We’re down to the final fortnight of home and away action in AFLW season seven, with last weekend seeing more season-defining results.
And with plenty more big storylines set to take place this weekend, here are the five things that The Inner Sanctum has chosen to look out for in Round 9.
Pies and Roos to add another chapter to rivalry
Over the last few weekends there’ve been many great rivalries taking place, and this round will see another one add another chapter to its book.
Since the Kangaroos entered the AFLW, this rivalry has continued to grow with every meeting between the two. In the five matches between them, two of which were finals, the Roos lead three to two, with the average margin being 14.6 points and only eight points separating them in the two finals.
Much like the two finals they’ve met in there’s plenty on the line, with the Pies looking to potentially lock in a top four spot. The Roos meanwhile are looking to all but seal up a spot in finals, and defeat a top four opponent for the first time this season.
The Pies continue to go from strength to strength each week and have now won their last four matches. The last fortnight has seen them concede only 17 points against GWS and Fremantle to affirm themselves as the defensive powerhouse of the AFLW.
They’ll be up against one of the better offensive sides in the Kangaroos though, who average the fourth most points per game (37.3), and come in off the back of a comfortable win against a determined Port Adelaide outfit.
With both in strong form and looking to solidify their positions inside the eight, it could be another classic between these two rivals.
Early elimination final on the Gold Coast
Two sides battling it out for a finals spot in Gold Coast and Carlton will come together tonight and do battle to see who will be in with a chance to stay in that race.
The equation for both is simple: a win for the Suns would see them equal on points or still a game behind the eighth-placed Bulldogs, whilst a win for the Blues and a loss for the Bulldogs would see them only a game behind them. However a win for both Carlton and the Bulldogs sees the finals race come to an end.
After a winless 2021 season the Suns have continued to rise this year, and have been around that finals mark all throughout season seven. However last weekend saw a big dent to those chances, going down convincingly to second placed Melbourne.
On the other hand, the Blues have exceeded many expectations this year after an off-season filled with plenty of big names departing. They showed glimpses of their potential last Friday night, but still fell at the hands of Richmond by 10 points.
Carlton hold the wood over the Suns in their two meetings so far, winning both by 10 and five goals respectively. Whilst they were defeated the last time they travelled to Metricon it’ll still hold good memories for Daniel Harford’s side, kicking their highest score of 87 in the first meeting between the two.
This time around though two very different outfits will meet in what could be a Friday night classic and is a mini elimination final on the Gold Coast.
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Mildura Sporting Facility to be introduced
There’ve been many new venues introduced to AFLW supporters this year, with the Mildura Sporting Facility set to play host to Richmond and GWS.
Located in the southern outskirts of the major Victorian country town, the facility was only opened last year, with a capacity of 5000.
The hosts in Richmond come into this game in red-hot form, having won its last six games in a row. This included coming from behind last Friday night against Carlton to keep the streak alive.
However, its opponent in GWS will prove to be no easy beat, coming into this match on a high having just snuck over the line against Hawthorn last Sunday at Henson Park.
Several exciting matchups will also take place, with the likes of Monique Conti, Grace Egan, Alyce Parker and Alicia Eva set to do battle in the middle of the ground. Courtney Wakefield, Eilish Sheerin, Tarni Evans and Cora Staunton will battle it out at opposite ends.
A win here for the Tigers would continue to keep them within touching distance of the top four, whilst a win for the Giants would continue to set them up nicely for next season. Either way, it’s set to be a historic day for the town of Mildura.
Swans and Dockers looking to add to win column
Having struggled all season long, Sydney and Fremantle will battle it out Saturday afternoon to give their fans something to cheer about.
In their first season fielding an AFLW side, the Swans have gone winless. They have shown plenty of promise regardless in matches against expansion sides and fellow strugglers.
Young guns such as Montana Ham, Cynthia Hamilton and Sofia Hurley have all shown their potential in most matches, whilst the experienced heads of Rebecca Privitelli and Brooke Lochland have been a calming presence.
Meanwhile their opponents from the west have been hit hard by injuries to star players throughout the season. A constantly changing line-up and a tough fixture sees the Dockers sitting second last, with only one win.
Whilst it’s been a dramatic fall from grace, Kiara Bowers continues to prove a handful in midfield alongside captain Hayley Miller, whilst talented forward Aine Tighe continues to develop her game each week.
Despite the fact there’s only pride on the line, it’ll still be a fierce duel between the two bottom sides in what is the Swans’ final game of the season at the historic Henson Park
More 50 game milestones
Two more players are set to pass the 50-game milestone, with another a possibility pending fitness.
Experienced defender Sophie Casey will be the first to pass the milestone this weekend in the Pies’ match-up with the Kangaroos.
Picked up from VFLW club Eastern Devils as a free agent after being overlooked in the 2016 AFLW draft, the hard nosed small defender has been a mainstay since the inaugural season.
Athletic forward Gemma Houghton is the other player set to pass the 50 game milestone in Port Adelaide’s clash against St Kilda at RSEA Park.
Originally a basketballer before being picked up also as a free agent in 2016 by Fremantle, she kicked 40 goals in her 46 games out west before making the move to South Australia.
Injury has restricted the two-time All-Australian to just three games for the Power so far, with last weekend seeing her return to the fold.
Houghton’s former teammate Ebony Antonio could also be set once more to pass the 50 game milestone at Henson Park. However like last weekend, she’s still a test to play against the Swans.
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