INDIGENOUS Round kicks off this weekend, set to span the next fortnight, and there are some finals-shaping games on the horizon.
The final state-based rivalry will take place on Saturday between Brisbane and Gold Coast, while traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood will go head-to-head in a game that is up for grabs for either team.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13
Adelaide v Western Bulldogs at Norwood Oval, 6:45pm ACDT
The Crows and the Bulldogs have a strange old history against one another, playing five times, with Adelaide on top with three wins. The only two times where the Dogs have won, however, have been in seasons where the Crows have gone on to win the flag: 2019 and 2022 (season six). They come into this game as the only undefeated side and only winless side of the season, but the Bulldogs will take heed in the fact that they were the last team to beat Adelaide at Norwood Oval.
The Crows are averaging both more disposals and more tackles than their opponents this year, and this high-pressure game will worry the Dogs, who will struggle to get their hands on the footy. The Dogs are allowing their opponents to win a heap of uncontested possession this year, while also averaging a record 67 turnovers themselves. As a result, the Western Bulldogs' only chance is to find powerful, attacking clearances that don't allow the Crows to close them down for space and time. Generating this aggressive, attacking game requires strength at the contest, and without Deanna Berry in the midfield for the Dogs, that becomes even more difficult.
Tip: Things continue to get harder for the Bulldogs. Adelaide by 40 points.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14
St Kilda v Greater Western Sydney at RSEA Park, 1:05pm AEDT
The Saints are yet to best the Giants in their two meetings, albeit came agonisingly close the last time they played, becoming the first team to lose due to a goal kicked after the siren. But the Saints are currently on a three-game winning streak and will be desperate to continue that success. GWS, however, will be without emerging ruck Fleur Davies due to suspension, so must adapt at ground level with less strength in the air.
Both teams want to attack quickly and with aggression with run, and this can result in rushed ball use and turnovers, but at their best are able to produce great, entertaining football. There will no doubt be patches of messy football and patches of exciting dash through the middle. What is a concern, however, is how both teams fall away significantly late in games. Having won one final quarter between them – St Kilda's impressive come-from-behind victory against the Magpies – it will be all about who can go the distance on Saturday afternoon.
Tip: They got their first win last week, but it won't be two in a row for the Giants. St Kilda by 10 points.
Geelong v Walyalup at GMHBA Stadium, 3:05pm AEDT
After a strong start to the season, the Cats have been underwhelming in the last fortnight, losing both games and seemingly figured out by other sides. A win at home against Walyalup on Saturday afternoon is vital should they remain in touch with a genuine finals spot. The Cats really want to find that clean, outside ball and cut through opposition sides with neat kicks into attack, giving their forward options best chance to attack the footy. What Walyalup is very good at, however, is forcing the contest.
Generating a stoppage-heavy game, trapping the Cats in small spaces, is something the Dockers can do to worry them into using the ball poorly and taking away their best players' best assets. Meanwhile for the Cats, shutting down Aine Tighe's influence in attack for Walyalup is crucial in limiting its forward line output. Starting well will be crucial for both teams, as they do the bulk of their attacking early, and if the Cats can do plenty of damage on the scoreboard in the first half, it will be unlikely that the Dockers will be able to chase that down.
Tip: Walyalup will try to make it a scrap, but won't be able to do it for long enough. Geelong by 15 points.
Sydney v Hawthorn at Henson Park, 3:05pm AEDT
In Sydney's Marn Grook game, it will be looking to rectify its season seven loss to the Hawks. The Swans have improved significantly since that round five game last year, while Hawthorn has also made strides, meaning this weekend's battle will be a showing of just how far each have come. Sydney wants to be an uncontested ball team, requiring patience, repeat efforts, and composure with ball in hand, and with its record average 82.5 tackles per game the Hawks will be doing everything in their power to disrupt this.
Hawthorn wants to create a contest and attack quickly from turnover, thriving in the space it creates up forward. For this reason it is vital the Swans maintain discipline in their structures behind play, and not have their defenders drawn up to the footy. In addition, it is likely Swans tough nut Tanya Kennedy will spend at least some game time working to shut down Hawks star Emily Bates through the middle of the ground, given how prolific Bates has been at the contest this season.
Tip: The Swans will get one back. Sydney by five points.
Gold Coast v Brisbane at Heritage Bank Stadium, 4:05pm AEST
Coming into the fifth QClash, Gold Coast and Brisbane sit even on points, separated only by percentage on the ladder. It is the most even the sides have ever been leading into the rivalry game, despite having drawn in the inaugural edition back in 2020. In the subsequent three games, Brisbane has won by an average of 68.3 points. The Lions will be smarting after giving up the game last week to Collingwood, largely through poor conversion in front of goal, while the Suns are riding high thanks to a last-gasp win over the Tigers.
