COVID to test AFLW squad mentality: Demons

Ronny Lerner |

Melbourne coach Mick Stinear says it will take a squad mentality to win this year’s AFLW premiership with the spectre of COVID-19 looming large over the competition.

After two clubs, the Brisbane Lions and Western Bulldogs, were forced to sit out round two due to their inability to field a team, the Demons also found themselves hit hard by the virus.

While their experience wasn’t as acute as what the Lions or Dogs had to deal with, Melbourne did have to make five forced changes for their match against Richmond at Punt Road Oval on Friday night.

Maddi Gay, Shelley Scott, Sarah Lampard, Casey Sherriff and Shelley Heath were all unavailable under the league’s health and safety protocols, and Stinear said dealing with regular selection upheaval is going to be a feature of the 2022 season.

“That’ll be the case for everyone, but it’s probably a matter of which team does it the best,” Stinear said after his team’s 17-point win over Richmond to be 2-0 this season.

“I think to our staff and to the players, everyone has been working hard, we’re trying to be aligned and on the same page.

“So it shouldn’t matter who’s coming in and out, there shouldn’t be any excuses for us being able to play our game style.”

Richmond also had to make three COVID-forced changes for the match with Sarah D’Arcy, Maddie Shevlin and Tayla Stahl all omitted, as well as Emelia Yassir (concussion) and Poppy Kelly (knee).

Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson echoed Stinear’s sentiments, suggesting the impact of COVID-19 among the 14 clubs will even out over the course of the season.

“We know it’s coming, and it’s just, ‘Alright, who is it this week?’,” he said.

“That’s no problem, it’s going to be someone and how do we replace them? And who’s ready to step up?

“They (Melbourne) got hit probably in a similar way … it’s going to be like that every week, swings and roundabouts – you might get the advantage one week, you might lose it the next week.

“But generally speaking, it’s just (a case of) get to business, because there’s nothing you can do about it.”

The game was largely decided by a run of six consecutive Melbourne goals across the first and second quarters, and the Tigers had to learn how to limit the damage when opposition sides had the momentum, according to Ferguson.

“I thought we went a little bit reactive, so it’s something for us to learn,” Ferguson said.

“After they got a bit of a run-on, we got a bit on the back foot and were looking just a step off.”