28/02/2024

Port's Maria Moloney lays a tackle on Carlton's Daisy Walker. (Image: PAFC)

Port Adelaide’s pressure was at the forefront, giving Carlton no space to breathe as it forced a frantic draw at Ikon Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Blues got off to a quick start in front of their home fans, taking a two goal lead into the first break, and looking like they were going to have a comfortable outing. However, that was as easy as it would get for them for the rest of the afternoon.

The Power came out firing in the second quarter, making it their mission to not give the Blues an inch after a lacklustre first term. They struck back quickly through Olivia Levicki, who booted her first AFLW goal, before Jade De Melo tacked on two goals in quick succession to put the Power in front.

The pressure from Port Adelaide throughout that second quarter, and later the game as a whole, was epitomised by a lunging tackle from Maria Moloney, which afforded her a set shot, putting the Power up by two goals heading into the main change.

Moloney was one of a few Port players who put in a brilliant tackling performance, logging 10 tackles for the game, while teammates Kate Surman and Jacqui Yorston had eight each.

While Port’s pressure never really left in the second half, the Blues still found their way back into the contest in what was a very back and forth ending to the game. The margin was cut back to zero, but the relentless pressure from the Port Adelaide players kept Carlton from ever regaining their lead.

Goals from Breann Moody and Jess Dal Pos in the second half did aid the Blues’ attempt at getting back in front. They also completed the trifecta of six-pointers from their 50th gamers, after Elise O’Dea kicked the first of the afternoon.

But the efforts from the three milestone players just weren’t enough to drag the team all the way.

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This was largely due to the influence of another O’Dea, Port’s Ebony, who made all the difference in her matchup with Carlton’s superstar forward Darcy Vescio. O’Dea kept them off the scoresheet and also greatly limited their influence on general play.

Port defender Alex Ballard spoke with The Inner Sanctum about how O’Dea settled into that role and how important it was in their defensive efforts as a whole.

“She’s literally made for that role,” the young defender said.

“She’s so hard at it and she’s an inspiration for the rest of us, just with how hard she goes at the ball… Darcy wouldn’t have had a good day today having to deal with that.”

Post-game, Port Adelaide coach Lauren Arnell lauded her team’s ability to knuckle down when it counted, and spoke of how they are moving forward as a group despite their freshness in the league.

“That second quarter [is] a real piece of what we’re capable of, and we’ve just got to put that together for four quarters,” the coach said.

“It’s such a short time to be together as an expansion team, and we just keep growing that belief each week.”

Ballard echoed her coach’s sentiments, speaking about the team’s improvement week to week.

“This week is just another step closer to a win, and I hope the Port fans can see that we’re getting better and better each week,” she said.

“We know that [pressure] is one of our strengths… I think we were up in ground balls, contested possessions and turnovers, so the stats show that’s what we’re capable of, and I think we can go from there.”

With the Sydney Swans waiting for Port in Round 4, coach Arnell is eager to take that next step and finally secure an AFLW win.

“We’ll analyse what we did well and where we went wrong. And I tell you what, we cannot wait to get back out there again next week.”

Port Adelaide will have a chance to claim its first AFLW victory as it faces fellow expansion team Sydney on Saturday afternoon, while Carlton will aim to bounce back as it travels to Perth to take on the Fremantle Dockers.

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