The one-point margin going into the fourth set the stage for a thriller but the Crows were relentless, 20-year-old Hatchard’s match-high 21 disposals and 7 tackles embodying her side’s industry.
Warm, still conditions laid the platform for a highly enjoyable affair that included 16 goals and 5 behinds.
Adelaide forward Stevie-Lee Thompson, a Crow since season one, entered the match with one AFLW goal and left Princes Park with four more, outshining the subdued Darcy Vescio, while tenacious 18-year-old Maddy Prespakis was undoubtedly Carlton’s best.
The spiritual home
On a weekend when Collingwood played at Victoria Park, Carlton played in front of the splendid heritage-listed stands of Ikon Park for the first time this year. Josh Frydenberg was on hand pre-game to announce federal funding for a $40 million upgrade of Carlton’s Princes Park facilities and showed decent technique in a pre-game kickabout. While the self-purported Blues fan didn’t stick around for the match, over 3000 fans soaked in the family atmosphere now synonymous with the AFLW.
Both teams suffered a last-minute withdrawal of a 2018 All-Australian player. Adelaide were already missing Jenna McCormick, who was playing in the Brisbane Roar’s W-League semi-final. Co-captain Chelsea Randall, one of the top players in the competition, was then hooked shortly before the match due to hamstring tightness and is a doubt for next week. Carlton’s Tayla Harris aggravated a shoulder injury during the week, and despite coach Daniel Harford saying last night that she had been effectively ruled out, Harris was spotted on the oval during pre-match warm-up activities. While Adelaide coach Matthew Clarke played Randall’s tightness off as part of the craft, a training injury in just the second week of the season should be a concern.
Mission: Erin Phillips
The first bounce indicated a salivating match-up between Adelaide’s Erin Phillips and Carlton captain Brie Davey, pulled back from her new position in the forward line. Yet as Davey and Phillips began to push further forward for their sides, Jess Edwards – charged with following Emma Kearney last week – was left to tag 33-year-old captain Phillips. Edwards acquitted herself well again but failed to fully subdue the 2017 competition best and fairest, who recorded an equal best on 21 disposals and one goal. Opponents beware of a fit and firing Erin Phillips.
Prespakis glimmers again
From Adelaide master Phillips to Carlton’s apprentice, Maddy Prespakis followed up last week’s promise with an inspiring performance. The 18-year-old midfielder, Carlton’s number one draft pick for this season and one of the most highly touted youngsters in the competition, popped up all over the park and finished with a team-high 20 disposals. She even had to be restrained by runner Andy Maher as some push and shove broke out on half-time.
«Maddy’s a terrific kid, and we do need to remember she is still a kid. She’s a great competitor, and she’s a class footballer … she’s a ripper,» said Harford. Prespakis holds no fear, and her clean, considered kicking off both feet has set the league’s skills benchmark.
The Blues showed all the endeavour that Daniel Harford would’ve demanded after they were «comprehensively mauled» by North Melbourne last week, but he’ll leave today feeling like an opportunity was bitterly wasted. Promisingly for Harford, Carlton were on top for more than half the game, but two losses to start the season already puts them in a dire scenario. Adelaide were unlucky to lose by one against the Bulldogs last week, and their character and class showed they’ll likely be up the top come finals.
Carlton travel to Sydney to take on the equally winless Giants on Saturday afternoon. Adelaide return home to play Geelong on Sunday.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.