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2023 NAB AFLW Season 8
Kangaroos v Adelaide Crows
Preliminary Finals •
32 4.8
Full Time
31 4.7
Kangaroos Won By 1

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    Kangaroos v Crows PF preview: Big guns face off for place in the decider

    Gemma Bastiani previews Sunday's preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide

    Emma King, Kate Shierlaw and Taylah Gatt celebrate a goal for North Melbourne; Chelsea Randall and Jess Waterhouse celebrate a goal for Adelaide. Pictures: AFL Photos

    BOTH of last season's preliminary final losers will face off in an attempt to reach the Grand Final. For Adelaide, it would be a fifth Grand Final appearance should it win, while home team North Melbourne is just one victory away from its first AFLW decider. 

    The Roos and Crows played off in a thriller in round nine, with a late Niamh Kelly goal breaking the hearts of North Melbourne fans everywhere, but in finals, everything changes. 

    24:47

    Season so far 

    North Melbourne 

    It seems like the Roos finally believe they can do it, that they can be Grand Finalists and even premiers. There is a different air around the side, and now as it hits its best form at the right time, it will take confidence out of a significant 41-point win over Melbourne in the qualifying final. North Melbourne looks its best when generating powerful clearance and giving its forwards opportunities in the one-on-one, and it has the star power to get the game on its terms. 

    Adelaide  

    Against Sydney last week the Crows flexed their muscles, playing an impressive four-quarter performance that coach Matthew Clarke deemed their most complete of the season to date. Boasting stars on all lines, it is the chemistry between them that has made Adelaide so dominant this year, while regularly unearthing or inventing more talent to support the big names. 

    Dream match-up 

    Kim Rennie v Jess Allan 

    Both rucks stood strong for their respective side in their most recent final, not only offering strength at the tap but then proving the extra strings to their bow. Rennie's contested and intercept marking against Melbourne was a real feature, getting back into defence to support the backline in the air, taking big grabs at crucial moments.   

    Meanwhile Allan's connection with her midfielders was on show against Sydney, allowing the Crows quick, clean exits from stoppage to get the ball moving into attack.  

    01:53

    Both will want to provide defensive coverage for their side at times given their aerial strength, and both will spend time resting forward. The key question becomes whether they work to remain accountable to one another throughout the game, or move to become damaging in their own way and risking the other having an impact elsewhere. 

    Players to watch 

    Tahlia Randall (North Melbourne) 

    Just like the Kangaroos as a whole, Randall will have built a heap of confidence from the win over Melbourne a fortnight ago. Randall's three goals in that game showed off her broad range of assets. Pure strength in forward ruck contests to pluck the ball out of the air and slam through goals is one thing the Crows will have to defend fiercely, but also Randall's ability to mark both on the lead and in contested situations makes her particularly difficult to contain. 

    00:33

    Niamh Kelly (Adelaide) 

    The matchwinner when they met in round nine, Niamh Kelly is another player who can do some damage due to her sheer workrate. With an impressive combination of speed and strength, Kelly is often involved in passages of play more than once, covering a lot of ground at a high speed. Whoever her direct opponent is cannot have any lapses in concentration, because Kelly will take advantage of that and sneak forward to hit the scoreboard, or move to a dangerous position to provide the Crows with a neat link. 

    02:53

    Where it will be won or lost 

    Statistically both North Melbourne and Adelaide have similar profiles. High-disposal, high-kicking teams who boast star-studded midfields and multiple avenues to attack. They are also the two tightest defensive teams this season, although with just 20.2 points conceded per week, North Melbourne is nearly two goals tighter than the Crows.  

    There are two key areas where the sides differ somewhat significantly. For the Kangaroos, strength at stoppages and their clearance numbers have been strong all year, averaging a record 32 clearances. From this stoppage control, the Roos have been able to find some forward territory from which they have built their reliable team defence. 

    02:43

    For the Crows, however, it is about their forward efficiency. Kicking a goal from nearly a quarter of their inside 50s, largely thanks to their AFLW-record goal accuracy of 50.5 per cent, they are super dangerous once in attack.  

