ONLY four rounds of the seventh AFLW home and away season remain, and some finals-shaping matchups are on the cards for this weekend. Richmond, Gold Coast, and the Western Bulldogs will look to keep places in the top eight alive, while North Melbourne and Brisbane will play in a game that will have implications for the top four. 

This weekend will also see the Hampson-Hardeman Cup handed out to either Melbourne or the Bulldogs in their annual match in the name of women's footy pioneers Barb Hampson and Lisa Hardeman.


St Kilda v Carlton at RSEA Park, 6.10pm AEDT

St Kilda and Carlton have faced off three times since the former joined the competition in 2020, with the latter claiming victory on every occasion. Last time they met – at Ikon Park in round seven last season – the Saints were held to just two points in a methodical performance by the Blues. This season is a very different prospect. Both teams have been hit heavily by injury and have faltered in recent weeks. The biggest out for St Kilda is ruck Erin McKinnon, who is still at least a week away from returning due to concussion, and given the form Breann Moody is in this season, that aerial contest is a key area that the Blues may get on top in.

The two sides have been playing contrasting game styles. Carlton has been able to win plenty of clearances – sitting third in the competition this season – but has struggled to turn that strength at the contest into attacking forays. St Kilda on the other hand hasn't been able to take control at stoppages, but thanks to a strong intercepting game has been able to average 26.8 inside 50s per game. In addition to this, the Saints have been a reliable pressure side, averaging 67.7 tackles per game, so should they be able to apply that pressure around the ball and disrupt Carlton's transition to outside ball, they will be in a winning position. 

Tip: The Saints will bag their first win over the Blues. St Kilda by three points. 


West Coast v Richmond at Mineral Resources Park, 5.10pm AWST

The Eagles are yet to beat the Tigers in their two meetings to date, despite both entering the competition in the same year. This season, although only claiming two wins to date, West Coast is averaging a club-high 27.7 points off the back of a more attacking style of play and rebuilt forward line. It's the other end of the ground, despite being a club-low they are conceding 39.7 points per game, which is where they have been caught out in recent losses. Richmond, however, has been operating quite differently. Although averaging 24.8 points for this season – 10 points fewer each week than last season – what it has specifically done is lock down in defence, conceding just 19.5 points a game. The Tigers are making it very, very hard for opponents to score. 

This one will be a clash of styles. West Coast looks to win it at the source thanks to the strength of Emma Swanson, Bella Lewis, and Sarah Lakay on the ball, and move into attack from there. Richmond instead is struggling to consistently win high clearance numbers, instead looking to intercept behind play and launch into attack from there. The question for its defensive line, however, is what the loss of Maddie Shevlin now does given it is already without Bec Miller, and Poppy Kelly's absence means Gabby Seymour is needed higher up the field. 

Tip: At home, the Eagles will push for their first ever win over the Tigers. West Coast by two points. 

Emma Swanson evades Jasmine Fleming during West Coast's clash against Hawthorn in round six, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos


Sydney v Gold Coast at Henson Park, 1.10pm AEDT

For Sydney, this game is about the small wins. Finding some control of the ball over extended periods of time, holding some territory advantage. The Swans are winning fewer disposals than any other side in the competition this season, averaging just 172.3 disposals per game, so this one is about getting back to the basics. Winning the ball, hitting up teammates, not panicking or rushing when in possession and, most importantly, playing four consistent quarters of footy. If they can do that, they will be well set up to take on the last month of the season. 

In comparison, for Gold Coast this is an opportunity to keep in touch with the top eight and potentially make its second ever finals series. The Suns are a strong intercept and clearance team – two areas that Sydney has really struggled with – so homing in on those two areas of the game should put them in a good position to register a big win. The combination of Charlie Rowbottom and Claudia Whitfort have the opportunity to really put their stamp on this game, winning it in the middle then propelling forward.

