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Fremantle captain and Swan Districts coach Kara Donnellan has confidence that a youthful Swans outfit can stand up to the challenge against minor premiers Subiaco in Saturday’s WAFLW preliminary final at Leederville Oval.
At stake is a grand final spot against reigning premiers East Fremantle the following week.
Swan Districts can take confidence from a convincing win against Claremont in the first semi final while Subiaco will be hungry to bounce back from a fiery loss to East Fremantle in the second semi final.
While Swan Districts boast considerable AFLW talent, including the likes of Ebony Antonio, Gemma Houghton, Stephanie Cain, Ashley Sharp and Ange Stannett, Donnellan is wary of the Lions’ experience that is spearheaded by star Freo midfielder Hayley Miller.
New Freo rookie signing Lindal Rohde is also set to feature in the clash, providing Subiaco plenty of run on the outside this year.
“They’re tough, they’re experienced. They’re a bit older than us - we’ve got a really young list, I think the second youngest list in the comp,” Donnellan said.
“Subiaco always step up to the challenge, their loss last weekend won’t stop them. They’ll have a point to prove on their home deck as well.
“They’re contested ball winners, they’re quick when they get it on the outside, especially with Hayley Miller out there. She’s hard to stop and when they get it forward anything can happen.
“Our backline will be under the pump this week but we’re really confident in the way we structure up and set up to be able to counteract that.
“Hopefully, we can get it forward and give our forwards some really good opportunity to hit the scoreboard as I think that’s our strength up forward.”
Subiaco have won two of the three clashes between the sides this season, including a one-point win in their most recent meeting in round 11.
Donnellan said that Saturday’s clash will be the first time both teams face each other at full strength.
“With the AFLW girls on limited games and players on state 18s commitments as well, we haven’t met each other at full strength,” Donnellan said.
“The last time we played them we both had a few outs, so it will be a really tough challenge this week. That’s why you play footy, to play good quality sides which will happen this weekend.”
While the likes of Miller and Cain headline the midfield battle, Donnellan has been thrilled with the quick rise of Stannett as a midfielder.
Donnellan has thrown the Freo defender into the clinches this season, with the former Perth Glory player taking the opportunity with both hands.
“The way that she’s grabbed the challenge and run with it, she’s been a sponge and she’s really accountable,” Donnellan said.
“She wants to learn and grow, and I think her going into the midfield has been fantastic for us. She’s a bigger body, she’s hard at the footy and loves to tackle.
“We’ve got a really dynamic midfield and adding her in the mix has really strengthened up the group.
“She sets a tone right from the start with her physicality and she’s been a nice addition to that group.”