North Melbourne occupy a commanding position after a stunning win in Tasmania. (Photo: AFLW Facebook)

AFLW: Family is the name of the game

Family relationships are dominating the headlines almost as strongly as North Melbourne dominate the table as we head into the fourth round of the 2019 AFL Women’s season.

AFLW history is made ahead of Saturday’s opening game between Geelong and Carlton as the Blues unveil Abbie McKay this week, to become the first-ever father-daughter professional combination along with 1995 premiership player Andrew.

Elsewhere, the Roos and Dockers both look to continue their unbeaten starts to 2019 in vastly different climates, Fremantle travelling to the dry heat of Darwin to tackle Adelaide, and North Melbourne to the unpredictable winds of Casey Fields against a dangerous Melbourne outfit. At the bottom of the table, Collingwood and GWS make the long trek to Morwell as both sides strive to earn their first premiership points.

Hatch’s Jesse Robertson previews AFLW’s midway stage with Round 4 clashes starting on Saturday:

Saturday, February 23, 4:45pm: Geelong vs Carlton, GMHBA Stadium

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The Cats return to Victoria having been convincingly outgunned at Norwood Oval last week and few players could have been immensely proud outside Rochelle Cranston, whose 15 contested possessions reflected a fierce effort in midfield. Geelong make two changes from that side. with Rebecca Webster injured while Aasha O’Connor returns to the starting ruck position.

Carlton’s Madison Prespakis continued her march towards a potential Rising Star award with a team-high 21 touches and three goals as the Blues got themselves off the mark against the Giants in Blacktown.

Tayla Harris starred alongside. with three majors of her own, and might consider herself fortunate to line up in Geelong this weekend after escaping suspension at the Tribunal on Tuesday night. Team-wise, Abbie McKay is the selection story of the week as AFLW makes father-daughter history among Carlton’s two changes.

Hatch predicts: Geelong by 14 points. The Cats crashed hard and the Blues conversely soared in contrasting outcomes, but Carlton still seem to be missing a spark that allows results to be strung together.

Saturday, February 23, 7:10pm: Western Bulldogs vs Brisbane, VU Whitten Oval

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Heading into a 2018 grand final rematch, the “daughters of the West” were unable to put their typical resilient defensive attributes on display in Tasmania last Friday night as they were simply overrun by the rampant Roos. Even key stalwart Lauren Spark was down on her usual output, managing only one touch more than her tally of five marks.

Kirsty Lamb was noticeable as perhaps their most influential performer, with 14 touches at 64 per cent efficiency with four marks and three tackles, but Belinda Smith, Bailey Hunt and Hayley Wildes are all omitted for this week’s clash after registering just 12 disposals combined.

Last week’s Hatch preview forecasted an intriguing midfield battle between Brisbane’s Alexandra Anderson and Melbourne’s Karen Paxman, and the 22-year-old Lion certainly held up her end of the bargain with 21 touches (12 contested) and five tackles. She was also the Brisbane woman with more than one centre clearance on a dismal afternoon at Hickey Park.

Defender Kate Lutkins was busy with five tackles and five rebound-50s but there was little positive information otherwise as the two-times runners-up remain firmly entrenched in Conference B.

Hatch predicts: Bulldogs by 10 points. These two teams’ momentum crashed in heavy losses last week but the Bulldogs have shown more promise in their previous two games, and the rearguard can again be relied on.

Saturday, February 23, 8:35pm: Adelaide vs Fremantle, TIO Stadium

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Adelaide’s “home” game in Darwin this week will prove a stern test for the reigning premiers, who have rebounded from an early stutter to throw two assertive wins on the board.

Ebony Marinoff has been running the show all season long in her side’s matches and made records tumble last week with an all-time AFLW high of 33 disposals, complementing a dominant appetite with six tackles and eight inside-50s. Sarah Perkins is dropped for the trip to the Top End but cross-code Crow Jenna McCormack is included on return from time in the W-League.

The undefeated Dockers outfit will show up with confidence, however, after a strong performance seeing off the winless Magpies at Fremantle Oval (which Hatch was a single point off perfectly predicting). While Dana Hooker’s 12 touches represented a decline on the standards which came to be expected after her impressive opening fortnight, a more balanced overall array of performers came to the fore.

Ruck Parris Laurie was an important contributor around the ground with 88 per cent of her 17 disposals finding the target, but the Dockers will be without Brianna Moyes on Saturday night after she became yet another victim of the ACL curse.

Hatch predicts: Adelaide by 3 points. The Crows’ form of the last two weeks makes this an incredibly close battle to predict, but the stars addressed in the preview might prove just too much to bear.

Sunday, February 24, 2:05pm: Collingwood vs GWS, Morwell Recreation Reserve

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Matters have continued to go from bad to worse at Victoria Park following another toothless display in Western Australia. Ash Brazill was one of a select few positive talking points for her continued fight and ability to remain composed and efficient in the heart of defence, and her numbers were again solid in defeat, but injury rules her out of the trip to the Latrobe Valley as one of at least five changes in the extended squad.

Her absence is the only forced substitution, though, as Wayne Siekman attempts to resurrect a quickly fading season by re-introducing the likes of Sharni Layton.

Although the Giants were perhaps upset in handing Carlton their first points of season 2019, Rebecca Beeson again showed her willingness to compete in the engine room, racking up 17 touches of which all but one were on target. They may take confidence in going in slight favourites come Sunday, and will be boosted by the return of Nicola Barr from suspension. They still need a result just as badly as Collingwood, though.

Hatch predicts: GWS by 7 points. Likely to be a scrappy affair in Gippsland as both sides cling to faint hopes in 2019 – but expect a fierce contest.

Sunday, February 24, 4:05pm: Melbourne vs North Melbourne, Casey Fields

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Melbourne looked red-hot in disposing of Brisbane last week but are handed the unfortunate task of coming into Cranbourne against a fresh upstart side in at-times unstoppable form.

Karen Paxman again ensured she would remain North Melbourne’s one to watch with her role in the Dees’ 39-point drubbing, while Aliesha Newman was explosive across the half-forward flank with 19 disposals and three well-earned goals. Melbourne are yet to confirm any omissions for the game Sunday either, which is a sign of general squad health.

The same cannot be said in Round 4 for North Melbourne, who have so far been the benchmark side in AFLW but will have to do without Rising Star nominee Courteney Munn, who earned her accolade following a breakout four-goal haul in their 31-point victory over the Western Bulldogs.

Munn misses with a calf injury but there should be no shortage of effective forward options, such as former Blue Kate Gillepsie-Jones (17 touches, seven tackles last week), although marquee signing Moana Hope remains short of finding her footing as the default full-forward.

Hatch predicts: North Melbourne by 12 points. This could be the most exciting match of the round to watch, if not for the notorious Casey Fields climate. Regardless, North should have just enough quality to roll on.