The AFLW Grand Final will be between the Adelaide Crows and Brisbane Lions - for the third time in five seasons. Adelaide won in 2017 and 2019, defeating Brisbane in 2017 and Carlton in 2019. They missed the 2018 Grand Final which was played between the Lions and the Western Bulldogs. The Bulldogs won in 2019, so Brisbane will be hungry to reverse the trend. The 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic with the finals and Grand Final canceled.
It can be said that the Crows and Lions are the most dominant teams in the league, but their paths to success have been quite different. From the outset, the Crows did not - and still don't - share their state with a rival club as Port Adelaide opted not to bid for a license for an AFLW side, even when the AFL announced new teams would be added in 2019. This gave the Crows the advantage of accessing talent not only from South Australia but the Northern Territory as well due to Adelaide making a joint bid with the AFL NT for a license. The partnership with the NT ended in 2019 with Gold Coast entering the competition.
HOW THE TWO SIDES HAVE EVOLVED
Still on list from 2017: Anne Hatchard, Deni Varnhagan, Ange Foley, Dayna Cox, Ebony Marinoff, Erin Phillips, Stevie-Lee Thompson, Rhiannon Metcalfe, Sarah Allan, Justine Mules, Chelsea Randall (will miss with a concussion), Jess Sedunary (playing SANFLW of late)
Playing elsewhere: Georgia Bevan, Sarah Perkins, Kellie Gibson, Sally Riley
No longer in the AFLW: Heather Anderson, Talia Radan, Courtney Cramey, Rachael Killian, Abbey Holmes, Jenna McCormick
Additions since 2017 (based on preliminary finals team)
Debuted 2018: Marijana Rajcic
Debuted 2019: Hannah Button, Eloise Jones, Danielle Ponter, Chloe Scheer
Debuted 2020: Najwa Allen, Caitlin Gould, Rachelle Martin (injury top-up, officially listed the following year)
Debuted 2021: Teah Charlton, Ashleigh Woodland (club debut)
Still on list from 2017: Shannon Campbell, Kate Lutkins, Breanna Koenen, Jess Wuetschner, Emily Bates, Emma Zielke, Ally Anderson, Selina Priest (has not been selected this year), Sharni Webb (pregnant)
Playing elsewhere: Sam Virgo, Leah Kaslar, Tahlia Randall, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Sabrina Frederick, Kate McCarthy, Jordan Membrey, Tayla Harris, Jamie Stanton, Brittany Gibson
No longer in the AFLW: Megan Hunt, Nikki Wallace, Nicole Hildebrand
Additions since 2017 (based on preliminary finals team)
Debuted 2018: Sophie Conway
Debuted 2019: Lauren Arnell (club debut), Jade Ellenger, Nat Grider, Jesse Wardlaw
Debuted 2020: Greta Bodey, Dakota Davidson, Belle Dawes, Tahlia Hickie, Orla O'Dwyer, Cathy Svarc
Debuted 2021: Courtney Hodder, Taylor Smith (club debut), Indy Tahau
Brisbane was hit hard by the expansion, losing four of their star players to Gold Coast and North Melbourne in 2018. IN 2019, they lost eight players to Gold Coast and their marquee player ruckwoman, Sabrina Frederick to Richmond. Two other players headed for St Kilda.
Against the odds, however, the Lions kept pace and made the finals un 2020 before the AFLW season was called off. According to inaugural Brisbane defender Shannon Campbell, the Lions are underrated by many outside of the club, and she said the Lions like it that way, "It's good for us though, we like to fly under the radar. We've flown under the radar for five years, so we're happy to keep doing it." She is one of many Lions keen to atone for the past losses, "... it will be a motivating factor, but we've also got a brand new team pretty much from those two years, a far more exciting team that I think can definitely take it to Adelaide. We'll go in there as underdogs, and hopefully take it away from them."
