AFLW Grand Final Preview: Adelaide Crows

Adelaide Crows celebrate victory. Credit: Adelaide Crows AFLW

How they got here

The defending premiers (after no premier was crowned in 2020) opened their account with an imposing win over the West Coast Eagles. With this win, the Crows cracked a three-year hoodoo, having never won a match in Round 1 under coach Matthew Clarke.

Missing captain Chelsea Randall early, the Crows were thumped by the Dockers, in a moment that sent a warning to the competition to not forget about the powerhouse that is the Crows when everyone was ignoring them from premiership calculations pre-season.

Two-time league best and fairest Erin Phillips reminded the competition that she has been the most dominant AFLW player in the competition’s history as the Crows overcame the Lions.

After dodging a three-week suspension at the start of the season, Ebony Marinoff led the way from the middle all year. The hard-nosed young midfielder averaged a career high for disposals, adding an extra bit of class to her renowned tackling game.

The Crows would reel off consecutive wins over the Saints and Suns, until another blip came against the Demons as the Crows were restricted to just two goals.

From this point onwards, Adelaide would not drop a single game coming into the grand finals, sealing a spot in the finals with a dominant victory over the Bulldogs, as they wound up with health and wound into form.

The Crows rounded out a strong performance with a dominant win in the finals over the Demons. The forward line stood up strongly, Phillips, Hatchard, Eloise Jones and Chloe Scheer all getting on the scoreboard.

What has been most impressive about the Crows this season is their commitment to team defence. In six of their wins, including over fellow finalists Collingwood and Melbourne, they kept the opposition to two goals or less.

Coming up against a powerful Lions forward group, can they repeat the efforts they’ve shown against some of the best sides in the competition?

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Surprise Packages

Anne Hatchard has, miraculously, taken her game to yet another level, as she has moved into a key role in the midfield. Hatchard has become a key distributor and a cog in the Crows machine that has run over most teams this year.

Ashleigh Woodland had a year off from the competition after 2019, after playing with the Demons and finding herself delisted at the end of the year. After a successful year with North Adelaide in the SANFLW, she joined the Crows in 2021, returning to the top flight with goals and forward pressure, showing off her versatility.

Rachelle Martin has become an integral part of the midfield, and the Crows forward press that has choked teams and created goals from turnovers all season. She’s a diminutive tackler but has been effective, laying tackles and bringing pressure all season.

Best Win

Gold Coast Suns

The Crows almost set AFLW history with a 70-point victory over the Suns, just one point shy of the record score.

Anne Hatchard led the charge as the Crows totally dominated the Suns, in a fashion that showed exactly why the Crows have long been considered perennial favourites in every AFLW season, and have been crowned favourites twice.

The Crows didn’t seem fazed by early injuries to Nikki Gore and Hannah Button, as they moved through the gears of the team’s ability in a thrashing of the young Suns.

Team Challenges

Playing without Chelsea Randall

With Chelsea Randall suffering a concussion early in the preliminary final after a collision with young Dee Eliza McNamara, the Crows rallied behind Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard in the engine room and dominated the Demons in the second half to win the preliminary final.

Randall’s strength and leadership can’t be understated. Her move out of the backline post ACL-recovery has been one which has likely extended her career, kicking six goals as a full-time forward in 2021.

The strength from that win will be required again with Randall missing the Grand Final due to the new concussion protocol introduced this season.

Erin Phillips waves to the Norwood Oval crowd. Credit: Adelaide Crows AFLW

Grand Final Preview

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About Daniel Coppel 59 Articles
Daniel is a full time lawyer, and part time contributor. He is an avid sports fan of just about all sports, and is always up to find out about new sports. He covers sports for the Sanctum from Sydney, including AFL, netball and cycling, and is part of the Olympics coverage. He has a particular focus in empowerment of sporting leaders off field, and highlighting off field contributions of athletes

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