Practice match wrap: New clubs on show, injury blows to stars

THE FULL complement of AFLW sides completed their last major step toward season seven over the weekend, playing a round of practice matches across the country.

It was a chance for fans to get their first glimpse at a host of new players, including talented draftees like Jasmine Fleming, Cynthia Hamilton, Paige Scott and Zarlie Goldsworthy and Irish imports Vikki Wall, Erika O'Shea and Orlagh Lally.

Injuries to the likes of Ebony Antonio, Elle Bennetts and Shanae Davison marred an otherwise exciting weekend of footy.

Hawthorn's Jasmine Fleming in action in a practice match against Richmond at the MCG on August 14, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda v Brisbane at RSEA Park

St Kilda and Brisbane kicked off the round of practice matches on Friday with the Lions prevailing for a 6.6 (42) to 2.4 (16) victory.

Returning Saint Georgia Patrikios proved she still has her touch around the contest, and Ashleigh Richards showed some great skill in the air, pulling in a couple of nice contested marks.

St Kilda's Georgia Patrikios in action in the practice match against Brisbane at RSEA Park on August 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Recruit Nicola Stevens played in various positions, including some time spent in the midfield, and her strength in attack was evident when the Saints got the ball inside 50, while Darcy Guttridge looked strong as she ran hard all day higher up the field than her usual role up forward.

For the Lions, Cathy Svarc's power away from congestion stole the show more than once, even resulting in a goal to open the second quarter, and Dakota Davidson was an ever-present threat up forward both in the air and on the ground, kicking two goals from a slew of opportunities.

Belle Dawes ran hard all game providing both ball-winning ability and pressure across the ground and All-Australian Nat Grider's intercepting and rebounding out of defence was a delight.

While the Saints did force some poor ball use through their pressure, the Lions look to be warming up for another strong AFLW season, and St Kilda just seem to be lacking a level of class their opponents showed.

Brisbane's Natalie Grider handpasses during the Practice Match against St Kilda at RSEA Park on August 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Adelaide v North Melbourne at West Lakes

There was some early chaos in Adelaide after Adelaide's clash with North Melbourne was moved away from a muddy Norwood Oval at the last moment to West Lakes. As both sides just put their feelers out ahead of the season proper, North Melbourne got the win 3.2 (20) to 2.6 (18).

Eloise Jones was the standout performer, barely leaving the field as teammates were managed through the game, she worked relentlessly out on the wing. Getting back to assist in defence and pressing forward to kick her own goal, the highlight of Jones' day was an impressive mark back with the flight of the ball.

McKenzie Dowrick spent three of four quarters in defence, attacking the ball with strength and using her neat left boot to set teammates up, and Madison Newman offered similar qualities off half back, while also adding some run and carry.

Adelaide's Madison Newman in action in the practice match against North Melbourne at Norwood Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Meanwhile inactive replacement player Jess Waterhouse showed off some tricks, and although they didn't always come off, there is an unpredictability about the forward that will catch defences off guard.

The Kangaroos may have found the best position for Jasmine Garner for this season's team dynamic. As a high half-forward, Garner was able to connect the midfield and forward line better than any other player and seems the clear answer to the side's biggest issue of last season: forward 50 entries.

Tess Craven also played an important role at half forward, while Irish duo Vikki Wall and Erika O'Shea who have settled in well.

Wall - who only arrived in Australia a week ago - showed off her strength and speed running toward goal, and will no doubt become a damaging player as her skills continue to develop. O'Shea, however, continued her impressive form out of the back half, taking plenty of hits but providing the Roos with plenty of bounce.

North Melbourne's Tess Craven in action in the practice match against Adelaide at Norwood Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Essendon v Port Adelaide at The Hangar

At The Hangar, Essendon defeated Port Adelaide 8.8 (56) to 5.6 (36) as experienced players starred.

Bonnie Toogood and Daria Bannister looked a cut above in Essendon's forward line, with the former slotting a game-high three goals and the latter's ability to set up her teammates impressive.

Essendon's Bonnie Toogood in action in the Practice Match against Port Adelaide at The Hangar on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Draftee Paige Scott was a force to be reckoned with, beginning the game in defence, and applying plenty of pressure, she moved into attack for the second half and offered up strength in the air to foil Toogood.

The Bombers' VFLW recruits also showed off their wares. Alana Barba set the tone early, too, winning two holding the ball free kicks in the first quarter and covering the ground well, and Federica Frew kicked two late goals to push out the final margin.

