AFL Finals: Why Your Team Can Win

We reach the halfway mark of the 2019 AFL Women’s season this weekend, and after three rounds there has been scathing criticism of the fixture, with all the teams in Conference A proving to be stronger than their Conference B counterparts.

A major anomaly of the fixture is that the worst team in Conference A, the Western Bulldogs, has a better record than the top team in Conference B, Carlton (which is ahead of the Bulldogs on per centage by just 0.2 per cent), which registered its first win for the season last week.

In fact, if you put the two conferences ladder together, then the overall ladder would not change one bit.

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What it does mean is that we have the two worst teams overall, Collingwood and the GWS Giants, facing off this Sunday in Morwell in what is effectively a battle to remain in the finals race.

Other highlights of the round include the grand final rematch between the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions, as well as clashes between in-form teams the Adelaide Crows and Fremantle, as well as between Melbourne and North Melbourne.

All matches last week were decided by at least 29 points, which is a strong indication that scoring is well up on previous rounds.

Here is your preview to Round 4.

Geelong Cats vs Carlton

After two tough losses on the road, the Geelong Cats return home this Saturday to host a Carlton side that is buzzing following its first win for the season.

Despite the return of Richelle Cranston from a two-match suspension, Paul Hood’s side proved to be no match for the Crows in Adelaide last week.

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This followed their 18-point loss to the Western Bulldogs in Round 2, in which they were kept scoreless in the second and fourth quarters, which goes to show that their forward line, which is the third-worst in the AFLW (only ahead of the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood), is still a work in progress.

Meantime, the Blues broke a twelve-month winning drought by upsetting the GWS Giants by 29 points in Blacktown last weekend, registering their highest-ever score of 10.5 (65) in the process.

After a disastrous 2018 season which saw them claim the wooden spoon after holding top spot at the end of Round 2, new coach Daniel Harford stripped back the game plan, thus allowing his side to play with more freedom.

This was evident when they led the Adelaide Crows by 17 points midway through the third quarter before capitulating to lose by 13, and it was also on display last week as they never really let the Giants into the match.

In a major boost for the Blues, they’ll have forward Tayla Harris available after she successfully downgraded her rough conduct charge against Pepa Randall, escaping with a reprimand rather than the one-match suspension she could have accepted.

It’s a tough one to pick, but I’ll back the Cats at home.

Prediction: Geelong Cats by 14 points.

Madeleine Boyd

Madeline Boyd of the Cats (right) celebrates (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane Lions

The second match on Saturday night sees the Western Bulldogs host the struggling Brisbane Lions in what will be their first clash since last year’s grand final.

After opening their premiership defence with two wins, the Dogs were sent crashing back to earth, going down to North Melbourne by 31 points in Launceston last Friday night.

A goalless first half set the tone for a tough night in the office for the reigning premiers, with their first goal not coming until nearly five minutes into the third quarter.

Thus, they’ll want to be switched on when they face a Brisbane Lions side for whom the pain of two lost grand finals, as well as a mass player exodus, appears to be taking its toll.

Craig Starcevich’s side crashed to a humiliating 39-point loss to Melbourne at home last week, only managing three goals for the whole match and effectively losing it by coughing up five unanswered goals in the second quarter.

Forward Sabrina Frederick-Traub endured a match she would rather forget as she was held goalless by Dees defender Harriet Cordner.

Despite the crushing defeat, the Lions remain third in Conference B, just behind the Geelong Cats on percentage. On form however, it’ll be hard seeing them reach the finals, unless they can pull something out of the hat against the Western Bulldogs this Saturday night.

In the end, the comforts of home should get the reigning premiers home in this one.

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Prediction: Western Bulldogs by 18 points.

Katie Brennan

Katie Brennan of the Bulldogs leads her team out (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Adelaide Crows vs Fremantle

The third match on Saturday night sees the Adelaide Crows take their home game against Fremantle to TIO Stadium in Darwin.

After suffering a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Western Bulldogs in the opening round, the Crows have won their last two on the trot, coming from behind to defeat Carlton in Melbourne before displaying their class in a 29-point win over the Geelong Cats last Sunday.

The win over the Cats was marshalled by the usual suspects in Ebony Marinoff (whose 33 disposals became a new AFLW record) and Erin Phillips (who kicked three goals to go with her 19 disposals), while Anne Hatchard helped herself to 27 disposals.

Matthew Clarke’s side will face some sterner opposition when they face a Fremantle side which has proven themselves as an exciting side to watch in season 2019.

The Dockers continued on their impressive start by defeating Collingwood by 33 points, marking the first time they have won three consecutive matches.

Captain Kara Donnellan and Ebony Antonio were, as usual, among their best, with 18 possessions and two majors respectively.

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It will therefore take some shutting down from the Crows if they are to inflict the Purple Haze’s first defeat of the season, especially in what is expected to be challenging conditions at the Top End.

Prediction: Fremantle by 18 points.

Ebony Antonio

Ebony Antonio of the Dockers celebrates (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Collingwood vs GWS Giants

Crunch time arrives for both Collingwood and the GWS Giants on Sunday, with both teams the only ones to have not yet registered a win so far this season.

The Pies have been the biggest disappointments of the season so far, not only have they lost all three matches, they have been beaten heavily in their past two matches in particular, only managing three goals across their losses to Melbourne and Fremantle.

This has left them at the bottom of Conference B with a percentage of 49.5 ahead of the game against the Giants, who were competitive but otherwise let down by poor ball use in their defeat against Carlton last week.

The loss saw them fall to an 0-3 record and facing an uphill battle to reach the finals for the first time.

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If there is one player who will be fired up to face her old club, it is Christina Bernardi.

Three games into her career at the Giants and she is already proving her worth, as evidenced by her two third quarter goals against the Blues last week.

She and Alicia Eva will be the brains trust the Giants will rely on as they attempt to break their season duck behind enemy lines this Sunday.

But I have a feeling that a week of criticism that may be headed the Pies’ way might drive them to their first win in Morwell.

Prediction: Collingwood by eight points.

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Melbourne vs North Melbourne

The final match of the round sees the red-hot North Melbourne face another tough task when they take on a Melbourne side which is warming themselves into the season after two convincing wins over Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions.

The Roos made a mockery of what was supposed to be a genuine challenge against the Western Bulldogs last Friday night, kicking five goals in the second quarter to set up their 31-point win and maintain their place at the top of Conference A.

Captain Emma Kearney was again among their best with 17 disposals, while debutant Courtney Munn kicked four goals as the Roos continued their dream start to their time in the AFL Women’s competition.

After two matches in Tasmania on either side of an arduous trip to Sydney in the first three matches, their match against the Dees will mark their first (of three) premiership match in Melbourne, with clashes against the Adelaide Crows and Collingwood to follow.

Courteney Munn

Courteney Munn of the Kangaroos (C) celebrates kicking a goal during the round three AFLW match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Western Bulldogs at the University of Tasmania Stadium on February 15, 2019 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Meantime, the Dees, whose absent captain Daisy Pearce gave birth to twins over the weekend, completely dominated in their clash against the Lions up in Brisbane, kicking five unanswered goals in the second quarter en route to an easy 39-point win.

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The win was highlighted by a three-goal haul from Aliesha Newman, while Karen Paxman and Lauren Pearce shared in 45 disposals between them as the side moved up to third place in Conference A.

Depending on the result of Fremantle’s clash against the Adelaide Crows, the Dees will have the chance to move into the top two with a win, however I believe the Roos should show why they are the team to beat in 2019.

Prediction: North Melbourne by 10 points.

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