THIRD time was the charm for Brisbane.
The Lions saluted in their third AFLW Grand Final in five years, taking home their maiden premiership on foreign soil at Adelaide Oval, capping off a dominant seven-win season from the most consistent side in the competition.
womens.afl will look at each of the seasons of the 14 AFLW teams in reverse ladder order.
WHO'S HANGING UP THE BOOTS? Your club's retiring players
Coach: Craig Starcevich
Leadership group: Emma Zielke (captain), Breanna Koenen (vice-captain), Emily Bates, Shannon Campbell, Kate Lutkins
2021 home and away finishing position: Second, seven wins and two losses, 195.0 per cent. Won Grand Final against Adelaide by 18 points.
Best team performance: Brisbane 4.11 (35) defeated Collingwood 4.8 (32) in round seven.
There's no doubt the Grand Final win was a triumph, but this appeared to be a seminal moment of Brisbane's season. Less than 24 hours out from this game, the location was moved from Hickey Park to VU Whitten Oval due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane. Despite that, the Lions knocked off an undefeated Collingwood, with Cathy Svarc shutting Bri Davey down and Ally Anderson finishing with 26 disposals.
Best individual performance: Emily Bates led from the front in Brisbane's upset win over Fremantle at Fremantle Oval. The midfielder was busy throughout, finishing with 26 disposals, six intercepts, five marks and three clearances.
NAB AFLW Rising Star nominations: Belle Dawes, Nat Grider, Courtney Hodder, Tahlia Hickie
Debutants: Courtney Hodder, Indy Tahau (AFLW debuts), Taylor Smith (club debuts)
Retirees: Lauren Arnell, Jessy Keeffe, Emma Zielke
Most improved: Former soccer player and small forward Greta Bodey started her year on fire, booting seven goals from her first four games. She was a constant threat at ground level and was a crucial part of the Lions' multi-pronged forward line. Bodey averaged 6.8 touches and kicked two goals in six games in 2020, increasing that to 12.1 disposals and nine goals in 11 games.
Star recruit: Brisbane can count itself lucky it managed to land the former junior star as a rookie, with Hodder coming off a few years out of the game due to rugby commitments and a badly broken leg. She set the ground alight, growing in confidence and form as the season progressed, cumulating in two stunning goals in the Grand Final.
Unsung hero: Tenacious defender Shannon Campbell has just put her head down and got the job done for five seasons now. One of the toughest players in the AFLW, she's an excellent one-on-one competitor and ferocious in her attack on the footy.
- Brisbane's mini-rebuild following two periods of expansion hit its zenith in 2021. A combination of elite young talent, targeted state league players and some rookie gems in Orla O'Dwyer, Bodey and Hodder combined with the existing core to form one of the most even teams in the competition.
- The back five of Brisbane was the second-stingiest in the competition during the home-and-away season, conceding an average of 22.2 points across its nine games. The cohesiveness that comes with five AFLW seasons paid off for the likes of Lutkins, Koenen, Campbell and Zielke, while Nat Grider took her game to another level in her third season.
- The well-disciplined Lions side got their best wins when they limited the space on offer to high-disposal sides like Collingwood and North Melbourne. They squeezed opposition teams with tight zones and were able to limit the control which is the backbone of those teams.
What needs improvement:
- Splitting hairs when it comes to the premiership team, but Brisbane averaged the third-fewest clearances in 2021. It clearly didn't cost the Lions in too many games, but it puts the defence on the back foot if the midfield don't win first use of the footy.
Early call for 2021/22: There's nothing stopping Brisbane from going back-to-back, although they will miss the leadership of Zielke and Arnell. Dangerous young forward Zimmie Farquharson is yet to debut, and the Lions have a highly cohesive side that is unlikely to be heavily split by the upcoming Sign and Trade Period.
Season rating: 10/10