There are only three rounds to go before the revamped AFLW finals series gets underway, and all the focus will be on who finishes where in the top three in both conferences, while the Conference A wooden spoon could also be decided this weekend.
This round sees four matches between the foundation clubs, while two matches will pit two 2020 entrants against each other and another will see the first-time clash between the 2019 entrants, the Geelong Cats and North Melbourne.
It is also a bit of a retro round with two of those matches between foundation clubs being replicas of Round 1, 2017: matches between the Adelaide Crows and GWS Giants, and between the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle.
Both the Crows and Brisbane Lions will be out to rebound from losses to North Melbourne and Fremantle respectively, while Richmond’s final chance to avoid the Conference A wooden spoon hinges on them beating St Kilda on Saturday.
The Dockers, meanwhile, will look to extend their unbeaten start to the season when they face the struggling Western Bulldogs in Melbourne, while the Dees will travel away for the first time this year when they face Carlton in Alice Springs.
Here is your full preview to Round 6.
Geelong Cats vs North Melbourne
After a fortnight away from home, the Geelong Cats return to the comforts of Kardinia Park to kick off Round 6 when they play host to premiership favourites North Melbourne.
That fortnight away has seen the Cats register two wins on the bounce, first defeating Richmond by 22 points in Bendigo before coming from behind to beat the Gold Coast Suns by 20 in Mackay on the central Queensland coast.
The win over the Suns was driven by teenage sensation Nina Morrison, who is making up for lost time after suffering the dreaded ACL injury just after making her AFLW debut last year.
In an impressive display she gathered 23 disposals and laid eight tackles in the typical hot Queensland weather that is expected at this time of the year.
As impressive as the Cats have been in the past fortnight, they’ll find it tough when they face North Melbourne in an AFLW match for the first time.
While the two teams entered the competition last year, the fact they were both placed in separate conferences meant they did not get the chance to face each other in what would’ve been dubbed the AFLW expansion cup.
The Kangaroos’ impressive form continued when they cashed in on Erin Phillips’ absence to thrash reigning premiers the Adelaide Crows by 42 points in Hobart last Saturday.
It moved them to the top of Conference A, and they can just about lock up a finals berth with a win over the Cats at Kardinia Park this Friday night, which I can see them doing.
(Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Prediction: North Melbourne by 18 points.
Brisbane Lions vs Collingwood
The first of three matches on Saturday will see the Brisbane Lions look to bounce back when they host Collingwood at Hickey Park.
The Lions saw their undefeated start to 2020 come to an end last Sunday when they lost to Fremantle by 18 points, with inaccuracy in front of goal playing a part in the defeat.
Still, coach Craig Starcevich would be happy with how his side is tracking, despite predictions that the side would struggle in 2020 having had their playing list gutted by expansion in addition to failing to kick a single goal in a trial match against the GWS Giants in January.
But now, wins over Collingwood, Richmond and North Melbourne in the final three weeks are non-negotiables if the Lions are to attempt to go one better than runners-up efforts in 2017 and 2018.
The Pies will go into this match having nothing to fear after putting the Western Bulldogs to the sword last Sunday, kicking eight goals to three and putting an end to a two-match losing streak.
It was Jaimee Lambert and Chloe Molloy who stole the show as the Pies quickly moved on from the heartbreaking ACL injury suffered by Ashleigh Brazill in the Round 4 loss to Melbourne.
This will be the club’s second and final interstate trip of the season, and will surely want to bring some points (and momentum) back to Melbourne after suffering a three-point loss to Fremantle in the west in Round 3.
But at home, I think the Lions will bounce back.
Prediction: Brisbane Lions by six points.
St Kilda vs Richmond
The only match to be played in Melbourne on Saturday sees St Kilda return to Moorabbin where they will start favourites to notch their second win of the season against the struggling Richmond Tigers.
In their first season, the Saints have performed strongly despite only winning one of their first five games, and last week gave Carlton a run for their money in the first half before falling by 21 points.
The impressive form of youngsters Georgia Patrikios and Caitlin Greiser have been a highlight for Saints fans this year and it was again on show against the Blues.
As for Richmond, this will just about be their last chance to avoid the wooden spoon in Conference A, because if the Gold Coast Suns beat the West Coast Eagles in Perth the next day, the Tigers will be sentenced to finish last in their first season in the competition.
Without their captain Katie Brennan, the club’s tough initiation into the AFLW continued last Saturday when they could only muster one goal in a 45-point loss to the GWS Giants in Wagga Wagga.
They must consider themselves lucky not to have lost by more, if it wasn’t for the Giants’ inaccuracy in front of goal.
Making matters worse, they’ll be without Laura McClelland after she copped a two-match ban from the judiciary for rough conduct involving the Giants’ Britt Tully in the fourth quarter.
In front of their fans, the Saints should take the points for the second time this year and all but sentence Richmond to the Conference A wooden spoon.
Prediction: St Kilda by eight points.
(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Melbourne vs Carlton
While this may be a Melbourne home game, the fact of the reality is that after five weeks at home, the Dees will travel for the first time this season (and for the first of two consecutive matches away from home), calling Alice Springs home for their clash against Carlton.
