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Only three rounds remain in what has been an open AFL Women’s season, and the jockeying for grand final berths is set to continue. At the same time, teams will start falling out of contention for the premiership.
The Adelaide Crows’ premiership defence hangs by a thread after they were held to a draw against the GWS Giants in Blacktown last week, meaning every match from here on in is a must-win if they are to successfully retain their flag.
Meanwhile, Melbourne is hoping to bounce back from two straight losses which have threatened to end yet another season of promise, having narrowly missed out on qualifying for last year’s grand final on percentages.
But the team to watch are the Western Bulldogs, who last Friday night stamped their authority on the competition with a record score and a record win, and currently possess a percentage of 200 per cent.
Here is your full preview to Round 5.
Melbourne versus Brisbane Lions
While this match has been billed as a potential grand final preview, the reality facing Melbourne is that their grand final hopes could continue to fade away after suffering two shock losses in as many weeks.
Despite keeping their opponents scoreless in the opening quarter, the Dees eventually crashed to a 34-point defeat to the Pies, which has put their premiership aspirations on life support.
Coach Mick Stinear said that the result was put down to a lack of effort, and it came after they suffered a five-point loss to Fremantle in Perth, in which inaccurate kicking cost them any chance of victory.
Having to play in Alice Springs, six days after having played in Perth, as well as in the unrelenting heat (it reached upwards to 37 degrees during the match) may have also somewhat contributed to the result.
On the other hand, the Brisbane Lions are in second place on the ladder after defeating Fremantle by seven points to improve their season record to 3-1, and remain on track to reach another grand final.
They did so scoring only 3.4 (22) to the Dockers’ 2.3 (15), with poor weather contributing to the low scoring, as it would in the GWS Giants versus Adelaide Crows match in Sydney the following day.
Forward Jessica Wuetschner kicked two goals to bring her season tally to seven, trailing only two behind the surprise leading goalkicker, Brooke Lochland, who has kicked nine majors.
This will be the club’s second (and final) match in Melbourne for the season, and while they will brace themselves for a desperate Melbourne outfit, they should again take the points as they did in Round 1 last year.
Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 12 points.
Fremantle versus GWS Giants
Fresh off a rather-frustrating draw against the Adelaide Crows at home last week, this Saturday will present the GWS Giants their toughest challenge yet – crossing the Nullarbor for a clash with Fremantle off a six-day break.
The Giants were coming off an impressive 13-point win over Collingwood in Melbourne in Round 3, and appeared to have picked up where they left off when they led by nine points at three-quarter-time against the Crows.
However, a poor ten-minute period to start the final quarter, which coach Alan McConnell said cost them any chance of victory, saw them settle for their second draw from three outings in Blacktown, and their second in eleven matches at AFL Women’s level.
Vice-captain Alicia Eva was again best-on-ground for the third straight match with 22 disposals (nine more than any other Giant could manage) and six tackles, thus proving her value to the team.
Fremantle, on the other hand, are coming off a seven-point loss to the Brisbane Lions, which snapped their two-match winning streak and has put them back in the pack of contenders jockeying for a grand final berth.
Like the Giants, the Dockers also had to play in testing conditions, being held to only 2.3 (15) despite dominating the first quarter with nine inside-50s to the Dockers’ one.
The corresponding match last year saw the Giants and Dockers contest a high-scoring 43-all draw – a result which proved alone that the Giants would be no pushover.
But at home, the Dockers should take the points.
Prediction: Fremantle by 16 points.
Adelaide Crows versus Carlton
The second match on Saturday night sees reigning premiers the Adelaide Crows host Carlton in what threatens to be another one-sided result.
The Crows’ premiership defence is now on life support after they were pegged to a draw against the GWS Giants in Blacktown last week, in a match played in unrelenting rain.
This contributed to a score of only 2.7 (19), their equal-lowest in a match this season (they kicked 3.1 (19) in their Round 1 loss to the Brisbane Lions).
While reigning best-and-fairest Erin Phillips endured a quiet outing against the Giants, last year’s Rising Star Ebony Marinoff entered the record books as she laid 21 tackles, the most by anyone in an AFL/AFLW match.
This came after the Crows logged their first win of the season the previous week against the Western Bulldogs, timed with Phillips’ return to the side after she had missed the opening two rounds with a quad injury.
Many thought that it would be the start of the club’s revival, but after last week’s result, every match from here is a virtual elimination final if they are to keep alive their chances of reaching another grand final.
On the other hand, Carlton are reeling after suffering a humiliating 73-point loss to the Western Bulldogs, which has plunged their percentage into the 50s and all but ended their hopes of reaching the grand final.
They could only manage 2.1 (13) for the match, scoring all of their points in the final quarter, by which point the damage was already done.
It was Damien Keeping’s first match back after illness sidelined him for two matches, during which they also lost their co-captain, Brianna Davey, to a season-ending knee injury.
It will now remain to be seen how the Blues respond after a tough past few weeks, but, on the road and facing a desperate Crows outfit on their home deck, there will be no respite.
Prediction: Adelaide Crows by 20 points.
Collingwood versus Western Bulldogs
The final match of the round will present another tough challenge for last-placed Collingwood in the form of tackling the top-placed Western Bulldogs in Moe on Sunday.
Despite registering their first win of the season last week against Melbourne, the Pies still could not move off the bottom of the ladder after the GWS Giants versus Adelaide Crows match last Sunday ended in a draw – the only result possible that the club did not want.
Their 34-point win over the Dees was highlighted by a two-goal performance from Moana Hope, who has hit back in the past fortnight after being dropped for the Round 2 clash against Fremantle, as well as 36 disposals shared between Jaimee Lambert and captain Stephanie Chiocci.
It was the perfect response to a week of criticism which followed the club’s 13-point loss to the GWS Giants at home, which left them winless after three rounds.
Meanwhile, the Western Bulldogs are coming off a huge win over Carlton last week, in a match where several records were broken, including the largest winning margin (73 points), highest score (12.14 (86)) and most goals kicked by an individual (Brooke Lochland with seven).
Lochland’s seven-goal haul has seen her Bradbury her way to the top of the goalkicking leaderboard, especially after the previous leader, the Giants’ Phoebe McWilliams, went goalless against the Crows while Dogs captain Katie Brennan missed the match against the Blues due to an ankle injury.
The Bulldogs’ percentage is 200 per cent, meaning they have scored twice as many points as they have conceded (202-101). If they haven’t assumed the mantle as flag favourites, they may possibly have now.
In fact, they could so easily have been unbeaten if it wasn’t for their seven-point loss to the Adelaide Crows at Norwood Oval in Round 3; if that result had been reversed, the Dogs may have all but locked up the first available grand final berth with three rounds still to play.
Even more impressive is the fact that the seriousness of Brennan’s ankle injury could sideline her for the rest of the season.
If the Dogs eventually salute, they would emulate their male counterparts whereby they won the flag in 2016 despite losing their captain, Bob Murphy, to a serious knee injury early in the season.
On the basis of their impressive performance last week, I’m backing the Dogs to continue their march to the cup.
Prediction: Western Bulldogs by 18 points.