The future of Collingwood’s AFLW finals campaign is set to be revealed as the Pies declare forfeiting the clash against the Lions is not an option.
A call on the rescheduled AFL Women’s qualifying final between Brisbane and Collingwood is expected as soon as Monday as the Pies continue to navigate their Covid crisis.
The Magpies were left with just 14 players available last Wednesday when the call was made to delay their trip to Brisbane as they fight for a preliminary final berth.
The league and both clubs have been engaged in discussions in recent days as they plot a path to the postponed final.
It is understood that a number of affected Collingwood players are battling worse symptoms than others as they serve their mandatory seven-day isolation period.
Any player with ongoing symptoms beyond the seven days would be required to isolate as per state government requirements.
All players and staff underwent PCR testing last week.
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Collingwood has a number of train-on players on standby should they be required.
The Magpies would need at least 16 listed players – plus train-ons – for the game to go ahead, with Pies football boss Jess Burger adamant on Friday that forfeiting the match was “not on the cards”.
“As we know, this virus can present itself differently in each individual, so it’s a matter of us monitoring how they come back, and then working with the AFL on the next steps to get a finals series underway,” Burger said on SEN.
“We’re able to engage 10 top-up players, mostly from VFLW standard, and they’ve been coming into the club and training to best prepare themselves, should we need to call upon them if we can’t field a full team of AFLW-listed players.
“Forfeiting is not on the cards, and Brisbane really want to take on a team that is fit and healthy. When you’re in finals, likewise with us, you want to beat the best, so we want to prepare to be at our best and we want to play Brisbane at our best as well.”
Fremantle will travel to Adelaide this weekend to face the Crows after its demolition of North Melbourne on Saturday, but Melbourne must wait for the result of the clash between Brisbane and Collingwood to determine its preliminary final opponent.
That game is currently scheduled for this weekend.
The league has remained committed to playing the AFLW Grand Final on the weekend of April 2 and 3, with broadcast and match planning already well underway.
“While the ongoing pandemic continues to impact and challenge our competition and our wider community, we remain committed to progressing the finals series as safely as possible,” league general manager of competition management Laura Kane said last week.
Roos suffer death by 10 goalkickers
– James Mottershead
Fremantle has taken a step closer to its first AFLW premiership with a commanding 38-point win against North Melbourne.
The Dockers will play Adelaide in a preliminary final as they seek redemption for having their appearance in the 2020 last four taken away after the season was cancelled due to Covid.
It was a game befitting of a final as the first half had more twists than a pretzel.
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North Melbourne started the stronger of the two sides and got the first goal of the game courtesy of a sublime Ellie Gavalas snap from an impossible angle.
Fremantle found the perfect response just one-minute later through Roxy Roux, but with a lack of drive coming from its midfield could only put-up defensive roadblocks.
Kiara Bowers’ worst quarter of the season, in which she didn’t have a disposal, was compounded by an ankle injury to Sarah Wielstra.
In round five, North kept the Dockers to just 16-points for the entire game, but by the eight-minute mark of the second quarter Freo had gone past that score as their game started to click.
Gabby O’Sullivan and Dana East both converted set shots to give the Dockers a 10-point lead midway through the term as they looked like pulling away.
But the Dockers’ period of dominance seemed to spark North into action as they kicked the next two, thanks to Sophie Abbatangelo and Tahlia Randall, to regain the lead.
The seesawing quarter had one final twist as Gemma Houghton and Hayley Miller kicked goals in time-on to give Freo a nine-point halftime lead.
They call it the premiership quarter for a reason and, after 16-minutes of scintillating Freo football, their premiership hopes were alive for another week, while North’s came to a crashing halt.
Goals to Mikayla Hyde, Bianca Webb, and Aine Tighe capped off a brilliant quarter of free-flowing football.
North was left to rue poor entries inside-50, but equally Fremantle’s defence appeared impossible to pass.
An early Jas Garner goal gave North a flicker of hope, cutting the margin to 19-points.
But seconds after the restart Kara Antonio drove the final nail into the North Melbourne coffin, before Hyde kicked her second and Ebony Antonio added another to put the cherry on top of Freo’s cake.
Gavalas ignites AFLW finals
Tucked on the boundary line facing away from goal, Ellie Gavalas needed her best just to centre the ball.
The 25-year-old had just received a handball from Emma King and with Fremantle players about to close her down, Gavalas threw the ball onto her right boot.
