It’s do-or-die from now on, with the semi-finals upon us.
As always, The Doc is all over every facet of AFLW action
ADELAIDE V SYDNEY
The first time these two sides meet in the AFLW will be at a cutthroat semi-final, and there’s so much anticipation about what will happen.
Many people have jumped on the Swans after last week’s stunning win away from home against the Gold Coast. But they must know that the Crows are unlike the Gold Coast Suns. Many of these girls have tasted premiership success before, and they know how to get it done in games like this.
The Crows had a lot of the ball and a lot of the territory in the last term against Brisbane last week, and they’d be kicking themselves that sloppy inside 50 entry and poor skills cost them what was a narrow result in the end.
Given Sydney’s unbelievable form over the past month, you cannot count them out of this game.
So it begs the question, how can they get it done?
Well, they can take a leaf out of Brisbane’s playbook last week and apply the tackle pressure well and reasonably early. Against the Suns last week, the Swans laid 106 tackles and disallowed the Suns’ free-flowing style of ball movement through the ground.
One of their biggest challenges is sustaining Adelaide’s press when they want to move it out of the defensive 50. They’ve got an excellent defensive system, the Crows; Chelsea Biddell – in terms of her intercepting – has hit her peak this season, and Zoe Prowse and Sarah Allan form a hell of an essential defensive pairing.
For the Swans, kicking a winning score will be made all the more difficult this week with Rebecca Privitelli out with a foot injury.
It’s a massive blow because aside from Chloe Molloy, she’s the one you can rely on this year to put goals on the board for the Swans. Now, they must find others who can step up and put a goal or two on the board.
Molloy (17 goals in 2023) and Privitelli (15) have combined for 32 goals this year. The next highest goalkicker is Cynthia Hamilton, who has only seven to her name, and Aleisha Newman is not too far behind with six for the season.
But I’d love to put it on Sofia Hurley this week to get a goal or two on the board. I’ve been highly impressed with her application to the contest recently; the 16 tackles last week were a career-best for her and showed her willingness to work hard and make an impact.
However, with four goals for the season as a half-forward. I wouldn’t mind seeing Hurley position a little deeper when Molloy goes for her bursts in the middle.
Compared to the Crows, they’ve got three players in double figures in terms of goal output: Caitlin Gould (18 goals in 2023), Eloise Jones (17) and Danielle Ponter (16). That’s 51 goals between the three of them.
The thing for Adelaide was that last week, they were heaps better regarding forward-50 efficiency. Eloise Jones was the lone hand with four goals, but Caitlin Gould struggled to make anything stick, and Danielle Ponter got her disposals but only had two behinds to show for it.
If this trio kicks six goals between them, Adelaide will win this game. It’s a mammoth task for players like Brenna Tarrant, Ella Heads and Alice Mitchell to contain these forwards and keep them from kicking a winning score.
Tarrant has had an outstanding year for the Swans and has been the go-to player when the opposition looks to go for a one-on-one, Having only lost 23 per cent of her one-on-ones this year from 30 contests.
Her against Gould is a match-up that will put bums on seats.
Another interesting subplot in this game is what Scott Gowans will do with Tanya Kennedy. For all the fanfare we’ve given the likes of Molloy, Laura Gardiner and Lucy McEvoy, Kennedy’s arrival and vast rise as a midfielder has been a critical contributor to Sydney’s rapid ascent up the ladder.
She’s had the run-with jobs throughout the year. The most recent one was her job on Claudia Whitfort last week, which only held the star Sun to just 14 disposals, and without Charlie Rowbottom in tow, the Suns struggled to win the ball out of the contest.
It needs to be Ebony Marinoff this week. These two going head-to-head for a hard ball will be like nearly watching something out of the WWE: they’ll grapple, forcing themselves out of congestion and hitting contests hard.
Marinoff averages 27 disposals, 5.2 clearances, 479.3 metres gained and just under 10 tackles per game. On her day, she’s as damaging a midfielder as they come and negating her influence in stoppages will be essential for the Swans.
