It was a big weekend for the AFLW’s Irish stars, as four of the five hit the scoreboard to show off their drastic improvement over the past six weeks of action.
It was a big penultimate round of the AFLW, with a series of nail biters seeing the ladder take shape heading into the competitions first ever finals series.
With Ailish Considine unfortunately missing out on selection for the ladder leading Adelaide Crows for the first time this season, the remaining four Irish players would well and truly pick up the slack producing some of their best performances of the year.
Gracing the turf of Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium for the very first time, Collingwood’s Sarah Rowe would better her career best performance from last week as she claimed 17 disposals, five marks and a goal in the Magpies loss against North Melbourne.
Finding her own up forward in the past few weeks, Rowe’s game continues to go from strength to strength playing a connector role working up and down the ground to assist in the Magpies ball movement out of defence.
The major improvement out of Rowe’s game over the season has definitely been her game sense, with moments such as finding a teammate inside 50 off the side of the boot and outworking her defender to free herself in attack testament to just how far she has come over the past seven weeks.
Although Collingwood weren’t able to secure their first win of the season, the development of Rowe has been a major positive for the team as they hope to see her grow into one of the competitions elite players.
Following the Magpies game, another Irish rookie would get her chance to impress on the Marvel Stadium stage as Aisling McCarthy’s Western Bulldogs went down by one point in a heartbreaker against Melbourne.
In a major clash in the make-up of conference A come finals time, it was tight from start to finish as two of the competitions most evenly matched sides went to war in what can only be described as four quarters of absolute war.
In the biggest match of her short career, McCarthy certainly rose to the occasion as she produced one of her best games of the year picking up 11 disposals and a goal, playing a key role up forward all night for the Dogs.
Her football IQ and dazzling speed would be on show for all to see throughout the game, with a moment in the second quarter particularly showing her potential in the AFLW as she sprinted away from the Melbourne defense to get on the end of a long kick inside 50, before finishing on the run to put the Bulldogs in front on the stroke of half time.
With the Bulldogs season all but over, McCarthy will get one more opportunity to showcase her improvement and quick adaptation to the game as she takes on the Blues at the Whitten Oval.
Sunday afternoon football would hit the inner-city suburbs of Adelaide, as the Crows played host to the Giants at a picturesque Unley Oval.
As the locals came out in droves to support the red-hot Crows, Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner looked to spoil the party as their Giants make a late push for a conference B finals berth.
However, after a tight first half the class of the Crows would come up trumps, as they kept the Giants goalless for two quarters to claim a convincing 32-point win.
As has been the case for the majority of the Giants season, Bonner and Staunton would be key contributors all day for their side as the Irish combo’s chemistry continues to grow.
Playing in a hybrid midfield/forward role, Staunton showed her determination and courage all day collecting an impressive 15 disposals, three tackles and a goal to help drive the Giants to a potential.
Her work around the contest was particularly impressive, as she well and truly held her own in a midfield battle against seasoned stars such as Anne Hatchard, Ebony Marinoff and Erin Phillips.
Continuing her development as a key forward, Bonner would toil hard against the talented Crows defense collecting 11 disposals and a goal serving as the Giants major focal point inside 50.
Throughout the first half, Bonner would play a key role in a number of the Giants goals as she set up three, before her improving football IQ came to the fore in the dying seconds of the second term as she outmaneuvered her defender before putting through a critical major.
With just one week of the regular season to go, the competition in the AFLW is set to step drastically next weekend as a number of sides still battle hard for a finals spot.
As for the Irish girls, only Considine has a chance of tasting finals action with the rest of the girls set for one last match before their historic seasons come to a close.
By Zac Standish