MELBOURNE’S perfect start to the AFLW competition has stemmed largely off the back of its defence, conceding just seven scores in the opening two rounds of the season.
Meg Downie, who won the Dees’ Best Defender award last year, has played a huge role in her side’s back-to-back wins, standing up in the absence of Harriet Cordner.
“There was a little bit of nervousness when Harriet was going into the ruck when we found out that Lozzy Pearce wasn’t coming back for Round 1,” Downie told Melbourne Media.
“So going into Round 1 and being able to hold the structures that we did and … stay really connected as a group, I think we were really happy with how that turned out.
“I think the thing on Friday night in particular was the forward lines defensive pressure just made our jobs a bit easier.
“They allowed us to set ourselves up and get really organised before the ball got pumped out to our end.”
While the 31-year-old has been as reliable as ever in 2020, the teamwork has been the key to the early season success.
“I’m the tallest in the backline so in that sense I’ll pick up the taller forward player, but the load is definitely shared amongst the entire group,” Downie said.
“Everyone is involved in terms of setting up the backline and making sure we’re in really good structure so we can get over to help others if the ball gets put into dispute, so it’s a team effort.”
Melbourne’s backline has changed significantly over the past 12 months, with Daisy Pearce, Libby Birch, Gabby Colvin and Sinead Goldrick all new additions this season.
But these four girls have only added to the side’s strength, impressing Downie to date.
“Libby feels like part of the furniture now because she’s been here since quite early on last year and played VFL, so she’s slipped right into the group,” she said.
“She’s really lifted her weight early on and been a big contributor on the field, but then also with her leadership as well.
“Adding Gabby’s attack on the footy which we saw on Friday night … and also Goldy’s run off the backline means we’re a really balanced unit which is great.”
Although the girls have started their campaign the right way, they are constantly looking to identify areas for improvement.
“I just feel like each week we know what our plan is, but we come off at quarter-time or half-time and quickly get together and figure out where we need to adjust,” Downie said.
“There’s always room for improvement, but the important thing is everyone’s on the same page and we know where we need to get to.
“There’s so much balanced feedback that we get from the coaches, so I think absolutely there’s always going to be room for us to grow and improve.
“We took our strong structure set up from Round 1 into Round 2 and we made a couple of tweaks where we could have done things better, and we’ll continue to do that from Round 2 to Round 3, and so on.”
The Dees will be looking to continue their winning form this Friday night when they take on St Kilda at RSEA Park at 7:10pm.