Round one of the AFLW season is in the books, and the opening seven games provided a welcome return to football after an absence of nearly 11 months.

With no expansion teams added for 2021, the focus was on the existing 14 teams, and how much improvement could be seen nearly a full year after the previous season was shut down because of COVID.

On early evidence, one of the clear differences from last year is on the scoreboard, following a goal-fest in round one.

Goals, goals, goals

Over the seven games, the teams managed a record opening round total of 77 goals 75 behinds — this compares with a total of 48.62 for the opening set of matches in 2020.

It wasn’t just the teams, either. On an individual level players showed a growing appetite for kicking goals.

In round one, 2020, there were four multiple goalkickers — Fremantle’s Sabreena Duffy (4), Melbourne’s Kate Hore, Brisbane’s Lauren Arnell and Western Bulldogs’ Bonnie Toogood (two goals each).

Duffy, Hore and Toogood backed up again in 2021 with multiple majors, but this time they had plenty of help.

There were 19 multiple goalkickers, with three each for Duffy, her Dockers’ teammate Gemma Houghton, and North Melbourne pair Emma King and Ellie Gavalas.

The spread of scoring came despite two sides — Richmond and Geelong — being kept to single-goal totals.

The big increase in scoring was not due to an equivalent surge in the number of inside 50s. Last year the 48 opening round goals came from 346 forward entries (or 7.2 entries per goal).


On the weekend, the 14 teams produced their 77 goals from 379 forward entries — a much more efficient 4.92 entries per goal.

Whether this season is set to become an attacking masterclass, or whether we see a rebound by the league’s defences, will hopefully become clear in coming weeks.

Last year the scoring peak came in rounds four and five, where totals of 71 and 72 goals were scored respectively.

Crows’ star Phillips sends message to league

Erin Phillips played just two games in the 2020 season.(AAP: David Mariuz, file photo)

Erin Phillips had only played two games in 2020, after coming off the ground on a motorised stretcher in the Crows’ 2019 grand final win.

At 35, there may have been concerns about whether she could return to her best in 2021. Four quarters of football put paid to those doubts.


She had 23 disposals, six tackles and two goals, as she helped Adelaide take care of West Coast in Perth. The ultimate proof came in the third quarter, when the Crows were pressing inside forward 50.

The ball came out to Phillips, who faced Eagles runners coming at her. She feinted to kick on her right, then whirled and threw the ball onto her left, and snapped truly from 20m out to demoralise the opposition.

Between her performance and those of Ebony Marinoff — cleared to play after a marathon tribunal appeal against a three-game suspension — and Chelsea Randall in a new forward spot, there was a lot to like about the Crows.

There were few surprises from the top two teams from last year, Fremantle and North Melbourne.


The Kangaroos produced the biggest demolition of round one, beating Geelong by 62 points at Kardinia Park.

North kicked three goals to none in the first quarter — all from King, who was unstoppable early against the Cats’ defence. The Roos were ruthless, booting 11 goals from just 27 inside 50s.

They finished with nearly 50 more disposals than Geelong, as the likes of Emma Kearney (22), Ashleigh Riddell (20), Ellie Gavalas (three goals and 19 touches) and Jenna Bruton (19) racked up the possessions.

In the west, the Dockers — who were the only unbeaten team in the league last year prior to the season cancellation — got things off to a fine start against the Giants with a 30-point victory.

The combination of Houghton and Duffy showed how hard it will be to stop Fremantle this season, particularly if Houghton is let off the chain and allowed to take 10 running bounces as she did against GWS.


Tall targets play their part in opening round

It was a big weekend for big targets up forward.

Former number one pick Izzy Huntington played a key role for the Western Bulldogs in the attacking 50, along with Bonnie Toogood — she took seven marks and kicked 2.2 in a return to her best.

The Dogs went down by nine points to St Kilda, but showed they will be able to challenge teams on the scoreboard this season.

There was also a welcome return to form for a familiar face in unfamiliar colours, as Sarah Perkins made her debut for the Suns at Carrara.


Looking fit and focused, Perkins — who spent last year at Melbourne after leaving the Crows — was a threat around the ground.

She kicked two goals to keep the Suns in the hunt, took contested marks, ran down Daisy Pearce and hit Brittany Perry on the chest from 40m. She looms already as a key figure for Gold Coast in 2021.

Last year’s leading goalkicker, Caitlin Greiser, kicked a couple of goals for St Kilda, while Emma King had three key marks, three goals and 30 hit outs in North’s dominant performance.

North Melbourne’s Emma King showed she would prove difficult to stop with her three-goal effort against Geelong.(Supplied: Channel Seven)

We also received a timely reminder that the Demons are very good at key marks.

With the likes of Daisy Pearce in defence, Lauren Pearce in the middle of the ground and Tegan Cunningham in the forward half, Melbourne cut off numerous Gold Coast attacks and set up plenty of their own on the way to a solid 21-point win.

Karen Paxman picked up 25 disposals in a dominant display, and the Demons’ strong display showed they will be a legitimate challenger to Fremantle, the Kangaroos and Adelaide for the title.

It wasn’t just the veterans who shone, though. Midfielder Georgia Patrikios led the way with 23 disposals in St Kilda’s win over the Bulldogs.

While Carlton fell short against Collingwood, Madison Prespakis managed 18 disposals and three tackles as she lifted her Blues side in the second half at Princes Park.

The Lions showed they had some promising young talent, with Belle Dawes racking up 21 disposals and Tahlia Hickie booting one of the goals of the round from 50-plus against Richmond.


As expected, Geelong, Richmond and West Coast look set to struggle again in 2021, although the Cats and Eagles in particular had tough assignments first up against the Kangaroos and Crows respectively.