Port Adelaide was able to test its near-full strength AFLW midfield against a stubborn Essendon side in the first half of Saturday’s practice match.
With Erin Phillips featuring in the line-up for the first time, Power supporters got a glimpse at what could be in season seven.
The full strength first half effort was dominant out of clearance. Phillips’ ability to find space and hit a teammate was well and truly on show, while Kate Surman also got off to a blistering start.
It was a two goal lead to the Power at half time, getting first use of the centre bounce more often than not. They took advantage of that dominance through the marking presence and pace of Fremantle recruit Gemma Houghton.
The Inner Sanctum spoke to midfielder Maria Moloney post-game, who was more than happy to see her skipper out there.
“[Erin’s] just that next level,” Moloney said.
“It’s great being able to play with her. The guidance that she provides the midfield group, but also to the whole group, it’s amazing.
“The midfield group, it’s the first match having Erin back in there, which was clearly notable. She’s like, the best. I thought it was really good as a group, I thought we came out on top at stoppages.”
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It was an improved effort after the Power fought valiantly against the Crows in their scratch-match last week. Faced with the prospect of matching up on Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff, it was a major test.
Responding against a Bombers side featuring Maddy Prespakis and Alana Barba running through the middle, it couldn’t have been a better response.
“Our contested work, if we can get on top of it and play our roles in the midfield, then we can play really well,” Moloney continued.
“That’s [coach Lauren Arnell’s] key message to us, just cracking in with the contested work and playing our role.”
Moloney is still building chemistry with her teammates, having now played just two competitive matches alongside them after crossing over from Brisbane.
She only managed three games in season six, struggling to break into a stacked midfield group comprised of Ally Anderson, Cathy Svarc, and league best and fairest Emily Bates.
Taking what she learnt in a team perennially contending for finals is key for her in growing into her own at Port Adelaide.
“They had an amazing midfield there, so I learned a lot from that midfield,” Moloney said.
“Coming into this group, we’ve got a lot of experienced AFLW girls in there, and a couple of fresh ones like Abbey [Dowrick].
“Us working together as a group, the more we can train together, the more we’ll able to put it all together on the ground on the day.”
Alongside Hannah Ewings and Sachi Syme, Dowrick got time to impress in the middle in the second half. While they got run over the top of in the last, they had their opportunity to make their case for Round 1.
She was particularly noticeable, challenging hard in and under and throwing her body around with hard tackles and contested work.
Dowrick made a name for herself both in the WAFLW and SANFLW after being overlooked in last year’s draft. She looks likely to have put herself in contention for a Round 1 debut.
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