Tag: chelsea randall

2021-22 AFLW early look: Adelaide

IN an early look at the upcoming AFL Women’s 2021-22 season, Draft Central checks out each of the 14 clubs over the next three weeks ahead of preseason commencing. Up first is Adelaide, the 2021 grand finalists set to be another contender in the new-look season.

LAST SEASON:

Position: 1st (Runners-up)
Wins: 7
Losses: 2
Draws: 0
Points For: 446 (1st)
Points Against: 214 (4th)

Adelaide came agonisingly close to a remarkable third premiership, narrowly going down to Brisbane in the 2021 AFL Women’s Grand Final. The Crows were the most potent scoring team all year, and were able to pile on scores quickly in some big wins. From Round 1 through to Round 9, the Crows were in the top four spots all year, picking up three consecutive wins mid-season in their best run until winning the final two games of the season, grabbing top spot and then winning its semi-final against Melbourne to book their place in a home grand final. Whilst it did not go their way, the Crows were once again an entertaining team to watch.

OFF-SEASON:

Ins: Jasmyn Hewett (Gold Coast), Jasmine Simmons (basketball), Zoe Prowse (Sturt), Brooke Tonon (Glenelg), Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide)
Outs: Chloe Scheer (Geelong), Renee Forth (delisted)
Inactives: Jessica Sedunary, Angela Foley, Rhiannon Metcalfe

The Crows did not need to make many changes to their list given the strength of it, with Chloe Scheer‘s defection to Geelong the biggest talking point coming into the off-season. The Crows will be without a trio of inactive players with Jessica Sedunary (cycling), Rhiannon Metcalfe (work) and Angela Foley (ACL), whilst Renee Forth was the club’s sole unforced cut. Going to the draft, they picked up AFL Women’s Academy ruck Zoe Prowse, as well as smooth moving half-back/wing Brooke Tonon and tough nut mid-forward Abbie Ballard to accompany a returning Jasmyn Hewett, and basketballer Jasmine Simmons.

2021-22 TEAM LIST:

Sarah Allan
Najwa Allen
Abbie Ballard
Chelsea Biddell
Hannah Button
Teah Charlton
Ailish Considine
Dayna Cox
Nikki Gore
Caitlin Gould
Anne Hatchard
Jasmyn Hewett
Eloise Jones
Ebony Marinoff
Rachelle Martin
Montana McKinnon
Hannah Munyard
Justine Mules
Maddi Newman
Erin Phillips
Danielle Ponter
Zoe Prowse
Marijana Rajcic
Chelsea Randall
Jasmine Simmons
Brooke Tonon
Stevie-Lee Thompson
Deni Varnhagen
Ashleigh Woodland
Lisa Whiteley

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Can Adelaide blood some new youngsters in 2021-22 and avoid Port Adelaide raiding the list too much at season’s end?
  • Will Erin Phillips play permanent forward?
  • Who replaces Chloe Scheer inside 50?

PREDICTION:

Adelaide will once again be thereabout around the mark, with Scheer the key loss from the side that reached a grand final. The Crows have stocked up with some serious talent who all add something different, and it would be great to see all of Prowse, Tonon and Ballard getting their chance at some stage despite it being such a hard team to crack into. Expect them to be there at the pointy end again.

Picture credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Case eyes confidence boost to take game to another level

NORTH Adelaide’s Kate Case is a self-proclaimed hard worker and defensively-minded talent who can play across multiple lines. Now the versatile utility admits to take her game to the next level, she will need to learn to back herself more often and even put out a ‘don’t argue’ or two in the process.

“I think something I’m really looking to improve on is to try and take the game on a bit more,” Case said. “I think I have potential to be able to get the ball and run a bit more, but I have to build the confidence to take it on and maybe do a fend-off, and then maybe pinpointing kicks and things like that.”

Case’s football journey “started a while ago” when she was much younger, but the 18-year-old also teamed up her football with netball and it was not until a chance opportunity at school that the South Australian took the first steps towards making the State team.

