AFLW Insight: Who'll win the battle of the heavyweights?

WHEN the round three fixture for the NAB AFLW season was released on Monday, there was one match which immediately caught the eye.

Over the past few years, Adelaide and Fremantle have cemented themselves as two of the heavyweights of the competition.

AFLW TEAM OF THE WEEK Round two

The Crows took out the 2019 flag, a season in which a beaten-up Fremantle lost a preliminary final to Carlton.

Last year, it was Fremantle's turn to dominate, moving through the season undefeated before it was cut short due to COVID-19, without a premier crowned.

Fremantle's Kara Antonio celebrates a goal against the Western Bulldogs in round six, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

If the Dockers had won their preliminary final against Melbourne (a game in which they were favourites), they would have hosted the 2020 Grand Final.

Fremantle holds the record for the most consecutive wins (nine) dating back to round one last year, having just overtaken the eight straight wins of – you guessed it – Adelaide, set between round two and the Grand Final of 2019.

The two teams last met in round four, 2019, in Darwin, with the Crows comfortably accounting for the Dockers by 42 points.

Adelaide's Erin Phillips and Eloise Jones celebrate a goal against Fremantle in round four, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

The building of powerhouses

Short AFLW seasons elevate the advantage of keeping your list together for long periods of time, and Adelaide has had a big win in that regard, given no other teams have yet been introduced to South Australia.

On the flip side, Fremantle lost eight players to West Coast in the Eagles' initial list build, but the Dockers still managed to retain the core of their side. The nine players remaining from Fremantle's 2016 list are all usually best-21 players, although Ash Sharp has been out in recent weeks.

INAUGURAL PLAYERS

Adelaide

Fremantle

Sarah Allan

Ebony Antonio

Dayna Cox

Kara Antonio

Angela Foley

Kiara Bowers

Anne Hatchard

Steph Cain (delisted and redrafted)

Ebony Marinoff

Tiah Haynes (delisted and redrafted)

Rhiannon Metcalfe

Gemma Houghton

Justine Mules

Hayley Miller

Erin Phillips

Gabby O'Sullivan

Chelsea Randall

Ashley Sharp

Jess Sedunary (one year at St Kilda)

 

Stevie-Lee Thompson

 

Deni Varnhagen

 

 

Both sides have also had strong injections of highly talented youth over the last few years, balanced out with dependable state league players.

Adelaide has brought in the likes of skilful forwards Danielle Ponter and Eloise Jones, Irishwoman Ailish Considine, and experienced SANFLW players Najwa Allen and Marijana Rajcic.

Likewise, Fremantle has added its own lively goalkickers in Roxy Roux and Sabreena Duffy, and midfielder Jasmin Stewart, while defenders Evie Gooch, Laura Pugh, Janelle Cuthbertson and Philipa Seth have come through the WAFLW.

Duffy drives through for goal number two

00:45 Jan 31. 2021. 5:02 PM

Sabreena Duffy brushes off oncoming traffic with ease and slots her side's second goal of the game

The on-field stuff

But why do these sides keep winning?

The presence of some of the most athletic and talented players around – Erin Phillips, Chelsea Randall, Gemma Houghton, Kiara Bowers – certainly helps.

But Matthew Clarke and Trent Cooper have come up with game plans that suit their sides, and they have the players to execute it.

2021 AVERAGES

 

Adelaide

Fremantle

Disposals

222.5 (3rd overall)

212.0 (8th)

Kicks

133.0 (6th)

148.0 (2nd)

Handballs

89.5 (5th)

64.0 (13th)

Marks

41.0 (5th)

35.0 (10th)

Tackles

63.0 (3rd)

58.0 (6th)

Goals

8.5 (1st)

5.0 (7th)

Scoring shots

16.5 (1st)

15.5 (equal 2nd)

 

The sides have both played West Coast and GWS in their two matches this year.

The Dockers don't get as much of the footy as the Crows, but when they do, they prefer to move it on by foot than by hand.

While the disparity between the figures may have been exaggerated by the torrential rain in the Fremantle-West Coast clash last week, the Dockers' preference for kicking is in line with previous seasons.

The Crows are much more balanced, finding plenty of the footy but have less of a gap between kicking and handballing.

They have always been a high-pressure team, almost bullying opponents with their fierce tackling in their premiership years of 2017 and 2019, and most importantly, have re-opened their scoring floodgates.

Ponter produces two freakishly good finishes

01:05 Feb 7. 2021. 5:59 PM

Adelaide's Danielle Ponter shows off her class with consecutive stunners

Who to watch

ADELAIDE

Ebony Marinoff recorded a whopping 500m gained last week, with her next-best teammate, Sarah Allan, recording 290m.

Marinoff and Anne Hatchard recorded 11 handball receives apiece, indicating their hard running through the midfield.

The Crows had an even spread of targets inside 50 against GWS, with Phillips, Randall and Ashleigh Woodland hit up three times each, while Allan took seven intercepts for the side.

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FREMANTLE

No surprises Bowers (478m) led the metres gained stat for the Dockers last week against West Coast, and the importance of the return of Steph Cain from a torn ACL was underscored by her 334m gained.

Bowers also led the way in clearances (seven), with Hayley Miller and Duffy next best with five and four respectively.

The unheralded Pugh recorded nine intercepts, ahead of Cain and Cuthbertson (eight).

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