The final match of the 2022 home and away season looms, with everything at stake for the Collingwood Magpies as they take on their cross-town rival and minor premiers, the Melbourne Vixens.
It is do-or-die this week for the mighty Magpies, who are coming off two straight wins and need another here to claim the last finals position.
While the Pies' run home has been anything but easy, they have proved again and again that they have what it takes to pull off a daring win.
The Magpies will know exactly what they need to do to claim the last finals position when they take the court on Monday, with plenty still in the balance for a post-season berth.
With midcourter Maggie Lind ruled out of the final round due to COVID health and safety protocols, the Pies have opted for defensive depth with training partner Zoe Davies added to the squad.
On the other side of the coin, there is one major question mark hanging over the Vixens heading into the final round - the likelihood of long-range goaler Rahni Samason being named in the final list.
Samason missed out on the last derby clash between the two sides, meaning her return could be the difference here.
Coming off Round 13:
The Pies moved from seventh to fourth on the ladder with their Round 13 win against the Sunshine Coast Lightning, claiming an elusive finals opportunity after spending much of the season in the bottom four.
While the Pies trailed at the first break, it did not take long for Jodi-Ann Ward to kick up a gear and wreak havoc in the defensive end.
Ward's three third-quarter intercepts helped keep the Pies one step ahead of the Lightning, while her Jamaican counterpart Shimona Nelson was pivotal at the post with 57 goals at 93 percent.
Kelsey Browne racked up another 25 goal assists, while Gabby Sinclair finished with 10 goals (one super shot).
An eye on the opposition:
Round 13 saw the Vixens claim a narrow win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds, taking out the minor premiership in the process.
The four-goal win was anything but easy, though, with the Vixens forced to play catch-up in the final quarter and defensively beating the Thunderbirds at their own game to secure the four points.
Regardless, Mwai Kumwenda and Kiera Austin were composed and threatening as ever to post, combining at 85 percent, while Liz Watson generated 21 goal assists.
Defenders Jo Weston, Emily Mannix and Olivia Lewis combined for eight gains, and reduced the Thunderbirds to just five goals in the final quarter.
Last time we met:
Round 7 seems like a lifetime ago, and it was a real turning point for the Pies as they regained confidence coming into the second half of the season.
The 10-goal win saw Browne win the player of the match award for her 25 goal assists and two intercepts, just about unstoppable around circle edge.
Nelson was a key target with 48 goals to her name, ably assisted by both Gabby Sinclair and Sophie Garbin, who combined for 19 goals (three super shots).
Geva Mentor and Ward were outstanding in the back-end, using their physicality and rebounding prowess to outclass the Vixens combination of Kumwenda and Austin.
With Samason out, the Vixens had no answer for the circle intensity, and were forced to play the super shot in the final quarter to whittle down the Pies' winning margin.
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