Contributed by: Tash Gunawardana Monday, April 05 2021 @ 10:51 am ACST
The first week of the AFLW finals series was enthralling to watch and from the two elimination finals, Melbourne and Collingwood advanced to preliminary finals week.
Melbourne showed that they mean business in 2021 defeating a Fremantle Dockers side that was left empty last year after their finals series was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
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The Dockers were the best team of 2020 and of the finals series last year and were hoping to be the best finals team in 2021, but it was not meant to be.
North Melbourne had heartache from the 2020 season like Fremantle, because they had advanced through to the second week of the finals but the coronavirus crushed their finals dreams as well.
How good is footy, the two best sides of last year are the first two teams this finals series to be eliminated.
So, against Collingwood this year they kept on fighting till the end, but the Pies held on in a thriller of a contest.
Melbourne vs Fremantle Dockers:
Melbourne proved strong for the Fremantle Dockers from the onset in the first qualifying final and progressed through to preliminary finals week with the 5.10 (40) to 3.5 (23) victory on a Saturday afternoon at Casey Fields.
The players who led the way for the Dees in the midfield were Karen Paxman (20 disposals, 15 kicks and five tackles) and Maddi Gay (19 disposals, nine tackle and a goal).
Meanwhile, in the forward line Shelley Scott was pivotal with two goals and 13 disposals.
With the Dees sensational 17-point victory over the Dockers, Melbourne coach Mick Stinear became the first AFLW coach to record 25 wins across five seasons.
It was the Dees fifth consecutive win since they were defeated by Collingwood in round six.
The Dees will need to continue their form of high finals intensity and pressure next Saturday afternoon when they play the best team of the AFLW and the minor premiers, the Adelaide Crows on their home turf at Adelaide Oval in the first preliminary final on Saturday at 2:10pm.
Heading into the preliminary final, the Crows will be coming off a weeks rest after they finished the home and away season as the ladder leaders.
The Crows will be well rested after the longest regular AFLW season, but all the momentum will be with the Dees after one almighty finals performance over the Pies that signalled to the rest of the competition that they can match it with any team this finals series.
Collingwood vs North Melbourne:
Collingwood broke North Melbourne's hearts after an incredible final term comeback to register a six-point qualifying final win over North Melbourne at Victoria Park.
It was one of those last quarters for the Pies where everything went right, as they kept North scoreless and nailed three goals, a remarkable effort after North piled on four goals in a dominant third term.
The Pies went into the final term down by 14 points, but that did not faze them as they fought back hard led by Chloe Molloy who came to life in the forward line.
Tarni Brown was the Pies hero sealing the victory with a late goal to set up a preliminary final date with the Brisbane Lions.
Molloy's pressure and intent to get to every contest in the forward half for the Pies in the last was huge.
She was the spark and lift her side needed to turn the match in the Pies favour.
Molloy nailed through one final quarter major, but was integral in setting up her teammates for goals.
Molloy finished the match with two goals with her first goal of the match coming in the opening term.
It was a match full of momentum swings for both sides, which made for a great finals contest.
As North were on top in the middle stages of the match, but were unable to keep up their ferociousness in the match, opening the door for the Pies to swoop on them late.
It was sweet redemption for the Pies after last year's final loss to North Melbourne.
The best for the Pies were Bri Davey with 31 disposals (73 percent efficiency), 17 handballs, 14 kicks and nine tackles, while Sophie Alexander helped out Molloy up forward with two goals from 10 disposals.
For North, Ash Riddell was huge with 22 disposals, 15 kicks, three tackles and a goal and Jas Garner tried hard all day with her 16 disposals, nine tackles and a goal.
Meanwhile, in the forward department for North, Bethany Lynch (two goals) and Sophie Abbatangelo (two goals) combined with four goals each.
As the Pies head into preliminary finals week, they will need to improve any weaknesses that came up in their first loss of the year in round seven when the Lions brought their undefeated streak to an end.
With the Lions coming off a week's rest, expect them to come out filled with energy and determination in front of their home faithful at the Gabba, as they try to earn a spot in their third AFLW grand final.