At first it looked as though it would be lucky to stay in play, but it wobbled back and split the big sticks to give the Roos, and the AFLW finals, the most remarkable of kickstarts.
Bowers’ slow start
The reigning AFLW best and fairest had just one tackle to quarter time as the Dockers struggled for drive out of the centre and around the stoppages.
It took the 30-year-old until the three-minute mark of the second quarter to register her first disposal, and it was no coincidence as Bowers lifted, so did Fremantle.
Death by ten goalkickers
The most impressive aspect of Fremantle’s win was the number of goalkickers it had.
The Dockers were able to get a host of players in scoring positions to cause headaches all day for North’s defence, and the purple wave ultimately proved too hard to stop.
Fremantle finished the game with ten goalkickers and the run of their midfielders into scoring positions is something the Crows will have to be wary of.
KANGAROOS 1.4 3.5 3.7 4.7 (31)
DOCKERS 1.1 5.2 8.2 11.3 (69)
Roos: Gavalas, Abbatangelo, Randall, Garner
Dockers: Hyde 2, Roux, East, O’Sullivan, Houghton, Miller, Webb, Tighe, K.Antonio, E. Antonio
Roos: Riddell, Garner, Kearney, Bruton
Dockers: Miller, O’Sullivan, Bowers, E. Antonio, K. Antonio, Cuthbertson
Roos: Rennie (concussion)
Dockers: Wielstra (ankle)
Roo’d awakening sparks another Irish adventure
Aileen Gilroy’s phone showed 4.30am when it first rang on a Tuesday morning in October as she groggily saw the screen in Wexford, Ireland.
Once she fully woke and returned the call that had originated from Arden Street an hour later, there was no going back to sleep – there were jobs to quit and bags to pack, with a flight to Australia and her third season of AFL Women’s booked for three days later.
SCROLL DOWN TO FIND OUT THE AFLW FINALS TEAMS
It was “rough”, but with limited spaces open in hotel quarantine, the window to travel might not stay open for long, so for Gilroy and boyfriend Peter, there was no time to waste.
“I was still asleep so at 5.30 I woke up and was like, ‘why is (Nathan Hrovat, head of women’s footy at North) ringing me? This is so weird’,” Gilroy recalled.
“I’d always said – if Peter’s not coming on the same flight with me, I am not coming across. Nathan was like ‘is Peter awake? Well, I think you need to go down and get him. You’re coming to Australia’.”
Gilroy, a personal trainer, and her partner – a secondary school teacher – readied for a day at work like few others.
“That morning we were going to work and I was like, well, we’re going to have to quit our jobs,” she said.
“So literally we went in that morning. We were still unsure of when it would be happening, but by the afternoon they said ‘you’re flying Friday’.
“I had to go up to my boss, he had to go up to his boss, and it was like ‘we’re quitting work today because we’re flying out Friday’.”
Gilroy quickly drove four and a half hours from Wexford, in the southeast of Ireland where she lives with Peter, to her home town of Killala, in the northwest, to farewell her family. Then back to Wexford, before a flight out of Dublin.
Entering two weeks of hotel quarantine was something of a break after the frenzy – dinners delivered, games, plenty of “craic” in good times together and the bonus, “we didn’t kill each other”.
All roads led to an immediate start to AFLW pre-season, or so she thought.
There was little time to bask in the new-found freedom.
Two days, in fact, before Australia’s reputation for dangerous creepy-crawlies well and truly lived up to its name, out of quarantine on the Monday and off on an innocuous trip to the park to walk her sister’s dog on the Wednesday.
“I thought ‘oh I’ll just sit down on the grass for like a second’,” Gilroy said.
“I thought I could feel something, but I never took any heed. There was no mark or anything.
“By Friday I had such bad pain in my head, I didn’t have any energy.”
Her leg started swelling the following day, then bigger on the Sunday before the club doctor sent her to hospital. A drip, then a trip home, but by the next Tuesday it had gotten even worse again so it was back to emergency.
Gilroy – who had completed just three training sessions – was stunned when surgery was flagged.
“I’m literally just in the country – I do not need this,” she said.
“I had surgery on the Wednesday. It was just bizarre.
“They completely drain it out, so there was a hole in my leg and it had to heal from the inside out. I was just going around with a hole in my leg.”
Doctors said the damage indicated the work of a nasty white-tailed spider.
“Always everyone at home is like do you ever see any snakes or spiders and I’m like, no,” Gilroy said.
