A TOP-EIGHT finals series offered opportunities for a greater range of sides to feature at the pointy end of the NAB AFLW season, and two such teams feature as womens.afl top 20 countdown continues.
Focusing only on the lead-up to and season seven itself, the series continues with moments 10-6, with two club captains front and centre.
10: Chelsea Randall pulled from semi-final
The Adelaide captain suffered a heavy collision in the dying minutes of the Crows' qualifying final loss to Melbourne, and appeared to stumble when taking the subsequent free kick, although she maintained she tripped on a shoelace.
Randall cleared concussion protocol testing throughout the week in the lead-up to Adelaide's semi-final against Collingwood, but was pulled from team selection on the Thursday before the match.
It was a decision made by the Crows' medical team in conjunction with the AFL's medical experts based on footage of the incident, and Randall – who had been remarkably circumspect in missing the 2021 Grand Final due to diagnosed concussion – was vocal in her discontent.
"It is frustrating, and I'm disappointed. (It's) around the system and the process in place because, clinically, I was cleared of all of that, and I only found out late last night that the story had changed," she said.
"If I had the same knock at training, we wouldn't have vision, and I'd have a clinical assessment and I'd be playing this weekend. Unfortunately it means with this process, some players who aren't concussed will miss games."
9: Geelong's mid-season resurgence
Although making a preliminary final via the conference system in their first season, the Cats enjoyed their best run by far this season off the back of smart recruitment and clear structures.
Coming into season seven, Geelong had won a total of eight games in four years, but with seven wins from 10 home and away games the Cats found a confidence and attacking style of play that was impressive to watch.
The Cats broke their club-record score twice - including becoming just the second AFLW side to breach the 100-point barrier - and enjoyed the three biggest wins in club history on their way to that finals spot.
There was a better balance between their midfield strength, led by Amy McDonald, Georgie Prespakis and Becky Webster, and outside runners in Nina Morrison and Mikayla Bowen. That hard work up the field was rewarded by a more potent attacking line, including Chloe Scheer, Shelley Scott, and Jackie Parry.
The hyper defensive, tough-to-watch Cats are a thing of the past.
8: Final-round draw shapes the eight
After 10 rounds, the structure of the top eight came down to the final Sunday of football.
Three sides – Richmond, North Melbourne and Geelong – were still in the running for fourth spot, after the Cats had stormed to a team-record win over Sydney the day prior, sending their percentage skyward.
Conveniently, Richmond and North Melbourne faced off on that sunny Sunday at Arden Street, with the Cats coming into the frame for the four (percentage dependent) if the Roos won.
Typically, it was the most unlikely of scenarios which resulted – a desperate, lunging Emelia Yassir rushed behind at Richmond's end saw scores locked up, and the Tigers celebrated the draw like a win, earning a double-chance in their first AFLW finals series.
But it was North Melbourne which got the last laugh, launching from its resultant eighth spot to knock off Richmond in a semi-final and earning a preliminary final berth.
7: Ellie Blackburn sends the Dogs into the finals
In round 10 against Carlton, the Western Bulldogs' place in their second-ever finals series was within reach, but with minutes remaining they had their backs against the wall. Enter Ellie Blackburn.
Neatly gathering the ball at half-forward, Blackburn expertly weaved through the Carlton defence to slam through the matchwinner from outside 40m, keeping her side alive for finals.
Blackburn's goal punctuated a series of stunning matchwinners throughout the season. There was Eliza James' birthday goal in round six to beat St Kilda, Nicola Barr's point with four seconds remaining so the Giants could get over the Hawks, Alyssa Bannan's running goal on the MCG to keep Melbourne's winning streak against North Melbourne alive, and Georgie Prespakis' second ever goal late in round one to beat the Tigers.
6: Richmond arrives
Alongside Geelong, Richmond was the big improver in season seven, reaching finals for the first time, and doing so from the top four no less. That finals berth was off the back of the Tigers' "hot girl hot streak" - as coined by midfielder Grace Egan.
Richmond registered seven straight wins and a draw between rounds two and 10, after winning a total of just six games in its first three seasons in the competition. This was thanks to smart footy and a touch of desperation, as proven by Gabby Seymour's match-saving smother against Brisbane in round five.
Their success culminated in All-Australian honours for Eilish Sheerin in her first season, Courtney Wakefield in her last, and Monique Conti for the fourth time. Conti also became the first AFLW player to win five club best and fairest awards, all consecutively (including her last season at the Western Bulldogs).