No joy for Magpies in return to Victoria Park as Demons dominate

The Magpies score equalled the lowest score in AFLW history, a mark Greater Western Sydney previously held on their own.

The Demons’ midfield led by Elise O’Dea, who finished with 23 touches, recorded the first six inside 50s of the game despite kicking into the wind and never looked like losing once O’Dea kicked their first goal midway through the first quarter.

Ashleigh Brazill was the Magpies standout but too much was left to too few for them to compete, their inability to take a mark inside 50 obvious with Sharni Layton ineffective up forward.

By contrast Melbourne, with experience such as Karen Paxman in fine form and Lily Mithen a tough unit, shape as a definite premiership threat.

The Victoria Park atmosphere

The atmosphere at Collingwood’s first AFLW game at the club’s spiritual home Victoria Park was brilliant with a big, relaxed crowd attending to watch the women. With the grey skies above and the Magpies having to battle hard to get the ball from one end of the ground to the other, it was eerily similar to the last time Collingwood’s senior men’s team played at Victoria Park 20 years ago and the Brisbane Lions thrashed them.

The Demons’ midfield

Even with Daisy Pearce not playing, Melbourne has some class in their midfield. Karen Paxman is a ball winner but her goal kicking let her down against the Magpies. It was the co-captain, Elise O’Dea, who really came to the fore when the Demons needed to convert their chances. She kicked the first goal from a stoppage and then forced the ball forward to create a goal for Lauren Pearce to convert. Her centre clearance work was strong and at half-time she had 18 disposals.

Melbourne's Tegan Cunningham shakes off the Collingwood opposition to head toward goal.

Melbourne’s Tegan Cunningham shakes off the Collingwood opposition to head toward goal.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Wrong way, Bonnici

Collingwood’s Brittany Bonnici made a bad mistake in the second quarter when the Demons were gaining momentum. She grabbed the ball from the centre bounce and kicked the ball deep into attack. The only problem was that it was Melbourne’s attack, a problem exacerbated by the fact the Demons had the benefit of a strong breeze. Minutes later the Demons’ scored. It was bad luck for Bonnici who worked hard for the Magpies throughout.

The sneaky forwards

Aliesha Newman has pace and is beginning to show the benefits of the 11 games she played in her first two seasons. The sneaky forward created an avenue for goal and opened up opportunities for her midfield teammates. Add in Tyler Hanks, who managed to find Lauren Pearce in the goal square with a smart kick on the outside of her foot. The duo will create some drama for opposition defenders this season.

Collingwood players desperately try to contain an inform Melbourne at Victoria Park.

Collingwood players desperately try to contain an inform Melbourne at Victoria Park.Credit:Chris Hopkins

The wind

With AFLW skills still developing, the swirling wind played havoc with the game as players struggled to hit targets. At one stage during the second quarter the ball was locked on the old members wing for several minutes with neither team able to hit a 45 degree kick to open up play in the centre corridor. In the end Melbourne’s ability to make use of the breeze proved the difference.

The Pies’ dilemma

Sharni Layton was stationed at full forward but did not have a touch at half-time. Layton will take time but her profile means every move she makes will be watched. At half-time the Pies had just four of the 16 top possession winners in the game and they were getting obliterated by most other statistical measures too. They resorted to playing their best player Ashleigh Brazill as a spare in defence at times which didn’t help the spectacle nor their likelihood of scoring. Collingwood needs a rethink as Brazill is by far their best player and might need to spend more time in the middle.

The Cunningham factor

For a few minutes in the third quarter, Tegan Cunningham showed she was capable of taking over a game. Her hands were strong inside 50 as she led Collingwood defender Ruby Scliecher to the ball. The 186cm basketballer has good aerobic fitness and her timing is beginning to improve. If she gets conditions in her favour, she could be the X-factor that makes Melbourne a premiership threat, particularly with Pearce able to push forward occasionally.

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.




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