“Never seen anything – don’t know what you’re on about, Australia isn’t dangerous at all. “Next thing I’m in the country for two weeks and bang, got bit. They said for the damage that it did, it had to be a white-tailed. I had to Google a white-tailed.
“I didn’t even know what one looked like.”
It healed in time for a Christmas present no one asks Santa for – a bout of Covid – although Gilroy concedes she was lucky to escape without becoming too ill and with the support of the club, kept training in isolation.
If anything, as North Melbourne prepares to embark on its finals campaign on Saturday, Gilroy could be forgiven for being due a bit of luck.
Of the Irish, if you will.
Fremantle awaits, with the Roos having claimed honours by 10 points when the two sides last met, in Round 5.
The team, which has so far avoided mass Covid casualties, has rallied and vowed to employ common sense – not quite bunkering down, but “being really smart” given the lure of a potential premiership.
They can win, Gilroy declares. She hasn’t come all this way – via hotel quarantine and hospital – for nothing, that’s for sure.
“If you don’t believe it, you’re on the back foot straight away,” she said.
“Once we get our four quarters together, we’re definitely a dangerous team.”
AFLW FINALS TEAMS
North Melbourne v Fremantle
Arden Street Oval, 2.10pm AEDT
B: D.Hardiman 31 J.Ferguson 20
HB: B.Brown 36 E.Kearney – C 9 A.Gilroy 8
C: K.Ashmore 10 J.Bruton 35 I.Eddey 3
HF: G.Campbell 43 S.Abbatangelo 1 E.Gavalas 22
F: E.King 60 T.Randall 16
Foll: K.Rennie 26 J.Garner 25 A.Riddell 7
I/C: S.Wright 17 N.Bresnehan 12 M.King 23 D.Bannister 2 D.Bateman 11
Emerg: A.Hamilton 21 A.Smith 15
B: L.Pugh 32 J.Cuthbertson 29
HB: A.Stannett 4 A.Tighe 10 J.Low 30
C: E.Antonio 12 K.Bowers 2 S.Cain 20
HF: G.Houghton 27 R.Roux 17 G.O’Sullivan 9
F: K.Antonio 15 E.O’Driscoll 3
Foll: M.Strom 21 H.Miller – C 19 S.Verrier 5
I/C: B.Webb 26 A.Runnalls 22 D.East 8 M.Hyde 28 S.Wielstra 24
Emerg: M.Maclachlan 16 A.Franklin 14
In: J.Cuthbertson, B.Webb
Out: M.Maclachlan (Omitted), J.Stewart (Omitted)
Beware the Demons: Ultimate AFLW finals guide
—Chloe Dalton and Lauren Wood
The six best teams in AFLW have emerged from the most challenging season in the competition’s history.
This Saturday North Melbourne hosts Fremantle at Arden St, while the Brisbane-Collingwood clash has been postponed because a Covid-19 outbreak among the Magpies squad.
Giants star Chloe Dalton has had a first-hand view of the finalists this year and in an exclusive column rates each team as they challenge for the premiership.
A convincing 39-point win over St Kilda in round 10 secured another minor premiership for the Crows. Again Adelaide’s backline has proved near-on impenetrable this year, as they averaged the lowest points scored against in the competition at just 19.
Not only does their shape behind the ball create turnovers, Adelaide’s elite use of the ball and kicking efficiency ranks them highest in the comp for their ability to move the ball from defensive 50 to inside forward 50.
Key player: Sarah Allan commanded the Crows back line, averaging 5.5 intercept possessions per game and will be a linchpin in the Crows game plan moving into finals.
Verdict: Think they will make it to the big dance off the back of an elite midfield, but goal kicking accuracy to prove their downfall.
A more consistent Demons side emerged in 2022, closing out tight games that in previous years may have been their undoing.
The Demons boast a deep, versatile midfield, with the likes of Karen Paxman, Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks causing damage with their forward run. Melbourne can score through multiple methods — off the flow of the game or from contested marks inside 50m.
Melbourne ranked first in the competition for scoring shots from inside 50, at 40 per cent.
Key player: Tayla Harris led the competition in contested marks, averaging 2.4 a game, which will be key in continuing to create scoring shots in finals.
Verdict: My pick to win the flag.
The Lions will be looking to win back-to-back Premierships in 2022 after cementing their position as the best attacking team in the competition, averaging 49.6 points per game.
