Carlton has pulled off the biggest comeback in the history of the AFL Women’s league, in a round that narrowed down the list of unbeaten teams to two.

Round four got underway on Friday night in Moorabbin, where the Cats took on St Kilda. Despite a promising first half, Geelong weakened in the third quarter, allowing the Saints to run away with a 29-point win – their second victory of the season.

On Saturday, the action resumed at Princes Park, with Carlton hosting the Tigers. Richmond, entering its tenth game in the AFLW competition, was yet to record a win since joining the league, but a stunning start by the Tigers put them on track to end their losing streak. Richmond kicked three goals to none in the first quarter, and a Katie Brennan goal early in the second quarter increased Carlton’s deficit to a daunting 22-point margin.

Carlton’s response was swift. The Blues kicked four goals in quick succession to regain the lead by half time, before extending the margin to 14 points at the last break. An attempted counter-comeback by Richmond was unsuccessful, and Carlton ultimately prevailed by five points. It was the first time in the league’s history that a team had recovered from a deficit of 20 points or more to win a game, with Carlton breaking the record set by the Demons in 2017, who miraculously defeated Collingwood at the same ground after trailing by 19 points in the third quarter.

For the Blues, it was a welcome reversal of the side’s loss to the Bulldogs only two weeks earlier, in which Carlton blew a 16-point lead. For the Tigers, however, the result was yet another disappointment of the club’s short AFLW history, which has yielded ten losses from ten games.

Of the 14 active AFLW teams, Richmond is the only one still searching for its first win in the competition. The club’s initial recruiting strategy, which focused exclusively on signing four big-name players while leaving the rest of the playing list in a state of neglect, proved comically ineffective in its inaugural AFLW season, in which the Tigers broke the record for the lowest score in an AFLW game and suffered multiple heavy defeats.

Richmond’s 2021 campaign, however, has been slightly more promising, and while the Tigers are still yet to taste victory, the five-point loss to Carlton was the team’s best result of its first ten games in the competition. The fifth round of the season offers a better opportunity for the Tigers to snare their first win, with Richmond scheduled to play Geelong at Kardinia Park. Geelong has lost its last five games, but defeated Richmond comfortably when the two teams met last year.

Carlton’s narrow win over Richmond was followed by a far more convincing victory for the Dockers, who defeated the Suns by 49 points. Gold Coast kicked the first and only goal of the opening quarter, before Fremantle piled on seven unanswered goals, while keeping the Suns scoreless after quarter time. It marked Fremantle’s eleventh consecutive win, in what continues to be the longest winning streak in AFLW history. Fremantle hasn’t failed to win a game since its upset loss to Carlton in the 2019 preliminary final, but the premature end to the Covid-impacted 2020 season prevented Fremantle and the other three uneliminated sides from playing off for the premiership. For the entirety of its eleven-game winning streak, however, Fremantle has had the good fortune to avoid facing Melbourne, Carlton and the Kangaroos, all of which will be in strong contention for the premiership this year.

In other round four games, Collingwood defeated the Kangaroos, Adelaide beat the Lions, the Bulldogs triumphed against Melbourne, and GWS prevailed over West Coast. With Brisbane and Melbourne stumbling, only Fremantle and Collingwood emerged from the round with an unbeaten record intact. Wins for St Kilda, Carlton and the Giants kept the sides within reach of the top six, and two wins clear of the bottom four.

Currently, the top six spots on the ladder are filled by six of the league’s eight foundation clubs, while the six expansion clubs – plus Carlton and GWS – sit below the finals cutoff ahead of the fifth of nine home-and-away rounds.

Carlton pulled off the biggest comeback in AFLW history, recovering from a 22-point deficit to defeat Richmond.

Image: Allied45 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)