Bombers take territory but Pies reveal their biggest strength

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It was tight, it was fierce and it was played on a knife’s edge, with neither side able to gain the all-important breathing room until late in the contest, as both teams threw everything at each-other at the AIA Centre.Ultimately, it came down to whoever could take their few and far between chances in front of the big sticks and it was the Magpies, who were able to not only take those additional shots on goal to aplomb, but also stay firm under enormous Essendon pressure.After Chloe Molloy fired her side ahead with an incredible snap late in the second-term, Collingwood never looked back with Eliza James kicking the only two goals of the second half to help Stephen Symonds’ side to an 11-point win, which locks the Magpies into second place on the ladder.The Bombers smashed the Magpies in the territory battle (33-19 inside 50s) and brought all the effort around the coalface, which has been a trademark of their first few games in the competition.However, they struggled to convert their dominance into scores, with inaccuracy (2.5), coupled by Collingwood’s brilliant defensive effort keeping their attack — who were missing Jess Wuetschner with illness — at bay.THE PRESPAKIS SHOWIt’s Maddy Prespakis’ world and we are just living in it.After being tagged out of the game by Sarah Hosking a week prior, Prespakis put her quietest game of the season behind her with a dominant showing against the Pies, taking control of proceedings in the middle.The former Blue got going early and never looked back. In the second half, she was given more direct attention by the Pies midfield as they tried to quell her influence — which was to no avail.At times, it looked as if Prespakis would will the Bombers over the line by herself, and despite finishing with a personal best 31 disposals and one goal, she wasn’t able to will her side to a third win of the season.50 FOR AN OGIt was a special day for one of ‘The OG’s’, with Stacey Livingstone bringing up her 50th AFLW game, and becoming the first to do so in a Collingwood jersey.Livingstone has been there from the start and has been a constant since day one, leading literally from the back as the lynch-pin at the heart of the Magpies’ defence. The milestone is a testament to her longevity, having only missed five games of football since her debut in the opening game of 2017.Along with Brittany Bonnici, Sophie Casey, Ruby Schleicher and Steph Chiocci, the ever reliable defender is one of only five players left on Collingwood’s list from their first season, with Chiocci also set to bring up the 50-game milestone next weekend against St Kilda.It was another trademark showing from Livingstone, who held former teammate Sophie Alexander to a single goal and patrolled things brilliantly all afternoon against the Bombers’ repeat entries.BRAZILL VS BOMBERSIt’s easy to forget just how good Ash Brazill is, but Essendon certainly haven’t.After taking a break from the game to win Commonwealth Games gold in netball, Brazill returned to the side last weekend in the Pies’ narrow loss against Adelaide in a new role in-front of the ball — switching defence for attack.When she returned from a devastating knee injury in 2021, the All-Australian key defender had a taste of playing up forward during the Magpies’ run to the Preliminary Final, but never had an extended run, beyond the small sample size, due to her hiatus from the game.Brazill was everywhere in the first term against the Bombers, providing an option as a link-up forward and clean set of hands in the wet conditions, as she got busy in the opening term with 11 disposals. However, her impact dipped as the game wore on, only tallying another three possessions as the Bombers’ defence was able to curtail her influence.SCOREBOARDCOLLINGWOOD 1.0 2.2 3.3 4.4 (28)ESSENDON 1.1 2.1 2.4 2.5 (17)D’URBANO’S BESTMagpies: Cann, Butler, Brazill, James, Molloy, SchleicherBombers: Prespakis, Phillips, Bannister, Cain, Wales, Van de HeuvelGOALSMagpies: James 2, Butler, MolloyBombers: Alexander, PrespakisINJURIESMagpies: nilBombers: Gamble (calf)VENUEAIA CentrePLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTES3. Madison Prespakis (Ess)2. Lauren Butler (Coll)1. Mikala Cann (Coll)Earlier in the day, a capacity crowd at Punt Road Oval saw North Melbourne end the Western Bulldogs’ unbeaten start to season seven.Jasmine Garner starred yet again in the 15-point win, with a 26 disposal outing, along with accumulating seven marks and eight clearances, as she kickstarted everything from defence all the way to attack.It was the hottest ticket in town as the game was declared a lockout at halftime, with ticketless fans being forced to peer through the fence to catch a glimmer of the action.Pies’ AFLW stalwart: Harris sledge will never define me– Lauren WoodStacey Livingstone’s alarm would pierce through the 4am darkness. Her first pair of boots would go on for the day for job number one as a freight specialist where the step counter would hit five figures before she even got to training. This season, thanks to the league’s pay boost, the Collingwood defender has earned a sleep-in, to the much more comfortable time of …. 6am. “I have (noticed the difference),” she laughs. “Sleep’s my favourite thing to do, and it’s amazing how that two hours (makes a difference). It takes a while to unwind after training, but it really does help.”Pounding the pavement at her day job means physical exertion far beyond many other elite athletes, but Livingstone wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s a nap before training before her program is at times tailored to also account for her heavy workload on the field, which often includes 100 per cent of game time taking the opposition’s best forward. “I literally just turn up to games and training and just train and then go home. I just like to slide in and slide out,” Livingstone said. Friday marks her 50th AFLW game — a milestone she admits she never could have fathomed reaching. There’s been time for treats along the way – a glass of wine here, her favoured vice in chocolate, too – for the Pie who lives by “enjoy those little pleasures that you can have, but also put in the work”. A foundation player at Collingwood, Livingstone is one of just five original Magpies to remain at the club, or as they’re known, “The OG’s”. They’re tight, albeit a bit of a motley crew, she laughs. “There’s five of us – myself, Ruby (Schleicher), Steph (Chiocci), Britta (Bonnici) and Soph Casey. We always yell out when we’re all together “OGs, OGs”, which is a little thing that we have and people are like, ‘these bloody OGs’,” Livingstone explains. “But it’s still pretty cool that from a team that started in 2017, there is only five that haven’t left the club and we are still super tight but also still getting to know each other. I love that there’s three of us in the backline together, so the bond keeps growing, which is great. “I don’t know (how I fit in). I just turn up, and I’m just me. I’m loud. “It’s amazing how your friendships revolve around football but then also outside of that. I wouldn’t walk past Ruby in the street and think, oh cool, I’d like to be her friend. But now, I’m like, yay, Ruby’s my friend. It just works.”Livingstone played a few games while she was at school on the Gold Coast, but thought footy would serve as an opportunity to meet new people when she moved to Melbourne in her early 20s. Two clubs she played for folded, and when a third opportunity presented itself, she wondered whether it would ever be worth it after the rollercoaster of enduring two teams being shuttered due to a lack of numbers. “Other clubs had asked me to go down and stuff,” she said, eventually joining Port Melbourne Colts. “And then when I got an email to get invited to try out for the first AFLW academy, I thought it was a joke. “When my teammate said she got it too, I thought, ‘s …, it isn’t a joke’. “I couldn’t run 2km to save myself, but I went down and I’ve now played seven seasons.”Low key is Livingstone to a tee. Google her name, however, and 2020 comments made in a post-match interview about All-Australian opponent Tayla Harris still feature heavily. It doesn’t bother her one bit. “I let people think whatever they want to think, really everybody is entitled to their own opinion and they’re going to have their own opinion, even if you don’t want them to,” the matter-of-fact Pie says.