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Opinion

2021 AFL Women's season: Round 4 preview

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Roar Guru
16th February, 2021
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After three rounds of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, the Brisbane Lions, Collingwood, Fremantle and Melbourne are undefeated.

Down at the other end of the ladder, Richmond, the West Coast Eagles, Gold Coast Suns and Geelong Cats are still yet to get off the mark.

The Eagles’ bid to break their duck does not get any easier when they make a second straight trip east to face the Giants in Sydney, while the Crows will try to bring down the top-of-the-table Lions in the Sunshine Capital.

The Suns make the long trip west to face another undefeated side in Fremantle, while there is a heavyweight clash between North and Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

We will also see the two pioneer teams of the women’s game, the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, lock horns at the Whitten Oval on Sunday.

Here is your preview to Round 4.

St Kilda vs Geelong Cats
Despite a strong start against Carlton last week, which included Caitlin Greiser kicking the first goal and keeping the opposition scoreless in the first quarter, the Saints’ inexperience proved costly as they crashed to a 24-point defeat.

Try as she might, Georgia Patrikios was unable to keep Blues superstar Maddy Prespakis on a leash, with the reigning best-and-fairest winner taking the game away from the Saints.

While Peta Searle’s side will start favourites on Friday night, they will not want to take the bottom-placed side from Kardinia Park lightly.

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The Cats controlled proceedings against the Bulldogs for three quarters last week, before the visitors ran away with a 15-point victory after kicking the only two goals of the final quarter.

Attack remains a weak point for Paul Hood’s side, which has endured nine goalless quarters this season and have kicked a grand total of only four majors in the first three rounds.

At home, the Saints should show no mercy.

Prediction: St Kilda by 14 points.

Richmond vs Carlton
The Tigers performed strongly against the Pies, but could not convert their domination into points as they fell 17 points in arrears of their rivals, ensuring their losing streak extended to nine.

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This was despite the domination of Gabby Seymour in the hitouts against Collingwood’s two-prong ruck pairing of Bella Smith and Sophie Alexander.

A major subplot of the match between the Tigers and Blues will be the Hosking twins, Sarah and Jess, facing each other for the first time since the former left Carlton at the end of last season.

Such is the expectation of a good crowd – if permitted by the Victorian government – that this match has been fixtured for Ikon Park, despite this being a Tigers home game, as was the case for the Round 1 clash between these two sides last year.

After two losses to start the year, the Blues finally got going last Saturday, with reigning best-and-fairest Maddy Prespakis inspiring her side to a 24-point win over St Kilda after dominating proceedings with 24 disposals and a goal.

However, their first quarters continue to be an Achilles heel, being kept scoreless in the opening quarter for the second time in three weeks, while their only other quarter yielded only one goal against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2.

While the Blues will start favourites, starting strongly will be key if they are to keep the Tigers at bay.

Prediction: Carlton by 18 points.

Madison Prespakis

Madison Prespakis of the Blues (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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Fremantle vs Gold Coast Suns
After Round 6 last year, the AFL sought to accelerate the end of the season and so brought the finals series forward, with Conference B toppers Fremantle hosting the Suns, which finished fourth in Conference A.

The end result was that the Dockers thrashed the Suns by 70 points, before the season was abruptly terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entering the new season, the Purple Haze vowed to finish what they started and have won their first three matches to start the season to extend their record winning streak to ten – the best by any team in the short history of AFL Women’s.

Last week on the road, the Dockers made a mockery of what was supposed to be a tough clash against fellow premiership heavyweights the Adelaide Crows, winning by five goals and keeping the two-time premiers to their lowest-ever score, 1.7 (13).

The win was marshalled by Kiara Bowers, Sabreena Duffy, Ashley Sharp and Gemma Haughton, who kicked two goals.

Meanwhile, the Suns fell to the Giants in Sydney last Saturday. Despite going forward 21 times, the Gold Coast could not find a way past GWS’s defence, only managing one goal from three scoring shots.

Alison Drennan was their best, with 21 disposals, while Jamie Stanton booted their only goal with two minutes remaining to save them from the embarrassment of being held goalless in consecutive matches.

Facing the Dockers in the west is the last thing David Lake’s side would want and if they need a confidence-booster, it’s that their last win came in Perth against the West Coast Eagles in Round 6 last year.

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But at home, the Purple Haze should get the job done in front of their fans.

Prediction: Fremantle by 24 points.

North Melbourne vs Collingwood
After strong wins against Geelong and St Kilda in their opening matches, the Roos crashed to their first defeat of the season last week, going down to Melbourne by just nine points despite trailing by 27 points at halftime.

