Young Blue Madison Prespakis was typically busy through the midfield and arguably best afield with 24 touches. She is often tagged but this seems to make no difference to last year’s Rising Star winner. Her thirst for the ball was again on show, with 12 touches to half-time, seven of which were contested. Her well-weighted kick late in the final term allowed Georgia Gee to boot her third goal – and secure victory.
The Bulldogs were dealt a major blow in the first term when they lost midfielder Angelica Gogos to a lower right leg injury. Gogos has been an automatic selection and her absence meant there was greater focus on Ellie Blackburn, who had 20 disposals.
Bulldog Isabel Huntington, having sat out last week because of concussion, found plenty of the ball in defence and has an entertaining battle with Tayla Harris, who responded well to a week in the spotlight the AFLW sledging brouhaha with one goal, 13 touches and four marks.
Aided by a strong breeze, the Blues posted the first three goals of the match, the third when Lucy McEvoy marked and converted from about 35m, but it was to prove their last until the third term.
The Bulldogs opened their account when key forward Bonnie Toogood pounced on a loose ball and snapped late in the first term and added their second after the first break when Elisabeth Georgostathis roved a pack.
The Blues again capitalised on the wind in the third term but, just as importantly, punished the Bulldogs in the final quarter despite the home team having the benefit of the breeze.
Harris had been in the headlines all week after comments directed at her by Collingwood’s Stacey Livingstone. As we know, the Magpie defender, who had the better of Harris last week, said after the match: “You’ve just got to stop her in the air. That’s her game and if you can do that, she’s useless.”
The Blues bristled at that comment, and Harris fended it off. She may now want to send a DVD of Saturday’s match to Livingstone, after her excellent handball on the run to Gee gave the Blues their opening goal. While she dropped a mark late in the first term, her ability to immediately follow up on the ground and find a teammate gave the Blues another scoring opportunity.
The kicking skills of many players across the competition still require work but it’s been refreshing to see some long goals in round three. There were a couple on Friday night between the Saints and Demons, while Lauren Brazzale added her name to that list with a 50m bomb on the run to give the Blues their second of the afternoon.
Darcy Vescio has made her name as a forward but her strong fitness allows her to get up and down the ground – and now play as a loose man in defence. She is also prepared to stand her ground in the “hot spot” and take punishing blows to her back from an opposition forward. It was a big day for Vescio, with the Blues donning a pride guernsey designed by her.
Best: Carlton: Prespakis, Laloifi, Pound, Vescio, Gee
Western Bulldogs: McCarthy, Huntington, Newton, Blackburn, Lochland
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.