The inaugural AFLW Sydney Derby headlines a weekend filled with storylines. (Photo: Sydney Swans AFLW/Twitter)

With the opening two rounds already completed, season seven of AFLW is beginning to take shape. 

Premiership contenders are emerging, whilst some teams are still searching for their first win of the season.

The Inner Sanctum has chosen five things to look out for in Round 3. 

The start of Indigenous Round

Set to be celebrated across Rounds 3 and 4, the AFLW Indigenous Round will kick off this weekend, recognising the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls to Australian rules football. 

Aunty Pam Pedersen, a proud Yorta Yorta elder, has been named as this season’s AFLW Indigenous Round Honouree. Aunty Pam has been a long-standing advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples, having served on boards and committees such as the Tarwirri Elders and Respected Panel, Long Walk Board and the AFL Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round organising committee. 

She is also the youngest daughter of Aboriginal leaders Sir Douglas Nicholls and Lady Gladys Nicholls. 

Rounds 3 and 4 will see all 18 AFLW clubs run out in uniquely designed Indigenous guernseys, whilst AFLW umpires will also wear uniforms featuring designs from Worawa Aboriginal College students Kyanna McIntosh and Kylinda Alice. 

At every match, acknowledgement of the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the game takes place will occur. Signage at venues will also include the name of the Traditional Owners. 

Local rivalries ignite

Round 3 will mark the first time local rivals GWS and Sydney battle it out in the AFLW competition. Set to be played at the SCG on Saturday afternoon, the game will also signify the first time the SCG has hosted an official AFLW fixture.

Adding to the intrigue of the contest is the fact that both teams are yet to get off the mark in season seven.

The Swans have found the going tough in the club’s opening two AFLW encounters, succumbing to defeats against the Saints and Magpies. Meanwhile, the Giants will be keen to atone for a heavy 47-point loss at the hands of a well-oiled Lions outfit last weekend.

There could also be some added spice with ex-Giants Lisa Steane, Ally Morphett and Rebecca Privitelli now all wearing the red and white.

Could the Swans snatch their first ever AFLW victory over their cross-town rivals? It would certainly make for quite the story.  

Maddy Collier (left) and Alicia Eva (right) at AFLW Captain’s Day. (Photo: GWS Giants)

Further north and the Brisbane Lions will host the Gold Coast Suns at the Gabba in the fourth edition of the AFLW’s Q Clash.

The Suns are yet to taste victory over the Lions, losing their last two encounters by an average margin of 66 points. However, the two sides did play out a thrilling draw in the first ever encounter. 

Given the superior form of the Lions, it looms as a tall order for a developing Suns outfit. Will they rise to the occasion? 

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The battle of the undefeated

Two teams are all but certain to have their unbeaten starts to season seven brought to an end.

On Saturday afternoon, Collingwood will travel to GMHBA Stadium for a hotly anticipated clash with Geelong. The Cats have been one of the biggest surprise packets of season seven thus far, defeating both Richmond and Fremantle. 

The defensive efforts of Dan Lowther’s side have been a prominent feature this season, with the Cats restricting the Dockers to a record-low one point away from home last weekend. 

Meanwhile, an undefeated Collingwood side enters the match fuelled with plenty of confidence. The Magpies midfield is firing on all cylinders, while Jordan Membrey is offering a great presence up forward. 

A mouth-watering encounter between St Kilda and Narrm also looms large in Round 3. The Saints have easily accounted for expansion sides Sydney and Hawthorn in their opening two fixtures, indicating that they could be a force to be reckoned with in season seven. 

However, the Saints will face a stern test in the form of the Demons, who have recorded impressive wins over Adelaide and North Melbourne.

St Kilda’s Kate Shierlaw (six goals) is currently the AFLW leading goalkicker, and it will be interesting to see how she fares against the intercepting capabilities of Narrm’s Libby Birch and Sarah Lampard.

Will the Saints prove themselves to be the real deal in season seven?

50 game milestones

It’s a big week at Carlton on the milestone front, with three players set to reach 50 AFLW games in Round 3.

Jessica Dal Pos, Breann Moody and Elise O’Dea will all celebrate the milestone against Port Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.

Dal Pos crossed over from the GWS Giants ahead of last season and has since been a valuable performer for the Blues. O’Dea has also had an impact since arriving at Carlton in the lead-up to the 2021 season. The former Demon was co-vice-captain of the Blues last season, and has forged a decorated career at both clubs.

Meanwhile, Moody has been with Carlton since the inaugural AFLW season. A member of the 2021 AFLW All-Australian team, Moody has established herself as one of the premier rucks in the competition. 

Elise O’Dea (left), Breann Moody (centre) and Jess Dal Pos (right) will notch 50 AFLW games this weekend. (Photo: AFL Women’s/Twitter)

Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn will also play her 50th game on Friday evening against the Fremantle Dockers. Blackburn, who captained the side to its inaugural AFLW premiership in 2018, has been a wonderful servant of the Western Bulldogs Football Club since the introduction of the AFLW.

A three-time best and fairest winner and AFLW All-Australian member, Blackburn remains one of the most exciting players to watch in the competition. 

Sabrina Frederick rounds out the 50 game milestone celebrations in Round 3. After starting her AFLW journey with Brisbane, Frederick has since represented both Richmond and her current club Collingwood. She has kicked 24 goals across her career to date.

Filling the void

Injury carnage last weekend means that several sides will be looking for players to step up in the absence of some key personnel.

Hawthorn duo Tamara Luke and Louise Stephenson sustained season-ending injuries against St Kilda, meaning coach Bec Goddard will be forced to make at least two changes.

Lucy Wales assumed the ruck duties for the entirety of the game after Luke’s injury and will once again shoulder a big responsibility against Richmond. The Hawks have also announced that both Bridie Hipwell and Isabelle Porter will be making their debuts on Sunday.

Port Adelaide’s Gemma Houghton will also be missing in Round 3 due to a syndesmosis injury. Houghton’s extended absence could potentially pave the way for the AFLW debut of exciting forward Tessa Doumanis. Doumanis performed strongly during the Power’s practice match against Essendon last month.

Regardless of who gets the nod, Port Adelaide will need to find different avenues to goal this weekend. 

Meanwhile, GWS will be without Tait Mackrill (foot) and Chloe Dalton (hamstring) for its clash with cross-town rivals Sydney.

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