ROUND seven's results have thrown a spanner in the works for the final three weeks of the home and away season.
Commanding wins from North Melbourne and Narrm make next week's matchup even more enticing, while there were some impressive individual performances across the round.
Each Monday of the AFLW season, Gemma Bastiani will touch on a key talking point from each game, just in case you missed it.
Niamh Kelly is just what the Crows needed
Adding some real balance to Adelaide's mix through the middle of the ground, Niamh Kelly's improvement this year has been crucial to the side's success. Registering career-best numbers across the board this season, including 18.8 disposals and 3.3 score involvements per game, her outside run beautifully complements known ball-winners Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard. Her spread and workrate often see her exploit any lapse in concentration from the opposition, and against the Bulldogs on Friday, resulted in a genuine Goal of the Year contender.
Tyanna Smith is hitting her straps
After an ACL injury on the eve of season six, her second AFLW season, Tyanna Smith made her triumphant return to footy this year. One of the Saints' most consistent performers throughout the season to date, against the Giants on Saturday afternoon she reminded everyone why she was taken with pick No.6 at the draft. Gaining a game-high 428 metres from her 17 disposals, to go along with eight tackles, six clearances and a goal, she was instrumental in St Kilda's fourth consecutive win.
The Cats are back on track, almost
Finding flexibility in its playing list after a disappointing fortnight, Geelong is back on track, leading the logjam of teams fighting for a place in the bottom half of the eight. A strong win over Walyalup on Saturday afternoon was important, but there will be part of Geelong rueing missed opportunities at goal given how vital percentage is going to be come round 10. Kicking six goals from 17 scores, the Cats had a chance to really separate themselves from the pack, but couldn't quite make the most of the opportunity.
Aine McDonagh is Hawthorn's X-factor
The most consistent Hawk in attack this year, Aine McDonagh doesn't need a lot of the footy to make an impact. Having goaled in every game this year, taking her season tally to nine, her combination of speed and aerial strength makes her particularly hard to defend, and now that the Hawks have found more assets up forward, she has relished the increased support. McDonagh has also been thrown higher up the field at times to exploit her running capacity on the wing to add strings to her bow.
The Suns have closed the gap, but not enough
Coming into Saturday's QClash Gold Coast and Brisbane were separated only by percentage on the ladder, but the Suns had lost their last three against the Lions by an average of 68.3 points. There was hope that they might claim their first win against their crosstown rivals, but a goal from Brisbane's Sophie Conway a mere 27 seconds into the game suggested that it could be another tough day ahead. Ultimately the Suns lost, but narrowed the margin to 36 points and held the Lions to their lowest score in the matchup since the inaugural edition where the sides drew. The improvement is there, but there's still a way to go.
Essendon is a legitimate finals contender
With plenty of firepower and strength at the footy, the Bombers are well on their way towards a maiden finals series. Saturday's victory over last season's finalist Richmond was a significant step toward the milestone. Should they reach finals, they would potentially do so before both St Kilda and West Coast who joined the AFLW three seasons earlier, in what would be a remarkable effort. With West Coast, Carlton, and Gold Coast to come, it's reasonable to expect Essendon could also challenge for a place in the top four come November.
The Roos have options aplenty
Great sides run deep, and that is exactly what North Melbourne has in its pocket this season. Through the middle, they boast ball-winning beasts Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, Mia King and Jenna Bruton, with the quartet combining for a casual 127 disposals against Yartapuulti on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile the Roos were able to goal through nine different players, including a career-best three from small forward Alice O'Loughlin and six from their midfield/wing mix. When playing the Kangaroos, you can be hurt in so many ways.
Brit Bonnici, a woman on a mission
After a slow start to the season by her lofty standards – understandable given her return from injury – Brit Bonnici was out for blood against Carlton on Sunday afternoon. With game highs for disposals (23) and metres gained (527) while also laying nine tackles and kicking a goal, Bonnici propelled the Pies to their third straight win and back into the top eight. Her ability to win the contest then spread hard makes her incredibly difficult to defend, and she will be one of the most important Magpies in the coming weeks as they push for yet another finals series.
Narrm's firepower is unprecedented
For the third time this season, a Narrm forward has bagged a haul of five goals. This week it was Alyssa Bannan, who arguably could have kicked almost twice that, which followed Eden Zanker's five goals last week and Kate Hore's performance in round two. The Demons are averaging an impressive 75.3 points per game this year, with their lowest score of 46 coming last week against the Crows. It is an attacking line that takes strength and persistence to shut down, something few teams possess, and it becomes even more dangerous come finals when scoring is at a premium.