Melbourne’s win over Carlton further confused the situation for the final round of the AFLW. (AAP: Hamish Blair)
Last year, the AFLW copped some criticism for the fact the inaugural grand finalists were settled with two rounds to go in a seven-round regular season.
No-one could level the same accusation this time round.
From Adelaide’s narrow win over Fremantle to kick off round six, to the losses by Western Bulldogs and Brisbane, and the Demons’ percentage-boosting win on Sunday afternoon, the entire penultimate weekend simply stirred an already-boiling pot once more and set up a dream final round for the league.
With one round to go before the 2018 AFLW grand final, five teams are within a game at the top, and all have a shot at making the decider.
The AFLW does not have an official final series — that will be remedied next year when the league expands to 10 teams.
Yet the closeness of the competition, coupled with the vagaries of the draw, means that next weekend we will have three games with grand final implications, two of which will be between teams still in the mix for the decider.
What we do know
The one certainty in round seven is that the winner of Saturday’s match between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne at Whitten Oval will progress to the grand final.
This means that the grand final will definitely be held in Melbourne, with the venue yet to be decided.
If there is a draw, it’s possible that both sides could make it, but if so the Demons — who have a percentage of 119.3 — would be the vulnerable ones, with GWS in particular (112.4) and the Crows (101) both capable of grabbing a spot with big wins.
The key matches for round seven
- GWS v Brisbane – Blacktown, Fri 7.05pm AEDT
- Western Bulldogs v Melbourne – Whitten Oval, Sat 7.10pm AEDT
- Collingwood v Adelaide – Olympic Park Oval, Sun 2.35pm AEDT
The Demons did what they had to do, comfortably beating Carlton by 35 points to keep their grand final destiny in their own hands.
However, Melbourne will need to avoid losing momentum as the game goes on against the Dogs — another score of 1.4 after half-time will not be good enough.
Melbourne is also almost certain to be without key defender Mel Hickey, who was helped off with a suspected knee injury against Carlton.
The Bulldogs will be stinging after throwing away a guaranteed spot in the grand final with a disappointing loss to GWS — they should still be favoured to advance, but it should be a ripper of a game.
Sabrina Frederick-Traub (background) and her Lions teammates may well rue their loss to Collingwood. (AAP: Darren England)
We also know that we can’t have a repeat of last year’s grand final between Adelaide and Brisbane.
The Lions were well beaten by Collingwood, the 14-point margin softened by three late goals to the home side in Brisbane.
For Brisbane to go through, they now need a result between the Dogs and Demons, a loss for the Crows, as well as a big win over the Giants.
The only game that won’t have an impact on the grand final will be Fremantle v Carlton on Saturday afternoon in Perth.
Giants waiting for an opening
The Giants have beaten the Bulldogs and came within a goal of the Demons in round one. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
They may be in third right now, and there are plenty of scenarios where they could miss out on the grand final, but right now the form team of the AFLW is the Giants.
Top goalscorers in AFLW
- Brooke Lochland (WB) – 11 goals
- Phoebe McWilliams (GWS) – 7
- Jess Wuetschner (BRI) – 7
- Erin Phillips (ADE) – 7
- Tegan Cunningham (MEL) – 6
- Ruth Wallace (ADE) – 6
- Katie Brennan (WB) – 5
- Bonnie Toogood (WB) – 5
GWS lost its first two games, and a draw against Adelaide two weeks ago seemed to rule the team out of contention.
But three wins and that draw out of their last four matches has put them back in the mix.
It’s also important that — in addition to a confidence-boosting win over the Bulldogs — in the opening round of 2018, GWS was level with Melbourne late in the final quarter before Richelle Cranston kicked the winning goal for the Demons.
The Giants will fear no one at this point, and if they can get past the Lions on Friday night and they do go on to make the grand final, they will be a huge chance to go from the wooden spoon to the premiership.
AFL Women’s tweet: Whoa! What a weekend coming up! Sneak peek at the ladder ahead of the last round #AFLW