AFLW Insight: Skills on show as standard continues to rise

IF A week is a long time in football, four years is an absolute lifetime in the evolution of a competition.

The overriding sentiment following round one NAB AFLW matches was the noticeable improvement in skills, despite the fact no football was played in Victoria in 2020 after March.

AFLW FIXTURE Check it out here

All other states and territories were able to get some semblance of a state league away over the 2020 winter, albeit some were interrupted and shortened.

Some basic back-of-the-envelope sums give a statistical backing to the eye test as to the standard of play.

 

2017 round one average (eight teams)

2021 round one average (14 teams)

Percentage change

Kicks

112.5

132.0

17.3%

Handballs

62.8

76.9

22.5%

Disposals

175.3

208.8

19.1%

Disposal efficiency (%)

52.6

61.7

17.3%

Contested possessions

97.3

102.4

5.2%

Uncontested possessions

77.1

104.8

35.9%

Marks

27.8

42.2

51.8%

Contested marks

3.0

6.2

106.7%

Tackles

60.8

55.9

-8.1%

Score

26.0

38.4

47.7%

Round one was chosen as a comparison point as players in both years participated in one official practice match before the season-opener.

Most tellingly, the average number of marks in round one of this year, compared to the first round of 2017, has increased by a whopping 51.8 per cent, with contested marks effectively doubling at 106.7 per cent.

That facet of the game alone has led to greater control around the ground and a more deliberate style of play.

Rather than a mad scramble for possession, teams now have a much calmer approach to goal – uncontested possessions rose by 35.9 percent, while contested numbers only marginally increased.

All this has a direct effect on the scoreboard, with scores up 47.7 per cent.

North Melbourne's goal-fest against Geelong on Sunday, which resulted in a final score of 71, did not have a noticeable effect on the average. The median round one score in 2021 was 38, just 0.4 lower than the average.

AFLW Match Highlights: Geelong v North Melbourne

04:26 Jan 31. 2021. 2:28 PM

The Cats and Kangaroos clash in Round one of the NAB AFL Women's competition

Return of the rucks

Round one marked the return to full fitness and form of three of the premier rucks of the competition: Adelaide's Rhiannon Metcalfe, Melbourne's Lauren Pearce and North Melbourne's Emma King.

Premiership player Metcalfe managed two games last year in her return from a torn ACL, but has not had a proper run at footy since 2018.

AFLW TEAM OF THE WEEK Round one

2019 All-Australian ruck Pearce also played the two games in 2020, managing an on-going knee injury.

King – named in the All-Australian team in 2017 and 2019 – played primarily as a key forward last year, and while no injury was ever confirmed, she had heavy strapping on her right knee for much of the season.

One game does not a season make, but the trio looked poised to have a big impact on matches in 2021, given their strong starts to the year.

 

Disposals

Hitouts

Marks

Clearances

Score involvements

Rhiannon Metcalfe

12 (6.1)

24 (15.8)

2 (0.8)

3

7

Lauren Pearce

15 (10.5)

9 (15.0)

4 (1.7)

6

1

Emma King

10 (6.9)

30 (18.8)

3 (1.7)

0

4

Career average in brackets

King's four score involvements included three first-quarter goals off her own boot.

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