2018 AFLW Grand Final Preview
8 clubs, 7 weeks, 240 players, 28 games in total (let’s not count all those dreaded ACL injuries along the way) and here we are preparing for the second Official AFLW Grand Final between the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions this weekend.
SEASON ROUND UP
The daughters of the West have become the first ever team from their club to finish on top of the ladder at the end of a regular season (VFL or AFL football), winning all but 2 games this season after a loss in Round 3 against Adelaide and GWS in Round 6. It was a less than ideal start for their forward line losing #1 draft pick Izzy Huntington to a ruptured ACL in Round 2, followed by the captain Katie Brennan going down with ankle injury in Round 3. The Bulldogs however went on to show that they are not defined by any one player and were bolstered by the likes of Brooke Lochland who put on a show during round 4 kicking 7 goals, while the teams original priority selection & WBBL cricketer Emma Kearney has been an absolute stand out this year with many tipping her to take out the league Best & Fairest.
Led once more by captain, All Australian Emma Zielke, the Lions are back in the Premiership race for the second year in a row, determined to prove the doubters wrong having come off an unbeaten season last year, only to lose to the Adelaide Crows in the Grand Final, by a margin of 6 points. The current season has played out a lot differently for the Brisbane Lions, losing 3 of their 7 matches, including two losses back to back against Melbourne & Collingwood, as well as a defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs in Round 3. While much was said about the loss of key forward Tayla Harris to Carlton, as part of the trade deal, the Lions scored impressive Blues midfielder Nat Exon – a move that would pay dividends for Exon and her new team, ironically debuting in the side against the Western Bulldogs.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED
Back in Round 2, these two teams faced off in the sweltering Queensland heat with the Bulldogs handing the Lions their first loss of the season (5.3.33 to 3.6.24). While neither team managed a goal in the first quarter, it was the Dogs who came out charging in the second quarter with 4 goals to the Lions’ 1 point. Although the Lions managed to stop the flow after the half time break and kept their opponents scoreless during the third quarter, the Bulldogs defence was just too much for them to make any sort of comeback on the scoreboard.
BULLDOGS – Captain Katie Brennan will not line up for the game this weekend after being issued a 2-match suspension for engaging in rough conduct after a tackle on Melbourne Demon player Harriet Cordner in last week’s match (despite appealing the ban decision). Forward Kristen McLeod has been named in the side with Brennan as an emergency leaving the door open for a possible last-minute legal fight in the Supreme Court to see her potentially play.
BRISBANE – The Lions have made no changes to their side and will continue with the same team list that took the field last week.
Both teams lining up on Saturday have their share of new, young players who have been impressive throughout the season and found themselves nominated over the past 7 weeks for the NAB Rising Star Award. At Brisbane, Sophie Conway and Tahlia Randall have really stepped up for the Lions, while the Bulldogs Libby Birch, Bonnie Toogood, Monique Conti, Aisling Utri & Naomi Ferres have all earned themselves nominations. With great leaders at both clubs, these rookies will no doubt relish the chance to cap off their first year in the AFLW with a premiership win.
WATCH OUT FOR...
Bulldog Emma Kearney leads the league in disposals followed closely behind by Brisbane’s Alexandra Anderson, while Brooke Lochland (WB) is the leading goal kicker for the season on 12, with Jess Wuetschner (BL) just behind her on 11 so expect these players to bring their A-game on Saturday. Also keep an eye out for last year’s B&F winner at the Lions Emily Bates through the midfield, along with Nat Exon, while Sabrina Frederick-Traub will no doubt be dangerous working out of the ruck/forward which she has done so well all year. Defenders Kate Lutkins and Leah Kaslar will be hoping to shut down their opposition from hitting the scoreboard as best they can with defenders Hannah Scott and Libby Birch looking to do the same for the Bulldogs. Vice-captain, onballer Ellie Blackburn has backed up last year’s season with yet another quality 7 weeks for the doggies and newcomer Monique Conti settled in to the AFLW with ease demonstrating her athleticism & ball skills each week.