Sitting at seventh place on the AFLW ladder and on the back of four losses in a row, this weekends match up doesn't get any harder than this for the Western Bulldogs' womens team. This is their first game away from Victoria and they find themselves up against the undefeated Brisbane Lions at the South Pine Sports Complex.
The Brisbane women have been one of the great stories in the first-ever AFL women's season - Not many people would've rated them so highly at the start of the year, this would've been largely due to how dismal the men's team have been over the last few years.
A lot of people still didn't rate the Lions even when they defeated Melbourne in the first round in shocking conditions at Casey Fields, but as the weeks rolled on, they gained more and more notice, and finally emerged as the front-runner for the inaugural AFLW premiership when they came from behind to defeat the previously unbeaten Adelaide Crows in Norwood last weekend.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Lions are hot favourites for this contest, but can Western Bulldogs coach Paul Groves rally his troops for what could arguably one of the greatest upsets of the season? Last week they so close to pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in the brief history of the AFLW, coming from 25 points down early in the last quarter to fall just a goal short of Carlton by the final siren.
Their first and last quarters last week against the Blues were fantastic, fun to watch and showed that they were capable of matching it with a team contending for the premiership, but this week's opposition is perhaps a step above Carlton at the present time, and given how the Dogs have progressed so far this season, it's looks like an uphill battle to break their four-game losing streak.
IN: Ellyse Gamble, Jess Gardner, Kirsten McLeod, Rebecca Neaves
OUT: Aasta O'Connor (Injured), Lauren Moorecroft, Lisa Williams, Romy Timmins (All Omitted)
B: Kate Tyndall, Meg McDonald, Libby Birch
HB: Hayley Wildes, Bailey Hunt, Nicole Callinan
C: Brooke Lochland
HF: Jaimee Lambert, Ellyse Gamble, Hannah Scott
F: Kirsty Lamb, Courtney Clarkson, Kirsten McLeod
FOL: Lauren Spark, Ellie Blackburn, Emma Kearney
INT: Rebecca Neaves, Laura Bailey, Angelica Gogos, Kimberley Ebb, Tiarna Ernst, Jess Gardner
EMG: Lauren Moorecroft, Lisa Williams
The Dogs have made four changes to the team that lost to Carlton last Saturday with only one forced change, that being Aasta O'Connor who will miss the final two games of the season as she opted to have minor surgery on her knee and she will join marquee forward Katie Brennan out for the remainder of the year as she strained a quad at training during week in a bid to make her first appearence since round two. Also omitted from the team are Lisa Williams, Lauren Moorecroft and Romy Timmins. All three ladies struggled to make an impact on the game last week.
Coming into the side sees dangerous forward Kirsten McLeod, who missed last week's game with concussion and will be a welcome addition down forward. Also into the team comes Ellyse Gamble, Jess Gardner and Rebecca Neaves. Gamble provides another target to kick to down forward, whilst Gardner and Neaves provide athleticism and will be handy around the ground.
IN: Kate Deegan
OUT: Shannon Campbell (Injured)
B: Sam Virgo, Leah Kaslar, Kate Deegan
HB: Tahlia Randall, Kate Lutkins, Breanna Koenan
C: Megan Hunt
HF: Kaitlyn Ashmore, Sabrina Fredrick-Traub, Kate McCarthy
F: Jordan Membrey, Tayla Harris, Jess Wuetschner
FOL: Sharni Webb, Emily Bates, Emma Zielke
INT: Nikki Wallace, Jamie Stanton, Nicole Hildebrand, Selina Goodman, Brittany Gibson, Alex Anderson
EMG: Delissa Kimmince, Jade Ransfield
Brisbane's women have only made the one forced change, that sees Shannon Campbell out after she suffered a mild concussion in last week's win against the Crows. It's considered a bit of a blow, given that she has been a consistently solid contributor coming out of Brisbane's back half. Kate Deegan is named as her replacement, being named for her first game since Brisbane's round four win against Greater Western Sydney.
What's fascinated me about Brisbane's women's team is that whilst they're the number one team on the ladder, they're not highly ranked when it comes to stats the matter, I'm talking about disposals, clearances, tackles and contested possession. They're ranked seventh in disposals with an average of 164 disposals a game, sixth in contested ball with an average of just over 90 per game, seventh in clearances with an average of just under 19 per game and sixth in tackles with an average of 55 per game
But the one stat that matters the most is on the scoreboard, and Brisbane have no troubles in not just finding the goals but they often deny the opposition to score themselves. The Lions average just a smidge under five goals a game which sits them third in the AFLW, and only concede an average of 19 points per game which is ranked the best defence in the league.
Players To Watch
The Dogs would've loved to have had the livewire forward last weekend in such a high-scoring encounter, but after clearing herself of concussion, she finds herself back in the team this weekend and she would have to be raring to go against the stingiest defence in the league. She is the Bulldogs' second-highest goal-kicker with three goals so far, just two behind Ellie Blackburn, who kicked three goals in a game last weekend.
Last week saw the key position player go down forward and play a vital role in the Doggies' comeback in the fourth quarter. She took a number of good grabs and kicked a crucial goal, despite the fact she could've had two or three to her name, but if she can continue that form into this week, it's going to cause the Brisbane defenders a few headaches. The Dogs need a key forward to step up in the absence of Katie Brennan. Can McDonald be the one?
One of my favourite players to watch right now, her speed when she has the ball in hand has been incredible and such a joy to watch, and what's even better is that she's been able to use her pace and put it on the scoreboard. She leads all Brisbane players in goals with seven for the season and sits second behind only Carlton's Darcy Vescio. Who takes the match-up on her?
The Brisbane marquee has hit a bit of a hot streak going over the last couple of weeks. She was everywhere against Adelaide with 15 disposals, five tackles and nine hitouts and the week before saw her register 13 disposals, six marks, four tackles and a goal in another solid display. The Bulldogs backline will have a hard time matching up on her and fellow marquee Tayla Harris as both ladies have already formed quite the partnership.
I'd love to see the Bulldogs come out like they did last week against Carlton with this 'Nothing To Lose' mentality, and whilst I expect them to give the Lions a stir, I can't see Brisbane dropping this game at home, particularly when they've got the chance to stamp their place in the AFLW's first-ever Grand Final.
But stranger things have happened in football before. Will we see an unlikely hero step up for the Bulldogs? Inaccuracy has costed the Bulldog ladies a few games this year, but if they do find themselves kicking more goals than points, anything's possible.
Brisbane Lions by 24 points
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