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The Round Up: AFLW 2022 Finals Preview

Presented by Ida Sports. For eight teams it’s season over, but for six it’s full steam ahead for finals, as Adelaide confirmed the minor premiership.

The 2022 AFLW AFLW finals series is upon us. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
The 2022 AFLW AFLW finals series is upon us. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line

Adelaide Crows (1st – nine wins, one loss, 216.6%)

Ebony Marinoff led the way for the Crows this year. Image: Megan Brewer
Ebony Marinoff led the way for the Crows this year. Image: Megan Brewer

Strength

Adelaide’s system of a well set up defence and territory control is impressive. This year the Crows have conceded the fewest average inside 50s with just 21.0 and marks inside 50 with only 2.8, suffocating oppositions and trapping them in their defensive half. They’ve become the first team in AFLW history to average fewer than 20 points conceded across a home and away season, simply by not allowing meaningful opportunities for opponents to score.

Weakness

While opponents are struggling to score against the Crows, their own scoring output has decreased, largely through a lack of efficiency in attack. Despite averaging 35.5 inside 50s—the second most in the competition—Adelaide averages 40.5 points per game due to poor conversion. Kicking a goal from just 15.2 per cent of those inside 50s, the Crows trail the rest of the competition for accuracy, converting from just 32 per cent of their shots on goal.

Melbourne Demons (2nd – nine wins, one loss, 186.5%)

Alyssa Bannan put her hand up for the 2022 Goal of the Year in round two against Richmond. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
Alyssa Bannan put her hand up for the 2022 Goal of the Year in round two against Richmond. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line

Strength

Melbourne’s ability to control the contest, both in the air and on the ground, has set it up particularly well this season. The side has created an art form of transitioning the ball from a contested situation to genuine attack, leading the league for contested possessions (110.5) and contested marks (7.6) this year. By keeping the game on their terms, the Demons have forced opponents into poor ball use, with their opponents averaging a league low of 58.4 per cent disposal efficiency, leading to fewer marks being taken against the side.

Weakness

The key issue for the Demons this year has been what happens when they come up against a good pressure side. Adelaide showed the blueprint of how to beat Melbourne early in the year when they brought wall to wall pressure and just didn’t allow any sort of control. The Demons concede the most tackles in the competition this year, averaging 74.4 tackles against each week. Finding a solution to high pressure sides is essential if they are to progress through this finals series.

Brisbane Lions (3rd – eight wins, two losses, 196.8%)

Belle Dawes has been important in the midfield for Brisbane this year. Image: Megan Brewer
Belle Dawes has been important in the midfield for Brisbane this year. Image: Megan Brewer

Strength

The Lions’ team first approach has bled through every part of their game, and made them exceptionally hard to beat. They average the most one percenters (31.6) and tackles inside 50 (16) in the competition. These small but important actions have led the Lions to average the highest score in the league, with 49.6 points per game this year off the back of 40.8 average inside 50s.

Weakness

While Brisbane is very strong across the park, the side has been exposed this year when a strong, tall forward takes hold of its defence. Without Kate Lutkins, the Lions don’t have an ideal match up on big forwards, as Tayla Harris showed in round seven when she equalled the competition record for most contested marks in a game while the Lions simply had no answers.

North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos (4th – seven wins, three losses, 139.0%)

Emma Kearney has moved to defence for North Melbourne this year. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
Emma Kearney has moved to defence for North Melbourne this year. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line

Strength

North Melbourne uses the ball better than any other side in the competition, going at an impressive 67 per cent disposal efficiency this year. They love to win the ball on the outside and control the contest through a neat kick and mark game, leading them to dominate disposals (241.6 average) and marks (53.1 average).

Weakness

Unfortunately, when the Kangaroos can’t get that uncontested game going, they don’t really have another plan of attack. Too often when under some pressure they have bombed the ball inside 50 with little care for where it is placed. This regularly sees the ball put to a defender’s advantage rather than their own forwards.

Fremantle Dockers (5th – seven wins, three losses, 134.9%)

Jasmin Stewart lays a tackle on Beth Lynch in round nine, 2021. Image: Megan Brewer
Jasmin Stewart lays a tackle on Beth Lynch in round nine, 2021. Image: Megan Brewer

Strength

Pressure has been Fremantle’s main strength for three seasons and this year is no different. Averaging a competition high 73.2 tackles per game—Kiara Bowers alone is responsible for 13.2 of those, albeit has missed four games through a mix of suspension and injury. This pressure allows the Dockers to create a sense of chaos around the contest, not allowing the opposition to feel any sense of control in the game.

Weakness

In the last three games of the season, Fremantle’s territory control has fallen away drastically. Across their first seven games, The Dockers averaged 37 inside 50s and were able to generate an average score of 43.1. In the final three weeks, however, their average inside 50 count was just 18, leading to a score of just 27 points per game. When they are prevented from overwhelming defences, Fremantle finds it tough to put a winning score on the board.

Collingwood (6th – six wins, four losses, 123.2%)

Jaimee Lambert has become even more important for the Pies this year due to injuries to key players. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line
Jaimee Lambert has become even more important for the Pies this year due to injuries to key players. Image: Rachel Bach / By The White Line

Strength

In recent weeks Collingwood has found an impressive spread that sees it use the full width of the ground. This hard work has seen players often out alone in space and, importantly, spotted by teammates with ball in hand. From there, speed and run has seen them get the ball into attack more often. In doing so, they have averaged +8.7 inside 50s and +18.6 points in rounds 8-10 compared to the first seven.

Weakness

Smarter sides will be less likely to allow players to find space alone as the Pies have done recently, and as soon as that avenue is blocked off this increased attack will fall away. Their forward line isn’t a high marking group either, averaging just 3.8 marks inside 50 this year. If oppositions can force high kicks inside 50, that will cut off most of Collingwood’s scoring opportunities.


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