For AFLW superstar Sabreena Duffy, a WAFLW premiership with Peel Thunder, the club that shaped her into the player she is, was one of her dreams.
And that extended beyond a dream, becoming a reality on Sunday as she not only finished with a premiership medallion around her neck, but also the Lou Knitter medal for the best-on-ground performance.
“I’m a bit lost for words at the moment. It’s surreal,” Duffy told media post-game.
“I took the year off last year and the girls got up and won the flag last year, so I wanted to come back to where it all started as a 12-year-old.
“My dream was to win a league premiership so I’m lucky I’ve done it today with my team.
“I hadn’t had a break since I was probably about 13 with all the states trips and then making AFLW, so [I] just needed to have a break.”
Missing out on last year’s flag due to AFLW commitments was a huge driving force for the 21-year-old, pushing her to go above and beyond to help her teammates.
In the second half, the game could’ve belonged to either side. Ultimately, it fell in the Thunder’s favour by 21 points – with Duffy’s grit in the contest and clearance work playing a huge role in their victory.
“That obviously made me quite hungry because I’d won premierships in the youth girls but like as I said, my dream was just to win a league premiership,” she said.
“Steve [Markham] and Mark [Fenton] have been with me and my footy journey since the beginning, so I just wanted to do it for them.
“I saw my pop on the side and he was crying so that brought me down back to Earth a bit and it’s just surreal, and it’s a lot of my teammates’ credit that we’re here.”
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For Duffy, this isn’t the first time she and head coach Steve Markham have experienced a premiership together, winning the Rogers Cup flag in 2016.
He was full of plaudits for the Lou Knitter Medalist, commending her drive and motivation over the years.
“I was an assistant coach when I first came to Peel and won a premiership the first year. It the first premiership I ever won,” Markham said.
“She was the captain that day and from then forward, she’s always said to herself, ‘I want to win a league premiership’.
“Last year she wasn’t allowed or couldn’t come back to us with the AFLW season finishing. We said that grand final, ‘we’ve got to get another one or we’re gonna play next year’.
“Once the season had changed and she [was] allowed to come back, she hasn’t missed a training session and has been really important around the group.
“Got a really special connection, I love her to bits, she’s a quality player and she’s just a superstar.”
With last year’s flag under their belt, Markham believes this “very special” occasion is no coincidence, rather it is a testament to the playing group and their efforts over the seasons.
Peel Thunder personifies the saying ‘the only way is up’ – they weren’t always the powerhouse that they are now in the inaugural WAFLW season. Looking at the back-to-back premiers, you would never have thought they finished last in their first year.
“I said to them in the pre-match, you’re talking about fairytales, and you go from last to first and have an opportunity to go back-to-back, it’s unfathomable really,” Markham said.
“It’s the quality of player and the quality of person that we’ve got at the club now. It really comes from their work rate.
“It’s not a fluke, it’s not good luck in the performance. It’s how much work we put in the day-to-day and all the training sessions they never balk at. They just want to get better all the time.”
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