AFLW run home: The teams that will play in the finals
There are only two home-and-away rounds remaining in the AFLW season before finals start and the top six is yet to be decided.
LIZ WALSH analyses the run home for the finals contenders and predicts which teams will play finals and who will miss out.
Played 7, 24 points, 231.9 per cent
R8: Melbourne, Fremantle Oval, Sun March 21 (W)
R9: North Melbourne, Arden St Oval, Sat March 27 (W)
WE SAY: Won a thriller against the Blues on the road by four points to give themselves the well-earned top spot. Were undefeated in the 2020 season before COVID shut the league and 2021 has always been about the unfinished business from last year. So far suffered only one loss, to Brisbane, this year. But games against both the Demons and Kangaroos will be tough - if they can win big, their percentage will be enough to give them the minor premiership and automatic qualification for the preliminary final in the second week of April. They enter finals in strong form. Star midfielder Kiara Bowers in unstoppable form.
PREDICTED FINISH: 1st (8 wins, 1 loss)
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Played 7, 24 points, 224.6 per cent
R8: North Melbourne, Gabba, Sat March 20 (W)
R9: Melbourne, Casey Fields, Sat March 27 (W)
WE SAY: Only the slimmest of margins (7.3 per cent) currently separates the Lions from top-of-the-table Dockers, and they head into Round 8 having beaten the previously undefeated Collingwood - and what was most impressive about that win was that it was done after a last-minute COVID change that shifted the game away from the Gabba and into Magpies territory. Brisbane take on the Kangaroos and the Demons and should win both and will overtake Fremantle and cap off a stellar season by claiming their second minor premiership (first in 2017) if they beat those teams by more than the Dockers (who also play those teams on alternate weeks).
PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd (8 wins, 1 loss)
Played 7, 24 points 195.9 per cent
R8: St Kilda, Vic Park, Sat March 20 (W)
R9: Adelaide, Norwood Oval, Sun March 28 (L)
WE SAY: Been an incredible season for the Magpies under coach Steve Symonds in his second year in charge, but their six-game undefeated run was halted by a travelling Lions outfit in Round 7. A big win over the Saints this weekend will further boost their percentage, however, their defence is depleted with the club confirming the seasons are over for defenders Lauren Butler and Jordy Allen who were both injured in the loss to Brisbane. Collingwood then head out on the road for the first time in 2021, to face Adelaide at Norwood Oval: how will they handle the travel? That question means surely the Crows will go into that Round 9 clash as favourites. Regardless of where Collingwood finish, they will go into finals as the only team in the likely top six to have not faced Fremantle, the likely minor premiers.
PREDICTED FINISH: 4th (7 wins, 2 losses)
Played 7, 20 points, 192.6 per cent
R8: Western Bulldogs, Norwood Oval, Sun March 21 (W)
R9: Collingwood, Norwood Oval, Sun March 28 (W)
WE SAY: The battle for which team finishes third and which team finishes fourth will likely come down to percentage and if the Crows can win both their final two games, then Adelaide will be pushing for third. After a poor 28-point loss to Melbourne in Round 7, Adelaide will want to put that behind well and truly them and head into their third finals series in five seasons in positive form. If they can get two good wins at home, it will stand them in good stead to jump the Magpies on percentage. If the Kangaroos or Demons can beat either Brisbane or Fremantle, the Crows could also be pushing for a top-two finish.
PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd (7 wins, 2 losses)
5. NORTH MELBOURNE
Played 7, 20 points, 162.9 per cent
R8: Brisbane, Gabba, Sat March 20 (L)
R9: Fremantle, Arden St Oval, Sat March 27 (L)
WE SAY: With their star midfielders Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner leading the way, the Kangaroos head into Round 8 on a three-game winning streak. But their next two opponents are tough: the Lions and Dockers. But facing those sides will be good tests for the Kangaroos heading into finals. However, they won't want to be going into the April finals series on a two-game losing streak, so expect them to step up and challenge the ladder leaders.
PREDICTED FINISH: 5th (5 wins, 4 losses)
Played 7, 20 points, 136.4 per cent
R8: Fremantle, Fremantle Oval, Sun March 21 (L)
R9: Brisbane, Casey Fields, Sat March 27 (L)
WE SAY: Their big win over Adelaide in Round 7 wold have sounded alarm bells for both Freo and Brisbane who are their next opponents: they fear no one. That win propelled them into finals contention and even though they would be expected to lose their next two games they will likely qualify for finals thanks to their percentage. If they lose their next two games, both will come with big lessons that will be nothing but learnings for the finals.
PREDICTED FINISH: 6th (5 wins, 4 losses)
7. WESTERN BULLDOGS
R8: Adelaide, Norwood Oval, Sun March 21 (L)
R9: Richmond, Whitten Oval, Fri March 26 (W)
WE SAY: If the Bulldogs lose to the Crows in Round 8 then their season is effectively over.
However, if they can snap their two-game losing streak and beat Adelaide (a possibility given the Crows are wounded after a 28-point loss to Melbourne), then they'll stay in the hunt for finals and then the margin by which they can beat the Tigers the following week will come into play. Beat Adelaide on the road - a tough ask - will make them entirely deserving of a push for finals.
PREDICTED FINISH: 7th (5 wins, 4 losses)
Played 7, 12 points, 108.8 per cent
R8: Gold Coast, Metricon Stadium, Fri March 19 (W)
R9: GWS, venue still to be confirmed, Sun March 28 (W)
WE SAY: At the start of the season, the Blues were widely tipped not only to be finalists but to be 2021's ultimate champions, so the fact that their finals chances now hang on by a thread - and will rely on how other games play out - will be disappointing for the team. That said, they're expected to win their final two games against winless Gold Coast and the Giants.
PREDICTED FINISH: 8th (5 wins, 4 losses)
9. GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
Played 7, 12 points, 68.2 per cent
R8: Geelong, GMHBA, Sat March 20 (W)
R9: Carlton, venue still to be confirmed, Sun March 28 (L)
WE SAY: This Giants team has been through more than any other this season: the sad passing of much-loved teammate Jacinda Barclay, then needed to relocate to regional NSW then Adelaide to avoid COVID-19 clusters, then having to endure the loss of their star Irish recruit Brid Stack to a neck fracture in a practice game. Despite it all, the team remains in the hunt for finals. However, the hunt will be tough and will rely on other results. A big win over Geelong will give their percentage a much-needed boost, but it's so far below the others, that it's likely to lock the team out of finals.
PREDICTED FINISH: 9th (4 wins, 5 losses)
Originally published as AFLW run home: Which teams will play finals?