THERE are just five rounds remaining in the 2021 VFL Women’s season, and the ladder has well and truly taken shape. With the top five teams having seemingly created enough separation – three wins or 12 points and a percentage difference that will never be matched – from teams in the bottom six, it is fair to say that Essendon and Casey Demons’ 6-3 records and 165 per cent-plus will be enough for them to join the unbeaten Collingwood, and top three sides Port Melbourne (8-1) and Geelong (7-2) in the finals series. This leaves one spot for a side to grab hold of and we look at those in the running.
As the saying goes, sixth spot is the Saints’ to lose. A recent defeat at the hands of the Western Bulldogs would have hurt the Saints, but they bounced back with an important win over Hawthorn last round. They have a superior percentage to the teams below them – 30.7 per cent higher than the next best side – which means they would need to fall in a heap to drop outside on percentage. Effectively they are a game and a half ahead of other sides with that extra percentage, so one would think that two wins in the final five matches should do it, and three wins certainly will do it – as long as the two losses are not severe.
Opponents: Port Melbourne, Geelong, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Carlton
That is one stiff draw for the Saints, coming up against two of the genuine title contenders in the next two rounds means they could slip outside the six from Round 11 if they drop them both. Whilst the final three are a little bit easier, they lost to the Bulldogs a fortnight ago, and the trio of sides are all the next in line to take their spot. Talk about pressure and making them earn it, none are guaranteed, though they should pick up a couple of wins. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.
For a side that has been heavily favouring VFL Women’s listed players compared to many of its AFLW-aligned counterparts, North Melbourne should be pretty happy with where it sits in the scheme of things. If Southern Saints do indeed lose their next two games, then the Roos could pounce with some favourable results. Ticking over an important win two starts ago against Carlton was unfortunately cancelled out by the heavy loss to Casey in Round 9, but they were helped by the fact their nearest rivals – Western Bulldogs and Carlton – both had huge defeats to reduce their percentages further.
Opponents: Collingwood, Hawthorn, Essendon, Southern Saints, Port Melbourne
An even harder draw than the Saints, North Melbourne face three of the top four sides, as well as the Saints in what could ultimately be a do-or-die clash. The game against bottom three side Hawthorn is a must-win for the Roos, as that appears to be the best chance for a win, though if they do load up on some AFL Women’s talent, then they have enough talent on the list to worry most sides. The Hawks are no easy beats either with the list they are assembling, so again, no easy games here.
One step forward, three steps back is probably apt for the Western Bulldogs at the moment, with some great strides made in the past few weeks undone at the hands of a ruthless Geelong outfit last week. On paper the Bulldogs had the talent to match the Cats, but were blown off the park, and will be hungry to make up for it this week. This issue is, now the Bulldogs have copped a huge percentage blow, and will have to earn a finals spot via wins rather than percentage, which will mean they will need a minimum of three wins, and hope the Saints do not grab their two victories. Realistically though, the Dogs probably need to win four out of five to be a chance.
Opponents: Carlton, Essendon, Southern Saints, Casey Demons, Collingwood
Needing four wins to get in – and even then probably needing results to go their way, the Bulldogs simply must beat Carlton to be a chance, especially with four top six teams to round out their year. The Saints are a side they beat, and the only AFLW-aligned side they have managed to defeat this year. They might get two to three wins, but the last fortnight – with Casey and Collingwood not mucking around when it comes to AFLW talent – the Bulldogs need to head into those games with three consecutive wins under their belt.
The biggest outsider of the possibilities, the Blues have really struggled to score when they have lost, but have shown patches of brilliance, such as their hard-fought loss to Port Melbourne a couple of weeks back. Had they snatched that one, the Blues would be in prime position for sixth spot, but instead, they have the lowest percentage of the teams jostling to force their way back in the top six, and will be needing a miracle to not only notch up the required likely four of five wins, but hope results go their way as well, much like the Western Bulldogs with a sub-70 per cent.
Opponents: Western Bulldogs, Casey Demons, Geelong, Williamstown, Southern Saints
The fortnight of Casey Demons and Geelong will be a painful one based on recent results, but if the Blues can cause an upset there, then it is game on. The other three matches are winnable, but certainly not guarantees by any stretch. A loss to the Western Bulldogs this week would effectively put a line through the Blues finals chances, as it means they would need to beat both Casey and Geelong, which is asking a fair bit given what those sides have been able to achieve.
Hawthorn seem like the side that might not make finals, but they could certainly ruin some chances and play the role of party pooper along the way. They are not completely out of the running despite just winning the two games, but they need a near-perfect run from here, pretty much winning all five games to lock themselves in, or four and hope for the best with results. The one plus is they have the second highest percentage of teams in the bottom six, though that is still too far away from the sixth placed Saints.
Opponents: Darebin, North Melbourne, Williamstown, Port Melbourne, Geelong
What makes Hawthorn intriguing is the fact that they face the two bottom sides, as well as the inconsistent North Melbourne, in the next three weeks. If the Hawks can pull off three wins – one would expect they at least claim two of those – then it would give the other sides competing for a finals spot something to think about. One would suggest they probably fall short with Port Melbourne and Geelong in the final fortnight, but expect them to give it a red hot crack to the line.
Definitely into the mathematical chances now, with the Seagulls having had just the two wins this season and have a really low percentage with some heavy losses. They would need to be in a similar boat to Hawthorn, winning just about all of them, or hoping to win four and have results go their way.
Opponents: Casey Demons, Darebin, Hawthorn, Carlton, Essendon
Admittedly it is not the worst draw for the Seagulls, but they are bottom two for a reason, though they could really cause some headaches for the top sides. They have been competitive for the most part at times, and just blown away here or there to really impact their percentage, but with games against the other bottom four sides, Williamstown on a good day could come away with three wins. It would not be enough for finals though, with Casey and Essendon both having that extra class with AFLW talent.