Presented by Ida Sports. Adelaide has confirmed itself as the first genuine dynasty in AFLW history with its third premiership from four Grand Final appearances.
Adelaide v Melbourne — Saturday @ Adelaide Oval
Adelaide 1.1.7 | 2.5.17 | 3.5.23 | 4.5.29
Melbourne 0.0.0 | 1.1.7 | 2.2.14 | 2.4.16
Adelaide: Danielle Ponter (2), Jasmyn Hewett, Erin Phillips
Melbourne: Alyssa Bannan, Kate Hore
Adelaide: Najwa Allen, Teah Charlton (head knocks)
Melbourne: Casey Sherriff (fractured wrist)
Adelaide won their third AFLW premiership by doing what they have done best all year—taking away their opponent’s strengths, and doing it for a full four quarters. When these two sides met in round four, it was the Crows’ relentless pressure that prevented Melbourne from getting any control in the game, and this outing was almost an exact replica of that.
The Crows’ pressure is not always represented in tackle numbers, instead they worry the ball carrier by closing down space and forcing poor ball use from opponents, but the reason they are just so dangerous is how quickly they then spread away from the contest when the ball is won. Their ability to do this is thanks to their elite fitness, which has been showcased all season. As soon as they have forced the turnover, the Crows run hard into attack to create options down field, and because of this they often find themselves alone in space to then easily move the ball into attack with little diversion.
Melbourne was afforded the chance to attempt a short kicking game in the back half, but every time the side looked to switch into the corridor and get its desired running handball game going, Adelaide was able to cut off those options or pressure the turnover. More than once, a Melbourne kick was smothered off the boot, or kicked straight into the back or body of an opponent just metres away. That pressure created chaos in close, and Adelaide was able to capitalise off that.
Going into attack, the Demons played right into Adelaide’s hands. Tayla Harris was double-teamed all game but was still able to bring the ball to ground more often than not. Unfortunately only the Crows had ground level representation to mop it up and rebound back out. Despite registering just two fewer inside 50s than the Crows, Melbourne struggled to find deep entries for genuine opportunities to score, and much of this was due to Adelaide’s well-drilled, clever defensive unit intercepting the ball higher in attack before the Demons could settle in front of goal.
No matter what the Demons tried, including shifting captain Daisy Pearce into defence, Adelaide was able to adapt to very quickly, limiting the impact of those moves. Late in the game Mick Stinear looked to inject Casey Sherriff’s speed into attack, but just minutes into the final quarter an awkward contest saw her being helped off the field with a badly fractured wrist. Nothing was going Melbourne’s way.
Best on Ground winner Anne Hatchard’s story has been well told. Starting out in defence, a concerted decision to improve her fitness for a shift into the midfield completely changed the trajectory of her career. Hatchard ended the game with 26 disposals, six clearances and nine marks, capping off a deserved All Australian season. Her 6.8 average marks throughout the year is an indicator of how much ground Hatchard has been covering, regularly working to be involved repeatedly in passages of play, moving the ball into attack, and it was this work rate that ultimately saw her earn the Best on Ground medallion.
It is hard to look past just how successful the Adelaide Crows have been in this first era of AFLW, not just in terms of team performance but how individual players have evolved and improved under the tutelage of, initially, Bec Goddard and then Matthew Clarke.
In AFLW history, Adelaide have played two seasons where they have dropped just one game—2019 and 2022. Both of those losses have been by a single point, and in both of those seasons the side has gone on to win the premiership.