Looking back at 2022, there were a plethora of great stories in Women’s Sport; maiden premiership wins for the West Coast Fever and Newcastle Knights, AFLW expansion teams completing the competition, Commonwealth Games medals aplenty and the comeback to best all comebacks when Lauren Jackson played in the Women’s Basketball World Cup.
The Inner Sanctum has compiled some of the best moments through Women’s Sport in 2022.
The Crows make it a dynasty
Although it was a whole season ago, the first AFLW season of 2022 brought a third premiership for the most successful and dominant force in the competition, the Adelaide Crows.
Winning their second flag under head coach Matthew Clarke, the Crows had a magnificent season comprised of nine wins and only one loss in Season Six.
The Grand Final took place in front of about 20,000 supporters at Adelaide Oval against an in-form Melbourne Demons who were hell-bent on making their first Grand Final a winner. But it wasn’t meant to be for Daisy Pearce’s Demons, making it a sweet conclusion to what was the pre-expansion Crows side which featured established talent in Erin Phillips, Nikki Gore, Justine Mules and Angela Foley.
AFLW Expansion completed
The final four clubs join the AFLW competition saw four new sets of women set off on their AFLW dream.
As a keen footy fan, and a diehard Sydney Swans supporter, it was always a bit difficult to get truly invested in the AFLW (though I did have a soft spot for the fledging Eagles) but with the Swans arrival, it felt ground-breaking being a supporter of a club who had just got underway.
Essendon, Hawthorn, and Port Adelaide supporters were also able to see their sides on an AFLW pitch for the first time, where the likes of Erin Phillps and Maddy Prespakis suited up for their childhood clubs, and helped their respective sides secure inaugural victories in the AFLW.
For my Swans, it was a bit harder going, with no wins to our name in season one, but there was some young talent that took off like a rocket, no better proven than when Sofia Hurley, Montana Ham and Cynthia Hamilton finished on the podium for the first ever Sydney AFLW club champion, a true indication of how bright the future is for the Swans girls. On to 2023 and season two.
AFLW stars hit 50 games
Season Seven saw a number of superstars in the league reach the 50 game milestone. Having played seasons for 10 or less games (excluding finals) in the last six seasons, the milestone is significant in the women’s game and will hopefully be less monumental as more games are played in the season.
One of the best stories was inaugural Lion Kate Lutkins who reached the milestone coming back from an ACL injury this season.
- Adelaide Crows: Eloise Jones, Anne Hatchard and Marijana Rajcic
- Brisbane: Kate Lutkins and Shannon Campbell
- Carlton: Kerryn Peterson, Gab Pound, Jess Dal Pos, Breeann Moody and Elise O’Dea
- Collingwood: Lauren Brazzale, Steph Chiocci, Sabrina Frederick, Sophie Casey and Ruby Schleicher
- Essendon: Steph Cain and Cat Phillips
- Fremantle: Ebony Antonio
- GWS Giants: Cora Staunton and Alicia Eva
- Hawthorn: Tilly Lucas-Rodd
- Melbourne Demons: Eden Zanker, Daisy Pearce, Sarah Lampard, Lily Mithen, Kate Hore and Lauren Pearce
- North Melbourne: Jenna Bruton, Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney
- Port Adelaide: Erin Phillips, Justine Mules, Gemma Houghton and Angela Foley
- Richmond Tigers: Jess Hosking, Sarah Hosking and Monique Conti
- West Coast Eagles: Belinda Smith
- Western Bulldogs: Kirsty Lamb, Richelle Cranston and Naomi Ferres
Melbourne win their maiden premiership
Season Seven marked the first time a men’s and women’s side from the same club have won the premiership at AFL/AFLW level. Melbourne created history on this day again when they won Melbourne’s first premiership and became the fourth different side to win one (Adelaide, Brisbane and Western Bulldogs).
Packed with a stellar midfield rotation that featured Eliza West, Karen Paxman, Lily Mithen, Tyla Hanks and Olivia Purcell as well as ruck duo Lauren Pearce and Tayla Harris, it was no fluke that they were one of the highly fancied sides to take the honours pre-season.
Not to be overshadowed were the performances of Alyssa Bannan and Kate Hore down forward and Libby Birch, Maddi Gay, Shelley Heath and Tahlia Gillard, who had been immense in the backline throughout the season. With this win Melbourne finally got the duck off their back after coming so close to the Crows in Season Six.
