Crows premiership a remarkable underdog story

Just as the Western Bulldogs claiming the AFL premiership in 2016 was an incredible underdog story, the Adelaide Crows winning the AFLW Grand Final is an equally remarkable feat.

You could argue that all of the eight AFLW teams were on an even keel coming into the inaugural 2017 season, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The Crows celebrate winning the inaugural AFLW premiership. Image: Superfooty

South Australian footy has long been considered to be weaker than in fellow states, frequently bested in National Championships and state exhibition matches.

Understandably so, Adelaide’s flag chances were on par with that of the GWS Giants, a young side with plenty of development required before a premiership could come into the equation.

To imagine that a South Australian team could overcome the rest of the country in 2017 was unfathomable when the Crows were awarded a licence.

It was not meant to happen. It couldn’t happen.

The Crows’ flag win is a story of great perseverance. None of the AFLW captains predicted them for the premiership, and they were almost written off after consecutive losses to Brisbane and Melbourne in rounds five and six.

Though those losses were by only three and two points respectively, Adelaide was seemingly snubbed for the fancied Melbourne Demons, who finished the home and away season looking like world beaters.

It took a final quarter effort in round seven for the Crows to even make the Grand Final.

Their 24-point win, which came despite trailing by seven points at three-quarter time against Collingwood, now feels like a fitting precursor to what came in the final game of the season.

Even though they finished full of steam and Brisbane wilted against Carlton, Adelaide was still the Grand Final underdog.

Yet, the Adelaide Crows are the first premiers of the AFLW, and it took a stunning group of women to come together and accomplish what they have.

It started with their WA marquee signings, Chelsea Randall and Kellie Gibson.

While it could be assumed the talkative yet supremely skilled Gibson would earn a marquee contract following her move to SA, Randall was one out of left field.

Limited to only a handful of games in 2016 due to work, we referred to Randall’s signing as the coup of the marquee signings.

After her performance in the Grand Final, the proof is in the pudding.

But still, securing a player of her caliber would not place the Crows in premiership contention.

Soon after came the signing of Erin Phillips, a rookie signing from the WNBA and Australian Opal basketball squad.

Having been out of the game since she was a junior, it was impossible to predict she would stake a claim for being the AFLW’s best player.

Then came the draft, the platform for the national emergence of the likes of Ebony Marinoff and Georgia Bevan.

We had heard plenty about the youngsters from their youth days, but most of their influence was overshadowed by the spotlights beaming down on Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland.

And of course, there is Courtney Cramey, the cornerstone of SA football, selected with one of the club’s priority picks.

Her influence in 2017 was often unmentioned, but she was the heartbeat of the Crows defence and, as it proved, one of the tipping points in the Grand Final when she made the move to the midfield after completing a concussion test.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all came when the club signed Sarah Perkins as a post-draft free agent.

The key forward was left in tears on draft day, paying her own to way to move to SA and cry tears of joy on Grand Final day.

Overlooked by the four Victorian clubs because she doesn’t fit the physical mould of the desired key forward, Perkins has made them all look silly.

No forward worked harder than her at ground level, and her goal tally shows only a fraction of her influence in the forward half.

But the biggest inclusion of all was that of coach Bec Goddard.

If this amazing group of footballers are the pride of South Australia, Goddard is the glue that brought it all together.

Not only did she display a vast knowledge of the game, Goddard was tasked with leading a group of players divided between SA and the Northern Territory.

With nine players based and training in the NT and coming together with the rest of the team before game days, Goddard ensured the team worked as a cohesive unit.

The NT players grew into the season with each passing week, bolstering the Crows’ depth and unearthing the likes of Angela Foley and Heather Anderson.

The latter, formerly from Canberra, returned to footy from a shoulder reconstruction that threatened to end her career as an army medic.

Anderson persevered, and sadly suffered a dislocated shoulder in the third quarter of the Grand Final after a blistering first half in which she helped keep the Lions at bay.

The long-term repercussions of her efforts will likely go unpublished, but we appreciate what she has given to entertain us.

This is just one example of the sacrifices this group of footballers have made to win the AFLW premiership.

They were underdogs all the way through, but Adelaide proved that media opinion is just that: opinion.

They made their own history in a season that was all about creating it.

Thank you for telling a remarkable tale, Adelaide.

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