THE FINAL home and away round of the 2022 season is upon us, and while some teams are playing for a spot in the finals - or the chance to play at home - others are out to finish what has been a tough season on a high.
Adelaide, Melbourne, and Brisbane are jostling for the top two spots, with percentage likely to be a big factor in how finals shake out, while the Western Bulldogs will be on the edge of their seats on Saturday to see if they still have a shot next week.
2022 FIXTURE Every match, every round
Friday, March 11
Geelong v Greater Western Sydney at GMHBA Stadium, 6.10pm AEDT
- Both sides suffered disappointing losses last week, Geelong because it didn't make the most of the opportunities it created and the Giants due to a slow start. Geelong struggled around the contest against the Saints, and despite coming up against a Giants side that will be without Alyce Parker, it doesn't get any easier this week. Rebecca Beeson is finding some impressive form after an ankle injury saw her miss five games this year, while captain Alicia Eva and first year player Ally Dallaway have shown a real strength at stoppages this year.
- It will be important for the Giants to find a spread of goalkickers, rather than rely heavily on Cora Staunton for the bulk of their score. Staunton almost pulled them over the line with three final-quarter goals against the Tigers on Saturday, but if they can force Geelong's defence to play accountable footy across a number of dangerous forwards, they will be in a good position to finish the 2022 season on a high.
- The Cats will enjoy the comforts of a home ground, but the Giants’ best is marginally better. GWS by two points.
WATCH IT LIVE Cats v Giants
Saturday, March 12
Collingwood v Richmond at Victoria Park, 3.10pm AEDT
- Collingwood just needs to win in order to secure its place in finals, but that's not such a simple task when coming up against Richmond. The Pies have found more attack over the last fortnight off the back of Ruby Schleicher’s drive from defence and direct ball movement through the corridor, but it will be that battle in the back half that will be key to this game. While Collingwood likes to launch its attack from the defensive half, Richmond is particularly damaging once it is able to get the ball forward. If the Tigers can take advantage of the time the ball spends in their forward line – as they have managed to do for much of this year – they will give the Pies a run for their money.
- Despite Collingwood being the side sitting in sixth place on the ladder, Richmond is averaging more points per game with 37.2. Katie Brennan’s 15 goals make up 30.6 per cent of Richmond’s goals this year, and Brennan is one of just two players to have kicked a goal in every game this year. It’s important that the Pies don’t allow Brennan to find any space inside 50, especially now that Courtney Wakefield is back in the side drawing the eye of defenders.
- Richmond will challenge, but ultimately Collingwood will secure its place in finals. Collingwood by 10 points.
WATCH IT LIVE Pies v Tigers
North Melbourne v West Coast at Arden Street, 5.10pm AEDT
- Off the back of two consecutive losses for just the second time in club history, North Melbourne will be focused on finding some momentum coming into finals. Against better sides, the Kangaroos' uncontested outside game has been mitigated, but this game is an opportunity for the Roos to rediscover their identity. Finding a bit more creativity and an ability to adapt in game to what is being thrown at them will be crucial for finals, and this is their last chance to prepare for that.
- North Melbourne is winning the second most disposals of any side this year, while West Coast is winning the fewest with just an average of 184.2 disposals per game. The Eagles cannot allow the Kangaroos to just possess the ball and control the flow of play all day. Forcing a contested game, a ground ball game, will be essential in preventing North from cutting them apart with their elite disposal around the ground.
- North Melbourne’s skill and outside game will see them prevail. Kangaroos by 25 points.
WATCH IT LIVE Kangaroos v Eagles
Melbourne v Carlton at Casey Fields, 7.10pm AEDT
- Coming off the biggest win in competition history, Melbourne has good reason to keep the pedal to the floor against Carlton this weekend, with top spot on the ladder still within reach. The Demons are the best team at the contest in the AFLW this year, both at ground level and in the air, leading the pack for average contested possessions (109.6), contested marks (8.0) and centre clearances (6.1). That stoppage battle will be particularly important, with Lauren Pearce coming up against last year’s All Australian ruck in Breann Moody. Pearce leads her side for clearances this year with 5.1 per game and is averaging 13.9 disposals each game, while Moody is averaging two clearances and 12.1 disposals this season.
- Carlton has won its last three matches off the back of increased pressure up the field, and particularly inside 50. This has allowed the side to control territory better and get more looks at goal. The Blues are also averaging the most disposals in the competition this year, with 242 touches per game. It will be important for them to be clever with how they use the ball and not over possess it as Melbourne looks to pressure the ball carrier and cause the turnover.
- Melbourne will continue its momentum into finals. Melbourne by 20 points.
WATCH IT LIVE Demons v Blues
Sunday, March 13
St Kilda v Adelaide at RSEA Park, 1.10pm AEDT
- St Kilda has won its last two games – its first consecutive wins in club history – but facing Adelaide is a very different prospect to narrow victories over Gold Coast and Geelong. Last time these teams met in round five last year Adelaide handed the Saints the biggest loss in club history, winning by 53 points. The Saints were trapped in their defensive half and registered just eight inside 50s for the game – the equal-fewest in competition history. The Crows are experts at trapping the ball in their forward half, so it will be vital that St Kilda has some strategies to calmly exit defence while retaining possession, even when under immense pressure.
- The Crows will be out to consolidate top spot on the ladder to earn a home Grand Final should they win through. It’s not as simple as just winning, however, as their narrow win last week left them just four per cent ahead of Melbourne. Adelaide is a ruthless side, controlling possession and very cleverly going forward averaging a competition-high 9.8 marks inside 50 this year. St Kilda needs to be hyper aware of this aerial control Adelaide often finds, maintaining concentration and not allowing easy passes off to players in space.
- The Saints’ consecutive wins will come to an end. Adelaide by 30 points.
WATCH IT LIVE Saints v Crows
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane at Mars Stadium, 3.10pm AEDT
- Should Collingwood lose to Richmond, the Bulldogs will come into this game with finals still a possibility. Much of this game will come down to how much the Western Bulldogs can withstand the ball in their back half and then launch an attack from there. Brisbane leads the competition for inside 50s, registering an average of 40.8 per game – unparalleled in the AFLW to date – while conceding the fewest at the same time. Tall defenders Katie Lynch, Eleanor Brown and Sarah Hartwig will have their hands full with the tall trio of Jesse Wardlaw, Dakota Davidson and Taylor Smith.
- Brisbane plays unpredictable footy thanks to its focus on small acts like knock ons. Because of this, the Lions concede the fewest tackles in the competition this year. Where the Dogs can find an advantage, however, is at stoppages. If they can convert their strong clearance game to a bit of possession footy on the outside, the Bulldogs have a chance to slow down the Lions train.
- While the Dogs will have plenty on the line, Brisbane will prove too strong. Brisbane by 15 points.
WATCH IT LIVE Bulldogs v Lions
Fremantle v Gold Coast at Fremantle Oval, 2.10pm AWST
- It’s fair to say that Fremantle has had a really tough fortnight and coming into this final home and away game of the season the Dockers will likely be focused on getting the basics right and step one for them is pressure. The Dockers and Suns are the best two pressure sides in the competition this year, averaging 71.7 and 69.4 tackles respectively, so expect this to be a stoppage heavy, hard-hitting game.
- The Suns have proven to be strong at stoppages this year, averaging a competition high 23.9 clearances, but haven’t quite made the most of it due to poor ball use around the ground. This is something the Dockers can capitalise on, forcing the turnover and launching attack from that.
- Fremantle will find some confidence and form as it looks toward finals. Fremantle by 20 points.
WATCH IT LIVE Dockers v Suns
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