“I did a bit of Auskick but then I started netball quite young instead and played for a while and then my high school PE teacher suggested that I tryout for Under 15s State Football and I luckily enough got in,” Case said. “So my first ever real game of football was the Under 15s State game. “Just went through and played the underage SANFL which led to trying out for the women’s and went into those seasons and it’s all sort of got to here now.”

Representing South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Case averaged 10.3 disposals and 4.3 marks, working hard up and down the ground to provide an option in transition.

Case said she felt more comfortable in herself and her role within the reigning premiers side, though her areas of improvement were strong on her mind. She credits coach Krissie Steen with her development of late, saying “she really inspires me to be a better footballer and a better person”. As for her role on field, Case loves the open space of the wing.

“I like wing, it’s my favourite position, it’s a lot of gut running and unrewarded running but I still enjoy that,” she said. “Backline, I like pressure acts and things like that over a forward, so I think really supporting teammates whether it’s through gut running or getting there to put a block on or pressure acts.”

It is no surprise that Case enjoys playing an aggressive brand of football and said she likes to model her improvement on a Crows star for not only what she does with the ball, but without it too.

“I think a player I really look up to and enjoy watching is Chelsea Randall because that’s with the pressure and so courageous, puts her body on the line, gets to every contest and works really, really hard. I want to base my game on the work rate and courageousness,” Case said.

Right now juggling a football career, Case has plenty on her plate between studying and looking to join the army.

“I’m at uni currently, I’m hoping to become a physiotherapist,” Case said. “Footy is pretty busy so I’m just doing that, and applied for the Army Reserves and hoping to get into that. Just working and footy, just pushing along.”

Versatile Clifton converts on each line

THERE’S hardly a position Lauren Clifton hasn’t played over the years. The South Australian prospect transitioned from her usual wing role to be utilised down back, and even at full forward between her SANFLW and Under 19 National Championships campaigns.

While she was “quiet” in the early stages of the season, by her own humble estimation, Clifton rode each challenge and enjoyed being able to link up with her Panthers teammates at state level.

“Last year I played a bit more of an on-ball role, on the wing. They’ve moved me around a little bit to the backline this year and still on the wing,” Clifton said. “I’ve been moved into full forward for a couple of games, then against the Allies I played full back.

“(South Adelaide teammates) are probably my closest friends outside of school and footy as well, so it’s good to be away with them.”

At 171cm, the 17-year-old fits the mould of a hybrid type. Clifton’s versatility and outside run are strengths, but she is working on bringing more “aggression” and grunt to her game in contested situations.

“I’m not a very aggressive person, I’m a lover not a fighter,” she said. “I just try and be skilful on the ground or up high… (I’m improving) my aggression, to be more aggressive and work on my tackling because I’m not the strongest build.”

The Willunga junior came through the elite talent pathway in development squads and Port Adelaide’s Next Generation Academy, where she played against Adelaide’s Academy. Current AFLW star Chelsea Randall was among the Crows’ coaching set-up, and is a role model for many of SA’s budding draft prospects.

For Clifton, a Crows supporter, Randall’s versatility and courage are key traits she aspires to implement in her own game. There is plenty of time to work on just that, though the Year 12 student is also juggling her studies and work during the week.

While working towards Randall’s standard, Clifton also has some valuable mentors in her corner. She cited her parents as a “huge support”, as well as the South Adelaide coaches, including Ryan Skouborg who has been alongside her from back in the development squad days.

Draft day (July 27) will have proven a longer wait for Clifton than many others, considering she did not return to the SANFLW fold after Round 8. She is was of many South Australians vying for higher honours, in a talent-stacked pool.

Tenacious Tonon shows “massive” development

SO impressive was Brooke Tonon‘s form in 2021, she earned a call-up to the illustrious AFLW Academy. She was fresh off an impressive Under 19 National Championships campaign with South Australia, and en route to SANFLW premiership honours with Glenelg – showcasing a rapid rate of development across both competitions.

