North Melbourne and Brisbane are set to do battle at Ikon Park this Sunday. Our AFL experts give their take ahead of the 2023 AFLW Grand Final.
Who wins the premiership and why?
Matt Walsh: The Kangas have been on an irresistible finals run, defeating two of the 'big three' in Melbourne and Adelaide in finals, only to have to meet the third (Brisabne) in the big one. Can the fairytale run continue for one more week? One can't help but think this emotional finals series may have taken its toll on the Roos, while the Lions -- who are seasoned veterans at being in the decider -- may have the advantage of settling better. It's just one area of the ground, but if Cathy Svarc can nullify one of the Roos' mids, I can see the Lions getting up.
Jarryd Barca: I tipped the Kangas at the start of the season and have no reason to shift. After a finals series consisting of many edge-of-your-seat thrillers, it wouldn't shock me to see another nail-biter at Ikon Park this Sunday. But I'll go out on a limb and say the Roos will win this quite comfortably. It's their time. They'll be able to own the territory battle through the dominance of midfielders Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, and Emma King and are the best defensive team in the competition, so I'm confident they'll be able to shut the Lions down, particularly if they're without Dakota Davidson.
Elly McNerny: I believe the Lions will get the chocolates. It's going to be very close and while North Melbourne have that fairytale storyline, I think Brisbane's experience will just get them over the line. I expect that fire to still be burning from falling agonisingly short last season at the hands of the Demons, but either way, it's going to be an enthralling battle.
Imogen Evans: Unfortunately for the Lions, I'm going to have to tip North Melbourne for the flag this year. I've been bullish on Brisbane over the year, speaking on their intimidating, 'never-say-die' attitude. However, I believe the blistering form displayed by the Roos will be too strong for Brisbane on Sunday. The Queensland side will have to travel interstate with the match being held at Ikon Park, which also works against them, while they may also miss key forward Dakota Davidson which would seriously alter their plan of attack. That loss would create opportunity for North's Tahlia Randall to continue her dominant form in the side's forward line and be the difference at the other end. If Randall is on fire on Sunday, along with the engine room featuring Jas Garner and Ash Riddell, North's damaging midfield could be fatal for the Lions.
Marissa Lordanic: While my heart wants North Melbourne to complete their revenge tour and cross off the last team on their big three list, my head is tipping the Lions. They're more experienced in finals and have plenty of motivation to win another flag considering their record in the big dance currently sits at one win from four attempts. It should be an even contest but Brisbane have more X factor which should get them over the line.
Imogen Evans discusses the rapid rise from North Melbourne and how it is a good thing for the competition.
Who will be named best on ground?
MW: The stage is set for a forward to kick three or more goals and win the game for their side. Just who it might be? Well, it's actually a tough question! Dakota Davidson may not suit up for the Lions, opening the door for smalls like Courtney Hodder to have a day out (noting the Crows' smalls were excellent against the Roos last week), while for North, Tahlia Randall has been in hot form and could kick another bag after being a little wayward last week.
JB: I'll go with one of the most obvious choices in two-time MVP winner Garner. Her form this season has been scintillating, ranking in the top four in the competition for average disposals (29), clearances (6.6), inside 50s (6.7), contested possessions (15), and groundball gets (10.5). She's a star, and could be too much for the Lions to handle.
EM: Belle Dawes - she's proven after last week and against Adelaide in Round 8 that she's built for the big stage. This weekend will be the icing on the cake of what has been a standout season for the young Lion.
IE: 'G-train' - Jas Garner has been storming her way through the AFLW Season 8, and I believe she will be the one to put the nail in Brisbane's coffin on Sunday. Garner's tough contest dominance will stand up to Brisbane's talented midfield, while simultaneously dominating in the air and on the ground with her silky fundamentals. If Garner brings her best, she will certainly be a force to be reckoned with. I vote she scores two goals as well.
ML: Courtney Hodder is exactly the kind of X factor player I think can tear this game open for the Lions so she is my pick for best on ground, playing a similar role to Bobby Hill in the men's grand final this season.