Two months ago, eight clubs stood at the starting line, all on even footing, but in seven weeks time, six would fall, leaving two standing.
Like high-noon in a spaghetti western movie, two foes eye each other off, both left with just one shot that with either see them the casualty or the victor.
There is no Grand Final replay; extra time and even golden point can be used, but sometime around 3pm (AEST) Saturday, we will have our first AFLW premiers.
Just about no one thought we would have the scenario that we have before us, with the Brisbane Lions to clash with the Adelaide Crows for the cup.
No one in the media predicted it. Not one of the AFLW captains predicted it. Only two people in our Facebook comments section before the season suggested that either the Lions or the Crows could make it.
Still, it’s a glorious thing for women’s football. The game is a national success.
Plus, for those who like a quirky fact, despite all the talk of the Brisbane Lions not being able to host the Grand Final at ‘home’ (the Gabba), it’s worth noting that Carrara (Metricon Stadium) is the club’s birthplace and it’s almost 30 years to the day the then Brisbane Bears played their first home game at that location.
Don’t forget, you can join in the live conversation on Twitter during the AFL Women’s Grand Final by following us at @GirlsPlayFooty and using #AFLWGF.
Brisbane vs Adelaide
Saturday, March 25 @ Metricon Stadium – 12.55pm (AEST)
TV: 7 (Bris, Ade & Mel) & 7Mate (Per & Syd)
Radio: SEN, Women’s Footy Radio, Triple M & ABC Grandstand
B: Sam Virgo – Leah Kaslar – Shannon Campbell
HB: Tahlia Randall – Kate Lutkins – Breanna Koenen
C: Megan Hunt
HF: Kaitlyn Ashmore – Sabrina Frederick-Traub – Kate McCarthy
F: Jordan Membrey – Tayla Harris – Jessica Wuetschner
Foll: Sharni Webb – Emily Bates – Emma Zielke
Int: Nikki Wallace – Jaime Stanton – Nicole Hildebrand – Selina Goodman – Brittany Gibson – Alexandra Anderson
Emg: Delissa Kimmince – Kate Deegan
B: Heather Anderson – Georgia Bevan – Talia Radan
HB: Anne Hatchard – Deni Varnhagen –Angela Foley
C: Dayna Cox
HF: Ebony Marinoff – Erin Phillips – Stevie-Lee Thompson
F: Courtney Cramey – Sarah Perkins – Kellie Gibson
Foll: Sarah Allan – Justine Mules– Sally Riley
Int: Chelsea Randall – Rachael Killian – Abbey Holmes – Rhiannon Metcalfe – Jenna McCormick – Jessica Sedunary
Emg: Tayla Thorn – Lauren O’Shea
After the Crows lost to the Lions by three points in round five at Norwood Oval, there’s one fact would have Adelaide coach Bec Goddard fuming: the Crows beat the Lions in almost every team stat (they tied inside 50 marks) but still lost.
The smoking gun is the score itself. Adelaide had ten scoring shots to Brisbane’s eight, but inaccurate kicking (4.6 to 5.3) inevitably cost the Crows the game.
All the hard work of winning hit-outs, laying tackles and taking big marks means zero if your kicking is off line.
Conditions won’t get any easier for the Crows this weekend. Now on the road, they’ll be playing in Queensland’s 28 degree heat during the middle of the day, with slightly longer quarters due to the AFL’s last-minute decision to extend the time-on rule to be the same as the men’s – opposed to just goals and serious injuries during the home and away matches.
The South Aussies could easily be forgiven for feeling under siege, but the truth is when looking at the team stats, it will be the Lions under the pump on Saturday.
Adelaide leads the competition for contested possessions with 733, 100 more than Brisbane. The Crows are also second in the league for tackles (396), while the Lions are seventh, and had 20 more centre clearances for the year than Brisbane, aided by winning 15 more hit-outs than the team from the Sunshine State.
All of this resulted in Adelaide being top of the AFL for inside 50s with 220, 53 more than the Lions had, which converted into 10 more goals.
