The penultimate round of the home and away season is now done and dusted as Round 9 is written into the history books. The first crop of AFLW players reached the huge 50 game milestone, while Melbourne became the first team to crack the 100 point barrier in an AFLW game.
The Suns and Giants have now said goodbye to finals hopes, while Western Bulldogs and Collingwood are still in contention for the sixth spot (currently held by the Pies). Carlton are also mathematically still in with a chance and showed a lot of gusto and determination over the weekend in staying in the race.
St Kilda had their first back-to-back win in the club's history and may escape the wooden spoon, which the Eagles are looking like being awarded. Although in losing to the Saints by nine points, Geelong could also be up for it as they are currently third last on the ladder.
It was another one with lots going on. So, let's jump right in: here are five of the biggest lessons we learnt from the round just gone.
Melbourne break the century score
At Optus Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Demons became the first AFLW team to crack 100 points, beating Fremantle 16.11 (107) to 3.1 (19). Daisy Pearce notably booted five goals, equalling the most goals kicked in a game by a player.
Other goalkickers included Tayla Harris (3), Kate Hore (3), Karen Paxman (2), Shelley Scott, Alyssa Bannan and Casey Sherrif. With seven players booting majors, Melbourne demonstrated the scope of contributors they have who can cause damage in the forward line - this is particularly important going into finals where other teams, such as Collingwood, rely heavily on a few key forwards. Credit also needs to go to the clean passages of play and team effort, which resulted in the ball in the hands of those up towards the goals.
All in all, it was an historic win, and helping the Demons get it done were two things on their side: a depleted Fremantle team -- unfortunately, Gabby O'Sullivan, Amy Franklin, Emma O'Driscoll, Ebony Antonio and Kara Antonino were all out last minute due to health and safety protocols -- and protection from the elements.
The high-quality game produced by the Dees, featuring controlled, exciting team footy, makes a strong case for AFLW games to be played at bigger stadiums. Being away from the galling winds that can cause havoc on kicking accuracy meant cleaner marks and goals and a whopping end score. I mean, who doesn't want to see the beloved Melbourne skipper kick five every game?
The 88-point win could also come in handy in determining the final ladder standings. It boosted Melbourne's percentage by 34.6 points to 199.1, just below Adelaide on 203.5. If they can do it again next week, they could rival the South Australians for minor premiers.
The league has its first players to 50 games
In other new ground broken in AFLW football, the first players in the league reached the 50 game milestone in Adelaide's Ebony Marinoff and Brisbane's Ally Anderson and Emily Bates.
All three have remained at the clubs they were drafted to in the league's beginnings and have never missed a game. They also come from the two most successful clubs in the history of the competition, each playing in three out of the four past Grand Finals, which has helped them rack up a few extra games than some of the other players closing in on the milestone.
Next to look for in the crop of players to reach the achievement are Stevie-Lee Thompson (Adelaide), Libby Birch (Melbourne), Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne) and Kate Lutkins (Brisbane).
Brisbane's still in the hunt for a top two finish
The Lions had their home game rescheduled at the last minute due to flooding in southeast Queensland, which rendered Maroochydore unable to be played on. Yet, the flight over didn't seem to bother them too much as the spirited side produced another huge victory, this time against North Melbourne by 36 points.
The reigning premiers boast both experience and depth, with a range of key players making them hard to stop. This week in particular, Ally Anderson and Emily Bates both produced immense pressure, with 11 tackles each, while Cathy Svarc was close behind on 10. Tahlia Hickie had 21 hitouts, Courtney Hodder displayed clean skills and speed and Sophie Conway and Moloney each had two goals to their name. It was an impressive team effort that'll prove vital in finals if they are able to keep it up.
The victory also means they're still in the running for a top two spot, along with Melbourne and Adelaide, who are also producing some top-quality footy. The Queensland team next play the Bulldogs, and if they can secure another victory, and either of the other two sides lose, they'll be looking good for it.
And the rewards for doing so are significant: heading straight to a preliminary final with a home ground advantage.
The sixth spot is still up for grabs
With Collingwood losing to Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs beating West Coast over the weekend, the sixth spot for finals is still up for grabs.
Collingwood still hold onto it for now, but after conceding a close two-point loss to the Crows in a nailbiter over the weekend, it could still evade them. With only one round left and just a two points difference between them and the Dogs, one rudder down on the ladder, they'll need to make the next match count.
This round, the Pies flirted with the win but just couldn't get it done over a dominant Adelaide outfit. Last week's rising star nomination Eliza James had back-to-back goals, Chloe Molloy showed off her stunning class and Ruby Schleicher was in usual great defending form.
But Adelaide were just the better side on the day, especially in finding targets in the forward 50. While Collingwood had 25 inside 50s to Adelaide's 27, the Crows had eight marks in the forward arc to the Pies' one. This resulted in damage on the scoreboard as Adelaide were able to convert those marks into majors, while Collingwood had to find other avenues to goal. Notably, the Crows' Ashleigh Woodland booted two goals, bringing her season tally to 17, one behind Melbourne's Tayla Harris on 18.
Then over in Perth at Optus Stadium, West Coast didn't seem to stand a chance against the energetic and determined Bulldogs, led by star skipper Ellie Blackburn. She was joined by increasingly dangerous Kirsty Lamb, who registered 20 possessions and four tackles, proving just how good she is on the ball.
Bonnie Toogood also continued her fine form in the forward line, kicking two goals, while teammates Brooke Lochland had three and Nell Morris Dalton had two. Despite inside 50s being very unbalanced -- Dogs had 37 to Eagles' 17 -- the Victorian side had 12-1 marks inside 50, telling a similar tale to Adelaide against the Pies inside 50s.
Unfortunately for West Coast, they're now looking pretty good for taking home the wooden spoon this season.
Suns, Giants bow out of finals contention
After each conceding losses this round, Gold Coast and GWS are now out of the race for finals, and will play for pride in their last matches of the season.
Richmond came out of the gates firing and outdid the Giants in the opening term, registering five unanswered goals -- their best-ever first-quarter score -- and putting them in a strong position. GWS then fought back, especially in the final quarter off the back of Cora Staunton, who booted three goals and got her side within sniffing distance of a victory. But the Tigers stayed on top to finish 7.4 (46) to 6.2 (38). Their captain Katie Brennan kicked another goal and brought her streak of goals in consecutive matches to 15.
Gold Coast put up less of a fight against the energised Blues, losing by 30 points in the 7.4(46) to 2.4(16). Tara Bohanna kept her goalkicking bonanza going by booting one in the second quarter but it was only her and teammate Ellie Hampson, who could register any major points on the board for her side.
Carlton had better control of the ball, more intensity and tidier skills on display. In the final minutes of play, Carlton's Georgia Gee had a particularly impressive snap from the boundary during some scrappy contested football, where the young gun collected a handball receive from Maddy Prespakis mid-tackle and then somehow got it on her boot and through the big sticks. It pumped excitement into her team and sealed the deal for their win, while ending the Suns' finals hopes.
Also to note, after beating Gold Coast by 30 points, Carlton are still mathematically in with a chance for finals. For this to happen, in the upcoming round, both Collingwood and the Bulldogs would need to lose by significant margins, against Richmond and Brisbane, respectively. Then, the Blues would also need to rack up a huge victory themselves against Melbourne, who are looking in top form of late. It's unlikely, but not impossible.
And the prospects are keeping things interesting as we head into Round 10.