Tears of joy mixed with tears of sorrow as the Adelaide Crows claimed their second AFLW Premiership in three years.
With stars across every line, the Crows were too much for the Blues, despite Carlton making an early move and looking as though they were there to cause a major boilover. The game was marred by knee injuries to Chloe Scheer and Erin Phillips, with the later eliciting an audible groan from those in attendance who were ready to start celebrating.
It gave the event a strange, sombre feeling at a time when the Crows had already put the result of the game on ice. The league’s best player was down, and possibly out. People had spoken already about whether this would be her last game of AFLW footy, and with her knee buckling under her, those voices will get louder.
Personally, I think she’ll be back – she has a crown to defend, and as new contenders emerge every year, the best player in the game has a lot left to offer.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of the Adelaide Crows’ premiership triumph over Carlton.
I know that Erin Phillips walked away with best on ground honours, but if we’re handing out awards here at The Mongrel, Jones was the clear best on ground.
I’m not going to go back and watch it again, but looking at my notes, the Crows had ten goals for the game, and Jones played a part in plenty of them. Before I get into how critical she was, I want to give a bit of history.
I watched Jones in her first outing for the Crows this season – she looked lost. She gave away free kicks and couldn’t get hands on the ball. I thought she was close to, if not the worst player on the ground. I looked her up like a dirty stalker, and found she was only 19 years old. It gave me pause to think that she’ll need time to adjust.
Well, she didn’t need that much time, did she. Eight games later, here we are with her playing a starring role on Grand Final day. It’s funny – after thinking negatively of her after the first game, I am quite proud to see how far she’s come.
Anyway, back to her score involvements.
1 – First quarter. She took a cracking overhead mark between centre and half forward to feed Philips inside 50. Phillips went to the goal square and Considine roved the ball to goal.
2 – First quarter. Direct goal assist to Hanna Martin for goal after taking the half-volley cleanly and dishing off to the running player.
3 – Second quarter. Another overhead mark in the middle, and she hands to Phillips who goes long. Stevie-Lee Thompson runs onto it for an open goal.
4 – Second quarter. EJ’s second direct goal assist comes after handball… to herself, collecting it and kicking to the goal square where Danielle Ponter kicks one of her three goals.
5 – Second quarter. Another direct goal assist as EJ receives from Anne Hatchard and goes long to the hard running Danielle Ponter for another goal. This capped off an end-to-end sequence by the Crows, who by this stage were blowing the Blues off the park.
6 – Second quarter. Goal to EJ after the siren to give her six involvements in goals for the half.
Pretty convincing stuff, huh?
I like the women’s game, but it can be a little scrappy at times. Not with Jones – she can flat out play, and on a day where Erin Phillips got a huge amount of attention, EJ’s contribution to this win should not at all be discounted. Best on, I reckon.
No player made the leap that Hatchard made this year – it was startling.
She went from eight touches per game in 2018 to over 18 a game this season, and then raised her game again in the biggest game of all, collecting a game-high 24 disposals and laying six tackles.
Hatchard’s fitness improved out of sight as she got serious about her football, and the Adelaide Crows have benefitted greatly from her commitment. Her midfield combination with Phillips and Eb Marinoff was easily the best of the year, and so much of that was down to the level Hatchard was able to play at.
She had a massive second quarter, and her stints in the ruck reminded me very much of the impact Brodie Grundy has at Collingwood, inasmuch as she becomes an additional midfielder once the ball hits the deck. She is definitely a favourite at Mongrel HQ.
Thrust into the number one ruck slot, Foley got better as the game went on, finishing with 18 touches and a game-high six marks.
She often found herself in the right spot as the Blues tried in vain to exit their defensive half, and cut off many a Carlton retreat to start another Crows attack.
This Adelaide team is packed with stars, and Jess Foley can count herself as one of them.
Look, she could’ve got three touches and I would’ve added her in here because I love a player with a bit of Mongrel in them, and Marinoff is an absolute mongrel around the footy! I mean that in the most complimentary way possible, by the way.
I loved seeing her and Bri Davey going head to head, as it was a true clash of two of the league’s best contested ball winners. Davey was really up against it – having to contend with both Marinoff and Phillips at stoppages. It was a case of “if the left one don’t get ya, the right one will”, and she was lacking the help she’d usually receive from Maddy Prespakis, who was a little down on the day. In fairness, so much was expected of her and she has delivered all season.
Marinoff led the game in tackles, as you’d expect. Whilst nowhere near her record-smashing numbers, her seven tackles made sure the Blues mids were going nowhere fast.
If there is one woman who looks like she is likely to take a legitimate hanger, it’s Randall. She reads the ball beautifully in the air and is a real springboard off half back for the Crows.
You can tell she is a natural leader by the way she carries herself, but also by the way she got over to Chloe Scheer after she was injured. As she was being helped off, it was Randall who ran over and consoled her. You could see she was letting her know that the team was going to do this for Scheer.
