The Adelaide Crows and Melbourne will face off the 2022 AFLW Grand Final next week at Adelaide Oval.
The Crows secured their fourth trip to the decider after a clinical 14-point win over the Dockers in Saturday’s first preliminary final.
Adelaide got strong performances across the board, most notably from Ash Woodland, who booted a game-high two goals.
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Earlier, the Demons – led by three goals from 19-year-old Alyssa Bannan – edged out the Lions by four points earlier in the first ever AFLW clash at the MCG.
It’ll mark Melbourne’s inaugural AFLW grand final appearance and a fairytale opportunity for Daisy Pearce to add to her decorated career.
CROWS V DOCKERS MATCH REPORT
The Adelaide Crows have stormed into their fourth grand final in six AFLW seasons, with Ash Woodland kicking two goals in a tense 14-point win against Fremantle on Saturday.
Erin Phillips set the tone early and Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard combined superbly on the ball as Adelaide saw off a stern challenge from the Dockers to score a 6.4 (40) to 4.2 (26) preliminary final win at the Adelaide Oval.
The minor premiers will host Melbourne at Adelaide Oval on Saturday after the Demons defeated Brisbane in the other preliminary final.
It is just reward for fearless skipper Chelsea Randall, who missed last year’s premiership decider against the Lions with a concussion.
Randall was outstanding down back against Fremantle, taking intercept marks and repeatedly repelling forward forays.
Hayley Miller, Ebony Antonio and Kiara Bowers led the way for the Dockers, who trailed by just eight points early in the final term before Woodland settled frayed nerves with her second major.
It was Adelaide’s first game in 20 days, but the home side showed no ill effects in a bright start.
Phillips had a hand in both her side’s first-quarter goals, the two-time AFLW best-and-fairest winner snapping a superb goal off her left in traffic then picking out Caitlin Gould at the top of the goal square.
Adelaide took a seven-point lead into the first break and the superstar veteran had a bizarre goal assist that helped push the margin out to 19 points in the second quarter.
Phillips’ set shot cleared the pack in the goal square and appeared to have gone through for her second major.
But a quick-thinking Woodland realized the ball had bounced on the goal line and back into play where she pounced to slot her 20th goal of the season.
Three players celebrated their 50-game milestone on the day: Adelaide’s Sarah Allan and Stevie-Lee Thompson and Fremantle skipper Miller.
Allan was a rock in defense and Thompson did well to cut off a pass and kick a goal in the Crows’ second-quarter burst in an eye-catching performance.
Leading the inside-50 count 20-9, Adelaide was on the verge of breaking the game open until Miller helped spark a late fight back.
With less than two minutes left in the half, Kara Antonio and Airlie Runnalls goaled from strong work further afield to slash the margin back to seven points.
But the Dockers couldn’t find a way to goal in the third quarter as the Crows piled on the pressure.
Janelle Cuthbertson bravely put her body on the line as the visitors desperately defended their goal line, Danielle Ponter with the only goal for the term.
Woodland’s 21st goal of an outstanding campaign may well have been her most important.
The Dockers had pressed forward without luck late in the third term and opened the last quarter strongly, Emma O’Driscoll making it an eight-point game with her goal.
With the game in balance, Woodland chased a loose ball towards her own goal and won a free kick when Cuthbertson took her high.
The league’s leading goalkicker duly converted to give her side a shot at a third AFLW premiership.
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DEMONS IN LIONS MATCH REPORT
Melbourne is through to its first AFLW Grand Final after defeating the Brisbane Lions by four points in an MCG thriller, 5.3 (33), to 4.5 (29).
Teenage sensation Alyssa Bannan was the hero for the Demons, booting three goals, including two in the second half to break the contest open.
It was a scrappy first half as rain poured down at the MCG before the Demons ignited in the third quarter to lead by as many as 17 points. But the Lions never went away, fighting back to get within a kick in the last 30 seconds
Despite getting the ball inside its forward 50, Brisbane could not get any closer, as the Demons escaped with a famous victory.
Neither team could gain the advantage early in a hotly contested opening quarter as rain poured down at the MCG.
Daisy Pearce and Dakota Davidson both missed long-range set shots to squander opportunities to hit the scoreboard.
The Lions 0.1 (1) led the Demons 0.0 (0) at quarter-time.
Both teams got their first score on the board in the second term from quick entries inside 50, with Alyssa Bannan striking first for the Demons before Bella Smith responded at the other end.
Demon Eliza McNamara laid a great tackle inside 50 on the half-time siren, with Channel 7 commentator Nigel Carmody noting it was a “huge moment.”
But she failed to convert the set shot as the Lions 1.2 (8) and Demons 1.2 (8) went into the main break all tied up.
The Lions started to tighten the screws in the second term, getting on top of the contest as Davidson kicked a brilliant checkside goal.
But the Demons weren’t going anywhere, responding with the next goal through Bannan and Lauren Pearce – marking two goals in a minute to turn the game on its head.
“Both teams have really amped it up in the last five minutes, trying to get the game on their terms,” former AFLW player Mel Hickey told Channel 7.
It continued a strong performance from Pearce, who’d been the highest ranked player on the ground so far.
“She can go under the radar, but the way she plays is devastating,” Carmody said.
McNamara kicked the next goal for Melbourne after brilliant dibble kick a tight angle before celebrating accordingly. It marked the first double-digit lead in the game for either side.
“Melbourne is winning those moments at the moment,” Hickey noted.
The Demons took an 11-point lead into the final change, 4.2 (26) to 2.3 (15).
“A supreme premiership quarter might provide Melbourne a premiership opportunity,” Carmody said.
Bannan extended Melbourne’s lead to 17 points after getting on the end of a rebound play, putting through her third goal of the game.
Melbourne then sent Daisy Pearce into defense to try and preserve the lead, but the Lions weren’t about to give up.
Shannon Campbell kicked a goal at the ninth minute mark to keep some hope in the visitor’s camp.
Unfortunately injury struck the Lions late, with Lucinda Pullar coming off the field with an apparent leg injury.
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