Richmond v North Melbourne
Tickets to the game at Richmond’s Swinburne Centre, which has a capacity of 2,500, sold out in nine minutes on Monday. The decision to host the match there was backed by the AFL due to higher-ranked Richmond’s preference, but has angered many fans of a sport fighting for growth.
The teams faced off two weeks ago in a fiery round 10 contest for the last spot in the top four in front of more than 3,100 at Arden St Oval. Richmond came powering out of the blocks, and the arm wrestle that followed ended in a draw that sealed their double chance. Fans and neutrals alike will be bitterly disappointed to miss the opportunity to see how this latest clash ends live.
On the field, finding a way to negate the influence of recently crowned AFL Coaches Association champion player of the year, Jasmine Garner, will be vital for the Tigers. Two weeks ago, Richmond’s Meg Macdonald was up to the task, having held Garner to just five disposals in the first half. It’s just a question of how they’ll go about it.
North’s back five on Saturday, in particular Sarah Wright, Emma Kearney and Nicole Bresnehan, stood up as Geelong tried again and again to convert. The team’s determination was exemplified by the work of Amy Smith, who led the full ground defence laying 17 tackles.
The Kangaroos’ defence will need to back it up to contain the firepower of celebrated midfielders Ellie McKenzie and Monique Conti, and limit their opportunities to drive it forward to the likes of Katie Brennan and Courtney Wakefield.
Richmond faced perhaps the league’s toughest assignment last weekend in their qualifying final against minor premiers Brisbane at Metricon Stadium. Defenders Maddy Shevlin and Libby Graham started strong, before the Lions established a healthy lead in the second.
The visitors lifted in the last to shave two goals off the margin and hold Brisbane to a point. Having been the only team to beat Brisbane during the season, this loss will surely have put fire in the Tigers’ bellies, and reminded them of their best footy.
If this Saturday plays out similarly to round 10, both teams will need to take every scoring opportunity that presents, with North’s accuracy in particular having let them down. The winner will face Melbourne next week, although who knows where, with the precedent surely now set for home ground advantage.
Adelaide v Collingwood
After a dominant start against Melbourne last Friday, reigning premiers Adelaide were picked apart. The Crows were unable to re-establish their momentum, with midfield stars Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard quieter than usual.
Collingwood faced the opposite issue on Sunday against the Bulldogs, who flipped the script in the last 20 minutes, running through to pile on goals and nearly complete a comeback.
Magpies defender Stacey Livingstone was a powerhouse on the last line, and soaked up pressure as the Bulldogs bombed it inside 50. Adelaide forwards like Danielle Ponter and Ash Woodland will need to be fast and creative to generate space and ensure Livingstone can’t shut them down.
Collingwood have some injury concerns though. Coach Steve Symonds confirmed post-match that no less than seven players were assessed during the second half.
Sarah Rowe didn’t come off the bench after experiencing a knee concern in the last quarter, while Ruby Schleicher appeared to suffer a similar issue around the same time. Schleicher only returned to the field to help her team over the line in the final two minutes.
These injuries are worrying for Collingwood, who have struggled against the top sides this season. Their inaccuracy on Sunday could have spelled the end for them, and it’s hard to imagine Adelaide won’t capitalise on these weaknesses.
While the Crows have had some big wins, they have also looked shaky at times, with an opening round loss to Melbourne, a scare from Geelong and defeat against Brisbane. When they met the Pies in round four, they played a low-scoring, scrappy game to win by just five points.
Adelaide will be on Chelsea Randall watch, after the captain suffered a head knock late on Friday. She had returned early from an ankle injury, and was taken from the field after she stumbled in an attempt to take a free kick.
Randall was adamant that she had tripped on a wayward shoelace, and that it wasn’t a symptom of concussion. She was ruled out of the Crows’ 2021 grand final loss under concussion protocols, and affirmed the rule’s importance despite the significance of the game she missed. Provided she is cleared by doctors, she should be good to go.
The winner will face Brisbane in a preliminary final in the sunshine state next week.