IT is that magical time of the year again, which AFL Women’s fans have been fortunate enough to experience twice this year. Round 1 of the seventh AFLW instalment bounces down this weekend, so let us take a look at all the games that are on the menu, and how they may pan out.
Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday at 7:10pm local time
One of the oldest rivalries in the code and the traditional season opener is back for another instalment.
Tonight, out at Princes Park it all kicks off as Carlton hosts Collingwood.
Both teams find themselves in very different situations to the last time they met each other, but both will be determined to make a statement even this early in the season.
Collingwood’s Sarah Sansonetti is in a similar boat having crossed from Richmond, as is new Blue Phoebe McWilliams. Also debuting for their respective sides are draftees Imogen Evans and Mia Austin. Importantly for the Magpies, it seems Ruby Schleicher and Jaimee Lambert will be fit to play.
It is also set to be a special night for Lambert and Darcy Vescio, who are both scheduled to play their 50th games.
Adelaide Crows vs. Melbourne
Friday at 7:00pm local time
ACH Group Stadium, Glenelg
The Grand Final rematch is sure to be a spicy encounter.
Adelaide is set to unfurl its flag and will be keen to prove it remains one of the teams to beat, while Melbourne will no doubt be keen for some revenge after the heartbreak of Grand Final day last season.
North Melbourne vs. Gold Coast
Saturday at 1:10pm local time
This clash is an interesting one, because on paper the result seems straightforward, but both teams have a point to prove after the way season six finished for both sides.
North Melbourne was bundled out of the finals in week one again, while Gold Coast fell just short of its first finals appearance.
The game is also down in Tasmania, which does add another element to the clash, however this one is at Blundstone Arena which has never hosted an AFLW game before. That negates some of the advantage North Melbourne have with it being played on the Apple Isle.
The Roos have already announced they will be debuting several new stars in Round 1, including Charli Granville and new Irish pair Erika O’Shea and Vikki Wall. We wait and see whether the Suns have any debutants of their own.
West Coast Eagles vs. Port Adelaide
Saturday at 1:10pm local time
Mineral Resources Park
Of all the teams outside of their fellow expansion clubs to have come up against in Round 1, Port Adelaide may have had West Coast somewhere up the top of its list.
West Coast remains in a rebuilding phase this season, so this is the perfect opportunity for Port to strike and make a real statement as they enter the competition.
The Eagles, on the other hand, will be wanting to make a statement of their own and not go down in history as the reason Port won their first game.
It is also a special match for Justine Mules, who is set to play her 50th game.
Sydney vs. St. Kilda
Saturday at 5:10pm local time
North Sydney Oval
Much like Port, Sydney would have certainly had their Round 1 opponents among the top of its wish list for first up opponents if they could not have a fellow expansion side.
St Kilda, however, simply must to win this one if it is serious about making something out of season seven.
On paper, the Saints should come in as the favoured side, but Sydney could just as easily burst out of the gates in its inaugural outing.
Essendon vs. Hawthorn
Saturday at 7:10pm local time
This is shaping up to be an absolute blockbuster.
Two of the biggest Victorian clubs in their very first AFLW games at one of the biggest stadiums in the state. What more could you ask for?
There is a reason this match was moved to Marvel Stadium, as there is just so much anticipation surrounding it.
Although, from what we have seen so far from both sides, it points to an Essendon victory. Despite that, the Hawks are certainly not going to let them win easily.
Western Bulldogs vs. GWS GIANTS
Sunday at 12:10pm local time
Some in the Bulldogs and Giants camps may be feeling a sense of déjà vu ahead of this one, after the pair met in a practice match only a few weekends ago.
In that encounter the Giants came back in the last quarter to run over the top of the Bulldogs, after the Bulldogs held a lead for much of the game.
Midfield maestros Ellie Blackburn and Alyce Parker are set to lock horns, with the performance of both players always going a long way to their respective sides winning the match. Elsewhere, Bulldogs fans will be eagerly anticipating the return of 2019 number one pick, Gabby Newton.
Brisbane Lions vs. Fremantle
Sunday at 2:10pm local time
Two of the heavy hitters in the AFLW clash first up on Sunday afternoon in what is set to be a hotly contested encounter.
Both sides will be hungry after last season after they both lost out in the Preliminary Finals, so expect an entertaining and tough battle between the sides.
Fremantle is missing a few key players through injuries, and if you add that on top of home ground advantage to the Lions, it certainly looks like a very pleasing equation for the hosts. Though, they will not take Fremantle lightly.
Geelong Cats vs. Richmond
Sunday at 4:10pm local time
Although this one arguably does not involve any of the top contenders, it is still set to be a fascinating encounter.
Many expect Geelong and Richmond to be around the same mark on the ladder this season, so to pit them both against each other in Round 1 will be the perfect test for both sides to see where they are at.
The match is down in Geelong, but one thing that will work in Richmond’s favour is that GMHBA Stadium is not the fortress it is in the AFLM when it comes to AFLW.
It is also set to be a special day for Shelley Scott, who is set to not only run out in new colours for the first time but also play her 50th game.