Chelsea Randall tackles Eden Zanker during round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ADELAIDE has been the benchmark of the AFLW since the competition started, winning three flags before most teams even qualified for a finals place, but this year all the focus has been on reigning premier Melbourne. 

Heading into round six, the Demons and Crows were the only undefeated sides, both setting new records in various areas this year, but Melbourne's attacking prowess and 14-game winning streak had it framed as the unbeatable team. 

But Adelaide went to work on how the Demons want to play and developed a gameplan to do what no-one else has done in 415 days: defeat Melbourne. 


Bring the pressure 

Adelaide's 87 tackles laid on Saturday is the most Melbourne has conceded since the 2022 season six preliminary final, with the metric evidence of the wall-to-wall pressure the Crows applied across the game.  

As a result of such intense pressure, Melbourne was held to its lowest disposal efficiency since that same game, using the ball at just 54.3 per cent efficiency on Saturday afternoon at Casey Fields.  

The Dees succumb to the pressure 


Tackles conceded 

Disposal Efficiency (%)

v ADL, R6 2023



Avg 2023 Rs 1-5 




The pressure worked not only to shut down the Demons' ball movement, but also worried a typically slick, skilful side into uncharacteristic errors. Dropped marks, missed handballs, and errant kicks are usually rarely seen from the Dees this year, but Adelaide made it a feature. 

Ebony Marinoff's 13 tackles and Teah Charlton's 12 set the standard, but seven different Crows laid five or more for the game.  

Rachelle Martin tackles Shelley Heath during round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Play keepings off 

Another part of that pressure game was taking away Melbourne's ability to win uncontested possession, that is their ability to get the ball into open space without pressure from an opposition player.

The Demons lost the uncontested possession count by 53, the first time they have lost the metric since round seven of season six, and their biggest losing differential of the statistic in the club's history. 

This uncontested possession count goes hand-in-hand with Melbourne recording its lowest disposal count of the year at just 219. This is also the biggest losing differential in club history. 

Melbourne in possession 


Uncontested Possessions 

Uncontested Possession Differential 


Disposal Differential 

v ADL, R6 2023





Avg 2023 Rs 1-5 






Coming into the game, Melbourne was averaging 279.8 disposals per game, but Adelaide took this high disposal rate away. If the Demons don't have the ball, they can't control the play. 

Eden Zanker looks dejected after a loss during round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

No time or space in attack 

Melbourne's forward line has been so potent this year thanks to its patience and spread of goalkickers, but this was another thing Adelaide refused to allow. By way of the Crows' pressure game and ability to dominate possession, the Demons were unable to find that composed attacking game that has served them so well this season. 


Only two Demons were able to hit the scoreboard, albeit Eden Zanker did slot a career-high five goals, well below the side's average 6.6 goalkickers over the opening five rounds. 

With a well-organised defensive line and by applying pressure on the ball coming into its back 50, Adelaide was able to hold Melbourne to its lowest shot efficiency of the season, taking a shot at goal from just 39.3 per cent of its inside 50s. 

This was partly due to the Crows not allowing Melbourne to take marks inside 50, and as a result holding the home side to its first scoreless quarter and lowest score of the year. 

A not-so-potent forward line 


Points For 

Marks Inside 50 


Shot Efficiency (%)

v ADL, R6 2023



Avg 2023 Rs 1-5 






Kate Hore was held goalless for the first time this season, while none of Alyssa Bannan, Lily Mithen or Tayla Harris were able to impact the scoreboard.  

Zoe Prowse and Tayla Harris compete for the ball during round six, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Have an attacking midfield 

The two best players on the ground, Adelaide's Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard, won just six clearances between them for the game. But their role wasn't to get first hands on the footy, it was to spread aggressively from the contest to really force the Demons' midfielders to defend. 

Hatchard won 32 disposals, had 313m gained and kicked two goals, becoming the first player in AFLW history to win 30 or more disposals and kick two or more goals in a game. Meanwhile Marinoff nearly reached the same heights with 27 disposals, 436m gained and two goals of her own. 

Knowing that their direct opponents would be drawn to the ball, Marinoff and Hatchard did their work outside the contest and into attack, finding the space and time Melbourne so craved. 

The pair played a significant role in generating Adelaide's 11 marks inside 50, the equal-most conceded by Melbourne in its AFLW history. The Demons' backline generally likes to defend high up the ground and starve their opposition of opportunities to score, but thanks to the standard set by Marinoff and Hatchard, that backline was forced into an uncomfortable position: defending one-on-one. 


Most importantly, the Crows were able to score against Melbourne in the last quarter. Something no side has been able to do in that same 415 day period. Although the Demons kicked four goals in the fourth term to narrow the margin, Adelaide kept them at an arm's length with two goals of its own. 

Despite the significant beating on the stats sheet and opened up in ways it hasn't been for a long, long time, Melbourne lost by just 10 points. A narrow enough margin to turn it around come an inevitable finals match-up against Adelaide next month.  

But what the Crows have done is hand a blueprint to the rest of the competition. A blueprint that shows how to beat the Demons.