Presented by Ida Sports. The 2022 AFLW Grand Final is set, and it’s Adelaide and Melbourne facing off for ultimate glory in Adelaide on Saturday.
Melbourne v Brisbane — Saturday @ MCG
Melbourne 0.0.0 | 1.2.8 | 4.2.26 | 5.3.33
Brisbane 0.1.1 | 1.2.8 | 2.3.15 | 4.5.29
Melbourne: Alyssa Bannan (3). Eliza McNamara, Lauren Pearce
Brisbane: Greta Bodey, Shannon Campbell, Dakota Davidson, Taylor Smith
Brisbane: Lucinda Pullar (leg)
In an historic game, Melbourne won through to its maiden AFLW Grand Final, claiming victory on the MCG no less. Brisbane arrived as the more experienced finals campaigners, averaging 3.6 finals per player named in the side compared to Melbourne’s 2.3 games and on a mission to be the first AFLW side to go back-to-back. But it wasn’t to be.
When these sides met earlier in the season it was the Lions who broke away to the early lead, but off a condensed fixture kept the door open for Melbourne who stormed home. That comeback for the Demons was spurred by a Daisy Pearce move into defence, and Alyssa Bannan’s heroics in front of goal, and it was the latter who proved to be the most damaging forward on the ground in the prelim.
Kicking the first ever official AFLW goal on the MCG, Bannan’s speed in attack was something the Lions simply did not have an answer for as the youngster kicked three goals from nine disposals and layed five tackles as well. She is one of just five players to kick three goals in a final, and at just 19 years of age, has plenty of exciting games to come in her career.
For the fourth time in six matches between these two sides Karen Paxman has won the most disposals on ground, winning 20 touches, equal-most alongside Lion Emily Bates. Importantly Paxman was able to deliver the ball inside 50 five times and registered a game high 415 metres gained, all in her 50th AFLW game no less.
In their six matchups, Melbourne has won the last five. The only time Brisbane has enjoyed victory over the Demons was in round one, 2017 where the Lions enjoyed a 15 point win at a wet Casey Fields in which defender Shannon Campbell kicked the first ever goal for the side. On Saturday Campbell snuck forward again to kick the fifth goal of her career—and the third in the last three matches—to put her side within ten points late in the game.
Unsurprisingly, Cathy Svarc’s pressure was through the roof. The Lions’ midfielder stopper equalled the competition’s tackle record when these two sides met in round nine last year with 21, and finished Saturday’s preliminary final with 17—six of which were laid in the first quarter alone. It wasn’t only defence that Svarc brought either, with 11 disposals and three inside 50s to her name, she threatened to take the game away from the Demons.
But for the Lions it unfortunately wasn’t to be as some grit in defence and some important intercepts by ruck Lauren Pearce slowed the surge and saw the Demons celebrating on the final siren.
Adelaide v Fremantle — Saturday @ Adelaide Oval
Adelaide 2.1.13 | 4.1.25 | 5.3.33 | 6.4.40
Fremantle 1.0.6 | 3.0.18 | 3.0.18 | 4.2.26
Adelaide: Ashleigh Woodland (2), Caitlin Gould, Erin Phillips, Danielle Ponter, Stevie-Lee Thompson
Fremantle: Kara Antonio, Mikayla Hyde, Emma O’Driscoll, Airlie Runnalls
Out of the blocks the pressure was high, an expected outcome between two of the best tackling teams in the competition. That tight, contested game style didn’t break all game, but it was more about whichever side could more efficiently find the outlet in space and turn that into attack. Ultimately it was Adelaide who continued their winning ways, breaking through for a fourth Grand Final berth.
Early in the game it was experienced inaugural players who stepped up and set the tone. For Adelaide that was Erin Phillips who was presenting strongly inside 50 and calmly split the Dockers defenders to slot the first goal of the game. Meanwhile Ebony Antonio was absolutely everywhere, winning the ball, moving into space and setting up teammates.
Adelaide continued its form of controlling territory thanks to intercepts that it has employed all season. Led by captain Chelsea Randall with 12 including an incredible mark back with the flight of the ball. It was former forward Chelsea Biddell who played the supporting role in that respect with seven intercepts from ten disposals. The Crows’ defensive structure was just too much for Fremantle to break through and score against consistently.
While their intercept game is something we’ve seen a lot of this year, winning centre clearances have not been a feature of the Crows’ game, but in the preliminary final they found real strength in the middle, breaking away and quickly getting the ball forward to keep the Dockers’ defenders on their toes. Much of this was driven by Caitlin Gould in the ruck and the powerful Anne Hatchard, and it really got the game on Adelaide’s terms early.
Not for the first time this year, Fremantle captain Hayley Miller did everything she could to will her side over the line. In her 50th game Miller won a career-high 26 disposals, five clearances and laid five tackles. An inspired idea but not quite enough was also Emma O’Driscoll’s move into the forward line in the final quarter. Late last year O’Driscoll got a run in attack but failed to convert her shot on goal. On Saturday, however, she took her shot and kicked the first goal of her career in her 25th game.
Adelaide’s win sets up an historic Grand Final, one side vying for its third flag, the other getting its very first shot at glory.