AFLW 2022: North Melbourne midfielder Ash Riddell sets new disposals record with 42
Here’s a riddle for you — what happens when you put an AFLW ball magnet against West Coast? Ash Riddell smashing the disposals record, that’s what. Plus, all the news from the other games.
A record-breaking performance from North Melbourne’s star AFLW midfielder Ashleigh Riddell has seen the Kangaroos take a giant step towards sewing up a home qualifying final next week.
Riddell set a league record 42 disposals, smashing the previous mark of 35, as North Melbourne crushed lowly West Coast by 39 points at Arden Street on Saturday, in what served as a welcome tune-up for the finals.
Riddell also registered 15 contested possessions, nine clearances (three centre), seven marks and five inside 50s to round out one of the great individual performances the AFLW has ever seen.
The Kangaroos will face either Fremantle or Collingwood in their first-up cutthroat final, but will more likely take on the Dockers who meet Gold Coast on Sunday in Perth.
In order to jump to fourth spot and host North Melbourne next week, Fremantle will now have to make up a whopping 16.6 per cent on the Kangas.
The 9.5 (59) to 3.2 (20) result consigned West Coast to their first wooden spoon. The Eagles have now won just four of 25 games since entering the competition in 2020.
The underdog Eagles stunned North Melbourne early, kicking two of the first three goals to lead by five points after 10 minutes.
But that’s as good as it would get for the visitors as the Kangaroos kicked the next eight goals, extending their lead to 47 points at one stage as they kept West Coast scoreless in the middle two quarters.
Jasmine Garner was also a chief architect of the result with 26 touches (nine contested), 10 marks, seven tackles and two goals while Emma King (two goals) dominated the airways in the first half, taking four contested marks up forward. Emma Kearney, Ellie Gavalas and Mia King also stood out in the massive win.
Emma Swanson played a lone hand for West Coast with 26 disposals (10 contested) and six clearances while Kellie Gibson also tried hard with 13 touches and a goal.
The game was already over at halftime by which time the Kangaroos had opened up a 28-point lead. The Kangaroos’ pressure on West Coast’s defence was relentless. Inspired by the likes of Riddell, Garner, Kearney and Mia King, North recorded 28 of the first 36 inside 50s and finished the first half with 59 more disposals (162-103) and double West Coast’s marks (50-24). North would end up with 33 more inside 50s (47-14), 111 more disposals (308-197) and 48 more marks (95-47), while they also dominated the contested possessions (113-84).
North Melbourne forward Tahlia Randall opened up the goalscoring in spectacular fashion after she engaged in a one-two with Jasmine Garner before running along the pocket boundary and threading the eye of the needle from a severe angle.
RANDALL DOES IT AGAIN
Randall wasn’t done wowing the crowd, though. Early in the second quarter, after accepting the handball from Riddell from traffic, Randall went for a run, took a bounce and from 40m out bounced home another superb six-pointer to give the Kangaroos a 22-point lead.
Vescio miss lets Dees off hook in nailbiter
Melbourne has finished a memorable season with a nail-biting win after holding off a spirited Carlton by a single point on Saturday night.
Carlton star Darcy Vescio had a chance to win the game with a set shot from a tight angle with only 20 seconds to play, but pushed the ball across the face as the Blues fell agonisingly short of a boilover victory.
It would have been an impressive come-from-behind win after Carlton overturned a 15-point quarter-time deficit but all eyes will turn to Melbourne’s march into finals as the Dees jumped to top spot on the ladder.
Veteran Demon Daisy Pearce said the frenetic finish was solid practice for her side’s premiership pursuit.
“We’re heading into the stage of the year where we’re going to play plenty of games like that, so (it’s) good practice,” Pearce told Channel Seven.
“I was proud of our girls. Carlton threw their best at us, they were really hard at the contest.
“Their ball movement really challenged us, so (it’s) good practice for what’s ahead.”
Carlton applied notable pressure all night with 85 tackles for the match, as Madeline Guerin (12 tackles) and Nicola Stevens (three goals) almost sparked a stunning win.
