The 8 players to watch in the AFLW Grand Final

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2023 AFLW Grand Final Preview (1:52)

Marissa Lordanic and Imogen Evans preview and give their tips for the 2023 AFLW Grand Final between North Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions. (1:52)

The final instalment of what has been a cracking AFLW finals series is just around the corner, with it all coming down to the Grand Final on Sunday when North Melbourne take on the Brisbane Lions at Ikon Park.

The last time these sides met, it was the Lions that prevailed by two points down in Tasmania - without star forward Dakota Davidson.

However, if there is anything this final series has taught us, it is that past results won't matter when it comes to North Melbourne, having defeated two out of the 'big three' teams in the final series after losing to them across the home-and-away season.

It'll take all 21 players from both teams to win a premiership but both teams will be relying on some of its stars to help bring home the silverware.

ESPN takes a look at the key players to watch ahead of the decider.


North Melbourne

Jasmine Garner

Starting off strong is Jasmine Garner, who is fresh off signing a contract extension that will keep her at Arden Street until the end of 2027. The class that Garner brings to the stoppage is just a level above those around her, with her game awareness allowing her to slip out of congestion. Her ability to also float up forward and hit the scoreboard is just the cherry on top of Garner's game.

She proved in the preliminary final that she doesn't need to get high disposal numbers to make an impact, recording 22 possessions, and being able to push forward and hit the scoreboard, finishing the game with one goal. Expect Garner to be one of the midfielders to get attention from Brisbane's Cathy Svarc but the beauty of the North Melbourne midfield is that Jenna Bruton and Ash Riddell will step up if she is shackled like we saw in Sunday's game, during which Bruton dominated with 28 disposals.

Sarah Wright and Jasmine Ferguson

You can't have one without the other, with both Sarah Wright and Jasmine Ferguson having extraordinary seasons. Both can read the play and get themselves in the right position to absorb the defensive forward 50 entries that come their way, while also having the ability to lock down key players.

Together they kept both Kate Hore and Eden Zanker to zero goals and nullified any impact they tried to have on the qualifying final two weeks ago, while in the clash against Geelong earlier in the season, Ferguson was able to lock down spearhead Chloe Scheer beautifully. If North Melbourne are to win, it would involve a mighty effort from not only those two but the whole backline. They'll need to learn from their most recent game and lock down Brisbane's small forwards who are dangerous at ground level.

Tahlia Randall

Tahlia Randall has proved to be one of the in-form players for the finals series, helping North Melbourne get into the Grand Final with a stunning performance over the last two games.

Randall has kicked 21 goals across the season, five of which have come in North Melbourne's first two finals. She's proved to be a central part of that North Melbourne forward line, with the opposition defence finding it hard to outmark her through her pure leap and strength.

One thing that Randall will be looking to fix up is her accuracy in front of goal with the forward kicking two goals and two behinds against the Crows. Those behinds came late in the final quarter and could have offered some much needed breathing room if they'd been converted. Then add the likes of Kate Shierlaw and Emma King (when resting up forward) into the mix and it'll be a hard equation for the Lions to be able to stop.

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Brisbane Lions

Belle Dawes

2023 has been the year that Belle Dawes has really broken onto the scene, stepping up with the likes of Emily Bates departing the club over the offseason.

This past weekend was no different with the 22-year-old quickly proving that she's built for those big games. Dawes finished the game with 21 disposals, 14 tackles and eight clearances. When Brisbane defeated Adelaide back in Round 8, it was Dawes who stepped up in those key moments getting her team over the line.

Looking to the Grand Final, Dawes going head-to-head with the likes of Bruton, Garner, and Riddell, will be a mouthwatering matchup and will have the Lions having full confidence that Dawes will be able to play her role and get the job done.

Orla O'Dwyer

At times, Orla O'Dwyer is often the one in the Brisbane side that flies under the radar but in the games that Brisbane have dominated, she's often one of the players that stand out.

So if the Lions are to get over the line this weekend, they'll need the speed and class that O'Dwyer brings on the wing. In the preliminary final, O'Dwyer did just that, recording 21 touches, six inside 50s, 560 meters gained, and even was able to push forward and kick a goal.

The 25-year-old is also a key part of the sides transition, with O'Dwyer able to use her speed and link up with the likes of Nat Grider, Jade Ellenger and the Brisbane midfield to get the ball forward.

Courtney Hodder

With question marks around the availability of power forward Dakota Davidson, it'll be up to the rest of the Brisbane forward line to kick a winning score if Davidson doesn't get the green light.

In the preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide, it was small forward Danielle Ponter who was able to break through the North Melbourne defence and kick three out of the Crow's four goals for the game.

So for Hodder, who's the type of player that can make an opportunity from nothing, she'll be a dangerous threat in front of goal. Although Hodder didn't kick a goal when the teams met earlier in the season, she's a big game player who's proven that she can perform on the big stage.

Shannon Campbell

Shannon Campbell is the ultimate swing woman for Brisbane and will be super important come Grand Final day. Dakota Davidson's availability will determine which end of the ground Campbell will be played at.

When the two sides met earlier in the season, Campbell played majority of the game up forward in the absence of Davidson and was able to hit the scoreboard kicking one goal. Whereas when she's down back, she makes an impact working with the likes of Poppy Boltz, Jennifer Dunne, Phoebe Monahan, and Nat Grider to halt momentum for the opposition side.

No matter which end of the ground she's at, a big game will be in order and if the preliminary final is anything to go by, where she kicked the sealer after spending majority of the game down back, it's certainly on the cards.