Full AFLW R9 preview: Plenty on the line in epic final round

THERE'S just one finals position left coming into the final round of the NAB AFLW season, and it's down to North Melbourne and Carlton.

If the Roos beat Fremantle, they're in, but if they lose, it's up to Carlton to defeat GWS and do so in style in order to make up the percentage needed.

THE RUN HOME Who will snatch the last finals spot?

There are also eight players still in the running to be the competition's leading goalkicker.

The W Show: Bowers v Prespakis tackles, four games to shape finals

16:12 Mar 25. 2021. 2:05 PM

Nat Edwards and Daisy Pearce provide in-depth analysis of a huge final round of the AFLW season

Friday, March 26

Western Bulldogs v Richmond at VU Whitten Oval, 5.10pm AEST

  • After winning four straight games, the young Bulldogs ran into some of the more experienced sides of the competition and have slid out of finals contention. The return of Kim Rennie to pair with Celine Moody should overwhelm the undersized Tiger ruck Gabby Seymour, while Izzy Huntington's still in the running for leading goalkicker.
  • Friday night marks the first time these two sides have met, with stars Monique Conti and Katie Brennan set to renew acquaintances with the team they sensationally left at the end of 2019. Brennan is also in the hunt for leading goalkicker, while the Tigers are in good form, having won two games on the trot.
  • Tip: This will be quite an intriguing battle with some of the young stars of the competition on show. The Tigers are in better form and could just scrape over the line. Richmond by five points.

WATCH IT LIVE Bulldogs v Tigers

Watch it LIVE: Bulldogs v Tigers from 5.10pm AEDT. Picture: AFL Digital

Saturday, March 27

North Melbourne v Fremantle at Arden Street Oval, 1.10pm AEDT

  • There's no two ways about it, everything is on the line for North Melbourne. Win, and the Roos have locked up the last finals spot on offer. Lose, and it'll be a nervous wait to see if Carlton can overhaul the percentage needed on Sunday. Integral midfielder Jenna Bruton's suspension is an unwanted blow.
  • Fremantle will be making its first trip to Arden Street on the back of a surprise loss to Melbourne at home. Alongside Carlton, the Dockers have been serial slow starters this year – in part due to inaccurate and rushed shots on goal – so keep an eye on the scoreboard in the opening term. A top-two spot is still on the cards if Fremantle win by enough.
  • Tip: Difficult one to call. North Melbourne has dominated weaker sides but struggled when denied room to move by top opposition, while Fremantle's recent form is patchy. Dockers by 10 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Kangaroos v Dockers

Watch it LIVE: Kangaroos v Dockers from 1.10pm AEDT. Picture: AFL Digital

Melbourne v Brisbane at Casey Fields, 3.10pm AEDT

  • Melbourne returns to its stronghold of Casey Fields, where it last lost a game in the final round of 2019. Daisy Pearce moving forward and Eden Zanker into the midfield has revitalised the Dees, while ruck Lauren Pearce is back to her "additional midfielder" form. 
  • Brisbane is flying, sitting pretty in first spot and its sole loss coming back in round four. Opposition sides have lauded the Lions' full-ground pressure, built on the back of its experienced defensive line. Brisbane would have to lose badly to rescind its top-two spot.
  • Tip: The two in-form sides of the competition have very distinctive styles, and it'll be an old-fashioned battle of attack (Melbourne) v defence (Brisbane). This year, the Lions have proven defence wins more often than not. Brisbane by eight points.

WATCH IT LIVE Demons v Lions

Watch it LIVE: Demons v Lions from 3.10pm AEDT. Picture: AFL Digital

Gold Coast v Geelong at Metricon Stadium, 4.10pm AEST

  • Gold Coast will be desperate for its first win coming into its final game of the season. The Suns have shown promising patches, and jumped Carlton last week, but have struggled to run out games with a young and inexperienced squad.
  • Equally, Saturday marks Geelong's opportunity to record its first 2021 victory in its final match. The Cats can't take a trick on the injury front, with Denby Taylor (shoulder) the latest young star to suffer a serious injury. The battle of intercept defenders (Meg McDonald and Maddy McMahon v Lauren Ahrens and Jade Pregelj) will be fun.
  • Tip: Someone will join Richmond with the unwanted record of winless AFLW seasons by the end of this match, and the Cats aren't moving the ball well at all. Gold Coast by 15 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Suns v Cats

Watch it LIVE: Suns v Cats from 4.10pm AEST. Picture: AFL Digital

Sunday, March 28

Adelaide v Collingwood at Norwood Oval, 12.10pm ACDT

  • Adelaide will be full of confidence having comprehensively overrun the Western Bulldogs. Collingwood is one of the best-equipped sides to try and take on the Crows' forward line, which has had a different player stand up each week, including Chloe Scheer, Danielle Ponter and Ashleigh Woodland.
  • Collingwood would have been thrilled with the successful return of dynamic defender Ash Brazill, who looks primed to take on Erin Phillips when the Crow pushes forward. The Pies were matched on the inside by the struggling St Kilda, but burned up the Saints around the ground with a hard-running outside game.
  • Tip: A top-two spot – a week off and a home preliminary final – is effectively up for grabs for the winner of this game. Adelaide play Norwood Oval incredibly well, and could have the edge here. Crows by 13 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Crows v Magpies

Watch it LIVE: Crows v Magpies from 12.10pm ACDT. Picture: AFL Digital

Greater Western Sydney v Carlton at Blacktown International Sportspark, 4.10pm AEDT

  • GWS will be hoping to be boosted by the return of Tanya Hetherington and Aimee Schmidt from ankle injuries, with the latter particularly important for a forward line which has struggled to kick goals. The Giants have battled to control the ball by foot, ranked second-last for marks this year.
  • Carlton will know on Saturday afternoon if its finals hopes are still alive. If North Melbourne lose to Fremantle, the Blues will have to win big in order to jump the Roos into that last finals spot on offer. They've got the firepower to kick plenty of goals, having last week recorded the highest ever AFLW score.
  • Tip: With finals on the line, Carlton will win this one comfortably, but it may not be enough to make up 18 per cent. Blues by 35 points.  

WATCH IT LIVE Giants v Blues

Watch it LIVE: Giants v Blues from 4.10pm AEDT. Picture: AFL Digital

West Coast v St Kilda at Mineral Resources Park, 3.10pm AWST

  • The Eagles will be a little battered and bruised after a tough encounter in the wet against Richmond, but impressed with their high-pressure and fierce-tackling game. They'll once again be without skipper Emma Swanson (suspension), with Aisling McCarthy needing to pass a test after copping a knock to her knee.
  • St Kilda was happy to match the power of Collingwood in clearances, but seriously struggled with the outside ball and producing deep and effective inside 50s. This will be a game for the young Saints, with senior stars Kate McCarthy (leg) and Nat Exon (shoulder) once again ruled out.
  • Tip: These two sides have never met before, having joined the competition last year, and it could be a tight and low-scoring affair. The Eagles have been more effective in attack. West Coast by 17 points.

WATCH IT LIVE Eagles v Saints

Watch it LIVE: Eagles v Saints from 3.10pm AWST. Picture: AFL Digital

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