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AFLW wrap: round seven

Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff have been outstanding for the Crows - AFLW
Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff have been outstanding for the Crows

IT TOOK until the second last match of the home and away series to lock in the second team competing in the NAB AFL Women's competition Grand Final.

Adelaide confirmed it would meet the Brisbane Lions next Saturday with an impressive finish to beat Collingwood on Sunday.

The Crows and Lions defied pre-season expectations and consistently were the two best teams this season.

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Adelaide was written off after a poor practice match against Fremantle, with its split-squad arrangement (having players in Adelaide and Darwin) appearing to be too big a hurdle to overcome.

The Lions were underrated and unknown outside of Queensland, but Craig Starcevich's thorough and first-hand knowledge of the state's footballers, developed over three years as AFL Queensland's female football high-performance coach, led to one of the most even playing lists in the competition.

The two met in a round-five thriller, with the Lions emerging victorious by just three points.

The Crows play a much more physical style of game than the Lions, who rely on swift sideways movement out of congestion before quickly moving the ball to their talls in Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick-Traub.

Adelaide ranks equal second in the competition for tackles behind only Fremantle, which spent much of the season chasing opponents.

The Crows will head to Queensland with confidence after breaking away from the Pies in the last term.

Match-winning bursts from Sarah Perkins (four goals) and Erin Phillips (22 disposals and three goals) got them over the line, and they recorded the equal-highest score of the season, just one day after Melbourne also finished on 70 points.

The Demons had needed to win and for the Crows to lose in order to finish second, and emphatically held up their end of the bargain on Saturday. In the most one-sided match of the season, Melbourne launched a withering attack against Fremantle, scoring five goals in the first quarter and finishing with 11.4 (70).

Carlton managed to do what no other team has done this season and take points away from Brisbane Lions.

The match finished in a draw, with the Lions struggling to hold off the fast-finishing Blues on an unseasonably hot and humid Melbourne afternoon.

If conventional footy wisdom suggests teams need to "drop" a game in order to be well-tuned for finals, the match could be the scare the Lions needed after going through the rest of the season undefeated.

W Award predictions

The AFLW season will quickly go into off-season mode, with a gala awards ceremony in Melbourne on March 28. Names have not yet been attached to the major awards, with the AFL electing to wait until the competition develops.

Carlton's Darcy Vescio was goalless on the weekend, but will go home next Tuesday night as the AFLW's inaugural leading goalkicker. Here's a look at some other players expected to feature prominently on the night.

League best and fairest

Adelaide co-captain Erin Phillips made an incredible impact in her first season of senior football, averaging 19 disposals and a goal a match.

After playing basketball in the WNBA and representing Australia in multiple Olympics, could an AFLW best and fairest award be next for the star on-baller?

Melbourne's Karen Paxman was the engine in the Demons midfield and gained recognition for her efforts as the season progressed. She averaged 22 disposals and four marks a match, but might lose votes to fellow star on-baller, Demons captain Daisy Pearce.

It won't surprise if Carlton's Brianna Davey heads the count after the first few rounds. The marquee defender was a general in Carlton's defensive 50, and made the occasional foray forward with great effect. Davey did miss a match with a back injury, and her influence waned on her return.

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NAB AFLW Rising Star

Ebony Marinoff was nominated in round one, and the 19-year-old looked like a seasoned veteran in Adelaide's midfield, averaging 15 disposals and an astonishing 10 tackles a match.

High-flying Brisbane Lions forward Tayla Harris put her body on the line to win matches for her team and was a big reason why the Lions finished on top of the ladder.

Melbourne's pocket rocket Lily Mithen grew in confidence throughout the competition, averaging 16 disposals in an A-grade midfield.

The wash-up

Six teams finished their seasons on the weekend. Here's a quick recap of their past two months.


What worked

Three Rising Star nominees in Lily Mithen, Jas Grierson, Katherine Smith and a potential fourth in Deanna Berry.

What went wrong

Playing in the rain. While some excuses can be made for the round one lightning-hit clash against the Lions, the Demons' loss to the previously winless Greater Western Sydney ended their Grand Final hopes.

Future stars

Smith's assuredness down back at just 18 is exciting for fans, while basketballer-turned-full-forward Alyssa Mifsud will only get better with experience.


What worked

Marquee players Darcy Vescio and Brianna Davey were the best bookends in the competition.

Darcy Vescio (r, with Nat Exon) was the AFLW leading goalkicker. Picture: AFL Photos

What went wrong

The Blues' inability to close out tight matches cost them a Grand Final spot. They lost their three matches by an average of just eight points.

Future stars

Rookie Nat Exon provided line-breaking run before injuring her ankle, and Bella Ayre looks like developing into a 10-year full-forward.


What worked

Its forward line, albeit belatedly. The combination of Moana Hope, Jasmine Garner, Jess Cameron and Sarah D'Arcy caused opposition headaches in the second half of the season.

What went wrong

A lack of cohesion on the field early in the season resulted in the Magpies losing their first three games, putting them on the back foot.

Future stars

Brittany Bonnici was fearless in the midfield, while Garner proved to be one of the best marks in the competition.

Western Bulldogs

What worked

The best one-two midfield combination in the competition in Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney.

What went wrong

The Bulldogs couldn't find an avenue to goal without injured captain Katie Brennan. Goalkicking inaccuracy also cost them.

Future stars

Free agents Meg McDonald (forward) and Ange Gogos (midfield) were steals for the Bulldogs, and will get better the longer they're in an elite environment.


What worked

Former basketballers Gemma Houghton and Stacey Barr showed enough to be retained for next season, while injury replacement signing Alicia Janz quickly developed into one of the best tap rucks in the competition.

What went wrong

Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Dockers finished with three injury replacement signings on their list, and lost key players to serious long-term injuries.

Future stars

Forward Ashley Sharp impressed with limited delivery, while Belinda Smith provided dash from defence.

Greater Western Sydney

What worked

Former softballer and gridiron player Jacinda Barclay proved to be an inspired signing, providing a target and some aggression up forward.

What went wrong

Injuries to key players hurt and exposed the young, shallow list. Also conceded the most points in the competition.

Future stars

Ruck Erin McKinnon, only 18, started strongly but tired as the season progressed, while Rebecca Beeson provided the occasional spark up forward.