AFLW R8 preview: Crucial clashes aplenty during Indigenous Round

ROUND eight will continue this weekend after Wednesday’s thrilling after-the-siren result between Greater Western Sydney and St Kilda in Blacktown. 

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Canberra will get its first taste of AFLW footy as crucial contests litter the round. Fremantle will host Adelaide in a top-of-the-table clash to open the weekend, Melbourne and North Melbourne take each other with both sides keen to keep up their momentum and stake a claim on the top four, while Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs will also face off to keep in touch with the top six. 

THE RUN HOME Hot race for top two, who will make finals?

Saturday, February 26

Fremantle v Adelaide at Fremantle Oval, 12.10pm AWST

  • Fremantle has emerged from isolation, enjoyed a bye week and is now ready to hit Adelaide hard, not to mention Kiara Bowers ready to return after an extended layoff due to a two match suspension and unusual fixturing. Last time these two sides met in round three last year was the first time the Dockers registered a win over the consistently impressive Crows. An arm wrestle in the first half, Fremantle held Adelaide goalless for the first three quarters – the only time a side has done this to the Crows – and eventually prevailed by 30 points. Ominously, Bowers had 23 disposals and 13 tackles in that game. 
  • Adelaide focuses on condensing the ground and intercepting the ball through the middle of the ground to keep the pressure on defensive groups and create repeat opportunities at goal, while Fremantle focuses on pressure and the burst from stoppages to pile on the inside 50s. Notably it was that power at centre stoppages that saw the Western Bulldogs get the upper hand over the Crows in round six. The Dockers average the second-most centre clearances in the competition this year, while the Crows average the fewest – this will be where Fremantle can win control of the game. 
  • Fremantle is refreshed and happy back at home, ready to take on the Crows. Dockers by eight points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Dockers v Crows

Fremantle's Stephanie Cain and Adelaide's Erin Phillips get tangled up during round three, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond v Geelong at Swinburne Centre, 5.10pm AEDT

  • Richmond has kicked its two highest scores in club history in its two wins so far this season and has started to find solutions to the absence of key players at either end of the ground. What has been impressive from the Tigers this year is their efficiency once getting the ball inside 50, so it is imperative that Geelong is very accountable higher up the field and limits the entries the Tigers are able to register. The Cats are also conceding the most clearances each game of any side with 25.9 each game, so the work of Monique Conti and Ellie McKenzie around the ball looms as a concern, so restricting the efficiency of those clearances is important. 
  • While Geelong has shown some real signs of growth this year, there have still been moments where that panicked, uncreative side of 2021 has returned. Long kicks down the line and an unwillingness to use the width of the ground is a sign of Geelong feeling the pressure. Tapping into the run and confidence of Nina Morrison and Sophie Van De Heuval and looking laterally to move the Tigers’ defensive unit is key for Geelong this weekend. 
  • The Tigers have shown a willingness to take the game on and play with confidence, and that will serve them well. Richmond by 10 points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Tigers v Cats

Richmond's Katie Brennan in action during a practice game against Geelong on December 18, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Melbourne v North Melbourne at Casey Fields, 7.10pm AEDT

  • This one will be a battle of opposing game styles. Melbourne leads the competition for contested possessions, averaging 107.6 per game, while North Melbourne averages the most uncontested possessions with 142.7. Added to this, North Melbourne is the best side when it comes to using the ball this year, averaging 67.4 per cent disposal efficiency, but the Demons are forcing the poorest ball use out of their opponents of any side. Essentially, whichever side can get the game on its terms will win the game. 
  • Both teams boast several star players, but one has emerged for each in recent weeks. Jasmine Garner has worked her way into career-best form, winning 26 disposals and kicking three goals against Collingwood last week. For Melbourne, Tayla Harris’ strength in the forward line has seen her kick 13 goals and average 2.6 contested marks this year. This game will have a host of enticing one on one matchups right across the ground, and none will be more important than those tasked with Garner and Harris. 
  • The Demons are on an 11 game winning streak at Casey Fields, and while the Kangaroos will push them in a likely thriller, Melbourne's grit will win out. Melbourne by two points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Demons v Kangaroos

North Melbourne's Ash Riddell is tackled by Melbourne's Maddi Gay during round three, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Sunday, February 27

