FROM ladder stragglers to triumphant champions. The Western Bulldogs are the NAB AFL Women's premiers.
The Bulldogs completed their remarkable transformation with a fighting six-point win over Brisbane on a wet Ikon Park on Saturday.
The 4.3 (27) to 3.3 (21) triumph came with a spirited second half revival after the Dogs were held goalless in a scrappy first half played in steady rain.
After fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in the final round last season, the Bulldogs rose to emulate the feats of the club's men's team two years ago.
Fittingly, brave midfielder Emma Kearney sealed the victory with a tackle on Lion Kaitlyn Ashmore late in the last quarter and she goalled from the free kick from 30m.
Lion Jess Wuetschner fought valiantly to keep her team within reach of the flag with two goals in the final term, the second cutting the margin to five points.
WATCH: Wuetschner keeps the Lions in it
But Brisbane was fated to another heartbreaking Grand Final loss after falling to Adelaide by the same margin in the inaugural AFLW season's decider.
The Bulldogs' ball movement improved after half-time and a midfield dominance led by Kearney applied heat to the Lions backline.
"It was just adjusting to wet weather footy. At half-time the girls were calm and focused," Bulldogs coach Paul Groves said.
Their persistence finally paid off when Deanna Berry booted their first goal with a long shot on the run early in the third quarter. And when Aisling Utri hit the post with a hurried snap, the home team had edged ahead for the first time.
WATCH: Berry goes bang
The Bulldogs controlled the critical third quarter and finally got the scoreboard ticking over. Kirsten McLeod, the replacement for suspended skipper Katie Brennan, kicked a goal with a hurried left foot shot from 20m.
"Clearly after half-time, they upped the ante in the middle and we didn't respond," Lions coach Craig Starcevich said.
"Their quality mids started to get their hands on it. They were clean when going forward and got the ball out the back and managed to score."
Monique Conti was a major contributor in the Bulldogs' third term comeback and the basketball point guard extended the lead to 13 points when a long shot on the run bounced through the unguarded goal just 15 seconds before the siren.
WATCH: Conti kicks a cracker
Conti, who won the medal for best on the ground, reflected the Dogs' turnaround after being lost in wet weather mode in the first half.
"I had to lift my game, get the ball on the ground. I just wanted to win, get it into our (forward) 50 and keep it in there," she said.
Brisbane dominated possession in a dour first half on what was a greasy surface after heavy pre-match rain. But they couldn't make the Bulldogs pay on the scoreboard.
"Last year was disappointing, this was frustrating because we thought we were all over them early and didn't hurt them," Starcevich said.
It took a precision centred pass from Wuetschner to find unmarked Sophie Conway virtually right in front midway through the opening quarter for what would be the only goal of the slogging first half.
But clean marks, particularly contested ones, were difficult in the tough conditions when players often worked the ball forward by simply soccering off the wet turf. And the slippery ball was hard to gather, even when a player wasn't under direct pressure from an opponent.
Lions defender Kate Lutkins is such a great reader of the play and she had a picnic sitting loose inside the defensive 50 to continually repel the frustrated Dogs. But, the defensive toil of Lutkins and Ally Anderson wasn't enough to lift their team over the line.
The Dogs celebrate their premiership win. Picture: AFL Photos
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 0.1 3.2 4.3 (27)
BRISBANE LIONS 1.1 1.1 1.1 3.3 (21)
Western Bulldogs: Berry, McLeod, Conti, Kearney
Brisbane Lions: Wuetschner 2, Conway
Western Bulldogs: Conti, Blackburn, Kearney, Birch, Spark, Bruton
Brisbane Lions: Lutkins, Stanton, Wuetschner, Zielke, Ashmore
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Brisbane Lions: Campbell (head knock)
Umpires: Mirable, Howorth, Adair
Crowd: 7,083 at Ikon Park
AFLW Grand Final Best Player Voting
9 – Monique Conti, Western Bulldogs
8 – Kate Lutkins, Brisbane
5 – Ellie Blackburn, Western Bulldogs
1 – Emma Kearney, Western Bulldogs
1 – Ally Anderson, Brisbane