AFL W’s first top-of-the-table blockbuster highlights Round 5 with unbeaten pair Adelaide and Brisbane meeting at Norwood Oval on Saturday night. This match gives an opportunity for the two other teams who have a chance of making the Grand Final, Melbourne and Carlton, to close the gap on the leading pair when they play the Giants and the Bulldogs respectively. The other game sees Fremantle look to break through for their first win of the season against Collingwood.
Greater Western Sydney v Melbourne Demons, Friday March 3, 5:05pm AEDT, Blacktown,
Louise Stephenson’s return is a massive fillip for the Giants as they aim to get themselves off the bottom of the ladder having recorded just a draw and three losses from the first four weeks.
The 21-year-old utility is one of three inclusions for the Giants, who have also called on Jacinda Barclay and Codie Briggs, with Mai Nguyen out with a knee injury and Steph Walker and Alex Saundry omitted.
But they face a tough task against the Demons, who have built considerable momentum over the past three weeks after a surprise first-up loss to Brisbane.
Melbourne have built a solid game plan around possession and after four weeks are averaging 206 touches a game, 22 more than any other team and 46 more than the Giants, who get the least amount of ball in the league.
Leading the way for the Demons have been Daisy Pearce and Karen Paxman, who lead the league is disposals with 90 in total, while Elise O’Dea is fourth on that list and Lily Mithen is tenth.
As pointed out by Anthony Wingard earlier this week, in a competition where turnovers have been an issue for most teams, the Demons ability to retain the ball has been a considerable asset and should give them the edge in this match.
Sarah Jolly and Aliesha Newman come in for Melbourne with Shelley Scott (shoulder) and Brooke Patterson (hamstring) out.
Carlton v Western Bulldogs, Saturday March 4, 11:35am AEDT, Ikon Park,
Carlton were the early pacesetters of the competition but after back-to-back losses, find themselves in a must win match on Saturday against the Bulldogs, who have failed to live up to the hype this year.
The Blues were brave against the Demons last week, coming from three goals down at the final change to level the scores, but just didn’t have the composure to get over the line.
Key to that was an inability to win the ball and when you consider they had 89 fewer touches, but they did create plenty of inside 50s (28) from limited ball. They missed Brianna Davey in that regard and she won’t be there this week again, with the Blues unchanged into this match.
They do possess a sharp edge in attack with the league’s leading scorer Darcy Vescio (eight goals) along with Bella Ayre, who bobbed up with two majors last week.
The Dogs’ season began well, but they have fallen away in recent weeks as injuries and other issues taking their toll. There were high expectations at Whitten Oval this year but they have relied on too few players.
Emma Kearney and Ellie Blackburn have been the shining lights, but the fact they have taken the least marks inside 50 and have won just one game despite having as many shots at goal as any other team tells you things are going wrong up forward.
Aasta O’Connor and Romy Timmins return for the Dogs.
Fremantle v Collingwood, Saturday March 4, 1:35pm AEDT, Rushton Park, Mandurah
Both these teams have failed to live up to expectations this season, with the Magpies getting off the mark with a win over the Dogs last week, while the Dockers remain winless after being overrun by top-placed Adelaide last week.
The Dockers’ two home games have been against the unbeaten teams, so they get their chance to get that historic first win as the Pies confront the monster Perth road trip for the first time.
Getting the ball hasn’t really been the issue for the Dockers this year, with the likes of Kara Donnellan and Dana Hooker winning plenty of possession, but they are second from bottom in terms on marks inside 50, and a long last when it comes to hitouts. Now they are competitive in terms of clearances, but that stat clearly has less value in the women’s game where the top two teams have the least success getting the ball from stoppages.
The Dockers have had a tough run with injury and have called up Alicia Janz for her first game.
The Magpies finally broke through but it came as a cost with Kate Sheahan suffering an ACL injury. They get back Sophie Casey from her two-week suspension, while Christina Bernardi returns from concussion.
The Pies are playing much more efficient football than earlier in the year, but they’d love to create more scoring chances then they have. They have the least scoring shots in the league and even last week, took just one mark inside 50. Still, they kicked five goals, with Jasmine Garner kicking two. A repeat effort can get them a win here.
Adelaide v Brisbane, Saturday March 4, 7:10pm AEDT, Norwood Oval
This is the match that the AFL W has been waiting for, with the unbeaten teams clashing in what is a virtual Grand Final qualifier. The winner locks up a spot in the decider, the loser is vulnerable to be overtaken by either Melbourne or Carlton.
These teams have defied expectations to dominate the inaugural season. Adelaide have been super impressive using their mix of physical strength and skill with the ball and in the air to win three of their games easily and the other thanks to a 65m goal late in the game against Carlton.
The woman who kicked that goal, Erin Phillips, has been the standout player of the competition, winning a heap of the ball (17.3 per game), and kicking five goals to lead the Crows’ charge to the premiership. She has been ably supported by Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall.
But they have depth across the ground with Sarah Perkins making a real impact and Abbey Holmes improving through the season. They regain defender Anne Hatchard for this match with Tayla Thorn omitted.
This is the old battle of the best attacking team, in Adelaide, against the best defensive team, in Brisbane. The Lions have conceded just 65 points for the season, and kept GWS to just one goal last week.
Up the other end, they have got a great boost from the likes of Kate McCarthy, who kicked two last week along with Kaitlyn Ashmore, while Tayla Harris, although inaccurate last week, is always a threat. Sabrina Frederick-Traub is imposing herself on the game and was just about best afield along with Emily Bates and Emma Zielke against the Giants. Tahlia Randall returns from injury at the expense of Kate Deegan.
Statistically, the Lions don’t stand out, as they are second last in terms of overall disposals, inside 50s, marks and tackles. But they are very good at getting the ball forward and creating scoring chances.
This is where the Crows will need to be wary, as the Lions have a lot of options up forward. But the same can be said for the Crows, who have had 11 goalkickers this year compared to the Lions’ nine.
It shapes as a cracking game and will give us a great indication of what we can expect to see when these two teams most likely meet in the decider in three weeks.