History will be made on Saturday night, as the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle women's AFL teams will square off at the Whitten Oval in their first ever match for premiership points. Both teams have been slated as the premiership favourites in the lead up to the season-opening round and not only looms as the match of the round, but a potential Grand Final preview.
Fremantle have the cream of the West Australian crop, with talented ladies from WA on every line as well as one of the best female coaches in the country in Michelle Cowan. They won two practice games in the lead up to Saturday night, beating Adelaide's women's team by 22 points and then smashing a WA Academy Team by over 100 points.
The Bulldogs have a very talented list in their own right, and it showed when they defeated another team expected to feature in the top-end this season in Collingwood in a practice game on Australia Day, but the beauty of a first season in a new competition is that you never know what could happen as their are plenty of unknowns.
What sort of game-styles will these teams come out with? Can these teams play well on the road? Is there such thing as a hometown advantage? Will the travel to Victoria affect the Fremantle ladies? Lose the season-opener and are they as big of a threat as they were before round one? We will possibly get these answers by the end of round one.
On paper, both sides are evenly matched, and a win on Saturday night for either team will put them in the right direction of a Grand Final berth. Every win is so crucial in this short, seven-week season, as there is no semi-finals, no qualifying finals and no preliminary finals. The top two teams at the end of round 7 will square off in a Grand Final to be held as a curtain-raiser to a round one game with the newly established AFLW Premiership on the line.
B: Hayley Wildes, Rebecca Neaves, Hannah Scott
HB: Nicole Callinan, Aasta O'Connor, Bayley Hunt
C: Jaimee Lambert
HF: Brooke Lochland, Katie Brennan, Kirsten McLeod
F: Kate Tyndall, Ellyse Gamble, Angelica Gogos
FOL: Lauren Spark, Emma Kearney, Ellie Blackburn
INT: Kirsty Lamb, Jess Gardner, Libby Birch, Tiana Ernst, Lisa Williams, Laura Bailey
EMG: Meghan McDonald, Courtney Clarkson
B: Belinda Smith, Tayla Bresland, Ashley Sharp
HB: Tiah Haynes, Hayley Miller, Stephanie Cain
C: Kara Donnellan
HF: Cassie Davidson, Dana Hooker, Lara Filocamo
F: Ebony Antonio, Amy Lavell, Brianna Green
FOL: Gemma Houghton, Kirby Bentley, Melissa Caulfield
INT: Gabby O'Sullivan, Demi Okely, Tarnica Golisano, Akec Makur Chuot, Stacey Barr, Taylah Angel
EMG: Taryn Priestly, Beatrice Devlyn
Players To Watch
One of the star forwards of this competition, Brennan will lead the Bulldog gals out for the first time on Saturday night, despite fears she would miss this game after injuring her ankle in the practice game against the Collingwood women. The AFLW Bulldogs captain is adamant she's ready to go, look out for her roaming up the ground and if she gets going early, it could be trouble for the Freo defenders.
Whilst the big name on the Western Bulldogs' midfield brigade is Ellie Blackburn, watch out for a diminutive, yet tough-as-nails on-baller by the name of Jaimee Lambert, who is quietly making her name as one of the game's elite inside midfielders. She tackles ferociously and excels at the clearances. It's no wonder the Dogs took her with the fifth overall pick in the AFLW draft back in October.
Donnellan is perhaps Fremantle's most dangerous player as she leads Fremantle's ladies ahead of the 2017 AFLW season. So dangerous that some experts have branded her as the 'Female version of Chris Judd'. She's incredibly quick, courageous and is deadly with the ball when given time and space. If the Bulldogs are to win Saturday, they'll need to contain Donnellan's influence.
There's no doubt that Amy Lavell poses as Fremantle's most dangerous forward threat. Lavell kicked 51 goals for the Coastal Titans in the WAWFL last year, taking home the league's leading goal-kicker award. It'll be a big job to stop her, I'd love to see someone like Aasta O'Connor get the starting job on her.
Over 6000 people turned up to the Women's All-Star exhibition game last September, expect more numbers on Saturday night as there is a little bit of history to be made.
I have no doubt this will be the match of the round at the conclusion of the weekend as on paper it's a game that should and will go down to the wire, I'll tip the Bulldogs at home, as I think the travel factor may go against Fremantle's ladies here.
Western Bulldogs by 6 points
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