    Amid it all, this game is likely to come down to each team's big-game players. The stars who lift when the win is up for grabs. The Garners, the Marinoffs, the Riddells, the Hatchards. This is a game for big moments.

    Roos edge Crows in thriller to book maiden GF spot

    North Melbourne will play Brisbane in next week's NAB AFLW Grand Final after its one-point preliminary final win over Adelaide

    North Melbourne players celebrate as the final siren sounds after the preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide at Ikon Park on November 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    NORTH Melbourne has broken through for its maiden NAB AFLW Grand Final, clinging on tough in the final minutes to defeat Adelaide by just one point in a nailbiting preliminary final.

    It was a see-sawing affair, with an outrageous screamer and goal by Anne Hatchard cutting the margin to one point with around 2.30 left on the clock, but the Roos held on for dear life in the 4.8 (32) to 4.7 (31) triumph.

    KANGAROOS v CROWS Full match coverage and stats

    North Melbourne took a three-point lead into the final break and attacked the goals for the first 10 minutes of the last quarter, kicking four straight behinds, to the agony of their raucous fans.

    Roos fans had seen this film before, and they didn't like the previous viewing's ending.

    But this version of North women is made of sterner stuff, locking the ball up forward for the final few minutes – Emma King even launching a torp from 50m after a vicious tackle on Sarah Allan.

    05:30

    North Melbourne had the better of the opening term, two of its three tall forwards in Tahlia Randall and Kate Shierlaw kicking truly after the ball spent much of the term in the Roos' half.

    01:30

    Jasmine Garner found a rare bit of space 20m from goal on the tightest of angles in a defensive lapse from Adelaide, booting another major to build out to a two-goal buffer.

    Adelaide peppered for the remainder of the quarter, but were unable to work their way past the final line of the Roos' defence, with Jasmine Ferguson and Sarah Wright standing tall as the Crows went to the break with 1.5 in the books.

    Ponter's second came minutes after the half-time break, cutting the margin to just three points, and her third – five minutes later – gave Adelaide the lead for the first time since the opening minute.

    00:47

    While in the first half North Melbourne had applied plenty of that scintillating pressure it produced in its qualifying final against Melbourne, Adelaide began to tighten the screws as the Roos faltered, unable to maintain the rage.

    Ultimately, inaccuracy cost Adelaide, but it was a brave performance and another fine season from the minor premier and perennial powerhouse of the AFLW.

    00:39

    Stevie-Lee Thompson found a stack of footy on the wing, with 16 touches to the main break (but only one in the final term), Ebony Marinoff worked her guts out in the midfield with 12 tackles and Chelsea Biddell was composed in defence.

    03:46

    Barnstorming Bruton saves the day
    Garner, Ash Riddell and to a lesser extent, Mia King, have won all the midfield plaudits this year, but it was the ever-unheralded Jenna Bruton who starred in the third term. The diminutive midfielder dragged North Melbourne back into the game after Adelaide had taken control, recording 13 disposals and four inside 50s for the 20-minute term, her hard work leading directly to Randall's second major.

    Jenna Bruton tackles Madison Newman during the preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide at Ikon Park on November 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

    A touch of class from Ponter
    Ponter kicked all three of Adelaide's goals, and for a while there, it looked like North Melbourne had simply no answer for her class and footy nous. Her contested marking was outstanding in front of goal, she was sharp on the snap and all of this was done while playing as a midfielder and pushing into attack.

    00:36

    Up next
    North Melbourne will face Brisbane in the Grand Final, to be held at 2.30pm on Sunday December 3 at Ikon Park, while it's season over for Adelaide.

    ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS

    NORTH MELBOURNE       2.1    3.2    4.4   4.8 (32)
    ADELAIDE                        1.2    1.5    3.7   4.7 (31) 

    GOALS
    North Melbourne:
    Randall 2, Shierlaw, Garner
    Adelaide: Ponter 3, Hatchard

    BEST
    North Melbourne: Bruton, Garner, Riddell, Pullar, Wright
    Adelaide: Marinoff, Ponter, Thompson, Biddell, Hatchard

    INJURIES
    North Melbourne: Nil
    Adelaide: Nil

    Crowd: 5,163 at Ikon Park

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