Can you believe it? With the conclusion of Round 5 we're halfway through the season. And it was an action-packed weekend to take us into the second half of the comp.
Freo had their first loss of the season to a red-hot North Melbourne in Tasmania, in what was their third game in 11 days, while Adelaide posted a whopping 39-point victory over the stumbling Blues and now remain the only undefeated team.
Geelong enjoyed their first triumph over the winless but hard-fighting Eagles, and the Western Bulldogs also secured their first chocolates of the season over the struggling Tigers. Melbourne are back on the winning track after a 12-point win over Gold Coast, and, as always with this current competition, there's a postponed game between Giants and St Kilda yet to be played.
Plus, along with the heat, the teams also had to battle the wind, especially in Maroochydore where the Pies and Lions played against less of a breeze and more a howling gale.
But, without further ado, here's what we learned in Round 5.
West Coast are doing it tough
It's not fun being winless after five games, but especially so when you're on the road, staying in a hub and have recently had COVID rip through your squad.
As is the case in football, highs exist beside lows, and balancing out Geelong's exciting and much-celebrated first season win was another heartbreaking loss for the Eagles who are doing it tough.
It was such a tight tussle that went down to the final minute, too. Despite struggling in the first half to convert their many inside 50s into goals, the Eagles lifted in the second term and matched the Cats. In the closing 90 seconds of the game, they even clawed their way into a lead with a set shot from Aimee Schmidt. But it was shortly taken away, as 22 seconds later, Geelong's Darcy Moloney kicked the match winner and it was all over red rover for the team from the west.
They're sacrificing a lot to keep the competition alive and so far, unfortunately, haven't been rewarded on the scoreboard.
As Georgina Hibberd, author of AFLW book Never Surrender, wrote on Twitter: "Very happy for Geelong to get that first win but really feeling for West Coast." And it's a sentiment that seems to be held by many AFLW pundits.
Very happy for Geelong to get that first win but really feeling for West Coast. The travel, the hub, catching covid, the Pride drama. If they all had a melt down in the sheds it would be understandable. We ask a lot of these women. #AFLWCatsEagles
Very happy for Geelong to get that first win but really feeling for West Coast. The travel, the hub, catching covid, the Pride drama. If they all had a melt down in the sheds it would be understandable. We ask a lot of these women. #AFLWCatsEagles— Georgina Hibberd (@georgh) February 4, 2022
Brisbane confirm Collingwood's defensive wall can be broken
Collingwood have one of the strongest defensive walls in the competition. Yet, last week Fremantle attested that it can be broken and, this round, Brisbane confirmed it. The Queensland side clocked a 24-point victory over their Victorian rivals with the Pies' defensive system unable to stand up against the tall and quick Lions front line.
Brisbane's forward line up are both good in the air and at ground level, and able too apply pressure while attacking. This meant that the likes of Jesse Wardlaw, Dakota Davidson, Emily Bates and upcoming star Zimmie Farquharson could out-battle their opponents' backline to get hands on the ball and, then, do something with it - in the form of scoreboard damage.
Collingwood's All-Australian rebounding defender Ruby Schleicher worked hard and was put under immense pressure -- in the second term, the Pies had no inside 50s -- yet could only do so much. It's now the second week in a row the Magpies have registered just the one goal, while the Lions continue to climb the ladder and sit in 5th position after four games.
Melbourne's back in the winning seat
Last round, Melbourne, who have been touted as a flag contender all season, were convincingly outplayed by Adelaide in South Australia. The Demons were beaten in pressure and ball movement and conceded a 14-point loss. This weekend, however, they're right back where they're most comfortable: in the winning seat. They claimed a 12-point victory over Gold Coast and showcased their strength across the board.
Now, it is important to acknowledge that the Crows are a more experienced team than the Suns. But even so, Gold Coast are increasingly becoming a competitive side and a win against them should not be touted as an easy one. Melbourne should walk away from the game feeling confident they're still a side in top form and one that's threatening for the flag.
Lauren Pearce in particular demonstrated she's a force to be reckoned with, racking up 20 disposals, 20 hitouts, eight intercepts, seven clearances and two contested marks - the most on ground in all those categories. Lilly Mithen also had a great game with 12 tackles, 15 disposals and four marks and Libby Birch continued to prove how invaluable she is in defence.
The only key issue for the Melbourne side? Kicking accuracy. They booted 5.8 in a slim case of the goalkicking yips opposed to Gold Coast's 4.2.
Goalkicking accuracy an issue across the board
And it's not just Melbourne with a booting problem. Kicking accuracy has been a common issue across the competition, including for key forwards and top sides. For example, last week, Adelaide -- who despite registering a 14-point victory over then undefeated Melbourne -- booted a staggering 2.9 across the two middle quarters. In this round against Carlton, they started the fourth quarter on a similar note with 3.9 before finishing with a much more attractive 7.9 (51) on the board.
Kicking inaccuracy is not only frustrating as a fan, but significantly impacts the scoreboard and, in turn, sides' seasons. The losing sides' stories could have been written very differently if their kicks were a bit more accurate. Richmond registered 1.7 (13), Collingwood 1.5 (11), and Carlton 1.6 (12). Notable, too, were North Melbourne, who although got the chocolates over the previously unbeaten Fremantle, did so with a hugely inaccurate 3.8 (26) to 2.4 (16).
It appears as though the bottom sides could prove to be a lot more competitive in games with some straighter kicks, just as if the top sides worked on their accuracy, they would seem unstoppable.
However, in saying that, Erin Phillips kicked one of the most exciting behinds the competition has seen with a snap behind her head from ground level. Is there a point of the year award?
Brennan is a consistency queen
Now, in a complete 180-degree pivot to goalkicing consistency, Richmond skipper Katie Brennan broke a new record over the weekend with her side's only major. The veteran and star of the league now holds the title of most consecutive matches (11) with 1+ goals.
Look out for her going for 12 in the Tigers' next game against North Melbourne at Swinburne Centre on Saturday.