Collingwood lost top spot and has to regroup for a qualifying final against North Melbourne. See the full finals schedule.
When the final siren sounded, Collingwood’s key forward Sophie Alexander slumped on the Norwood Oval grass, head in hands and inconsolable after her side went down by 14 points to Adelaide on Sunday.
It was the visible proof of just how much on the line.
With the tight, contested win, the Crows claimed the 2021 AFLW minor premiership, pushing Collingwood – which had been ladder leaders for most of the season – back to third and out of automatic qualification for the preliminary finals in a fortnight’s time.
The Magpies will face North Melbourne in a qualifying final at Victoria Park on Saturday, for the right to play second-placed Brisbane in the preliminary final on the weekend of April 9.
Meanwhile, a resurgent Melbourne will face Fremantle at Casey Fields on the same day. The winner of that clash will then travel to Adelaide to face the Crows in the other prelim.
RESULTS: ALL-CONQUERING CROWS CLAIM TOP SPOT
Collingwood co-captain Stephanie Chiocci said the Pies would quickly put behind them the loss of the coveted top-two spot, and concentrate on beating North Melbourne.
“We had an opportunity there to finish on top and it is disappointing we let that slip, but the silver lining is we get to go again next week,” Chiocci said.
“It’s another challenge for us, we get to take on North, which we did last year in the semi-finals, and we’d like to get a bit of redemption on them because they pipped us last year by three points.
“We’ve built really well (this season), only dropped the two games and we’ve learnt a lot from that to get some momentum going into next week.”
Crows captain Chelsea Randall said the fact that the top four teams each won seven games and lost two was a sign of just how tightly contested the upcoming finals series would be.
“This is the hardest competition, the most skilful, the fastest season of AFLW you’ve ever seen before and that’s what’s so exciting,” she said after a best-on-ground performance against the Magpies.
“Whoever takes this (premiership) out, is going to be the ultimate team.”
AFLW FINALS SCHEDULE
Saturday, April 3
Qualifying Final B: Melbourne v Fremantle, Casey Fields, 1.05pm
Qualifying Final A: Collingwood v North Melbourne, Victoria Park, 3.10pm
Week off: Adelaide, Brisbane Lions
FINAL AFLW LADDER
1. Adelaide 28 208.4%
2. Brisbane Lions 28 195%
3. Collingwood 28 190.5%
4. Melbourne 28 130.4%
5. Fremantle 24 185.1%
6. Kangaroos 24 142.5%
7. Carlton 20 125.8%
8. Western Bulldogs 20 88.2%
9. GWS Giants 16 74.1%
10. Richmond 12 84.6%
11. St Kilda 12 69.6%
12. West Coast 8 53%
13. Geelong 4 40.2%
14. Gold Coast 0 36.5%
BLUES CO-CAPTAINS CALL TIME
Carlton’s AFLW co-captain Katie Loynes and veteran Alison Downie have retired after five years with the Blues.
Coach Daniel Harford said his side had hoped to honour the pair in their nailbiting win over the Giants at Blacktown International Sports Park on Sunday afternoon.
“They’re two favourite daughters of our footy club and I’m sure it played a factor in some of the emotional fatigue and physical fatigue that plagued us late in the game,” Harford said postgame.
“You’re looking for little things in games like this that don’t really mean too much in the grand scheme of things, so to get the chocolates for those two was a real driving force and the group knew that.
“Alison and Katie knew that; they wanted to play really well in this last game as well.
“They were able to do that for us. Both of them had a real good crack.
“‘Doona’ saved us a couple of times down back and Loynesy’s competitiveness through the afternoon was quintessential Katie Loynes.
“I think they did their job and can walk away with their heads held high at the end of a fantastic five years at the Blues.”
Harford said the duo were much-loved members of the playing group.
“They’re original players, foundation players, and great leaders for our whole squad.
“After five years with the Blues, it’s all over for those girls.
“They’ve been enormous for us but the time has come.”
Harford said the 2021 season had presented immense challenges for AFLW players across the league.
“That can unsettle a part-time playing group who have jobs and families and careers that they have to manage and this is their love and their passion and yeah there’s a little bit of income in it for them but this isn’t their main employment,” he said.
“It’s created a lot of anxiety through the year but in the grand scheme of things we’ve still been able to play what we think is the greatest game on the planet.
“It’s been a challenging year. What we’ve all been through it in the past 18-months or so; it’s been something we’ve never gone through and hope we never go through again.
“I am really proud of the girls and their resilience and ability to just focus on what’s in front of them rather than might be.”