BRISBANE and Geelong will meet for the first time in 666 days, this time in the highest stakes game between the two with a Grand Final spot on the line.
The Lions will host, refreshed after the week off thanks to an impressive win over Adelaide in the qualifying final, while Geelong is riding the momentum of its first two finals wins.
Season so far
The 2021 premier has become known this year for bringing its best footy against the best sides, as the only team to remain unbeaten against all of its fellow finalists. This preliminary final berth has come off the back of significant restructuring with some key players no longer at the club, but through trial and error the Lions have once again established themselves as one of the best sides in the competition.
Midway through the season Geelong looked a little shaky. With plenty of expectation on the side after last season's finals qualification, back-to-back losses to Melbourne and Essendon across rounds five and six put it in a precarious position. But now the Cats are hitting their straps at the right time, riding the high of finals wins over those same two teams, they are now a genuine force to be reckoned with.
Sophie Conway v Mikayla Bowen
Both Conway and Bowen have been immense for their respective team this season working out on the wing. And their impact in that role is crucial to the style that each of Brisbane and Geelong want to play.
Conway's ability to hit the scoreboard has been super damaging, with 12 goals this year to date, while she is also averaging 14.8 disposals and 325 metres gained. Meanwhile, Bowen's ability to cover the ground, combined with her 4.3 tackles per game, will offer the Cats some handy defensive coverage for Brisbane's outside runners.
Players to watch
Courtney Hodder (Brisbane)
Hodder has been deployed in a slightly different role this season, playing further out from goal and even spending more time through the midfield. As a result, her five goals may seem underwhelming, but she is the standard setter in Brisbane's forward half. Averaging 7.5 tackles per game, 3.3 of which are inside 50, Hodder exemplifies the Lion's forward pressure game.
Becky Webster (Geelong)
Having gone from a regular midfielder to now a role at half-back, Webster has been a key connector between the lines. Offering attacking drive out of the back half, her physical presence offers plenty in terms of defensive pressure, but that powerful rebound has become a hallmark of not only Webster's, but Geelong's style of play. Averaging 3.4 inside 50s, 4.9 intercepts and 310.7 metres gained, she has found a balance between her defence and attacking mindsets and regularly launches attack for the Cats.
Where it will be won or lost
It will be crucial for Geelong to get scoreboard pressure on early, given its trend of starting strongly and slowly fading as games wear on. Last week this was particularly evident, dominating the opening three quarters only to concede five goals in the final term and win by five points in a heartstopper.
If Brisbane can limit the Cats' avenues to goal early in the game, then get the play going its way for the remainder, it will be in the box seat to take the win.
Both teams work hard to apply forward pressure, but it's something the Lions have really built an identity and pride around. The Lions average a record 17 tackles inside 50, while the Cats aren't too far behind with 15.3 per game. Off the back of that pressure, Brisbane is marginally more effective once inside 50, largely thanks to its goal accuracy of 43.3 per cent, so the longer the Lions spend in attack, the more dangerous it gets for Geelong.
The Cats want to use a running defence, with Webster, Chantel Emonson and even Georgie Rankin offering really aggressive rebound. They will generally find centre clearances out the back of the stoppage, from which they have those rebounding runners to help sling the ball forward.