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Emma’s Examination: AFLW Preliminary Finals preview

By Emma Grant

Ahead of the AFLW Preliminary finals this week, former Collingwood player Emma Grant has given her thoughts on which teams she believes will be playing off in the Grand Final.

Adelaide v Melbourne, Saturday April 10, 2:10pm at Adelaide Oval

Key players: Adelaide

Adelaide have A graders all across the ground. Sarah Allan has been super reliable down back, averaging 12.4 disposals, 7.2 intercept possessions and three rebound 50s per game. The midfield duo of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff have been instrumental again in 2021 with both their inside and outside work. Erin Phillips was recognised with an All Australian nomination for yet another great year, where she has kicked a career high 12 goals, averaged 5.2 marks and leads the league with 5.6 score involvements per game. There isn’t too many more influential players than the skipper Chelsea Randall who has played at both ends of the ground this year – her attack and courage is truly inspiring for her teammates week in, week out.

Key players: Melbourne

Will the skipper Daisy Pearce get up for the huge game? It’s the question everyone is waiting to get an answer on. Her on-field leadership is immeasurable, but the girls have also shown they can get the job done without her. Vice-captain Karen Paxman and young gun Tyla Hanks have starred for the side this season through the midfield, while Lauren Pearce has been back to her best capped off with a spot in the 2021 All Australian squad. Pearce has averaged 15 hitouts, 14.7 disposals and 3.7 clearances this season. Eden Zanker and Kate Hore are always dangerous around the footy and Madison Gay is finding some great form of late and hitting the scoreboard too!

Where the game will be won

It’s going to be hard to topple Adelaide on its home deck, but the Dees should enter the clash with confidence. They’ve won five matches in a row with one of those being against the Crows. Daisy Pearce is tracking well in her return from a right knee injury, but could still miss. As usual, finals football will be won and lost around the contest and both teams would back their work and personnel in that space. Adelaide are the AFLW finals specialist. They are 3/3 out of the finals matches it has played. I can’t go past the experienced Crows during finals, especially at Adelaide Oval. Crows for me.

Emma’s tip: Adelaide by eight points.

Brisbane v Collingwood, Saturday April 10, 4:10pm at The Gabba

Key players: Collingwood

Collingwood has class right across the ground. Stacey Livingstone and Ruby Schleicher have been key pillars in their defence, while the midfield trio of Bri Davey, Britt Bonnici and Jamie ‘Chops’ Lambert continue to find the footy week in, week out. Chloe Molloy has been pivotal up forward in 2021 continuing to impact the scoreboard each week.  

Key players: Brisbane

Kate Lutkins has been a consistent performer in defence for the Lions, earning All Australian honours. Dakota Davidson has had a superb second AFLW season finishing the home and away season with 13 goals. Cathy Svarc has earned the reputation as one of the League’s best taggers, often performing the shut-down role on the opposition’s best midfielders with ease, but always finding the football too. The question is – who does she go to? Davey, Bonnici or Lambert?

Where the game will be won

Both sides have high-end talent, as well as some exciting young players, but for me it’s going to be which team can settle the quickest and have 21 contributors. The Lions are coming off an interesting fortnight with COVID-19 impacting Queensland. They were given an exemption to continue to train throughout the snap lockdown. While byes can occasionally lead to a loss of momentum, from all reports it came at a perfect time for the Lions who are refreshed and ready to go again. Interestingly, the Pies will be without backline coach Jordan Roughead on Saturday due to his a clash with his AFL Commitments on the same day, so some extra leadership will be needed in defence for the Pies. Ash Brazill looked more at home in defence late last week so look for her to start back there and lead the girls on the ground. This game will go down to the wire. Pies for me…just.

Emma’s tip: Collingwood by three points