Richmond Tigers midfield star Monique Conti (Picture: AFLW)

When the Richmond Tigers face the Brisbane Lions on Saturday afternoon, eyes will be locked on the midfielder battle with stars across both sides. Headlining the game will be Brisbane midfielder and reigning league best and fairest Emily Bates and Richmond’s own elite ball-winner Monique Conti.

With both Conti and Bates eager to get their sides the win which will see them earn a place in the preliminary finals, the discussion around the match has been on their match-up. With talk starting between the two leading up to the game, it will be interesting to see whether they will sacrifice their ball-winning ability to tag and potentially curtail the opposing star’s influence.

Attending the AFLW finals launch Monique Conti sheds light on what being tagged means and the fact that it is the ultimate compliment for a midfielder in the game.

“It’s a bit of a compliment,” Conti said.

“The Lions are full of really good players and obviously Batesy is having an amazing season, she also had a amazing season last year but then also they have some really good talent so I will take it as a compliment but it will be a really good midfield battle.”

“I love any sort of battle that comes across, it’s always really good to match up on the best as well it really improves your game but I’m just excited for anything really and looking forward to it.”

Brisbane Lions star midfielder Emily Bates. (Image: AFL)

Being the only team to defeat the Lions all season, the Richmond Tigers are full of confidence but weary of the minor premiers and the strength they possess across the team.

“The Lions are a really good team and they showed that the whole season especially this season finishing right on top, they are a really good competitor and a really elite team,” she said.

“It was pretty good to get that win, it set us up for the rest of the season but it will be a really tough game this weekend and I’m looking forward to it.”

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Drafted to the Western Bulldogs in 2017, Conti was apart of the team that won the premiership in 2018. Playing in game 50 this weekend, she speaks about how the milestone is special but her eye is on a bigger goal overall being another premiership, this time with the Tigers.

“I didn’t really know I was reaching my 50th this season but to do it in a final is pretty awesome as well,” Conti said.

“Mum and dad are gonna fly up and support me which is really special but it’s already been six seasons and I kind of feel a bit old now but it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

Her role as a premiership player with finals experience coming into Richmond’s first ever finals campaign will be vital. Alongside her captain Katie Brennan as well as the other leaders at the club, Conti will look to usher the side through the finals series as best as she can.

“It’s been a long time but Katie (Brennan) and myself and the rest of our leaders are not going to change anything. We are just gonna keep doing what we are doing, we don’t want to change anything that we have been doing,” she explained.

“[We need to] sort of lead by example and we will stick to that and anyone can lean on us if they need to but we are pretty set.”

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The finals berth will come off the back of a much improved season by the Tigers with some key players coming into the side or those recovering from injury in past seasons having significant impact. The three Tigers that have had an immense presence in the midfield are Conti, former Blue Grace Egan as well as a fully fit Ellie McKenzie who has recovered from an injury plagued season six.

“We’ve got some great new faces coming in and Grace (Egan) has really been helping us in the midfield and providing what she does,” Conti explained.

“When Ellie’s (McKenzie) really fit you can see what she can do, she can really do some damage and us working together is quite dangerous as well.

Conti also makes note of the role that Meg MacDonald plays for the team, playing in the midfield she has also performed negating roles on opposition midfielders.

“She’s been playing her role perfectly, whatever we or the coaches tell her to do she does and she doesn’t ask questions.

“She did a really good job on Garner on the weekend as you can see and she will probably play a role this weekend, I don’t know I’m not a coach but whatever we tell her to do she will do it, she’s a really great teammate.”

Having been prone to leaking goals in past seasons, the Richmond backline has been steady and been able to get on top of opposition forwards. Conti speaks about the impact they have had this season and how the defensive unit has helped them take the next step.

“It’s been a really solid backline, you’ve got Katelyn Cox down there, we’ve got Bec Miller back which is really exciting and Eilish Sheerin as well is really dominant for us. We really like the role that she is playing for us [and] I think with our team everyone that has been there or come in has been playing their role perfectly and been helping us get over the line.”

Eilish Sheerin is surrounded by teammates after kicking her first AFLW goal. (Photo: AFL)

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