BRISBANE has produced a phenomenal team performance in the Grand Final to claim their maiden AFLW premiership, defeating Adelaide 6.2 (38) to 3.2 (20) in front of 22,934 fans at the Adelaide Oval. It was the truest form of redemption for the Lions, who fell just one goal short in both of the 2017 and 2018 AFLW deciders against the Crows and Western Bulldogs respectively.
The premiers dominated the tackle count (76-52), the uncontested possessions (130-92) and the clearances (26-18). However, the story of the day was efficiency when going inside 50. Brisbane were far cleaner than the Crows throughout the contest, going at 61 per cent efficiency to the Crows’ 54 per cent. This allowed the Lions to make the most of their opportunities inside 50, as they kicked it to their forwards’ advantage and gave themselves space to run into. Adelaide had almost double the amount of inside 50s for the match (44-24), but they regularly bombed the ball in blindly and allowed Brisbane defenders to float across and take easy intercept marks.
Kate Lutkins was outstanding in her role of leading Brisbane’s defence, finishing with 18 disposals (16 kicks), six marks and two tackles along with countless goal-saving efforts. She was rightly adjudged best afield for her performance.
Lutkins was well-supported by Breanna Koenan (14 disposals, six marks, four tackles), Nat Grider (11 disposals, two marks, four tackles) and Shannon Campbell (seven disposals, five marks, three tackles). Ally Anderson (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles), Emily Bates (23 disposals, two marks, two tackles) and Orla O’Dwyer (16 disposals, six tackles) were fantastic in the middle of the ground, while Jess Wuetschner and Courtney Hodder kicked two goals apiece. Hodder’s incredible goal in the second term – a kick out of mid-air from the pocket – was the AFLW Goal of the Year in the eyes of many onlookers.
Brisbane were able to keep Adelaide’s stars uncharacteristically quiet on the big stage. Cathy Svarc did a brilliant job on Ebony Marinoff in the midfield, particularly at the stoppages, and she collected 12 disposals herself. Meanwhile, Koenan and Bates shared the duties on two-time AFLW Grand Final best on ground medallist Erin Phillips and held her to just eight disposals and zero marks. Let’s hope this is not the last time we see Phillips on an AFLW field.
Stevie-Lee Thompson was a shining light for the Crows with 18 disposals and a thrilling goal in the opening term, while Eloise Jones and Teah Charlton worked tirelessly throughout the contest.
Hodder got her side off to a flyer with the opening major, and Brisbane set up perfectly behind the ball from the start. Adelaide showed little-to-no composure going forward, and the Lions were reading their entries with ease. The Crows did not look like scoring until Thompson shrugged a tackle and produced a goal out of nothing in the closing minutes. Scores were level at the first break and it appeared as though Adelaide’s inability to capitalise on their chances would come back to haunt them.
Lutkins made her only mistake of the match early in the second, kicking the ball out on the full after Campbell earned a free kick for holding the ball. Jones then showed her composure to hit a leading Danielle Ponter on the chest and set up Adelaide’s second. Hodder immediately responded with her incredible goal, and Adelaide failed to capitalise on their inside 50 dominance for the rest of the term. Wuetschner made the Crows pay with a clever snap to put through her first and give Brisbane a five-point lead at the main break.
There was drama in the third term, as captains Emma Zielke and Angela Foley both suffered match-ending injuries within minutes of each other. Zielke went down with a right hamstring issue, while Foley appeared to damage her knee in a horrid landing at a marking contest. Foley’s injury occurred in an eerily similar position to where Phillips ruptured her ACL in the 2019 Grand Final.
Zielke’s absence did not spook the visitors, who piled on three majors for the term and held Adelaide goalless. Whenever Adelaide looked like they had a goal scoring opportunity, Brisbane defenders hunted them down and forced a turnover. When Isabel Dawes showed great composure to nail Brisbane’s sixth after the three-quarter time siren, it was difficult to see a way that the Crows could make up the 22-point deficit with one quarter remaining.
A rev-up from leader Chelsea Randall at the last break inspired the Crows to lift in the opening minutes of the final term. Jones brought the deficit back to 16 points with a goal following a 50-metre penalty, but the Crows continued the trend of failing to make the most of their chances for the rest of the term. They had twelve-straight inside 50s and were unable to find a target within range. In the closing minutes, Svarc produced a superb run-down tackle on Adelaide inclusion Ailish Considine to set up Brisbane’s first inside 50 of the term. From there, they locked the ball in and comfortably held on for a historic 18-point victory.
ADELAIDE 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 (20)
BRISBANE 1.0 | 3.0 | 6.0 | 6.2 (38)
Adelaide: D. Ponter, E. Jones, S. Thompson.
Brisbane: J. Wuetschner, C. Hodder 2, L. Arnell, I. Dawes.
Adelaide: S. Thompson, E. Jones, D. Ponter, T. Charlton, A. Hatchard.
Brisbane: K. Lutkins, A. Anderson, C. Svarc, B. Koenan, E. Bates, C. Hodder.
Picture credit: Getty Images