Saturday night at the Whitten Oval looms as a 'Do-or-Die' clash between the two football sides that started what is now known as the AFLW. This meeting between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne is arguably the most important clash in the history of these two women's teams. The Bulldogs sit on fourth spot on the ladder, ahead of fifth-placed Melbourne only on percentage, but the common denominator here is that both sides sit with a win and a loss to their names.
The Bulldogs, after impressing and easily dispatching Fremantle in the first round, were equally disappointing last week against the Crows, with missed opportunities on goal and undisciplined acts the key factors in their loss, but with that behind them, I have no doubt they'll be hell-bent to get back on the winners' list.
On the other hand, the Demons were disappointing in their round one encounter with the Brisbane Lions, as they were the second-best side to adjust to the horrendous conditions at Casey Fields, going down by 15 points, but they bounced back the following week in magnificent style, coming back from a 19-point half-time deficit to shock Collingwood, denying the Magpies any score in the second half to record a memorable first victory in the AFLW competition.
These two sides played off in the first AFL women's exhibition match nearly four years ago and have had some good encounters over the years, but on Saturday night it's set to be another enthralling chapter in what is one of the biggest rivalries in women's AFL today.
IN: Jaimee Lambert, Kirsty Lamb, Kimberley Ebb
OUT: Katie Brennan (Injured), Laura Bailey (Suspended), Romy Timmins
B: Jess Gardner, Bailey Hunt, Jaimee Lambert
HB: Hayley Wildes, Aasta O'Connor, Kate Tyndall
C: Nicole Callinan
HF: Libby Birch, Ellyse Gamble, Hannah Scott
F: Kirsten McLeod, Tiarna Ernst, Angelica Gogos
FOL: Courtney Clarkson, Emma Kearney, Ellie Blackburn
INT: Kirsty Lamb, Brooke Lochland, Kimberley Ebb, Rebecca Neaves, Lauren Spark, Lisa Williams
EMG: Meghan McDonald, Lauren Morecroft
Coach Paul Groves has made three changes have been made to the team that lost to Adelaide last Friday night. The biggest of the omissions is none other than captain Katie Brennan, who sustained a minor ankle injury during the game last week, but is expected to return for next week's contest with Collingwood. Also out of the side is Laura Bailey, who is serving a one-week suspension for engaging in rough conduct against Adelaide's Courtney Cramey, and Romy Timmins who's been omitted from the team.
Into the team this week include gun midfielder Jaimee Lambert after a week off nursing soreness, Kirsty Lamb is also back in the team after serving a one-week suspension, whilst Kimberley Ebb will make her AFLW debut on Saturday night. Ebb was taken with the 37th pick in the AFLW draft and will give the Dogs plenty of drive and experience out of half-back and the wing.
IN: Richelle Cranston, Aliesha Newman
OUT: Meg Downie (Hamstring), Sarah Jolly
B: Brooke Patterson, Mia-Rae Clifford, Katherine Smith
HB: Daisy Pearce, Laura Duryea, Shelley Scott
C: Harriet Cordner
HF: Karen Paxman, Deanna Berry, Lily Mithen
F: Sarah Lampard, Jessica Anderson, Cat Phillips
FOL: Lauren Pearce, Melissa Hickey, Elise O'Dea
INT: Emma Humphries, Aliesha Newman, Jasmine Grierson, Madeleine Boyd, Alyssa Mifsud, Richelle Cranston
EMG: Ainslie Kemp, Sarah Jolly
Melbourne have made two changes to the team that beat Collingwood last weekend at Ikon Park, with Meg Downie out for the remainder of the season after she was not only on the receiving end of a massive head-high hit from Collingwood's Sophie Casey, resulting in concussion, but she also sustained a serious hamstring injury just seconds before the collision.
But the Demons will regain a vital piece in their forward line in Richelle Cranston, who's back after serving a one-week suspension and will be looking to make amends for missing last week's win. Aliesha Newman also comes back into the team after sitting out last week's win over the Pies, with Sarah Jolly forced to make way.
Players To Watch
After two impressive weeks, marquee signing Ellie Blackburn will lead the red, white and blue ladies out on Saturday night for the first time in her career, and whilst it should be an exciting moment in her young career, I think the stage is set for her to put in a massive game in the midfield, and if last week was any indication, I certainly believe she'll be in for a solid captain's game.
Another player that I believe is in prime position to have a big game. Kirsten McLeod has booted a miserly 2.6 over the past fortnight, but despite her goal-kicking issues, has looked very dangerous at various times so far during this competition and is due to tear a game apart and with their number one forward Katie Brennan out, I feel like this could be the game she kicks a bag and steps up to the plate.
Easily Melbourne's best and most dangerous player at the present time, and given her history with the Western Bulldogs over the last three and a half years, will be one player that needs to have their influence on the contest blanketed as much as possible. But the one thing that has impressed me over this first fortnight is her tackling when she doesn't have the ball in her hand, she had 10 tackles against Brisbane in round one and last week had another seven tackles.
Having watched Melbourne destroy Collingwood in the second half live last week, one big factor in this was the work of former Ultimate Frisbee superstar Cat Phillips, who kicked two of their four goals in the third quarter - one of them being a very nice goal from the pocket. Can she back up that unbelievable performance on Saturday night?
This is a very tough one to call as both sides have shown the best and worst of themselves over the past fortnight.
But given that this is at the Bulldogs home ground and that they'll be looking to bounce back after such a disappointing game last Friday night against the Crows, I think they'll take the points here against a Melbourne side that will put up a hell of a fight.
Western Bulldogs By 6 Points
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