Round 6 Saturday 1 October

Mars Stadium
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    Full R6 preview: Finals-shapers aplenty, spicy Showdown looms

    THE first ever AFLW Showdown headlines round six, with Adelaide coming off the biggest win in competition history and Port Adelaide out to stake its claim on South Australian history. 

    Meanwhile Richmond and Gold Coast will battle it out in what will likely be a finals-shaping result come season's end, and Sydney coach Scott Gowans will face his former side North Melbourne for the first time as head coach. 

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

    Hawthorn v West Coast at Skybus Stadium, 6.10pm AEST 

    Hawthorn, fresh off its first win, will be on a mission to make it two from two, but the Eagles are no longer the easybeats many expected them to be. Both sides play similarly through the middle, winning fewer disposals than their respective opponents and applying plenty of pressure around the ball. The Hawks are also marginally better at moving the ball forward, averaging 27.8 inside 50s compared to the Eagles' 27.6.  

    Where they differ significantly is at each end of the ground. Hawthorn is conceding 45.6 points per game - the third most of any team this season - and struggles to find control within its own attack. The Hawks are averaging three marks inside 50 per game and are goaling from just 8.6 per cent of their forward entries. West Coast, on the other hand, is conceding a club-low 38.8 points per game and kicking a goal from 12.3 per cent of its inside 50s. 

    Tip: The Eagles will register three wins in a season for the first time. West Coast by 12 points. 

    Hawthorn players celebrate a win during round five, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

    Port Adelaide v Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, 7.30pm ACST 

    This is a game where its place in history and the significance of the occasion will ultimately overshadow what happens on the field, but nonetheless it is an opportunity for Adelaide to really gather momentum into the back half of the season. This season the Crows have morphed back into a high clearance, high tackle team, averaging club bests in each metric. Ebony Marinoff has largely led that from the middle, winning 24.8 disposals, five clearances and laying 10.2 tackles per game. 

    Similarly, Port Adelaide has looked its best when pressuring around the contest - averaging 74.2 tackles per game - and then moving quickly into attack once the ball is won. For this reason, Adelaide's clearance numbers loom as highly dangerous for the Power and will no doubt be front of mind for head coach Lauren Arnell. Limiting the spread of Anne Hatchard will be important as she covers the ground like few others, and there is every chance we will get to see captains Chelsea Randall and Erin Phillips go head-to-head. 

    Tip: The Power will start brightly but the experience of the Crows will take over. Adelaide by 30 points. 

    Phillips goes from Port die-hard to Showdown star

    02:31 Sep 29. 2022. 4:51 PM

    Port Adelaide captain Erin Phillips talks about what to expect from the inaugural Showdown and playing against her old side

    SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1

    Greater Western Sydney v Carlton at Henson Park, 12.10pm AEST 

    The Giants are coming off a historically bad loss to Adelaide where they equalled the competition's lowest ever score. A home game against a depleted Carlton outfit is an ideal opportunity to bounce back and rediscover their brand of footy. That outside run and attack looks great against weaker sides, but when against sides who can bring pressure and force poor ball use, the Giants have regularly fallen apart. In the past few seasons GWS has played its best footy when playing with a backs-against-the-wall mentality, and that is exactly the kind of mindset it will have coming into this game. 

    After all the preseason talk about how Carlton's midfield will stack up with a number of off-season departures, it is in fact the third-best clearance team in the competition across the opening five rounds, averaging 26.2 per game. The problem for the Blues is then using that possession from the stoppage efficiently enough to string clean chains of disposal together. Often, they have become trapped in their back half, unable to exit the defence and just playing desperate last line footy before eventually conceding a score. If they can maintain some territory control for parts of the game, and structure behind the ball to prevent quick slingshot footy from any turnovers, they should be in with a shot of their second win. 

    Tip: The Giants will be spirited, looking to atone for last week's loss, but the Blues will surge late to take the win. Carlton by three points. 

    Giants players look dejected after a loss during round five, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

    Western Bulldogs v Geelong at Mars Stadium, 2.10pm AEST 

    Arguably a match that will be looked back on as a finals-shaper, as the Bulldogs look to bounce back from their first loss of the season, and Geelong figures out how to play without Georgie Prespakis. The Dogs find a lot of their forward drive from their powerful midfield group but have progressively found more attack out of their intercepting and repelling backline. Players like Katie Lynch, Eleanor Brown and Issy Grant don't just work to win the ball but then create run and rebound. To quell this, the Cats need to not only find that clever kick inside 50 that they had last week, but also pressure in attack so that once it's in there, it's hard to get back out. 

    A distinct change in Geelong's game style this season has been its control of the ball around the ground. They are taking an average of 45 marks per game, the highest in club history and third overall this season to date. Sitting atop the average mark tally, however, is the Western Bulldogs with 49.6 per game, 8.4 of which are contested. This battle in the air will likely go a long way to winning the game for whoever can take that control. 

    Tip: The Cats might be coming off the best performance in their short history, but the Bulldogs will get job done. Western Bulldogs by 10 points. 

    AFLW INJURY LIST How healthy is your team?

    Geelong celebrates a goal against St Kilda in round five, S7. Picture: Getty Images

    St Kilda v Collingwood at RSEA Park, 4.10pm AEST 

    Life gets tougher for the Saints as they now face Collingwood, who sits third on the ladder, without a raft of key players including first-choice ruck Erin McKinnon. Against expansion sides earlier in the season the Saints have methodically moved the ball forward and put it to the advantage of their forwards. Against stronger sides, however, that ball movement down the field has been slowed and forward entries have been sloppier due to the pressure. Rediscovering that this weekend is a tough task, against one of the best drilled defences in the league who has conceded the second fewest points of any side.

