AN EFFICIENT North Melbourne has put its AFLW premiership quest back on track with a decisive 18-point win over a wasteful Greater Western Sydney at a windy University of Tasmania Stadium on Saturday.
The heavily favoured Kangaroos bounced back strongly from a narrow round one defeat to Melbourne, controlling proceedings for much of the contest to triumph 6.1 (37) to 2.7 (19).
The flag fancy was magnificently led by vice-captain Jasmine Garner (19 possessions and two first-half goals) and skipper Emma Kearney (20 possessions) who, along with Jenna Bruton (20) and Ashleigh Riddell (18), set the tone for their teammates with their purposeful approach and attacking ball use.
The Giants had their chances and were well served by their own captain Alicia Eva (a game-high 21 disposals) and fellow runner Alyce Parker (16).
ROOS SINK GIANTS IN TASSIE Full match coverage and stats
With a cross-breeze prevalent in Launceston, North drew first blood early through Garner, who slotted a set shot from 40 metres after being the beneficiary of a clever pass from Riddell.
The Roos took the early ascendancy but failed to capitalise on a couple of scoring opportunities, allowing the Giants to level the scores by the first break following a strong contested mark by pint-sized Haneen Zreika, who took full advantage of a 50-metre penalty to score from the goalline.
Garner followed up with an opportunist snap early in the second quarter, and at the other end Zreika had the chance to also add a second and put the Giants in front but missed on the run from point-blank range when she could have waltzed to the goalline.
The miss proved costly as, soon after, Roos giant Emma King broke the Garner goal monopoly after winning a free kick following a ferocious tackle on Pepa Randall.
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Just before half-time, the Giants had another golden opportunity but tall Erin McKinnon sent a set snapshot wide and the Kangaroos led by nine points at the long break.
The visitors were again made to pay when North Melbourne goaled through Elisha King, increasing the margin to a game-high 16 points. But just when the Kangaroos appeared poised to pull away they gifted a goal to GWS when an undisciplined Britt Gibson gave a free to Britt Tully.
The Roos regained their advantage moments later when Sophie Abbatangelo nailed a superb set shot from an acute angle, and teammate Kate Gillespie-Jones put the game out of the Giants' reach with a major early in the final term that stretched the Kangas' lead to 21 points.
The only blemish for North was forward Kaitlyn Ashmore coming off second-best in a head clash in the second quarter and not playing any further part.
North star Jasmine Garner provides enormous flexibility for her team with her ability to play both in attack, where she has established a reputation as one of the game's best forwards, and in the midfield where she is also a powerful proposition. Garner contributed in both areas, kicking the Roos' first two goals while being a regular ball-winner around the ground.
North was clearly the better team – more cohesive, more composed and better skilled – but the Giants would have been a sneaky chance had they kicked the ones they should have. The chief culprit was 157cm forward Haneen Zreika, who, with an open goal beckoning in the second term, ran onto a handball, took a bounce and, despite being supported by shepherding teammates, kicked well before she should have and shanked it. Meanwhile, the Roos relished cool conversions such as the tight-angle pearler from Sophie Abbatangelo.
One to watch
There was no easing into AFLW for GWS debutant Lisa Steane, given she travelled to an unfamiliar venue and confronted a strong team on the rebound. However, the 25-year-old schoolteacher from New South Wales showed she could have a productive footy career ahead of her by being one of her team's best players. Steane was into the fray from the outset, taking two eye-catching marks in the first term: an athletic stretching grab in the opening minutes, followed by a terrific contested, juggling effort just before quarter-time.
Did you see that?
It wasn't easy to judge the flight of the ball in the blustery conditions, which makes an effort by North Melbourne's young defender Tahlia Randall all the more impressive. In the first term, as the players were just becoming accustomed to the breeze, Randall launched for the ball and took a screamer at half-back. In a game featuring few big marks, it was a beauty.
"It's a relief to get on the board and, probably more so, the way we played. Our pressure was amazing … I was just super confident that if we could change lanes with the footy with our ball movement and be really brave with it, and keep the same pressure (as last week), I thought we'd get the result … It's 3-0 for us (in Tasmania). I love it." – Scott Gowans, North Melbourne coach
"We win contested ball but we don't maximise our opportunities. We don't give our forwards quick ball when we should and then at other time when we should be going slow we're probably trying to go fast. Right now we've got that balance out of whack, if you want to compare us to the best teams in the comp, and clearly North Melbourne are going to be one of the better teams in the comp." – Alan McConnell, Greater Western Sydney coach
Both teams have the benefit of an eight-day break, with the Giants hosting West Coast at Blacktown International Sportspark in the 1.10pm Sunday timeslot, followed by the Kangaroos facing Richmond at Ikon Park at 3.10pm.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 3.0 5.1 6.1 (37)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.0 1.3 1.4 2.7 (18)
North Melbourne: Garner 2, Emma King, Elisha King, Abbatangelo, Gillespie-Jones
Greater Western Sydney: Zreika, Tully
North Melbourne: Garner, Kearney, Bruton, Riddell, Randall, Gillespie-Jones
Greater Western Sydney: Eva, Parker, Steane, Hicks, Bennetts
North Melbourne: Ashmore (head knock)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Crowd: 2102 at University of Tasmania Stadium