In what is the ongoing story of the season, COVID complications have once again impacted the competition.
Last-minute fixture changes meant Brisbane only had a four-day turnaround between games and Carlton a five-day one. That's not a lot of time to rest, recover and reboot while also holding down other jobs. Plus, another game has been postponed as St Kilda vs. West Coast originally slated for Friday night remains TBC on a date and time.
Yet the players are persevering and providing entertaining footy that we should all be grateful for (this writer certainly is). Fremantle and Adelaide put their class on full display by cementing themselves as the top two sides - well, at least for now.
North Melbourne have kicked Collingwood out of the top four and Geelong had another gallant loss, this time to Brisbane. The Giants, despite playing with a COVID-depleted team, managed a convincing victory over the Western Bulldogs in front of a home crowd as the young guns stepped up. And the Suns shone very brightly with a stunning win over Richmond.
Also, it was a bloody hot one again. And as always, many lessons were learned. Here are some of them from Round 4.
Freo and Adelaide are the teams to beat
Heading into the round, the main talking point was who would emerge as the top two sides as the four highest on the ladder locked horns. Now we have our answer: the Fremantle Dockers and Adelaide Crows.
The Dockers kept the previously undefeated Magpies to just one goal -- and their lowest-ever AFLW score of seven points -- as they secured a 31-point victory at Victoria Park. Freo's reliable key players in Kiara Bowers, Hayler Miller, Gemma Houghton and Ebony Antonio were in usual stellar form and the side's pressure across the board kept their opponents from scoring and forced turnovers instead. Going forward, accuracy of kicking will be what the West Australian side needs to work on -- they booted 5.8 -- to continue to go from strength to strength.
Then in similar class from across the South Australian border, the Crows were too composed and refined in their footy for the Demons, who were kept goalless until the final term. Melbourne managed to get hands on the ball and win contests but pressure from the Crows forced turnovers, which ultimately resulted with more insides 50s and then goals. Especially for the ever-reliable and increasingly talented Erin Phillips, who finished with three majors, six tackles and 17 disposals. Also in great form was Anne Hatchard, Ebony Marinoff and Rachelle Martin.
Courtney Hodder is lethal when on the chase
We all know Hodder can be lethal in the forward 50 but after this round, it turns out she can be just as dangerous with her defensive efforts, too.
At Maroochydore in Brisbane's home, the small but mighty 21-year-old had superb tackling pressure, aided nicely by her speed and relentlessness. Where others may have let the ball go when in the hands of opponents, Hodder chased and chased. When. thrown. into the midfield, she had seven tackles and continually helped get the ball back into the Lions' possession. From there, her side dominated the inside 50 count where the likes of Dakota Davidson, Orla O'Dwyer and Emily Bates capitalised with goals. And by the final siren, the Lions had scraped through with a two-point victory over Geelong.
Geelong have found a goalkicker in Chloe Scheer
Yes, Geelong had yet another gallant loss but they put up an impressive fight against another premiership fancy and are finding answers to formerly long-held questions. Previously, the Cats' midfield have struggled to find targets in the forward line and even when they did, converting entries into goals was an issue. Enter Chloe Scheer. In response to this lingering problem for the Victorian side, the former Crow is proving a reliable goalkicker aided by an increasingly growing stronger midfield. By the final siren, she booted 3.1 and got her team within striking distance of a win over Brisbane, falling just short. There's a lot of promise emerging from this young Geelong side and Scheer is proving a big part of that.
Don't sleep on the Kangaroos
At the start of the round, the top four spots seemed secured by Melbourne, Collingwood, Freo and Adelaide.
Yet, after a consistent string of performances the Kangaroos have sprung into third place and knocked the Magpies out in the process. They're 3-1 -- the only loss coming against the Crows -- and have a healthy percentage after claiming an impressive 30-point victory over the Blues at Ikon Park on Sunday afternoon.
If she wasn't already there, in-form midfielder Ash Riddell all but made her way into best and fairest calculations after racking up another 30 touches and four clearances, while Katilyn Ashmore proved the value once again of wingers who work hard with and without the ball, booting her second goal of the season and proving a headache for opposing teams.
Jenna Bruton (28 disposals), Mia King (25) and the efficient Daria Bannister (two goals from four kicks), all continue to prove invaluable.
All in all, the Roos have declared themselves a team to beat, and a side not to sleep on. North vs. Freo next week? Now that's going to be a ripping contest.
The Suns are a competitive side
It was nothing but smiles from the Suns camp at Metricon Stadium on Sunday evening as the Queensland side got their first back-to-back win in this competition. And in doing so, they proved their competitiveness and desire to prove doubters wrong. It ended up being an eight-point victory over Richmond in what was a tight four-quarter tussle.
The game demonstrated that across the Gold Coast squad, players are showing clear improvement and talent is blossoming. No.1 draft pick and Round 2 rising star nominee Charlie Rowbottom had 19 disposals and was once again dominant around stoppages and at applying pressure.
Alison Drennan had nine clearances and 27 disposals and helped create drive and inside 50 opportunities. It was in that forward arc that they also demonstrated their game smarts. The Tigers were feeling the absence of Harriet Cordner in defence and the Suns capitalised on the wobbly opposition backline. In particularly good form was the Sarah Perkins and Tara Bohanna pairing, both of whom damaged the scoreboard, helped set up others and demonstrated clean, smart footy which ultimately helped their side get the points over the Tigers. You could say Perkins + Bohanna = goals. They're a one-two punch to be reckoned with.