St Kilda v Gold Coast at RSEA Park, 4.10pm AWST

  • Both St Kilda and Gold Coast are coming off down-to-the-wire thrillers earlier in the week for a dramatic loss and the first draw of the season respectively, so both teams will be hungry for the four points. For the first time this year, the Saints found a real system in their game style against the Giants, using the overlap run and handball game to get the ball forward into space quickly, and while it almost got them over the line for the first time this year, the Suns are a different prospect. Gold Coast is the best pressure team in the competition in 2022, averaging 73.7 tackles per game, so that slick ball movement needs to be able to hit the target while the opposition is bearing down. 
  • In the midfield the Saints have been battling hard but struggling without the quartet of Tyanna Smith, Georgia Patrikios, Olivia Vesely and Rosie Dillon. Gold Coast, however, has a host of strong onballers who really controlled the game against the Western Bulldogs. Charlie Rowbottom’s 25 disposal, seven tackle, five clearance performance was obviously a standout, but Alison Drennan, Jamie Stanton and Jacqui Yorston’s ability around the contest should really limit any damage St Kilda might try to do out of stoppages. 
  • Gold Coast simply won’t allow the Saints any easy chains of possession and, in turn, starve them of possession in their forward 50. Gold Coast by 15 points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Saints v Suns

St Kilda players look dejected after a close loss during round eight, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Collingwood v Western Bulldogs at Victoria Park, 3.10pm AEDT

  • A crucial game in terms of the run toward finals, Collingwood is holding onto its top six position by the tips of its fingers. The Magpies simply haven’t found a solution to their lack of scoring, still averaging just 2.9 marks inside 50 for the season, to trail the rest of the competition, and kicking just 28.4 points a game. This becomes even more of a concern when faced with the relentless and tough back five of the Western Bulldogs. 
  • The Dogs have battled hard in their recent condensed fixture, recording three wins and a draw from a recent 16-day stretch. Kirsty Lamb’s work rate has been deservedly at the top of the conversation this year, but Bonnie Toogood’s efforts have been less celebrated. Toogood has had to work incredibly hard without Isabel Huntington by her side inside 50 this season, tasked with being the side’s number one forward inside 50, but also needing to work up the field to assist in delivery forward. Limiting Toogood’s work rate will be a high priority for the Pies this weekend. 
  • The Bulldogs’ spread and strength in the back half will see them get over the line. Western Bulldogs by 12 points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Magpies v Bulldogs

The Western Bulldogs' Eleanor Brown is tackled by Collingwood's Aishling Sheridan during round six, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

West Coast v Brisbane at Mineral Resources Park, 2.10pm AWST

  • Slow starts have plagued West Coast this year, kicking just one goal in seven first quarters, and last week against Richmond, that poor first quarter really proved to be the difference in the result. The Eagles simply cannot let the powerhouse that is Brisbane get out to a comfortable early lead because, despite what Melbourne showed on Monday night, the Lions are a hard team to reel back in. 
  • Brisbane might not have won the four points on Monday night, but its impressive run since a comprehensive round one loss has them in a strong position to go deep into finals. Outside run and pure speed has seen them cut opposition defences open, with very few sides fast enough to shut that run down, and on the open expanses of Mineral Resources Park this is likely to be key to the game. 
  • The run of Sophie Conway, Cathy Svarc and Orla O’Dwyer will shape this game. Brisbane by 30 points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Eagles v Lions

Brisbane's Cathy Svarc chases the ball during round three, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

GWS v Carlton at Manuka Oval, 7.10pm AEDT 

  • Both Greater Western Sydney and Carlton registered buoying wins against St Kilda in their last game, the Giants in dramatic circumstances, while Carlton was methodical in its approach. GWS returned to its reliance on Alyce Parker and Alicia Eva around the ball, and Cora Staunton up forward and fell over the line on Wednesday. If Carlton can limit the impact of this trio, they will effectively shut down the Giants’ game. 
  • Key to Carlton’s win on Saturday was a willingness to apply pressure higher up the ground, something the side has struggled to consistently do this year. It’s important that the Blues’ midfielders play a two-way game, working to win the ball but when it’s in the Giants’ hands, running hard defensively. If they can do this, they’ll be a hard side to beat. 
  • Carlton has shown more upside this year, and that’s likely to get them over the line on Sunday. Carlton by 18 points. 

WATCH IT LIVE Giants v Blues

Greater Western Sydney's Tanya Hetherington is tackled during round nine, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

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