And do it, they did.
She’s in the side to kick goals, and that’s exactly what she did – three of them to lead all players. I reckon she may just owe Eloise Jones a dinner for a couple of those deliveries, though.
Ponter, part of the famous Rioli-Long clan, demonstrated that famous goal-nous and looks like a naturally talented footballer. Surprise, surprise coming from that family, huh? She got to the right spots, and when the opportunity arose, she capitalised. That’s what good forwards do.
CHLOE SCHEER’S MARK
So, part of trolls’ criticisms about AFLW is that it lacks genuine highlights, and look, to be honest there’s a little bit of merit in their statements if they’re going to use the men’s game as the comparison – to deny it would be a bit rich.
However, nobody told Chloe Scheer that, as she got a bit of a ride and took a great mark in the second quarter. Sadly, she would be helped from the ground not long after it as he knee buckled underneath her.
We wish her all the best in her recovery, and hope she’s back jumping on people’s backs soon.
She fought it out to the end, as a captain should, but without serious help in the middle, she was really fighting a losing battle against the three-headed monster of Phillips/Hatchard and Marinoff.
She finished with 21 touches, which was a team-high for the Blues.
And so, inevitably, we come to Phillips.
On the whole, Erin is head and shoulders above the competition in AFLW. She looks like a supreme athlete and the evidence of countless hours working on her fitness is apparent in both her physical conditioning, and her ability to win her own ball.
She had three centre clearances in the first quarter alone as she stamped her authority on the contest, and went about her business of being the most dangerous player on the park, irrespective of where she played.
There was a little ripple of uncertainty early in the game as she gave away a 50 metre penalty which got the Blues off to a flyer, but she soon composed herself and started to have her way.
I don’t think I am going to write anything here that I haven’t written before – check out our article on Phillips from a couple of weeks ago that basically stated she was going to be adjudged best for the season.
I’d hate to think this is the last we see of Phillips at the highest level, but if it is, either the best and fairest award for the league, or the best on ground award in the grand final should become the Erin Phillips medal in the very near future.
TAYLA HARRIS’ INJURY
If there was one other player who could rival Erin Phillips for notoriety in the league, it’d probably be Tayla Harris.
Sadly, we didn’t get to see that iconic kick recreated, as a leg injury continually sent Harris to the bench for long stints. Make no mistake – she is not in this category because she played poorly; the bad in this situation is that we were unable to see a genuine star of the game perform on the biggest day of the year due to injury.
Her efforts in the prelim were so good, our team had her in the AFL men’s team of the week at centre half forward.
It was a shame she couldn’t get a clean run at it in this game – she deserved better.
The game was over by half time, with a 40 point lead signalling that it was party time in Adelaide. Of course, that would be mitigated by the injury to Phillips, but the feeling was that the game was well and truly over.
As great a spectacle as the 50k Adelaide crowd was, a close contest would’ve made it all the better.
Nothing dulls the glow of a premiership like players suffering knee injuries. The Crows had a double-whammy in Phillips and Scheer, and whilst I am sure that fans and players will trade off a couple of injuries for a flag, you just hate seeing good players suffer injuries.
Scheer, Phillips and Harris were all impacted by injury – it was probably the only real lowlight on the day.
Watching the women, it is important to look at a few players who are there to play specific roles. I know a lot of people I talk to concentrate only on the big ball winners, and so on, but there are so many roles in a team that are worthy of praise.
Whether that is the dour defender (Sarah Allen, Kerryn Harrington), the hard runners that spread the defence and make contest after contest (Justine Mules, Georgie Gee), or those high half forwards that make leads that they know will be ignored in order to draw the defence away from the stars (Hannah Martin, Gab Pound), everyone plays a role.
If you look for negatives in someone’s game, you’ll find them, but if you don’t even know what their role is, the problem is actually yours.
You know what – I want to add this before I finish. AFLW cops some crap off people, but if you want context for what these women sacrifice, watch the medal presentations after the game.
Players are going up to receive their awards, and as they’re walking (or in some cases, being carried) up to get their medals, Fox commentator, Jason Bennett gave each a little bio.
When the men receive their awards after the AFL grand final, you don’t hear about their other jobs. You don’t hear about them giving up scholarships or working night shift in order to play footy.
But that’s where female footy is at, at the highest level in Australia. These women are not full-time athletes… yet. They’re paramedics who couldn’t get enough leave to stay and play in Melbourne, they’re uni students who have to work part time jobs on the side, and they’re people playing because they love it who have to go to work at night to continue the dream of playing this sport.
Other sites may use this as ammunition as to why AFLW falls short of AFL. Those places can get stuffed. Women who are giving up so much to play at this level deserve all the respect in the world.
Great stuff, ladies.
Congrats to the Crows, but well done to the Blues, who rallied from a horrible start to the year.
To fans of AFLW in general, look for expanded coverage from The Mongrel later this year. Hope you enjoyed.