AFLW prelims: Why each team can (and can't) reach the Grand Final

As we reach the pointy end of the AFLW season, only four teams remain in the hunt for the premiership. Also on the line, for some, is the chance to host the Grand Final, with the venue still up for grabs.

Will the Crows and Lions reach their fifth decider in the competition? Or will the Kangas and Cats reach the stage for the first time? From usual suspects to surprise packets, if there's one thing we've learnt from the finals series so far: expect the unexpected.

ESPN takes a look at this weekend's two preliminary finals.

Geelong vs. Brisbane

Key matchup: Georgie Prespakis/Amy McDonald vs. Ally Anderson/Belle Dawes

It's a mouthwatering matchup in the middle of the ground, with the midfield battle of Prespakis (averaging 24.4 disposals, 6.7 clearances and 7.4 tackles) and McDonald (23.3 disposals, 5.8 and 7.2 tackles) up against Dawes (17, 3.9, and 6.6) and Anderson (25.5, 4.3 and 5.4). Although there's a high chance that fellow Lion onballer Cathy Svarc will take one of the Cats' ball magnets, it's one of those situations where if one is tagged then the other will thrive, and we haven't even mentioned Nina Morrison, who was the star of the show in Geelong's upset semifinal win over Melbourne. But as we know, and have seen, Ally Anderson has been performing on the big stage since the league's inception and will do just about whatever it takes to get the job done.

Why Geelong can make the Grand Final: Geelong have hit their straps at the right time of the season and their contested game can match it with anyone in the competition, as we witnessed over the weekend. The physicality and ferocity in and around the contest blew Melbourne out of the water which didn't allow the reigning premiers to get their usual handball game going through the corridor. It was led by the likes of aforementioned trio Georgie Prespakis, Amy McDonald and Nina Morrison in the middle, and if they can keep that going on Saturday night, it could become a fairytale run to their first AFLW Grand Final.

What's standing in their way? The last quarter on Sunday afternoon almost cost Geelong the game, with Melbourne coming home like a steam train. The Demons kicked five of the last six goals of the game after facing a 30-point three-quarter time deficit, and were peppering the inside 50s when the siren sounded amidst another entry. If there was even just one more minute of game time, the Dees would have likely prevailed. Geelong can't afford a flurry of goals or a strong momentum swing against them, especially against a side like Brisbane who have the ability to play a four-quarter performance of footy. So if the Lions at times are able to get the upper hand, Geelong will need to find a way to stem the bleeding before it gets out of control.

Why Brisbane can make the Grand Final: One of Brisbane's strengths is their speed, especially in transition. With one of the premier half-backs in the competition in Nat Grider -- and then Jade Ellenger and Orla O'Dwyer on the wings -- they'll be looking to use their speed to their advantage on the weekend. O'Dwyer can take the game on herself like we saw in the first final against Adelaide, or hit up a target in Dakota Davidson or Courtney Hodder. We've also seen these speed influences used as crucial links with premier ball winners Anderson and the Svarc sisters, and if they get their way, it could be a huge leap into securing a spot in the Grand Final for the second consecutive season.

What's standing in their way? Discipline. For Brisbane, if they let undisciplined acts get in the way like they did a few weeks ago against St Kilda, it will be a huge roadblock. Geelong have proven over the last couple of weeks to be able to make the most of opportunities that are presented to them. If there's a continual theme of giving away easy free kicks or 50-metre penalties -- something that allowed the Saints to storm home in that Round 9 clash, the Lions giving away 23 free kicks -- they'll find themselves on the back foot. In a match where the loser goes home, you can't give your opposition an easy shot, especially when it's something that can be so easily avoided.

North Melbourne vs. Adelaide

Key matchup: Jasmine Ferguson vs. Caitlin Gould

While everyone would look straight to the middle of the ground (as exciting as those individual contests will be), the matchup that is the most intriguing is up forward for Adelaide and in defence for North Melbourne.

The Kangaroos have had the best backline in the competition this year, conceding just 213 points, with Jasmine Ferguson leading from the front to create a strong defence. You only have to look back to two weeks ago when the strong marking defender, along with her partner in crime Sarah Wright, shut down Melbourne goal kickers Eden Zanker and Kate Hore and limiting them to one goal.

But Adelaide is a different beast and has proven on several occasions this season they can score big. The trio of Caitlin Gould (19 goals) as the tall when she's forward alongside Eloise Jones (18) and Danielle Ponter (17) can cause havoc when given a sniff.

Ferguson can nullify the impact of any forward that she comes up against. But when she faced the Crows in a Round 9 thriller, Gould was able to kick two majors, always an important avenue to goal for the Crows.

Why North Melbourne can make the Grand Final: If North Melbourne brings that pressure and ferocity to the game that they did against Melbourne then they'll be hard to beat. Using the tall players in Emma King and Kim Rennie behind the ball as spares behind the ball can help stop surges forward that Adelaide will try and make. Adding to that, the fact that Adelaide hasn't found a 'perfect mix' in their forward line is something the Roos can exploit if they're able to halt momentum. It wasn't necessarily the case on semifinal weekend, but the Crows have been known for their slow starts, so if the Kangas can capitalise up forward and apply the pressure early, it will make life difficult for Adelaide who would need to mount a comeback.

What's standing in their way? The last time these two teams met, the Crows got the win by just three points, the close matches something that the Kangas have been on the wrong side of in Season 8. In Round 4, the Roos went down to the Lions by just two points despite looking like having the upper hand in the first half, with Brisbane kicking four of the last five goals of that game. Who knows if it's a mindset thing, or a genuine pattern to be concerned about considering it's only happened twice, but there's no doubt there will be plenty of scenario-based training for the Kangaroos this week ahead of a game that could go down to the wire.

Why Adelaide can make the Grand Final: Adelaide can turn the game on its head in a matter of minutes and we saw that on the weekend against the Swans, with the game all but over because of a three-goal burst at the start of the second half. The Crows will also look to have an extra in defence - against Brisbane it was Eloise Jones and on the weekend it was Zoe Prowse, when Chloe Molloy was deployed in the midfield. It allows rushed kicks forward to be mopped up which is what can kickstart the Crows; transition game. If they get that going, their link up work with the midfield led by Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff becomes seamless, helping their forward connection look at times unstoppable.

What's standing in their way? Slow starts have been the Achilles' heel for Adelaide in important games. Sometimes they're able to get themselves out of it, though, like last week against Sydney, and even West Coast in Round 10. Last week, the Crows clicked into gear in the second quarter and ran over the top of their opponents once they settled into the contest. North Melbourne is a different challenge, and they won't be able to afford to start behind the eight ball. We saw this in the first final against Brisbane where the Lions came out of the blocks and registered five of the first six scoring shots of the game.