MAKING plans in a pandemic have proven to be a challenge over the past 10 months and fixturing the NAB AFLW competition is no exception.
The good news is, after numerous changes to the draw, we will have a full seven games go ahead, although opponents have changed since Sunday.
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This weekend also marks the first AFLW Pride Round, with Western Bulldogs and Carlton kicking off proceedings on Friday night, having previously organised annual Pride matches between the two clubs (if you are attending an AFLW match in Victoria and you are standing or unable to socially distance, the AFL says please wear a mask).
7.45pm AEDT, Friday, February 5
VU Whitten Oval, Footscray, Vic
- The Dogs won the inside-50 count and were particularly dominant with marks inside-50 against St Kilda, but just fell short of converting that on the scoreboard. They were beaten in the middle of the ground, and it will be an area to watch against a young but tenacious Carlton midfield.
- A 10-minute lapse in composure under some fierce Magpie heat was all it ultimately took for the Blues to lose to Collingwood. Mua Laloifi (concussion) will be a loss against a Dogs' forward line containing Izzy Huntington and Bonnie Toogood, with Gab Pound (finger) a chance to take her spot.
- Tip: A draw aside, one team will be left with an 0-2 start at the conclusion of this match. These two teams generally match up well, but Carlton just has too many paths to goal for the Dogs to handle. Blues by 14 points.
3.10pm AEDT, Saturday, February 6
Victoria Park, Abbotsford, Vic
- This is a hastily re-organised match after a positive COVID-19 case in Victoria, with these two sides originally facing other teams. Collingwood was ferocious against Carlton, dominating out of the middle and unveiling a wildcard in the form of Bri Davey up forward. If the Pies pull the trigger again, she'll be facing two tough one-on-one players in Maddy McMahon and Meg McDonald.
- Geelong has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire with this match. After the Cats' dismal showing against North Melbourne, Collingwood pose another tough task. Geelong had only two fewer inside-50s than North Melbourne, but only recorded four scoring shots. The going will be just as hard against an in-form combination of Stacey Livingstone and Ruby Schleicher.
- Tip: Unfortunately for the Cats, the revamped fixture has done them no favours, with Collingwood looking too strong all over the park. Magpies by 17 points.
5.10pm AEDT, Saturday, February 6
Casey Fields, Cranbourne East, Vic
- The Dees started slowly against Gold Coast, but started to get their mojo going in the second term with much deeper entries inside their forward-50. Damaging midfielder Karen Paxman must not be left to her own devices again, as she was against the Suns, while Eliza McNamara's debut on the wing was promising.
- The common view after Richmond's efforts against Brisbane is the team is much improved from last year's winless outfit, but still a bit off the pace. Harriet Cordner was a star in defence, marking the ball well, but will face a tough task if paired against the 186cm Tegan Cunningham, her old teammate.
- Tip: Casey Fields always throws a bit of a wildcard into the mix, with a howling cross-field wind often present, difficult to break into with a size-four footy. Saying that, with Paxman, Tyla Hanks and Lily Mithen, the Dees should be too strong in the clearances. Dees by 19 points.
1.10pm AEDT, Sunday, February 7
Arden Street Oval, North Melbourne, Vic
- The Roos didn't do too much wrong at all against Geelong, even conceding a goal so they could record their percentage of 788.9. Emma King looks revitalised as a starting ruck (as opposed to starting forward), and boisterous, injury-hit forward Daria Bannister is finally getting a good run at the top level.
- Peta Searle would have been pleased with the spread of goalkickers against the Dogs, with draftee Jacqui Vogt and Darcy Guttridge supporting Caitlin Greiser. Quelling North Melbourne's deep midfield looks to be a task and a half, especially as Liv Vesely has been sidelined with a soft-tissue injury.
- Tip: The Saints would have been thrilled with a first-up win, but the Kangaroos pose a far sterner task than the Bulldogs. The Roos are a class above at this stage of the Saints' development, 27 points.
2.10pm AEST, Sunday, February 7
Hickey Park, Stafford, Qld
- Anyone for a spontaneous QClash? These two old foes will meet as a result of the positive COVID-19 case in Melbourne, having previously been drawn against Victorian teams.
- Brisbane had a strong first-up win against Richmond, even outscoring the Tigers when going against the wind in the final term. Belle Dawes, Nat Grider and Tahlia Hickie look set to take their game to the next level, with Ally Anderson and Emily Bates tireless at stoppages.
- The new-look veteran Suns forward line – including Sarah Perkins, Sam Virgo and Leah Kaslar – was up and about early, but struggled for supply as the game progressed. Star midfielder Jamie Stanton's time up forward in the QAFLW over winter also looks to have paid dividends.
- Tip: The one and only "official AFLW" match these two sides have played resulted in a draw, and both will be keen to get bragging rights. It'll be close, but the Lions might just have the edge. Six points.
5.10pm AEDT, Sunday, February 7
Blacktown International Sportspark, NSW
- What a difference a week makes. These two teams were placed into isolation on Monday, but will face off six days later after training at home for most of the week.
- GWS impressed with its tenacity in the first half against Fremantle, but struggled to contain the Dockers' multi-pronged attack. Setting up viable shots on goal was also an issue, with the wall Janelle Cuthbertson put up resulting in just four marks inside 50 for the Giants.
- Adelaide took a quarter or so to shake off some rust against West Coast, but pulled a joker out of the pack in playing three-time All Australian defender Chelsea Randall forward. Erin Phillips was at her dominant best out of the middle, and was well serviced by ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe.
- Tip: It's impossible to know the effect a week of solo training has had on both sides, but at least the Giants are now back in their own beds after a month on the road. On paper, the Crows are too strong, and should take this out by 23 points.
4.15pm AWST, Sunday February 7
Fremantle Oval, WA
- This match was finally confirmed on Friday afternoon after both clubs' seasons were thrown into chaos after a positive COVID-19 case in Perth, the first in 10 months. They've been able to exercise for one hour a day in pairs, from Monday to Friday.
- Just in case Fremantle's attack wasn't quite formidable enough, captain Kara Antonio has added a half-forward role to her bow, and is proving an important linking player along with the always hard-working Gabby O'Sullivan.
- West Coast looked a rejuvenated side, with eight new faces and a fresh coach at the helm against Adelaide. Scoring still appears to be an issue, but fans should be thrilled at the long-term prospects of Mikayla Bowen, Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison.
- Tip: The Dockers dominated the last Derby played between these two sides, and it's unlikely much has changed in 12 months. Fremantle by 35 points.
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