SAME opposition, same venue, infinitely higher stakes. Undefeated North Melbourne and fellow flag-contender Melbourne certainly know what to expect in their critical NAB AFL Women's confrontation at Casey Fields on Sunday.
The Roos (who head Conference A) and the Demons (third in the same group) sized up each other in a practice match at the ground in Melbourne's outer-south-east nearly six weeks ago, with North – new to the competition this year – winning a high-class hitout by 22 points.
Both teams possess elite midfield groups and lead the competition for clearances to set up heavy scoring, with coaches Scott Gowans (North Melbourne) and Mick Stinear (Melbourne) likely to back in their respective game plans.
"We played them in the practice match, we've seen them play for three weeks and had a chance to review the vision. Ultimately, in a short (seven-week) competition we feel getting our game right and getting our players performing … is the most important part," Stinear said.
If there are opportunities to take away some of the opposition's strengths, we'll do that. But our main focus is our performance.
"What North has got are quality players in all areas, so it's not a matter of shutting down one or two, it's how we match-up across the field and play the game on our terms.
"We were pretty inaccurate [in the practice match the Demons kicked 4.10]. They had our measure for most of the day, but we didn't maximise our opportunities when we had the ball. We're a different team to that game and I'm sure they are as well," he said.
"What you see with AFLW are big momentum shifts through the course of a game. It's a matter of really maximising (any advantage) when you've got it. The girls kicked five goals in five minutes (against Brisbane) at the weekend. Then it's being able to steady the ship when the other team has got it.
"Having dropped the first game against Fremantle (by four points), we're in a position where we can't afford to drop another, otherwise we hand over our destiny to other teams. It's a must-win game for us … we learnt so much from round one and we've been progressing every week.
"Our group are in a good spot, they have a good handle on their individual games and our performance as a team and we're ready for the challenge."
Melbourne had a pre-game boost at an AFLW Tribunal hearing on Tuesday night when it was able to overturn a two-game striking suspension offered to key forward Tegan Cunningham, who had collided with Lions defender Shannon Campbell.
"We've had some real consistency with our forwards. We've only had six or seven players go through there in the first three weeks and they have a good connection with each other," Stinear said.
"Tegan's ability to compete in the air … her ability to win the ball at ground level and her tackle pressure to keep (the ball) in the forward line are critical."
"We didn't think the contact was intentional or careless and we're glad for the outcome … her teammates will be happy to have her out there."