THE 2021 NAB AFLW finals series doesn't start for another fortnight.
But a nightmare end of season draw for Melbourne has seen it embrace a finals mentality for the final three weeks of home-and-away clashes.
They've already knocked off Adelaide at home, but even tougher challenges await in top-three sides Fremantle at Freo Oval and Brisbane back at Casey Fields.
"Some said we were a bit unlucky compared to other teams, but you start your finals series now," Melbourne midfielder Maddi Gay said.
"If you can't beat them in the season, then you know you're not ready to make the finals and go all the way, which we think we are.
"It makes us excited to play those teams, we want to beat the best to be the best. We're really looking forward to it."
Melbourne coach Mick Stinear described the club's upset win over the powerful Adelaide as the best victory in its five-year history.
"It's been a long time coming, but we finally clicked out there and did what we needed to do," Gay said.
"The Crows are a really good outfit and they have been for the whole five years as well.
"To beat a team like that gives you a lot of relief even for the young girls coming through. It was a really good win and we're taking it through to this week as well."
After a mid-season lapse, Melbourne has rebounded with two straight wins. Possibly not-so-coincidentally, it's come since inspirational skipper Daisy Pearce swapped from defence to the forward line.
Gay said the move has revitalised the 32-year-old, as well as providing a calming voice forward of the footy.
"I've even seen her smile a lot more, playing down back can be quite stressful, but the forward line you can have a little more fun.
"She has freedom to control the forwards and take it from there. So, I think just seeing that fun come out in her game is making her play a lot better as well … and having that [directing] voice behind you, it's calming and makes you a lot more confident."
Melbourne is currently in the top six but could miss finals if it loses its final two games and either the Western Bulldogs or Carlton gets on a roll.
With Adelaide ticked off, next on the list is Fremantle, a powerhouse of the past few years.
"Freo are a really good outfit, so we need to provide pressure at their midfield, because that's their main engine," Gay said.
"We also need to always respect our opponents. Gemma Houghton didn't really have a good start [against Carlton], I watched the last five minutes and that's when she had the majority of her footy.
"So just respecting your opponent even if they haven't had the footy – Sabreena Duffy kicked two quick goals, she's a very skilful player, so obviously be on top of them and not switching off until the final siren."