RICHMOND and North Melbourne have played out a thrilling draw, with the Tigers subsequently locking in fourth spot and the double chance, while the Kangaroos have finished eighth as the home and away season comes to an end.
A Courtney Wakefield shot just dropped short and was rushed through for a behind to tie scores up at 27-apiece in the final minute of the game, with Richmond recording 4.3 and a wasteful North Melbourne kicking 3.9.
After controlling vast swathes of the first quarter – including a nice set shot from Stella Reid, who is growing in confidence game-by-game – Richmond gave up the easiest of North Melbourne goals in the dying seconds, conceding three marks inside 50 in one passage of play and a straightforward Ash Riddell major.
The Roos noticeably lifted their pressure in the second quarter, with multiple smothers early, but were unable to make much headway on the scoreboard.
North Melbourne owned the third term, with Richmond panicking and unable to clear its defensive half, but the Roos' inaccuracy issues returned at a horrible time, kicking 1.4 and one out on the full (1.5 for the quarter), before the Tigers whisked it downfield for Ellie McKenzie's second.
Jenna Bruton snapped a goal to take the lead early in the fourth, and behinds were exchanged until the final siren.
Kim Rennie (HS protocols) was a late withdrawal in what appeared to be a significant blow to the Roos' ruck stocks, but Emma King stood tall with 27 hitouts, receiving support from Vikki Wall.
Unheralded Richmond tagger Meg Macdonald played a crucial role on Jasmine Garner, holding one of the AFLW best and fairest favourites to five disposals and zero clearances in the first half.
Garner's influence lifted as the game progressed, finishing with 13 disposals, four inside 50s and one clearance.
KANGAROOS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
The absence of skipper Emma Kearney (knee soreness) was also noticed across half-back, but Mia King and Bruton performed admirably throughout the game, and Hannah Bowey made a composed debut in defence.
McKenzie was simply superb for Richmond, while Monique Conti and Grace Egan worked hard around the contest.
The much-needed return of Tahlia Randall
Key forward Randall has been an important structural part of North Melbourne's forward line this season, and it looked as if she had suffered a nasty ankle injury in the second term. After taking a low, diving mark, she got to her feet with ease, went to handball and her right leg gave way. After leaving the ground with trainers, she came back six minutes later and played out the game.
The battle for the AFLW best and fairest
Secondary to the race for top four was the individual honours potentially up for grabs, with two of the favourites in Garner and Conti going head to head. In terms of the umpire votes for the day, it's unlikely Garner will feature in the top three overall players, while Conti may pinch a vote or two.
"When you look at 3.9, and then there was an out on the full, Vikki kicked one, you can look at it that way. What we were most disappointed with was early in the game, we felt like the first quarter the Tiges jumped out of the block and their pressure was really good. We didn't handle that as well as we would have liked, we felt we overused the ball early and allowed them to get the game looking the way they wanted. It wasn't until we were able to re-set at quarter-time, the second quarter was an arm wrestle and we dominated the third quarter, but just couldn't put the scoreboard pressure on." – North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker.
"It's probably a fitting finale for us, the way our season has gone, we've had so many close games and found a way to get over the line. Essentially to get over the line today was all we needed. I thought we owned the first half and they probably owned the second half." – Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson
Both sides will be playing away finals – Richmond will take on Brisbane (and have a second chance in its back pocket) and North Melbourne will play Geelong, with times and dates to be announced on Sunday night.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 1.3 2.8 3.9 (27)
RICHMOND 2.1 3.1 4.1 4.3 (27)
North Melbourne: Riddell, Abbatangelo, Bruton
Richmond: McKenzie 2, Wakefield, Reid
North Melbourne: M.King, Bruton, Riddell, E.King, Garner
Richmond: McKenzie, Conti, Egan, Sheerin, Macdonald
North Melbourne: O'Shea (head knock)
North Melbourne: Kim Rennie (HS protocols) replaced in selected side by Charli Granville
Crowd: 3147 at Arden Street Oval