For Port Adelaide, Erin Phillips started at the contest, playing her usual powerful game, but it was Kate Surman whose work rate stole the show early. Surman ran hard both defensively and into attack and will be an important link for the side in its inaugural season.

Maggie MacLachlan presented well as a key forward, kicking an opening quarter goal, and Jade de Melo's speed in the forward half will prove valuable once she finds that clean, first grab of the ground ball.

Port Adelaide's Erin Phillips in action in the Practice Match against Essendon at The Hangar on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Western Bulldogs v GWS at Whitten Oval

Amidst construction at Whitten Oval, GWS won a nail-biter against the Western Bulldogs thanks to a late Haneen Zreika goal. The Giants got over the line by one point 8.3 (51) to 7.8 (50).

Bulldog Elle Bennetts unfortunately left the field in the first quarter and failed to return as she nursed a shoulder/collarbone injury from a tough contest.

Elle Bennetts is seen with a Western Bulldogs trainer after a collision during the Practice Match against GWS at Whitten Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

It was a similar story for GWS draftee Zarlie Goldsworthy who kicked her side's first goal but spent the rest of the game on the sidelines after copping a bump to her right shoulder.

Celine Moody showed off some impressive athleticism, starting the game deep in attack and slotting the Dogs' second goal with a neat gather and spin, and young midfielder Jess Fitzgerald was prominent early, leaping at any opportunity to intercept and break away.

Young draftee Rylie Wilcox looked every bit an AFLW player, too, running hard out on the wing and showing a deft touch with ball in hand.

The Giants have been focused on sharing the load in attack, conscious of their reliance on Cora Staunton since she joined the competition. They showed glimpses of that, goaling through Staunton (2), Haneen Zreika (2), Georgia Garnett, Goldsworthy, Chloe Dalton and Georgina Fowler.

Tait Mackrill's movement into the midfield has also released players like Alicia Eva and Dalton to use their run on the outside, which proved key in the genuine attacking mindset they put on show.

GWS' Cora Staunton and Western Bulldogs' Katie Lynch in a marking contest in the Practice Match at Whitten Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Fremantle v West Coast at Fremantle Oval

Out west, Fremantle and West Coast lined up at a wet and cold Fremantle Oval. The Dockers ultimately took the win in a close, scrappy game, 2.7 (19) to 2.1 (13).

The win, however, was marred by what seems like a serious knee injury to star utility Ebony Antonio. The inaugural Docker desperately stretched out to smother an Eagles kick out of defence, and as she came down, she collided with the behind post and immediately grabbed at her right knee and punched the ground.

Antonio was helped from the field and at quarter time attempted some tests on the sidelines with heavy strapping, but ultimately made her way to the rooms in tears.

Ebony Antonio is assisted off the field during Fremantle's practice match against West Coast on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

On a more positive note for the club, draftee Megan Kauffman showed her strength and work rate, kicking the side's two goals for the day, and newly announced vice-captain Ange Stannett stood strong in defence.

Ruck Mim Strom also showed off her quick hands and spent extended periods as a target up forward, clunking some strong marks.

The Eagles gave almost every member of the active squad a run, with former Crow and Saint Jess Sedunary impressive at half-back early, repeatedly intercepting Fremantle's forward forays, and forming a strong connection with fellow defender Belinda Smith.

Sophie McDonald played largely as a defensive anchor for West Coast, keeping the side's structure behind the ball, minimising any quick run and carry the Dockers were able to generate, meanwhile Kellie Gibson kicked an impressive goal just before half time after breaking away through the corridor and slamming it on her boot from 50 to an open goalsquare.

The game was paused for about 40 minutes after a storm hit, including hail, thunder, and lightning, and upon returning for the second half both teams adapted reasonably well to the tough conditions.

West Coast's Sophie McDonald and Frenmantle's Roxanne Roux in action in the Practice Match at Fremantle Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Gold Coast v Geelong at Austworld Centre Oval

In wet, slippery conditions at Austworld Centre Oval, Geelong posted a strong win over Gold Coast 8.4 (52) to 2.4 (16).

The Suns looked strong through the midfield and efficiently won plenty of clearances, but simply broke down when moving into attack. Geelong, thanks to its experienced backline, picked off the Suns' wayward kicks and transitioned well into attack.

Mikayla Bowen looked very classy out on the wing for the Cats, and Nina Morrison was ever-present around the contest. But it was Darcy Moloney who stole the show for Geelong, kicking four goals in the first half to put scoreboard distance between the sides.

Geelong's Nina Morrison in action in the Practice Match against Gold Coast at Austworld Centre Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

With untried rookie Samantha Gooden moved to the inactive list last week, replacement player Kalani Scouller played well in tandem with Olivia Fuller in the ruck.

