expert's view

'Scora' still making the difference at 39 and another Mayo star 'winning a lot of fans' - Irish in AFLW

A review of the latest round of action Down Under as the season hits the business end.

WITH JUST ONE more round of the regular season to play, the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] is hitting the business end with finals series fast approaching.

The Irish contingent continue to impress week on week, with 10 featuring in Round 8.

cora niamh Cora Staunton and Niamh Kelly both caught the eye at the weekend. GWS Giants / West Coast Eagles. GWS Giants / West Coast Eagles. / West Coast Eagles.

Brisbane Lions (Orla O’Dwyer), Collingwood (Aishling Sheridan and Sarah Rowe), Adelaide Crows (Ailish Considine), Fremantle (Áine Tighe) and Melbourne (Sinéad Goldrick, Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee) are all finals bound, with one more team set to join them.

North Melbourne (Aileen Gilroy) are looking the most likely to at this point, though Carlton pose the obvious threat for sixth place in the ladder. All will be revealed this weekend, but first, a look back to last.

In terms of Irish interest, GWS Giants squeezed past Geelong, Brisbane continued their giant-killing spree against North Melbourne, Collingwood hammered St Kilda, Melbourne edged Fremantle, Adelaide saw off Western Bulldogs and West Coast Eagles were narrowly beaten by Richmond.

Staunton, as she so regularly does, grabbed the headlines after the Giants win, her standout display and much-needed goal shining lights for her side. The Kelly sisters, Niamh and Grace, shone in West Coast defeats, while a host of other Irish players — O’Dwyer, Sheridan and Rowe among them — impressed for their teams.

CrossCoders co-founder and head agent, Jason Hill, runs the rule over the 10 Irish players involved in Round 8 below, offering deeper analysis of their seasons so far and outlining what we should expect going forward:

Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)

Cora really has found her scoring boots in the last couple of weeks and boy has it been important for the Giants. It’s been a difficult year for the team from Greater Western Sydney and it’s been on the shoulders of Staunton to give them the scoring presence to win games. In a game short on quality Scora’s goal really did make the difference. With the Giants now out of finals contention they take on Carlton in the last round of the regular season. It’ll be interesting to see if Cora returns for 2022 and be one of a few players in any sport to play into their 40s

Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)

aflw-kangaroos-magpies Aishling Sheridan is enjoying a stunning individual season. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

A game when Sheridan doesn’t score is a bit of a shock. It’s even more so when the team kicks eight goals. Such has become of her talent that teams don’t know whether to put their number one defender on her or Chloe Molloy and to be honest, it doesn’t seem to matter with the talent they possess in the forward 50. A quieter game on the stat sheet for Aishling, but still a good performance in a team that is humming their way into finals.

Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo) 

A nice comeback from injury where she was back to her old ways finding the ball 17 times on the wing. Collingwood look a more balanced and better transition team with her in the side and will be hoping the shoulder stays in a good spot as they come into finals.

Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)

The Lions can’t stop knocking off teams who are supposedly better than them and the Tipp product has been central to that. Her continued rise in the competition has seen her getting more and more dangerous every week and she’s now producing at both ends of the ground when it matters. Against a strong North side and big name competition, Orla was the sides second-highest ball winner and led the side in terms of AFL ranking points. Finals is coming up fast and I wouldn’t write off Brisbane and O’Dwyer from winning it all.

Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)

A very quiet game by her standard off the half-back as Brisbane negated the run and carry she has quickly established herself as being famous for. When she did get the ball she launched the team into attack with her booming kick but credit to the Brisbane defence, they held strong to bring home the win. A huge clash next week against Fremantle which is a must-win game to solidify their finals spot, otherwise they leave the door open for Carlton to snatch it away.

Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)

A very fast start for the Irish star saw her get three touches in quick succession in the wet only to be ruled out with a dead leg after a collision when kicking the football. We’re hoping for nothing too serious so that she can round out this week against St Kilda.

Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)

Another improved performance which really showed why the Eagles were so keen to bring over the Mayo product. In the wet, she racked up 10 possessions and 3 tackles with her forward 50 pressure and kicked a nice snap goal as the Eagles started to motor home — it could have been the difference but we ultimately saw the Eagles fall just short. Playing with the sort of confidence we see each week in ladies football, Grace really has started to show what she can bring to the AFLW.

Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)

Screenshot 2021-03-01 at 10.54.29 Grace (15) and Niamh Kelly. West Coast Eagles. West Coast Eagles.

This woman has no fear. Consistently we see her flying into contests on the ground and going back with the flight into aerial battles and it’s winning her a lot of fans in Australia. Her cool, calm and collected nature really shone through in the wet where she was clean and effective and was able to consistently rebound off half-back to throw the Eagles into attack. Consistently touted as one of the Eagles most impressive players she really has taken a huge step forward in 2021.

Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne FC / Dublin)

A quieter game for Goldrick out West against the pre-season favourites for the competition where she was credited with 7 possessions and, surprisingly, 0 tackles for the game. We’re usually used to see Goldrick attack the ball and fly off the half-back to launch the Demons into attack, but the game didn’t allow for this such was the intensity as Melbourne held on to the win to secure their finals spot. The Lions in the last round of the regular season will give us a really good view of where this Demons side is at.

Lauren Magee (Melbourne FC / Dublin)

In a very similar fashion to Goldrick, this just wasn’t the game to see the traditional Irish dash off the half-back line and the Dublin star was equally held to a smaller number of possessions and 0 tackles in the game. The run will have done Lauren the world of good as she continues to take steps forward every week and she gets to play at the pointy end of the season as she’s so used to with her county back home.

Note: There are 14 Irishwomen on the books of AFLW clubs presently. Niamh McEvoy (Melbourne FC / Dublin) and Ailish Considine (Adelaide Crows / Clare) weren’t involved in Round 8. Neither were long-term injury absentees Bríd Stack (GWS Giants / Cork) and Áine Tighe (Fremantle / Leitrim).

In her recent column with The Irish Examiner, Stack revealed that she will miss the rest of the season as her recovery from a neck fracture continues. There’s a chance that Tighe may return over the coming weeks.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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