North Melbourne players celebrate as the final siren sounds after the preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide at Ikon Park on November 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

NORTH Melbourne has broken through for its maiden NAB AFLW Grand Final, clinging on tough in the final minutes to defeat Adelaide by just one point in a nailbiting preliminary final.

It was a see-sawing affair, with an outrageous screamer and goal by Anne Hatchard cutting the margin to one point with around 2.30 left on the clock, but the Roos held on for dear life in the 4.8 (32) to 4.7 (31) triumph.

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North Melbourne took a three-point lead into the final break and attacked the goals for the first 10 minutes of the last quarter, kicking four straight behinds, to the agony of their raucous fans.

Roos fans had seen this film before, and they didn't like the previous viewing's ending.

But this version of North women is made of sterner stuff, locking the ball up forward for the final few minutes – Emma King even launching a torp from 50m after a vicious tackle on Sarah Allan.


North Melbourne had the better of the opening term, two of its three tall forwards in Tahlia Randall and Kate Shierlaw kicking truly after the ball spent much of the term in the Roos' half.


Jasmine Garner found a rare bit of space 20m from goal on the tightest of angles in a defensive lapse from Adelaide, booting another major to build out to a two-goal buffer.

Adelaide peppered for the remainder of the quarter, but were unable to work their way past the final line of the Roos' defence, with Jasmine Ferguson and Sarah Wright standing tall as the Crows went to the break with 1.5 in the books.

Ponter's second came minutes after the half-time break, cutting the margin to just three points, and her third – five minutes later – gave Adelaide the lead for the first time since the opening minute.


While in the first half North Melbourne had applied plenty of that scintillating pressure it produced in its qualifying final against Melbourne, Adelaide began to tighten the screws as the Roos faltered, unable to maintain the rage.

Ultimately, inaccuracy cost Adelaide, but it was a brave performance and another fine season from the minor premier and perennial powerhouse of the AFLW.


Stevie-Lee Thompson found a stack of footy on the wing, with 16 touches to the main break (but only one in the final term), Ebony Marinoff worked her guts out in the midfield with 12 tackles and Chelsea Biddell was composed in defence.


Barnstorming Bruton saves the day
Garner, Ash Riddell and to a lesser extent, Mia King, have won all the midfield plaudits this year, but it was the ever-unheralded Jenna Bruton who starred in the third term. The diminutive midfielder dragged North Melbourne back into the game after Adelaide had taken control, recording 13 disposals and four inside 50s for the 20-minute term, her hard work leading directly to Randall's second major.

Jenna Bruton tackles Madison Newman during the preliminary final between North Melbourne and Adelaide at Ikon Park on November 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

A touch of class from Ponter
Ponter kicked all three of Adelaide's goals, and for a while there, it looked like North Melbourne had simply no answer for her class and footy nous. Her contested marking was outstanding in front of goal, she was sharp on the snap and all of this was done while playing as a midfielder and pushing into attack.


Up next
North Melbourne will face Brisbane in the Grand Final, to be held at 2.30pm on Sunday December 3 at Ikon Park, while it's season over for Adelaide.


NORTH MELBOURNE       2.1    3.2    4.4   4.8 (32)
ADELAIDE                        1.2    1.5    3.7   4.7 (31) 

North Melbourne:
Randall 2, Shierlaw, Garner
Adelaide: Ponter 3, Hatchard

North Melbourne: Bruton, Garner, Riddell, Pullar, Wright
Adelaide: Marinoff, Ponter, Thompson, Biddell, Hatchard

North Melbourne: Nil
Adelaide: Nil

Crowd: 5,163 at Ikon Park