The ladder is locked after a thrilling final round.
The round began with the Bulldogs hosting Richmond at Whitten Oval. With finals qualification out of reach, both sides were playing for pride. The Bulldogs took an early lead and never surrendered it, ultimately prevailing by 13 points.
On Saturday, the action resumed with a crucial clash between Fremantle and the Kangaroos. For the Kangaroos, a win or a draw would secure a finals berth, whereas a loss would maintain a mathematical possibility of being overtaken by Carlton. The Kangaroos spent most of the first three quarters in the lead, before a Kara Antonio goal put Fremantle in front at the last break. But a Daisy Bateman major in the final term returned the lead to the Kangaroos, who held on to win by one point. While the Dockers were already entrenched in the top six, the loss has caused Fremantle to finish outside the top four, meaning the Dockers will likely have to win three consecutive finals away from home to claim the premiership.
The following game saw Brisbane take on Melbourne at Casey Fields, where the Lions leapt to a powerful 17-point lead in the third quarter, before a spectacular comeback saw the Demons take the lead early in the final term. Melbourne kept the Lions scoreless in the last quarter to hold on for a thrilling two-point win. The result clinched a home final for the Demons and effectively ended Brisbane’s hopes of winning the minor premiership.
At Carrara, Gold Coast battled the Cats in a clash to decide the wooden spoon. Geelong got off to a hot start, kicking the first three goals of the game to take a 20-1 lead into the first break. It was Geelong’s most dominant quarter of the season, but the Suns were unfazed, reducing the margin to six points in the third term. The Cats held off the Suns to record a 17-point victory, their first of the season. For the Suns, the result marked their tenth consecutive AFLW loss. Gold Coast was the only team to finish the home-and-away season without a win, and conceded an average of 54 points per game on its way to the wooden spoon.
After Saturday concluded with the battle for the wooden spoon, Sunday began with the battle for the minor premiership. At Norwood Oval, Adelaide recorded an impressive 14-point victory over Collingwood, despite an extraordinary performance by Jaimee Lambert, who registered 25 disposals, eight tackles and a goal. The Crows, who hadn’t previously been on top of the ladder at any point during the season, shot to first place to claim the minor premiership and advance straight to a home preliminary final.
In the final two games of the home-and-away season, Carlton defeated GWS by one point and the Saints thrashed West Coast by 56 points.
Next week, Melbourne hosts Fremantle in an elimination final at Casey Fields, followed by an elimination final between Collingwood and the Kangaroos at Victoria Park, with the winners to face Adelaide and Brisbane respectively in the preliminary finals. The three-week finals series will culminate in a Grand Final hosted by the higher-ranked participant. Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Collingwood and Fremantle are all potential Grand Final hosts, although the Dockers will only host the Grand Final if they and the Kangaroos both qualify.
If the Crows host the Grand Final, it will likely be played at Adelaide Oval, where the most recent AFLW Grand Final was played in 2019. Should the Lions host, the Gabba is the most likely venue. It’s unclear where the decider would be played if Collingwood or Melbourne hosts. In 2018, the Bulldogs hosted the Grand Final at Princes Park instead of their home ground, Whitten Oval, which has a smaller capacity. Casey Fields, Melbourne’s home ground, would likely be unsuitable to host a Grand Final. Victoria Park, Collingwood’s home ground, would have a better chance. But in the case of Melbourne or Collingwood hosting the Grand Final, the league may consider Geelong’s Kardinia Park, the biggest Victorian stadium regularly used for AFLW, as well as Docklands Stadium and the MCG. The latter has never hosted an AFLW game, but could be chosen if a large crowd is expected.