The SANFLW team of the year half-back proved more than capable at senior level, flicking a switch once past the white line with a blend of aggression and skill. After debuting last year, Tonon says she has “learned so much” in a variety of roles.

“My game has developed massively since I started playing,” Tonon said. “I’ve learned all positions. I started off forward, played on the wing, and now in defence so it’s been really good.

“I’m really loving half-back right now. I don’t mind the wing and I love playing forward, obviously kicking goals, but it’s a really hard position to play and I feel more naturally suited to the backline.”

The 17-year-old has truly found a home at half-back, a position which suits her strengths, but also allows her to properly assess key areas of improvement.

“I feel like I have the ability to read the play really well,” she said. “I can position myself in spots where I can impact the game and with my execution by foot, I can see where to kick to and hit targets.

“I need to learn when to not attack as much and kind of stay back, or settle myself and be more composed rather than rushing and playing on. It’s just switching between attack and defence as I’m playing half-back.”

Tonon’s game has grown throughout the junior talent pathways too, having been mentored by the likes of AFLW star Chelsea Randall in the Crows Academy, and eventually ending up among South Australia’s Under 19 squad. Having travelled over to Melbourne for the second National Championships leg, Tonon lauded the experience as “awesome”.

“Coming (to Melbourne) and playing against so many more talented girls, the competition’s amazing,” she said. “Then learning off everyone (in the SA team), I’ve never met a more talented group of girls ever. They’re amazing.”

Amazing is right, and competition for spots at the next level will be tough in 2021 for the South Australian crop as Adelaide is the state’s sole AFLW side. Tonon hopes to be one of a predicted four talents drafted in that bunch, but says she will remain optimistic if things pan out differently.

“I really hope to get drafted, but if that doesn’t happen I’d love to keep playing really good SANFLW footy and hopefully make my way up through there,” she said.

The 2021 AFLW National Draft is set to be held on Tuesday, July 27.

“Go-getter” Swan brings leadership to the fore

STARTING her football career as a seven-year-old for the Bridgewater Raiders in the Adelaide Hills, Georgia Swan is still travelling on her “really fun and long journey,” a decade later.

The now 17-year-old Swan, known by her teammates as “Swanee”, is a part of the South Australian Academy.

Swan has recently completed her third season playing for Sturt in the SANFLW, where she averaged 9.1 disposals, 2.1 marks, 2 tackles, and 1.6 inside 50s. Swan credited her hard work in the off-season for her performances during the season.

“I think I had a really good pre-season this year. I worked on my fitness coming off last season and I think I’ve become a lot fitter which has really improved my game,” she said.

Despite the team only managing three wins and a draw from 11 games this season, Swan was not too disappointed about the year.

“It’s been pretty tough actually. [Sturt] haven’t had too many wins but it’s been really fun, we’re improving a lot since last year so that’s the main thing.”

At state level, Swan knows she must be on top of her game not only with the way she plays, but also to fulfil her role as a leader.

“I think I’ve got a bigger leadership role on-field in our state team as co-captain and one of our bigger players in the forward line, helping out with voice and instructions,” she said.

Playing predominantly up forward, she averaged 10 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2 tackles, and 2.3 inside 50s during the three NAB U19s Championship games showcasing just how much of a classy player she is.

Swan loves to get around the ground and attack as many contests as she can, a trait she believes she can offer at the top level.

“I like to think I’ve got a very go-getter attitude on the field. I want to get into contests, get into packs and keep going with two, three efforts. With the right coaches and teammates, I hope that could really compliment [an AFLW team] and I can keep improving from there.”

Swan remains determined to make it to the AFLW and is always wanting to get better.

“I want to work on my aggression, keep smashing through the packs and winning ground balls.”

She has relished the opportunity to be coached by Chelsea Randall, someone she says is a “very inspiring and amazing woman to look up to”, and Swan dreams of one day becoming just like her.

Away from footy, Swan is studying Year 12 and she also works in a restaurant, but for her “footy’s a big priority”.

