Emma Kearney (left) and Erika O’Shea celebrate North Melbourne's preliminary final win over Adelaide at Ikon Park on November 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THE 2023 AFLW Grand Final is set. First timer North Melbourne will take on Brisbane, who on Saturday qualified for its fifth decider.

It was a thrilling weekend of preliminary finals with both games going right down to the wire, and while it was pain for Geelong and Adelaide, the Lions and Roos are raring to go for the final game of the year.

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

Belle Dawes is a big game player

Young Lion Belle Dawes has a knack of rising to the occasion of big games, and Saturday's preliminary final win was no different. With 21 disposals, and career-best tackle and clearance counts, recording 14 and eight respectively, her constant movement at the contest made her tough to defend, bleeding into her ability to cover the ground. On her toes, jumping around her direct opponent when preparing for stoppages, bouncing with energy and a want to compete. At the final siren Dawes could be seen in tears on the deck, embraced by Shannon Campbell, showing just how much the club's success means to her.

(L-R) Cathy Svarc, Isabel Dawes and Shannon Campbell celebrate as the final siren sounds after the preliminary final between Brisbane and Geelong at Brighton Homes Arena on November 25, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The Cats are building something special

Although losing the preliminary final to Brisbane on Saturday evening, stunting its finals run, Geelong has proven that it is a team to be feared in coming years. As mentioned by coach Dan Lowther after the game, the path to success is "getting clearer" and with some more development of his young list, a maiden Grand Final and even premiership doesn't feel too far away. With an engine room of Amy McDonald (25 years old), Nina Morrison (22), and Georgie Prespakis (20) now finding support from the likes of Darcy Moloney (21), and wingers Mikayla Bowen (22), and Zali Friswell (19), it is a group around whom the Cats can build long-term success. Coming within four points of perpetual finalist Brisbane will not only give them the confidence that they can match it with the best, but a fire burning to improve once again next year.


The Roos have finally made it

After seasons upon seasons of frustrating finals exits for North Melbourne, it has finally broken through to qualify for its first Grand Final. And it wasn't an easy run either, it took plenty of perseverance to stand up to a late Adelaide challenge, but ultimately held on by a solitary point. The Roos will head into next week's decider with Brisbane with less Grand Final and premiership experience, but boasts a contingent of tried and true finals players. Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, and Kim Rennie have all won a flag at the Western Bulldogs, as has replacement signing Ailish Considine at Adelaide – twice – while Tahlia Randall played in the first two Grand Finals with the Lions, albeit in the losing side both times.


Danielle Ponter put it all out there

In a coming-of-age season for Danielle Ponter, her preliminary final performance on Sunday afternoon was one of her best. Ponter kicked three of Adelaide's four goals – taking her finals goal tally to 16, leading the rest of the competition – while also laying seven tackles, linking up beautifully with Jess Allan through the middle once again. Ponter's ability both through the middle and forward line for Adelaide presents coach Matthew Clarke with a problem, where exactly to play her going forward. What's for sure, however, is it's a good problem to have.