After missing out on Grand Final selection in 2021, the miraculous turnaround of form coming from a move into the defence has given Chelsea Biddell a second chance.
On Saturday, she will appear in her first AFLW Grand Final lining up for the chance to clinch Adelaide’s third premiership.
The Inner Sanctum spoke exclusively to Sarah Allan, a decorated defender for the Adelaide Crows AFLW side about Biddell’s development, from a player who knows what it takes and has won two premierships herself.
Biddell played 10 games in her first two seasons (2020 and 2021) as a forward for the Crows.
She averaged five disposals and never solidified her spot as a forward in Adelaide’s forward line, which has boasted talent like Ashleigh Woodland, Erin Phillips, Danielle Ponter and Chloe Scheer.
After talking to Matthew Clarke about breaking into the team, she was moved to the defensive group over the off-season to see if Biddell could give AFLW a go for real in 2022.
With the team, holding opposition teams to a league best 18.4 points per game, the defensive unit was arguably the best in the competition, of which, Biddell was a large part of the growth and development within it.
She has utilised her strong marking ability, natural fitness and positive mindset as well as her football IQ to her advantage. Biddell has played as a forward and played well at SANFLW level, so she knew what to expect at the AFLW level.
“It’s been amazing having her (Biddell) down there, to have another tall down there as well down in defence, doing what we like to call that ‘boss type role’, just to have her there and her aerial ability is so good,” Allan said.
“To have her there taking marks for us and in defence has been for us has been awesome and I’m just really excited for the season she’s had and excited for what she’s going to bring on grand final day.”
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When looking ahead to the game, Allan reflected on whether the Crows will opt to focus on themselves or combat their opposition.
The Demons have been one of the best attacking sides of the competition, chalking up the biggest score of the 2022 season against a ravaged Fremantle side.
The Melbourne forward line is a very potent one, including the now three-time grand finalist Tayla Harris, Kate Hore, Daisy Pearce, Alyssa Bannon and Eden Zanker.
With arguably the best attacking and best defensive sides matching up on the last game in the women’s competition it makes for a mouth-watering prospect.
“Obviously they are a very talented team, so it’s going to be quite a hard contest, I know the pressure is gonna be up early but I think we’ve really got to play our own game, like we’ve done all season and not worry too much about the opposition,” she said.
“You have to preview the game still and know what players do certain things but still in the back of our minds, we have to bring our own game and respect the opposition.”
Considering the relatively short history of the Adelaide Crows AFLW side and how dominant it has been, the question for this grand final has been in the air.
Do the Crows focus on their finals experience coming up against a team appearing in their first final or do they use the heartache caused by the 2021 lost to the Brisbane Lions to spur them on?
Allan concedes both will play their part in the mindset for the big day.
“You obviously don’t want to think too much about outside things but I think we will all use the motivation of last year, we’ve obviously got a different team and not everyone experienced that,” she said.
“Personally I know I’ll be using that as motivation, obviously you’ve got to get over the line no matter what but it does bring out that other element of motivation of you don’t want to lose another one.”
With 21 days between their final AFLW regular season match against St Kilda and the next game which was the preliminary final against Fremantle, supporters of the Crows were worried about the lack of match fitness that their team would have.
After a good showing in the preliminary final, Allan was sure the match against the Dockers was enough to get them ready for the grand final on Saturday.
“I think having the extra week off, after the game, it was a very hard contest, it really hit your body hard and I think it was really good preparation for our next game and obviously it was such a high pressure game against Freo,” she said.
“They never stopped coming at us and we just had to keep going so I think it was a great contest in preparation for the grand final, it was a pretty full on day.
“After that we’ve just got to focus and we will review the Freo game and fully focus on the grand final ahead.”
Apart from making the grand final and an All-Australian team selection, a highlight in Allan’s season overall was her experience as captain.
Having Chelsea Randall out during the middle portion of the season allowed the young defender to step up her leadership on gameday and be a driving force on the track.
However, Allan concedes that not only do the Crows need Randall back for her courageous acts on field but for her leadership as a captain. She has demonstrated phenomenal resilience and continuous fight to continue to be one of the most loved figures of the club as a whole.
“It’s awesome to have her (Randall) back, especially for a game like this, I think off the back of the Freo game she was amazing and set the scene from the start and with that tackle in the first quarter,” she said.
“I think to have her in against such an awesome forward line is going to be really important for us but obviously we see ourselves as such a defensive unit and we all work together but having her back definitely is great to have.
“Unfortunately with having Chelsea out, I was able to step into that on field leadership role, obviously she was still at the club, off the field but it was more stepping up on field, stepping into that role that needed to be filled.
“We have so many amazing leaders at this club, it was really to do that on field leadership but everyone around me supported me as well.
“It was a great experience but I’m glad to have her back for finals and captaining those.”
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