Melbourne players look dejected after losing the semi-final against Geelong on November 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

REIGNING premier Melbourne has been bundled out of finals in straight sets, while Geelong has progressed to its second ever preliminary final.

The Cats now take over as the feel-good story of the 2023 finals series, with Sydney's fairytale run coming to an abrupt end against a powerful Adelaide side.

Each Monday of the AFLW season, Gemma Bastiani will touch on a key talking point from each game, just in case you missed it.

In a backline full of All Australians, Zoe Prowse has been the standout

Against Sydney on Saturday evening, emerging key defender Zoe Prowse continued her outstanding season. Finding consistency this season, playing every game, Prowse has grown in confidence to play a really aggressive intercepting and rebounding role. Recording eight intercepts, three contested marks, and 231m gained for the evening, it was Prowse's strength that allowed the likes of Chelsea Biddell, Stevie-Lee Thompson and Sarah Allan to play more freely, building a brick wall across the ground and denying Sydney realistic shots on goal.


It might be over, but it was an impressive ride

Sydney went further this season than anyone outside the club could have imagined. Not only breaking the losing streak to register a maiden win, but to then qualify for and win a final was achievement above and beyond. While the 67-point loss to powerhouse Adelaide in Saturday night's semi final won't be how the Swans wanted to finish the run, they will take heed from the fact that they were there to compete at all, and saw immense improvement from players across the list. This is now a solid base to build future success from.

Sydney players come together after their semi-final loss against Adelaide at Norwood Oval on November 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Too little, too late

As the reigning premier, Melbourne started the season as the team to beat. It failed to lose a game for the first five rounds, taking its winning streak to a record 14 games, but in the back half of the season against progressively tougher opposition, the Demons started to struggle. It was this vulnerability that Geelong recognised and attacked, getting out to a 30-point lead at three-quarter time, but that was when the Melbourne of old resurfaced. Kicking five goals and moving the ball beautifully into attack, the Demons looked like they were ready to snatch the win out of the Cats' grasp, but it simply wasn't enough.


Never let them know your next move

With a trio of bona fide stars, and another layer of emerging talents in the midfield, Geelong has kept opposition teams on their toes in recent weeks. Last week Georgie Prespakis was the starring player with 23 disposals and nine clearances. This week Amy McDonald bobbed up for a career-best two goals, and Nina Morrison moved beautifully through the middle of the ground to gather a game-high 29 disposals and 10 clearances. As a result, coach Dan Lowther has levers he can pull during games to get the momentum moving his side's way, and that is an important asset during finals.