Ballard buoyed by “enjoyable” position switch

STURT utility Alex Ballard is a player capable of shining at either end of the field, with her versatility tested throughout state Under 19s and SANFL Women’s duties. The top-ager already has over 30 senior games to her name after debuting in 2018, utilised as an equally capable intercept marking defender and full forward in that time, as well as during her representative stints.

“Last season I played down forward and obviously that was sometimes hard to get the ball,” Ballard said. “This season I played down back, at half-back, and that’s been really enjoyable. Just being able to use my kick to penetrate the defence and get through the lines.

“I enjoy being able to play in different positions, different positions have different challenges.”

As an marking and rebounding defender, Ballard shares similar traits to one of the top level footballers she looks up to, her own brother, Charlie. The Mitcham Hawks junior says he is not the only inspiration for her football career, though.

“My brother Charlie is probably the most obvious [mentor], but also my dad,” she said. “He’s always been very supportive and never puts pressure on me. “If we’re looking at footy skills, looking at Charlie and how he plays, he’s a good intercepting defender and has a good kick so I look up to him.

Chelsea Randall [too], because she plays in defence and that’s my most preferred position. She’s courageous, always hard at the ball and is not afraid to drop off her player to impact the contest.

“In the defence I’m a bit tall so I play on the bigger bodies and float off my player when I can to take those intercept marks.”

Ballard’s aerial quality came to the fore during another strong SANFLW campaign, in which she averaged nine disposals and four marks per her nine outings. The 170cm prospect also averaged virtually identical numbers across three state games, with that form enough to land her a spot in the recent SANFLW All Stars showcase. There, she was among the best afield for Team Red.

Having started out in a nine-a-side carnival with the Mitcham Hawks, Ballard’s honours have stacked up over the years. While she was overlooked in the 2020 AFL Women’s draft, the 18-year-old continues to press on and is also kept busy by her life outside of football.

“I’m at Adelaide Uni, I’m studying health and medical science,” she said. “I’m interested in going into the cancer research field so that keeps me busy outside of footy, balancing [them] at the moment.”

Versatile Parish thrives on physicality

WHEN asked of the key traits she wanted to present at the AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships, the answer was pretty straightforward and ominous for Jamie Parish.

“Definitely my physicality,” Parish said. “I love bumping, hitting, shepherding.”

The versatile Woodville-West Torrens talent has enjoyed a swift journey into the South Australian talent pathway, crossing from other codes and being thrust into the SANFL Women’s system.

“I started off as a basketballer and a netballer,” she said. “I ended up having to fill in for a local club, I played one game and they were like ‘why don’t you give SANFL a try?’… so then I basically hopped straight into the SANFL, played a couple of years and ended up playing state.”

Parish described her 2021 state league form as “up and down”, but is enjoying the “learnings” of being tested in a variety of roles. Having cut her teeth as a key defender, the 171cm prospect was also thrust into the middle at the National Championships and can even swing forward or provide a handy ruck fold.

“(My coaches) are playing me in a lot of new positions and not just keeping me down back, so that’s been really good.” she said. “I am a key defender but I have been swapping through the midfield recently. “Hopefully I get a run in the midfield but it really just comes down to game day, because sometimes they’ll chuck me up forward as well, so who knows.”

While the 17-year-old was a mainstay throughout the Eagles’ SANFLW campaign, she was restricted to two of a possible three state representative games. Parish took on Western Australia in game one and was “pretty happy” with her performance, before returning for game three against the Allies down in Victoria, after being isolated due to COVID-19 precautions as her side battled Vic Country.

Parish looks up to the likes of Adelaide women’s captain Chelsea Randall and Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli, who she said are “hard at it and great players (she) always looks up to”. Boasting a similar competitive edge and the ability to play on multiple lines, Parish is also clean by hand in tough situations like her two idols. On the flip side, she says she is “motivated” to keep improving her fitness.