“But no, I am who I am and you get what you get, pretty much. “I’m very laid back, I go with the flow, I’m very loud on the field but off it I’m very quiet.” Her sister will travel from Sydney for the milestone match at the AIA Centre against Essendon on Friday – the competition’s first match this season where the gates will be flung open for free amid Grand Final festivities in the precinct – with Livingstone’s partner and other people special to her to be part of the of course low-key celebrations. “I literally still pinch myself and think, how the hell did I get here. I’m just happy to be playing, really,” Livingstone said. “I just took the opportunity and ran with it.”Prespakis in hot water for tackle as Cats crush Saints— Nick D’UrbanoIt’ll be a nervous few days for Georgie Prespakis who may come under scrutiny from the MRO for a heavy tackle on Erin McKinnon, which left the Saint concussed.In the third term, Prespakis laid a strong tackle on McKinnon which saw the latter’s head hit the turf first, while her arms were pinned in the tackling motion. McKinnon took her time to get to her feet and took no further part in the game after coming from the ground with concussion.Should she miss time, it would be a major blow to the Cats’ midfield strength who now gear up for a meeting with the undefeated Bulldogs next weekend. Prespakis was again influential on Thursday evening, and despite facing some extra attention from the Saints’ Deanna Jolliffe, was able to put together another solid showing – ending the game with 25 disposals and 11 tackles.Not many players have made quite the impact Prespakis has in a short space of time, as she went into round five on top of the coaches votes by five points and looks set to poll again this week.CATS FIND THEIR ATTACKING GROOVEIt’s a great time to be a Geelong fan.The women’s side are back to winning ways, have found their groove up forward and sit, for the time being, in third place, while the men’s outfit are in the Grand Final on Saturday. What is there not to like right now? Cats fans were given plenty more reasons to smile at their spiritual Kardinia Park home on Thursday evening, as Geelong made the most of the perfect conditions and channelled the excitement that’s reverberating throughout town to pile the hurt on St Kilda.A dominant first-half performance put the game to bed before the Saints could even fire a shot, where basically everything – from defence to attack – just clicked, as the Cats kicked their highest ever score (71 points) and won by their greatest ever margin (50 points).Amy McDonald was everywhere racking up a career-high 34 disposals, Georgie Prespakis and Nina Morrison both reached double digits in tackles, while Shelley Scott and Chloe Scheer had it their own way in attack.Despite winning their opening two games of the season, the Cats had struggled to turn their midfield dominance and sensational defensive effort into scores at the other end – having not kicked more than 27 points in the opening four games of the season.But on this occasion, Daniel Lowther’s side were able to unlock that extra level to their game, which has been lacking. The Cats booted the opening seven goals of the game and beat their highest score of the season within the opening half in the 50 point win.Meanwhile, it’s back to the drawing board for the Saints, who again struggled in attack and took until the third quarter to fire a major, as they fell to a crushing third straight defeat. Nick Dal Santo’s side were also dealt a triple blow on the injury front with both Erin McKinnon and Olivia Vesely coming from the ground with concussion and Nicola Xenos with a knee.GREAT SCOTTBack in attack and back to causing defenders all sorts of problems, Shelley Scott was nothing short of prolific.Daniel Lowther opted to throw the magnets around on Thursday evening, moving Scott to the forward line, after spending her first four games as a Cat in the back-half. Before making the move down the highway ahead of