Orla O'Dwyer (left) of the Lions celebrates kicking a goal against the Crows in AFLW round 1, 2020. Picture: AAP IMAGE/DARREN ENGLAND
Orla O'Dwyer (left) of the Lions celebrates kicking a goal against the Crows in AFLW round 1, 2020. Picture: AAP IMAGE/DARREN ENGLAND

Crows stunned by roaring Lions in AFLW opener

On paper, this looked to be a David versus Goliath battle.

There was Brisbane, who finished the 2019 season with only two wins and had its captain, Leah Kaslar, poached by expansion club Gold Coast, taking on last year's spectacular premiers in Adelaide.

Instead the Lions roared mighty, and the Crows struggled with too many turnovers, error-riddled decision-making and an ineffective forward line.

Despite the best efforts of midfielder Anne Hatchard - who set a new AFLW's record for most-disposals in a game - the Crows limped away from Queensland's Hickey Park going down by 13 points.

Brisbane kicked two early goals, using a 2-3 goal breeze to their advantage, but it wasn't just the wind that gave them the advantage; they tackled harder and applied relentless pressure on the reigning premiers, meaning the Crows were forced into handball-heavy football (finished 105-77 in those stakes).

Then, as the rain started coming in sideways, it was as if the Crows' system had gone sideways too.

They were held scoreless until the 10-minute mark of the second quarter, when 38-year-old veteran Courtney Gum kicked the Crows' first in her first game in her new colours.

Lions gun small forward Jess Wuetschner - who miraculously survived being struck by lightning while working on the Brisbane dock only two weeks ago - was a standout for the home side, and while she didn't kick any herself, she was vital in most of the ones her teammates booted.

While the Crows were able to reset in the second and third quarters and wrestled back the game, when they got the ball inside-50, they just couldn't score easily, in large part to Lions' defender Kate Lutkins and their Irish rookie recruit Oral O'Dwyer who played beautifully in her debut.

Adelaide was in serious trouble almost from the first bounce and despite the best efforts of Hatchard, ruck Jess Foley and defender Marijana Rajcic they turned over the ball too often and simply couldn't keep pace with the Lions.

It goes without saying that there's no need to panic just yet. But then, there's also no doubting that Round 1 has been a huge wake-up call for Adelaide.

Dakota Davidson of the Lions in action against the Crows. Picture: AAP IMAGE/DARREN ENGLAND
Dakota Davidson of the Lions in action against the Crows. Picture: AAP IMAGE/DARREN ENGLAND

Hatchard's big start:

A leaner, faster Anne Hatchard, whose spent the past 12 months transforming her fitness and skills, was as dominant for Adelaide as expected.

By half time she'd had an immense 17 disposals and put her skills on displays by scooping up the footy off the wet ground with graceful spins and then placing kicks well in front of her teammates. From there she was rampant in her attacking and broke her teammate Ebony Marinoff's AFLW record for most disposals.

Hatchard finished with a mammoth 34 - 18 kicks, 16 handball - beating Marinoff's 33 set in Round 3 against Geelong last year.

 

Injury nightmares:

Just when we thought the Crows' list had the depth and experience to make up for its lengthy injury count, there's now no disputing that nine injuries - to key players including co-captains Erin Phillips, Chelsea Randall and defenders Courtney Cramey and Deni Varnhagen - has severely hampered the AFLW's reigning premiers.

Coach Clarke will be hoping his star Phillips will be cleared fit to play by the club's medical staff sooner rather than later, particularly considering she herself has said she's ready to return after rehabilitating her ACL torn in last year's grand final.

 

Forward line woes:

The Crows easily won the inside-50 count - 32 to 19 - and yet could not apply serious pressure on the scoreboard.

As an example, in the third quarter the Crows had put the ball into their forward-50 six times before it had gone near Brisbane's sticks and they couldn't manage a score.

But the first time the Lions went inside-50, through a beautiful Wuetschner kick from outside the arc, and they got a goal off the boot of Tawhiao-Wardlaw. The very next time they went inside 50 and Lauren Arnell had kicked her second.

When Clarke sent his fullback Sarah Allan to full-forward for the final quarter, it was clear the Crows system was in disarray. A late goal to defensive-mid Ange Foley brought some respectability to the scoreboard.

 

Crows train-on Rachelle Martin got an unexpected call-up to the AFLW for her side’s round one clash against Brisbane. Picture: JONO SEARLE/GETTY IMAGES
Crows train-on Rachelle Martin got an unexpected call-up to the AFLW for her side’s round one clash against Brisbane. Picture: JONO SEARLE/GETTY IMAGES

 

Seven Adelaide newbies:

Adelaide debuted seven new players at Hickey Park, including Gum who brought a level head when her new side needed it.

Among them was Rachelle Martin - sister of 2019 premiership player Hannah Button - who has had a whirlwind week after being signed as a permanent train-on player this week, but because the number of fit Crows had fallen below 23, she was available for selection. She finished with 10 disposals and had laid two tackles.

 

Ruck choices:

In football circles this pre-season, there's been much time spent debating what Adelaide would do with its ruck. In 2019, Jess Foley was forced into the spot when the team's top two choices, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Jasmyn Hewett went down with season-ending injuries.

Foley - who would likely have played in the backlines otherwise - came in at short notice and was a standout in that spot.

Coach Matthew Clarke rightly returned her to the ruck for the first game of 2020 and by half time, she'd won 14 hit-outs and had 10 disposals. She continued that and played out the game with 24 hit-outs and 14 touches. If the 36-year-old stays fully fit, she'll make this position her own again in 2020.

 

 


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