We’ve learned the names and numbers, adopted new heroes and marvelled at the skill, determination and sheer will to win the footy on display in the first season of the NAB AFL Women's competition. Now it's time to crown the premiers.
With everyone having moved on from the early-week drama over a Grand Final venue, the Brisbane Lions and Adelaide are raring to battle it out for premiership glory in the inaugural AFLW Grand Final.
It's first versus second and the best defence in the competition aiming to hold off the best attack.
The Lions have been miserly in defence all season, conceding an average of just 21 points a match. They hunt in packs – Leah Kaslar, Sam Virgo and Kate Lutkins form a wall across the backline, while Kate McCarthy and Jess Wuetschner are ready and waiting to pounce on any mistakes up forward.
The Crows, led by Victorian Sarah Perkins, have the most dangerous forward line in the competition. Erin Phillips, Chelsea Randall and Kellie Gibson are highly skilled and can turn a contest with a single, well-placed kick.
The clubs' meeting in Round Five – a three-point win by the Lions in a tough, bruising affair at Norwood Oval in Adelaide – was one of the best matches of the season.
The stage is set for another great battle.
By the numbers
The Crows top the competition in goals kicked and inside-50s. Led by Sarah Perkins (11 goals) and Erin Phillips (eight), Adelaide is a scoring machine, and gives its forwards plenty of opportunities. The Crows need to be wary of being wasteful once they get the ball forward, especially coming up against the best defence in the competition. Adelaide managed only four goals against the Lions in round five, its second-lowest goal tally for the season. Its lowest effort of two goals was in a rain-soaked, scrappy affair against Carlton in Round Two. But the Crows are in red-hot form, coming off a 10-goal effort in their win over Collingwood.
One of the most dangerous players in the competition. The co-captain is a class above in her disposal and decision-making, and breaks through opposition defences with searing runs from half-back.
One of the favourites for the League best and fairest award, and with good reason. The WNBA and Australian Opals basketballer has made a seamless transition to football and has proven to be a difficult match-up with her strength, agility and marking ability.
The defender from the Northern Territory has become an integral part of Adelaide's backline. Signed as a priority player before the draft, the vice-captain often matches up against the most dangerous half-forward and she adds stability to the defensive set-up.
After leading the competition in the early rounds, Adelaide dropped two games in a row before bouncing back in style last week against Collingwood. The two losses came against Brisbane Lions and Melbourne, which finished the season either side of Adelaide, first and third respectively. Those losses forced the Crows into a must-win situation in their last match, and they answered any questions about their eligibility for the Grand Final in resounding fashion, booting a season-high 10 goals.
From the coach
"When you get an opportunity, why not take it? Why nibble around the edges of mediocrity? We’d prefer to choke on trying to be great. We hoped after that narrow Brisbane loss that we’d get a chance to meet them again, and we’ve done enough to do that." - Bec Goddard
By the numbers
The Brisbane Lions are an anomaly, considering they've been unbeaten despite 'struggling' in some of the key statistical categories often used to assess success. Perhaps we're wrongly looking at the numbers through the lens of men's football, or maybe the Lions just play an unusual style of game. They are second-last in average disposals per match and inside-50s. They also sit bottom of the table in clearances and stoppages, yet won six games and drew another. One of the only areas they come close to leading the competition in is average marks per game – and they're still only third. From this, we can conclude the Lions are both efficient and effective. They don't dominate possession of the ball and don't get inside 50 often, but they control and use the ball well when they have it.
The key position player had some question marks over her fitness leading into the final rounds, but put fears to rest with a solid performance in round seven. Few are able to match her for both size and agility, and she can dictate play both forward and in the ruck.
Surprised many this year with her speed and forward nous. The Lions' leading goalkicker, McCarthy is deadly at ground level and uses her pace to burn opponents off leading into forward 50.
An underrated defender and a barometer for the Lions. The team looks most dangerous when Virgo is involved in the play, either picking off opposition kicks or setting up forward forays through the middle of the ground.
Brisbane was easily the best team of the home and away season, seeing off its first six challengers and drawing with Carlton. Its best win of the season came in round five against the Crows in Adelaide. The Lions came up against the undefeated Crows and overcame a half-time deficit to win by three points. Their biggest win was a 34-point thumping of Greater Western Sydney in Round Four, when they posted their highest score (43 points).
From the coach
"Adelaide probably play a similar style to us … they are no-fuss in how they get the ball forward and they like it in close … they're a highly respected opponent, we had a great clash with them a couple of weeks ago, and anyone who has watched AFLW will be in for a bit of a treat. It's going to be a tough game." - Craig Starcevich