Sam Kerr seals the Premiership for Chelsea
Chelsea went into the game seemingly destined to win the FA WSL premiership. Manchester United had other plans. Chelsea had to win but were a goal down in the second half. Enter Sam Kerr.
The Matilda’s striker struck two of the best goals of her career when it mattered most. The first was a stunning left-foot volley from 18 yards. The second off her right, and over her shoulder from further out to seal the result.
Chelsea were Premiers for the third consecutive time, and as has often been the case, Sam Kerr was spectacularly decisive.
The Matildas return to Melbourne and beat Sweden
As a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Matildas found it nearly impossible to play games on home soil. With travel restrictions lifting, Melbourne hosted its first Matildas game since 2019 in November against Sweden.
Coach Tony Gustavsson entered the game with many question marks over his head and with a World Cup approaching, Australia faced a tough test against one of the strongest side’s in World Football.
After taking some time to get comfortable, the Matildas made a huge statement defeating Sweden 4-0 which shapes up to be a really important morale boost for a side that has struggled for consistency in the past two years.
Western United join the A-League Women
The arrival of Western United was an important moment in Australian women’s football. It meant the much-needed expansion of the league, a longer season and new opportunities for players to play professional football.
It was the result of a long-term project in partnership with Calder United FC. The core of the new club was formed throughout the last two years, and after adding some stardust to their lineup, they were ready to take the field.
2022 ends with Western United being in the championship conversation. They have robust and growing support, and have made an impact on and off the field.
- ‘I love those moments’: Wellington relished last over pressure to take the Strikers back-to-back
- Warner backed in for start of farewell tour
- Strikers keen to meet the challenge of the hot hot Heat in WBBL final
- No-brainer: David Warner’s replacement should be a given
- Brisbane aiming for top spot in Suncorp clash
Diamonds win Australia’s 1000th gold medal in Commonwealth Games tally
After the heartbreak in the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, the Diamonds sealed the 1000th gold medal for Australia over Jamaica.
After being challenged for the majority of the first half in the final, the Diamonds lifted their defensive pressure, which was the turning point of the game.
Whilst the Australian defensive and mid-court lifted a notch, the attack end of Gretel Bueta and Cara Koenen went up another notch, being accurate under the post and dreading the ship for the Diamonds.
In the last quarter, the Diamonds kept composed and treasured possession to seal Australia’s 1000th gold in Commonwealth Games history.
Donnell Wallam becomes the third ever Indigenous netballer to make her debut for the Diamonds
History was made on the 26th of October when Noongar women Donnell Wallam ran out onto the court during the 10 minute mark of the final quarter in the Diamonds first test match against England, becoming Diamond 189. What followed her injection onto the court will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in Australian Netball.
In the final moments of the game when scores were level, the ball came into Wallam’s hands just inside the goal circle with under five seconds to play and with the defender out of her way, she was able to do a lay up which saw the Western Australian sink the shot, winning the match for the Diamonds.
West Coast Fever win maiden Super Netball title
Since the league’s inception in 2017, the West Coast Fever had been in three losing Grand Finals with the most recent being at the hands of the Melbourne Vixens back in 2020 at Nissan Arena.
2022 was the beginning of a new era for the Club with now Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich having finished her tenure at the club the season prior with Dan Ryan coming in and taking the top job at the Fever.
The Grand final was played in front of a packed out RAC Arena with the stands filled with Green as the Fever took on the Melbourne Vixens in what was a 2020 Grand Final rematch. The Fever got out to a handy lead and never looked back, with Jess Anstiss shutting down Vixens star Liz Watson, seeing the Vixens unable to get on a roll no matter what the visitors threw at the Fever.
Jhaniele Fowler was solid under the post while goal attack Sasha Glasgow was named player of the match while Courtney Bruce was solid in defence. With the game being the perfect send off to retiring star Stacey Francis-Bayman, as well as the clubs first ever premiership in its 25 years.
Stephanie Gilmore puts her name in the history books with world title win
It was a brilliant win that capped off a turbulent year for the Australian, heading into the WSL finals day in fifth place, Gilmore brushed off the underdog label to win five-straight heats. The 34-year-old eventually booked a spot into the final against American Carissa Moore.
