WITH serious finals implications for several teams, including a battle for places in the top four, the coming weekend of footy has plenty on the line.
The top four will go head-to-head, with Brisbane and Adelaide meeting for the 10th time, and Narrm and North Melbourne ready to do battle for second spot, while Collingwood and Geelong will play off to maintain a comfortable position in the eight.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20
Hawthorn v Richmond at Cazaly's Stadium, 6.45pm AEST
A trip to Cairns to face the Hawks is an opportunity for Richmond to get its season back on track after a frustrating month of results. This one is a must-win for the Tigers should they remain any chance for a second consecutive finals series. Their captain Katie Brennan and boom Hawthorn recruit Greta Bodey will each run out for career game No.50, so both sides will be on a mission to get the job done for their milestone forward.
Hawthorn is the highest tackling team the competition has ever seen, averaging 81.1 tackles per game thanks to its defend first mentality. It is a style that can really take opposition teams away from how they want to play, and it is in the face of this pressure that Richmond must stand tall. As recent weeks have shown, as long as Richmond is in touching distance come the final quarter, they are in with a shot, always pushing hard late in games to snatch a win.
Tip: The Tigers will get some reprieve. Richmond by 10 points.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21
Western Bulldogs v Sydney at VU Whitten Oval, 1.05pm AEDT
The Dogs and the Swans have never played one another before, and come into this game on very different footing to what would have been expected preseason. The Western Bulldogs, still winless and further impacted by injury, will view this game as an opportunity to regain some pride, while the Swans will be focused on making up for a poor showing last week. The latter have admitted they need to find more balance between their want to win uncontested possession and maintaining strength on the inside.
Winning 24.1 fewer disposals than their opponents each week and turning the ball over at an alarming rate, the Bulldogs may have an opportunity to find more consistent chains of possession against Sydney, the lowest pressure side in the competition this year. Questions still hang over the Dogs' ability to run games out, and the Swans will no doubt be keen to exploit that. With key defender Katie Lynch ruled out for the rest of the season, Issy Grant is left to play the main defensive role alongside Gabby Newton, and with Bec Privitelli in career-best form, there is a chance for Sydney to generate some really genuine scoring opportunities with its inside 50 entries.
Tip: The Swans will bounce back. Sydney by seven points.
Brisbane v Adelaide at Brighton Homes Arena, 2.05pm AEST
In game No.10 between these two inaugural powerhouses, with Ally Anderson, Shannon Campbell, Breanna Koenen, Anne Hatchard, Ebony Marinoff and Stevie-Lee Thompson to feature in all of them. Last time they played, last season's preliminary final, was a bruising affair that saw the Lions get over the top. This season, the Crows are the team to beat, averaging nearly two goals per game more than Brisbane, and playing a truly unforgiving style of football.
As a forward pressure side, the Lions need to establish a territory game. Still without Sarah Allan and now missing Najwa Allen due to suspension, the home side has a chance to put them under the pump both in the air with Dakota Davidson and Taylor Smith, and on the ground with Courtney Hodder and Lily Postlethwaite. What serves the Crows particularly well, however, is the work rate of powerhouse midfield duo Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff. Brisbane must remain super accountable to the pair, because they can be incredibly damaging.
Tip: The Lions' record at their new home won't get any better. Adelaide by 12 points.
Greater Western Sydney v Carlton at Henson Park, 3.05pm AEDT
Of the six times the Giants and the Blues have played one another, the former have won just once – their most recent meeting. Heading into this weekend, however, GWS has some huge gaps to fill in the midfield. With star Alyce Parker out injured, and important ball winner Bec Beeson suspended, the home side will be without more than a third of its clearance winning power. In addition, they are giving up the most clearances in AFLW history, allowing their opposition to win 30.6 per game. It is here that the Blues need to hit the Giants the hardest. Win stoppages and maintain control in their front half from there.
In contrasting styles of play, the Giants want to move the ball by hand, averaging an AFLW record 114.4 handballs per game, while Carlton is keen to get the ball on the boot to gain ground. Should the Blues apply immense forward pressure as they did in round one against the Suns, they have an opportunity to really wear down a GWS defence that has had to work particularly hard this year.
Tip: Without Parker and Beeson, it's all a bit too difficult for the Giants. Carlton by 15 points.
Yartapuulti v Gold Coast at Alberton Oval, 4.35pm ACDT
Although recording its biggest ever loss last week, Yartapuulti will take solace from that face that it was able to press in the first quarter, using pressure to slow North Melbourne's attack and score off the back of that itself. It is this style of footy the Power must bring against Gold Coast on Saturday, but this is no mean feat given the Suns' contested strength. Meanwhile, due to some unfortunate injuries to key players Ange Foley has been repositioned in defence, but her ability to settle the backline coming up against the dangerous duo of Tara Bohanna and Jac Dupuy could be exactly what the Power needs.
