THE 2023 NAB AFLW finals series has started in the most unpredictable way possible. Three of the four lower ranked teams snatched a win, including a huge victory for North Melbourne that has sent it straight to a preliminary final.
Each Monday of the AFLW season, Gemma Bastiani will touch on a key talking point from each game, just in case you missed it.
Eloise Jones has had an underrated season
With Adelaide spearhead Caitlin Gould well held against Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, Eloise Jones stepped up to the plate and thrived. It was a performance that is certain to bring attention to the career-best season Jones has had, as she kicked her second bag of four goals for the year, taking her season tally to 17. Not only was she the main port of call in attack, but she also went behind the ball in crucial moments to support her defensive line. Although the Crows fell an agonising two points short, Jones can certainly hold her head high.
Tanya Kennedy is a game changer
Amid the discussion around the big names Sydney was able to recruit this year, it has been the very last player added to Sydney's list who has been one of the most important. Tanya Kennedy, signed as a player replacement for injured duo Maddy Collier and Hayley Bullas, has been the Swans' stopper this year. On Saturday evening, tasked with Claudia Whitfort, Kennedy kept the Sun to just 14 disposals and four clearances, well below her average of 25.6 disposals and 6.7 clearances coming into the game. By shutting down the Suns main midfield driver with Charlie Rowbottom out, Sydney was able to get on top in one of the weaker areas of its game – the contest – and generate attack from there.
Aishling Moloney can shape the finals
Even with Chloe Scheer ruled out of Geelong's elimination final early in the game, the home side was able to generate aggressive attack all day thanks to the work of Irishwoman Aishling Moloney. Kicking two goals across the game, Moloney's athleticism wreaked havoc on Essendon's defence. She won a career-best 18 disposals, eight marks – two of which were contested – and had eight score involvements to really shape the Cats' forward line. As they prepare to face Melbourne next week, Moloney will reprise her battle with Tahlia Gillard on whom she kicked three goals back in round five.
The most important win in AFLW history
There have been big wins, there have been upsets, and there have been commanding finals performances, but no result in the competition's history has been as significant as North Melbourne's victory over Melbourne on Sunday afternoon. Having lost their last six against the Demons, and boasting a decidedly poor record against the 'big three' sides of Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane, it was a mental hurdle the Roos needed to overcome. And overcome it they did, holding the best attack in AFLW history goalless for three quarters, while piling on 50 points of their own. This is the win that North Melbourne can build an era of success from.