What we learned in AFLW: Crows crowned again, but was it a last hurrah for this group?

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Arnell hopeful of rapid AFLW professionalisation (0:47)

Former Brisbane and Carlton player Lauren Arnell says she's hopeful the AFLW will soon attract more money and staff as the league hurtles towards professionalisation. (0:47)

The turbulent, disruptive and action-packed 2022 season has all come to a rapid close with the new premiers being crowned: the mighty Adelaide Crows.

In the club's fourth Grand Final and third time hosting The Big Dance, the South Australian team simply outmatched the highly-fancied Melbourne, whose season came to a stale ending on a day where it just wasn't meant to be.

Now, with their third premiership cup in their trophy cabinet -- all secured within five seasons of the competition's existence -- the Crows declared the dynasty of their club.

And with all great football games, there was plenty to take out of the heated decider.

Here's what we learned in the final showdown of the season.


Crows crowned premiers once again

The Crows defeated the Demons by 13 points on the weekend -- 4.5 (29) to 2.4 (16) -- and became the 2022 AFLW premiers.

From the get-go, Adelaide had the game on their terms. Ever since the Crows' Jasmyn Hewett booted the opening goal of the game, the home side dominated territory, locked the ball in their forward 50 and suffocated Melbourne's brand of football.

For the first half of the game, Adelaide heaped on the relentless pressure and denied the visitors opportunities to goal. It was lack of scoreboard pressure themselves that loomed their biggest obstacle.

In the second half, Melbourne looked to challenge the scoreboard, gained territory and applied more pressure in their forward half. Daisy Pearce in her post-match interview even said she thought they might "have had them on the back foot late in that second quarter".

But in the fourth quarter, one passage of play would determine the result.

Adelaide's Chelsea Biddell had a long kick out of defence, which resulted in the classy Crows midfielders using each other to transition the ball from one end to the other, ending with Danielle Ponter putting the polish on a fantastic play. The youngster ran with it all the way to goal and converted from the pocket.

And with those extra six points on the board, the fate of the game was all but set. It was Ponter's second major of the game and, with it, she cemented herself as a main finals contributor having kicked five goals in Adelaide's last two premiership wins.

Over the game, the stats showed a fairly even contest in parts, and even favouring Melbourne in some -- Adelaide had 16 fewer disposals and lost the clearance count by six, but finished with more inside 50s suggesting more efficient ball movement -- yet the Crows never really looked in doubt despite their slight statistical inferiority on the day.

It was their game and their time.

Daisy's Dees are off to regroup

The Demons' fairytale arc continues with another bittersweet chapter written into the story. After many close attempts, they played in a Grand Final but fell short to the powerhouse of the competition.

As runner's up, they'll wrap their arms around each other and regroup for a potential August return. And they've had a season to be proud of: a top-two finish, losing only one game in the home and away season -- to the Adelaide Crows, no doubt -- and runner ups for the comp.

Daisy Pearce finally got to run out in a decider and young guns across the side, including notably Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara, have shown a lot of promise for the future.

They had seven selections in the AFLW All-Australian squad of 40: Libby Birch, Tyla Hanks, Tayla Harris, Shelley Heath, Kate Hore, Daisy Pearce, and Lauren Pearce. And throughout the season, had showcased depth across the side, including many contributors to goal, such as Harris, Daisy Pearce, Bannan, McNamara and Hore.

Plus, in Round 9, they broke the century mark, becoming the first team to score over 100 points in a single game in the history of the league.

No doubt, there'll be a lot of key takeaways for the Melbourne side from the season, including the big showdown over the weekend.

Anne Hatchard adds Grand Final BOG to her footy resume

After an already phenomenal season, culminating with a premiership medal, Adelaide's Anne Hatchard can now add a Grand Final best on ground medal to her already-extensive football playing resume.

She was by far the most valuable player on the ground, winning 14 of a possible 15 votes, ahead of Ebony Marinoff on six and Danielle Ponter on five.

The 24-year-old registered 25 disposals, six marks and five clearances and turned the pressure right up on the opposition with an immense work rate that included six tackles and a huge 568 metres gained.

And in what's increasingly becoming custom in the women's game, Hatchard attributed her success to her teammates, saying in her post-match press conference: "I wouldn't be getting it without the girls. They've pushed me so hard, especially Ebony Marinoff."

She has a very bright football future ahead of her. This season, Hatchard also polled second in the league's best and fairest count, falling just one vote behind the W Award's champion Emily Bates from the Lions.

The BOG medal is just the cherry on top of a very tasty premiership pie for this incredible Crow.

Daisy and Erin aren't calling time - just yet

They're also not not calling time. Although there's a good chance Pearce and Erin Phillips already have a decent idea about whether they'll be running out next season, for now, they are blissfully ambivalent in the commentary that surrounds their futures.

In her post-match interview, Pearce stated she doesn't feel her footy career is over yet and it wasn't hinging on a particular result of the weekend's game.

"As I've said all year, I'm still enjoying my footy and feel like I'm having an impact. So, it's just time to let things settle and reassess the final details of what next year looks like - all those kind of things. No updates from me," she quipped.

As for Phillips, Adelaide coach Matthew Clarke said he had no idea what the star player's next move would be - whether that be a move to crosstown rival and expansion side Port Adelaide, retirement, or another season with her beloved Crows.

All he stressed was his, and the club's, pride in her.

"I imagine in the near future there'll be announcements around when the season's going to be and when the sign and trade periods and so forth are going to be," claimed the two-time premiership coach.

"But we're really proud of her."

Phillips, the now-three-time AFLW premiership player, did reassert her enjoyment in her current club in a post-match speech, saying she was "so proud to be a Crow".

Only time (and the trade period) will tell. And we eagerly await.

Did we just see a last hurrah?

With Port Adelaide, Essendon, Hawthorn and Sydney coming in as expansion clubs next season, significant player movement across all teams should be expected.

For Adelaide, Port's introduction is expected to do the most damage to their current playing cohort, especially as many key players, such as Phillips and Marinoff, have strong family ties with their incoming rivals.

Although the trade period is yet to reveal who will go where and how current club lists will be impacted, it's fairly certain that we won't see this exact same Adelaide Crows playing group running out all together once next season.

Folks, it's been fun watching them while it's lasted. But with a strong core culture, you'd be naïve to discount them next season, whatever happens.