Following from their successful 2021 season, Brisbane has been able to find scoring options across the park, with Greta Bodey (10), Sophie Conway (10), Jess Wardlaw (7), Courtney Hodder (6), Zimmorlei Farquharson (6) and Taylor Smith (6) all hitting the scoreboard.
Key player: Brisbane will look to Emily Bates to continue leading from the front during finals. Bates averaged 22 disposals and 10.9 contested possessions in 2022.
Verdict: They have the experience of finals footy and should progress to round two but miss the composure of Lutkins to go all the way.
Throughout 2022 the Kangaroos have exhibited their trademark style of uncontested play. With the highest number of average disposals and average marks, their ability to control the ball allows them to dictate the resulting style of play. Top teams have been able to mitigate North Melbourne’s uncontested outside game, which will require them to adapt during the pressure of finals.
Key player: Jasmine Garner averaged 21 disposals in 2022, kicked 10 goals, averaged 10.4 contested possessions a game. Garner can win the ball consistently at the contest and then move forward to cause damage on the scoreboard.
Verdict: They have struggled against top teams, but I don’t think they will progress through first week of finals.
The Dockers finished two goals short in the quest to overtake North Melbourne for fourth spot on the ladder. After an exhausting season tainted by WA border closures and health and safety protocols impacting star players, the Dockers must now win three away finals if they are to claim the flag. Pressure was again at the centre of the Dockers game plan, they finished as the top-ranked team for tackles. With ball in hand, Fremantle used long kicking and the speed of their forward line to get out the back and kick goals.
Key player: New captain in 2022 Hayley Miller grew significantly as a player. She jumped from 13 to 18 average disposals from 2021 to 2022, and kicked nine goals in 2022, up from one in the previous season.
Verdict: Have had enough time to recover from Covid, and will cause an upset at Arden Street.
Collingwood came into the 2022 season as genuine premiership contenders, before losing key midfielders Bri Davey and Brittany Bonnici to ACL ruptures. Early on, the Magpies struggled to consistently convert, however, they have come home strong the final three rounds, earning sixth spot on the ladder. A convincing 66-41 win over the Bulldogs in Round 8, a narrow 30-28 loss to minor premiers Adelaide, before a dominant Round 10 win over Richmond 47-9; Collingwood have demonstrated they do have the ability to hit the scoreboard.
Key player: Jaimee Lambert has once again established herself as a consistent star in the competition, averaging 21 disposals per game, 300 metres gained, 10.4 contested possessions and 4.6 clearances per game.
Verdict: The have had a really strong finish to the season, but it is hard to see them progressing through week one of finals after a return from health and safety protocols.
Chris Cavanagh 60
North Melbourne 12
Last Week 7
Matt Turner 58
North Melbourne 17
Last Week 7
Sarah Jones 57
North Melbourne 3
Last Week 6
Glenn McFarlane 57
North Melbourne 1
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Liz Walsh 57
North Melbourne 23
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Ebony Marinoff 56
Last Week 4
Mark Robinson 55
Last Week 6
Kath Loughnan 54
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Rebecca Williams 54
North Melbourne 6
Last Week 6
Chloe Molloy 52
Last Week 7
Ellie Blackburn 51
Last Week 5
Lauren Wood 51
North Melbourne 9
Last Week 6
Chloe Dalton 50
Last Week 7
Kate McCarthy 47
Last Week 5
Kiss of Death 13
Last Week 1
All-Aus, B&F: Expert verdicts on every AFLW award
Lion Emily Bates has been crowned the News Corp AFL Women’s Player of the Year, pipping Adelaide ballwinner Ebony Marinoff by just one vote.
Bates, who has emerged as a key contender for the league best and fairest award after a stellar season at finalist Brisbane, was named the best player in the sixth AFLW competition by News Corp reporters at games across the season.
The two-time All-Australian earlier this season credited key lifestyle changes for her step up to becoming one of the top players in the competition, citing scrapping desserts and sauces as one step to the top.
The league best and fairest will be awarded at the W Awards on April 5, which will be held at Crown Palladium.
Crows forward Ash Woodland will also be recognised at the W Awards after she claimed top goalkicker honours for the home and away season with 19, after booting two goals to surpass Demons star Tayla Harris and Giants powerhouse Cora Staunton.
