Fremantle enhanced their premiership credentials with a history-making defeat of Collingwood, but Pies coach Steve Symonds insists there is no need to panic.
Fremantle swept Collingwood aside with ease as it announced itself as this season’s AFLW premiership favourite on the way to a 31-point win.
Such was Fremantle’s dominance they held Collingwood to its lowest score in AFLW history, kicking just 1.1 to eclipse a previous lowest score of 1.3.
Despite a two-goal margin at three-quarter-time, the Dockers were never troubled by the Pies and recorded 30 more inside-50s.
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And if not for a resolute Magpie defence the margin could have been much greater.
Pies coach Steve Symonds said Collingwood’s inability to transition the ball was their biggest problem.
“It wasn’t part of the plan (having the side’s lowest ever score),” Symonds said.
“We couldn’t get any connection between the arcs if I’m honest. We lost territory early and then the ball was going deep into their forward 50.
“I thought we battled manfully… the score could have blown out a lot.”
Symonds said teams had figured Collingwood out and it was up to his players to work through the pressure opposition were applying.
“There was a lack of composure and decision making and we just couldn’t get it right, it just didn’t happen today,” he said. “Teams aren’t allowing us to transition the ball as easily as we did last year, and we spoke about that. We’ve been a high possession team for a while now so teams will always throw pressure at us.”
Fremantle was the better of the sides in the first quarter and a goal to Roxy Roux one-minute into the game was the difference between the sides at the first break.
The Dockers’ tackling pressure and ability to find open targets inside 50 were the difference between the two sides.
Collingwood landed the perfect sucker punch as it kicked the first goal of the second quarter with its first inside 50 of the term after Fremantle had dominated field position. But a minute later Britt Bonnici’s goal was answered by Hayley Miller with a long-range effort.
The goal, and an eight-point halftime lead, was just reward for the Dockers who pumped the ball inside 50 19 times in the first half, while Collingwood could only muster six entries.
The third quarter belonged to the Dockers as they drove the ball inside-50 13 times to Collingwood’s one, but the Dockers couldn’t capitalise on their dominance, mustering just four points.
It left the door ajar for the Pies who trailed by 12 points at the last break.
But it was more of the same as Fremantle piled on 3.1 in the last quarter to kick away and create a margin more fitting of its performance.
Despite the heavy loss, Symonds said his 3-1 Magpies weren’t overly alarmed.
“There aren’t too many sides who go through undefeated, and we haven’t lost too many games in the last couple of years so we’re certainly not panicking. We tried a lot but couldn’t find our groove. Heading towards quarter-time I thought we were on top and then they raised the bar.”
Star defender Ash Brazill has returned from the Australian Diamonds quad series and will likely be available for selection in the coming weeks, according to Symonds.
“She’s back but has to transfer from netball to football,” he said.
“She had a small niggle coming back from the Diamonds so she’s getting medically looked after. We’ll look at her in the next week or so.”
PIES’ DEFENCE HOLDS STRONG
Collingwood’s defence had to endure 19 inside-50s from the Dockers in the first half, having just six themselves. But the Pies managed to limit the damage, conceding just 2.3 on the scoreboard.
Their efforts were propped up by veteran Stacey Livingstone (five intercepts), All-Australian Ruby Schleicher (four), and 21-year-old Jordyn Allen (four).
It’s no secret Bonnici is one of the game’s best midfielders, but the 24-year-old’s ball use has taken her game to new levels this season.
The All-Australian is still finding the ball with ease, notching up 13 touches to halftime (25 for the match), but more impressively had 279-metres gained at the main break (488 for the match).
A bonus for Collingwood stemming from Bonnici’s ability to hurt the opposition on the outside is the opportunity given to young Pies midfielders, such as Mikala Cann and Tarni Brown, to step into the vacated inside role.
Fremantle is the best pressure team in the AFLW and it showed the Pies what they will have to overcome to enjoy finals success.
On average Collingwood gives away seven free kicks per game to holding the ball, but such was the Freo squeeze, by three-quarter-time the Pies had conceded 14.
The scary thing for Collingwood, and opposition teams watching, is it wasn’t one of Fremantle’s better tackling games of the season.
PIES 0.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 7
DOCKERS 1.1 2.3 2.7 5.8 38
Pies: Bonnici, Rowe, Schleicher, Butler, Lambert. Dockers: Miller, Bowers, E.Antonio, Roux, Houghton, O’Sullivan.
Pies: Bonnici. Dockers: Miller 2, Roux, Houghton, E. Antonio.
Pies: nil. Dockers: nil.
1257 at Victoria Park
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JAMES MOTTERSHEAD’S VOTES
3 H. Miller (FREM)
2 K. Bowers (FREM)
1 B. Bonnici (COLL)
Originally published as AFLW 2022: All the latest news, match reports for Round 4