04/03/2024

The Adelaide Crows after their preliminary finals defeat at the hands of the Brisbane Lions (Picture: Adelaide Crows AFLW/Twitter)

Considering the top-tier talent that the Adelaide Crows AFLW side possesses, it is a scary thought to consider what top-end South Australian talent could do to top up their list. Adding to the young players showing that they belong at the level, Crows Head of Women’s Football Phil Harper vows they’ve got more in the pipeline at West Lakes.

With the usual suspects dominating the end of season awards for the Crows, it’s easy to forget that a majority of the list is under 25-years-old with much of the talent under 25 games in AFLW experience.

Starting to show their wares at the level, Madison Newman, Chelsea Biddell, Zoe Prowse, Hannah Munyard, Montana McKinnon, Teah Charlton, Abbie Ballard and Kiera Mueller have all slotted in and announced themselves to the competition outside of their Crows faithful. This adds to the bounty of talent under 25-years-old that includes Anne Hatchard, Ebony Marinoff, Danielle Ponter and Caitlin Gould.

Phil Harper spoke exclusively with The Inner Sanctum after the preliminary final loss to the Lions where it was the hardened and quicker bodies of the Lions that got them over the line against the reigning premiers. He speaks about their list strategy moving forward with a consideration for the players still to truly blossom at the level.

“I was probably the most pleased with some of the younger players like Kiera Mueller [and] Zoe Prowse,” Harper told The Inner Sanctum.

“We’ve got a really young list, I think we’ve got 22 players who are under the age of 25 so that might suggest that we are still around the place for a little while yet.”

“Those young ones are coming on and there are a few more in the pipeline so that’s all you have to do is to keep rejuvenating the list and bringing the young ones in and giving them a go.”

He contrasts the Crows’ current list with Brisbane’s, who lost established talent in 2020 but have drafted and recruited well enough to see them looking like one of the best sides in the league currently.

“Hats off to Brisbane, they lost a lot of players back in the first expansion but yet they seem to be able to bob up with these unbelievably good young players who are really athletic and who can seriously run so that’s testing us out a bit and we will have to try and match that.”

Harper continued to speak about the players that have played the best throughout the season with three key players in his thoughts.

“Chelsea [did but she] missed a few games but Anne Hatchard had a very good season, Ebony Marinoff had an outstanding season [although] she was carrying a bit of an injury for the last three or four games, not enough to stop her playing so her form tapered off a bit as well which is understandable when you are carrying an injury.”

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Losing to both eventual grand finalists Melbourne and Brisbane during the regular season and the finals series, the Crows looked to be the third best team alongside fellow preliminary finalists North Melbourne. With the preliminary final result beyond doubt at three-quarter-time, Harper reflects on how the club feels about the season and where they sat in the pecking order.

“[The players] are disappointed but in the end when you lose a game like that there’s no doubt that the opposition are the better team,” he said.

“We’ve had an impressive year and we’ve battled away and won some close games but in the end we ended up third on the ladder and that’s about where we deserve to be, that’s what normally happens with footy you normally get what you deserve.”

During the week leading up to the game the Adelaide Football Club endured the loss of former player and premiership Crow Heather Anderson. Playing in their maiden flag in 2017, the hard-nosed midfielder/forward was well-respected amongst the AFLW community and especially by those at the club.

Choosing to don the pink shoelaces and scrunchies as well as the black armbands, the Crows looked to pay tribute to a club legend in a way as big as they could imagine.

“It has been a difficult week, only five of our girls played with Heather [as] she only played the first year [but] once you are in, you are part of the Crows family,” Harper explained.

“When that happens to one of the family, one of the Crows family, it knocks a few people around but especially those who were really close to her in Chelsea Randall and Stevie-Lee Thompson. The whole club [was] rocked for a few days but in the end you’ve got to get on with it and [we] put our best foot forward.”

“The pink laces were based around the fact that Heather Anderson used to wear the pink helmet and the players as a tribute to her went over and above the black armbands and banded together by wearing the pink laces as a tribute to one of the family.”

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