season seven, Scott thrived as a forward during her tenure at Melbourne, particularly in 2019 where she averaged close to a goal a game.It didn’t take long for Scott to make an immediate impact in the forward-half, booting her first major for the Cats within the opening couple minutes and ending the evening with three for the game – including an incredible snap in the second-term.Scott wasn’t the only one to cause havoc in the attacking half, with Chloe Scheer also creating all sorts of headaches and adding three of her own.DEBUTS TO REMEMBERIt was an evening to remember for two of the youngest players in Geelong and St Kilda’s respective squads, as both Brooke Plummer and J’Noemi Anderson made their debuts.Plummer, who is in fact the youngest Cat on the list, couldn’t have scripted a better week to make her debut as she donned the navy blue and white hoops of the club she has supported her entire life at their spiritual home – only two days before the men’s side go to war in the Grand Final.The 17-year-old’s debut went exactly to plan, notching up a first win and ending the game with nine disposals.On the other side, Anderson, who was taken with pick No. 7 at this season’s Victorian draft pool, made her much-anticipated debut and thus, became not only the youngest First Nations player in AFLW history (17 years, 279 days) but the first Indigenous AFLW player to represent St Kilda at the highest level. Anderson, who is the sister of North Melbourne men’s player Jed and former Blue Joe, donned the number seven made famous by Saints legend Nicky Winmar. It was a quiet first outing for Anderson who had only the single kick and tackle.GEELONG 2.3 6.4 8.4 11.5 (71)ST KILDA 0.1 0.1 3.1 3.3 (21)D’URBANO’S BESTCats: A.McDonald, Prespakis, Morrison, Scott, Webster, Scheer, BowenSaints: Exon, Guttridge, PriestGOALSCats: Scott 3, Scheer 3, Moloney 2, Fuller, Morrison, DarbySaints: White, Shierlaw, ExonINJURIESCats: nilSaints: McKinnon (concussion), Vesely (concussion), Xenos (knee)VENUEGMHBA StadiumPLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTES3. Amy McDonald (GEEL)2. Georgie Prespakis (GEEL)1. Nina Morrison (GEEL)AFLW ROUND 5 EXPERT TIPSLiz Walsh 29Fremantle 12Geelong 3North Melbourne 8Collingwood 2Hawthorn 5Melbourne 18Brisbane Lions 35Port Adelaide 9Adelaide 15Last Week 8Ellie Blackburn 28FremantleGeelongWestern BulldogsCollingwoodSydneyMelbourneBrisbane LionsPort AdelaideAdelaideLast Week 7Ebony Marinoff 28West CoastGeelongNorth MelbourneCollingwoodHawthornMelbourneRichmondGold CoastAdelaideLast Week 7Matt Turner 28Fremantle 14Geelong 19Western Bulldogs 9Collingwood 14Hawthorn 33Melbourne 15Brisbane Lions 15Port Adelaide 7Adelaide 22Last Week 6Chris Cavanagh 27Fremantle 12St Kilda 1North Melbourne 6Collingwood 12Hawthorn 1Melbourne 18Brisbane Lions 18Gold Coast 1Adelaide 18Last Week 5Mark Robinson 27Fremantle 11Geelong 5Western Bulldogs 12Collingwood v12Hawthorn 8Melbourne 27Brisbane Lions 25Gold Coast 12Adelaide 22Last Week 6Rebecca Williams 27West Coast 9Geelong 5Western Bulldogs 7Collingwood 12Hawthorn 6Melbourne 8Brisbane Lions 12Gold Coast 4Adelaide 6Last Week 4Lauren Wood 27Fremantle 9Geelong 7Western Bulldogs 8Collingwood 13Sydney 11Melbourne 10Brisbane Lions 14Gold Coast 7Adelaide 11Last Week 5Sarah Jones 26West Coast 3Geelong 4Western Bulldogs 12Collingwood 8Sydney 1Melbourne 29Brisbane Lions 20Gold Coast 11Adelaide 9Last Week 5Kate McCarthy 26FremantleGeelongWestern BulldogsCollingwoodHawthornMelbourneBrisbane LionsPort AdelaideAdelaideLast Week 6Glenn McFarlane 26Fremantle 7Geelong 5North Melbourne 2Collingwood 20Hawthorn 1Melbourne 18Brisbane Lions 21Gold Coast 9Adelaide 25Last Week 4Aliesha Newman 24West Coast Geelong North Melbourne Collingwood Sydney Melbourne Brisbane LionsGold Coast AdelaideLast Week 4Chloe Molloy 22West Coast St Kilda North MelbourneCollingwood Hawthorn Melbourne Brisbane Lions Gold CoastAdelaideLast Week 4Gemma Houghton 21FremantleGeelongNorth MelbourneCollingwoodSydneyMelbourne Brisbane Lions Port Adelaide AdelaideLast Week 5Kiss of Death 9West Coast 13St Kilda 13Western Bulldogs 13Essendon 13Sydney 13Carlton 13Richmond 13Port Adelaide 13GWS Giants 13Last Week 4