Tipperary’s Orla O’Dwyer became the second Irish AFLW champion ever as she played a starring role for the Brisbane Lions during their spectacular 6.2 (38) to 3.2 (20) win over the Adelaide Crows at the Adelaide Oval this morning.
Prior to the finale, Adelaide’s Ailish Considine, who returning to the team after filling in as emergency reserve last weekend, predicted a close fought slugfest and so it proved early on. This was a tie littered with sustained scrummages and contested balls.
Underdogs Brisbane started strongly, with O’Dwyer prominent from the bounce as they made determined entries into the attacking 50. Courtney Hodder kicked the opening goal but gradually Adelaide came to terms with the manic pressure. Stevie-Lee Thompson, one of a few making a record 41st appearance, drew the sides level at the end of the first quarter.
Minutes later, Danielle Ponter’s set shot gave the Crows the lead for the first time but it was met with an immediate, and spectacular, response when a long O’Dwyer kick bounced kindly for Hodder to volley home.
So it went for the rest of the half. Score for score, hit after hit, toe to toe. An Erin Phillips behind brought had the home side marginally ahead before a snap from Jess Wuetschner gave the Lions a slim lead at half-time.
O’Dwyer was immense throughout. The 22-year-old powerhouse showed all over the ground, leading the tackle count at one end while laying on for goals at the other. She finished with 16 disposals and six tackles.
The Lions continued to play the role of hunters and ramped up the pressure. For the third time in a grand final, Wuetschner scored a second goal and put daylight between the teams. A devastating five-minute spell followed. Lauren Arnell and Isabel Dawes both kicked goals as they entered the final quarter with a 22-point lead and one hand firmly on the cup.
To their credit, Adelaide fought to bitter end. During the final break between quarters, they went to the sideline for a motivational speech from captain Chelsea Randall, who was unable to play due to concussion protocol. Eloise Jones slotted a set shot and they peppered long balls into the attacking 50 but it was too little, too late.
After five years of strong showings and two grand final losses in a row, the Brisbane Lions are finally deserving champions.