Former best-and-fairest winner Emma Kearney and forward Daria Bannister led the Roos’ second-half comeback, but it was not enough as they crashed to their first defeat since Round 1, 2020, which coincidentally was against the Dees at Casey Fields.

They now get the chance to make amends when they face the undefeated Pies under the roof at Marvel Stadium.

Steve Symonds’ side make it three from three for the first time in their short history, recording a 17-point win against Richmond thanks to stellar performances from captain Brianna Davey, as well as Britt Bonnici and Jaimee Lambert, who racked up 55 disposals between them.

That followed on from wins over Carlton and the Cats in the opening two rounds, and it’s starting to become clear that Collingwood are realising their potential after a poor first three seasons under Wayne Siekman.

Their clash against North will be the first time these sides have met since last year’s quarter-finals, which the Roos won by two points after which the season was terminated.

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While the Pies may be undefeated, North Melbourne will bounce back and sentence their opponents to their first defeat of the season.

Prediction: North Melbourne by six points.

Mo Hope

The Magpies. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Brisbane Lions vs Adelaide Crows
After dominant wins against West Coast and GWS in the opening two rounds, the Crows were beaten by Fremantle by 30 points at home last week, being restricted to their lowest-ever score of 1.7 (13).

Despite the best efforts of Ebony Marinoff, who racked up 23 disposals, Matthew Clarke’s side had to wait until the final quarter for their only goal of the match, which was kicked by ex-captain Erin Phillips.

Things will not get any easier when they face the Lions, who sit on top of the ladder with three wins from as many matches and a percentage of 502.9.

Craig Starcevich’s side started slowly against the Eagles at home last Monday, before a four-goal blitz in a six-minute period in the third quarter saw them scoot away to an easy 45-point victory.

That followed on from a dominant 63-point win over the Gold Coast Suns at home, in which they kept their M1 neighbours to a paltry 0.2 (2) – the lowest score in AFLW history.

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At home and with their premiership window still open, the Lions should show no mercy as they look to deliver a premiership to the club for the first time since the men’s team claimed a hat-trick of flags between 2001-03.

Prediction: Brisbane Lions by 20 points.

Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne
The Bulldogs have won their last two games after dropping their season opener against St Kilda, while the Dees are 3-0 for the first time in club history.

Another best-on-ground performance from captain Ellie Blackburn saw the Dogs scoot away from Geelong in the final quarter to win by 15 points at Kardinia Park, marking the first win by any Bulldogs side at the ground since 2003.

Another highlight was the debut of Isabella Grant, the daughter of club legend Chris Grant, who holds an administrative role at the club which he captained in the early part of this millennium.

Melbourne, on the other hand, defeated the Kangaroos by nine points despite having led by 27 points at halftime, and again they were led by veteran Daisy Pearce as well as Tegan Cunningham and Jackie Parry, who both kicked two majors in the second quarter.

Coach Mick Stinear would not have been happy with the way they performed in the second half as they allowed the Roos to roar back into the contest, and so he would be seeking a full four-quarter performance from his side this weekend.

I have the Dees taking the points.

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Prediction: Melbourne by 14 points.

Daisy Pearce

Daisy Pearce of the Demons. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

GWS Giants vs West Coast Eagles
After two disappointing losses to start the season, the Giants paid tribute to their late teammate Jacinda Barclay, with an unconvincing ten-point win over the Suns, whereby they kicked the first two goals of the match but failed to kick another after quarter-time.

Their victory was instead built on a stifling defence, repelling the Suns’ attack to the point that the northerners were not able to kick their first goal until late in the match.

Coach Alan McConnell will want his side kicking more goals, after managing only eight in the first three rounds.

Against the Eagles in the corresponding match last year, they managed six majors from 12 scoring shots, while they kept the visitors scoreless up to three-quarter time.

A week after taking the fight right up to cross-town rivals Fremantle in the Western Derby, the Eagles started surprisingly well against the Lions in Brisbane, kicking the first goal of the match and nearly keeping the hosts goalless in the first quarter.

But they were made to pay the price for a poor start to the second half, coughing up four goals in six minutes to effectively lose the match and languish near the foot of the ladder with three losses from as many starts.

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They cannot afford another slow start against the Giants, and must perform better than on their previous trip to Sydney, whereby their only two goals came in the final quarter when proceedings had already been settled.

On the road for the second straight week, I just can’t see the Eagles cracking their duck this Sunday.

Prediction: GWS Giants by ten points.