Full AFLW R4 preview: Is this an early taste of finals action?

ALL EYES will be on North Melbourne and Collingwood clashing under Saturday night lights at Marvel Stadium, in a match which could have lasting effects on the make-up of the finals.

Brisbane versus Adelaide looks to be an intriguing affair on Sunday, while the Western Bulldogs will host Melbourne for the annual Hampson-Hardeman Cup.

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Friday, February 19

St Kilda v Geelong at RSEA Park, 7.10pm AEDT

  • It will be St Kilda's third game in four weeks at Moorabbin, a ground which can often throw up a tricky wind. The Saints recorded 14 fewer inside 50s and clearances against Carlton last week, but have regained defensive recruit Bianca Jakobsson from a corked back.
  • The Cats have now lost three on the trot, and while two have come against top-tier sides North Melbourne and Collingwood, last week's loss to the Dogs would have hurt. There are no big concerns over the midfield core winning the ball or the backline as a whole, but there's a disconnect between the middle and the forward line.
  • Tip: This could be quite the torrid affair, with both sides having had a few scoreless quarters this season. It's time for the Cats to break the duck, but it'll be close. Nine points.

WATCH IT LIVE Saints v Cats

Watch it LIVE: Saints v Cats. Picture: AFL Media

Saturday, February 20

Carlton v Richmond at Ikon Park, 3.10pm AEDT

  • The troops have returned, and Carlton is on the board in 2021. The Blues looked a different side with Mua Laloifi and Gab Pound in defence. Maddy Prespakis saw off Georgia Patrikios, but now another former Calder Cannons teammate in Mon Conti awaits.
  • Things seemed to click for Richmond in the last quarter against Collingwood, running in waves and finally converting some chances in front of goal. This is another stern test, and the Blues won't be caught quite as off guard, having seen what the Tigers can do at their best
  • Tip: While it won't be quite the comprehensive rout seen in the round one match last year – Richmond's first at AFLW level – Carlton is still a class above the expansion team. Blues by 23 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Blues v Tigers

Watch it LIVE: Blues v Tigers. Picture: AFL Media

Fremantle v Gold Coast at Fremantle Oval, 2.10pm AWST

  • The Dockers reigned supreme last week, knocking off the might of Adelaide on its own home deck, and recording 10 straight wins in the process. The backline was only caught off guard when Erin Phillips was shifted forward late, and the pressure around the ground forced numerous turnovers from the Crows.
  • Things just aren't going to plan for the Suns. They seriously struggled with the wet conditions against the Giants, and while key backs Lauren Ahrens and Jade Pregelj are coping remarkably well with adversity, they'd have less to deal with if the Suns won more ball around the ground.
  • Tip: Like last year's semi-final between these two sides (albeit the Suns' fourth consecutive road trip), this could get ugly. The Dockers are at the top of their game, and the Suns are very inexperienced. Dockers by 39 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Dockers v Suns

Watch it LIVE: Dockers v Suns. Picture: AFL Media

North Melbourne v Collingwood at Marvel Stadium, 7.10pm AEDT

  • The Roos don't lose often. In fact, last week marked just the fourth time North hadn't sung the song after a game, with two of those losses coming against Melbourne. We're unlikely to see the Roos concede six goals in a quarter again, but this will be far from a walk in the park.
  • Collingwood and North are building a nice little rivalry – the Pies lost to the Roos by just two points in last year's semi-final, but got the win with some strong attacking play in January's practice match. New senior assistant coach Scott Gowans will also be carrying some important IP, having coached the Roos for two years before being forced out by a COVID-19-induced restructure.
  • Tip: The last time North Melbourne lost two games in a row was in 2019, and the perfect weather conditions under the roof at Marvel should suit their ball movement. This is the match of the round. Roos by three points.

WATCH IT LIVE Kangaroos v Magpies

Watch it LIVE: Kangaroos v Magpies. Picture: AFL Media

Sunday, February 21

Brisbane v Adelaide at Hickey Park, 12.10pm AEST

  • Brisbane is loving life at the top of the ladder, piling on goals for fun when the need strikes. Sunday proves to be their first big test, the Lions having comfortably accounted for expansion sides Richmond, Gold Coast and West Coast. Veteran forward Lauren Arnell is in career-best form, and keys Dakota Davidson and Jesse Wardlaw are benefiting from her smarts.
  • Inaccuracy struck the Crows once again while playing Fremantle, kicking 1.7 and slumping to a 30-point loss. Erin Phillips had an impact when moved forward, but the switch possibly came too late. Skipper Chelsea Randall (concussion) should be a big inclusion this week.
  • Tip: These two sides have history, having participated in the first AFLW Grand Final and playing in some tight contests since then. A tough call given the Lions' strong form, but the Crows might just have the edge. Eight points.

WATCH IT LIVE Lions v Crows

Watch it LIVE: Lions v Crows from 12.10pm AEST

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne at VU Whitten Oval, 3.10pm AEDT

  • The Dogs will be aiming for three wins in a row for the first time since the end of 2018-start of 2019, but this looms as a big task. Opposition teams have yet to find an answer for Izzy Huntington's marking up forward, or Ellie Blackburn's stellar form around the ground.
  • Melbourne should be riding high, having produced some of its best ever footy against North Melbourne, piling on six goals in a quarter. The tall, multi-pronged attack of Tegan Cunningham, Jackie Parry, Eden Zanker and Alyssa Bannan is hard to shut down, with smooth mover Kate Hore the icing on top.
  • Tip: The Hampson-Hardeman Cup is hotly contested between two of the forerunners of AFLW football, who played exhibition matches dating back to 2013. Dees should have too many paths to goal though, 19 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Bulldogs v Demons

Watch it LIVE: Bulldogs v Demons. Picture: AFL Media

Greater Western Sydney v West Coast at Blacktown International Sportspark, 5.10pm AEDT

  • GWS should have some confidence under its belt after a mature performance against Gold Coast in the wet. Bec Beeson's form in the midfield is building nicely alongside star Alyce Parker, while the backline looked steadier, given it was Lou Stephenson's second match, after missing much of January due to work commitments.
  • West Coast produced one outstanding quarter of footy against Brisbane, catching their more experienced opponents on the hop, but inaccuracy killed them, kicking 1.5. If the Eagles can keep up that pressure for longer, they'll be much better placed.
  • Tip: Who knows what weather conditions Sydney will throw up this week, but back-to-back trips across the country could affect West Coast. Giants by 14 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Giants v Eagles

Watch it LIVE: Giants v Eagles. Picture: AFL Media

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