TWO inaugural AFL Women’s finalists will face off in the second match of the semi-finals, with second ranked GWS GIANTS (Conference A) and Melbourne (Conference B) both taking the field in a finals scenario for the first time in the competition’s history. Both sides are sitting on four wins from six matches and among the top sides in their respective conferences, making for an enticing battle between two talented teams.
GWS GIANTS v. Melbourne
Saturday, 21 March, 2.40pm AEDT
Melbourne and GIANTS did not play during the home and away season in 2020, making for an interesting battle for the opposing conference teams – especially given if the two conferences were combined, Melbourne would sit in fourth ahead of GIANTS on percentage in fifth. While Melbourne will likely come in as favourites this week, another anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last week – their fifth of the season – sees the Dees down in stocks once more while the GIANTS have the winning streak to get over the line. While the two sides have not come up against each other in 2020, the GIANTS will hope to fight back against recent history with losses to the Dees in both 2018 and 2019 sure to be on their mind, though plenty has changed for both teams since those seasons.
The GIANTS will hope to welcome back fearless leader Alicia Eva, with the tenacious midfielder a key cog that could help push the Dees to the limit. GIANTS fans are hopeful ruck Jess Allan (averaging 16.8 hitouts) will return to the fray this week after sitting out with sickness in Round 6 to team up with Rebecca Beeson and Alyce Parker who continue to have an influence both on and off the footy, while Brittany Tully is having an impressive season on the track with her tackling pressure, collecting almost seven per match. Cora Staunton and Rebecca Privitelli have been key targets up forward, bearing the brunt of the goalkicking with seven and six respectively, while Elle Bennetts has been influential off the half back averaging 6.3 intercept possessions.
Melbourne will sorely miss dynamic Irish duo in Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy, with the pair called back home during the week in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, making for a tough ask for the Dees to field a team. Defensively the impact of Daisy Pearce and Libby Birch will prove crucial, with both players averaging 6.2 intercept possessions and sending the footy back forward, settling play in motion with patience. Karen Paxman has been the clear standout for the Demons this season, averaging 21.5 touches (10 contested) and five clearances and doing a wealth of work off the ball to provide that option up the ground. Young gun Tyla Hanks has slot in well and leads the tackle count while Eden Zanker has put an impressive season in the books playing out of her depth as an undersized ruck, but is averaging 11.7 hitouts thanks to her impressive leap and has put a score on the board in all but one match in 2020. Kate Hore has come into her own in front of the big sticks this season, booting the five goals – including a goal of the year contender last round – while her work rate and run and carry has been phenomenal in season 2020.