After a turbulent week for Aussie football, the big questions have finally been answered.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Well this has been a crazy roller coaster 😬— Lily Mithen (@lily_mithen) March 18, 2020
The Dees’ Lily Mithen takes to Twitter after the AFLW’s home and away season came to a shambolic end. Mithen’s Melbourne side originally looked set to take on footy’s biggest challenge in Fremantle for a chance to return to the top three, before the league’s 11th hour announcement that finals would start this week.
It didn’t end there, as a communication error initially ended her team’s season before they and the Pies, Lions and Suns all found out they were still very much alive in 2020.
THE BIG ISSUE
What a big week it’s been in football! Emotions have been high with the coronavirus pandemic forcing the hand of sporting organisations around the world. While many have closed shop, the AFL have made the decision to soldier on, albeit under heavily-modified conditions at all levels of competition.
In the wash up of what has been a curtailed regular competition period, we’ve seen a team go undefeated (Fremantle) and another fail to claim points (Richmond) both firsts in the history of the AFLW – indeed a first in the history of top flight Australian football.
In between these highs and lows, at its core the 2020 season has featured the best consistent standard of play we’ve seen in the women’s game. At this stage we’ll still get to see three weeks of clashes between the best performing sides, but you can’t help but wonder “what if?”
Let’s talk about some of the finalists.
There was plenty on the line (at least at the time) for Melbourne and Carlton as they fronted up for a mouth-watering clash in the heart of the nation. It’s fitting that we will get to see both sides play finals as this was a contest to sit up and take notice of.
Caitlin “G-Train” Greiser (never get sick of saying that nickname) put in a monster effort as the Saints crushed the hapless Tigers. For a first-year player to impact so profoundly in one of the hardest areas to play – key forward – over the entire season, is nothing short of extraordinary.
The Pies did a number on the Lions in Queensland – no easy road trip for any side, but if questions remained about their abilities and determination before this, surely they have been put to bed.
Kalinda Howarth is a star in red, gold and blue – the Suns looked red hot against the one-win Eagles, but Howarth was a supernova with her second big haul of the season. The scary part for everyone else is she has plenty of room for growth left in her game.
Everybody and nobody, as weird as it seems. The fortunes of West Coast and Richmond were decided long ago and for the four teams sitting just above them, improbable runs to a flag have been extinguished by powers beyond their control.
Each remaining team faces cut-throat match ups from now until the end of the season – but with the real possibility of just one more match between Freo and North for the flag floated mere days ago, there is also a surreal feeling of quasi-relief for the six clubs still with skin in the game.
Finals. The pointy end. Winner takes all in seven games of footy.
While there were mixed messages in the beginning, the finals system has been locked in and will consist of:
Semi-finals – (1) Conference A 1st vs Conference B 4th; (2) Conference A 2nd vs Conference B 3rd; (3) Conference B 1st vs Conference A 4th; and (4) Conference B 2nd vs Conference A 3rd this weekend.
Preliminary finals – Winner semi-final 1 vs Winner semi-final 3 and Winner semi-final 2 vs Winner semi-final 4 next week. The grand final will be played by the winners of the preliminary finals the week after that.
Both the Dockers and Kangaroos would be favoured to be there when it matters but they no longer have the luxury of a week off and will start their campaigns against the Suns and Magpies respectively. Carlton host Brisbane and GWS host Melbourne in the other matches – no side will start unbackable favourites in these two contests, but home ground advantage should be a factor.