Melbourne are set to assume white-hot AFLW premiership favouritism after the Demons secured a second consecutive win, this time taking down the reigning premier Adelaide, at Casey Fields.
The Demons finished outside the grand final on percentage only last year but it has driven them forward.
After beating Greater Western Sydney with a last-gasp goal in round one, Melbourne smashed the Crows in a game that fitted the AFL's template nicely – relatively high-scoring and virtually devoid of the congestion that caused a memo to be fired out from AFL headquarters during the week.
Melbourne won 8.8 to Adelaide's 4.0 before 3800 people at Casey.
The Demons won it with midfield dominance around the football, led by the ubiquitous Karen Paxman, Elise O'Dea and the hard-working Daisy Pearce.
Paxman, last year's league best player runner-up, who had spent three quarters on the bench last week with a back injury, took her place in the team and dominated with 21 disposals before sitting out most of the last quarter. Pearce had a whopping 11 tackles to go with 17 disposals while O'Dea also had 19 disposals as the Demons won the contested ball count by more than 20.
Melbourne coach Mick Stinear said Paxman continued to improve. "She's taken her running capacity to another level, just that speed-endurance combination, and her cleanness around the footy, her stoppage craft at centre bounces and her around-the-ground stuff, and her aerial work she's worked on," he said. "It's her all-round game and it's exciting where she can take it."
Adelaide, still playing without reigning league best player Erin Phillips, have lost both their opening games of the premiership defence, but Phillips is a chance to return next week.
The game was played in a fierce, northerly wind that gave a huge advantage to the team kicking to the southern end of the ground. It shredded Adelaide's banner before the players could run through it and made life difficult for both teams, blowing as it did mainly to one end but also slightly across the ground.
This made the AFL's edict of the week problematic, because Adelaide had no opportunity to help out its defence when it tried to hold off Melbourne in the first quarter. Both teams started with 5-6-5 formations, as per the league's memo of this week.
Pearce chose to kick with it after winning the toss, but ironically Melbourne's match-winning quarter was the second, when the Demons kicked into the breeze, ran and carried the ball and booted four goals to Adelaide's one.
Melbourne had been wasteful in the first quarter, aside from one piece of play for the highlight reels delivered by bright orange-booted Aliesha Newman, who gathered the ball on the wing, took three bounces, beat two opponents and then finished it with a banana kick from deep in the forward pocket for what could stand up as the goal of the season. Newman, who suffered knee injuries last year, is fleet-footed and has real x-factor; the fact that she completed the goal in such windy conditions only added to the excellence of it.
Melbourne's midfield superiority started to take its toll in the second quarter, with the combination of Karen Paxman, Pearce and Elise O'Dea continually driving the ball forward. Pearce's hard work set up Shelley Scott for the first goal of the second quarter, then Richele Cranston and Lauren Pearce added majors.
Paxman is a ball magnet and when she baulked the Adelaide player on the mark and pumped the ball in long it set up Tegan Cunningham to mark and goal.
Adelaide's only goal of the second quarter was instructive of the wind advantage; Jaslyn Hewitt bombed the ball to the top of the square but it cleared the pack and ran through from at least 60 metres out.
Melbourne coach Mick Stinear felt his team's ability to kick with the wind early had helped. "It took our girls a quarter to adjust. That second quarter really set us up for the day."
Adelaide coach Bec Goddard said she was happy to play under a 5-6-5 structure. "We won a premiership with 5-6-5, last year. We feel we're really competitive with it."
Goddard said Melbourne's midfield meant the Demons deserved the plaudits. "They're going to be right there."