The match was highly anticipated for Tayla Harris, who was playing against her old side and had a chance to seal the league’s leading goalkicker gong.
But the Melbourne spearhead was kept to a quiet performance with only a behind and finished the season on 18 majors, equal with Giant Cora Staunton and one clear of Adelaide’s Ashleigh Woodland, with the latter set to line up against St Kilda on Sunday.
Harris shook hands and shared a smile with Carlton defender Paige Trudgeon at the start of the match but pleasantries between the sides ended there as a momentum-swinging first half unfolded.
The Blues battled in the first term, failing to register a score by quarter-time as the Dees built an early lead.
But momentum shifted in the second quarter thanks to a bout of Stevens brilliance.
The forward put the Blues on the board with a long-range goal under pressure early in the quarter before soccering off the ground for another major minutes later, and by halftime, the deficit had been stripped back to only two points.
An arm-wrestle of a third quarter kept the game in the balance but the opportunistic Stevens put Melbourne under pressure again in the last term with her second soccer score, putting the Blues a sole point down with minutes to play.
The Demons added a point through Kate Hore at the other end but the result would eventually land in the hands of Vescio deep in Carlton’s forward pocket.
She had the chance to give Carlton its fourth consecutive win and first of the season over a side above it on the ladder.
But even for the skilful Vescio, the angle proved too tight.
Melbourne’s position atop the AFLW ladder will now hinge on whether the Crows account for St Kilda on Sunday.
Magpies sound huge warning to AFLW contenders
Steve Symonds says teams will be “nervous” if they have to face his Collingwood side in AFLW finals.
The Pies have hit their hottest patch of form at the right time of the year, finding their free-flowing groove on the eve of their third finals appearance in a row.
Collingwood dismantled Richmond by 38-points on Saturday, and following a season of setbacks, Symonds said his team had rediscovered the love of the game again.
“There’s no secret we’ve been trying to get our game back a little bit over the last few weeks and part of that is being a bit more up tempo,” Symonds said.
“We got going again with our game style and sometimes we overdo it or make it up as we go, but the girls love playing that way and it gets a bit of excitement with the way they play.
“We’ve just got to get the balance of when to go fast and when to go slow and if we get that balance right we’re going to be dangerous in the finals.
“I have no doubt there will be teams who will be nervous if we play against them.”
The Pies have been cruelled by injury, losing All-Australian midfielders Britt Bonnici and Bri Davey to season-ending ACL injuries, while an unfavourable fixture left them playing just four home games for the season.
But Symonds says the adversity has galvanised Collingwood and helped build spirit among players.
“They’ve got fight in them and we found that spirit and connection back together and they’re enjoying themselves,” he said.
“The girls keep on stepping up and they’re enjoying the way they’re playing.”
Jaimee Lambert was best-on-ground and had 31-disposals and 448m gained for the Pies, and Symonds said the 29-year-old was a lock for All-Australian honours this season.
“I say this every year, I know everyone rates her, but I think Jaimee Lambert is severely underrated in the competition,” he said.
“In my mind she’s a top five or six player in the competition.
“She steps up when she needs to, she’s smart with the ball, puts her head over the ball all the time… her ability to set us up is really strong.”
Mikala Cann had the unenviable task of going to-to-toe with Tiger star Monique Conti. Who won the contest probably depends on who you support, but Cann at the very least held her own, if not beat Richmond’s best player.
“She’s come along so, so well,” Symonds said.
“Mikala has been one of the pleasing stories with the injuries we’ve had.
“Mikala and Conti I thought had a great battle today head-to-head. From a spectator’s point of view I’d like to go back and watch a replay of that because I thought the two of them was an outstanding contest.”
Pies on a roll and dangerous
The equation was simple for Collingwood — win and play finals.
On the back of a vintage Jaimee Lambert midfield masterclass they had booked their ticket by three-quarter time.
The Pies ran out 38-point winners against Richmond, but it was the continuation of their red-hot form that will have their finals’ opponent worried.
