27/02/2024

Adelaide AFLW coach Matthew 'Doc' Clarke. (Photo: Adelaide FC)

Coming into one of the biggest matches of Adelaide's AFLW season, coach Matthew Clarke has identified the keys to victory for his undefeated side.

With stars on each line for both teams, Crows coach Matthew Clarke is faced with a difficult task against an also undefeated Melbourne side.

“Clearly [Melbourne’s] form in the first three games has been good, so has ours, so that makes for an exciting match-up,” Clarke told media on Monday ahead of the match.

“As we saw with the North game, when you play good teams it will generally go down to the wire and we envisage that’s what it will take – a four quarter performance.”

Melbourne has been clinical so far this year, beating the Western Bulldogs by 24 points after an inaccurate display in front of goal, kicking 10 points. The Demons outplayed a gallant Richmond by 16 points at Punt Road Oval before breaking down St Kilda in a fourth quarter surge that saw them victorious by 41 points.

The Crows have also made a magnificent start to the season, beating a luckless Brisbane Lions outfit without key pillars in forward Dakota Davidson and back-line general Kate Lutkins. In Round 2, the Crows simply outplayed a fairly classy display by North Melbourne by 13 points, the star power that they possess too great.

Taking care of a lesser side in the West Coast Eagles may have been less than ideal preparation for the Crows, but may have proved to be the week they needed to get captain Chelsea Randall and ruck Caitlin Gould back.

When the teams played each other in 2021, they both fielded very similar sides to the ones that will go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon at Norwood Oval.

They faced off at Casey Fields in the minor round where the Demons ran home winners. The Crows had the last laugh when they won the return fixture to end the Demons’ flag hopes.

Adelaide Crows celebrate a goal. (Photo: Adelaide FC)

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“It’s going to be a really great challenge, one that I know they’re really looking forward to,” Clarke said.

“Melbourne has added Tayla Harris, they’ve got Daisy Pearce, last year Kate Hore kicked three goals against us as a small forward… they’ve got some great assets and weapons down there.”

Tayla Harris has found some form with the Demons, booting two goals a game on average with over four score involvements a game. Her work with Tyla Hanks, Daisy Pearce and Kate Hore, all of whom have over five score involvements each means they are a high scoring attack with few weak links.

Lauren Pearce has also been a feature with 16 hit-outs a game, which is five more than any of Adelaide’s rucks.

Down back for the Crows though, Marijana Rajcic has been a pillar of consistency, averaging over seven intercept possessions a game.

“Our defenders, they’re looking forward to those challenges and to play against the really good players,” Clarke said.

“[Adelaide’s defenders] are going to rely on some pressure from up the field so that the Melbourne midfielders don’t have enough time and space to get the ball cleanly to those really good players’ advantage.”

The midfield battle will be one to watch, with many of the Crows’ midfield stalwarts in red hot form.

Anne Hatchard has been a standout so far, averaging two contested marks a game with over seven marks overall a game. After a strong pre-season, her overhead marking is helping to make her a more multi-dimensional player.

Ebony Marinoff, along with Hatchard, has averaged over 20 disposals a game. Veteran Erin Phillips is averaging six marks a game, and is always a big game player.

A feature of last week’s win over the Eagles was Eloise Jones. Her constant run and carry as well as second and third efforts sees her earn continuous plaudits from teammates, becoming more damaging and consistent after a strong 2021.

“If we can provide that [midfield battle], then we’ll get it back to a 50-50 contest and just luckily we’ve got some pretty good players down there as well.” Clarke concluded.

“There will be some great match-ups… there’s a footy game and we can get excited about it.”

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