(Picture: AFLW Website/ Graphic: Will Cuckson)

The Adelaide Crows finished the season on a high, completing the dynasty by winning their third premiership and second under coach Matthew Clarke, The Inner Sanctum looks at how the year played out.

The Adelaide Crows finished the season on a high, completing the dynasty by winning their third premiership and second under coach Matthew Clarke.

Finishing position: 1st (nine wins and one loss)

What worked?

The Adelaide Crows showed that their class and skill extend beyond the names that the AFLW team has been known for. The youth came through for the Adelaide Crows to compliment the likes of Ebony Marinoff, Sarah Allan, Ashleigh Woodland, and Anne Hatchard who were All-Australian squad members.

Both Marinoff and Hatchard were All-Australian midfielders that had phenomenal years for the premiers, both averaging over 24 disposals per game.

Marinoff had an average of four marks and seven tackles per game and Hatchard averaged seven marks and four tackles per game. Marinoff earned her fourth All-Australian with her teammate Hatchard earning her third All-Australian team selection.

The epitome of the quiet achiever, Sarah Allan was immense for the Crows’ backline this season. She averaged 11 disposals a game with two marks and two tackles. It is not evident in her statistics alone the impact that she had because her work is defensive and for her team’s benefit.

She kept the league’s best forwards quiet week on week which meant that the Crows had the best defence and conceded the least amount of points per game.

A key feature was the depth of the Crows’ squad. Having to navigate interruptions due to COVID Health and Safety Protocols and untimely injuries, they had the depth in the squad to top up their AFLW team week after week.

What didn’t?

Not a lot can go wrong when you win a Premiership losing only one game along the way in the regular season. One of the games that didn’t go to plan was the game against the Western Bulldogs at Norwood Oval, the Crows were undefeated until that point and let a luckless yet plucky Bulldogs team steal an unlikely win.

Another game that showed a chink in the armour of the Crows this season was the close win against Collingwood. The Crows let the Magpies get back into the game despite being without their star midfielders Britt Bonnici and Bri Davey as well as Erica Fowler being out with a head knock part way through the game.

The Crows were well in front in the first keeping the Magpies scoreless until the second quarter where they nearly equalled the Crows’ output at halftime. They pushed the Crows all the way and ended up losing by two points including a nearly game-winning performance from Ruby Schleicher for Collingwood.

A feature of the Crows’ games this year was their inaccuracy. Fortunately, it hasn’t cost them games this season, for the most part, however, this was something that kept their opposition in games throughout the season.

They converted at the second-lowest goal kicking accuracy in the league and scored more points than goals on eight occasions.

Two performances that showcase this the most are their wins against GWS and Melbourne during the season. In the game against the Giants, the game was not even close with the Giants only kicking five points for the whole game but the Crows won by forty points despite kicking five goals and 15 behinds, blowing the opportunity for a big percentage booster.

Another example of this was the regular round game against the Demons where the Crows ran out winners by 14 points. The result looks like it was another close game whereas the Crows had at least 15 shots on goal to Melbourne’s six however they kicked 4.11 to Melbourne’s 3.3.

Who impressed?

Two of the underrated players that were some of the best players of this season for the Crows were Montana McKinnon and Chelsea Biddell.

Playing as the predominant ruck for the Adelaide Crows, McKinnon took her opportunity this season without Rhiannon Metcalfe. She featured in every game in the unbeaten start to the season for the Crows showing strong form despite having not played at the level since 2020.

Her ruck work played an important role in providing their midfield with first use of the footy, which was coupled with her around the ground marking.

Her best performance of the season was the 39-point win against Carlton and the game in which she received her Rising Star nomination. She had 12 disposals, 12 hitouts, seven marks, and two tackles.

Chelsea Biddell, the former forward became a classy defender to break into the Crows team. She played all 12 games this season and was an important player in the Crows’ steely backline. Biddell recorded the most rebounds and second most intercepts for the club this season.

Teah Charlton and Cailtin Gould were also improved from previous seasons, with Abbie Ballard, Zoe Prowse, Brooke Tonon, and Jasmine Simmons making impressive debuts to add to the depth of the Crows.


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Highs and lows

The highest point of the season was the dynasty-making grand final win against the Melbourne Demons. One of the closest grand finals in the AFLW’s short history was made all the sweeter with the Crows getting the win in front of about 20,000 supporters at the Adelaide Oval.

Seven players winning their third premiership and a handful of young Crows’ experiencing their first premiership with the hardships the season brought making the sacrifices worth it.

It was also spoken about as Adelaide’s to win due to the expansion of the league hitting Adelaide potentially very hard which made this win a fairytale ending to an era.

The lowest point of the season was the loss to the Bulldogs, the Crows lacked intensity from the first bounce and were chasing in the second half to miss out by one point.

They led by 15 points at three-quarter time to hold on despite a late surge by the Crows. The form shown at the beginning of the game was disappointing however their comeback to nearly steal the win was impressive and showed grit.

This loss also halted their unbeaten start to the season with some questioning if the Bulldogs sitting in the lower half of the ladder can beat the Crows, then perhaps the other teams could as well.

This turned out to be the loss they had to have and the Crows never looked back, not losing another game on their way to the Premiership.

Who’s on the move?

The first of the moves to cross-town rival Port Adelaide has occurred with midfielder/forward Erin Phillips, hard-nosed defender Angela Foley, and hard-running winger Justine Mules. It is reported that Caitlin Gould is being pursued by both Port Adelaide and Sydney.

Niamh Kelly from the West Coast Eagles could be a suitable replacement for Mules after requesting a trade to Adelaide with reports that the Crows are interested in luring the Irishwoman to West Lakes.

Depending on the moves that follow, this could be a big factor in Adelaide’s bid to go back to back.

This means that the overall experience of the Crows has lessened, however with a great crop of young South Australians in the under 18s and SANFLW talent to boot, this might be a great time for Adelaide to go back to the well.

What’s next?

In the off-season, the Crows will have to consolidate a new-look side without a few club stalwarts and find new team chemistry. The scheduling of the next season might mean the Crows will have to act quickly to gel as a new unit however with Hatchard and Randall at the head, there is still a lot of experience and leadership in this side.

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