Dockers Done & Dusted

March 10, 2022 by
Filed under: AFLW, Daisy Pearce, NSW Demons 

Round 9 – Fremantle V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

What can you say about Melbourne’s performance at Optus Stadium? Okay, Fremantle players Kiara Bowers, Gabby O’Sullivan, Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio and Emma O’Driscoll were all missing due to injury or health and safety protocols and their absence most certainly had an affect on the Dockers’ overall game plan. However, the way the Demons executed their plan was nothing short of spectacular. Their relentless pressure, tackling and determination was magnificent.

The early play showed little of the overwhelming Demon storm to come. Freo opened the scoring thanks to an opportunistic collect and drop kick from Makaela Tuhakaraina in the goal square. So far, the Dockers were dictating the terms.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook Lauren Pearce’s contribution but the Ruck’s ability to mark and precision kick, combined with vision, has been a huge part of Melbourne’s success. But it was the other Pearce, captain Daisy, who opened the scoring; receiving a handpass from Tayla Harris, then snapping the ball into an open goal.

There was little to separate the two sides for most of the first quarter. Both teams were bringing pressure to bear on each other. Then, as so many times this season, Tayla Harris took a contested mark from 30m out. She converted perfectly to put the Dees ahead.

Within a minute, Melbourne had their third of the term as Kate Hore gathered and snapped from the 50m line, then watched the ball bounce fortuitously across the line.

The Dees headed into the second quarter with the momentum well and truly on their side. They’d been dominating uncontested possessions and inside 50s; always an ominous sign for their opponents.

From the first bounce, Melbourne was firing on all cylinders. Eliza West and Tyla Hanks again combining to drive the ball towards their forward 50. At the other end, the Demon’s defence was stellar in turning back the Dockers.

Melbourne continued to rack up the uncontested possessions and strung several together before Tayla Harris spotted Daisy Pearce near the goal square and floated the ball in her direction. Daisy took the mark and went back to slot her second.

Immediately after the bounce, the Dees took it straight back inside 50 and scrapped and scrambled for every ball until eventually Kate Hore’s kick landed in Shelley Scott’s lap. Scott turned and snapped from the edge of the goal square.

Fremantle managed to stem the attacks from the Dees until the last couple of minutes when Tayla Harris’s tap down was collected by Alyssa Bannan. The forward ran around and kicked directly into the goal.

Ominously for Freo, Melbourne tend to play their best footy in the third quarter. Would the Dockers be able to strike back or would the Demons march continue unabated? All the stats were in stacked in the Dees favour but the first five minutes of the second half would have given the Fremantle faithful reason for optimism.

That hope proved short lived as Melbourne launched yet another attack. This time Alyssa Bannan took a mark seventy metres from goal and ran on, taking a bounce and drawing the Freo players before passing the ball over their heads to the waiting Daisy Pearce. The handpass allowed the Skipper to casually stroll into the open goal, notching up her hat trick in the process.

Pearce was also involved in the next goal when she marked the ball forty metres out. She thought about the shot before glimpsing Kate Hore who ran out to take the garb. Her set shot made it two goals from two marks.

From there the Dees surged ahead. Daisy took another marked and converted. Next Casey Sherriff added her name from a similar set shot position. Then Sherriff looked like she was setting up for another before kicking to the better positioned Karen Paxman, who marked directly in front. Within two minutes, Paxy had her second and the margin stretched to a mind bending seventy points.

The quarter still wasn’t over though and Daisy Pearce iced the caked with another set shot conversion.

The three quarter time stats made grim reading for the Fremantle fans as they revealed a Melbourne side dominating in every category except tackles, which the Dockers led forty nine to forty five. It did show the home side still fighting but the battle was long won by the Dees.

Though Melbourne was determined to add to their scoreline and boost their percentage, it was unlikely that the third term would be replicated. Unsurprisingly the first five minutes remained goalless until Kate Hore popped up to receive a handpass from Lauren Pearce after a stoppage. Kate took advantage of the space to run, turn and snap for her own hat trick.

Finally, to the relief of the home fans, Fremantle scored their first goal since the opening quarter when Hayley Miller marked and scored from the edge of the square. There was no celebrations among the players though, only a resignation to their fate.

From a Demon perspective, it seemed ironic that, having recorded their biggest margin and the highest score in AFLW history, there had only been a single contribution from their leading goal goal kicker. That changed when Tayla Harris took a mark from a Kate Hore kick. Her subsequent set shot, 25m in front of goal, brought up her second of the night. Fittingly it was Harris who then struck again with her eighteenth of the season, cracking the century for Melbourne and writing the team into the history books.

There was to be a consolation for the Dockers when Maggie Maclachlan kicked her first for Freo; unfortunately reducing Melbourne’s percentage to below two hundred in the process. The Dees now sit just under Adelaide on the ladder and by the slimmest of margins.

The overall match reminded me of Melbourne’s AFL Preliminary game against Geelong last season. It was expected to be a tight contest but the Dees were ruthless in exploiting their opponents’ weaknesses. Max Gawn like Daisy Pearce, lead from the front with both Captains scoring five goals each. I don’t like to put the cart before the horse but it does seem to bode well for our finals campaign. Of course there’s still one game left in the regular season and Carlton are hitting a late stride, having won their last three games. Still…

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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