The Adelaide Crows are building to avenge their grand final loss. (Photo: Adelaide Crows AFLW/Twitter)

Adelaide Crows forward Ashleigh Woodland says a tough pre-season has set her side up for a 'special season', evidenced by a dominant first-up win.

A tough pre-season regimen already seems to be reaping benefits for the Adelaide Crows, after they ran over the top of premiers Brisbane in their AFLW season opener.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the Crows had a point to prove after going down to the Lions in last year’s grand final. The only multiple premiership winning side in the league is looking to add another to the trophy cabinet.

Perhaps it is the urgency of one final season as South Australia’s sole resident, with the Port Adelaide war-horns growing louder in the distance. Or maybe the group is sensing that it may be their last chance for a while, with stars beginning to age out.

With Erin Phillips at 36, Ange Foley 33, Marijana Rajcic 32, Chelsea Randall 30, Rhi Metcalfe 30 and on the inactive list, the time is now for the veterans to look to their proteges.

That harsh pre-season has put them in the best position to do so and put on more performances across the whole group like on Sunday, believes forward Ashleigh Woodland.

“It was probably the hardest pre-season [we’ve] ever done. The workrate and the kilometres we’ve been doing, it’s the fittest we’ve ever been,” she told media on Monday.

“Jordy [Jordan Sellar] in our high performance team… [gave us] higher training loads in drills, and as soon as we hit the kilometres training wasn’t over, we wanted to do more running. We wanted to do more.”

Part of that drive comes from watching the rest of the competition improve around them.

With the likes of Georgie Prespakis at Geelong, Mia King at North Melbourne, and Tarni White at St Kilda impressing across the weekend, Woodland doesn’t want the more experienced Crows list to be left behind.

“We wanted to take it to the next level. The competition keeps getting higher and higher,” she said.

“All these young girls that are coming in from the lower levels, they have been playing with boys since they were younger. With the skills they’ve got and the fitness they’ve got, we want to keep taking our game to another level so we can match them.”

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How that pre-season will treat the Crows as the year goes on remains to be seen, but it’s already becoming clear that the group is even more united than before.

This couldn’t been more obvious in their post-game celebration, singing the song in the middle of Noarlunga Oval, drenching the newbies as is Aussie rules tradition.

“The connection we have this year is amazing. The two girls in the middle, Jas Simmons and Montana McKinnon, it was Mon’s first win with us for three seasons now,” Woodland explained.

“Jas Simmons’ first win, she’s come from basketball and she played amazing. She played in all three [key position] roles that game.

“It’s just a great connection between us this year. Singing that song against the reigning premiers [and getting] our first win on the board, it was really exciting for us.”

McKinnon had already played sporadically for the Crows, playing two games in 2020. With a ruck void that needed to be solved, she rotated through with Caitlin Gould, also spending parts of the game up forward.

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While it may be strange to call her a youngster given she’s played 32 AFLW games since debuting in 2018, 22-year-old Eloise Jones epitomised the Adelaide hard-running style.

She was a constant threat along the wing, delivering the ball inside 50 five times (a team high) and gaining 290 metres (fifth best for the Crows).

“Eloise Jones, she’s an amazing runner. She’ll run, she’ll cover us down back, and then she’ll run up and down the wing all day,” Woodland said.

“Her run really gives us the speed. If we want to switch out to her and she’s got it on the wing, we know we’re going to get it into the forward line.”

Adelaide hosts North Melbourne at Norwood Oval on Sunday, January 16.

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