Only two rounds remain in the second AFL Women’s season, with the jockeying of grand final berths set to continue, while Collingwood can only play for pride after being knocked out of the premiership race last week.
With five wins and a draw between them, this Friday night’s match between the Adelaide Crows and Fremantle looms as a virtual elimination final.
The rivalry between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and Western Bulldogs will go up another notch, with their women’s sides set to take centre stage in Canberra on Saturday night, 15 days before the men’s sides get their AFL seasons underway at the same venue.
And Melbourne will be hoping not to make the same mistake in underestimating their opposition when they face an out-of-form Carlton side at Ikon Park on Sunday.
Here is your full preview to Round 6.
Adelaide Crows versus Fremantle
It’s all or nothing for the Crows and Fremantle.
The Crows remain alive in their premiership defence after defeating Carlton last Saturday night, but the draw against the Giants the week before – with whom they share the same amount of premiership points – could conspire against them if they finish outside the top two.
Making their win over the Blues all the more impressive was the fact that Erin Phillips missed the entire second half due to a troublesome quad injury, while it was revealed that Ebony Marinoff suffered a freak tongue injury during the match.
Phillips, the AFLW’s reigning best and fairest, is expected to take her place against the Dockers, whose grand final hopes took a hit when defeated by GWS by 18 points at home last week.
Despite the best efforts of captain Kara Donnellan, and defenders Ebony Antonio and Dana Hooker, poor decision making under pressure saw them crash to their third defeat of the season, leaving them with a 2-3 record.
Still, coach Michelle Cowan has promised that her side will go all out in their final two matches, ignoring the hype surrounding the club’s grand final chances amid fears it could unsettle the playing group.
While this is a Crows home game, it will actually be played in Darwin, and with next week’s final round match against Collingwood at Olympic Park in Melbourne to come, there is no chance that the club will play in front of its true ‘home’ fans again in 2018.
Despite the long travel, the Crows should take the points.
Prediction: Adelaide Crows by 12 points.
AAP Image/David Mariuz
Brisbane Lions versus Collingwood
The end of the season can’t come quite quickly enough for Collingwood.
On top of having their final hopes all but mathematically dashed, they will also be without captain Steph Chiocci for the remainder of the season after she copped a two-game ban for making high contact on Western Bulldog Libby Birch.
It only adds to the pain of what has been anything but a dismal season for the Pies, who have only won once (against Melbourne in Round 4) and, with last week’s eight-point loss to the Bulldogs, have become the first team to be beaten by each of the other seven teams in the comp.
The Lions remain second on the ladder after their six-point loss to Melbourne last week, the result coming after they endured a goalless first quarter, which left them to play catch-up for the rest of the match.
To overtake the Western Bulldogs on the ladder, the Lions must beat the Pies on Saturday, then hope the Dogs get thrashed by GWS later that night; then defeat the Giants in Blacktown next Friday night, and pray for a Bulldogs loss to Melbourne.
If this equation unfolds, Brisbane will get a home final at the Gabba, something they were denied last year owing to the damage caused to the turf by an Adele concert.
Otherwise, if ladder positions hold over the final fortnight, they may have to play the Dogs in the decider in Melbourne, just as their men’s team faces St Kilda at Etihad Stadium in Round 1.
On topic, the Lions should pour more misery on the Pies and keep their grand final chances alive.
Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 18 points.
GWS Giants versus Western Bulldogs
This time last year, both sides met in the nation’s capital fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.
This Saturday night, the Giants will be playing to keep their grand final hopes alive, after accruing ten out of a possible 12 points in the last three weeks, with impressive wins over Collingwood and Fremantle, both on the road, coming on either side of a 19-all draw against the Adelaide Crows.
Their win over the Dockers, which came in their first appearance in Perth, was marshalled by first-year sensation Courtney Gum, who tallied 16 disposals, and Erin McKinnon, who snared 39 hitouts.
Both were named in the AFLW Team of the Week for their efforts.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, have been by far the most impressive team of the season, sitting first on the ladder with a 4-1 record and with a chance to lock up a spot in the finale this weekend.
This comes despite the club losing three players, including the number one draft pick Isabel Huntington, and captain Katie Brennan, to knee and ankle injuries respectively within the first three rounds (Brennan is a slight chance of returning against the Giants, but is likely to be held back until next week).
The 251 points they have scored is the most by any team after five rounds, and this leaves the Giants’ defence with a massive task.
Saturday night’s classic promises to be a beauty, and I can see the Dogs getting up in this one – but only by just.
Prediction: Western Bulldogs by six points.
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Carlton versus Melbourne
The final match of the round will see Melbourne again start hot favourites when they face Carlton at Ikon Park.
It was their ‘Big Three’ – captain Daisy Pearce, as well as midfielders Karen Paxman and Elise O’Dea – who led the way as they broke their two-match losing streak with a six-point win over the Brisbane Lions last Friday night.
All three were named in the AFLW Team of the Week, and will be relied upon again as the Dees attempt to keep their grand final hopes alive.
However, their losses to Fremantle and Collingwood, in which poor kicking and complacency cost them respectively, could see them again miss the grand final on percentage, as they did last year.
The Blues, meanwhile, are in huge trouble. After being first at the end of Round 2, they have dropped to second-last with only Collingwood sitting below them on the ladder.
Damien Keeping’s side battled gamely against Adelaide last week, but eventually crashed to a 35-point defeat, and with the worst percentage of any team (50.5%), are at grave risk of finishing with the wooden spoon.
They can at least sabotage the premiership hopes of their next opponents, however the Dees’ desire to make up the percentage required to overtake the Lions in the battle for a grand final berth is set to spur them on to a big win.
Prediction: Melbourne by 25 points.