The Dees could not have been any more impressive in their 59-point thrashing of the West Coast Eagles last Sunday, restricting the visitors to just one goal in perfect conditions at Casey Fields.
Undoubtedly the star of the show was Sarah “Tex” Perkins, who marked her return to the AFLW with a goal after the siren and also setting up her new club’s first goal of the afternoon, which began an avalanche of Demon goals against the Eagles.
That saw the Dees move to four wins and one loss for the season, with a league-best percentage of 214.3.
But they can expect to face some serious opposition in the Red Centre when they face Carlton, who also have a 4-1 record but with an inferior percentage of 149.3.
Last Saturday night, the Blues overcame a determined St Kilda side to win by 21 points at Ikon Park, having to come from seven points down in the second quarter to do so.
Second-year player Maddy Prespakis was again one of their best on ground, while Tayla Harris kicked a match-turning goal in the second quarter to turn the tide their way.
In the battle of second versus third, the winner could move to provisional top spot by the end of Saturday night, but may not stay there for longer given Fremantle will start favourite to beat the Western Bulldogs at the Whitten Oval on Sunday.
Ultimately I think Melbourne’s superior form will get them across the line.
Prediction: Melbourne by 14 points.
Western Bulldogs vs Fremantle
It’s official – Fremantle are the team to beat in 2020.
Four goals to Sabreena Duffy saw the Dockers stand tall as the only undefeated team this season when they handed the Brisbane Lions their first loss of the season with an 18-point win at home last Sunday.
She and Kiara Bowers were among the Purple Haze’s best players as they extended their winning streak to five, which is likely to extend to six when they face the struggling Western Bulldogs at the Whitten Oval.
The Dogs crashed to their fourth straight loss last week, failing to kick a goal in the first half against Collingwood and ultimately going down by 32 points to all but kiss their finals hopes goodbye for another year.
They sit only above expansion sides St Kilda and the West Coast Eagles on the Conference B ladder, and another loss could see them sink to the foot of that ladder should the Saints and Eagles both win their respective matches against Richmond and the Gold Coast Suns.
While they stand next to no chance of beating the Dockers this Sunday, they’ll still be buoyed by a 2-1 record against them, with both of those wins coming right at home in Round 1 in both 2017 and 2018.
That being said, expect the Dockers to show no mercy as they continue their march to the finals.
Prediction: Fremantle by 20 points.
Adelaide Crows vs GWS Giants
For the second time in three weeks, the Giants will have to prepare themselves for a backlash from quality opposition.
After a disappointing loss to the Brisbane Lions in Round 4, the Giants hit back hard, thrashing Richmond by 45 points to record their highest ever score and winning margin (7.14 (56) and 45 points respectively) and restrict the winless Tigers to just one goal.
It was the second time this season Alan McConnell’s side had rebounded from a loss, after defeating the West Coast Eagles by 28 points eight days after losing to North Melbourne by three goals in Round 2.
Making their win all the more impressive was the fact they did it without captain Alicia Eva, who suffered a foot injury in the loss to the Lions, with 2017 All Australian Jessica Dal Pos deputising as captain against the Tigers.
Now the challenge will be to break their win-loss pattern against an Adelaide Crows side, who will have something to prove after being thrashed by North Melbourne in Hobart, also last Saturday.
With Erin Phillips rested, the Crows proved to be no match for premiership favourites the Kangaroos, going down by 42 points and only managing to kick three goals.
That has seen their season record fall to two wins and three losses – and a win over the 3-2 Giants will be crucial if they are to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the finals for the third time in four years.
They’ll be buoyed by the home-ground advantage, having twice previously beaten the Giants on home soil including in the corresponding game last year.
That being said, the Crows should bounce back at home and make it three wins from six matches this year.
Prediction: Adelaide Crows by 18 points.
(Tamika Walker, AFC Media)
West Coast Eagles vs Gold Coast Suns
The final match of Round 6 will see the West Coast Eagles look to put another horror loss behind them when they play host to the Gold Coast Suns at Lathlain Park.
Like the Tigers before them, the Eagles’ tough initiation continued when they lost to Melbourne by nearly ten goals last week, again only managing to kick one major and being held scoreless in the final quarter.
However, at home, they may fancy themselves of a second win for the season when they face fellow one-win team the Suns, who sit just above Richmond in sixth place on Conference A.
For the Suns, the incentive is there for the team to win because if Richmond loses to St Kilda on Saturday, they can all but avoid the wooden spoon with a win over the struggling Eagles.
In Mackay last week, the Suns took it up to the Cats, leading by six points at halftime but failing to kick another major thereafter to lose by 20 points.
While they are still a faint chance of reaching the finals, so too are their chances of finishing on the bottom of Conference A, that’s if the Tigers can break their duck against the Saints earlier in the round.
In the battle of the expansion clubs – one of three this weekend (the others being the showdown between 2019 newcomers the Geelong Cats and North and the other between 2020 entrants Richmond and St Kilda) – it could go either way. I’m picking the Suns, just.
Prediction: Gold Coast Suns by four points.