Jade Ellenger (right) and Ellie Hampson celebrate with their premiership medals after Brisbane's win in the AFLW Grand Final against North Melbourne at Ikon Park on December 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

IT WAS the tough call that set the tone for Brisbane's second flag, and demonstrated why the Lions are held in such high regard across the AFLW competition.

With Brisbane's men's team playing in the Grand Final against Collingwood and the women fixtured to play the following day, the AFLW side spent the last weekend of September in Melbourne.

When the team for the AFLW round six match against Collingwood was released the following week, Jade Ellenger and Poppy Boltz were surprise omissions due to disciplinary reasons.

At the time, coach Craig Starcevich was reluctant to throw the pair under the bus by detailing just what had transpired, instead rather cryptically saying a "lack of sleep" was involved.

It was a low point in a year mostly full of highs for Ellenger, who at 23, had her best season to date.

Jade Ellenger and Mikayla Pauga celebrate with the premiership cup after Brisbane's win in the 2023 AFLW Grand Final against North Melbourne at Ikon Park.. Picture: AFL Photos

In the frantic minutes following the Grand Final, Ellenger acknowledged the difficult moment, but was keen to focus on the team-wide positives.

"The season has been unreal. It's been a rollercoaster, and I think that's why it means the most now. It's been a rollercoaster for so many reasons. It's taken all of us to get here. I was in tears as soon as the siren went. It meant a lot," Ellenger told AFL.com.au after the premiership win.

"Personally, [the dropping] sucked. As a group, we've said that it's probably one of the best things that has happened for us.

"It really stamped our standards, and it opened the door for all these honest conversations as well. It was a great learning experience.

"Not that it'll happen again, but I'm glad for the experience now, because we've come out on top."

Jade Ellenger celebrates with coach Craig Starvervich after Brisbane's win in the 2023 AFLW Grand Final against North Melbourne at Ikon Park on December 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Time and time again, Brisbane has proved to be its strongest when challenged, and it was the case once again on Sunday, trailing North Melbourne by seven points at three-quarter time.

The Lions piled on four goals in the final term, keeping the Roos scoreless.

"It means the most, this one. Backs against the wall all year, probably the last 12 months. To come out on top today – that game epitomised Lions footy," Ellenger said.

"I feel like we just love each other so much that we'll go down fighting. If you're going to beat us, you're going to have to beat all of us, not just one. We do it for each other.

"We're very lucky in this group. You just can't keep a good horse down. They kick us to the stands, and we're like, 'we're coming back'."


Ellenger established herself as a dangerous winger this year – averaging a career-high 14.6 disposals, up from 11.3 last season – but has also had to move into defence when required.

It was a trigger the Brisbane coaching staff pulled on Sunday, throwing Bre Koenen into the midfield to look after Jas Garner and swinging Ellenger to the backline.

"I'm loving the mix, I honestly feel I'll go wherever they throw me, which is great. I love it, and I love they trust me to play in different positions as well," Ellenger said.

"They wanted to throw Bre in [the midfield], so they needed me in defence, so it was like, here we go again. But I honestly don't mind it, I'll do either, and I feel safe in either position.

"Who knows where I'll be next season, watch this space."