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2 UP FOR THE RED & THE BLUE by Dees in October


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Once again, the Demons took the show on the road, this time for their first game at Punt Road Oval. A flurry of outs due to Covid protocols saw five forced changes, and the match shaped up as a test of depth, with a train-on player being the second emergency. Of course, many of the returning players themselves were only left out of Round 1 due to Covid protocols, such is the merry-go-round on which we all find ourselves. The Tigers faced similar issues, including a crucial defensive pillar in D’Arcy, although the quality each team lost and gained was not quite on par. Interestingly, the selected teams were close in age (an average of about 24 each) and AFLW games experience (16 for Richmond and 18 for the Dees). However, the selected team for the Dees have played more of their games in the red and blue, while the Tigers are just starting to gel, in personnel and game style.
FIRST QUARTER
It wasn’t the start the Demond would have wanted, with a quick clearance resulting in a goal to Lavey within a minute. Melbourne then had some time with the ball and looked to get its short kicking game going, with minimal success due to poor disposal. The returnees looked a step behind the pace and rusty early, and things looked decidedly shaky when another Richmond goal came via Brennan.
 
Richmond was making a concerted effort to avoid easy intercepts in their forward entries, with Conti continuing her excellent start to the season, charging through stoppages and finding the footy seemingly at will. While the notion of “beat Conti, beat Richmond” is perhaps less salient this season, her dominance was a worrying sign. The Demons were let off the hook due to a miss by Brennan, who marked barely contested in front of Magee, and the ensuing ill-directed Tarrant kick-in had me missing the steady but underrated skills of Lampard.
The Dees were living dangerously, struggling to clear defensive 50, and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. With seven minutes remaining, time in forward half had been dominated by Richmond, 71% to 29%, and with four minutes on the clock, the Dees were under 40% disposal efficiency. When the ball finally did make it forward, it was Harris vs the world—to her credit, she kept at it and laid a smother, freeing up the hard-running McNamara to pass to Parry, who fell victim to a questionable play on call. Harris, matching up on ex-Dee Cordner at this stage, got her reward for effort in the last minute via a perfectly positioned kick to her advantage by Hanks. The late goal steadied the ship, leaving the Tigers to rue some missed chances.
SECOND QUARTER
Coming into the second, the key questions were: would Richmond be able to maintain their pressure, and would Melbourne be able to get some control of the ball from the middle?
 
The latter was answered immediately with Mithen and McNamara combining for a quick clearance that saw Hore have a flying shot for goal 15 seconds in. The resulting point allowed the Dees to lock in some much-needed forward half time. McNamara was getting busy, plus tidying up her disposal. A big contest by Harris brought the ball to ground, eventuating in a set shot for Hore 30 metres out, almost directly in front, the blinding setting sun at her back—and suddenly the scores were level. Zanker, who’d had doughnuts in the first, was applying notable physical pressure to Conti, while Mithen also upped the ante, her repeat efforts crucial. Another behind to Hore meant she was 1.2 in four minutes. Her impact was such that when she got the ball later in the quarter, three Tigers pounced in an overzealous manner, resulting in another goal to Hore. A courageous marking attempt from Fitzsimon followed, and now the Dees had big individual efforts everywhere. West began to show her strength around the stoppage, breaking tackles and getting the ball to the outside, while also showing good defensive pressure, important in the absence of Maddi Gay.
Most memorably, Bannan submitted her entry for an early goal of the year contender with a lightning dash down the wing, gliding free of her opponent and taking a composed shot on goal. What you won’t see on the highlight clip was the superb vision, confidence and execution that allowed McNamara to take a risky kick on the run, opening up the field and setting Bannan free via Mithen. So, it was the AFLW teen wingers club with some classy footy (and I guess Fitzsimon was part of that club at times this round, too). Bannan doubled down moments later, this time with an accurate set shot, followed soon after by a goal to Daisy from a lucky free kick, making it six majors in a row for Melbourne. Zanker had an opportunity after the siren and missed, but things were looking good.
THIRD QUARTER
 
After a quiet third quarter under the close attentions of Goldrick, Brennan found some space, and set up another early quarter goal to Lavey who left McNamara in her wake.
 
