2022 AFLW Grand Final preview: Adelaide vs. Melbourne
AFTER another huge season of AFLW, just two teams remain in the elite women’s Australian football rules competition, with two-time premiers Adelaide hosting first-time grand finalist Melbourne in the 2022 decider. Both sides had a near-perfect record this season, winning nine out of their 10 regular season matches, with the Crows finishing on top with a 30.1 per cent buffer on the Demons.
Saturday, April 9 @ 12pm CST (12:30pm EST)
LAST TIME – ROUND 4, 2022
Both these teams have been superb this season, and are fitting grand finalists. In their only clash this year, the Crows got up by 14 points. Also in South Australia, the Crows held the normally fluent Demons to just two behinds in the first three quarters, before Melbourne kicked three goals to zero in the final term. Though it applied some respect on the scoreboard, the Demons were never looking likely to come back, as the Crows ran out 4.11 (35) to 3.3 (21) winners. With 15 scoring shots to six and 44 inside 50s to 21, the Crows arguably should have won by more when also factoring in the scoring efficiency.
Anne Hatchard (Adelaide)
Finishing second in the league best and fairest earlier in the week, Hatchard continued her sensational season with another 20-plus disposal average (24.1), as well as 6.6 marks, 3.9 tackles and 4.4 inside 50s. She is key to the Crows midfield, but one of many who can also roll out and find the ball on the outside.
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide)
Another big ball-winner and tackling machine, it is hard to believe the talented midfielder is still only 24-years-old. A fourth consecutive season of 20-plus disposals (24.5) and six-plus tackles (7.3) indicates her importance to the side. She is so hard to contain and works well in tandem with Hatchard.
Erin Phillips (Adelaide)
It is hard not to add the 36-year-old to the list. With two best on grounds in Adelaide’s premierships, there is no one better on the big stage. Though her last grand final win ended in her suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Phillips has remained a crucial player to the team. She has slotted seven goals from 10 games this season spending time in the forward line and will be one the Dees have to try and stop.
Ashleigh Woodland (Adelaide)
The former Dee has made the most of her return to the AFLW, slotting nine goals in her first season back at the elite level, having won the SANFLW leading goalkicker in 2020. From there, she stepped up to be the most dominant goalkicker in the competition, kicking 21 majors in season 2022, and earning All-Australian honours.
Lauren Pearce (Melbourne)
A player who will be crucial in Melbourne getting the upper hand, Pearce is facing a Crows side without their first choice ruck in Montana McKinnon. The pair broke even last time the side’s played, but Pearce’s best is undoubtedly up there with the best in the competition, which was further justified by her second All-Australian nod this week.
Tayla Harris (Melbourne)
Everyone loves a redemption story, and it looks like the powerful forward has finally found her home at her third club. After single-digit goals each of her first five seasons – and averaging less than a goal a game – and no more than one goal a game for any given season, Harris has slotted 18 goals in 11 games and averaged 3.5 marks. She will be crucial to Melbourne’s chances, particularly given their start against the Crows last time.
Libby Birch (Melbourne)
A sensational season in the red and blue, Birch has really been a lynchpin in defence for the Dees. With a disposal efficiency of 79 per cent, Birch has averaged 11.8 disposals, 2.9 marks and 2.3 rebound 50s in her third season at the club. Eyeing off becoming the first premiership player at two clubs, the former Bulldog will be hungry for more success.
Kate Hore (Melbourne)
Somehow she seems to be forgotten externally compared to some other Dees in the forward half, but Hore is a real game-breaker and someone who could well be a best on ground type in a big game. She has still booted 11 goals in her 11 games – one less than last year – but can easily boot multiple goals in a game. One to really watch if you are an Adelaide defender.
– The sides are very similar in terms of their disposal numbers, with the Demons averaging 236.3 disposals per game – ranked third overall – whilst the Crows average 234.5 (fourth)
– Adelaide chooses to kick the ball 62.9 per cent of the time, whilst the Demons are a higher handballing team, with a lower overall kicking average of 57.9 per cent of the time.
– The Crows are clearly the more proficient marking team, averaging 51.4 per game (second overall), with the Demons down in seventh (42.2)
– Melbourne is marginally ahead in the tackling numbers, averaging 60.1 tackles per game (sixth), compared to the ninth placed Crows (55.2)
– Both sides are middle of the road when it comes to hitouts, with just 0.1 separating them per game, and the Crows in eighth (21.4) compared to the Dees’ (10th – 21.3)
– The umpires love the Demons, with Melbourne winning more free kicks than any other side this season. They average 19.1 per game, wiuth the Crows well down the list at 17.2 (seventh). The Demons are also higher in conceding frees, ranked fourth (17.6) compared to the Crows’ ninth (16.4). Doing the maths, the Demons are +1.9 and the Crows, +1.2
– Both teams have no trouble scoring with the Demons averaging 6.5 goals per game and the Crows’ 5.5, both ranked in the top four, and the Demons average more per game, but the Crows are by far the best defensive side with less than 20 points conceded per match.
– Can the Crows win number three before Port Adelaide rolls into town?
– Will Tayla Harris finally break the Crows’ hoodoo in Grand Finals (having lost two previous to them for two different clubs)?
– Can Libby Birch become the first player to win two flags at different clubs?
– What impact will no Montana McKinnon have on the Crows against Lauren Pearce?
– Can the stingy Crows defence lockdown the Demons like last time?
– Will Melbourne be able to get on top in the midfield battle this time around?
– Will Erin Phillips win a third best on ground in a grand final? Or will Daisy Pearce finally crack through for her first flag?
Tip: Adelaide by 13 points in what will be a thrilling game, but the home ground advantage and the Crows’ sheer ability to stand up in big games is massive.