AFLW Grand Final: Can underdogs Carlton cull commanding Crows?

It's an unlikely battle for supremacy this Saturday in the 2019 AFLW Grand Final. (Photo: AFLW Facebook)

Hatch’s Jesse Robertson previews a blockbuster AFLW Grand Final decider at Adelaide Oval.

Last week’s AFLW preview began with some notes about the outcome of the conference system – as opposed to standard top-four qualification – and it could be said both preliminary finals emphasised the different dynamic the 2019 finals system could have brought.

Adelaide topped the table on merit and after dominating in a wide range of categories, took it to another level with a thorough humiliation of Geelong, who qualified second in Conference B with the worst percentage in the competition.

Meanwhile, Conference B winners Carlton stunned observers at IKON Park with an energetic and complete four-quarter performance against a Fremantle side that, like the Crows, suffered only one home-and-away defeat and came in heavy favourites.

And now to the Grand Final.

Sunday, March 31, 1:05pm: Adelaide vs Carlton, Adelaide Oval

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The Crows have been as close to perfect as is achievable, running through the competition with an average winning margin of almost seven goals, suffering just a single loss by a single point to the Western Bulldogs along the way.

Their biggest potential concerns are the form of Tayla Harris and Madison Prespakis, with both shining amongst an unrivalled team spirit under Daniel Harford, but in their own win over Geelong last week employed a simply ferocious midfield dominance. Winning the clearance count 30-19 and laying a massive 83 tackles (the second-highest tally of any side in 2019) ensured a four-quarter cakewalk at home. With no need to travel, the likes of Adelaide’s Fab Four (Phillips, Marinoff, Hatchard and Randall) ensure the home side go in clear favourites.

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Harford’s side has almost performed the ultimate in footballing turnarounds, finishing as the wooden-spoon side in 2018 after winning their first two games and losing each thereafter, only to fly through the second half of this campaign and reach their first grand final a year later.

The handball-heavy style of the Blues’ high-possession tactics shone through in a smooth 36-point win over the Dockers last Saturday, registering two-and-a-half times more handpasses as well as 50 per cent more contested possessions (three more than Adelaide did in their preliminary final), rounding off their efforts with a better response by foot earning a 36-25 advantage in marks.

But how do they stop the influence of the Crows midfield, who have waltzed through their challenges?

Carlton average significantly more hitouts through Breann Moody’s output but their opponents are used to that. Bringing the ball out of defensive 50 is a strength and they’ll consider themselves lucky Kerryn Harrington’s shoulder injury isn’t serious but do they outperform Adelaide due to efficiency or simply the Crows’ lack of time spent defending?

Hatch predicts: Adelaide by 24 points. Both sides have kept their cards close with no confirmed omissions ahead of final lodgements Friday evening. The Blues have David and Goliath potential, and came closer to knocking the Crows over during the regular season than most sides could, but Adelaide have dominated for a reason and since asserting themselves following their singular defeat in Round 1, have made 2019 their premiership to lose.