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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Brisbane Lions v Geelong Cats
Preliminary Finals •
38 6.2
Full Time
34 5.4
Lions Won By 4

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    Lions v Cats PF preview: Will Brisbane reach yet another GF?

    Gemma Bastiani previews Saturday night's preliminary final between Brisbane and Geelong

    Dakota Davidson celebrates a goal for Brisbane, and Amy McDonald celebrates a goal for Geelong. Pictures: AFL Photos

    BRISBANE and Geelong will meet for the first time in 666 days, this time in the highest stakes game between the two with a Grand Final spot on the line.

    The Lions will host, refreshed after the week off thanks to an impressive win over Adelaide in the qualifying final, while Geelong is riding the momentum of its first two finals wins. 

    24:47

    Season so far 

    Brisbane

    The 2021 premier has become known this year for bringing its best footy against the best sides, as the only team to remain unbeaten against all of its fellow finalists. This preliminary final berth has come off the back of significant restructuring with some key players no longer at the club, but through trial and error the Lions have once again established themselves as one of the best sides in the competition. 

    Geelong 

    Midway through the season Geelong looked a little shaky. With plenty of expectation on the side after last season's finals qualification, back-to-back losses to Melbourne and Essendon across rounds five and six put it in a precarious position. But now the Cats are hitting their straps at the right time, riding the high of finals wins over those same two teams, they are now a genuine force to be reckoned with. 

    Amy McDonald celebrates a goal during the semi-final between Melbourne and Geelong at Ikon Park on November 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Dream match-up 

    Sophie Conway v Mikayla Bowen 

    Both Conway and Bowen have been immense for their respective team this season working out on the wing. And their impact in that role is crucial to the style that each of Brisbane and Geelong want to play. 

    Conway's ability to hit the scoreboard has been super damaging, with 12 goals this year to date, while she is also averaging 14.8 disposals and 325 metres gained. Meanwhile, Bowen's ability to cover the ground, combined with her 4.3 tackles per game, will offer the Cats some handy defensive coverage for Brisbane's outside runners. 

    02:25

    Players to watch 

    Courtney Hodder (Brisbane) 

    Hodder has been deployed in a slightly different role this season, playing further out from goal and even spending more time through the midfield. As a result, her five goals may seem underwhelming, but she is the standard setter in Brisbane's forward half. Averaging 7.5 tackles per game, 3.3 of which are inside 50, Hodder exemplifies the Lion's forward pressure game. 

    Courtney Hodder in action during Brisbane's clash against Gold Coast in round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Becky Webster (Geelong) 

    Having gone from a regular midfielder to now a role at half-back, Webster has been a key connector between the lines. Offering attacking drive out of the back half, her physical presence offers plenty in terms of defensive pressure, but that powerful rebound has become a hallmark of not only Webster's, but Geelong's style of play. Averaging 3.4 inside 50s, 4.9 intercepts and 310.7 metres gained, she has found a balance between her defence and attacking mindsets and regularly launches attack for the Cats. 

    Rebecca Webster and Kate Darby celebrate after Geelong's semi-final win over Melbourne at Ikon Park on November 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    Where it will be won or lost 

    It will be crucial for Geelong to get scoreboard pressure on early, given its trend of starting strongly and slowly fading as games wear on. Last week this was particularly evident, dominating the opening three quarters only to concede five goals in the final term and win by five points in a heartstopper. 

    If Brisbane can limit the Cats' avenues to goal early in the game, then get the play going its way for the remainder, it will be in the box seat to take the win. 

    Both teams work hard to apply forward pressure, but it's something the Lions have really built an identity and pride around. The Lions average a record 17 tackles inside 50, while the Cats aren't too far behind with 15.3 per game. Off the back of that pressure, Brisbane is marginally more effective once inside 50, largely thanks to its goal accuracy of 43.3 per cent, so the longer the Lions spend in attack, the more dangerous it gets for Geelong. 

    The Cats want to use a running defence, with Webster, Chantel Emonson and even Georgie Rankin offering really aggressive rebound. They will generally find centre clearances out the back of the stoppage, from which they have those rebounding runners to help sling the ball forward.

