Adelaide will attempt to win their third AFLW premiership in five years without inspirational skipper Chelsea Randall. The Crows progressed to the season finale with an 18-point preliminary final win over Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, but the victory was soured by a head injury to Randall.
The two-time premiership player left the field in the first quarter of the 5.3 (33) to 1.9 (15) win after she collided heavily with Melbourne’s Eliza McNamara, who also took no further part in the contest. The league’s strict protocols dictate Randall must not play for 12 days if she is deemed to have suffered a concussion.
Coach Matthew Clarke was still awaiting a medical update when he spoke to reporters after the match, but conceded Randall will almost certainly miss the April 17 grand final. “We’ll wait and see, but it doesn’t look great,” Clarke said. “We’ll go through the protocols and find out in due course. To lose her early was obviously challenging for the group but they adapted really well. If it plays out that (she is ruled out) then clearly we’re going to miss her, but she has a big presence around the group and I’m sure she’ll be doing everything she can to help.”
The Crows, premiers in 2017 and 2019, will host the grand final at Adelaide Oval next Saturday afternoon after finishing the home-and-away season on top of the ladder. Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard were pivotal for Adelaide with 35 and 27 possessions respectively. The Demons, inspired by Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks, were left to rue missed opportunities.
The in-form visitors, who were shooting for their sixth win in a row, had the upper hand for long periods of the first half but could not take their chances. Adelaide countered well, with Erin Phillips kicking a goal in the first and second terms to give her side a 10-point halftime lead.
A notable increase in intensity from the Crows after the break allowed Chloe Scheer and Hatchard to hit the scoreboard, the home side leading the goalless Demons by 21 points at three-quarter time. Eloise Jones provided a highlight for the home crowd early in the final term with a brilliant tap and soccered goal. Kate Hore booted one back to give Melbourne a glimmer of hope, but it was to be her side’s only goal in their last match of the season.
“We’re incredibly disappointed,” Demons coach Mick Stinear said. “This group definitely wanted to win a premiership, but the key positive is what we’ve built this season. Hopefully we’re back in a preliminary final next year, we’ve learned from today and can earn our way into a grand final.”
Meanwhile, Brisbane have qualified for their third AFLW grand final with a tense four-point win over Collingwood in hot conditions at the Gabba. The lead changed hands several times during Saturday’s hard-fought battle, but it was the resolute Lions who prevailed, winning 7.3 (45) to 6.5 (41).
The Magpies looked to be storming home after a strong third quarter, but final-term goals from Greta Bodey and Dakota Davidson were enough to secure the win for the home team. A captivating battle between Brisbane’s Catherine Svarc (11 disposals, 8 tackles) and star Magpie Bri Davey (23 disposals) was a highlight, as was the forward presence of the Lions’ Davidson (3 goals). Ally Anderson was also strong for the home team with 24 possessions, while Brittany Bonnici (18 disposals) battled well for the visitors.
The Magpies poured on the pressure early in the match, scoring the first two goals in the opening six minutes. Jaimee Lambert hit the scoreboard first with a precision drop punt from tight in the forward pocket, before Ruby Schleicher marked a rushed Lions clearance about 40m out and kicked truly.
The home team hit the scoreboard against the run of play when livewire forward Jessica Wuetschner dribbled through a quick snap with the Lions first inside-50m of the match. The Lions were lucky to be only eight points down at the first break but flicked the switch in the second quarter, increasing their tackling pressure and contested possession numbers to score four straight goals. Davidson provided the spark, scoring two goals and marking strongly to complement goals from Bodey and Orla O’Dwyer.
A goal to Collingwood’s Tarni Brown stemmed the damage, limiting the home team’s lead to 10 points at halftime. The momentum swung back to the Magpies in the third quarter as they scored two unanswered goals to take a two-point lead into the final quarter. The Lions came back strongly, kicking two more goals in the final quarter before Collingwood brought the margin back to within a goal with less than a minute remaining in the last term thanks to a 45-metre bomb from Ashleigh Brazill.
But it was not enough to peg back the Lions, who will now face Adelaide – who earlier beat Melbourne by 18 points in the other preliminary final – in the grand final on Saturday April 17 at Adelaide Oval.