History was made in 2017 with the beginning of a nationwide AFL Women’s competition. The competition featured eight teams – Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne, and the Western Bulldogs – each of which played in the same colours as their male counterparts.
Adelaide’s first game was a comfortable six-goal win over Greater Western Sydney at Thebarton Oval, a margin that would remain Adelaide’s largest until 2019. Their form continued as Adelaide won all of their next three matches, but a tenacious Brisbane had won four and were determined to stick with the Crows at the top of the table.
Brisbane finished the home-and-away season undefeated with six wins and a draw, while Adelaide lost two of their last three. A league-high percentage of 157.3 was just enough to stave off a consistent Melbourne and earn a spot in the Grand Final.
THE GRAND FINAL
As minor premiers, Brisbane earned the right to host a home Grand Final. The match was played at the home ground of the Gold Coast Suns, Metricon Stadium, because a concert had damaged the pitch at the Gabba. Brisbane was one of only two teams who had beaten Adelaide during the season and entered the match as minor favourites.
Adelaide took the lead with a goal from Kellie Gibson in the first 20 seconds, with Deni Varnhagen adding a second later in the first quarter and giving the Crows a seven-point advantage at the first break.
Six straight behinds from Adelaide in the second quarter had fans worried, but the dominant forward pressure was enough to prevent the Lions from doing too much damage before the half-time siren.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Two goals from Erin Phillips in the third quarter stretched the lead to two goals at three quarter time, but just two behinds in the last term kept Brisbane in reach. Both defences’ shone, with co-captain Chelsea Randall keeping Lions star Tayla Harris quiet, and Brisbane defender Leah Kaslar likewise shutting out Adelaide’s leading goalkicker Sarah Perkins.
Adelaide held on to win the game by one straight kick, taking their place in the history books as the inaugural AFLW premiers.
BRISBANE 1.0 2.1 3.3 4.5 (29)
ADELAIDE 2.1 2.7 4.9 4.11 (35)
Best: Phillips, Randall, Marinoff, Cramey, Gibson, Bevan
Goals: Phillips 2, Gibson, Varnhagen
Co-captain Erin Phillips dominated the personal accolades for 2017. She was awarded best on ground in the Grand Final, AFLW Best and Fairest, Club Champion, AFL Players’ Association MVP, Goal of the Year, and vice-captain of the All-Australian team. Her co-captain Chelsea Randall was also selected for the All-Australian team and was awarded the Most Courageous by the AFLW Players’ Association.
19-year-old midfielder Ebony Marinoff was awarded the inaugural AFLW Rising Star with a league-high 70 tackles during the season, picking up an All-Australian selection along the way.
Club leading goalkicker Sarah Perkins finished second for goals in the league and was also selected for the All-Australian team. Defender Courtney Cramey was rewarded for her consistent season by also receiving a selection.