For Gold Coast, Kalinda Howarth stood out thanks to her speed through the middle of the ground and repeated drives into attack, and developing small forward Ashanti Bush showed glimpses of her exciting touch and agility around the ground ball.

Recruit Courtney Jones offered repeat defensive efforts as she pushed up the ground out of the forward line, and Alison Drennan picked up right where she left off last season, at her ball-winning best.

Gold Coast's Courtney Jones in action in the Practice Match against Geelong at Austworld Centre Oval on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Sydney v Collingwood at Blacktown International Sportspark

An experienced Collingwood outfit wore down new kids on the block Sydney at Blacktown, breaking away in the second half to win 8.8 (56) to 4.2 (26).

As expected, Ruby Schleicher and Chloe Molloy spent much of the game on the ball for Collingwood, with Jaimee Lambert not named for the practice match. Former Cat Olivia Barber proved her ability not only in the ruck, but on the goal line, pulling in two big contested marks in the goalsquare resulting in majors for her side.

Collingwood players celebrate a goal in the Practice Match against Sydney at Blacktown International Sportspark on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Imogen Barnett was also dangerous up forward, and Sabrina Frederick was used in various roles, including deep in attack, at full back and sporadically through the ruck.

The Swans looked exciting early, with No.1 draft pick Montana Ham strong out of the middle and connecting beautifully with Cynthia Hamilton up forward, and Aimee Whelan a surprise packet around the contest.

Bridie Kennedy was thrown the task of running with Molloy for much of the game and was relentless in her pursuit, and Ella Heads provided drive out of defence, taking the kick ins for the Swans.

In the ruck Ally Morphett warmed into the game the longer it went on and looked her best when capitalising on her strength and getting it onto her boot.

Sydney's Montana Ham in action in the Practice Match against Collingwood at Blacktown International Sportspark on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Carlton v Melbourne at the MCG

Melbourne was in ominous touch in its practice match hitout against Carlton, defeating the Blues 13.8 (86) to 2.4 (16).

The Demons dominated the midfield battle throughout the game, and had too many forward options for the Blues to handle, Kate Hore booting three for the match and Tyla Hanks kicking two in the first quarter alone despite lining up in the middle.

In the absence of Eliza McNamara this season (back), Lily Mithen looks likely to spend greater time on the wing, while usual suspects Karen Paxman, Casey Sherriff and Alyssa Bannan found plenty of the footy on the outside.

Carlton's Keeley Skepper is tackled by Melbourne's Lily Mithen in the practice match at the MCG on August 13, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Daisy Pearce was rested for the game, while Tayla Harris played the first half, swapping with Georgia Campbell at the main break. Harris did receive treatment on an ankle injury, but will be right to go for round one.

For the Blues, Mimi Hill and Abbie McKay battled hard in the new-look midfield, while recruit Phoebe McWilliams and Darcy Vescio look set to build a dangerous one-two punch in attack.

Jess Dal Pos and Imogen Milford kept the pressure on, while former Pie Amelia Velardo is likely to play more of an inside midfield role than in previous seasons, having lined up either on the wing or in defence.

Carlton's Darcy Vescio attempts to mark in the Practice Match against Melbourne at the MCG on August 13, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Richmond v Hawthorn at the MCG

Richmond dispensed of Hawthorn at the MCG in the sides' final hitout before AFLW season seven begins. The Tigers moved the ball methodically down the field to ultimately win 8.4 (52) to 1.2 (8).

Emelia Yassir and Meagan Kiely formed a dangerous duo in attack for Richmond, kicking five goals between them and creating havoc at ground level for the under-pressure Hawthorn backline. Jess Duffin held down the fort for the Hawks, intercepting countless shots on goal, while draftee Mackenzie Eardley showed her prowess both in the air and on the ground.

Richmond's Emelia Yassir marks the ball in the Practice Match against Hawthorn at the MCG on August 14, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

The Tigers took control through the middle, with Monique Conti's agility creating space where there was none, and the rotation of Grace Egan, Ellie McKenzie and Sarah Hosking at stoppages provided a balance of both class and strength.

For the Hawks, Jasmine Fleming was a standout, with her ability to read stoppages and play a very disciplined game exceptional - whether that required her to burrow in and win her own ball or sit away from the stoppage to offer and option.

After loose checking in defence saw Hawthorn concede three early goals, the Hawks did lose structure as they flooded back to support the defence, but when they did win the ball back there simply weren't any options to go to.

AFLW 2022 Practice Match - Richmond v Hawthorn