In true impartial fashion, the South Australian supports both Adelaide and Port Adelaide in the men’s AFL competition, while backing “all of them” in the women’s league. With expansion continuing at the top flight, there will be greater opportunities for developing prospects like Parish to crack the elite level and potentially run out alongside those she cheers on.

Outside of football, the current Year 12 student says she is one who “enjoys the sunshine”.

“Other than that, I’m just a casual sleep in until 12 o’clock and think about doing something sort,” she said.

Team-oriented Prenzler “honoured” to lead state

WHEN Sturt teenager Hannah Prenzler was told she would be leading South Australia out against Western Australia at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, the natural leader said she was equally shocked as she was honoured to be handed the co-captaincy alongside SANFL Women’s teammate, Georgia Swan.

Totally shocked when I got announced captain, but I feel very honoured from both the coaching staff and the girls voting me in,” Prenzler said. “I love to show leadership, but I believe everyone’s a leader in the team and everyone could have done the role so well, but it’s pretty awesome to be able to captain the state, and as a standalone for the first time which is pretty cool.”

Prenzler’s journey to captaining her state started off as a young aspiring footballer who had some roadblocks along the way in continuing the pathway, but when she was able to join her beloved Double Blues, the leadership group member quickly switched her focus to the oblong ball game.

“I started off playing Auskick when I was pretty young,” Prenzler said. “There wasn’t really a massive pathway for girls football (and) I really enjoyed my basketball, so basketball all growing up as a kid. “Then about four or five years ago played a bit of school footy and then trialled for Sturt Under 17s and being at Sturt ever since.”

When asked how she had found the two teams seasons with Sturt in the SANFL Women’s, and South Australia in the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, it was no surprise that Prenzler took a team-orientated approach.

“For the SANFLW as a team, Sturt’s not doing as we would have liked to, but it’s good to get back after a year of mixup last year, so obviously as a team we’d love to do better,” Prenzler said midway through the championships. “For the State Team, I think we had a great first game up against WA which was really good, tougher game against Vic but I think it was expected, they’re definitely the team to look out for and I reckon the best, but still great fun, I really enjoyed it.”

As for her own personal performances, Prenzler said she had an up-and-down season with some good individual games, and some quieter ones. She was hoping to improve her run and carry to do it more consistently, whilst also building her endurance to add extra kilometres “under (her) belt”. Considering her kick as one of her strengths, Prenzler enjoyed playing in defence for both levels of football, but admitted she had to step up at the championships as an undersized key defender.

Definitely in the defensive six for both teams,” Prenzler said. “Sometimes in this state team either a full-back or centre half-back switching as a bit more of a taller player which is more of a shock because I don’t consider myself that tall but I guess in this program, but anywhere in the backline is where I sit.”

As a South Australian, Prenzler follows the Adelaide Crows in the AFL Women’s and said there were a number of talents on field that she admires, and has also been lucky enough to play against some of them in the SANFL Women’s at times.

“As a similar position wise, I reckon Sarah Allan (is a player Prenzler looks up to),” she said. “Great defender, composed with it, has a really good kick.” Able to run through to the backline to deliver up and then I guess girls like Chelsea Randall and Ebony Marinoff for their gutsy work.”

In terms of off-field inspirations, Prenzler could not go past the “popular” choice of parents, with the support network allowing her to follow her dreams. In particular, the Sturt talent said her father had helped with the football side of things, aiding her growth and development alongside the variety of coaches she has had coming through the pathway. As for her future ambitions outside of chasing her ultimate goal of getting the most out of football, Prenzler said she was happy with juggling university and sport.

“I finished Year 12 last year and first year uni, I’m doing nursing, so I’m enjoying that,” she said. “Thought I wanted to do something completely footy related but want to save that as a hobby, so something in the health medical field. “I’d love to travel a bit, but obviously with the restrictions, I’m focusing on uni and footy.”

Third time’s a charm for brilliant Brisbane

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)

GOALS:

Adelaide: D. Ponter, E. Jones, S. Thompson.
Brisbane: J. Wuetschner, C. Hodder 2, L. Arnell, I. Dawes.

