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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Adelaide Crows v Sydney Swans
Semi Finals •
82 12.10
Full Time
15 2.3
Crows Won By 67

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    Crows v Swans SF preview: Can newcomers knock out heavyweights?

    Gemma Bastiani previews Saturday's semi-final between Adelaide and Sydney

    Niamh Kelly celebrates a goal in the qualifying final; and (R) Lisa Steane celebrates after the elimination final. Pictures: AFL Photos

    FOR JUST the second time in AFLW history, two clubs will play their first match against one another in a final when Adelaide and Sydney do battle on Saturday from 7.15pm ACDT. 

    The Crows, although coming off a narrow loss to Brisbane, will be chock full of confidence, while the Swans will look to ride the momentum they have gathered over the past month. 

    24:56

    Season so far 

    Adelaide 

    Adelaide has lost just two games this year, both to Brisbane by a combined five points. It has once again been a hugely dominant side, finishing the home and away season as minor premier. Often considered a strong clearance team, it is in fact the second phase of stoppages where the Crows really get to work, winning the footy and using it really cleanly to maintain possession. 

    Sydney 

    Sydney has famously gone from winless last season to winning a final this year. The Swans work exceptionally hard to control the outside ball, and remain calm and composed in the process. They will often look for aggressive run and carry through the middle of the ground, and utilising their speed in attack. 

    Dream match-up 

    Tanya Kennedy v Ebony Marinoff 

    The main question will be whether Kennedy is sent to Marinoff or Anne Hatchard, after repeatedly shutting down dangerous opposition midfielders. It is likely Marinoff will be selected given her ability to win the footy, generate clearance and then transition into attack. Depending on how Hatchard is tracking, however, a shift may be made. Another prolific ball winner at the Crows, Hatchard's spread away from the contest is particularly dangerous. 

    Tanya Kennedy and Lucy Single compete for the ball during the elimination final between Gold Coast and Sydney at Heritage Bank Stadium on November 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Players to watch 

    Caitlin Gould (Adelaide) 

    Coming off her only goalless game of the year, and held to only four disposals, Gould will be on a mission to return to her best this week. Likely to spend time battling it out with Alice Mitchell and Brenna Tarrant at different times, Gould has the height and ground-level athleticism to wreak some havoc. 

    00:46

    Lucy McEvoy (Sydney) 

    The Swans co-captain is very clever, and very skilful, so likely to be used in a few different ways as the game progresses. McEvoy can generate attacking chains from the back half, but also use her run to get back involved in passages of play higher up the ground and, as last week proved, even hit the scoreboard. 

    Lucy McEvoy in action during the AFLW R5 match between Sydney and Carlton at Ikon Park on September 29, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Where it will be won or lost 

    Prior to last week's loss to Brisbane, Adelaide was averaging a disposal efficiency of 66.2 per cent, meaning it has been able to win and control large portions of games. Against the Lions, however, the Crows conceded a season-high 89 tackles, leading to a season-low disposal efficiency of 60.9 per cent. This also bled into Adelaide's goal accuracy, converting just 38.5 per cent of its shots on goal, well below its home and away average of 53 per cent. 

    This small weak point is a positive sign for Sydney which laid an AFLW-record 106 tackles last week in its win over Gold Coast, and it is crucial the Swans bring that relentless defensive pressure for the full four quarters on Saturday. 

    02:12

    A concern for the Swans is if this pressure game falls down at any point, Adelaide will capitalise. Sydney is conceding an average of 33.3 inside 50s per game this year, including 36 last week, and a scoring efficiency of 45.9 per cent. Should the Crows find space and time in their attacking half, they will make short work of Sydney's defence with the likes of Gould, Eloise Jones, Danielle Ponter and Yvonne Bonner all dangerous in front of goal. 

    At the other end of the ground, Sydney will be without forward 50 focal point Bec Privitelli due to a Lisfranc injury, leaving a big hole in the side's attacking structure. Montana Ham could potentially spend more time as that taller marking target, while the speed of Cynthia Hamilton, Chloe Molloy, Aliesha Newman and Brooke Lochland becomes the visitors' most dangerous asset. 

