Tanya Kennedy celebrates after Sydney's elimination final win over Gold Coast at Heritage Bank Stadium on November 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AMIDST the many storylines behind Sydney's first ever AFLW final win on Saturday, including Chloe Molloy's starring performance and Bec Privitelli's foot injury, it was the very last player signed to the list this year that played arguably the most important role.

Tanya Kennedy, only given an AFLW berth due to season-ending knee injuries to Maddy Collier and Hayley Bullas, has become a vital cog in Sydney's midfield. Each week Kennedy is sent to the most dangerous opposition midfielder.

Having gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Georgie Prespakis, Brianna Davey, and Erin Phillips throughout the season, it was a no-brainer that Kennedy would be tasked with quelling the impact of breakout Sun Claudia Whitfort.

Without Charlie Rowbottom in the Suns' side, shutting down Whitfort was priority No.1 if Sydney was to claim the win. Whitfort's work around the contest is one important part of her game, but her neat transition going into attack has been a key pillar of her side's growth this year.

Tanya Kennedy and Lucy Single compete for the ball during the elimination final between Gold Coast and Sydney at Heritage Bank Stadium on November 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Kennedy limited Whitfort to just 14 disposals – her fewest since round three last season – and while the Sun was still able to record four inside 50s, her disposal efficiency of 57.1 per cent meant those entries were less considered than usual.

Whitfort's down day



Inside 50s

Disposal Efficiency (%)


Metres Gained

2023 H&A season averages






Finals week one v Sydney






What makes Kennedy so dangerous is her quick decision making, able to make immediate choices between defending or attacking the football herself to generate forward momentum.

Starting stoppages with physical contact with Whitfort, Kennedy reads the play and if her teammates are able to win the ball, or it falls to Sydney's attacking side, she becomes a ball-winning midfielder. If it falls in the opposition's hands, she is almost wholly focused on defending her direct opponent.

Further to this, Kennedy focuses on taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves. For example, against the Suns on Saturday, Whitfort found herself caught standing the mark when the Swans had the ball in hand.

Knowing that her direct opponent is caught defending her teammate, Kennedy gets on the move using her speed to become an option ahead of the play, and ultimately sending the ball inside 50.

It was a career-best game from Kennedy, after a very strong season, resulting in her return of 22 disposals and 10 tackles.

Kennedy's career-best game




Inside 50s


Metres Gained

2023 H&A season averages






Finals week one v Gold Coast






Looking ahead to Sydney's second final where it must face AFLW juggernaut Adelaide, Kennedy will no doubt be handed another big role that, should she execute once again, could go a long way toward her side's chances to progress further through the post season.