Paxman’s chance for a quick reply from 50 fell short. A couple of 50-metre penalties against the Tigers, a dangerous tackle paid against Harris, plus a few sloppy in the backs from both sides signalled the game had gone up a notch in aggression. Harris continued the theme with a couple of physical marking contests that left Richmond players on the deck. A lot of the play occurred between the arcs, with neither team able to take the ascendency. Magee — learning the new stand rule along with the rest after a season of Gaelic footy — gave away a 50, which was exacerbated by a lapse in concentration that left the new mark unattended, allowing Dargan to take full toll with two minutes left. Keen to make amends, Melbourne pressed forward, and Daisy used all her experience to draw a free kick, turn and drill a pass to Paxman who kicked truly. Again, Zanker had a late chance after the siren, and came very close but was spoiled across the line. Notably, the midfield combined to keep Conti to four disposals while Zanker attempted to clamp down on Brennan in the middle.
FOURTH QUARTER
The high intensity was sustained by both teams throughout the fourth; clearly, neither felt it was over. However, the Demons seemed content to maintain their lead rather than be particularly proactive in adding to it, happy to rack up some repeat stoppages and kill some time. To their credit, the Tigers didn’t lay down, sparked by a ripper goal from Conti midway through the quarter. Another 50-metre penalty cost Richmond dearly, as Hore took full advantage, running forward hard and passing to Fitzsimon who sent a high kick in the Harris direction. An attempt to spoil to the line failed, with quick thinking by Petrevski allowing her to dribble towards goal, where a fast-recovering Harris toe-poked to capitalise on a shambolic yet match-sealing passage of play. After that the Dees saw off several forays forward from the Tigers, with players getting back to grind it out, particularly Hore and Daisy who ran the game out well defensively. A goal to Brennan due to a rare ruck error from Caris with three minutes to go had the commentators fired up, but after Richmond missed a few half-chances, it was done and dusted, and likely already had been for some time.
STATS & STAND-OUTS
Conti led the disposals for Richmond with 25, followed by Paxman 23, Hanks 20, Mithen, McNamara 17 (13 kicks), West 16 (11 handballs). The latter three also led the markers with 5 each, demonstrating the pivotal role of their spread.
Harris had 3 disposals for 2 goals, with her physical presence key. Notably, the Tigers had the top 7 tacklers. McNamara led for the Dees with 5, followed by Caris and Hanks with 4 each.
L. Pearce with 5 clearances had the most for the Dees, trailing Conti with 8. L.Pearce also dominated the hit outs with 17, while the undersized Seymour who rallied hard for the Tigers had 10, followed by Caris with 9.
The young player that caught my eye was Bannan, with her 2 goals from 8 touches demonstrating the breadth of her skills — that amazing dash down the wing, and the classy set shot to back it up.
While the inside 50s were even, Melbourne’s marking capacity and efficiency told some of the tale, with 52% to 37% and 10 to 3, respectively. Melbourne also had much of the play, with 228 disposals to 179 and again dominated the uncontested possession 130 to 91. A total of 50 marks to 19 again reflected their hard running and ability to hit up targets to pick their way down the ground. Hit outs, at 28 to 11, showed the supremacy of L. Pearce, ably assisted by Caris, against a less experienced, solo opponent.
MELBOURNE 1.0.6 6.3.39 7.6.48 8.6.54
RICHMOND 2.1.13 2.1.13 4.1.25 6.2.38
GOALS
MELBOURNE Bannan Harris Hore 2 Paxman D Pearce
RICHMOND Brennan Lavey 2 Conti Dargan
BEST 
MELBOURNE Hanks Paxman Hore McNamara West
RICHMOND Conti Lavey Brennan Seymour
INJURIES 
MELBOURNE Nil
RICHMOND Nil
REPORTS 
MELBOURNE Nil
RICHMOND Nil
CROWD 1,572 at the Swinburne Centre
   
NEXT ROUND Melbourne head to Casey Fields for the first time in 2022, against a winless but hungry St Kilda team, next Saturday afternoon.
THE LAST WORD Again, a dominant quarter set up the win, and the Demons have now won seven out of their past eight games.
 
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