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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Gold Coast SUNS v Sydney Swans
Finals Week 1 •
41 6.5
Full Time
58 9.4
Swans Won By 17

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    Full finals W1 preview: Sisters face off, will Swans' dream end?

    It's sudden death for two finalists, while the competition's four best teams go head to head. Gemma Bastiani takes a look at the key match-ups and contests for the first week of AFLW finals

    Madison Prespakis, Laura Gardiner and Georgie Prespakis. Pictures: AFL Photos

    THIS weekend, everyone returns to the starting point to attack the finals series. As they say, finals are a different game.

    While four teams - Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and North Melbourne – have the double chance, it's do-or-die for Gold Coast, Sydney, Geelong and Essendon.

    SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11

    Adelaide v Brisbane at Norwood Oval, 2.35pm ACDT

    This will be the 11th match-up between Adelaide and Brisbane, with the latter enjoying seven wins throughout AFLW history. This will be their fourth head-to-head final. This season the Lions are bringing their best footy against the best sides, and this is a chance for them to go again, fresh off an impressive win over reigning premier Melbourne.

    Outside run from the likes of Sophie Conway, Jade Ellenger and Orla O'Dwyer will be key to Brisbane's success, with their workrate across the four quarters a make-or-break factor. While the Crows have equally good outside runners, with Niamh Kelly in career-best form and Stevie-Lee Thompson's push up from defence impressive, the Lions are simply at their best when Conway, Ellenger and O'Dwyer are humming.

    Adelaide is more reliant on using uncontested possession, winning a record 148.2 uncontested possessions per game this season, and it is this that the Lions need to interrupt. Ideally Brisbane will work to play surge footy - gain ground, then make best use of its record 17.5 tackles inside 50 per game.

    The Crows, having rested several key players last week, will be tough to stop particularly in the second half. Always knowing that they have another gear to hit means they are a threat right until the final siren.

    Tip: It will go down to the wire. Adelaide by two points.

    02:25

    Gold Coast v Sydney at Heritage Bank Stadium, 6.15pm AEST

    The Suns and Swans have played off just once before, in a 34-point Gold Coast win last year. Both sides are very different this season, each improving significantly, although the home team will be without powerful midfielder Charlie Rowbottom.

    Claudia Whitfort's impact has been huge this year, serving as the main link between midfield and forward, so Sydney will need to limit her impact if it is any chance at progressing to the second week of finals. The other key to the Suns' midfield is Lucy Single, whose two-way running has really caught opponents out this year. It is a toss-up as to whether she will be sent to prolific ball winner Laura Gardiner, or if they opt for Chloe Molloy when the latter is running through the midfield. But it is an opportunity for Gold Coast to force Gardiner to run defensively, given Single's ability to win the footy, so that could be the priority.

    Sydney is dangerous when it gets the ball forward, taking a shot on goal from 46 per cent of its inside 50s, so it is important that it generates plenty of forward entries to create opportunities. What the visitors cannot do, however, is send the ball forward without consideration, because Gold Coast's interceptors will lap up any wayward kicks.

    Tip: It's hard to go past the momentum Sydney has gathered, but the Suns at home are tough to tip against. Gold Coast by five points.

    SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12

    Geelong v Essendon at GMHBA Stadium, 1.05pm AEDT

    Another battle of the Prespakis sisters, but this time in an elimination final. Essendon got the better of Geelong earlier this season after the Cats got off to a fast start but failed to maintain the rage.

    The sides are conceding the lowest disposal efficiency of the season – separated by just 0.01 per cent – proving they are adept at preventing the opposition from moving the ball how it wants. For the Bombers, this is by restricting the amount of uncontested ball their opposition is able to win, conceding just 101.9 uncontested possessions per game, the fewest of any side this year. In a dangerous sign for the Cats, winning uncontested ball is crucial to how they want to play, averaging 136.6 uncontested possessions per game.

    This game, as with their match-up in round six this year, will be won or lost in the outside space. In that meeting the Cats were held to their fewest marks inside 50, second fewest inside 50s, second lowest disposal efficiency, and third fewest marks of the year. It is a pressured, possession game style that Essendon will need to maintain if it is to pull this off again.

    Tip: The Cats' experience will come to the fore late. Geelong by nine points.

    Melbourne v North Melbourne at Ikon Park, 3.05pm AEDT

    The Demons and Roos have played off seven times, with the former claiming victory in the past six, including the biggest margin between the sides in round eight this year. North Melbourne failed to score across the last three quarters as it went all in on defence against the best attacking side the competition has ever seen.

    02:18

    A big tick for Melbourne in that meeting was its ability to slow the impact of North Melbourne's stars, including Jasmine Garner. Garner is in a similar situation to last season's finals series, where Richmond's Meg MacDonald worked her out of the game late in the home and away season, but adapted come finals. This is something the Demons, and specifically Shelley Heath, must be aware of heading into Sunday's game.

