IT ALL came down to the very last game of the 2023 home and away season, resulting in both Essendon and Sydney reaching their first finals series' in just their second season.
Round 10 was also one of goodbyes, as the likes of Erin Phillips, Rocky Cranston, and Akec Makur Chuot finished their AFLW careers.
Each Monday of the AFLW season, Gemma Bastiani will touch on a key talking point from each game, just in case you missed it.
The Suns can adapt
Without star midfielder Charlie Rowbottom at their disposal, there were concerns that Gold Coast may drop out of the top eight altogether should it fall to Essendon on Friday night. But those concerns were unfounded as Claudia Whitfort and Lucy Single put on a show through the middle, and Daisy D'Arcy got to work in a new role up forward. Gold Coast's ability to adapt when missing key players and under pressure puts it in a strong position heading into its second ever final.
Rocky's season has been underestimated
Rocky Cranston closed out an eight-season AFLW career on Saturday afternoon with her fifth game of the year, but her ability to even get on the park should be admired. Battling kidney disease, requiring weekly blood tests to see if she could even play and in January set to start dialysis, Cranston's temerity to push through one final season of AFLW is impressive. In what has been an incredibly difficult year for the Bulldogs, Cranston gave absolutely everything she had.
We farewell a champion
On Saturday we bade farewell to an AFLW great as Erin Phillips closed out a stunning career. Her side rose to the occasion, with Port Adelaide posting its highest ever score to put Greater Western Sydney to the sword. In the final term, Phillips kicked her last goal in true Phillips fashion, with a stunning contested mark back with the flight of the ball to create a set shot. As the packed stands of Alberton watched the ball sail through the big sticks, it felt like an apt full stop on a stunning career.
Cats needs Scheer to bring her best against the best
Geelong is a different team when dangerous forward Chloe Scheer is up and about. Against Hawthorn on Saturday afternoon, Scheer stepped up with three goals from 10 disposals and wreaked havoc among the Hawks' defence, but against better sides this season Scheer has struggled to take control of the game. As the Cats look toward another finals series, they need Scheer to play that aggressive, potent role if they are to truly challenge the other finalists.
Eagles need a leader who can harness their talent
As West Coast pushed Adelaide for a full four quarters on Saturday afternoon, its breadth of talent was on full display. Shanae Davison had a coming-of-age game, Kellie Gibson looked dangerous near goals, Ella Roberts staked her claim in the Rising Star race, and Charlie Thomas was a rock in defence. What the Eagles now need is a coach who can harness that talent to reach its full potential. With the right person at the helm, this list could be anything.
The Lions aren't done yet
After a disappointing loss to St Kilda last week, Brisbane proved that it still has great footy in it with an impressive 25-point win over Melbourne to solidify the double chance. Led from the back by captain Bre Koenen, the Lions went to work on how the Demons wanted to play and dominated from start to finish. Koenen finished the game with 12 intercepts, two contested marks and a career-best 22 disposals helping to shut down the most potent attack in AFLW history. It is a warning shot fired by Brisbane before finals begin, with many assuming they were no longer a force, but that certainly isn't the case.
Almost, but not enough
Heading into the final round, St Kilda needed a win to remain in contention for finals. It didn't just do that, it also added five per cent to really put pressure on Collingwood and Sydney in the subsequent games. But ultimately, it wasn't enough as the Saints missed reaching its first ever finals series by 4.6 per cent. It is not all lost for St Kilda, however, with its best ever season now complete, with six wins and a ninth-place finish, and a strong base to build from in the coming seasons.
Mon Conti, she's a star
In Richmond's last hurrah of the 2023 season, gun midfielder Mon Conti decided her side was going to go out on a high. With added support through the middle from rebounding defender Eilish Sheerin, alongside the reliable Grace Egan, Conti gathered a stunning 34 disposals and 11 clearances, while also laying eight tackles for the day. She topped it off with a powerful goal after breaking free of the stoppage and powering forward, as the Tigers recorded their highest ever score and biggest ever AFLW win.
From winless to finals
Needing a win to qualify for finals, it looked dicey early for the Swans. In the first half Fremantle held control of the game and Sydney struggled to convert its opportunities, but the 2023 version of the Swans don't drop their heads. Instead, they worked through the pressure – both physical and intangible – to finally break away in the final quarter. Goals by the way of Chloe Molloy, Bec Privitelli, Brooke Lochland, and Montana Ham were all vital, but it was the defensive efforts of Brenna Tarrent, Alice Mitchell and Eliza Vale that really kept the Swans within reach when the game was up for grabs.