As much as I want to believe in the Swans this week, I think their younger players will get a reality check as the Crows look to bounce back from a disappointing performance.
Adelaide by 16 points
MELBOURNE v GEELONG
If you brought this match-up to me a couple of weeks ago, it would’ve been a question of Melbourne by how much.
However, we’re asking: Can they get out of it?
It was arguably one of the worst performances out of Melbourne for quite some time. And the week before that, they were outworked and outhustled by the Brisbane Lions on their home deck.
So it’s clear that something is going on in Melbourne, and their dreams of going back-to-back are in serious trouble. Last week’s score of 1.3.9 is their second-lowest score in history, as they succumbed to North Melbourne’s terrific defence.
There’s a lot of pressure on the key forwards in this game: Alyssa Bannan kicked a late goal, but she was hardly sighted before that. Eden Zanker was kept to just one disposal to three-quarter time before moving up the ground in the last term, and Kate Hore wasn’t able to hit the scoreboard.
There are ample jobs all around for Geelong’s defence. Meg McDonald did a solid job keeping Bonnie Toogood to just one goal, allowing her to have a presence further up the ground.
It’ll be a tough time for Dan Lowther to find match-ups for their forwards: McDonald may go straight to Hore in a bit of captain-on-captain footy. Claudia Gunjaca will most likely stay deep and get the job on Zanker.
Melbourne got the inside 50s last week– 35, to be precise. It’s all about finding the cohesion between the forwards and midfield now. They still beat North Melbourne in the contested possessions last week and weren’t too far behind them in the uncontested ball.
This week, it’ll be a juicy match-up with Tyla Hanks and Liv Purcell against Amy McDonald and Georgie Prespakis. Eliza West was a strange omission last week and could’ve used an extra layer of toughness around the ball last week.
Whatever the case was for her last week, she needs to be recalled because you suspect Nina Morrison and Becky Webster will run through the midfield at various stages throughout the game.
You suspect Shelley Heath will play a fair slab of the game in the guts following Prespakis this week, who is fresh off nine clearances and a truckload of ball against Essendon. We’ve seen throughout the year that she can be stifled if you put the time into her.
Heath would want to make amends this week after having her colours lowered by Jasmine Garner around the ground last week. Whilst only held to three clearances, Garner bullocked through contests in the first half and put the Dees to the sword with her manic pressure – putting up 12 tackles last week.
Geelong will have to find ways to score without Chloe Scheer this week, who is officially ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury. Scheer has kicked 19 goals this year and only sits behind Hore and Zanker, who are both on 20 goals after not adding to their season tally last week.
This means the forward line will need a restructure surrounding Jackie Parry (13 goals this year), who has been pretty consistent as a goalkicker this season. Aishling Moloney will be the big one. She kicked four goals against Melbourne in their last encounter and is fresh off a big-time performance against Essendon last week in the elimination final.
She’s someone who’s finding form at the right time of the season, and it’ll be interesting to see who goes to her at the start. Tahlia Gillard has been one of the best at one-on-one defensive work, having just lost once in 34 contests this year – that’s a percentage of 2.9 for those of you playing at home.
But Libby Birch has also been firm this year; the same number of contests and a loss percentage of 14.7 per cent, meaning she’s lost just five times.
For mine, Gillard’s got to be the match-up for Moloney; she’s excellent athletically, has a fantastic reach and has developed her defensive game very well in a Demons system that has stood well since her inclusion into the side last year.
Another player for mine to watch out for this week is Lauren Pearce. There are a few Melbourne players who had their colours lowered last week, but Pearce is a player who thrives off being able to win the ball out of the ruck contest and use it to the advantage of her midfielders, and North refused to give her the time or space to make that happen.
She had zero clearances last week and averaged over three per game this year and five per game back in season six.
I understand those keen to jump off Melbourne this week, but I’m staying on them now. Until round nine, they’d been a near-impeccable side that had breezed through most of the competition.
Geelong were good for a half and then put the brakes on it in the second half, failing to kick a goal. I’m unsure if that’s just them resting up for this week or if they have hit a wall. Melbourne will respond.
Melbourne by 22 points
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