Emma King, Kate Shierlaw and Taylah Gatt celebrate a goal for North Melbourne; Chelsea Randall and Jess Waterhouse celebrate a goal for Adelaide. Pictures: AFL Photos

BOTH of last season's preliminary final losers will face off in an attempt to reach the Grand Final. For Adelaide, it would be a fifth Grand Final appearance should it win, while home team North Melbourne is just one victory away from its first AFLW decider. 

The Roos and Crows played off in a thriller in round nine, with a late Niamh Kelly goal breaking the hearts of North Melbourne fans everywhere, but in finals, everything changes. 


Season so far 

North Melbourne 

It seems like the Roos finally believe they can do it, that they can be Grand Finalists and even premiers. There is a different air around the side, and now as it hits its best form at the right time, it will take confidence out of a significant 41-point win over Melbourne in the qualifying final. North Melbourne looks its best when generating powerful clearance and giving its forwards opportunities in the one-on-one, and it has the star power to get the game on its terms. 


Against Sydney last week the Crows flexed their muscles, playing an impressive four-quarter performance that coach Matthew Clarke deemed their most complete of the season to date. Boasting stars on all lines, it is the chemistry between them that has made Adelaide so dominant this year, while regularly unearthing or inventing more talent to support the big names. 

Dream match-up 

Kim Rennie v Jess Allan 

Both rucks stood strong for their respective side in their most recent final, not only offering strength at the tap but then proving the extra strings to their bow. Rennie's contested and intercept marking against Melbourne was a real feature, getting back into defence to support the backline in the air, taking big grabs at crucial moments.   

Meanwhile Allan's connection with her midfielders was on show against Sydney, allowing the Crows quick, clean exits from stoppage to get the ball moving into attack.  


Both will want to provide defensive coverage for their side at times given their aerial strength, and both will spend time resting forward. The key question becomes whether they work to remain accountable to one another throughout the game, or move to become damaging in their own way and risking the other having an impact elsewhere. 

Players to watch 

Tahlia Randall (North Melbourne) 

Just like the Kangaroos as a whole, Randall will have built a heap of confidence from the win over Melbourne a fortnight ago. Randall's three goals in that game showed off her broad range of assets. Pure strength in forward ruck contests to pluck the ball out of the air and slam through goals is one thing the Crows will have to defend fiercely, but also Randall's ability to mark both on the lead and in contested situations makes her particularly difficult to contain. 


Niamh Kelly (Adelaide) 

The matchwinner when they met in round nine, Niamh Kelly is another player who can do some damage due to her sheer workrate. With an impressive combination of speed and strength, Kelly is often involved in passages of play more than once, covering a lot of ground at a high speed. Whoever her direct opponent is cannot have any lapses in concentration, because Kelly will take advantage of that and sneak forward to hit the scoreboard, or move to a dangerous position to provide the Crows with a neat link. 


Where it will be won or lost 

Statistically both North Melbourne and Adelaide have similar profiles. High-disposal, high-kicking teams who boast star-studded midfields and multiple avenues to attack. They are also the two tightest defensive teams this season, although with just 20.2 points conceded per week, North Melbourne is nearly two goals tighter than the Crows.  

There are two key areas where the sides differ somewhat significantly. For the Kangaroos, strength at stoppages and their clearance numbers have been strong all year, averaging a record 32 clearances. From this stoppage control, the Roos have been able to find some forward territory from which they have built their reliable team defence. 


For the Crows, however, it is about their forward efficiency. Kicking a goal from nearly a quarter of their inside 50s, largely thanks to their AFLW-record goal accuracy of 50.5 per cent, they are super dangerous once in attack.  

Amid it all, this game is likely to come down to each team's big-game players. The stars who lift when the win is up for grabs. The Garners, the Marinoffs, the Riddells, the Hatchards. This is a game for big moments.