Clockwise from left: Chelsea Randall, Niamh Kelly, Adelaide celebrates and Danielle Ponter. Pictures: AFL Photos

THEY'RE perennial AFLW favourites who are undefeated thus far, but are still somehow sliding under the radar.

Adelaide may not have yet racked up the percentage of Melbourne and North Melbourne, nor piled on the goals like Geelong, but the Crows are arguably an improved side on last year's preliminary final outfit.

What's made Adelaide more threatening this year? And are the Crows on track to continue their remarkable run of winning flags every second AFLW Grand Final?

What's happened so far?

The Crows looked uncharacteristically rusty in the first half of their round one match against Port Adelaide, but came out all guns blazing after the main break. They completed a 33-point turnaround after going into half-time three points adrift.

They were more imperious in round two, holding last year's semi-finalist Richmond – which knocked off Brisbane in round one – to just two goals, and scoreless after quarter-time. The Crows relished the wet conditions, coasting out to a 29-point win.


What's changed?

The forward line
The question during the Trade Period and into pre-season was whether Adelaide was going to be too tall, after the acquisition of returning Crow Jess Allan from Greater Western Sydney. The re-jigged talls structure has seen Zoe Prowse continue in the defensive role she dipped into late last year, Allan play as a ruck/forward, with Caitlin Gould as the spearhead. The departure of Ash Saint (Port Adelaide) has opened up a spot for ex-Giant Yvonne Bonner

The ruck nitty-gritty
Adelaide's preference is to play all three of Gould, Allan and Montana McKinnon, the latter two playing as ruck/forwards. Coach Matthew Clarke made it clear McKinnon only missed against Richmond due to the weather, with small forward Jess Waterhouse brought in. McKinnon likes to fall back behind the footy when in the ruck, with Allan in attack to provide tall targets at both ends of the ground.

Danielle Ponter
The fresh faces in attack – coupled with now six pre-seasons under her belt – has seen Ponter spend much more time as a midfielder than in years prior. It adds a different dimension to Adelaide's engine room, Ponter's agility complementing the strength of Ebony Marinoff and the endurance of Anne Hatchard. Her average clearances have risen from 0.8 last season to 2.5, disposals are marginally up (8.6 to 10.5) and tackles have also climbed, from 1.7 to 4.0. Ponter even kicked an astonishing goal from the centre bounce against the Tigers.


Improvement from young and old(er)
Teah Charlton, now in her fourth AFLW season, is having increased influence on matches. Rotating between the wing and an inside midfield role, her average disposals have risen from 13.1 to 16.0. Niamh Kelly's numbers have gone through the roof, finally fully fit and thriving in a similar role to Charlton's. Playing both inside and outside, she's sitting at 24.0 disposals from her two matches (up from just 8.8 last season), 4.0 clearances (0.4), and has a Showdown Medal in her back pocket. Another to impress has been young defender Kiera Mueller, who has taken more ownership in the backline this season and increased her rebound.

Defensive questions

Adelaide's tall defensive stocks have taken a double blow, with both Sarah Allan and Najwa Allen suffering hamstring injuries. The Crows will have to wait until around the second last round of the season to see the former, with the latter sidelined for 3-4 weeks. Adelaide has to replace Allen this weekend, with options including lockdown defender Amber Ward, or rebounding options Deni Varnhagen and first-year Brooke Smith. In the meantime, All-Australian key back Chelsea Biddell is in fine form.

Chelsea Biddell in action during Adelaide's clash against Richmond in round two, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Randall no longer needed to be the matchwinner

Most importantly for Adelaide, it no longer relies on inspirational skipper Chelsea Randall to have a game out of the box in order to help them get over the line. In fact, the Crows have gotten much better at winning without Randall, who has missed games with concussion, hamstring and ankle injuries in the past few years. Randall certainly elevates the Crows – whether she's playing up forward, through the middle or taking high-flying marks in defence – but others have lifted to share the load.

Adelaide win rate


With Randall

Without Randall


70 per cent (23 matches)

42 per cent (7 matches)


81 per cent (27 matches)

72 per cent (11 matches)


76 per cent (50 matches)

61 per cent (18 matches)