Preview: 2022 VFLW Grand Final – Essendon vs. Southern Saints

AFTER two Covid interrupted seasons, the VFLW will finally have a complete season when the 2022 Grand Final takes place on Sunday.

Sunday’s clash sees the undefeated Essendon take on the somewhat surprise packets of 2022, the Southern Saints.

Essendon has been the benchmark team all season, and rightfully go into the match as the on-paper favourites.

Speaking in preseason, coach Brendan Major said that for his side this year the “ultimate goal is to win a premiership,” and that was certainly evident in the way they have gone about things this season.

The Bombers made a statement early in the season with a comprehensive win over the Western Bulldogs and have not looked back since.

One thing the Bombers have done differently to most sides this year is kept their now AFLW listed talents playing right through the season, which has certainly helped them get to where they are now.

Essendon’s forward line has been its focal point of this season, boasting so many different targets, both in number and variety, creating headaches for oppositions across the league.

Federica Frew has had what some might call a breakout season, leading the goalkicking despite not being the tallest or most high profile target down there.

She has been ably supported by the likes of Mia-Rae Clifford and Renee Tierney, who have provided those solid targets up forward.

They also have a number of smaller crumbing targets as well, including Natalie MacDonald and the retiring Cecilia McIntosh, who is living proof that age is just a number.

It’s not just the forward line that has proven to be a daunting prospect for oppositions to come up against. Georgia Nanscawen has continued where she left off in 2021, while the likes of Jordan Zanchetta, Amelia Radford and Danielle Marshall have come into the team and absolutely starred.

However, despite all these positives, if Essendon could have had the power to pick their opponent for tomorrow’s match it probably would have not been the Southern Saints.

Although they finished in fifth on the ladder, the Southern Saints have been one of those sides this season that you just cannot underestimate.

Speaking before round one, Saints coach Dale Robinson said that the Saints would “like to go at least one or two games better then last year”, and that is something they have certainly done.

They made a statement of their own back in Round 1 when they defeated reigning premiers Collingwood, and when it came to the finals they went on a bit of a giant killing spree, defeating three much more fancied opponents to make it to the big dance.

Their side is littered with talent as well, and one thing that has held the Saints in good stead this season is the consistency of their starting side, with the Saints not relying on their AFLW talent to get them as far as they have.

If there is one team’s defence that can contend with Essendon’s remarkable forward line, it is the Southern Saints’.

With the likes of Grace Buchan, Georgia McLean and the recently drafted Deanna Jolliffe back there, they certainly have the tall timber to contain the likes of Tierney and Clifford.

Through the middle, Hannah Stuart has had a remarkable season which culminated in being drafted the other night, so the Saints will be keen to see her have a big game tomorrow.

Up forward, the likes of Olivia Flanagan, Tayla Kearns, Chanelle Slater and Gabriella De Angelis are all very dangerous weapons the Saints have at their disposal.

These two sides have played twice this year, with the Saints being the side that has arguably come the closest to beating the Bombers out of all the VFLW sides this season.

First time around it was a draw, and then in Round 13 it was a 10-point win to the Bombers, but the Saints had their number early.

So with all that being said, one question still stands – who will ultimately take the title? With this matchup being the one with the least obvious answer out of all the possible Grand Final team combinations, only time will tell.

The 2022 VFLW Grand Final will take place tomorrow at ETU Stadium (also known as North Port Oval). Match starts at 12:15pm and entry is free.  

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