One Brisbane player who might be hungrier than the rest is inaugural player Ally Anderson, who played in the 2017 and 2018 losses. Anderson, 27, has played in nine Grand Finals since she took up the sport 10 years ago - all losses, "I've lost quite a few ... I haven't won one, so I'm even more hungry." She said after their win over Collingwood, they let it sink in briefly before turning their attention to the task ahead, "After we won ... we let it sink in, but then a few of us were like, 'We have to win this, we need to win this. There is that personal history with us original girls. We're so desperate to win it. It's not just us, it's the whole team, the coaches, everyone in the Lions environment is desperate to win. We're going to leave everything out there on Saturday. There is definitely going to be nerves, especially for the younger girls, but I think as a team we've got so much experience around the whole group we can bring each other up and perform... ".
Anderson, captain Emma Zielke, Kate Lutkins, Shannon Campbell, Jess Wuetschner, Emily Bates and Bree Koenen all remain from the first two Grand Finals, while young winger Sophie Conway played against the Bulldogs. Anderson has been a star in 2021, averaging 18 disposals, including 23 against the Magpies at the Gabba.
Having games at the Gabba, including last year's men's Grand Final, has boosted participation and interest in the game in Queensland. That support was evident with a very vocal pro-Brisbane crowd during the preliminary final against Collingwood, Campbell also said, "They definitely lifted us today, and got us over the line," Campbell said, "Their roar at the end of the game was magnificent."
With the game scheduled for the Adelaide Oval. Brisbane will not have that luxury for the Grand Final. For the 2019 Grand Final, the Oval had over 53,000 fans in attendance. And the AFL has ensured a stand-alone time slot with the men's AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast being moved three hours later than originally scheduled. The AFL is hoping for another bumper crowd for what has seemed to have developed into quite a rivalry between these two clubs.
Adelaide will be favorites to win but will be without their captain Chelsea Randall. Randall was ruled out with concussion which now requires a mandatory 12-day stint on the sidelines. Randall was injured in a heavy collision with Collingwood's Eliza McNamara early in the first term and ruled out of the game by the club doctor. Although the team does not have a co-captain, there is a strong leadership group. That group consists of Sarah Allan, Ange Foley, and Eloise Jones; however, none are officially vice-captain. Foley, who has been named as stand-in captain spoke after the win against the Demons, "[Chelsea's] aura and her leadership would be missed, but we've got plenty of leaders in our group. That's why we do all the hard work and get around each other during the year … but that Chelsea's concussion) will just give us a bit of fire in our belly, I reckon".
Key players for the Grand Final:
Forward Dakota Daividson, who kicked three goals against the Magpies and is one of three players leading the AFLW for goals. Ally Anderson and Catherine Svarc are prolific ball winners through the midfield. Oria O'Dwyer is another to watch. The Irish recruit also applies plenty of pressure on the opposition. Jessica Wuetschner is a dangerous small forward who can also play defense if required.
Erin Phillips has been a star from the time she first stepped onto a footy oval. The most decorated player in the league, she took out every award in 2019 and was named best on ground in the 2019 Grand Final despite rupturing her ACL in the third term. She is considered the premier player in the AFLW. Eloise Jones is a forward who can take an excellent mark (catch of the ball), tackles hard and is considered a future leader. Sarah Allan is one of the AFLW's premier defenders. Rarely beaten, she is hard at the contest, strong in the air and reads the play very well. Was named All-Australian in 2019. Ebony Marinoff is another huge star midfielder who knows how to win the ball and tackles well. There has been talk that if Phillips wins another best on ground award in this game, the award should be named in her honor after she retires.
The Grand Final entertainment will be headed by Australian indie-pop musician and singer G Flip (aka Georgia Flipo). She first hit the music scene in 2018 with the release of her hit single About You which is featured on her album About Us. Based in Melbourne, she has received several accolades, has been featured in Rolling Stone and the LA Times and has performed in front of sell-out crowds in Australia and overseas. A die-hard Magpie supporter and mad footy fan, she is thrilled to be part of the entertainment. The national anthem and Welcome to Country will be performed by local talent as part of the pre-game formalities.
Sources: abc.net.au, afl.com.au
Article last changed on Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 7:31 PM EDT