However, as alluded to above when looking back when they played three weeks ago, the Lions are better users of the ball from their limited opportunities.
Their disposal efficiency is 57.1% compared to the Crows’ 54.7%, they’ve taken 37 more marks and had 18 less clangers than Adelaide.
The Lions’ defensive work is not to be glossed over either, leading the Crows in one-percenters 142-138, and having 20 more rebound 50s.
All that is the past, though. For on Saturday afternoon, it will come down to a few key battle around the ground that could decide the premiership.
Emma Zielke vs Erin Phillips
This is the main event. The Anna Meares versus Victoria Pendleton (women’s cycling – look it up, kids) of showdowns. The leaders of their respective clubs, who will both leave everything they have out on the park to get their team over the line and hands on the cup. Phillips is the more attacking player in this dual and racks up more disposals than Zielke, so expect the Lions captain to switch into a tagging mode, similar to her last quarter performance against the Magpies at South Pine. If the woman from Bundaberg can put a dent in Phillips’ influence, that will give Brisbane a huge advantage. However, if the Opals Basketballer can get on top of Zielke, that could seal the deal for the Crows and hand them the premiership.
Emily Bates vs Ebony Marinoff
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if Randall don’t get you, then Marinoff must. The assignment for Adelaide’s tackling machine this week is Emily Bates. Not much has been written about the-21-year-old recruit from Yeronga, but there will be plenty soon enough. Time after time she dominates the disposals for the Lions and collected a lazy 17, along with a goal, against the Crows back in round five. Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick-Traub only come into the game when players like Bates get the ball in the middle of the ground. Although Marinoff racks up her own impressive disposal count, her number one focus must be stopping Bates from getting away with any clean possessions.
Kate McCarthy vs Angela Foley
McCarthy is the classic opportunist. When the game is in the balance, she’s there, right time, right place, to tip the result in the Lions’ favour. Luckily for the Crows, they have just the defender to deal with this type of footballer, being Northern Territorian recruit Angela Foley. Back in round three at Thebarton Oval, Carlton’s dangerous small forward Darcy Vescio looked like creating havoc early. At quarter time, coach Bec Goddard sent Foley to shut down Vescio, and the Blues marquee was then quieter than a mime with laryngitis. This battle will require Foley’s full attention for the match. If McCarthy goes for a wander outside the stadium and down the road, then Foley must follow her every inch of the way. A moment’s lapse, and the Queenslander can swoop and potentially swing the momentum of the match.
Sabrina Federick-Traub vs Deni Varnhagen
How big was Sabrina Federick-Traub when these two sides met three weeks ago? As Bernie Sanders would say “YUUUUUUGE”! 15 disposals, 9 hit-outs and 5 tackles, she was a force to be reckoned with on Norwood Oval. The Lions marquee was carrying an injury niggle into last week’s match, but that all doesn’t matter now. If your leg falls off on Grand Final day, you quickly tape it up and get back out there. At 173cm, Varnhagen gives away 9cms to the Brisbane forward, but with Federick-Traub expected to cover a bit a ground, the Morphettville Park recruit’s athleticism could prove vital, not only to stay with the forward, but also rebound off her.
Leah Kaslar vs Sarah Perkins
It’s quite possible that Leah Kaslar has been having nightmares this week. She heads into the big dance about to face an opponent who is feeling on top of the world. It’s not only the skill of Sarah Perkins she has to deal with, but also her heart. After nearly willing the Crows back to an improbable win over Melbourne, the Adelaide forward flicked the switch last week against the Magpies and finished them off in devastating fashion. However, finals football is a different matter. Perkins may still have fresh memories of her Eastern Devils being easily swept out of the VFLW finals in late 2016, while on the flip side Kaslar led her Coolangatta Tweed side to Grand Final victory in the QWAFL. This will be a great duel, and if the Crows get up, odds are it will be because of a couple of Perkins goals… and she’ll be on the front page of the Sunday Mail.
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