22/04/2024

Melbourne Players on game day. Source: Melbourne Media

The Melbourne Demons have made it through to their first-ever AFLW Grand Final. They've been touted as one of the best teams all year but how will they overcome the might of Adelaide who has got it done twice before on the biggest day?

The Melbourne Demons are one of the stalwarts of the AFLW competition. As one of the original teams in the AFLW, they have come agonizingly close to a Grand Final year after year, with a narrow victory in last week’s preliminary final they have finally made it the biggest game of the year. 

In the offseason, the Demons added one of the biggest names in AFLW to their lineup, Tayla Harris. The signing didn’t come without its criticism, but the Demons knew she had something to offer them that they needed. 

“She’s a great teammate, she’s got a big heart, she’s very selfless and just goes about every week trying to play her role,” Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce told media earlier in the week. 

Daisy Pearce and Tayla Harris on the training track: Source Melbourne Demons Twitter

For Harris it is not her first Grand Final, as a veteran of the league she will suit up for her third Grand Final for as many teams on Saturday.

Despite making it to the Grand Final she has yet to taste success. Her experience though will be invaluable for the team as the majority of her teammates are yet to make it to an appearance in a Grand Final.

“I haven’t won one, even at local footy I’ve been in probably seven [grand finals] and I’ve lost them all. It will give me more drive when you’ve had that disappointment of a losing Grand Final.” Harris told media earlier this week. 

With a forward line consisting of the likes of Daisy Pearce and Kate Hore, the addition of Harris to draw the opposition’s main defender is a vital key to the success of their forward line. It will be a key area to help the Demons get the win over the Crows on Saturday.

When these two teams last met, Adelaide, opted for a rotation of defenders on Harris to lower her influence, the plan was successful and Harris had one of her least influential games of the season. 

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There is another forward-line threat for the Demons in Alyssa Bannan. Bannan has provided some of the best goals of the season this year.

The 19-year-old keeps opposition backlines busy, by providing an option higher upfield for the Demons and using her speed to run with the ball and kick into the forward line for a deep entry or straight for goal herself.

“If I can bring people in the air with me, then I can collect some bodies at the same time and all of a sudden Banno (Alyssa Bannan) bolts down into the goals,” Harris said.

“I want Banno to kick three goals, she celebrates much better than I do, we want to see Banno rev up the crowd the ways she does.” 

Melbourne was touted as premiership favourites in the pre-season, and lived up to the label in its first game of the year, coming out firing against the Western Bulldogs.

The Demons displayed ball movement that we had yet to see in the AFLW competition and it had everyone talking.

Their ability to run the ball end to end and link up was exhilarating to start the season and resulted in a big win over the Dogs that would have been larger if not for inaccuracies in front of goal. It was a pattern that continued for the Demons, as they went on to comfortably defeat their opponents in the next two rounds.

It wasn’t until Round 4 when Melbourne faced the Adelaide Crows, that it had its first big challenge for the season.

The Crows attacked with pressure and were able to hold the Demons scoreless for three quarters, it wasn’t what anyone expected to see.

In the last quarter, the Demons came out looking completely different than they had the rest of the game. They regained the confidence that was lacking early on, and their slick ball movement returned. The result saw Melbourne kick three goals to Adelaide’s one behind in the final term.

Despite the loss, there was a strong lesson in that game for the Demons. Albeit for one quarter, they had figured out a way to undo the Crows’ attack.

“We respect them, and they had the better of us earlier this year. They taught us some valuable lessons, but I feel like we’ve evolved since then,” Daisy Pearce said.

“It is going to take our absolute best, but we don’t fear them.”

The foundations of that last quarter are a key to the Demons getting the win on Saturday, they come into the game knowing that they have the ability to slow down the attack of the Crows.

If Melbourne can do this from the first bounce, it will unsettle Adelaide as it changes its game style. It will allow the Demons to get the game on their terms early and cause an upset for the Crows on their home turf. 

It will be a battle from the first bounce, in the perfect ending to the inaugural AFLW era.

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