Awesome stuff that happened in the AFLW’s opening round

With all of the negativity surrounding the AFLW and the Carlton-Collingwood conversation that has hijacked the past weekend’s football, it’s time now to talk about all of the great things that have been pushed to the side.

Not that you’d know it by the way wider media has been reporting, but the AFLW’s opening round was filled with entertainment and special moments – yep, including the season opener.

Gaelic legend Cora Staunton stamped her arrival in AFLW. Image: Michael Willson/AFL Media

Sure, the Blues and Magpies played a dour affair, but to completely disregard the other events of the weekend, as most of first tier media outlets have opted to do, is rather unfortunate to say the least.

We’ve said what we needed to say on the subject, so now it’s time to move on and direct the dialogue back to footy.

Round two will begin on Friday, and the football will hopefully drown out the static on social media.

But before we move forward, let’s look back at some of the awesome things you might have missed that happened in round one.

No matter what some naysayers may have to say, the players and teams involved in this league are still magnificent.

 

Cora Staunton’s grand arrival
How could you not be in awe of Irishwoman Cora Staunton? After becoming an instant player to watch when she kicked a freak goal on her non-preferred left boot in the Giants’ practice match, Staunton did not fail to deliver when it came to the real stuff. She was a true excitement machine in the forward 50, and her goal began what was a sensational burst for the Giants. At the fall of the ball, the 36-year-old placed herself in prime position to gather at her feet before possessing the footy and taking off from the pack, slamming the ball home with the side of her boot in the preferred Gaelic style. In doing so, Staunton became the first international player to kick a goal in the AFLW.

Katie Brennan’s return performance
Katie Brennan is back and better than ever. Fresh off of winning the VFLW best and fairest and tying first in the goal kicking, Brennan clearly had a point to prove, and poor Fremantle had to bear the brunt. From kicking three goals to clunking grabs to doing the work around the ground, Brennan’s full array of skills were on display for all to see. A fit and firing KB is good for footy, as she is, in our opinion, the best key forward in the game. A full season of Brennan doing what she does best each weekend will do great things for the status of the women’s game.

Chloe Molloy’s debut brilliance
It was hard not to be impressed with Chloe Molloy on Friday night. The second Victorian selection in the AFLW Draft (pick three overall) showed why she was highly rated by so many heading into the draft, taking over the game in defence despite plying her trade in the forward line most of last season. The reigning TAC Cup best and fairest had 20 disposals (18 kicks) operating at 80 per cent disposal efficiency, a remarkable stat for a debutante playing out of the backline in a largely congested match.

Everything to do with GWS
They may not have got the win, but how impressive were the Giants in round one? GWS came into season 2018 with plenty of hype, and though many had already placed them at the bottom of the AFLW ladder without much consideration, last year’s wooden spooners have quietly built a remarkable list. But a good team on paper means nothing if you can’t turn it into something meaningful, and the Giants did just that. They deserved some premiership points for their performance, and they would’ve earned at least two if it weren’t for Melbourne’s Richelle Cranston. Speaking of “Rocky”…

Richelle Cranston’s final quarter mastery
We might have just witnessed the best quarter by any individual in the AFLW to date, and that includes Erin Phillips’ heroics in the final round last season. Cranston had already kicked an excellent goal at full speed on the run earlier in the match, but she really turned it on in the final quarter. “Rocky” kicked two goals, including the match winner with one minute to go, and set up another to help the Demons come from behind at the final change and claim the four premiership points. Her three-goal performance was nothing short of stunning.

Courtney Gum’s immediate impact
It was surprising when Adelaide passed up on Courtney Gum in the 2016 AFLW Draft, and a pleasant surprise to see the Giants select her in 2017. Gum, who hails from South Australia but has played footy in New South Wales and is a former Mostyn Medallist, was SA’s standout player in state leagues last year, winning the inaugural SANFL Women’s best and fairest as well as being awarded the league’s coaches’ award. The 36-year-old is a stalwart of the game, and she showed she is willing to set the pace for the Giants’ midfield this year with an impressive individual performance against Melbourne’s midfield, which is considered by many to be the best in the competition.

Phoebe McWilliams’ goal of the year contender
Phoebe McWilliams was perhaps the most underrated forward in 2017, and if the first game of 2018 is any indication, teams are going to have to start doing something about her immediately. Though two of her three goals against Melbourne were sodas handed to her at the top of the goal square from free kicks, McWilliams made her third goal a memorable one. Deep into the third term, the Giants hassled the Dees into a turnover in the back pocket, and McWilliams finished off the work by gathering at ground level, throwing the ball on the outside of her boot and having it pitch through the uprights despite the ball’s natural spin angling across the goal face. We might have six weeks to go in the season, but we might’ve already seen the goal of the year.

The best AFLW match so far
Without a doubt, at least in this observer’s mind, the match between Melbourne and GWS was the best AFLW game we have seen to date. It was high scoring, free flowing, and most importantly, highly competitive. It took until the dying embers for the winner to be determined, and fans both at the ground and watching at home were kept on the edge of their seats for the whole duration. It’s almost laughable how the AFL and critics alike focus on the low quality of the Carlton-Collingwood match, when Melbourne and GWS put on such a spectacle less than 24 hours later. Funny, that.

The Lions. Just the Lions
This one is very general because pointing out one or two players would be a disservice to the team game played by Brisbane on Saturday night. From the midfield stars in Jamie Stanton, Emma Zielke and Ally Anderson, to Sabrina Frederick-Traub’s seven contested marks and Jess Wuetschner’s two clutch goals, to the defensive performance performances of Leah Kaslar and Kate Lutkins, the Lions played one of the best team games seen to date in the competition. Many had predicted Brisbane to drop down the ladder after winning the minor premiership in 2017, but after round one, it’s hard to find a reason why they can’t continue their undefeated home and away streak and press on this year.

Carlton’s defence
Yeah, that’s right, that dour game on Friday night actually featured some sensational defending from both teams, believe it or not. Both set of defenders had their time to shine, but the Blues’ backs were unbelievable when the match was on the line. It’s no secret that Carlton’s forward and back line are stacked with stars, and as was the case on many occasions in 2017, the Blues defenders had to put on a show in order to get the four points. As much as the negatives of the game have made the rounds in the past week, we still witnessed some of the best defending we’ve seen in the competition, including three unbelievable spoils to deny Moana Hope set shots at goal. But you won’t read about that in the papers.

 

We are going to leave it at 10 entries, but there are plenty more examples that come to mind that occured in just four games. We haven’t even talked about Ruth Wallace’s performance, Isabel Huntington’s smooth play in her debut, Britt Tully’s clearance work, Tayla Harris’ first half statement, Aasta O’Connor’s return to her old form, or Jasmine Garner remarkably kicking the first goal of the season for the second time.

Considering most of those who will read this article are already supporters of the league, you don’t need to be told that dozens of positive talking points come out of every round of AFLW footy. But if you’re on the fence or have been swept up in the negative whirlwind in the past week, please take the time to see for yourself just how marvelous the players in this competition are.