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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Geelong Cats v Essendon
Finals Week 1 •
51 7.9
Full Time
33 5.3
Cats Won By 18

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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.

    Bombers' fightback falls short as Cats hold on to stay in finals hunt

    Geelong is through to next week's semi-final after it recorded a 18-point win over Essendon

    Georgie Prespakis celebrates kicking a goal during the elimination final between Geelong and Essendon at GMHBA Stadiumon November 12, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

    GEELONG won an AFLW final for the first time in its history, outworking and outclassing Essendon to secure an 18-point elimination final win on Sunday afternoon. 

    The Cats started like a house on fire, booting three goals in the opening eight minutes of the match to set up the 7.9 (51) to 5.3 (33) victory at GMHBA Stadium.

    CATS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

    Essendon mounted an impressive fightback in the final term, reducing the 38-point three-quarter time margin, but ultimately fell short by 18 points.

    05:51

    Young Cat Georgie Prespakis was the star of the show, amassing 23 disposals and a goal throughout the contest. Her ability to extract the ball at the source and then burst out of stoppage with speed was a sight to behold.  

    The Bombers looked stunned early in what was the club's first AFLW final in just their second season, and Geelong capitalised on its early dominance.  

    The Cats were too strong across the ground, winning the disposal count (250-201), inside 50s (35-24) and contested possessions (103-97). They also had the ascendancy in the uncontested possession count (+40), with the Cats holding their shape well at the contest.  

    Bombers young gun Amber Clarke was stretchered off the ground with a suspected concussion in the opening term, but returned to the contest after passing a head injury assessment. 

    00:46

    Essendon hit the scoreboard early in the second quarter after Sophie Alexander was walked to the goal square following a 50m penalty, but the Cats put any hint of a Bombers surge to bed, booting four of the next five goals.  

    Amy McDonald (21 disposals, 11 tackles) was outstanding for the Cats and Nina Morrison (20 disposals) provided strong support to Prespakis and McDonald around the ground. 

    00:29

    Becky Webster was terrific in defence, constantly repelling any Geelong forays forward, and finished with 23 possessions. 

    Georgia Nanscawen (21 disposals, eight tackles) tried hard all day for the Bombers, whilst co-captain Bonnie Toogood (19 disposals, seven marks) also worked tirelessly. 

    00:55

    The Prespakis Cup 
    The battle of the Prespakis sisters has become one of the most exciting battles on the AFLW calendar, and it's advantage Georgie after the Cats tipped the ledger 2-1 in their favour. Maddy kicked a superb goal on the run in the second quarter and added a second as a consolation prize in the fourth. Despite being one of the Bombers' best, Maddy's 20-disposal performance was overshadowed by her younger sister's brilliant outing. Georgie had a best-on-ground performance to propel her side into the semi-final and looms as the potential match-winner next weekend.

    00:38

    Moloney magic
    Irishwoman Aishling Moloney showed she is made for the big stage. Moloney stepped up in a big way after superstar forward Chloe Scheer was ruled out of the contest late in the first term. She booted two goals and had 18 disposals, but it was her aerial prowess that concerned the Bombers defenders the most. Moloney took eight marks and was lively inside the forward half. Playing in her first AFLW final in just her first season, the Tipperary product highlighted why the Cats were so excited when she signed as an Other Sport Rookie ahead of the 2023 season. The Cats will be sweating on the fitness of Scheer ahead of the semi-final but either way, expect Moloney to have a big say in who wins that contest.  

    01:41

    Up next
    Geelong will continue its quest for a premiership when they take on either Melbourne or North Melbourne in a semi-final next week, with the winner of that clash to advance to a preliminary final. For the Bombers, its season over, but there were plenty of positives to come out of a 6-4 season, where they secured a finals finish in just their second season in the competition. 

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    GEELONG         3.4    7.7    7.9    7.9 (51)
    ESSENDON       0.1    2.1    2.1    5.3 (33)

    GOALS
    Geelong
    : A. Moloney 2, Parry, Scheer, Crockett-Grills, A. McDonald, G. Prespakis 
    Essendon: M. Prespakis 2, Alexander, Toogood, Gamble 

    BEST
    Geelong:
    G. Prespakis, A. McDonald, A. Moloney, Webster, Morrison, Parry
    Essendon: M. Prespakis, Nanscawen, Toogood, Alexander 

    INJURIES
    Geelong:
     Scheer (shoulder) 
    Essendon: Nil 

    Reports: Nil 

    Crowd: 6,678 at GMHBA Stadium

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