Docker Kiara Bowers finished fourth in the Herald Sun award on 16 votes despite missing more than a month of the season through suspension and injury, with Pie Jaimee Lambert rounding out the top five, tied with Kangaroos record-breaker Ash Riddell.
“Jaimee … I know everyone rates her, but I think she is severely underrated in the competition,” Magpies coach Steve Symonds said as his team progressed to a semi-final this weekend against Brisbane.
“In my mind, she is a top-five or six player in the competition. She’s a super player who steps up when she needs to.
“She’s just so smart with what she does with the ball. She’ll never shirk an issue.
“She has that fire … and her ability around the ball and to set us up is really, really strong.
“She’s sore … she’s been battered around a bit, and she’s copped plenty of attention but she keeps stepping up to the plate and keeps on playing well.”
Lions coach Craig Starcevich said his team was champing at the bit to host a home final and “to get back on the Gabba (this) week will be awesome”.
NEWS CORP AFLW PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Emily Bates (Bris) 19
Ebony Marinoff (Adel) 18
Anne Hatchard (Adel) 17
Kiara Bowers (Frem) 16
Ash Riddell (NM) 15
Jaimee Lambert (Coll) 15
LEAGUE BEST AND FAIREST
It’s tough to go past Emily Bates. The Brisbane star has been an incredibly consistent contributor for the Lions this season, sitting fifth for disposals in the competition and sixth for contested possessions. The ballwinner capped her home and away season with 18 touches on the weekend, 12 clearances and 11 tackles. Close to best on ground in every game and that consistency could be rewarded by the umpires come April 5.
It’s hard to look past Gold Coast’s Charlie Rowbottom. As the No. 1 draft pick, Rowbottom came in with plenty of hype and delivered to sit among the competition’s best for contested disposals and tackles in her first season. But Carlton’s Mimi Hill might just be the one to give the Sun a run for her money. Hill returned from an ACL injury in Round 5 and didn’t look back, quickly delivering a best on ground showing and backing it up week after week. Her skills just one key asset in showing she can be a force.
Very difficult to overlook minor premiers Adelaide. Experience, consistency and a proven track record to get it done at the top level is difficult to top here. The Demons — who will face either Collingwood or Brisbane after a week off — pose a big threat if they can get past their preliminary final opponent, with the Lions looming large. Would love to see a Crows v Dees grand final — two experienced AFLW powerhouses going head to head.
SEE THE 22 UNDER 22 SQUAD
The AFL Players’ Association on Tuesday announced the squad from which its annual 22Under22 team will be selected.
The final team, which is voted on by supporters, will be revealed as part of the AFLPA’s MVP event on Tuesday, March 29.
And it’s hot premiership chance Brisbane whose youth is at the forefront, with five players in the final squad.
Twenty players from last year’s squad have been nominated for selection again, with the Prespakis sisters Madison – last year’s vice-captain – and Georgie picked alongside one another.
THE FULL 22UNDER22 SQUAD
Teah Charlton (Adel)
Eloise Jones (Adel)
Montana McKinnon (Adel)
Danielle Ponter (Adel)
Natalie Grider (Bris)
Courtney Hodder (Bris)
Jade Ellenger (Bris)
Jesse Wardlaw (Bris)
Tahlia Hickie (Bris)
Madison Prespakis (Carl)
Mimi Hill (Carl)
Georgia Gee (Carl)
Jordyn Allen (Coll)
Lauren Butler (Coll)
Mikala Cann (Coll)
Emma O’Driscoll (Frem)
Sarah Verrier (Frem)
Dana East (Frem)
Mim Strom (Frem)
Rebecca Webster (Geel)
Georgie Prespakis (Geel)
Nina Morrison (Geel)
Chloe Scheer (Geel)
Claudia Whitfort (GC)
Ellie Hampson (GC)
Serene Watson (GC)
Charlie Rowbottom (GC)
Alyce Parker (GWS)
Shelley Heath (Melb)
Eliza McNamara (Melb)
Eden Zanker (Melb)
Tyla Hanks (Melb)
Mia King (NM)
Isabella Eddey (NM)
Daria Bannister (NM)
Monique Conti (Rich)
Tarni White (StK)
Eleanor Brown (WB)
Isabelle Pritchard (WB)
Mikayla Bowen (WCE)
WEEK ONE FINALS FIXTURE
North Melbourne v Fremantle, Saturday 2.10pm (AEDST), Arden Street Oval
Brisbane Lions v Collingwood, Saturday 4.10pm (AEDST), Gabba