19/05/2024

North Melbourne's Jasmine Garner dishes off a handball in the win over Sydney. (Photo: AFL)

After a blistering start to the AFLW season as a pure midfielder, Jasmine Garner reminded the competition that she’s just as deadly inside 50 in North Melbourne’s demolition of Sydney.

The superstar four-time All-Australian was once again her side’s most influential player in a day which saw her needed less in the midfield, and more so up forward.

It was the first time she’d kicked multiple goals since Round 10, last season. That’s no indictment on her form though, with Garner in good stead to be leading the AFLW best and fairest voting after six rounds.

She sat second in the coaching votes after Round 5, second only to Georgie Prespakis who is now serving a two-week suspension.

Garner was still named in the centre bounce though, and managed to collect 18 disposals, 10 tackles and six clearances with her significantly higher forward time.

The 28-year-old set the tone for her side early, contributing both goals in the first half. Not every forward was as clean as her inside 50, however.

The Roos kicked 9.13, as a number of players just couldn’t find their feet in front of the goals.

Two-time All-Australian Ash Riddell had a strong showing after an average start to the season by her lofty standards. She had 25 disposals and six clearances, but also kicked just two behinds from her shots on goal.

Emma King also kicked 3.3, in what could have been a day to remember for the ruck/forward.

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Regardless of the goalkicking, it was a game that North Melbourne needed to win, and ultimately still did so comprehensively by 11 goals.

The Roos demolished the Swans in all key statistics, including winning clearances 27-19, contested possessions 105-84, and most devastatingly, inside 50s 41-17.

They had first use out of the contest nearly every stoppage, bringing them up to a 4-2 record with three wins on the trot.

Speaking post-game, coach Darren Crocker is very happy with where his team sits.

“It was an important game for us,” he said.

“Sydney are obviously at a different stage to their development than we are. Saying that, we still had to come and get the game the way we like it to look.

“We needed to get the job done, and get it done well. I thought right from the first bounce they brought the intensity and brought our game.”

It was a win on debut for 17-year-old Zoe Savarirayan, who played her first game after joining North Melbourne’s list this season.

Transitioning from a football (soccer) background, she had two shots on goal, showing plenty of excitement and spark in a forward line that lost multiple small options over the off-season.

“[Zoe] brought what we knew she was going to bring… lots of energy, liveliness,” Crocker said.

“She’s only quite a small, little player, but she’s got really good wheels. She’s quick, she can jump and she’s very clean as well.

“[Her rundown tackle] was just testament to how much she was loving it out there and how much she wanted to bring it to the team.”

Next step for Sydney

After Hawthorn and Port Adelaide both claimed wins across the past two rounds, Sydney remains the last side without a victory in season seven.

It has been clear for not only the Swans, but all four expansion teams, that the first season is about learning first and foremost.

This was perhaps most evident for the Swans this week, who entered the match without key pillars of their spine in ruck Ally Morphett and key forward Rebecca Privitelli.

Morphett was dropped after a poor last two showings, being beaten by Olivia Levicki and Lucy Wales in back-to-back weeks.

Coach Scott Gowans explained the expectations he went into the game with.

“The rucks are interesting. Winning the hit-outs and clearances is not a high correlation to winning. If it’s not a high correlation, why have it in the side?” he explained.

“The ability for [Hamilton and Lawson-Tavan] to do some work around the ground, was probably more important than what they did in the ruck hit-outs. I think it’s something we’ll do some more work on.

“We went in with a clear focus. You’ve got to be a little bit honest in this competition as well. We knew we might struggle on the scoreboard today, so we took that out of it and concentrated on a couple of key things.”

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Despite there being no expectations to go big on the scoreboard, the Swans didn’t manage a single scoring shot, only scoring through a rushed behind from their 17 inside 50s.

Brooke Brown and Nicole Bresnehan were important in repelling attacks consistently, with extra attention being paid to North skipper Emma Kearney.

Gowans also had Montana Ham and Sofia Hurley running with Garner and Jenna Bruton respectively through the midfield.

It was as much a competitive game as a learning experience for his inexperienced group, but the result speaks for itself.

“The idea was that we wanted our younger players to learn how an experienced midfield group works out of stoppages,” Gowans explained.

“Regardless of the scoreboard, they were going to stay on those match-ups and get it done. It wasn’t so much a tag, it was a run-with role.

“We got a lot out of it. Up until three-quarter time we worked out with our season high GPS for those girls. We can go back and get the vision and teach them a bit more.

“It is disappointing, I thought the last few minutes of the game were disappointing, [but] we took a lot out of it. Internally we got a lot out of it except for the last few minutes.”

North Melbourne will next take on the top of the table Brisbane in a season-defining clash. For Sydney, the end of the season may provide opportunity, but that first victory continues to slip out of sight.

With Gold Coast, Essendon, Fremantle and Geelong to come, it may avoid the club until 2023.

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