Collingwood dominated the first quarter but a strong breeze blowing across the ground made quality entries inside 50 few and far between.
It wasn’t until after the siren the Pies got reward for their efforts with Chloe Molloy judging the wind to perfection and kicking a goal from 35m out.
Jaimee Lambert allayed any worries about sore ribs and had 10-disposals and 122m gained, while Ruby Schleicher continued her hot form from last week with seven touches and 103m gained.
Richmond’s biggest chance came after young star Ellie McKenzie brushed aside two Collingwood players with a baulk and stiff arm in the middle of the ground, but the 19-year-old couldn’t connect with a forward.
Abbi Moloney has been a late-season revelation for the Pies in their forward line, and she kicked their second after going back with the flight and taking a strong mark.
Sophie Casey will find herself under MRO scrutiny after a high hit on Taya Stahl. There was no malice from Casey, but Stahl went lower for the ball as they players came together.
Tigers’ captain for the day, Monique Conti, tried her best to bring Richmond back into the game and had 13-disposals at halftime, but 10 of them were handballs and her side desperately missed her precision use by foot.
Goals from Eliza James and Sabrina Frederick cancelled out the Tigers’ first goal of the game, kicked by Emelia Yassir, to put the Pies within touching distance of another finals appearance at three-quarter-time.
Mikala Cann had 18-disposals, six clearances and four tackles to the last break.
Two last quarter goals to Sophie Alexander put the icing on what was a black and white cake.
WHAT THE RESULT MEANS
Collingwood will finish the home and away season in fifth position if Fremantle loses to Gold Coast, and sixth position if the Dockers win.
If they finish fifth they will play North Melbourne.
They will play whoever finishes third on the ladder if they finish sixth, which could be a trip to Brisbane or Adelaide, or a game in Melbourne against the Dees, in the first week of finals.
With Melbourne heavy favourites against Carlton, and Adelaide expected to beat St Kilda on Sunday, a rematch of last season’s preliminary final against Brisbane appears the most likely outcome for the Pies.
CANN YOU BELIEVE IT?
Despite playing with a hairline fracture in her toe, Mikala Cann continues to put her name up in lights.
The 21-year-old found herself going toe-to-toe with Monique Conti at stoppages, and not only did Cann hold her own, but she also arguably beat the Tiger superstar.
Cann had 23-disposals, seven clearances and five tackles.
ALL-AUSTRALIANS IN WAITING
Jaimee Lambert will feature heavily in the AFLW best-and-fairest vote count in April and must be a lock for the All-Australian team.
Ruby Schleicher played most of the season with a banged-up knee but somehow managed to put together a better season than her All-Australian effort last year.
And it is hard to believe Monique Conti is just 22 years old. Like Lambert, the midfield star must be a lock for selection this season having carried the Tiger engine room at times.
TIGER TRAIN BUILDING
Richmond is a team on the move and took giant strides forward this season.
The heaviest scoring side in the bottom eight, the Tigers only won three games for the season, the same amount as in 2021, but were box office whenever they played.
Coach Ryan Ferguson has his team playing a style that will have them making a serious push for finals next season.
Coupled with the immense growth of inexperienced players like McKenzie and Tess Lavey, as well as stars such as Sarah and Jess Hosking, Katie Brennan and Monique Conti starting to gel, Tigers fans have a lot to look forward to.
‘Hi I’m Tayla’: How Harris’ broke ice after ‘distressing’ year
Tayla Harris walked into her third club with these three simple words: “Hi, I’m Tayla”.
That was her way of breaking the ice after completing one of the biggest, and most controversial, moves in the short history of AFLW.
Harris parted ways with Carlton when contract talks spectacularly broke down in May last year.
The big-marking forward had wanted to stay with the Blues despite diminishing returns but the breakdown in communications led to an ugly exit from Ikon Park just shy of a year ago.
Some within the Carlton walls questioned her application and suggested she was a divisive presence.
Harris labelled her four-goal 2021 season an “outlier”, blaming her mental struggle on being isolated from her Queensland-based family due to Covid restrictions.
