After a short yet tumultuous season, the AFLW season has come to a climax. Most expectations going into the season were flipped, and the final sees a battle between the perhaps overlooked Adelaide and the definitely overlooked Carlton.
HPN rated Adelaide as the fourth best side coming into the year, and Carlton as the league’s 9th best unit. After a tough first up loss to the Bulldogs, the Crows emphasized their strength through the rest of the season, winning their last seven games by two goals or more.
Carlton took even longer to get going, dropping their first two games – including their round 2 match against Adelaide. The Blues were able to squeeze out tight wins against Collingwood and the Bulldogs to secure their place in the final, before shocking Fremantle in the semi-final last week.
The big wins by both teams in last week’s semi-finals showed the importance of peaking at the right time.
1 Adelaide Crows 121.80 114.99 166.77 134.52 2 Kangaroos 124.51 109.17 95.71 109.80 3 Fremantle 114.08 91.75 115.18 107.00 4 Carlton 98.22 102.52 108.09 102.94 5 Melbourne 109.93 83.28 113.28 102.16 6 Western Bulldogs 96.09 90.58 90.74 92.47 7 Brisbane Lions 90.01 102.65 76.21 89.62 8 GWS Giants 93.02 91.36 83.16 89.18 9 Collingwood 84.11 114.63 66.40 88.38 10 Geelong Cats 68.24 99.07 84.45 83.92
The HPN Team Ratings sees the matchup as a battle between the first and fourth best sides of the year. In all elements of the game, Adelaide appears to have (at least on paper) an advantage.
The biggest of these, and the most critical for Carlton to neutralize, is the territory battle that Adelaide amasses nearly every week. Adelaide racks up, in raw numbers, about 1.9 inside 50s for every 1 that their opponents can accumulate. Defending against that severe imbalance is more than most teams can handle, and several highly rated defences have drowned under the weight of entries. As a result of tks glut of supply, three of the top four goalkickers in the competition play for the Crows on the weekend.
Of course, the battle for territory starts for the Crows at the coalface, with Marinoff, Phillips, the two Foleys and co. cutting off the opportunity for sides to even get the ball. When they merely manage to win the ball and make a bailout kick, Adelaide are ready – leading the league in contested marks per game this year.
So, is there a path to victory for Carlton?
Yes – but it might be slim. Carlton battled the Crows as hard as any other side this year in round 2, and actually had the upper hand until the Crows burst away. On that day Maddy Prespakis starred for the Blues – a role that she has become accustomed to this year. Prespakis, Davey, Brazzale and Pound have to find a way to the ball – if nothing else just to keep the ball out of the hands of the prolific Crows. If Downie can either draw or win the ruck battle, it would provide a great help for her counterparts on the ground.
Up forward, Harris and Vescio have to be accurate early and get Carlton off to a good start. On paper, and when firing, few forward lines are as imposing as Carlton’s has become. They will almost certainly have less opportunity than their Adelaide counterparts – so they will have have to make the most of their chances.
For Adelaide, the equation is much easier. They just have to play the way they have nearly all season, and a second flag will be theirs.