With the inaugural AFLW season already past its halfway stage, it’s now or never for those teams who want to keep themselves in contention for making the first Grand Final.
Adelaide and Brisbane are both unbeaten and in pole position to make the season finale on March 25, but Carlton and Melbourne are just a game behind and face off in a massive match at Casey Fields on Saturday. Pre-season favourites the Western Bulldogs face a must-win match against winless Collingwood on Saturday night, while GWS’s finals hopes rest of them orchestrating an upset against the competition’s surprise packets, Brisbane.
Adelaide then put their unbeaten streak on the line in the west against Fremantle on Sunday.
Melbourne v Carlton, Saturday February 25, 11:35am, Casey Fields
For everything that Carlton have already achieved this season, this shapes as their most important match. The Blues kept the Crows goalless in the first half, but were overrun late in what was a disappointing finish. To make matters worse, they lost the influential Brianna Davey with a back injury for this match, while Sarah Last will sit out the rest of the year with a knee injury.
Davey has the second most disposals in the league this year and her loss will be massive. Bianca Jakobsson is the only other Blue inside the top 35 ball winners in the league. The Blues have called in Tahni Nestor and Jessica Kennedy.
The Demons have rebounded superbly from their shock opening round loss to the Lions, knocking off the Bulldogs and Collingwood in the past two weeks. Melbourne took control of last week’s game against the Dogs in the second quarter and helped along by a breakout match from Alyssa Mifsud, who kicked three goals, ran out 14-point winners.
While Mifsud was the headline act, it was the on-ball trio of Daisy Pearce, Elise O’Dea and Karen Paxman who provided the point of difference, combining for 72 possessions. Pearce in particular is franking her reputation as one of the most influential players in the league and she may well lead the Demons to a Grand Final appearance. Aliesha Newman comes into Melbourne’s side for Sarah Jolly.
With no Davey to direct play for the Blues, this shapes as a great opportunity for Melbourne to further build their momentum.
Brisbane Lions v Greater Western Sydney, Saturday February 25, 4:35pm AEDT, South Pine Sports Centre
There have been a lot of positives for Greater Western Sydney in this inaugural season, the most recent of which was the nomination of ruckman Erin McKinnon as a Rising Star.
The return of Emma Swanson last week was a big boost for the Giants, with the GWS marquee picking up 16 touches against Fremantle, while she got plenty of support from Britt Tully and Jess del Pos. Aimee Schmidt provided the cool head late in that match to slot the goal which secured a draw, the first in AFL W history.
But for all the positives, the Giants are still without a win and they face the challenge of going to Brisbane to confront the in-form Lions.
The Lions got the job done against Collingwood last week, leading all the way after keeping the Magpies goalless in the first half and eventually winning by four points. The win was highlighted by a brilliant goal from Kate McCarthy, who took five bounces and slotted the second goal of the match.
But the effort of Emma Zielke and Kaitlyn Ashmore in the middle of the park were just as important while the Lions defence have done a great job this year, conceding just 56 points.
The Lions have made two changes heading into this one, with Tahlia Randall and Shaleise Law out and Kate Deegan and Jordan Membrey coming in.
Western Bulldogs v Collingwood, Saturday February 25, 7:10pm AEDT, Whitten Oval
For all the excitement about the rise in women’s footy, the reality for the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood is that their debut season will be a failure if they don’t start winning games.
The Doggies are at a cross-roads having lost their past two games relatively easily. Without Katie Brennan last week, they relied too heavily on Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney, who while they worked extremely hard, did not get enough support. Their ability to win the ball is not under question, but their ability to turn possession into goals is.
Accuracy has been one of their major issues. They have had more scoring shots (31) than any other team, and by a fair distance, yet have the third least goals in the comp and have won just one of three games,
In contrast, Collingwood have the least amount of scoring shots (just 17) and as a result have not won a game. The Pies had big plans for season one, but having fallen out of contention, they need to start looking for next year’s stars as opposed to this year’s.
Sarah D’Arcy has been a standout, but has little support as the only Magpie in the top 20 for possessions, while woes of Mo Hope have been well detailed. She just doesn’t get enough quality ball but will enjoy getting back to Whitten Oval where she performed so well in a Bulldogs jumper last year.
Brennan is back for the Dogs along with Meg McDonald and Lauren Moorecroft, while Rebecca Neaves, Jess Gardner and Courtney Clarkson have been omitted.
Collingwood will go in unchanged.
Fremantle v Adelaide, Sunday February 26, 7:05pm AEDT, Fremantle Oval
Adelaide improve every week and are rightly AFL W premiership favourites having won their first three matches. Of all the teams in the league, they have the best team spirit and they seem to be able to lift at the key moments.
Key to that success has been the amazing form of Erin Phillips, who has shown that her elite approach to whatever sport she plays is a tremendous asset. She bombed the winning goal from 55m against the Blues last week, marking a great comeback win that had a big crowd at Thebarton rocking.
Phillips deserves the praise she is getting, but she has had great support from the likes of Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall, who are both inside the top ten for possessions this season.
They are playing with considerable momentum and confront a Dockers side who should have won their match against GWS last week. The Dockers have had a frustrating season and nothing short of a miracle will see them contend for a spot in the Grand Final.
However, the Dockers have improved week by week and are deriving benefit from playing games together. Kara Donnellan, Lara Filocamo and Dana Hooker have been their three most reliable players with Filocamo second in the league in terms of clearances,
What they do need is more regular scorers up front, with only two of their players, Ashley Sharp and Stacy Barr, having scored multiple goals this season.
The Dockers did beat the Crows in the pre-season in Darwin but go into this match as outsiders.
Beatrice Devlyn and top-up player Brooke Whyte come in to an extended squad for Freo, with Tiah Haynes out for the season with a dislocated shoulder.
The Crows have named Kellie Gibson despite an ankle concern while Lauren O’Shea, Sarah Allan and Monique Hollick included.