AFLW finals are back for another season, with this one set to be bigger than all the pervious. (Photo: AFL Womens/Twitter)

AFLW finals for season seven has arrived, with eight clubs set to play out the biggest finals series the competition has seen to date.

With plenty of big storylines in the first week of this finals series, here are the four things that The Inner Sanctum has chosen to look out for.

Tigers and Cats looking to continue rise to the top

It’s been a phenomenal rise to the top for both the Cats and the Tigers in AFLW season seven, with this weekend being a big opportunity for them to show just how much they’ve improved.

None have had as big of a climb than Ryan Ferguson’s side. After entering the competition in 2020 and going winless in their first season, they showed signs of improvement in 2021 and last season before taking a massive leap this year to finish with a double chance.

Their first ever final is set to be as big of a challenge as it can get against the unstoppable minor premiers Brisbane at Metricon Stadium. Despite being against the odds this weekend, Richmond will still have the mental advantage, having been the only side to defeat the Lions in the regular season.

The other big improvers in Geelong will compete in finals for a second time in its fifth season, having made finals in its first ever season in 2019. After only getting five wins between 2020 and 2022, the Cats managed to pass that tally this season to sit in fifth.

Unlike Richmond, they won’t be afforded the luxury of a double chance and will be up against a Kangaroos outfit that pushed the Tigers last weekend, and whom they’ve previously been defeated by. This time around though they’ll face off in Geelong, where the hosts have only lost once this season.

This weekend will be one of, if not the biggest for both sides who’ll be looking to book dates in a preliminary and semi final respectively.

Grand Final rematch, this time in finals

After finishing off last season’s finals series in the Grand Final, the Demons and the Crows will now kick off this season’s finals.

Much like their previous meeting in AFLW season seven, this match will take place on a Friday night. However this time around it’ll be on neutral territory at Ikon Park, and Melbourne will come in as favourites after winning that first meeting by three goals in Adelaide.

Since that opening matchup between the two, the Demons have continued to improve, losing only to the Lions, and finishing one point away from snatching the minor premiership from their grasp.

Adelaide also only lost one more game (against Brisbane) after the opening weekend. But whilst they’ve shown they’re still the Crows of the past at times, the last few weeks have shown they’re vulnerable, winning by a combined margin of just three goals against St Kilda and Geelong.

The two inaugural sides have so far met eight times and have split the wins, with this meeting being the fourth between the two this year. Matthew Clarke’s side will still have a mental advantage though, having only ever lost one AFLW final and winning two finals against the Dees.

It’s set to be a classic between these two rivals, with the winner pushing one step closer to another Grand Final appearance.

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Dogs looking to make most of finals chance

Not many would’ve given the Bulldogs a chance of making finals to start the season. But now here they stand looking to make the most of their opportunity.

The Bulldog women had to fight hard like the men’s side to make finals despite being in the top eight for the majority of season seven. A late goal from superstar captain Ellie Blackburn was enough to see them get the win they needed to make finals.

Despite scraping into their second finals series, they’ll come into it with plenty of momentum, having won their last three matches (all of which were against sides outside the top eight) to leapfrog themselves into seventh.

Their opponents in Collingwood come into this match on the opposite form. The Pies have been defeated in their last two matches against top eight sides in North and Brisbane by a combined 77 points, conceding 50-plus points in both matches.

So far there have been five meetings between the two inaugural sides, with this set to be their first finals matchup. The Pies have won four of the five, including the last one by 25 points in a high scoring affair at the venue which will host the two this weekend.

While some may think the Pies come into this as favourites, Nathan Burke’s charges will come in with plenty of confidence despite not having beaten a top eight team this season.

The Bulldogs will be looking to take advantage of their first real chance in finals.

Two young stars pass 50 game milestone

Two of the youngest stars and biggest names in the AFLW look set to pass the 50 game milestone this weekend.

The first to pass it this Saturday will be superstar midfielder Monique Conti. Playing her first two seasons at the Bulldogs, the ex-basketballer made the move to the Tigers in their inaugural campaign and has played as pivotal a role in their rise as any.

Her accolades to date include the best on ground medal in the 2018 Grand Final, three All-Australian selections, and four club best and fairest awards, which includes all three of Richmond’s so far.

So far this season she’s averaged team highs in disposals (21.7), contested possessions (12.4), clearances (3.9), tackles (6.2), inside 50s (3.7) and score involvements (3.8), as well as 2.2 marks and 325 metres gained per game.

Meanwhile, Collingwood vice-captain Ruby Schleicher could be set to make the milestone after missing the milestone last week. Whilst she doesn’t have as many accolades as Conti, she continues to get better with each minute she plays, earning AA selection in the last two seasons.

This season has seen her continue on as the leader of the Pies defence, and has so far averaged 15.6 disposals, 268 metres gained, 3.3 marks, 4.4 tackles, four intercept possessions, 2.8 inside 50s and 1.8 rebound 50s per game, while also spending additional time in the middle.

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