The Adelaide Crows have become the first AFLW premiers, winning the Grand Final by six points over Brisbane in front of a pro-Lions crowd at Metricon Stadium.
15,610 fans showed up to watch the Crows control the tempo of the match from the outset, but inaccuracy on the scoreboard left the door open for a late Lions push.
Frantic defending in the final five minutes was enough to keep Adelaide ahead, with Chelsea Randall putting in her best personal performance of the season all over the ground.
Underdogs all season, including in the Grand Final against the undefeated Lions, Adelaide showed the guts and determination that has willed the side forward all season.
Erin Phillips was her usual amazing self, finding the football 28 times, registering seven tackles and kicking two clutch goals in the third term.
When you talk about getting a dream start, you hope it will be something like what Kellie Gibson produced.
With not even 20 seconds off the clock, Gibson ran onto a loose ball from Courtney Cramey’s clearance, outrunning Sam Virgo to gather and accurately launch for home.
It didn’t take long for the Lions to get on the board as well, as Sabrina Frederick-Traub’s shot at goal sprayed wide, but Jess Wuetschner read it best to mark and run around on her left boot.
Brisbane pushed for a second, but Heather Anderson and Chelsea Randall got the job done in the back half, allowing the Crows midfield to put Brisbane under pressure.
Though they won the forward entries 11-7, the Crows required a piece of magic from Deni Varnhagen to register their second major, with the versatile midfielder gathering facing the boundary line and kicking a stunning goal across her body.
Adelaide was much the better team, but the defensive work of Nicole Hildebrand, Leah Kaslar and Sam Virgo in the defensive half limited the Crows to just a seven-point lead at the first break.
Just like the first, the second quarter belonged to Adelaide, but this time their wastefulness threatened to come back to bite them.
Six behinds for the quarter and no goals was a nod to the incredible defensive work of the Lions, who touched through and rushed everything that came close to the goal face.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the quarter was Kate Lutkins’ sensational chase-down tackle on Jess Sedunary running into goal, keeping the Crows within arm’s length.
Wuetschner was able to reduce the margin with her second snapped goal of the day, but the weight of behinds meant the Crows still held a six-point lead at half-time.
Crows co-captain Chelsea Randall produced the best half of footy she has played this AFLW season, keeping the Lions out and shutting down direct opponent Tayla Harris.
The other captain, Erin Phillips, who has been incredible in 2017, racked up 13 disposals – 12 kicks – in the first half and her heightened influence in the second term should’ve been further rewarded on the scoreboard.
Instead of relying on her teammates, Phillips produced a major of her own, gathering under pressure and snapping through a tackle to extend the Crows’ lead to 12 points.
But again, just as Adelaide threatened to run away with the game, the defensive work of Kaslar, Virgo and Hildebrand saved the day.
The Lions finally had a chance to apply some sustained forward pressure, and it paid off when Emily Bates, Brisbane’s leading midfielder, cleared the ball for Sabrina Frederick-Traub to throw her boot at for a goal.
However, it seemed whenever Brisbane threw a counter punch, Phillips hit back, kicking her second goal of the quarter as she smartly watched a car crash of bodies before gathering and converting.
Completely blanketed by Randall, Tayla Harris finally had her first opportunity to impact the contest, but her first mark and disposal missed across the face soon before the siren sounded for three-quarter time.
The injury toll began to rack up in that third quarter, with Adelaide’s Heather Anderson, an incredible contributor in the first quarter, heading to the rooms with another suspected shoulder injury.
Brisbane’s Breanna Koenen, a major player in the Lions defence, was also taken out of the game with a suspected ankle issue.
The Crows held a two-point lead at the final break when these two teams met in round five, and their defensive effort in the forward half showed they were intent on denying a second Brisbane come-from-behind win.
Harris had other ideas, marking in a similar spot to her third quarter chance, this time splitting the big sticks to reduce the margin to just five points.
With four and a half minutes remaining, Lions captain Emma Zielke gave away a crucial 50m penalty that led to Randall taking a highlight pack mark – though she missed, her behind made the margin one straight kick.
It was too much for the Lions to overcome, watching the time tick down as the Crows held on for a famous victory.
Phillips, Randall and Courtney Cramey were huge in the victory, with all three producing their best performances of the year, particularly the latter who shifted to the midfield from her usual defensive role.
Though they were bested in the midfield and came up short, credit needs to go to the Lions defence that kept the margin as close as it was come the final siren.
But the day belongs to the Adelaide Crows, who stamp their place in the footy history books.
Erin Phillips was presented with the best on ground medal by women’s footy trailblazer Debbie Lee.
Brisbane: 1.0, 2.1, 3.2, 4.5 (29)
Adelaide: 2.1, 2.7, 4.9, 4.11 (35)
Brisbane: Jessica Wuetschner 2, Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Tayla Harris
Adelaide: Erin Phillips 2, Kellie Gibson, Deni Varnhagen
Brisbane: Emily Bates (19), Kaitlyn Ashmore (15), Sabrina Frederick-Traub (14), Nicole Hildebrand (14)
Adelaide: Erin Phillips (28), Courtney Cramey (23), Ebony Marinoff (20)
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