    It is likely that the Pies will see this weekend as another opportunity to back in its young, emerging midfield group led by Mikala Cann with Chloe Molloy pinch hitting. Despite who is missing, Collingwood is averaging the most clearances in its history with 22.8. The one concern for the Pies, however, is still finding that consistent transition into attack that Brianna Davey so reliably brought in recent seasons. While this has improved compared to last season, they are the fifth lowest inside 50 side in the competition currently, so should they find that connection more often this week, the Saints may concede another big score. 

    Tip: The Pies will take this as an opportunity to gather some steam. Collingwood by 25 points. 

    Collingwood players celebrate a goal during round four, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

    Richmond v Gold Coast at the Swinburne Centre, 6.10pm AEST 

    One of the matches of the round, in the coveted Saturday evening slot, it is a battle of the eighth and ninth placed sides. Both coming off good wins last week, Richmond against premiership favourites Brisbane and Gold Coast against a late surge from Port Adelaide, it will really be a fight of will in the contest. What the Tigers did so well last week was remove Brisbane's opportunity to put together meaningful passages of play, but the Suns have won games with chaotic footy this season so will be up for the challenge. Players like Jac Dupuy and Courtney Jones aren't looking to kick pretty, methodical goals, they will just get the ball on their boot and that means they are dangerous every time the Suns send the ball forward. 

    Richmond's defensive unit has been its starring line this season, with recruit Eilish Sheerin leading the competition for intercepts it may seem like it is thanks only to her inclusion, but it is in fact the way the group has worked together that makes it so dangerous. They have a determination that means they are just never out of a contest. Maddie Shevlin is in career-best form, Gabby Seymour's work rate from the ruck into the backline to support, Libby Graham's athleticism and Beth Lynch's attack on the ball - and ball carrier - has combined to create something special. This game will boil down to the small opportunities taken. If the Suns can continue to take those chance kicks on goal once in attack and maintain a positive perspective, they will be in with a chance. If the Tigers' backline is as relentless as last week, they will be exceptionally difficult to beat. 

    Tip: This one will go down to the wire. Richmond by two points. 

    Last two mins: Tigers hold off ladder leaders for massive scalp

    03:15 Sep 24. 2022. 12:52 PM

    The thrilling final moments between the Tigers and Lions at Swinburne Centre

    SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2

    Brisbane v Essendon at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex, 12.10pm AEST 

    Two of the most prolific attacking sides will go head-to-head on Sunday as Brisbane (averaging 56.2 points per game) host expansion side Essendon (41.8 points per game). The Lions will be smarting from their first loss of the season, where they simply couldn't find the efficiency in attack that they had enjoyed across the opening month. But what they have shown is that on a good day they can score, and they can score heavily. This looms as a problem for Essendon whose backline has been its weakest line so far this season, and now without key defender Ellyse Gamble they may be further exposed. For this reason, it is important that the midfield group works hard defensively to limit Brisbane's inside 50 entries, and then support when it does go down there. 

    At the other end of the ground, inaugural Lion Kate Lutkins is a chance to make her unlikely comeback from an ACL injury suffered in round one last season, less than nine months ago. Should she return, she would greatly bolster an already solid Lions defence, but would help release players like Shannon Campbell and Natalie Grider a little more to rebound really aggressively.  

    Tip: The Lions will get back on the winner's list. Brisbane by 15 points. 

    Maddy Prespakis celebrates a goal during Essendon's clash against Collingwood in round five, S7. Picture: Getty Images

    Fremantle v Melbourne at Fremantle Oval, 12.10pm AWST 

    The last time these two sides met is one Fremantle would likely prefer to forget. Melbourne became the first AFLW team to crack the 100-point barrier on their way to - at the time - the biggest win in competition history at 88 points. This time around, the Dockers will again be without key playmakers Ebony and Kara Antonio but are coming off a hard-fought derby win that will have steeled them for a Melbourne side that is humming along nicely. That win came off the back of pressure at the contest, and impressive performances from Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers.  

    In the past Tayla Harris has really gotten a hold of the Dockers' backline, kicking nine goals in her five matches against them, while Kate Hore is in fine form although not quite kicking as accurately as she would like. Because of this, Janelle Cuthbertson and Emma O'Driscoll become even more important than usual, likely taking one of the Demons' key forwards each.

    Tip: The Dockers have rediscovered their brand, but the Demons will be a bit too slick. Melbourne by 13 points. 

    Sabreena Duffy and Lauren Pearce celebrate a win with their Demons teammates after round five, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

    North Melbourne v Sydney at the Swinburne Centre, 5.10pm AEDT 

    The Kangaroos are coming off their best win of the season and will be focused on continuing that form against the winless Swans. It has been interesting to see the Roos adjust their trademark style this season, away from relying on controlling the uncontested ball and instead being willing to thrive from contest to contest as they progressively move the ball forward. Because of this they are far less reliant on marking inside 50 - averaging just 5.8 per game, the fewest in club history - and instead finding run and dangerous ground level options. Vikki Wall has been a revelation in that respect, and Sophie Abbatangelo's improved work rate has made her far more effective than she has been in past seasons. 

    For the Swans it will be about avoiding being opened up on the quick turnover as they have been repeatedly this season. Players like Emma Kearney and Erika O'Shea have the potential to really tear Sydney apart with their intercept and dash out of defence, so it is imperative that the Swans avoid rushing when they do have the ball and really work to put the ball to their teammates' advantage rather than kicking forward in hope.  

    Tip: It won't be a happy reunion for former Roos coach, now Sydney coach Scott Gowans. North Melbourne by 30 points. 

    Kangaroos players celebrate after Tess Craven's goal during the R5 clash against Western Bulldogs on September 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

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