The AFLW A-Z of Round Nine

There was plenty to celebrate in the penultimate round of AFLW. (Pictures: @freodockersAFLW @RichmondWomens @stkildafcw)

It all comes down to one final round. Round Nine saw finals contenders drop to nine, and every position remains up for grabs in the season’s final weekend.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through Round Nine, complete from A-Z: the defining highs, lows and controversies surrounding Round Nine of AFLW season seven.

A is for Air Randall: Tahlia Randall seemed to mark every ball that came her way in the first half against Collingwood, showing off her aerial prowess. Finishing with six marks and two goals, her second quarter was one of the big reasons behind North Melbourne’s big win.

B is for Braving the elements: The conditions were not favourable at the Mildura Sporting Precinct on Sunday afternoon, with strong winds and wet weather making it difficult for each team at different points of the game. Thankfully for the Tigers, their defensive ability proved too hard to overcome, allowing them to hold the Giants off and storm away in the second half to claim a 43-point win.

C is for Commanding Clearance: While Port Adelaide would ultimately fall to St Kilda in a tough contest, the second quarter saw it break through away from home off the back of brilliant clearance work. The Power won clearances 9-4 and were able to generate 10 inside 50s, through the hard work of Abbey Dowrick, Maria Moloney and Hannah Ewings.

D is for Duffin, Duffin, Duffin: In her penultimate game, Jess Duffin marked the occasion with a shot at goal. Whilst the night didn’t go the way of Hawthorn, it was the retiring veteran who helped her side get its first and only goal of the match. Saturday night’s game was also Duffin’s final AFLW game played in Victoria. 

E is for Essendon Ended: It was always going to be a tall order to defeat the top four bound Demons at Casey Fields, and the finals hopes of the Dons were officially ended with a 41-point loss. Although they won’t play finals in their inaugural season, the Dons girls presently sit with the best record of the four expansion sides and have an opportunity to finish off the season the way it began, with a win over a fellow expansion side in Port Adelaide. 

F is for Former Crow kicks one as a Cat: In her first appearance against the Crows as a Geelong Cat, Chloe Scheer kicked a crucial third-quarter goal to keep the Cats in the contest on Friday night.

G is for Game of two halves: Leading by a goal at half-time, Carlton appeared in control of its clash against Gold Coast, with the away side dominating field position. However, the Suns quickly flipped the script following the main break, kicking six goals to one to condemn the Blues to their sixth defeat of the season.

H is for Heartbreak on return: Football is a cruel mistress. Kirsten McLeod was denied her emotional return 570 days after her last game due to concussion symptoms. Just three minutes into the clash with the Eagles, she was forced from the field after an awkward tackle saw her clutching at her left ankle, souring a strong Bulldogs win.

I is for It’s raining goals: Brisbane hit the ground running in the opening term against Hawthorn. Ruby Svarc started things off and put the first goal on the board for the premiership contenders. It wasn’t long before Jesse Wardlaw, Dakota Davidson, Greta Bodey and Sophie Conway continued the trend of scoring goals throughout the night. 

J is for Jesse is that girl: Jesse Wardlaw’s star continued to rise during her side’s victory over Hawthorn. The league’s leading goalkicker dominated in Frankston on Saturday night with three goals to her name. The star Lion’s night also included 15 disposals and two tackles. 

K is for Knee problems no longer: It was a prolific return for Ebony Antonio after recovering from a torn PCL prior to the season. The livewire forward had been stuck on 49 career games prior to Round Nine, and she marked her return with a beautiful first-quarter goal on the run to reignite the Dockers.

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L is for Losing chances in front of goal: St Kilda was nearly left kicking itself on Sunday afternoon against Port Adelaide, with conversion in front of goal a big issue. The Saints finished the game 4.11 and had at one point in the first quarter kicked 1.6 from eight inside 50s. While it didn’t cost them the game, it certainly made for frustrating viewing.

M is for Midfield dominance: Gold Coast continues to reinforce its reputation as one of the best contested possession teams in the competition. Against the Blues, the Suns won both contested possessions and clearances convincingly. Charlie Rowbottom (26 disposals), Alison Drennan (24 disposals) and Claudia Whitfort (21) were all influential. 

