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AFLW: Tight unit making difference

Travis King - afl.com.au  February 21, 2018 12:20 PM

Ebony Antonio kicks a crucial goal in Freo's win over the Demons.

Fremantle is a stronger unit than last year and it's showing on the field this NAB AFL Women's season, star defender Ebony Antonio says.

The Freo Dockers have resurrected their 2018 campaign after a disappointing opening-round loss to the Western Bulldogs, coming from behind and overrunning Collingwood and Melbourne in consecutive matches.

Although Freo's slow starts need fixing, Antonio credits stronger bonds for the players' steely resolve to fight back.

"We're a really tight unit on and off the field and I think that's made a difference," Antonio told AFL.com.au.

"When you've got tight friendships, you're going to play for each other."

The Freo Dockers were scoreless in the first half of their opening game, conceded the first two goals to the Pies in round two and were dominated by Melbourne early last Sunday.

The Demons, kicking with a stiffening breeze, booted 1.5 to no score in the opening term.

But Fremantle turned the tide and registered a thrilling five-point triumph, largely thanks to inspirational skipper Kara Donnellan's grunt work.

"That's why she's our captain. She's in and under, always the last one [up from] the pack," Antonio said.

"When Kara's playing her role, everyone starts to lift up. She's an inspiring person."

Antonio also did her bit by standing up resolutely in defence. She also crept forward and bombed a 50m set-shot goal to put Fremantle ahead on the stroke of half-time.

"I looked to pass it off but I knew I had the wind behind me and I had a few teammates say, 'Just go for it'," she said.

"I just gave it a roost and the wind did the rest, really.

"I was behind 50, I think I would've crept just inside. I've never kicked 50 in my life so I wasn't 100 per cent sure going back, but I'm just glad it went through."

While Antonio enjoys hitting the scoreboard – she also booted two goals in 2017 – she has established herself as the general in the Freo Dockers' backline with a win-at-all-costs attitude and a thumping kick.

The 26-year-old is excited by how quickly Fremantle are improving on the back of a hard-nosed brand of football, and is relishing the AFLW opportunity after a stint in the Women's National Basketball League.

"It's absolutely thrilling. It's funny lining up on [Melbourne forward] Tegan Cunningham. We've lined up on each other on the basketball court as well," Antonio said.

"I'm trying to adapt to more kilometres in the legs, but the crowd and support behind you is phenomenal."

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