    Here we go again: Lions into fifth GF, Cats' flag dream over

    Brisbane has reached a fifth AFLW Grand Final after holding on in an epic clash with Geelong

    Jade Ellenger, Shannon Campbell and Poppy Boltz celebrate a goal during the preliminary final between Brisbane and Geelong at Brighton Homes Arena on November 25, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    SHANNON Campbell proved to be Brisbane's hometown hero after putting her side into a fifth NAB AFLW Grand Final with a four-point victory over a spirited Geelong on Saturday evening. 

    But the Lions will be sweating on scans for star forward Dakota Davidson, who left the field in the third quarter with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

    LIONS v CATS Full match coverage and stats

    In her absence, Campbell was thrown forward and ultimately kicked the final goal of the game to put Brisbane in front with five minutes to go.  

    The 6.2 (38) to 5.4 (34) victory came after a persistent Geelong remained a threat until the last siren. 

    00:52

    The home side led for much of the game but found itself on the back foot early in the last quarter by way of an Aishling Moloney goal out the back.

    Young gun Belle Dawes was immense through the middle for Brisbane, with 22 disposals, 13 tackles and nine clearances for the evening, while Orla O'Dwyer's aggressive run on the wing bore 21 disposals, 556 metres gained and a goal in an important performance. 

    Brisbane's ability to defend the full width of the ground really hurt the Cats. There was no clear opportunity to switch the footy to the open side or pick off a neat kick into the corridor because the Lions were covering the ground too well. 

    06:01

    Cathy Svarc (12 disposals, 10 tackles), although not playing any specific tagging role, spent the evening causing havoc for Geelong's gun midfield trio of Amy McDonald, Nina Morrison and Georgie Prespakis. Her ability to quickly shut down space to apply pressure was getting under Geelong's skin, as she restricted clean breakaway from congestion.  

    But it was when the Cats were able to find that small margin of space around the contest that they got on top. With Prespakis propelling the ball forward, Geelong was then able to put the Lions' defence under pressure, allowing Jackie Parry (two goals, seven disposals) to use her strength in front of goal. 

    00:41

    Prespakis (21 disposals, six clearances) worked her way into the game, while Morrison (nine clearances, 20 disposals) picked up where she left off last week. 

    The sides traded goals throughout the second and third quarters. Geelong looked threatening throughout the third term, trapping Brisbane in its defensive pocket, but the visitors simply couldn't turn that into scoreboard pressure. 

    Inaugural Cat Renee Garing bids goodbye to AFLW with the loss, having announced her retirement earlier this year. Garing played 33 games, returning this season after giving birth to her son last year. 

    Pain for Daks 
    Late in the third term as Brisbane spearhead Dakota Davidson was working to apply a strong tackle deep in attack, she unfortunately came off second best, injuring her left knee. Spending a lot of time on the deck before hobbling off with trainers, Davidson was distraught on the bench and ultimately ruled out for the remainder of the game. As Brisbane's leading goalkicker this season, and main target in attack, the club will be sweating on her availability for next week's Grand Final. 

    01:45

    Scheer's alright 
    With an injury cloud coming into the game after fracturing her collarbone in Geelong's elimination final win over Essendon a fortnight ago, Chloe Scheer proved to the world that she was fully fit. Firstly by taking down Jen Dunne in a strong tackle to test out her collarbone, before dobbing a casual goal around the body from 45m the following quarter. 

    00:46

    Up next 
    Brisbane will play its fifth Grand Final in eight AFLW seasons, continuing an impressive run of success. Where the game will be played is still unknown, depending on Sunday's match between North Melbourne and Adelaide. Should the Crows get up, the Lions will host a second consecutive Grand Final at their home of Brighton Homes Arena. For Geelong, it's season over, after its most successful campaign yet. 

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    BRISBANE                   2.1    4.2    5.2   6.2 (38) 
    GEELONG                    0.1    3.3    4.4   5.4 (34) 

    GOALS   
    Brisbane: Davidson 2, Hodder, Mullins, O'Dwyer, Campbell,  
    Geelong: Parry 2, Scheer, Scott, A.Moloney 

    BEST   
    Brisbane: Anderson, O'Dwyer, Ellenger, Dawes, C.Svarc, Koenen 
    Geelong: Prespakis, D.Moloney, Morrison, Kearns, Gunjaca 

    INJURIES   
    Brisbane: Davidson (left knee) 
    Geelong: Nil 

    Crowd: 4,903 at Brighton Homes Arena 

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