Gilmore defeated the five-time champion two heats to nil during the finals to claim her eighth world title. Prior to the win, Gilmore last won a title in 2018. The historic win at Lower Trestles saw the Australian becoming the greatest female surfer of all-time. It saw Gilmore break the previous record of seven titles held by another Australian Layne Beachley.
Newcastle Knights win their maiden premiership
After finishing winless in their inaugural NRLW season in 2021, the Knights recruited heavily through the off-season to build a team of local talent.
Their new-look squad made a complete turnaround as they only suffered one loss on their way to the Grand Final at Accor stadium. In front of 42,000 fans, they cruised past the Parramatta to win 32-12 and complete their fairytale second season.
They were led by 17-year-old Jesse Southwell, who won gold representing Australia in Rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games just months before the season. She won the Knights’ player of the year award in a tie as well as the League’s Rookie of the Year award.
The Knights brought hope back to the blue-collar city who hadn’t seen silverware of any kind since 2001, and it was shown by the sea of people awaiting their arrival in the town centre after the Grand Final.
Ashleigh Gardner becomes the first Indigenous winner of the Belinda Clark Award
Earlier this year proud Muruwari woman Ashleigh Gardner became the first ever Indigenous winner of the Belinda Clark Medal. The award recognises the best female international cricketer across all formats and by winning such an award, Gardner hoped it has inspired prospective First Nations cricketers to play the sport.
Struggling with her form in the WBBL|07 prior to the award, Gardner showed immense resolve to continue to build resilience and come back with the form she’s known for as showcased on the world stage and WBBL|08.
The Australian Women’s Cricket Team adds another trophy to the cabinet
With the flurry of medals that came on ‘that’ night in Birmingham which included the Diamond’s gold, the Australian Women’s Cricket Team became the first to win the T20 Cricket gold medal in a Commonwealth Games.
As is the case with each major tournament, it was the Indian team that won its way through to play the highly-favoured Aussies in the final game of the games.
As is usually the case, it was the big performance of Beth Mooney (61 off 41 balls) accompanied by Meg Lanning (25 from 15) and Rachael Haynes (18 not out from 10 balls) that saw the Australians tally 161 runs.
With the Indians looking set to chase down the total with Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur’s partnership lasting 96 runs from 71 balls, the Australians really dug in. Megan Schutt and Ash Gardner did the damage with the ball to bring the Australians the last trophy they had been seeking.
Rachael Haynes retires
After 167 games for her country, it was the career and achievements of veteran batter Rachael Haynes that are to be celebrated after her retirement after WBBL|08.
Making her Australian debut in England at Lord’s in 2009 during an ODI, she took to international cricket like a duck to water. A few days later she scored 98 on her test debut at Worcester which was part of the 3,818 runs that she would make for her country.
Not only has she been a consistent and prolific run-scorer for the Australian side as well as Victoria, the NSW Breakers and Sydney Thunder but she has added leadership and captaincy to her list of accolades, helping to develop some of the best young talent in Ashleigh Gardner, Phoebe Litchfield and Hannah Darlington more recently.
Eleanor Patterson becomes a World Champion
The 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist was back in the spotlight once again this year. After stepping away from the high jump arena in 2018, she became the 10th Australian World Champion in athletics history, 12 months after returning to the sport.
After setting a new Oceania indoor high jump record in March, jumping 2.00m she set her sights on the World Championships in July. In front of a packed crowd in Eugene, United States she had a tournament to remember.
Patterson jumped over the bar which sat at 2.02 to set a personal best and earn herself the gold medal. Heading into 2023, she will be looking to earn another gold with the 2024 Paris Olympics closing in.
Speaking on her performance, Patterson still can’t believe she became one of only ten Australian athletes to earn gold in the World Championships.
“I feel like this has been such a pivotal moment in my career. Who would have thought that me sitting on that couch in 2018 I would be sitting in this spot right now,” she said.
“If you told me that I would not believe you. I still don’t believe you, I still don’t believe what happened!.”
Ethan Lee Chalk
Jakara Anthony wins gold
Less than 11 months ago, Jakara Anthony reached her lifelong dream of competing in the Winter Olympics. The freestyle skier could not have predicted what happened next. The 24-year-old barrelled down the course, in a tremendous display nailing backflip after backflip to earn the gold medal.
