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AFLW: How the Grand Final was won

Ashley Bolt  March 27, 2017 4:16 PM

AFLW: Highlights: Lions v Crows The Lions and Crows clash in the AFLW Grand Final
AFLW 2017 Grand Final - Brisbane v Adelaide

The Crows were too strong for the Lions in the 2017 decider

THE CLASSIC phrase 'defence wins premierships' might have to be reconsidered, after the attack-minded Adelaide bombarded the Brisbane Lions’ defence to claim a six-point win in the inaugural NAB AFL Women’s Grand Final.

The Crows dominated the clearances (29-11), with their midfielders enjoying first use of the ball to give their forwards chances.

Adelaide finished the game with 43 inside 50s – the most in a game by a team this season – and the match was played predominantly in the Crows’ forward half. 

Adelaide coach Bec Goddard said the focus for her team was to pressure the Lions’ defence through quick ball movement, limiting the Lions’ ability to flood the backline.

"We were in the biggest fight of our lives against Brisbane," Goddard said. 

"We kept putting it in (to the forward line), but couldn’t quite score. Their defence was unbelievable. 

"We just had to get ball in a little bit longer and stop kicking so shallow."

The Lions’ defence battled valiantly and was able to limit the Crows to just four goals despite the bombardment, picking up 39 rebound 50s along the way. Leah Kaslar was especially important, keeping the competition’s second-leading goalkicker Sarah Perkins goalless.

But by dropping back players to help defend against the Crows’ onslaught, the Lions were outnumbered when the ball got out of their defensive 50 and consequently struggled to score. 

Although the Lions' defence kept them in the game, it took until the last quarter for their attacking game to click. With a small lead, the Crows dropped players behind the ball, giving the Lions’ defenders a bit of rest. 

However, the Brisbane Lions' speedsters weren’t able to get onto the ball in space and key forwards Tayla Harris and Sabrina Frederick-Traub struggled to take marks in the forward half.

Brisbane Lions coach Craig Starcevich said the Crows deserved the win with the forward pressure they applied throughout the game. 

"We were up against it right from the first minute when [Kellie] Gibson snapped that one from the boundary," Starcevich said.

"It was like, 'Is this going to be one of those days where you’re constantly under pressure?' and it turned out that way. We were under the pump pretty much the whole day.

"In all honesty, it would have been an absolute steal if we had levelled up."

The match was touted as a battle between defence and attack, with the Lions the strongest defensive unit in conceding just 21.1 points per game. 

Conversely, the Crows were known for their attacking style. They led the competition in both scoring (41.6 points per game) and contested possessions (104.7).

The Lions claimed a come-from-behind three-point win the first time the two sides met, in round five in Adelaide. On that night, the Lions’ defenders, led by Virgin Australia AFL Women's All Australian squad members Sam Virgo and Kaslar, were able to restrict the Crows to just four goals, from 36 inside 50s.

The Lions were also able to counterattack quickly from turnovers in the Crows’ forward half and finished with five goals from just 18 inside 50s.

It looked like the Grand Final could have been following the same script when the Crows took their foot off the pedal with a two-goal lead in the last quarter.

The Lions booted one goal in the last through Tayla Harris, but in the end it wasn’t enough to stop the Crows from lifting the first AFLW premiership cup.