ESSENDON capped one of the most dominant campaigns in rebel VFLW history by claiming the 2022 premiership with a 35-point victory over Southern Saints in the Grand Final.
The Bombers were at their dominant best in front of a huge crowd at ETU Stadium, leading from start to finish in the 6.6 (42) to 0.7 (7) triumph.
The win completed an unbeaten season for the Bombers.
They finished the regular season with 12 wins and two draws, before producing three huge wins throughout the finals series, where they scored 178 points and conceded just 23 in victories over Hawthorn, Casey Demons and the Saints.
Speaking after Sunday’s premiership triumph, Essendon coach Brendan Major expressed his pride for what his playing group had accomplished.
“I’m really proud of them,” Major said.
“For me it was always about the players and their families.
“You see the families of all the players and how much they enjoy it when they come out and support them. It was always about the players and the people involved.
“This win just gives everyone a piece of joy. To look after your people first and to then get results by looking after your people is huge.”
Alana Barba claimed the Lisa Hardeman Medal as best afield after a powerful performance through the midfield, amassing 18 disposals, 7 clearances and 18 tackles.
She edged out teammates Georgia Nanscawen and Amelia Radford for best on ground honours, while Federica Frew and Renee Tierney were dangerous up forward and finished with two majors each.
Sadly, Nanscawen also provided the heartbreak story in the grand final win.
The first player signed to Essendon’s AFLW program, the Bombers’ co-captain left the field early in the fourth term with what appeared a serious knee injury.
“She was huge for us today,” Major said of Nanscawen.
“She’s been a fantastic leader at the club. She’s come in and been so professional. She has grabbed a heap of players along with her and made us what we are.”
Essendon took control of the game from the outset, with Simone Nalder opening the scoring in the fifth minute when she converted a set shot following a free kick.
The margin was stretched to 14 points by quarter time after Tierney ran into an open goal minutes before the first break.
When Tierney burst through a pack and converted a neat snap early in the second term, the game looked firmly in the Bombers’ keeping.
“I think the good start was really important,” Major said.
“It’s easy to get caught up in what has gone on in the past and not what’s in front of you. Equally, if you look too far into the future you get too nervous about the outcome.
“For our group to focus on what they needed to do we kept the game plan nice and simple, and they executed it really well.”
The premiership win capped a stellar rise for Essendon, who finished bottom of the ladder with just one win and a percentage of 39.8 in their inaugural rebel VFLW season in 2018.
The Bombers now move into their inaugural AFLW season with great momentum behind them.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Major said.
“Building momentum for the AFLW team is all we have ever wanted. They now have a great platform to springboard off.”
ESSENDON 2.2 4.3 6.6 6.6 (42)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.7 (7)
Lisa Hardeman Medal voting
7 – Alana Barba, Essendon - 3, 2, 2
5 – Georgia Nanscawen, Essendon - 3, 2
3 – Amelia Radford, Essendon - 3
1 – Madison Capsalis, Southern Saints - 1
1 – Hannah Stuart - 1
1 – Renee Tierney, Essendon - 1
Judges' 3-2-1 votes
Libby Birch (Channel 7) – G Nanscawen, A Barba, R Tierney
Penny Cula-Reid (Williamstown VFLW coach) – A Radford, A Barba, M Capsalis
Lucy Watkin (AFL Media) – A Barba, G Nanscawen, H Stuart