By Ant Wingard
Tomorrow’s AFL Women’s Grand Final concludes the Brisbane Lions’ entertaining yet unprobeable return to the promise land.
Somehow, they’ve made it, and now have the opportunity to avenge last year’s defeat; secure their first piece of silverware and the Lion’s first since the 2013 NAB Cup win.
The two clubs have already faced off once already in 2018, as the Bulldogs inflicted the Lion’s first ever loss in the competition in Round 2 by 11-points.
Brisbane’s journey to the Grand Final has been unconventional to say the least.
Heading into the final round of fixturing, the Lions needed a win – a big one – and a string of results to fall their way. And they did.
After dismantling the Giants empathically on Friday night, the Lions needed Collingwood to upset Adelaide to make their second Grand Final.
As Adelaide grew a two-goal lead in the second quarter, their hopes looked to be fading. But Collingwood settled, dominating the second half to seal a sizeable 23-point victory; sending the Lions to the big dance.
Much of Brisbane’s success has been through a game plan and the continual development of players in the national competition.
An uncompromising defence – the best in the league by a considerable margin – provides a solid foundation for the team. Leah Kaslar is perhaps the best one-on-one defender in the league while Kate Lutkins not only provides the perfect one-two punch with Kaslar but also boasts a kick ranking among the competition’s elite.
Form there, short kicks seem to be the flavour of the season as the Lions calculate short passes to navigate the field and opposition zones. As a result, the field is opened up and allows for speedsters Kate McCarthy and Nat Exon to employ their most damaging assets.
— Josie Fielding (@josiefielding7) March 18, 2018
A forward line boasting livewire Jess Wuetschner, who ranks second in the league for goals, and Sabrina Frederick-Traub, who is possesses the uncanny ability to influence the game seamlessly in the air or on the ground perfects the game plan.
Brisbane captain Emma Zielke told lions.com.au her side thrives off the underdog moniker – something they’ll carry again into the season decider.
“We love the thought that we’re the underdogs all the time,” Zielke said.
“We’ve worked hard all season to be there on Saturday… I don’t think it’s luck that we’re in the Grand Final.
Six Lions have been named in the 2018 All Australian squad with each line firmly represented.
Forward Wuetschner and Frederick Traub, along with defenders Kaslar and Lutkins and Emily Bates and Allie Anderson in the midfield highlight a comprehensive talent-ridden Lions’ squad.
Anderson has elevated her game to another level this season; improving her disposal numbers sizeably while Bates continues to be the workhorse of the Lions’ midfield.
Her ball use this season has been a footballing anomaly, tracking at 62% efficiency by foot this season; superior to all other players who averaged over 15 disposals.
The Grand Final will take place at Ikon Park, Saturday 24 at 12:30pm AEDT.
For more match day information, see here.
BRISBANE LIONS TEAM
B: E.Pittman 29, L.Kaslar 11, B.Koenen 3
HB: E.Zielke 8, K.Lutkins 13, K.McCarthy 9
C: N.Exon 15
HF: E.Bates 1, T.Randall 16, M.Hunt 6
F: J.Wuetschner 23, B.Gibson 25, K.Ashmore 10
Foll: S.Frederick-Traub 14, J.Stanton 17, A.Anderson 18
I/C: S.Webb 4, I.Ayre 2, S.Campbell 20, S.Conway 12, A.Clarke 21
Emerg: J.Zanchetta 7, N Hildebrand 22