Brooke Lochland finished with seven goals as the Dogs embarrassed Carlton on Friday. (AAP: David Crosling)
Regardless of which side of the AFLW scoring argument you’re on, the Bulldogs’ drubbing of Carlton will serve as perfect online debate fodder.
On one side sit the Western Bulldogs, devastating in attack to complement a midfield functioning to a seriously high level, and 73-point winners on the night.
They had kicked 6.8 by half-time, and 12.14 when the final siren sounded. Brooke Lochland became the first woman to kick four or more goals in an AFLW half, and went on with it after the long break to finish with a league-record seven majors.
But even more striking than the efficiency of the Dogs’ offence was the limpness of Carlton’s — a completely empty scoresheet at half-time, and only 2.1 by the game’s conclusion.
Alister Nicholson tweet: Lots of talk about @CarltonFC defensive tactics and low scoring in @aflwomens… they’ve actually had equal 3rd most scoring shots: Melb 37 WB 31 Carl and Bris 30 (Blues 8.22) GWS 26 Freo 24 Coll 21 Adel 19 (11 of those last round) Perhaps more of an issue of accuracy.
In the hours before the match, Grandstand commentator Alister Nicholson tweeted a stat adding some context to the complaints around Carlton’s defensive gameplans and lack of scoring.
“Lots of talk about Carlton’s defensive tactics and low scoring in AFL Women’s … they’ve actually had equal third most scoring shots,” Nicholson said.
“Perhaps more an issue of accuracy.”
Even in this horrific loss to the Dogs, the numbers seemed to suggest the Blues should have been getting more return for their forward investments — at half-time, with the score at 44-0, Carlton only trailed the inside 50 count by two, and at the end of the match by only one.
Some will point to the players the Blues were missing, perhaps most importantly Tayla Harris as a goal-kicking option, and Bri Davey as a relentless runner to carry the ball forward.
But in Katie Brennan and Izzy Huntington, the Dogs were missing two pretty fair forward options of their own, and it hardly stood as an excuse for them.
Many have pointed fingers at Darcy Vescio, whose electric first season has been followed by a tepid sophomore effort which has so far only produced two goals.
A drop in production from Carlton’s star forward is certainly part of a wider problem, but no attack reliant so heavily one player is bound for success either.
That’s something Collingwood discovered last year when Moana Hope didn’t immediately set the world alight, and the Pies’ forward line suddenly looked one-dimensional and listless — they’ve hardly solved that problem this season to be fair, though the Pies had still outscored Carlton through three games, despite remaining winless.
But Carlton’s issues extend further up the field too, and one stat offers the clearest indication of the difference between the Blues and Bulldogs heading into this game: the Dogs were ranked number one in the league for disposal efficiency, and Carlton rock bottom.
The two factors that seem to separate the good AFLW teams and players from the rest is disposal efficiency and cleanness by hand. If you can collect the footy on the first grab and hit a target, you’re halfway there.
It seems simple, but these are basics seemingly left behind by a Blues team that prioritises physical pressure — they lead the league in tackles, which is why they were fourth before bouncedown tonight despite their glaring faults — and the sort of defensive mindset that forced a quasi-rule change from the league head honchos.
The Bulldogs, like Melbourne, Brisbane and sporadically Fremantle, are a far more complete outfit. There’s manic pressure, but composure and skill to match.
Until the rest of the league manages to find that balance, there will be plenty more blowouts like this.