This one got away badly from the Demons, who yet again showed their tendency to lose AFLW games they should win. Melbourne had dominated the first half, leading the inside 50 count by 17 at the long break, yet somehow they trailed.
They had allowed the Bulldogs to stay in the contest, and that was enough of a sniff for Nathan Burke’s women, who recorded their third straight win.
“There’s an intangible quality that really good teams have that when it’s needed to dig deep, they just do it,” Bulldogs coach Burke said after the game.
“Three weeks in a row now, the game’s been in the balance in the last quarter and we haven’t let the opposition kick a goal in the last quarter, and we’ve come over the top.”
Izzy Huntington was again magnificent, kicking two telling goals in the third term as the crowd found more and more voice, and the doubts crept further into the Dees’ heads.
Maddie Gay and Karen Paxman had dominated the first half. But Melbourne were getting it done everywhere but the scoreboard.
Subdued before the long break, Blackburn stepped up several notches in the second half, leading the charge along with Huntington and experienced pair Kirsty Lamb and Hannah Scott. But this was one Melbourne will be left to rue.
“We generated a lot of opportunities and enough opportunities to win the game but the conversion was poor today, and that cost us. That’s probably the simplest way to look at it,” said Demons coach Mick Stinear.
Such is the strange nature of the season, Burke didn’t know the Dogs’ next opponents until informed during his press conference. He would learn that they host Greater Western Sydney next Saturday. The Dees meanwhile face Collingwood at Victoria Park on Sunday. Neither coach had much clarity on whether Victorian teams will need to enter hubs in the back half of the season.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
That a side could lead the inside 50 count 20-3 yet still trail on the scoreboard beggared belief but that was the state of play midway through the second term on Sunday. There had been a combination of factors that contributed to the anomaly. One was the fact the Dees didn’t take advantage of their early dominance, missing a glut of chances. Eden Zanker was the biggest culprit. The Dogs also defended valiantly, absorbing pressure during the first quarter in which the Dees were kicking with a strong wind. The home side made considerably better use of its limited opportunities, with Kirsten McLeod and Jess Fitzgerald both converting to help their side to the narrowest of half-time leads.
NOT QUITE SCOT FREE
Demon Lily Mithen knew all about it when she rode a heavy bump from the Bulldogs’ Scott early in the second quarter. Mithen was in the wars, trapped in a potentially dangerous Bonnie Toogood tackle during the third term. Bulldogs enforcer Lamb also got in on the act, laying a fierce hip and shoulder on Dees youngster Brenna Tarrant shortly before half-time. It was a bruising and tough-tackling affair, with Bulldog Naomi Ferres needing to be helped off the ground after copping a nasty knock to her face in the first term, while teammate Celine Moody (shoulder) and Elisabeth Georgostahis (hand) were both worse for wear after third-quarter incidents. Kate Hore (illness) had been a late omission for Melbourne.
SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT
In the earlier game on Sunday, Adelaide ended the Brisbane Lions’ unbeaten start to the season with a 12-point win at Hickey Park. Erin Phillips starred with 21 disposals and four goals to power the Crows to a thrilling win.
Phillips was best on ground and kicked a goal in the final minute to seal Adelaide’s 6.9 (45) to 5.3 (33) victory. She also hauled in eight marks in a performance that showed why she has twice won the AFLW’s best and fairest awards.
Having come back from a knee reconstruction that threatened her career two years ago, at 35 she remains arguably the best player in the competition on her day.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter