CARLTON coach Daniel Harford has labelled Sunday's AFLW Grand Final, played in front of a record crowd for a women's sporting event in this country, as "one of the most significant moments in Australian football history".
A monster crowd of 53,034 people flocked to Adelaide Oval to see heavy favourite Adelaide cap off its tremendous season with a comprehensive 45-point defeat of the Blues.
The attendance shattered mid-week expectations of 30,000 and easily surpassed the previous highest crowd for an AFLW game of 41,975, set when Fremantle hosted Collingwood at Optus Stadium last year.
It was also the fifth-largest crowd at Adelaide Oval in AFL history, encompassing men and women.
Harford said he was blown away by the amount of support and that it was a sign of how the AFLW has captured the imagination of the public in just its third season.
"It's a very special moment for the AFLW and for footy in Australia – this might be one of the most significant moments in Australian football history," Harford said.
"I can't work out for the life of me why there are people who think this (AFLW) is a bad thing or not something to enjoy or be a part of.
History makers. #AFLWGF #GenW pic.twitter.com/w61FASxL0n— AFL Women's (@aflwomens) March 31, 2019
"I just can't get my head around that. I know I'm biased because I've been involved in it for many years at a level, but I think Australian Rules footy is the greatest game in the world.
"There's 53,000 people that agree with me today.
"Why wouldn't you be excited and celebrate the opportunity for the entire population to be a part of something like this.
"We're seeing so many girls that are idolising these players and looking up to them to say, that could be me now."
Crows coach Matthew Clarke echoed Harford's sentiments.
"The AFL made a really bold decision three years ago to create an elite pathway and the people have responded," Clarke said.
"It's just a matter of maintaining that boldness and be willing to try and take this to wherever it may go.
"People are now recognising the quality of the athletes, it's got the potential to build and build and hopefully today demonstrates there's a market there for it and we should plough as many resources as we possibly can."
- Erin Phillips of the Crows is tackled by Kerryn Harrington of the Blues during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match.
- Katie Loynes of the Blues tackles Angela Foley of the Crows during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match between the Adelaide and Carlton.
- Danielle Ponter of the Crows celebrates a goal during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the Carlton.
- Erin Phillips of the Crows lays injured as Nicola Stevens of the Blues comforts her during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match.
- Chelsea Randall (left) embraces Erin Phillips as she leaves the field on a stretcher during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match.
- A record attendance is displayed on the big screen during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and Carlton.
- Matthew Clarke, Senior Coach of the Crows during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and Carlton.
- Daniel Harford, Senior Coach of the Blues addresses his players during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match.
- Nicola Stevens of the Blues marks the ball during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and Carlton.
- The Crows celebrate their win during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and Carlton.
It was Harford's first season in charge of the Blues after he was an assistant coach for Collingwood's women's team last year.
The Blues won just two games last season, and lost to North Melbourne in round one this year by 36 points, but rallied to finish on top of Conference B before beating Fremantle in last week's preliminary final.
"I'm enormously proud of this entire group," Harford said.
"We learned a hell of a lot about ourselves and the ability to rally and compete when people thought we were no good.
"We built a squad that was able to compete every single week and trust a system they were brand new to."