SUNDAY will mark the fourth Grand Final in seven seasons for Craig Starcevich and the Brisbane Lions, and the veteran coach has seen the NAB AFLW competition come on in leaps and bounds.
Not only has the league expanded from eight to 18 teams, but this season saw a full four-round finals series for the first time.
"In the first couple of years, you had to finish one or two (on the ladder) to qualify. This year, it feels more like a footy season, with 10 home and away games and a proper finals series, and have to qualify and go through all the rigours of that," Starcevich said.
"I think the competition as a whole has become less congested, more tactical, better use of uncontested possession – all those bits and pieces that help the game flow a bit, that's all starting to take shape. It's not just our own team, you look at all the games and they're starting to go that way.
"There's still enough room for contest, there's still enough room for working out how to get your fair share of clearances, or whatever it is. The way the ball now moves from end to end, and the ability of teams to score has been the big improver in recent times.
"I don't know how that looks statistically, but that's just what it looks like when I watch a game."
Brisbane got the chocolates over Melbourne the last time the sides played in round four, shaking off a slow start to emerge triumphant by 15 points.
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"Our team defence has improved from a method point of view, we obviously haven't played the Lions since then, so tomorrow will be the test of whether it has (actually) improved or not," Melbourne coach Mick Stinear said.
"We think it's been a really successful period, the way we've been defending, that's led by our forwards really, they're starving them of getting the ball out of the forward half, it's not just down to our back five or six rotating through.
"Sinead Goldrick didn't play in that game, so she'll add some speed into our defence. Maeve Chaplin's continued to grow throughout this season as a young player, and Tahlia Gillard is getting better and better every game.
"The cohesion of our backline has improved, and more importantly, we've got better buy-in for our full-team defence."
Demons skipper Daisy Pearce will be playing her second Grand Final in one year,
"As a team, and individually, living through last season's experience, having to travel (to Adelaide), having to do the W Awards in Grand Final week (has helped)," Pearce said.
"I don't think we went into last season thinking we hadn't prepared well, but all that adds armour to your experience. Our maturity in our group this year as well, our ability to turn up and compete unconditionally, I feel like we've grown a lot.
"Not just for Grand Final week, but week in, week out, knowing what we're going to get out of each other and going out to compete regardless of what the week throws at you – we're a different team from that perspective."
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Brisbane captain Breanna Koenen has now had a handful of opportunities to test out the new Michael Voss Oval at Brighton Homes Arena, and is confident it'll hold up under its first football match.
"It's really nice, it's come a long way since Monday, and it's looking like a really fast, good deck. It's obviously massive, so hopefully it suits our game style," Koenen said.
"We were lucky to get out there this week and have a little look at it, how it bounces and how it rolls, so I think it's very lucky we got out there.
"The groundsmen have done an incredible job, Jake (Anson, Brisbane head of infrastructure) has done an incredible job getting it ready, it's amazing how it's come on in the past week. We're really excited to play our first game, and being the Grand Final makes it even more momentous."