But as Melbourne prepares to face off against Carlton this Sunday, a lot has changed.
Harris described the way the events played out as “distressing”, “disappointing”, and “upsetting”. She admitted to an “immature mindset”.
She felt her priorities – which had included a vast array of off-field business interests, media commitments, the fallout from “that” kick, and dedicated boxing training amid a hectic schedule – became skewed following an “absurd” rise from the obscurity of local football to the front pages.
The move to Melbourne proved exactly the tonic she needed.
Harris, 24, is the current leading goal kicker in the competition, thriving alongside Demons superstar Daisy Pearce in a formidable forward line that last week became the first in the game’s history to crack 100 points, and is one of the most valuable players in the game to her team.
“I probably got a bit distracted … in terms of having too many commitments,” Harris told the Lil & Ben podcast.
“I’ve got my priorities right now – footy is absolutely No.1. Family as well. And then other things. That’s something that I’ve shifted.”
Melbourne forward Kate Hore can attest to Harris’s mindset. She has a front-row seat.
“I think the main thing is that she’s happy,” Hore told the Herald Sun.
“She’s genuinely enjoying it fully. She loves the people around and she wants to go out and compete for the jumper.
“When she crosses the white line, like I wouldn’t want to get in her way.
“She’s the most athletically gifted, powerful person I think I’ve ever come across … just watching her in the gym and watching the way she launches at the footy.
“I’d obviously seen it on TV and whatnot but experiencing it in a team environment and like watching it so close … I don’t think there’s any other player in the women’s game like her at the moment.”
Harris said she was excited at the prospect of stringing strong seasons together.
“Last season was an outlier,” she said. “Of course I could sit here and explain why and it would make total sense … I’m only moving forward.”
At the time of the Blues split, Carlton coach Daniel Harford lamented Harris’ lack of consistency, and the “gap was too big” in both money between the two camps.
Once the drama heated up, there was no coming back for either party, despite Harris’ wish to stay a Blue and prove her value to a team that is argued perhaps didn’t see value in her.
It is understood there was frustration, too, that when things turned sour there was little support from others around her, despite her willingness to be a strong voice for female athletes, particularly on the topic of social media trolling.
Melbourne was the first club that spoke with Harris’ manager Alex Saundry once it became evident she would be available. A deal was quickly struck — one year, with an awareness that Harris would have to prove herself.
And she has, with 18 goals already this season, a finals berth calling and her powerful marking ability back to its best with a close relationship with coach Mick Stinear.
Only being on a playing contract with no marketing ability meant a drop in the realm of a 65 per cent cut in wage, or thereabouts.
Saundry must be hotly anticipating renegotiating her deal as likely All-Australian selection looms large.
Melbourne’s Libby Birch wrote this week of the misconceptions she harboured when Harris arrived, and Hore acknowledged that it’s something Harris must deal with often.
“I think she definitely is misunderstood and misrepresented at times,” she said.
“But she’s the most down to earth, humble person – just a really quirky character. She just loves playing footy and loves her teammates.
“She’s pretty simple in terms of that kind of stuff.
“As soon as you have any type of interaction with you realise that your whole opinion just changes on her. Which is crazy — it’s just it shouldn’t be like that.
“I think she’s a classic case of don’t judge a book by its cover.
“She is one of the most like genuine people that I’ve ever come across. I’ve loved my time with her so far.”
Harris’ relationship with Pearce – cultivated in the 2016 exhibition series and reignited with a phone call before she became a Dee again – has been one of influence and understanding.
“Daisy is like having a coach out there, which I think has helped Tay a lot as well,” Hore said.
“’Dais’ being out there helping her … I think that would have helped her a lot with her development.”
For Harris, who says she has finally found the consistency she sought for so long – which had been a challenge to maintain at Carlton – it’s only about looking forward … to finals after a pile of work on her mental game.
“I refuse to have any excuses for any other seasons,” she said.
“Who really gives a shit, to be honest? Who cares? This season is all that matters.
“If you’re looking back, then you’ll get left behind.”