I’m writing part of this week’s rankings on a crowded train leaving Optus Stadium after witnessing a great game, so it’s been a good weekend in Western Australia for me.
There is just one round left in the AFL Women’s season and a lot of the focus will be on who finishes where, as well as whether Collingwood can snatch a late win and sentence the GWS Giants to their second wooden spoon in three seasons.
The two matches on Saturday between Melbourne and the Adelaide Crows, followed by Fremantle and North Melbourne in the west, will determine the final Conference A ladder, with two of those teams to be left heartbroken by the time the sun sets in the evening.
Sunday also shapes as a crucial day in the make-up of Conference B, with the Brisbane Lions needing to pray that both Carlton and the Geelong Cats are beaten, as well as score a huge win over Collingwood, if they are to force their way into September.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the Giants can all but avoid the wooden spoon with a win over the Geelong Cats in Canberra this Friday night, therefore handing the unwanted prize to Collingwood in the process.
Here is your full preview to Round 7.
GWS Giants vs Geelong Cats
At the start of the season there were high expectations for the GWS Giants, off the back of another strong off-season as far as player recruitment was concerned.
However, a heartbreaking two-point loss to the Brisbane Lions in the first round would set the tone for a rather disappointing season, Alan McConnell’s side having registered just the one win for the season so far against Collingwood in Round 4.
Last week against the Crows in Adelaide, the Giants hung tough for three quarters before conceding four goals in the final term, dropping their percentage to a league-low 58.6.
It means that pride will be the only thing they can play for when they host the Geelong Cats in Canberra to kick off Round 7.
As for the Cats, well, they’ve got bigger fish to fry and they can all but secure a finals berth with a win of their own, after failing to do so last week when they lost to Fremantle by 36 points at home, not kicking a goal after half-time.
In positive news for the club, they’ll get Madeleine Boyd back from a two-match suspension for the clash against her former club.
While a win will almost certainly secure their ticket to the finals, a loss would see them at risk of being overtaken by the Brisbane Lions – who play Collingwood on Sunday – on percentage.
Thus, with everything to play for, the Cats should emerge victorious.
Prediction: Geelong Cats by 12 points.
Melbourne vs Adelaide Crows
Saturday shapes as the biggest day in the AFL Women’s calendar, with the two matches on this day set to significantly shape Conference A.
The first involves Melbourne and the Adelaide Crows, and the equation is simple for either side – win and they’ll qualify for the finals.
Well, not quite so simple for the Dees. In Melbourne’s case, not only must they win, they must also hope that the later match between Fremantle and North Melbourne does not end in a draw.
If this happens, and the Dees win, both Freo and North will qualify. If the Crows win, the Roos qualify on percentage.
Last week, despite kicking one less goal, they managed to edge out the Western Bulldogs in a thrilling battle at Marvel Stadium, with Tegan Cunningham kicking the winning goal late in the final quarter to keep their finals chances alive.
As things stand, the Dees are fourth in Conference A with a percentage of 148.1 – the second-best across the whole league, only behind the Adelaide Crows’ 184.3.
It is possible that Mick Stinear’s side – who had to deal with the absence of captain Daisy Pearce who gave birth to twins last month – could still rocket to the top of Conference A, though this would require an unlikely record-breaking victory of sorts.
On the other hand, all the Adelaide Crows need to do is to simply win and they will host a preliminary final next weekend.
Last Sunday they were challenged for three quarters by the GWS Giants at home, but broke free in the final quarter to win by 32 points and tighten their grip on top spot in their conference.
The usual suspects, Ebony Marinoff and Erin Phillips (24 disposals each), were the architects behind the victory, as was Stevie-Lee Thompson who stepped up to kick three majors.
Should the Crows be beaten, they will be sweating on the outcome of the Fremantle vs North Melbourne match later in the evening, because if that match ends in a draw, Matthew Clarke’s side will miss out altogether.
However, their healthy percentage should be enough to qualify them for the preliminary final, and I have them beating Melbourne for the first time.
Prediction: Adelaide Crows by 14 points.
Fremantle vs North Melbourne
By the time Fremantle and North Melbourne take to Fremantle Oval later on Saturday, the finals equation will be very clear.
If the Adelaide Crows are victorious in the earlier clash, then both the Dockers and Kangaroos will be playing for second place on the ladder. Otherwise, both will be playing for a home preliminary final, while the loser will miss out on finals by percentage.
But should the match end in a draw, and the Crows are beaten, both Freo and North will qualify. If the Crows are beaten, then North would qualify by way of a superior percentage.
This is therefore what will make this match all the more intriguing to watch in the battle for the top two spots in Conference A.
Last week, the Dockers impressed on the road, keeping the Geelong Cats scoreless in the second half as they registered a 36-point victory at Kardinia Park, with Kiara Bowers one of the best on ground with 19 tackles.
North, on the other hand, added to Collingwood’s woes with a 22-point victory at Marvel Stadium, with the four players the Roos poached from the Holden Centre – Emma King, Moana Hope, Jess Duffin and Jasmine Garner – playing some part in the victory.
The impressive form shown by both teams in 2019 – both have lost just one match each, both against the Adelaide Crows – will ensure that this match is played at top quality as they jostle for either a home preliminary final or second place on the ladder.
In the end, the home ground advantage should get the Dockers home here.
Prediction: Fremantle by 10 points.
Collingwood vs Brisbane Lions
By the time Collingwood takes to Victoria Park for their final round clash against the Brisbane Lions, they will know whether they are still a chance of avoiding the overall wooden spoon.
They would have to pray that the GWS Giants are beaten by the Geelong Cats on Friday night, and a win for the Pies would see them overtake the Giants on percentage.
Regardless, Wayne Siekman’s side will be playing for pride after what has been a disappointing season, failing to win any of their six matches and going down to North Melbourne by 22 points in the Marvel Stadium double-header last Saturday night.
On the other hand, the Brisbane Lions have everything to play for in what will be their second consecutive match in Melbourne, after losing to Carlton by 16 points at Ikon Park last Sunday.
They must first rely on the Giants beating Geelong, and then beat the Pies by enough to overtake Carlton on percentage, and then ensure the Blues are beaten by the Western Bulldogs in the latter match.
Otherwise, if the Cats win, the Lions must beat the Pies by a huge margin and ensure the Blues are beaten heavily by the Bulldogs to qualify.
Any other result and the Lions will miss out altogether, so Craig Starcevich’s side will want to be switched on from the get-go.
Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 18 points.
Western Bulldogs vs Carlton
The final match of the season will see Carlton attempt to qualify for the finals for the first time in AFLW history when they face Conference A wooden spooners the Western Bulldogs at the Whitten Oval.
After a slow start to the season, losing three of their first four matches, the Blues have revived their season in impressive style, defeating Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions to move to the top of Conference B with one match remaining.
The catalyst to their victory was a 26-disposal performance by Maddy Prespakis, while Brooke Walker kicked two majors.
They will start favourites against a Western Bulldogs side who have lost their last four matches and has nothing to play for, given they have already claimed the wooden spoon in Conference A.
The defending premiers were gallant against Melbourne, going down by just one point after Tegan Cunningham kicked the winning goal for the Dees in the second match of the Marvel Stadium double header.
While the match is effectively a dead rubber for the Bulldogs, a win over the Blues – which they achieved last year by 73 points thanks to a seven-goal haul from Brooke Lochland – would give them some confidence as they prepare for what is hopefully a much better 2020 season.
But the lure of a home preliminary final should get the Blues home in this one.
Prediction: Carlton by 13 points.