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2018 AFL Women’s season: Round 4 preview

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

By mastermind5991, mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru

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    This weekend marks the halfway point of the second AFL Women’s season, and with every team except Collingwood having won at least one match, it shapes as an open season in which anything could happen.

    Melbourne’s shock loss to Fremantle last round has thrown the premiership race wide open, while down at the other end of the spectrum, the heat is on the Pies as the only winless side after three rounds.

    The biggest test of how much the GWS Giants have improved in the past twelve months is set to come when they host the reigning premiers, the Adelaide Crows, in Blacktown on Sunday.

    Here is your full preview to Round 4.

    Western Bulldogs vs Carlton
    Friday night’s clash between the Western Bulldogs and Carlton will mark a historic occasion for not only the AFL Women’s competition, but also women’s sport in general, with the inaugural AFLW Pride Game to take place.

    It comes eighteen months after the first such game was contested between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans in the AFL; it has since become an annual event with the Saints to host this year’s game in Round 12 after the Swans hosted last year’s in round 18.

    Both the Bulldogs and Blues will wear specially-designed guernseys for this match, with that of the latter’s having been designed by the club’s graphic designer, Darcy Vescio.

    On the field, the match looms as a crucial one for both clubs, which both lost their first matches last week against the Adelaide Crows and Brisbane Lions respectively.

    The Dogs very nearly defeated the Crows on the road but capitulated in the final quarter to lose by seven points, while the Blues were disappointing in defeat against the Brisbane Lions, only managing to kick two majors for the entire match and losing by 22 points.

    Despite boasting a potent forward line led by Tayla Harris and Darcy Vescio, the Blues have kicked only eight goals so far this season – the fewest of any team in the competition and half of what they managed at this time last year.

    Tayla Harris

    (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Their cause has not been helped by the fact Harris has been suspended for one week for striking, which of course comes on top of losing their co-captain, Brianna Davey, for twelve months with a knee injury.

    However, head coach Damien Keeping will return after a fortnight on the sidelines due to illness, and he will have a huge task on his hands attempting to rejuvenate his side.

    The Dogs will also be missing captain Katie Brennan due to an ankle injury, but the club hopes she will be back towards the end of the season when they could be battling to finish in the top half of the ladder.

    While both clubs will be expected to come out firing this Friday night, the home ground advantage should get the Dogs home here.

    Prediction: Western Bulldogs by two points.

    Brisbane Lions vs Fremantle
    The first of two matches on Saturday sees Fremantle make the trip to the sunshine capital for the first time to face the resurgent Brisbane Lions.

    The Dockers pulled off a huge upset when it defeated Melbourne by five points, despite being held scoreless in the opening quarter for the second time in three weeks.

    Again it was captain Kara Donnellan who was in the thick of things, her 18 possessions and eight tackles instrumental to the victory, their second consecutive after defeating Collingwood in front of an AFL Women’s record crowd at Perth Stadium the previous week.

    It eclipsed last year’s record in which they won one game, and drew another, to just avoid the wooden spoon on percentage, and puts them up there as one of the potential improvers in 2018 under coach Michelle Cowan.

    Jess Wuetschner

    (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

    However, they will face more than one test when they face the Lions; not only do they have to cross the country, they will also have to play on the back of only five days’ full rest, including the day they fly to Brisbane.

    The Lions are also coming off an impressive win, kicking six goals in their 22-point win over Carlton in a match which was marred by poor lighting at Ikon Park.

    The result puts the Lions on top of the ladder on percentage after three rounds, putting them on track to again host the AFL Women’s Grand Final, though if they do it will very likely be at the Gabba, after Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast hosted it last year.

    Back at home, the Lions should prove too strong for the Dockers and retain their place in the top two as we enter the halfway mark of the season.

    As a matter of fact, this will be the only time Fremantle fans living in Queensland will get to see their side in the flesh, with the men’s team not fixtured to play a game in the sunshine state this year.

    Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 14 points.

    Melbourne vs Collingwood
    Things could be about to get tougher for Collingwood when they travel to Alice Springs to face premiership favourites Melbourne this Saturday night.

    In their first home game of the season, the Pies started strongly against the Giants but could only kick five goals for the entire match as they lost their third match of the season, despite keeping their opponents goalless in the first and third quarters.

    In fact, only one goal (to the Pies in the final quarter) was kicked towards the southern end in a match where the breeze trended towards the north; this clearly did not help the Pies’ cause as they ultimately lost by 13 points.

    While they will get Sarah D’Arcy back from a two-game suspension, this week they will be without Sophie Casey who has been suspended for one match for elbowing Cora Staunton in the second quarter last week.

    This has left the club at the bottom of the ladder ahead of their daunting assignment against the Dees, who are coming off a loss at the hands of Fremantle by five points in Perth.

    While it is only one loss, their inaccurate kicking in that match (they booted 4.7 (31) whereas the Dockers kicked six straight) could come back to bite them if they again miss the Grand Final on percentage, as they did last year.

    When you think about Melbourne vs Collingwood matches, you always think of large crowds of over 60-65,000 on a Queen’s Birthday at the MCG in June.

    However, their women’s teams will not get the chance to experience any of that any time soon, with this Saturday night’s clash to be played in Alice Springs; still, a healthy crowd of upwards to 10,000 is still expected.

    It will now remain to be seen whether the Dees can hit back and get their premiership aspirations back on track, or whether the Pies can cause an upset and log their first win of the season at their rivals’ expense.

    Prediction: Melbourne by 12 points.

    Melissa Kuys

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    GWS Giants vs Adelaide Crows
    The final match of the round sees the GWS Giants, brimming full with confidence following their impressive 13-point win over Collingwood on the road last week, return home to face their biggest test of their season so far, taking on the resurgent Adelaide Crows in Blacktown.

    The Giants’ win over the Pies was marshaled by their vice-captain Alicia Eva, who for the second week running was best on ground with 23 disposals, that coming on top of her 17 touches against Carlton the previous week.

    The 26-year-old’s form has been a major factor in the Giants’ much-improved performances so far in 2018, having pushed Melbourne all the way in their only other match in Victoria for the season.

    The aid of a strong breeze in the second and fourth terms allowed them to kick their highest score in an AFLW match so far, 7.6 (48), and comes after they only managed 1.3 (9) (conversely, their lowest in an AFLW match) against Carlton the previous week in a match played in testing conditions.

    It also marked the first win at either AFL or AFLW level for Alan McConnell, who presided over eleven losses from as many matches in two separate stints as Fitzroy’s caretaker coach in 1995 and 1996.

    The 60-year-old also recently said that coaching the Giants’ AFLW side was like coaching in the 1990s.

    Amanda Farrugia GWS AFLW

    But just how far the Giants have come in the past twelve months will remain to be seen when they host the Crows for the first time this weekend.

    With co-captain Erin Phillips playing her first game of the season after missing the first two rounds due to a quad injury, the Crows came from behind to defeat the Western Bulldogs by seven points, registering their first win for the season in the process and therefore keeping their premiership defence alive.

    Prior to that, the Crows dropped their first two games, both to the same two teams they lost to last year (the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne), thus throwing their flag defence into tatters.

    But in what is shaping up as an even season, especially with each team having suffered at least one defeat so far, the South Australians remain every chance of retaining the flag they won last year, if they can continue on their resurgence in the weeks to come.

    The Giants side the Crows will face will be a vastly different side to the one they faced in round one last year, when the would-be premiers registered a 36-point victory with Phillips being best-on-ground, the first of many she would win en route to being named the AFLW Best and Fairest Player.

    Despite having to travel, the Crows should again the job done here, but will face a genuinely good test from their much-improved opponents.

    Prediction: Adelaide Crows by 18 points.

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