    North Melbourne is the highest kicking team in AFLW history, while Melbourne is the highest handballing team across the competition, proving the clash of styles that will be at play. Because of the Demons' want to handball out of trouble, they have been caught out when they have had to play physical, pressured footy for four full quarters. The question will be whether the Roos can bring that for the duration of the game.

    Tip: The Demons' streak will live on. Melbourne by 12 points.

    Swans shock Suns to continue fairytale finals run

    Sydney has claimed a 17-point victory over Gold Coast in their elimination final bout

    Aliesha Newman celebrates a goal by grabbing the Indigenous jumper that she designed in the elimination final between Gold Coast and Sydney at Heritage Bank Stadium on November 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    BEHIND a brilliant performance from captain Chloe Molloy, Sydney's fairytale season has continued with a 17-point elimination final triumph over Gold Coast on Saturday night.

    The Swans set up victory with a blistering four-goal opening term and despite repeated efforts by the Suns to get back into the match, were never truly troubled in winning 9.4 (58) to 6.5 (41).

    SUNS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats

    They will now travel to Adelaide to face the Crows in a semi-final next weekend.

    After storming into eighth spot with wins over Western Bulldogs, Collingwood and Fremantle in the final three rounds, Sydney continued its form on Heritage Bank Stadium.

    06:00

    They moved the ball swiftly and with precision, often leaving their Suns opponents grasping at thin air as they went from inside the contest to outside in a hurry.

    After an early equaliser from Bec Privitelli – who hobbled from the field shortly after with a foot injury and did not return – it was Molloy that took over.

    00:51

    She roved a forward 50 stoppage to perfection and snapped truly on her right foot, then set up a goal for fellow co-captain Lucy McEvoy after a strong contested mark.

    Gold Coast counterpart Tara Bohanna opened the second quarter with two quick goals to reduce the margin to eight points, but it was again Molloy that steadied with a safe set shot from 30m.

    00:29

    They had a match-winning 26-point lead by half-time.

    While they were blistering with ball in hand, the Swans were equally impressive without it. They were ferocious.

    Gold Coast was not given an inch to move, with rapidly ascending youngster Sofia Hurley’s 16 tackles indicative of Sydney's defensive hunt.

    Tanya Kennedy had 10 of her own, keeping red-hot Claudia Whitfort to just 14 disposals that lacked her usual penetration.

    00:24

    Despite winning the disposal count by 32, Sydney still managed to lay a staggering 105 tackles to Gold Coast's 65.

    Kennedy not only put the clamps on Whitfort, but managed 22 touches of her own, while prolific Laura Gardiner had the better of her battle with Lucy Single, racking up 30 disposals that included seven clearances and nine tackles.

    The Suns battled hard, but once the ball got into space were left wanting for speed.

    Bohanna was magnificent in defeat, kicking her team's first four goals and presenting a great target all night.

    00:41

    One to watch
    If you haven’t seen much of young Swan Sofia Hurley, make it your business to watch her next weekend. The 19-year-old has had an excellent season, building nicely with starring performances against the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood in round eight and nine, but against the Suns, she went up a gear. She zipped in and out of traffic with ball in hand to link the midfield and forwards – with her deft pass to Aleisha Newman for a goal particularly clever. But aside from the 17 disposals, it was the 16 tackles that led Sydney's defensive effort and was so infectious.

    01:41

    Did you see that?
    It was a rough night for round 10 Rising Star nominee Darcie Davies. The young Sun battled to get involved early on and then wore a Sherrin to the face from close range as she stood the mark. The towering teenager clutched her nose and slowly made her way from the ground to be assessed.

    Darcie Davies grabs her face after being hit by a stray ball during the elimination final between Gold Coast and Sydney at Heritage Bank Stadium on November 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Up next
    Sydney will continue its incredible season with a trip to Adelaide's Norwood Oval next weekend to face the Crows in a semi-final. The winner there will advance to a preliminary final. For the Suns, it's the end of the road, and a season they can be proud of after winning six games and drawing one during the home and away season.

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    GOLD COAST       1.0     3.0     5.3     6.5 (41)
    SYDNEY                4.2     7.2     9.3     9.4 (58)

    GOALS
    Gold Coast: Bohanna 4, Dupuy, Girvan
    Sydney: Molloy 3, McEvoy 2, Whelan, Privitelli, Newman, Hamilton

    BEST 
    Gold Coast: Bohanna, Drennan, Keaney, Single
    Sydney: Molloy, Hurley, Kennedy, Gardiner, Ham, Hamilton

    INJURIES 
    Gold Coast: Nil
    Sydney: Privitelli (foot)

    Reports: Nil

    Crowd: 2,710 at Heritage Bank Stadium 

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