Five years ago, on February 4, 2017, Thebarton Oval played host to the first South Australian AFLW game. And though we’ve become used to watching them star week after week, Erin Phillips, Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall were on show on the national stage for the first time.
9,289 people trundled in to watch Crows led by co-captains Phillips and Randall, take on the GWS Giants, led by inaugural captain Amanda Farrugia.
Despite the wet weather, the Adelaide crowd was out in force, and the atmosphere was electric, with the stands sounding as if they were twice as full.
The Crows thrashed the Giants by 36 points. While no one was to know at the time that Adelaide was to be the premier, and GWS the wooden spooner, it was a comprehensive smashing for the ages.
Ahead all day long, all the hallmarks of that inaugural Adelaide side still exist for the most part five years on.
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This game signalled the debut of former Olympic basketballer turned AFLW rookie, Erin Phillips. She had the first of her stunning displays for the Crows, with a three goal haul to announce herself as one to watch.
It was the second highest score by any player that round – lesser only than Carlton’s Darcy Vescio, who kicked four.
That weekend marked a battle that still wages to this day for the league’s leading goalkicking tally, which Phillips overtook against Melbourne last weekend with another three majors.
Another key Crow was Ebony Marinoff, the then freshly drafted teenager getting her first chance to impress the AFLW world with 20 disposals.
Working in tandem with Marinoff was Randall. The other of the two co-captains helped herself to 16 disposals, five tackles and three marks in what is now a trademark game.
They were assisted by ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe, who had 10 first half hit-outs to just one for the Giants. Although on the inactive list for the Crows currently, Metcalfe has been a mainstay of the Crows team through the premiership year of 2017, as well as 2018 and 2021.
Amongst the names on the scoreboard was goal-sneak Kellie Gibson, kicking the first ever major for the Crows in AFLW history.
Deni Varnhagen was hardworking and industrious, running up and down the ground as she has always done for her side, collecting one goal on debut as well as 12 disposals.
One of the best stories to come out of the Crows was undoubtedly that of Sarah Perkins.
She went un-drafted out of the Victorian pool after coming third in the VWFL (Victorian Women’s Football League) leading goal kicking award in 2016 behind Moana Hope, who joined Collingwood from the St Kilda Sharks, and Katie Brennan, who joined the Western Bulldogs from Darebin.
Perkins lost a stunning 40 kilograms to get her fitness to a level to be able to play AFLW, and was recruited by Bec Goddard as a free agent for the Crows.
In her debut she managed only eight disposals, but she impressed with her marking, collecting three marks for the day while also kicking her first AFLW goal.
She quickly became a cult figure with her fantastic story and her long-range kicking, which drew adoration from fans and earned her the ‘Tex’ nicknames. Her kicking style drew comparisons to Taylor Walker of the men’s team, endearing her to the Crows faithful.
Perkins finished second in the goalkicking tally, kicking 11 goals for the 2017 season, including four in the final game against Collingwood.
While it was a dour day for the inaugural Giants, there were still highlights to be found.
Phoebe McWilliams, now playing for Geelong, kicked hers and the club’s first ever AFLW goal, with her goal tally now sitting at 29. She would go on to kick seven for the year, finishing sixth in the tally, equal with Hope.
Of the players that lined up for the Giants, only three remain on the list to this day: Nicola Barr, Rebecca Beeson, and Erin McKinnon.
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