N is for No place like home: Courtney Wakefield has worked extremely hard for her football career, coming all the way to the Punt Road from her family’s farm in Top Hut which is over six hours out of Melbourne. It was written in the stars that in the first AFLW game at the Mildura Sporting Precinct, Katie Brennan would spot her on a lead and send the ball straight to her. From there, Wakefield slotted her set shot in front of her friends and family, and celebrated with her teammates in what was a special moment for the forward. 

O is for One hundred metre penalty: After a dominant start from the Bulldogs, the Eagles were gifted their first goal of the game courtesy of some colourful language from Celine Moody directed at the umpire. Moody expressed her dismay at a free-kick call, giving away a 50-metre penalty, then decided to follow it up with some feedback to walk Isabella Lewis to the Eagles’ goal line.

P is for Pick one for a reason: Montana Ham proved exactly why she went at pick one in the 2022 AFLW Draft. The 18-year-old Swan enjoyed a breakout performance in their loss to the Dockers at Henson Park. Ham stuffed the stat line and had big moments, flying for contested marks and crashing packs. She also kicked her first goal as a Swan, benefiting from some superb Cynthia Hamilton contested work.

Q is for Quick start in the West: Three first-quarter goals for the Bulldogs set the tone for the Saturday evening clash. The Bulldogs midfield created overlap runs that made the West Coast defence look stagnant and created easy looks inside 50 for their forwards. Sarah Hartwig jagged herself a goal and threatened to score whenever the ball was near.

R is for Roos Reset Rivalry: The rivalry between Collingwood and North Melbourne has become one of the most heated in the short history of the AFLW. The two have met in multiple close finals, and Saturday was set up to be another cracker of a contest. The Roos have won convincingly in their past two encounters after the 2021 finals heartbreak, holding bragging rights for another season.

S is for Silky skills of Howarth: The Suns needed a spark after half-time, and the dynamic Kalinda Howarth triggered a second-half onslaught. Howarth kicked a brilliant snap at the start of the third term, before involving herself in multiple scoring chains. She finished the night with 18 disposals and a goal to her name in what was an impactful display.

T is for Taken to new heights: When you’ve yet to miss an AFLW All-Australian team and are a two-time best and fairest, it’s a wonder if you’ll ever reach your peak. Against Essendon with 24 disposals, 406 metres gained and a goal, Karen Paxman had yet another career-best outing, in a career that has been full of them. 

U is for Up there, Shierlaw: Kate Shierlaw’s marking skills were on show in the loss to Port Adelaide, both up forward and behind the ball. She’s been used as a bail-out option down the line and in the defensive half by coach Nick Dal Santo, and did it again expertly on Sunday. Despite a frustrating match-up with Alex Ballard, she registered 13 disposals, six marks, and kicked a goal.

V is for Victory towards redemption: Finals were already secured for the Demons, and now, with just one game to go in the season, a big win over Essendon has them staring at a potential minor premiership, Should the Lions fail to get over the Pies on Friday night. From there, there is unfinished business in the finals series. 

W is for Winners’ list once again: Strong performances from Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers were enough to see the Dockers clinch their second win of the season over the fresh-faced Swans. It’s been a long season for Fremantle, after last season’s preliminary finalists sat in 17th place prior to Round Nine. 

X is for X-citement misplaced: You could forgive Collingwood skipper Steph Chiocci for getting ahead of herself in her milestone 50th game. Bending a kick from a tight angle, she thought she’d nailed a brilliant goal, celebrating accordingly, before quickly becoming aware it had fallen short.

Y is for Youthful and impactful: The Tigers were damaging on the scoreboard in Sunday’s win over the Giants, and much of that damage was inflicted by their youngsters. Monique Conti dominated, with three goals for the game, while her midfield teammate Grace Egan added one of her own and created plenty going forward. Additionally, 19-year-old forward Stella Reid had her best game yet, putting two goals on the board in the first quarter which were huge in allowing the Tigers to keep the Giants at distance for the rest of the game.

Z Is for Zipping goal for DP: Another game, another goal of the year nomination for Adelaide Crows’ livewire Danielle Ponter. Intercepting the ball and carrying it forward with four bounces, Ponter used her blistering pace to get away from Meg McDonald to kick a cracking goal.

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