AFLW: Pearce underlines champion status as TV visibility strikes sour note

first_imgWatching Daisy Pearce at Casey Fields on Friday night, retired St Kilda star Leigh Montagna offered this definition of a champion AFL/W player: “There are two things they do when they’ve had a poor game. They respond… but they also look for ways to improve.”Tagged out of last week’s disappointing effort against Collingwood, Pearce underlined her champion status on the biggest stage of her team’s short season. Not only did she amass 24 disposals and boot two goals, the skipper brought something athleticism and skill cannot buy: rabid competitiveness. During the week, Pearce made her regular appearance on Daisy, Lane and Race, and admitted to feeling “flat” after two weeks of poor losses, before adding: “I’m glad we’re playing on Friday night, not Sunday, let’s put it that way”. The determination was evident in her voice, but so was the frustration. The Western Bulldogs, meanwhile, now find themselves a game clear on top of the ladder, although their clash with Collingwood in Moe proved much closer and ferocious than predicted. After a fiery first half, one of the most entertaining moments came when Brittany Bonnici, tasked with tagging league best-and-fairest favourite Emma Kearney, tackled her over the boundary line and into the Fox Footy boundary-line commentary team. Kearney, unhappy with the over-zealous treatment, then responded by pushing Bonnici into the remaining camera crew before journalist Sarah Olle staged a dramatic walk-off, muttering “wowsers”. The resultant melee is sure to keep the match review panel busy with Pies captain Steph Chiocci and Bulldogs tagger Libby Birch also on report. Guardian Australia sport newsletter: subscribe by email Pearce was left shattered after her team missed the grand final by percentage in season one, the “what ifs” haunting her throughout the off-season. No-one would have been more disappointed than her at her performance in Alice Springs, but to perform the way she did against the Lions spoke volumes about the character of the woman. Adding two goals in the first quarter, after managing only one in 2017, proved the icing on the cake of an already formidable game – and the difference against an unrelenting opponent. The Demons can count themselves fortunate to have Pearce as their leader, but she was assisted admirably by Elise O’Dea whose tackle count of 12 dwarfed her rivals and spoke of her own superior will to win. Combined with Karen Paxman’s gut running for yet another mammoth total of 25 disposals, the Demons’ famed midfield put the pre-season premiership favourites back in the box seat for a spot in the grand final.All is far from lost for Brisbane, however, who, despite being well outplayed, could still count themselves unlucky not to have forced a draw. Too much, no doubt, was left to too few, and the performances of Sabrina Frederick-Traub and Kate Lutkins underscored how vital both pillars are to their fortunes. Frederick-Traub’s three goals were a masterclass in core strength and positioning, while her forward pressure continues to belie her height and force turnovers and scoring opportunities for her team. Lutkins, meanwhile, is a lock at All-Australian half-back, another 26 disposals (21 kicks) impossible to ignore. AFLW Reuse this content Australian rules football AFLW: Dogs defeat Pies to go game clear on top of the ladder – as it happened Read more Since you’re here… Read more As now seems to be a recurring theme, however, the match of the round was unavailable on free-to-air television (only two games were: Fremantle’s clash with GWS on 7Mate, but only in Perth, and Adelaide v Carlton on 7mate nationally). More investment is needed to maximise the audiences for a league that continues to improve in leaps and bounds – but is seen by fewer than in its inaugural season.The much poorer visibility of AFLW 2018 (on TV and elsewhere) has been a sour note in a second season that should have been riding the wave of goodwill, remarkable increases in participation and viewing numbers that defined season one. With a broadcast deal shortly to be struck for next season, it remains to be seen what difference vested commercial interests will make to how seriously the competition is treated. Share on LinkedIn Share on Messenger Girls Play Footy (@GirlsPlayFooty)Love the “I’m not getting paid enough for this” reaction from @sarahjolle after she is almost collected in a scuffle. 😂😂 #AFLWPiesDogs 4, 2018center_img … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. That only 2,100 were present for the finals-like clash, however, was the biggest disappointment of the night, and highlighted some of the problems with the AFLW’s fixturing. While playing games at Casey fields is in keeping with the community spirit of the competition, a 7pm start in Cranbourne East deterred non-local fans who would have had to leave work early and compete with peak hour traffic to attend.At the conclusion of round five the Lions remain in second place on percentage, with an easier run home than the Demons to come; they play Collingwood at home before taking on GWS in Blacktown, while Melbourne will face Carlton at Ikon Park before lining up against premiership fancies the Bulldogs at Whitten Oval. It may now seem a foregone conclusion that the race for the grand final is down to three: the Western Bulldogs and whoever finishes higher of Brisbane and Melbourne, but below them lurk two dark horses in Adelaide and GWS. Under new coach Alen McConnell, the Giants have been one of the success stories of AFLW season two, unlucky not to topple the Demons (or at least draw) in round one, while their only other loss came to Carlton after a storm delay in round two. Most impressive has been their astute recruiting, with Courtney Gum, the 35-year-old SANFL best-and-fairest, continuing to impress, and Cora Staunton, star Gaelic footballer, building an impressive highlights reel. At season’s end, however, they, like Adelaide, may pay the ultimate price for last week’s draw which leaves both a half-game out of the top three with two rounds remaining.Adelaide remain difficult to gauge given their early season form, but since the return of spiritual leader Erin Phillips they have found an aggression and belief that once again makes them a fearsome opponent. Phillips suffered a recurrence of her right quad injury in the comprehensive victory over Carlton, and it will be a nervous wait for her teammates as to how severe it is. That Phillips took herself off after having “awareness” of her quad, and claimed to be able to return if needed was promising, and may well prove a smart, precautionary move. Perhaps the best sign for the Crows, however, was a much-improved team performance, which continued as their wounded captain paced nervously on the boundary in the second half. Most eye-catching were Phillips’ co-captain Chelsea Randall, who continued her underrated and excellent season with 15 disposals and seven tackles in a swing(wo)man role, and Ruth Wallace, W-League and junior Matildas recruit, who excited with three goals to solidify her status as one of the recruits of the season. Support The Guardian Australia sport features Read more AFLW takes pride in off-field gains as Dogs break records on it Share via Email Share on Pinterest Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Topics Share on WhatsApplast_img read more