North Melbourne loom as early frontrunners in their first season. (Photo: AFLW Facebook)

AFLW: Roos, Dogs in top-of-table clash

North Melbourne’s is winning plaudits for its shrewd recruiting plan ahead of their inaugural AFLW season after make a dominant start to the 2019 campaign, while Melbourne and Adelaide picked up their first four points for the year in Round 2.

Ahead of a weekend featuring all five clashes outside Victoria, however, two of the three undefeated sides collide under lights in Launceston on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs aim to become the side to derail the Roos’ stunning momentum.

Hatch’s Jesse Robertson previews an intriguing third round of the 2019 AFL Women’s season, starting with the most highly anticipated game of the round in Tasmania:

Friday, February 15, 7:15pm: North Melbourne vs Western Bulldogs, UTAS Stadium

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North Melbourne’s tremendous start continued last Friday night, albeit in a stop-start manner as everything from light tower failure to threatening electrical storms delayed their game with GWS on more than one occasion.


Hello darkness my old friend #AFLW #AFLWGiantsNorth

— Joey Nicita ☀️ (@JoeyNicita) February 8, 2019

Roos skipper Emma Kearney once again led from the middle with a stellar output of 22 touches including eight tackles and five inside-50s, but will need additional support after suffering two injuries at Drummoyne Oval. Sophie Abbatangelo and Ash Riddell, the latter’s incident resulting in a one-match suspension for the Giants’ Nicola Barr, will both miss weeks after turning in strong performances before being struck down.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs opened their home account with another steel-infused defensive performance in seeing off the Cats in Footscray, and it was Ellie Blackburn who appeared most likely to earn the 3 votes after reeling in 13 contested possessions, eight tackles, five clearances and her first goal of the season. The side boasting AFLW’s most imposing backline also receives a morale boost up forward with Emma Mackie set to spearhead the attack on return from a torn ACL.

Hatch predicts: North Melbourne by 16 points. The home side have looked far too powerful to be stopped this early in spite of their injury situation and the Dogs’ resilience.

Saturday, February 16, 4:45pm: GWS vs Carlton, Blacktown International Sportspark

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The Giants make four changes from the side defeated in heavily interrupted fashion last week but only one forced inclusion following the suspension of Nicola Barr, whose influence will be missed after her equal team-high seven tackles. Otherwise, Jessica Dal Pos produced one of her better efforts through the centre with 17 touches and four rebound-50s and will be one to watch lining up opposite Breann Moody. Attacker Tait Mackrill is primed for her debut and has a chance to make an immediate impression against the leakiest defence in the league.

Carlton fans would have seen an immense improvement in their side in defeat to Adelaide at IKON Park last Sunday despite holding a 17-point lead midway through the third term. Key defender Kerryn Harrington battled ferociously in defence with 20 disposals at 75 per cent efficiency, running up six marks and five rebound-50’s in a busy backline while Madison Prespakis contributed the spark up forward on her way to a Rising Star nomination. The positives continue with Tayla Harris recalled to the side following her late withdrawal with concussion last week.

Hatch predicts: GWS by 7 points. Carlton produced decent enough quality to appear competitive this week but have work ahead to be stringing regular results together.

Saturday, February 16, 7:15pm: Fremantle vs Collingwood, Fremantle Oval

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Dana Hooker was one of the undoubted stars of last week’s action, appearing everywhere with 24 disposals at 71 per cent (16 contested touches) along with eight clearances. While Hooker asserts herself as one of the premier midfielders in all of AFLW early on, the Dockers’ high-scoring start to the season, defying many critics of the women’s code, has caught the eye equally with seven goalkickers recorded in their percentage-boosting victory over Brisbane. However, Gabby O’Sullivan was one of three to produce multiple majors, and her suspension leaves a hole filled by the debuting Laura Pugh.

Last week’s Hatch preview suggested that improvement was required among Collingwood’s forward stocks in order to become genuine finals contenders, and their void up front showed in great volumes as they were held to the equal-lowest score in the short history of AFLW at Victoria Park Saturday. Full-back Ash Brazill was once again able to hold her head high following a standout effort highlighted by 23 disposals, sensationally more than twice that of the next closest Magpie. Sarah Dargan was the sole contributor up front with a goal in the latter stages of the final term, but with Sharni Layton omitted, a dismal outlook remains.

Hatch predictsFremantle by 34 points. Pitting the highest-scoring side against the lowest-scoring, this has all the potential to be one of the more one-sided matches in all of AFLW.

Sunday, February 17, 2:35pm: Adelaide vs Geelong, Norwood Oval

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Stevie-Lee Thompson became an instant sensation in the wake of her four-goal haul helping her side to a comeback victory over Carlton. Her 17 touches came with 77 per cent efficiency, and outside of her heroic efforts up forward, captain Erin Phillips produced a well-rounded midfield display including four clearances and four inside-50s, while Anne Hatchard laid seven tackles and racked up 22 disposals out of defence. Crows fans will also be buoyed by the inclusion of the high-profile Chelsea Randall in their extended side.

Meghan McDonald was a shining light in the Cats’ loss to the Bulldogs at VU Whitten Oval, registering 21 touches and four marks in Geelong’s backline, both team-high stats. It was at the other end where Geelong encountered trouble, unable to lay consistent pressure on a quality team defence. Fans have rejoiced at Melissa Hickey’s inclusion in their extended side after a knee injury cost her most of 2018.

Hatch predicts: Adelaide by 18 points. The 2017 premiers looked like a genuine force in their second-half last week and should use this momentum to outlast a shaky Geelong outfit.

Sunday, February 17, 4:35pm: Brisbane vs Melbourne, Hickey Park

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Alexandra Anderson has cemented herself as a major name to keep eyes on through the competition’s opening fortnight, averaging 24 disposals, five clearances and six tackles in a brilliant opening two games. Jess Wuetschner was able to keep up her keen eye around the goals with a further two in the Lions’ defeat against Fremantle, while Lions leader Kate Lutkins produced a resolute six marks and six rebound-50’s from full-back.

The Demons have their own skipper to hold up for the nation to notice, though, in the form of the rampant Elise O’Dea. Amassing a stunning 18 disposals to half-time in a comprehensive first win of the year against the Magpies, O’Dea finished with 26, as well as leading her side in almost every major statistic by the final siren. Should she find her way to Anderson in the centre on Sunday, all eyes will focus on this supremely talented pair.

Hatch predicts: Melbourne by 5 points. The Lions came undone at the hands of the Dockers last week and the Demons’ near-shutout of Collingwood holds them in good stead to continue their climb.