Lions roar into AFLW Grand Final

BRISBANE Lions coach Craig Starcevich was pleased his side could reach the last match of the AFL Women’s season, declaring it would have been “disappointing” to fall a game short after the season they had. Brisbane only dropped one match in 10 outings – in a nail-biter to Richmond – during the regular season, then accounted for the Tigers and now the reigning premiers Adelaide in the two finals. The latter came off the back of a five goals to nil first half, setting up the eventual 23-point win, 7.4 (46) to 3.5 (23).

“They’ve worked so hard to get to this point, they’ve trained it’s been a long year, we’ve played 25, 26 games now this year,” Starcevich said. It’s been a pretty big year of footy. It would have been really disappointing not to be actually get this one out of the way and get to the next one and give yourself a chance and a crack of winning it.”

Brisbane will enter its fourth grand final on Sunday, having lost two in the first two seasons, before winning its most recent flag last year. Up to 18 players could become dual premiership players by the end of next weekend, with Starcevich aware of his experienced playing list and what to expect for the week leading up to the big day.

“Hopefully it counts for something that they’ve been there before and they know what the week looks like more than the actual day,” he said. That’s the bit that’s going to probably be more helpful. It’s still exciting whatever way you cut it. All their parents were there tonight and the excitement around the group is enormous.”

On the preliminary final win, Starcevich was pleased his side could “absorb” the early Crows pressure, not being able to score until the late stages of the first term, then pile on the goals in the second quarter to set up the victory.

“It was pretty good first half we put together, but we expected the opposition to be pretty ruthless in the second half and really throw everything at us for their chance to be there,” Starcevich said. Really, really pleased with the way we started and absorbed pressure and we were able to deliver a bit of our own and then get the scoreboard ticking over. From our style of footy was actually pretty good the first half.”

The second term seemed to click when it came to scoring efficiency, with Courtney Hodder and Jesse Wardlaw kicking a couple of goals each and having an impact not just on the scoreboard but further afield too.

“No idea (why it clicked) other than people like Courtney Hodder reading play up the ground and getting front spot and us getting a little bit more ascendancy around the stoppage and clearances that part of the ground,” Starcevich said.

“That started to work a little bit for us but I think if you go in often enough you’re going to generate some scoring opportunities but you actually need your forwards connected and switched on and alert and ready to take those opportunities and Courtney and lesser degree Jesse were pretty good in that quarter.”

The Season 7 AFL Women’s Grand Final will be played at Springfield in Ipswich, one of the Lions training bases which has only just got the tick off to host an official match, initially only expected to be available for next season. When asked if he was confident the ground could hold up, Starcevich said it had been improving each day.

“I think I’m confident,” he said. I’m not the groundsman but every day I walk into work it looks magnificent, we’ve had a couple of walks on it, and it’s obviously brand new. We’ll see what it’s like, it improves daily. The fact that they’ve got it up in a little bit over a month is astounding.”

Starcevich also expects Taylor Smith to get up from an ankle injury, declaring it a “minor tweak” and something she had done many times before. Based on the past injuries, Smith usually bounces back within a few days. Her potential replacement – or inclusion if anyone fails to get up for the big day – Zimmorlei Farquharson got the approval to play from medics eight days before the preliminary final, but Starcevich determined it was not quite enough time to re-call her.

“Took a while to get the sign off from her surgeon as to whether he would allow her to get playing again,” he said. That only happened the back-end of last week so she only really did some match practice with us last Friday night and a little bit Tuesday and we just didn’t think that was enough for a game like tonight. She’s still sitting there, well in calculations but that’s her status at the moment.”

Brisbane will face Melbourne on Sunday at 1:40pm local time at the newly named Brighton Homes Arena in Springfield to determine the Season 7 AFL Women’s premier.

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