<
>

The 10 big moments that defined the AFLW season

play
'We call him dad': How Burke is leading the AFLW Dogs (1:07)

AFLW star Ellie Blackburn shares why coach Nathan Burke's pivotal relationship-building skills has rubbed off on the Western Bulldogs playing group. (1:07)

Well, that was one hell of an AFLW season. From more stadium lockouts, record membership numbers, a plethora of marvellous on-field exploits including high-soaring marks and memorable goals, and a thrilling Grand Final clash that delivered in spades, season seven really did have it all.

For the Demons, it's capped off with elation after a maiden premiership win. For the Lions, it's nothing but heartbreak after enduring a third defeat on the final day. For others? Much was still achieved, and moments created to both forget and savour.

Here, we've identified the 10 big moments that defined the AFLW season.


Sophie Locke's emotional goal

Hawthorn debutant Sophie Locke slotted the first goal for expansion side Hawthorn in a Round 1 Marvel Stadium contest against Essendon, kissing her black armband and pointing to the sky in honour of her Mum, Sarah, who lost her nine-year battle with cancer just a fortnight before.

The 21-year-old earned herself a free kick at the top of the goal square and slotted her first-ever goal before being emotionally enveloped by all her teammates.

Earlier that week, Hawks coach Bec Goddard arranged for Sophie's dad, Stuart, and sister Chloe, to be on a video call when she told Sophie she'd be debuting.

Following the game, Sophie told media she knew her mum was watching while "having a beer with Pop up there".

Move it to Marvel

It was an historic weekend for the Sydney Swans, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, and Essendon as they fielded AFLW sides for the first time - and the fans turned out to support the newcomers.

Essendon's clash with Hawthorn had to be moved to Marvel Stadium from Port Melbourne's ETU Stadium during the lead-up to the first round, with more than 12,000 people in attendance after tickets sold out in 24 hours, while Sydney hosted St Kilda at North Sydney Oval in front of an impressive crowd of 8,264 fans.

Meanwhile, Port Adelaide played the West Coast Eagles at Lathlain Park, losing by 12 points despite a 12-point lead during the third quarter.

The new teams had arrived, but, importantly, so did the supporters.

Brit Gutknecht's horror leg injury

Perhaps the season's low light, play was stopped for 30 minutes in the second quarter during the Round 2 clash between Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs after Dogs utility Brit Gutknecht suffered a dual right leg snap under Port's Abbey Dowrick. The 21-year-old suffered a broken tibia and fibula and underwent surgery.

In upsetting scenes, Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke was seen comforting clearly distressed players as Gutknecht's parents came on field to comfort her. It's a recovery the football world hopes happens both smoothly and swiftly.

Minute's silence scrapped

In an awkward situation for the AFL, the minute's silence to honour the death of Queen Elizabeth II was scrapped in Round 3, after it sparked an outrage in Fridays' Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle clash. The minute's silence was originally touted to be held in every game across the AFLW's Indigenous Round, immediately after the Welcome to Country ceremony, but 16 of the 18 clubs begged the league to reconsider due to cultural insensitivities.

The concerns came from a perceived lack of consultation with Indigenous representatives when Culture is Life CEO Belinda Duarte announced the last-minute change.

"Unfortunately, due to sorry business, a Welcome to Country was unable to be conducted today," Duarte said. "We send our deepest condolences to the families who have been affected by this and with respect to families and community, we stand in silence with you also today. Together we will play in honour and celebration of First Peoples across this country."

The acknowledgement of country ceremonies was reinstated, and the minute's silence removed for the remainder of the first of two Indigenous rounds.

Lockouts return to the AFLW

Fans were turned away from two AFLW games in Round 5, as 'the festival of footy' coincided with the men's AFL Grand Final at the MCG.

The AFL Grand Final build up included having women's games on in the nearby precinct, with both the North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn vs. Sydney matches scheduled at Punt Road, but the small capacity of the venue meant the matches sold out early and fans were told they couldn't come in.

Both clashes saw over 2,000 spectators, with hundreds more lining the outside of the stadium to catch a glimpse of the action.

On a public holiday Friday, perhaps some better scheduling could have avoided this issue...

Crows swoop to notch AFLW's biggest winning margin

Adelaide managed the biggest win in AFLW history in Round 5, simply demolishing GWS by 96 points.

The Crows kept the Giants goalless, with their only score for the game being a single behind. It is the equal lowest score in competition history.

The win meant the Crows climbed to second on the ladder at the time after registering their fourth win for the season.

Forward McKenzie Dowrick starred with four goals, so did Ash Woodland and Anne Hatchard with three majors apiece, while Ebony Marinoff dominated the disposal count with 36 touches for the game.

Richmond finally make the finals, but not without controversy

Richmond made finals for the first time in their AFLW history but caused quite the stir when CEO Brendan Gale insisted they maintain their home ground advantage at Punt Road Oval with a capacity of 2,500, despite tickets selling out in under 15 minutes and therefore restricting the majority of their supporter base the ability to see their team in action.

Victoria Park (10,000 capacity), Ikon Park (22,000) and Marvel Stadium (53,000) were all confirmed as available on the day, but the game was controversially kept at Richmond's home base.

That home ground advantage didn't seem to pay off, as the Tigers bombed out in straight sets that afternoon.

Finals heartache as Crows skipper ruled out at last minute

Adelaide skipper Chelsea Randall was heartbreakingly ruled out of the Crows' semifinal clash with Collingwood under concussion protocols despite being cleared earlier in the week and not having any concussion symptoms.

Randall suffered a head knock in their loss to the Demons and was cleared, but the club medical staff announced they'd been given new footage which showed a different angle, forcing them to change their mind.

Sadly, it's the second time she has missed a final following a head knock, after being sidelined from the 2021 Grand Final against the Brisbane Lions.

Randall addressed the media ahead of the game, saying: "In this scenario, I feel it is frustrating and I am disappointed around the system and process in place because clinically I was cleared. If I had the same knock at training, we wouldn't have vision and I would be clinically passed and I would be able to play."

She returned for their preliminary final loss to Brisbane.

Ally Anderson named AFLW's best

Ally Anderson of the Brisbane Lions was named the best and fairest winner of the AFLW in season seven. She finished on 21 votes, two ahead of Richmond's Monique Conti, with Adelaide's Ebony Marinoff one more vote back. Remarkably, Anderson didn't make this year's All-Australian team, and she finished 11th in the AFL Coaches Association AFLW Champion Player award.

Nonetheless, it was a superb season for the 28-year-old, who backs up teammate Emily Bates' best and fairest win from season six, Anderson averaging 21.4 disposals, 3.2 marks, 5.3 tackles and 2.9 inside 50s per game.

Daisy wins her flag, at long last

After a year full of will she, won't she questions around her retirement and two grand finals in one year, the indomitable Daisy Pearce won her first AFLW flag.

The images were boundless across the broadcast and social media, but the moment Daisy and coach Mick Stinear embraced in floods of tears won't soon be forgotten.

A close second is the vision of Stinear crowd surfing above his players in the change rooms afterwards. Just joyous scenes that put smiles on AFLw fans across the country.