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Why each AFLW finalist can (and can't!) win the flag

It's hard to believe AFLW Season 7 finals are just days away, but given we've been teased by just a 10-round season, it makes a lot of sense!

Nevertheless, we've been able to get a feel for which teams are legit, and which teams -- if any -- are making up the numbers in this finals series.

Here's why each AFLW finalist can (and cannot) win the flag.


Brisbane

Home and away record: 1st | 9-1

One reason why they can win the flag:

They finished top of the ladder and they come through when it matters. Eleven of their current players were part of their 2021 Premiership side so they have finals experience on their side and some of the best players in the league.

One reason why they can't win the flag:

They won all but one of their games this season but it's still difficult to reconcile the loss to Richmond in Round 5. Granted they were missing the league's leading goalkicker Jesse Wardlaw that game, to lose to a side with significantly less experience is a worrying sign.

Most likely finals hero: Ally Anderson

Melbourne

Home and away record: 2nd | 9-1

One reason why they can win the flag:

They'll be hungry to avenge their loss of last year's Grand Final and they have the experience, depth and finals experience to do it - plus they've already beaten this week's opponent, Adelaide, in Round 1 in Season Seven.

One reason why they can't win the flag:

They're just not as good as Adelaide and Brisbane. The Demons had a 78-point win over West Coast in Round 10, which still wasn't enough to take the top spot on the ladder. Narrow misses and big wins might get you into finals but it won't win you the flag. They're just not the best team in it.

Most likely finals hero: Kate Hore

Adelaide

Home and away record: 3rd | 8-2

One reason why they can win the flag:

The Crows have something no other side does, unmatchable finals experience, with five current players like Ebony Marinoff facing their fifth finals series, the Crows having featured in all but two since the competition began in 2017.

They've done it three times before and still have the depth and experience to do it again. They've lost two games this season but when it comes to finals footy, Adelaide rise to the occasion. With the likes of Chelsea Randall, Mariana Racjic, Ash Woodland, Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff, so they will likely be a force to be reckoned with.

One reason why they can't win the flag:

They'll be without Erin Phillips who has been a key player in all their premiership wins (as well as Hatchard) and brings a wealth of experience in high stakes games, and are behind some of the other finals sides when it comes to marking, tackling and hitouts.

They also face the Demons first up in a Grand Final rematch from Season Six, however the Dees already have bragging rights in S7 having beaten the Crows in Round 1, something the Crows were openly disappointed with at the time.

Most likely finals hero: Ebony Marinoff

Richmond

Home and away record: 4th | 7-2-1

One reason why they can win the flag:

Two words. Mon Conti.

A premiership player with the Western Bulldogs, three time All-Australian and four time club best and fairest, she's neck and neck with North Melbourne's Jasmine Garner to win the league best and fairest, having received a score of perfect ten twice this season.

She currently sits second in the AFLW Coaches votes, and in the top ten in the league for disposals, metres gained, contested possessions and handballs and we've seen her single handed win games for them before.

One reason why they can't win the flag:

They don't have the experience in finals footy. It's a milestone for the side who have never made finals before but they are unlikley to defeat top of the ladder Brisbane who sit above them in almost every aspect on the stats sheet. Brisbane have won a flag and have more depth and consistency in their side, it's hard to see that Richmond can defeat them for a second time.

Most likely finals hero: Monique Conti

Geelong

Home and away record: 5th | 7-3

One reason why they can win the flag: Belief. At the beginning of the season, the Cats appeared to be serving up the same ultra-defensive, low scoring football that had seen them comfortably sit midtable for a couple of seasons. But Geelong have turned it on and become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the competition. If they can carry the same energy, enthusiasm, and intensity through finals, they are sure to cause some headaches.

One reason why they can't win the flag: Inexperience. While there are a handful of players still on the list who took part in Geelong's only final back in 2019, the Cats are very green when it comes to finals experience. While their list contains some experienced heads like 2019 premiership Crow Chloe Scheer and Shelley Scott, a grand finalist with the Dees last season, getting the rest of the team up to speed on the rigours of finals footy may spell problems for the Cats.

Most likely finals hero: Chloe Scheer

Collingwood

Home and away record: 6th | 7-3

One reason why they can win the flag: Early season form. While the Pies arguably fell down the ladder at the wrong time of the season, the fact is they still produced good, winning football for the majority of it. They overcame the losses of Bri Davey and Britt Bonnici in the midfield and were able to maximise the contributions of the Chloe Molloy, Jamiee Lambert, Ruby Schleicher, and Sabrina Frederick. Returning to those principles -- and kicking a little straighter -- could well help the Pies.

One reason why they can't win the flag: A lack of confidence. If footy is a game of momentum, then no side has lost more momentum heading into finals than the Pies. After sitting pretty in the top four for most of the season, back-to-back losses to other finals fancies -- Brisbane and North Melbourne -- by a total margin of 77 points would rattle even the best of teams.

Most likely finals hero: Chloe Molloy

Western Bulldogs

Home and away record: 7th | 7-3

One reason why they can win the flag: Ellie Blackburn. It's a lot of responsibility on the Bulldogs captain but it's a responsibility she shoulders well. Fans and opposition alike saw exactly what it is she can do when needed against Carlton: scoring the winner only for it to be revealed she wasn't even a certainty to play. This young side will look to their inspirational leader as they attempt to go deep in finals. If the situation should arise where the Bulldogs need a spark, there is almost no doubt Blackburn will provide it.

One reason why they can't win the flag: The Dogs started the season 4-0 before slumping to a three-game losing streak. They ended the season on another winning streak, but that midseason drop is telling. In the space of those three games the Dogs lost to Geelong, North, and Melbourne. The Western Bulldogs are 0-3 against other teams also playing in finals and while the short season and compromised schedule mean there are some caveats, it appears as though the Dogs don't yet have what it takes to match it with the other finals contenders.

Most likely finals hero: Ellie Blackburn

Kangaroos

Home and away record: 8th | 6-3-1

One reason why they can win the flag: You could not accuse North of being in the eight to just make up numbers. In fact, the talk heading into the final round was if they could secure a spot in the top four. That their draw with the Tigers saw them drop to eighth speaks more to the closeness of the ladder than any fault of the Kangas. Arguably one of the most formidable eighth-placed sides in competition history, North have winners across every line from Emma Kearney to Jas Garner to the emergence of players like Vikki Wall.

One reason why they can't win the flag: North's potential downfall has been the same all season: when they come up against the other contenders, they typically do not get the result. A two-point loss to the Dees, 14-point defeat at the hands of the Crows, and a seven-point loss to Brisbane tell the story. North are obviously, undeniably good, but whether or not they can push from good to great during finals will seal their fate.

Most likely finals hero: Jas Garner