NORTH Melbourne has flexed its considerable midfield muscle, thumping a Mon Conti-less Richmond by 35 points at the Swinburne Centre.
At half-time, it looked like the Kangaroos were going to waltz away with a record victory, and aside from a third-quarter Tiger burst, it was a game dominated by the royal blue and white.
TIGERS v ROOS Full match coverage and stats
Driven by Ash Riddell (25 disposals), Jas Garner (22 and five clearances) and Ellie Gavalas (19) out of the middle, Kaitlyn Ashmore (19) on the wing and some strong Emma King ruck work, North Melbourne dictated play around the ground while the Tigers' engine room struggled without star Conti (a late withdrawal with a hamstring complaint).
Richmond had first use of the gusty wind to the Punt Road end, but struggled to make any headway, scoring just one point.
By comparison, North Melbourne's deep entries – created by clever switches of play – the forwards feasted, with Daisy Bateman, Garner and Bella Eddey all hitting the scoreboard.
The Kangaroos flicked the switch in the second quarter and King dominated with two goals against the under-sized Gabby Seymour.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter, with late inclusion Christina Bernardi coming to life, converting a goal and setting up Tayla Stahl for the team's second a few minutes later.
After a scoreless third term, 28-year-old debutant Georgia Hammond settled North Melbourne's nerves at the start of the fourth term, extending the margin to 27 points, before the Roos kicked away in their quest to lock up a top-six position.
Conti-less midfield struggles
Best and fairest Mon Conti has been such a livewire this season, and the Tigers seriously struggled without the run and excitement she brings to the side. In her absence, Katie Brennan spent more time on the ball, while Ellie McKenzie dragged the team forward on her shoulders in the third term. But it was a big ask for a fifth-gamer to be a match-winner by herself in the midfield, against All-Australians Kearney, Riddell and Garner. Kodi Jacques was missing her bestie, writing Conti's number four on her wrist strapping.
The rise and rise of Daisy Bateman
The young Kangaroo is gradually staking her claim as one of the most dangerous small forwards in the AFLW. Bateman, 21, was North's first ever draft pick, and they chose wisely with the smart goalkicker. In the last two matches she's kicked two goals each, and was a constant threat against the Tigers with 14 disposals, her clever positioning meaning she was never out of the game for long.
The return of the King
Emma King hadn’t kicked a major since her astonishing three-goal first quarter against Geelong in round one, but turned it on the second term. The two-time All-Australian booted two goals in a quarter, out-sizing Gabby Seymour. She was strong throughout the game, taking three contested marks and recording 21 hitouts, making Richmond's decision not to bring in 189cm Alice Edmonds an odd choice.
"They jumped us. They taught us a lesson. If you're a fraction off against the good teams – that was probably the first time we'd seen that with our group, we've brought the heat in every game. There's always been things we can do better, but that was the first time our energy was low, and they were brilliant." – Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson.
"I thought our first half was some of the most complete footy we'd played so far. Everything just came together, all the different concepts and things we'd been working on and that we went into the game with, they came together really well. The challenge was to do it for three quarters and build it out to four quarters, which as a coach, you go we weren't able to do that, but when you control a game for so much in the first half, it's going to be difficult to continue on." – North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker
Richmond will be out to reverse last year's result when it takes on Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, while North Melbourne will be on its guard against the dangerous Western Bulldogs at North Hobart Oval.
RICHMOND 0.1 0.2 3.2 5.2 (32)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2 6.5 6.5 10.7 (67)
Richmond: Bernardi 2, Stahl, Wakefield, Brennan
North Melbourne: E. King 2, Bateman 2, Garner, Eddey, Abbatangelo, Hammond, Bannister, Kearney
Richmond: McKenzie, Cordner, Hosking, Brennan, Bernardi
North Melbourne: Riddell, Garner, Ashmore, Gavalas, E. King, Randall
North Melbourne: Nil
Richmond: Conti (hamstring), replaced in selected side by Bernardi
North Melbourne: Nil
Crowd: 803 at the Swinburne Centre