While the midfield battle will be fascinating, with Ally Anderson, Cathy Svarc and Belle Dawes going head-to-head with Charlie Rowbottom, Claudia Whitfort and Lucy Single, it is the ability of each defensive line to nullify contested marking that will decide the game. At one end, Dakota Davidson is leading the competition for contested marks this season, having a strong year as the Lions' main forward target, and Jac Dupuy and Tara Bohanna at the other end of the ground present a challenge for Brisbane's undersized defence.
The Suns are yet to win a tackle count this season, and have shown they can stand up to fair levels of pressure and still take the points but, like Adelaide in round five, Brisbane is a different proposition when it comes to pressure. For that reason, Gold Coast might struggle to claim its first win over the Lions, but it will certainly narrow the margin.
Tip: It won't quite be the Suns' day. Brisbane by 14 points.
Richmond v Essendon at Ikon Park, 7:20pm AEDT
In the second ever AFLW Dreamtime match, both Richmond and Essendon will be looking to solidify a chance at finals under the lights of Ikon Park on Saturday evening. The Tigers, thanks to injury, are sputtering in a season that initially had so much promise. Now with key forward Caitlin Greiser and winger Beth Lynch unavailable through injury and suspension respectively, options have become even more limited for coach Ryan Ferguson. While they certainly have plenty of spirit, and have regularly found an extra gear in final quarters, it's starting to become too big a hill for the Tigers to climb.
Essendon, however, wants to play possession footy, still with strength on the inside thanks to the likes of Maddy Prespakis and Georgia Nanscawen, but more effectively finding those outside options like Brooke Walker and Georgia Gee. Coach Natalie Wood has given the forwards more freedom to roam higher up the field to support, with knowledge that they will work hard back into the attacking line when the ball has been won.
Tip: The Bombers will entrench themselves in the top eight. Essendon by 18 points.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15
North Melbourne v Yartapuulti at Arden Street Oval, 1:05pm AEDT
A little below expectations this season, Yartapuulti has a huge challenge on its hands this weekend, coming up against a Roos side that found a renewed heavy attacking style last week. In Yartapuulti's favour, however, is the typically windy, difficult conditions of Arden Street that may slow the Roos a little. What the Power must do, however, is not allow North Melbourne to put the foot down in the opening half, as they have been vulnerable in first halves this season.
Yartapuulti needs to bring strength at the contest, not letting North's powerhouse midfielders to have their way. This won't be easy, however, with North Melbourne averaging 76 tackles and an AFLW record of 126.5 contested possessions this year, while their clearance work is also off the charts this year at 34.3 per game. For the Roos, this is a game they need to capitalise on, making the most of their percentage gap on Narrm to remain in the top two on the ladder.
Tip: The Roos will be on a mission. North Melbourne by 35 points.
Carlton v Collingwood at Ikon Park, 3:05pm AEDT
In the eighth edition of Carlton v Collingwood, the Blues will be out to break a four-game losing streak against the Pies, and this is their best opportunity to do so in a few seasons. With tall Collingwood defenders Selena Karlson and Stacey Livingstone both suspended for this one, Carlton's quartet of tall options in the front half can take the game by the scruff of the neck if their side plays it smartly. Mia Austin, Phoebe McWilliams, and one of Breann Moody or Jess Good, depending on who is in the ruck, can really dominate the game should Carlton force an aerial game.
Collingwood is already conceding 7.5 marks inside 50 this year – with Karlson and Livingstone in the side – so there is real potential for this to blow out, so it needs to force a contested, running game and limit any unpressured forward entries from the Blues. They cannot allow Carlton to play a front-half game. Both sides are poor in last quarters, so this is another game reliant on who can go the distance on the timeclock.
Tip: This is the Blues' chance, and they're going to take it. Carlton by three points.
West Coast v Narrm at Mineral Resources Park, 2:05pm AWST
A tough road only gets tougher for the Eagles, coming up against Narrm which will be on a mission to rectify last week's loss. Narrm's biggest strengths – its midfield and forward lines – are where West Coast is weakest, spelling further trouble for the home side. The Eagles have lost their two games against the Demons by a collective 137 points, kicking just eight points of their own against the dominant side.
Despite the loss last week, the Dees are still averaging 74.2 points and 13.5 marks inside 50 per game this season, which will put immense pressure on Eagles defenders Sophie McDonald, Charlie Thomas, and Belinda Smith, who will likely be handed roles on Eden Zanker, Kate Hore, and Alyssa Bannan respectively. An area where West Coast can somewhat protect its defence, however, is through the middle. Should the likes of Emma Swanson, Aisling McCarthy, and Bella Lewis force the Narrm midfield to be accountable to them, they will be able to somewhat slow that movement into attack.
Tip: The Demons will get back on the winners list. Narrm by 45 points.