AFLW Grand Final – Brisbane v Adelaide: Magic Fingers and Magic Skills
2pm Saturday 25 March
I came town early to find Magic Fingers to amuse my grandchildren. I am sad to discover that there are no active magic shops in Melbourne at this moment. I am happy to report I found a great pub to watch the AFLW Grand Final.
On coming into the Exchange Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Spencer, I found a table to eat lunch. From that table I could see the Fox TV, but I realised it was only on 7. The staff changed it for me but I couldn’t hear a thing. That’ll do, I thought, at least I can watch.
But no. An awesome staff member took me to the back of the restaurant where there is a TV, comfy seating and tables, and so private that the sound can be on. How awesome is that lady.
As I ate an amazing seafood curry, I am able to watch the pre-game. It’s all I can do to stop myself crying. At people’s kindness, but at the enormity of being able to watch this game (before heading to watch the Saints first game of the season.)
I have come prepared, for rain and shine, for a long afternoon. I have had my Saints conversations all the way in. I am here and ready. Fed and satisfied.
Metricon is very orange. As the players warm up I look at pictures of the Cup, the medals and the rings that will be there for the victors. Almanacker Kate O’Halloran is live tweeting for the Guardian but I am not adept at finding it. Many are at home watching on free to air.
The pub is filling up with those heading to the stadium later on. I see folk in Essendon gear as the pre-game entertainment starts. The crowd at Meticon is filling yet I wish it had been at a Melbourne stadium where thousands would flock just for the occasion of it all. The “G” is the aim.
It’s on. Adelaide run out and there are twins? What’s the story of the twins (and this is answered in full post game.) There’s always something interesting, even the decision by the 2017 players to raise money for charity (as they have done throughout history) – this time to fight homelessness. Brisbane are on, and team photos have been taken.
The game is tough from the very moment of the first bounce. When Kellie Gibson smacks a goal through in the first play, you know this will be a game and a half. Erin Phillips is everywhere from the beginning of play. Brisbane reply through Jessica Wuetschner. It’s even but Adelaide seem cleaner with their pressure and their passing. They are also doing all the attacking. Two points before Deni Varnhagen kicks around the body from fierce working in front of the Crows goals. It’s a seven point lead to the Crows at the first break.
There are others now in the area, and many are watching the game too. The crowd have increased, and the noise along with it. I finish my meal and head to the seats directly below the TV. I can’t hear well but I can see better. All the stars of the AFLW Crows and Lions are having a big day out. Phillips a minor. Katie Ashmore goes for a big run but is tackled. Just when Adelaide look like they’ll run away, Sabrina Frederick-Traub gets a free from a push in the back after the ball is already forward and Wuetschner gets another. Brisbane have picked up this quarter but they can’t contain Erin Phillips. Meanwhile, Chelsea Randall is holding down Tayla Harris. Phillips is seen in defence, in the midfield and up forward. Perkins gets a minor. At the main break, the Crows are 6 points ahead.
Half time and I am off to Etihad, hoping to find somewhere to watch the rest of the game. I am meeting my footy family and friends, and the pregame function supporting the Saints Pride people has gathered at the new Garden Bar. We jump in to the photo they are taking, it is for both Saints and Demons supporters to get together. But my obsession with watching this game, and the lack of coverage at the bar, leave me going inside the ground instead.
My saviour is Marianne, my footy mate, who uses her phone and sets up in time for us to watch the second half in our seats. I am feeling emotional and cranky. Why isn’t this game up on the big screen? It’s a Grand Final for goodness sake. I understand later that the game goes longer than the time left before the game, but in these moments, I don’t have the energy to find one of the bars which might have it on.
Phillips continues her awesome game and goals. Uncle Bob and cousin Gary have arrived, and Bob is now watching too. We feel the strength of the Crows. Tayla Harris can’t hold her marks, and she too is playing both forward and back.
Wherever the action is, you can see Phillips close by. Courtney Cramey gets a minor. All the attacking is Adelaide. Brisbane is good in defence otherwise the score line would have been much worse. When Brisbane get it forward, they get a behind. And then lose Heather Anderson to another shoulder injury and you feel for this young woman.
Brisbane have lifted and the Crows are now under pressure. Finally, Frederick-Traub goals and they are back in the game.
I love that the ads are full of girls and women. I love that the new AFLW stars are everywhere. They are commentating and writing and on the footy shows like Marngrook. I reflect that I am always close to tears this season. So many significant and meaningful moments and I am surprised at the impact it has had on me. At my age. Without a footballing bone in my body.
Adelaide go racing forward again, and it is Phillips who again grabs the ball and kicks truly. Adelaide now have an injury too. The ball is back and forward the Tayla Harris finally takes a magnificent mark but misses the goal. Phillips gets a terrific grab between three Brisbane defenders as the siren signals the end of third quarter. Crows by 12 points.
We watch the St Kilda and Melbourne boys warm up on the field as the women continue the battle way up north. It’s a nervy final quarter, and Tayler Harris gets another great flying mark and this time converts. There is 5 points the difference. Who can remain composed? Who can finish this off. Chelsea Randall marks it in the forward but only scores a point. The siren goes and the Crows get to celebrate a six-point win. I identify more with the losers than the winners, that’s what happens when you are a Saints supporter!
It is a week later that I get to watch the game fully. It’s all over bar the shouting but the world has changed for the better. The AFLW has changed us all. We have new superstars and household names. We have stories and legends. We have much to learn and much to review. I suggest we all send our thoughtful suggestions to the AFL and enjoy the AFLM (Gerard Whateley on Offsiders also calls it this, so I am I good company).
In a world with so much bad news on a constant cycle, the short season of AFLW has left me hopeful. It’s left me now a sponsor of Brittany Bonnici of my local St Kilda Sharks, and I note with love that the St Kilda Football Club, Sandringham VFL and the St Kilda Sharks are now in partnership. And that St Kilda and Geelong are making noises about joining in 2018. I will add to those voices and do whatever I can to support women’s footy.
The Women’s Footy Almanac, a place to tell the terrific stories of this year, is just one of the steps. The Women’s Footy Almanac, and the AFLW, are like my Nanna Magic Fingers. It delights and amuses and brings smiles to faces.
Brisbane Lions 1.0 2.1 3.3 4.5 (29)
Adelaide Crows 2.1 2.7 4.9 4.11 (35)
GOALS Adelaide Crows: Phillips 2, Varnhagen, Gibson
Brisbane Lions: Wuetschner 2, Frederick-Traub, Harris
BEST Adelaide: Phillips, Randall, Cramey, Marinoff, Gibson
Brisbane: Bates, Hunt, Frederick-Traub, Harris.
UMPIRES Rodger, Bryce, Cheeve.
CROWD 15, 601.
OUR VOTES Phillips (Adel) 3, Randall (Adel) 2, Frederick-Traub (Bris) 1.