Tip: The Swans will look to bounce back on the scoreboard after a goalless performance last week, but it won't quite be enough. Gold Coast by 20 points. 

Charlie Rowbottom handballs during Gold Coast's clash against Richmond in round six, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Adelaide  v Fremantle at Unley Oval, 2.40PM ACDT

In the seventh battle between these two inaugural sides, Fremantle will be looking for its second win – both for the season and against Adelaide – while the Crows will be out to keep their momentum going after two huge wins on the trot. The Dockers have started to rediscover their brand of footy, which has made them far more competitive in recent weeks. In round six against a highly touted Melbourne outfit, they were in touch with the Dees early in the final quarter, before conceding four goals in 12 minutes to blow the margin out. Fremantle cannot afford to have a similar momentary lapse this weekend because Adelaide will punish it.  

The Crows are a fairly well-balanced team, using handballs to escape the contest then clean kicks to move into attack, with a 63 per cent/37 per cent kick to mark break down. By comparison, Fremantle is focused on gaining as much ground as possible with its disposal and while this is not a new strategy for the club, it has not been quite as effective this season as it has battled player availability and form issues. More than 70 per cent of the Dockers' disposals are kicks, but against Adelaide it can't just kick and hope, because the Crows will mop it up with ease.  

Tip: The Dockers will show some fight but won't be able to break past a rampaging Crows outfit. Adelaide by 25 points. 

Ash Woodland celebrates a goal during Adelaide's clash against Port Adelaide in round six, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

North Melbourne v Brisbane at Arden Street Oval, 5.10pm AEDT

Arguably game of the round given its implications on the top four, Brisbane will travel to Melbourne to face the Kangaroos just as they are hitting their straps. This will be the first game at the Roos' home of Arden Street this season, where they boast an 85.7 per cent win rate, their only loss at the venue coming in last season's qualifying final against Fremantle, while it will be the Lions' first game there. It is worth noting that in their two matchups to date, Brisbane has taken the points both times, averaging 42.5 points against the Roos and conceding an average of just 17. 

Both sides enjoyed big wins over expansion teams last week, which could have been significantly larger if they had been more efficient in front of goal. Greta Bodey and Jesse Wardlaw will be rueing hitting the post five times last week, while North Melbourne forward Tahlia Randall returned 3.3 in front of goal. Creating opportunities to score will not be either team's concern, but whoever can make the most of those chances will be in the box seat for a win. 

The return of Kate Lutkins couldn't have been better timed for the Lions, as the tall timber of North Melbourne's attack – particularly Randall and whichever of its rucks, either Emma King or Kim Rennie, choose to push forward – was a threat to Brisbane's defensive line. Lutkins looks likely to play as a defensive anchor, taking Randall who typically plays as the deepest forward for the Roos. The other key matchup will be through the ruck, with Tahlia Hickie coming off a career-best game and now set to face the King/Rennie combination. 

What the Kangaroos will likely be preparing for is the immense pressure Brisbane applies, not just in its forward half but right across the ground. The Lions are averaging 71.7 tackles this season – the second most in competition history – and a record 19.2 inside 50s, so the Roos cannot allow that to spook them, and this season they have been far more adept at winning ugly than they ever have in the past. 

Tip: The Kangaroos will be up for the fight but won't quite get their first win over the Lions. Brisbane by 10 points. 

Kate Lutkins in action for Brisbane against Essendon in round six, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hawthorn v Port Adelaide at Skybus Stadium, 7.10pm AEDT

In what is likely a surprise to most, Hawthorn comes into this game with two straight wins under its belt and sitting just above Port Adelaide on the ladder, albeit with a much lower percentage. Another plus for the Hawks is that they look likely to regain key playmaker Kaitlyn Ashmore for the clash, with her outside speed handy to support Aileen Gilroy and Tahlia Fellows' dash. 

