The AFLW switch has been flicked.
After a long lay-off and disrupted preseason – both results of the coronavirus pandemic – it was always going to take some time.
But after four rounds, the season has reached a turning point, with just one win separating top side Fremantle and sixth-placed Western Bulldogs in a congested top half of the ladder.
“It was going to take three or four weeks for everyone to get their match fitness and for teams to really gel together and start playing, but I reckon we’re at that point now,” Dogs coach Nathan Burke said after his side’s gutsy 13-point win over Melbourne.
“Games are going to be closer, hard fought and more skilful.
“These last five rounds, there’s going to be some surprise results and there’s going to be some tough games.”
Previously unbeaten Melbourne and Brisbane have already found that out, with their perfect records shattered on Sunday by the Bulldogs and Adelaide respectively.
The wasteful Demons kicked 2.12 (24) to 6.1 (37) at Whitten Oval as Ellie Blackburn and Hannah Scott led the home side to a tough win.
In Brisbane, it was yet another episode of The Erin Phillips Show as the Adelaide superstar kicked four goals from 21 disposals to lead her side to a 12-point victory over the Lions.
Those results left Fremantle and Collingwood as the only teams without a loss this season.
The Dockers extended their winning streak to 11 – dating back to the start of last season – with a 49-point thumping of Gold Coast.
Steve Symonds has steered Collingwood to four straight wins for the first time in AFLW history but played down his red-hot team’s flag ambitions after a 20-point victory over North Melbourne.
In their first meeting since last year’s thrilling finals encounter, the Magpies held their opponents goalless as the Kangaroos kicked their lowest-ever score – 0.8 (8) – despite playing in perfect conditions at Marvel Stadium.
“We’ve never really spoken about premierships or finals or anything like that,” Symonds said.
“I know it’s a little bit boring, and I’m probably a little bit basic as a human being, but we’re just trying to get better.
“We’ve still got areas that we’ve got to improve and that’s where our focus is at the moment.
“I still feel that we’re a bit off from being a really outstanding team and, ultimately, that’s the goal of every coach and team.
“We’re still in the early stages of that, I believe.
“We’re still going to have some moments where we’re a bit inconsistent and I think you’ve seen that through the early rounds.”
On Friday night, Carlton survived a huge scare from winless Richmond to win by five points.