but you'd have got reasonable odds at Pearce winning. It's not over by any stretch of the imagination, but if Max Gawn isn't the first ruckman to win a top award on this page he might drop his everyman persona and punch on. 

14 - Lauren Pearce
9 - Elise O'Dea, Karen Paxman
4 - Harriet Cordner
3 - Aleisha Newman
2 - Tyla Hanks, Lily Mithen, Eden Zanker

Next week
I thought this was a test, but at the unusual time of 4.05pm next Sunday we return to Casey Fields for a season defining clash one way or another. If Fremantle beat Adelaide in Darwin the night before (what is it, a bronze medal match for teams our men thrashed in the NT last season?) then a loss against the Roos will leave us in more trouble than the early settlers with three games to play.

No doubt Casey will serve up another bullshit game where there's a 400km/h breeze favouring the pockets, which might come in handy for us because we could probably do with necking the score against a team averaging over seven goals a game. Or for those of who with more courage than me, we could just try to beat them in a shootout. Either way I'm not keen on our chances, but it will be the first good team North has played so here's to them shitting the first time Pearce clambers over their ruckman and delivers a fearsome tap.

Final thoughts
I'm back on the bandwagon. Mick Stinear, please address abusive mail to PO Box 9994 in your capital city.

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