DC BEST:

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

2021 AFLW Grand Final Preview: History repeats as AFLW greats meet again

THE 2021 AFL Women’s season has come to a head, with the biggest match of the year set to play out between two of the AFLW greats. Following huge preliminary final victories last week – one a blowout margin and one a hard-fought contest – there is no doubt the two best sides enter the big dance, with everything to play for and not just bragging rights, but also history on the line.

Adelaide v Brisbane
Saturday, April 17 @ 2:00 AEST
Adelaide Oval

In a matchup we have seen plenty of times, it’s only fitting that the two best teams of the AFLW era face off in today’s decider. The top two teams on the ladder, the Crows and the Lions first faced off in the 2017 grand final, with Adelaide victorious by six points, dishing out heartbreak to Lions players, staff and fans.

Since then, a lot has changed for both sides, but a rivalry has emerged, and classic matches have been born from this. The Lions have remained in contention in the coming years, suffering a second six-point grand final loss in as many years. The Crows stumbled in 2018, but found themselves premiers again as they smashed Carlton by 45 points in the 2019 grand final. The 2020 season was scrapped, meaning at least one of these two teams has featured in every AFLW grand final. It is almost destiny that the streak continues into 2021. To top it off, Lion Lauren Arnell will play for a flag in her final outing at the end of a strong career. Could a fairytale be on the cards?

Both finishing with eight wins (seven in the home and away season) and two losses, a percentage lead gave Adelaide the crucial home ground advantage in today’s game. Adelaide went 6-1 at Adelaide Oval this year, while the Lions went 5-1 at the Gabba. Both grounds are very different in both dimensions and atmosphere, so Adelaide have already gained an important boost. When these two teams faced off, Crows superstar Erin Phillips arguably won the game off her own boot for her side. She slotted four goals for the match – including the sealer in the final minute of the game – as Adelaide escaped with a 12-point win. Phillips has been one of the game’s best players since its inception and could prove to be a match-winner on the biggest stage of all. Expect Brisbane to put plenty of work into ensuring this doesn’t happen again.

There are key players all over the ground, with plenty of stars sure to attract attention from the opposition. Starting with the Crows, Phillips is clearly priority number one for Brisbane to negate, with her ability to tear a game open in a matter of minutes demonstrated in the previous matchup. Her talent both in the midfield and up forward makes it tough for Brisbane to settle on a hard one-on-one tag. The Lions will certainly have their hands full stopping the league’s first superstar. There is also Eb Marinoff, a midfield star in her own right. She put her stamp on the preliminary final, finishing with 35 disposals and 12 tackles, constantly tormenting opponents with her clinical work around the stoppages. The Crows midfield will be hard to stop, but the Lions can do it, and they have stars of their own. Midfielders Emily Bates and Isabelle Dawes will almost certainly have a say on Saturday’s result. The Crows will also have to be aware of Kate Lutkins and her ability to create from the back half. She is crucial to the team’s style of play and will be looking to deliver on the big stage as she has in the past, whilst Dakota Davidson and Courtney Hodder are critical cogs. Heartbreakingly, Chelsea Randall has been ruled out of a comeback for the Crows per the AFL’s strict 12-day concussion guidelines after sustaining a match-ending head-knock last week.

It’s a rivalry four years in the making, and one that has enthralled viewers all across the nation. The two best teams of the AFLW at the top of their respective games has the potential to be a classic in the making. No one knows who will be holding the cup later this afternoon, but the one certainty is that all eyes will be on Adelaide Oval.

Records:

Adelaide: 7-2 (1st)
Brisbane: 
7-2 (2nd)

Last 5:
Adelaide: 4-1
Brisbane: 4-1

2021 meeting:
Round 4
 – Adelaide by 12

Most goals:
Adelaide:
Erin Phillips (14)
Brisbane: Dakota Davidson (16)

 

Picture credit: Getty Images