Not only was she the lone Aussie to claim gold at the 2022 Winter Olympics, but it was Australia’s first gold medal at the games since 2010. Straight after the performance that landed her a medal, Anthony spoke to the media still astounded by her victory
“I’m just over the moon. I think I’m still waiting for it to hit me a bit but I’m so, so happy and proud of what I was able to achieve,” she said.
“It’s pretty mind-blowing.”
Continuing on from the Olympics, Anthony claimed the Moguls World Cup and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia later in the year.
Ethan Lee Chalk
A legend returns – Lauren Jackson’s comeback to the international stage
The return of Australia’s greatest basketball player is up there with one of the best sporting moments of 2022.
After retiring in 2016 due to injury, Lauren Jackson never got the chance to have a real farewell tour. But at the age of 40, Jackson returned to the sport she loved, signing with the hometown team the Albury-Wodonga Bandits in the NBL1 East competition, just to continue having fun playing the game she previously dominated.
It was like she never left, as the Basketball Hall of Famer started the NBL1 season on fire and with a home FIBA Women’s World Cup on the horizon, Australian basketball fans started to dream and ask ‘could the ‘GOAT’ make the Opals roster for the World Cup?’
As the NBL1 East season continued, Jackson continued to dominate and the possibility of that proposition actually happening looked very likely. The legend of Australian basketball averaged 31.9 points and 12.6 rebounds which was enough for Opals head coach Sandy Brondello to decide that Jackson could help the Opals on their quest for gold at the World Cup.
After nine years Jackson finally returned to international basketball and it was a moment for all Australian basketball fans to celebrate.
Although Jackson didn’t play a massive amount of minutes throughout the tournament – which fans understood – her years of experience proved valuable for her Opals’ teammates. When Jackson was on the floor, you knew something was going to happen and it did hitting several big shots to keep the momentum with Australia.
The best part of the World Cup was the bronze medal game, Jackson’s final game as an Opal.
With everything on the line, Jackson produced a moment that many fans will never forget, not only did she help the Opals win the bronze medal but she scored 30 points.
Opals bounce back from Olympics with World Cup Bronze
With Australia being the host nation of the 2022 FIBA women’s world cup, big things were expected from the locals. Add a disappointing Tokyo Olympics campaign and a tough draw to the mix, many people weren’t sure what to expect from the team.
Lauren Jackson’s return was a leadership boost for the squad although there was speculation as to how many minutes she would play each game. Jackson’s experience and leadership would see her become a vital piece on and off the court throughout the tournament.
The opening match between France was a rough start for the Opals who shot poorly and struggled with the defensive pressure from the French. Big performances by Gabby Williams and Marine Fathoux saw the French come away 13 point winners and questions were being raised about the Opals.
After the disappointing loss, the Opals bounced back in game 2 against a tough opponent in Serbia. This performance showed the grit and determination of the squad, but an injury to star Bec Allen late in the game sent shockwaves through the squad.
From here the Opals changed up their starting five to accompany the loss of Allen, and Jackson would see more time on court. Veterans Cayla George and Sami Whitcomb stood tall, while fresh faced Kristy Wallace announced herself with her aggressive defence.
The Opals would go on and win 5 straight games in the tournament including a nail biter against Canada which filled the team and Australian fans with confidence. It was a breakout game for Ezi Magbegor who had been quiet in the early stages of the tournament where she would have 16 points, seven rebounds and 5 blocks. This team that Australia loves was winning the country’s heart again with their never say die attitude.
In the Semi Final it was a do or die match for Sandy Brondello and the Opals against tournament favourites China. Poor shooting accuracy again let the Opals down but they went to toe with China until the dying seconds where the visitors would win the game on the foul line by just two points. The loss set the Aussies up for another match against Canada for what would be Lauren Jackson’s last game in the green and gold.
The game against Canada was everything we love about the Opals, from the tip off the game was theirs to lose. In a stadium packed full of Aussie fans, the Opals turned it on for the final game. They shot the ball with ease, ran rotations well and kept the pressure on Canada until the final seconds. It was a full team performance where everyone made their mark and had an impact, none more so than Lauren Jackson. It was a fairytale finish for the superstar with commentators and fans alike tearing up in the final minutes watching her and the team walk away winners with a 30 point demolition of the Canadians on home soil and redeeming themselves after the 2020 Olympics.
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