AFLW Season 7 Finals preview: Geelong vs North Melbourne (Elimination Final 1)
THERE is no turning back for one of the blue and white hooped sides, with both Geelong and North Melbourne battling it out for an AFL Women’s Season 7 semi-final spot. The victor takes on the loser of Brisbane and Richmond, to see if they can try and make a preliminary final against Melbourne.
Geelong came agonisingly close to achieving the double chance after a 75-point smashing of wooden spooners Sydney in the final round. Overall, the Cats won all the games they should have, including fourth placed Richmond in Round 1, and a hard-fought one-point victory over Western Bulldogs in Round 6. The Cats were also competitive against a number of finalists, including Collingwood (four-point loss) and Adelaide (two-point loss).
North Melbourne could have grabbed top four with a win over Richmond, but a draw saw the Roos sink down to eighth and travel down to the Cattery. The Kangaroos will have confidence from their 12-point win over Geelong in Round 4, and realistically were only victims of their own tough draw. On paper, the Roos have only lost to top three sides Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as the draw with the fourth placed Tigers.
Since being unlucky in their inaugural season missing out on finals due to the Conference system – finishing third overall but still missing out – the Roos reached a semi-final in 2020, then back-to-back elimination finals the past two seasons. North Melbourne has consistently been thereabouts, but would want to get deeper in the finals series than past seasons.
In that same year of 2019, Geelong was the beneficiary of a weak conference, finishing sixth overall – but second in Conference B – and making the final four and losing in a preliminary final. Since then, the Cats won just five games in three seasons, finishing 10th, 13th and 12th respectively. After eight wins in four seasons, the Cats won seven already this season, and will equal their entire past history with a victory in the elimination final.
Both teams enter the elimination final with some huge names undergoing tests but still named. Geelong has star midfielder Georgie Prespakis on watch after she hurt her ankle in the final round of the season. She has been named in the side, with youngster Brooke Plummer first emergency should she not get up. Otherwise the Cats have a clean bill of health.
North Melbourne skipper Emma Kearney has overcome knee soreness to get up for the match, with Perri King (finger) and Erika O’Shea (eye) the other two injuries who could push for selection in finals. Though Kearney has been named, forward Charli Granville – who has come in as a late inclusion two consecutive weeks – would be more than comfortable to slot in, even though it would hardly be a like-for-like.
B: C.Gunjaca 26 A.Johnson 2
HB: C.Emonson 16 M.McDonald – C 11 G.Rankin 10
C: M.Bowen 1 G.Prespakis 41 N.Morrison 9
HF: Z.Friswell 20 J.Parry 5 S.Scott 15
F: C.Scheer 14 K.Darby 8
Foll: O.Fuller 13 R.Webster 21 A.McDonald 3
I/C: D.Moloney 4 L.Gardiner 18 R.Kearns 22 J.Crockett-Grills 6 M.Bragg 44
Emerg: B.Plummer 19 M.Skinner 25 R.Garing 12
B: S.Wright 17 J.Ferguson 20
HB: B.Brown 36 E.Kearney – C 9 N.Bresnehan 12
C: A.Smith 15 J.Garner 25 T.Craven 5
HF: E.King 60 V.Wall 13 A.O’Loughlin 6
F: T.Randall 16 I.Eddey 3
Foll: K.Rennie 26 J.Bruton 35 A.Riddell 7
I/C: H.Bowey 18 M.King 23 T.Gatt 8 E.Gavalas 22 S.Abbatangelo 1
Emerg: C.Granville 2 D.Hardiman 31 S.McCarthy 21
KEY MATCH UPS
Geelong’s midfield is the star core and one of the best in the league in terms of their strength in the middle and around the stoppages. The depth in the starting five – and coming off the bench – is envious, with Prespakis, Amy McDonald and Rebecca Webster up against Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and Ash Riddell.
In the Roos’ attack, the height of Emma King and Tahlia Randall could pose problems for the Geelong defence, with Meghan McDonald having an All-Australian year. Chantel Emonson is also in good form in the back half, while up the other end, Chloe Scheer is the danger forward. Sarah Wright could be the one to get that job and limiting her would go a long way to winning.
North Melbourne won the last game between these sides, and arguably have the more experienced and high-powered outfit. However Geelong has proved that the Cats can score when getting their game going, and their midfield and defence is more than capable of matching it with the best sides. If the Cats can control the midfield, it will go a long way to winning, but if the Roos put the Cats defence under pressure, then they will take full advantage. The game should be decided in the single digits.