Both Hawthorn and Port Adelaide are very high-pressure sides, averaging 73.5 and 71.7 tackles per game respectively so it is unlikely to be overly free flowing. There will be flashes of that outside movement when the likes of Gilroy or the Power's Ange Foley get ball in hand, but the majority of this game will be about pressuring the ball carrier and locking down movement. Given the two sides are very evenly matched in most areas, Port Adelaide's efficiency inside 50 will likely prove the difference, as it is marginally more adept at turning inside 50 entries into scores. 

Tip: The Hawks have been playing some clever footy of late, but the Power will just get over the top. Port Adelaide by five points. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Ange Foley of the Power kicks the ball during the 2022 S7 AFLW Round 03 match between the Carlton Blues and the Port Adelaide Power at Ikon Park on September 11, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)


Essendon v Geelong at Reid Oval, 1.10pm AEDT

These two teams will come into this game with very different mindsets. Essendon will be looking to bounce back from its biggest loss to date and rediscover its high scoring brand, while Geelong will be focused on maintaining the momentum it has generated in recent weeks. This one is likely to be swung by the clearance count. Geelong has proven it can be effective at the contest even without young star Georgie Prespakis, meanwhile Essendon will rely on winning clearances to protect its understrength backline. 

Without Ellyse Gamble, the Bombers' defence looks particularly vulnerable. Across the opening four rounds, Gamble played at least 93 per cent of game time each week, and in that time, Essendon conceded an average of 29.3 points per game, while scoring 48 of its own. Since Gamble has injured her calf, however, it is conceding 45 points each week and kicking only 17.5 at the other end. The Cats' forward duo of Chloe Scheer and Shelley Scott has proved to be particularly damaging in recent weeks, and they will be looking to exploit this weakness on Sunday. 

Tip: The Cats will keep on moving up the ladder. Geelong by 15 points. 

Chloe Scheer celebrates a goal during round six, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at Casey Fields, 3.10pm AEDT

This will be the seventh iteration of the Hampson-Hardeman Cup, and just the first where Melbourne plays hosts to the Western Bulldogs. The Demons will be delighted to head back to Casey Fields where they have a 78.3 per cent win rate and average a score of 43.5 points, right as the Bulldogs are being tested this season. The Dogs, who are yet to beat any side sitting higher than 13th on the ladder, have lost their last two games and will be desperate for another win to remain in the top eight. 

Melbourne is a high intercept team, with the likes of Sarah Lampard, Libby Birch and Tahlia Gillard patrolling that defence, so the Dogs need to be really considered about how they choose to move forward. Early in the season the Bulldogs were contested marking beasts, averaging 10.3 contested marks across the opening three rounds, but this has fallen away to 5.7 in the subsequent three weeks. Finding this strength in the air once more may just be the way to combat Melbourne's control of the contest. 

Tip: It will be a fierce fight between two genuine AFLW rivals, but the Demons will claim victory. Melbourne by 12 points. 

Sarah Lampard in action for Melbourne against North Melbourne in round two, S7, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Collingwood v Greater Western Sydney at Victoria Park, 5.10pm AEDT

These are two inaugural sides who have only played one another three times since the competition began, and have not met since round four, 2019. Greater Western Sydney boasts two wins to the Pies' one as they prepare to meet for the fourth time. This season, Collingwood's forward pressure has been immense, averaging 16.4 tackles inside 50 thanks to players like Eliza James and Chloe Molloy, but have let themselves down with poor accuracy at goal. Against a Giants defence that is without Pepa Randall, however, Collingwood will be looking to really take advantage. 

GWS is averaging just 20.2 clearances this season, 4.5 of which are Alyce Parker's, which presents as an opportunity for the emerging midfield group of Mikala Cann, Molloy and Tarni Brown to really get a handle on the Giants in the middle. Quick, fast clearances that catch the Giants' defenders one-on-one will spell danger for the visitors just as they are trying to get back on their feet.  

Tip: The Pies will even the ledger. Collingwood by 25 points.