    All hail Hatchard as Crows dismantle Swans to storm into prelim

    Adelaide kept its season alive with its 67-point victory over Sydney

    Anne Hatchard celebrates a goal during the semi-final match between Adelaide and Sydney at Norwood Oval on November 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    SYDNEY'S fairytale second AFLW season has come to an end at the hands of a rampaging Adelaide outfit led by gun midfielder Anne Hatchard, the Crows asserting their authority with a thumping 67-point semi-final victory.

    The Crows led for the entirety of the game, kicking six goals across the middle two terms in the 12.10 (82) to 2.3 (15) victory in front of a pumping home crowd at Norwood Oval. 

    CROWS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats

    The result means Adelaide will face North Melbourne in a preliminary final – the Crows' fifth in the six seasons preliminary finals have been scheduled, including the cancelled 2020 matches – while the Swans' season finishes in fifth or sixth place, a far cry from last year's winless result.

    05:26

    The ball lived in Adelaide's forward 50 in the first quarter with a 13-2 count, but Sydney did incredibly well to restrict the Crows to 2.2 with the same fierce intensity the team displayed against Gold Coast last weekend.

    But the Swans' issue was getting enough ball forward of centre to attack their own goals, a forward line already hamstrung by the absence of sole spearhead Bec Privitelli, who suffered a Lisfranc injury last week.

    The Crows were content to let Chloe Molloy push into the midfield as a spare around the ball, earning themselves a floating intercept defender – usually Zoe Prowse – in return.

    00:48

    Adelaide certainly couldn't flick the ball around by hand with impunity, with Sydney keen to shut down the outlet handball at all costs.

    But the bigger Crows bodies – with some now in their eighth AFLW season, compared to most Swans in their second – often proved to be the difference in the stoppages.

    00:37

    The middle two quarters were where Adelaide put its foot down on the scoreboard as Jess Allan found ascendancy in the ruck, finding plenty of width in the narrow confines of Norwood as Sydney lost its shape somewhat.

    Pressure forward Jess Waterhouse returned with a bang after being overlooked last weekend, capping off a strong game with an outstanding bouncing effort while running towards the boundary.

    00:41

    Laura Gardiner battled hard but was somewhat down on her usual outstanding output this season, while defender Ella Heads was steady and Brenna Tarrant took a few strong intercept marks.

    The Swans midfield lost some grunt when Aimee Whelan (bicep) was a late withdrawal before the game.

    Hatchy's house
    Sydney attempted to send Tanya Kennedy to Marinoff in the first half, but had no player that could match Hatchard for all four quarters. The Swans tagger was swung onto Hatchard in the fourth quarter, but by then she had recorded 30 disposals and kicked two goals. She became the first AFLW player to reach the combined tally in a final, and also set the record for most disposals in a final with 37.

    02:47

    One tall forward short
    An additional key forward may be top of the shopping list for next season for Sydney. The Swans were already running with a relatively short forward line, preferring plenty of speed at ground level, but were only able to replace Privitelli with Montana Beruldsen (169cm), with Lexi Hamilton needed in the ruck. Montana Ham spent some time forward, but her bigger frame was needed against the Adelaide midfielders.

    Montana Ham tackles Anne Hatchard during the semi-final match between Adelaide and Sydney at Norwood Oval on November 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Up next
    Adelaide will travel to Melbourne to face North Melbourne at Ikon Park, while it's season over for Sydney.

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    ADELAIDE       2.2    5.5    8.5    12.10 (82)
    SYDNEY          1.0    2.0    2.3    2.3 (15)

    GOALS
    Adelaide
    : Hatchard 2, Randall 2, Bonner 2, Waterhouse 2, Gould, Bonner, Ponter, Jones 
    Sydney: Newman, Molloy 

    BEST
    Adelaide:
    Hatchard, Marinoff, Randall, J. Allan, Ponter, Kelly 
    Sydney:
    Gardiner, Molloy, Heads, Tarrant 

    INJURIES
    Adelaide:
    Nil 
    Sydney:
    Nil 

    LATE CHANGES
    Adelaide: Nil
    Sydney: Aimee Whelan, replaced in the selected side by Paige Sheppard

    Reports: Nil 

    Crowd: 4,688 at Norwood Oval

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