Yartapuulti is still struggling to win the footy, and while its disposal efficiency is poor, it has worked hard to gain ground with each touch. Once forward, it is generating a shot on goal from nearly half of its inside 50s, although inaccurate in conversion. Gold Coast, however, is kicking reasonably accurately which has allowed it to average its highest ever score. This becomes even more important as the Power generally allows its opposition to convert at a high rate, something the Suns can take advantage of on Saturday.
Tip: The Suns will equal their most wins in a season this weekend. Gold Coast by 20 points.
Welcome to Yartapuulti Football Club
The Port Adelaide Football Club has rebranded to Yartapuulti for the 2023 AFLW Indigenous RoundRead the history
Narrm v North Melbourne at Ikon Park, 7.15pm AEDT
In the six matches between Narrm and North Melbourne, the latter have won just once: the first time they met back in 2019. Since then, a true rivalry has formed, although Narrm has always been the side to celebrate on the siren. Essentially what this game boils down to is the best attack the competition has ever seen; against the best defence the competition has ever seen. And between it all are two midfields packed with star players.
It will be a battle of wills to see which side's style wins out. The Roos are great at stopping sides from taking marks inside 50, while the Demons are taking them at record numbers. The Roos have a highly disciplined, well organised defensive structure that is conceding just 18 points per game, while the Demons have countless avenues to goal, kicking 75.3 points per game.
Good teams have limited Narrm by bringing pressure and slowing down that forward handball game by closing space. It takes a very fit team to do it for long enough, but North Melbourne is certainly a side that can challenge the Demons. Meanwhile the Roos have still been guilty of poor connection between its midfield and attack at times this season when challenged.
Tip: There will be big momentum swings, but the Demons will ultimately prevail. Narrm by three points.
Welcome to Narrm Football Club
The Melbourne Football Club has rebranded to Narrm for the 2023 AFLW Indigenous RoundRead the history
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22
Collingwood v Geelong at Victoria Park, 1.05pm AEDT
Another eight-shaper, the weather looks likely to play a significant role in this result. Forecast to be cool and wet, a scrappy, contested game will work more in Collingwood's favour than it will Geelong's. The Cats have found their best footy this year when moving the ball neatly and delivering inside 50 onto the chests of players like Chloe Scheer, Jackie Parry and Aishling Moloney. But in the wet weather when clean ball use is hard to come by, Geelong must adapt its mindset and be willing to play some ugly footy.
Collingwood, however, proved it can win in the thick of it last week. A strong first quarter followed by great adaptation to the slippery conditions allowed the Pies to record a third straight win and remain in the finals hunt. While Geelong typically starts games well and fades as the game wears on, this is a place where the Pies can capitalise. Remain in touch throughout the opening half, limiting the Cats' scoreboard pressure, before running away late in the game.
Tip: At their Victoria Park home, the Pies will make it four in a row. Collingwood by eight points.
Walyalup v St Kilda at Fremantle Oval, 12.05pm AWST
Walyalup and St Kilda have not faced off since their controversial first meeting back in 2020, where a late 50m penalty paid against the Saints kept the Dockers' winning streak alive. This year, however, it is the Saints on a winning streak, having claimed the points in their last four games, while the Dockers are still working to establish themselves under a new coach.
St Kilda has found some reliable avenues to goal outside of boom recruit Jesse Wardlaw, but the absence of small forward Nat Exon is less than ideal. While through the middle of the ground they want to attack through the corridor with aggressive run and carry. Walyalup, however, has really struggled to make the most of its forward entries, relying heavily on Aine Tighe to generate scores. It is likely that star defender Bianca Jakobsson will be tasked with containing Tighe, which is the first major step in beating Walyalup.
Tip: The Saints' streak will continue. St Kilda by 13 points.
Essendon v West Coast at Windy Hill, 5.05pm AEDT
When these two sides met for the first-time last year the Bombers piled on their highest ever score of 84 points to record their biggest ever win. The Eagles are unfortunately coming off a tumultuous week, with comments from head coach Michael Prior capturing attention on Sunday after their 70-point loss to Narrm. What went under the radar amongst it all, however, was West Coast's ability to keep Narrm goalless in the second term, something only Adelaide has achieved this year. At their best, when they bring consistent work rate and defensive effort, the Eagles can match it with good sides. They just need to learn how to do it for longer.
Essendon will be without some key players, with Daria Bannister now added to the injury list that already includes the likes of Brooke Brown, Georgia Gee, and Jacqui Vogt. Bannister in particular is a loss given her ability to come up to be an extra at stoppages before pressing back into attack. But coming up against West Coast, the worst contested ball and clearance team in the competition, that extra around the contest may be less necessary than it has been against other sides this year.
Tip: West Coast needs to show something, but it won't be enough. Essendon by 35 points.