The cliché goes that in sport there can only be one winner, but a look at the inaugural AFL Women’s league would suggest a different tale.
Adelaide beat Brisbane by six points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday, and while the pain was clear for Lions player Ally Anderson, the sense of achievement having helped create a pathway for athletes of the future was too great to ignore.
“It feels amazing to have gotten there but not the result that we wanted. So a little bit disappointing but also, we’re all still proud of ourselves,” Anderson said of the grand final experience.
“I think a lot of girls, knowing that there’s a pathway now, they’re like ‘Oh yeah, I’ll give it a go’.
“I know a few girls now who are a bit older and they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I can give this a shot’.”
Anderson is a coach as part of the AFL KickStart program and mentors the Queensland under-15 women’s Indigenous side.
Having seen the promise throughout Queensland and Australia, she is excited to now see what the next generation of women’s footballers can produce.
“I’ve been to the competitions for the last three or four years, and there’s heaps of Indigenous up and coming talent, and it’s just good now that they have a pathway and they can strive to achieve that.
“I know a lot of young girls are coming out of Cairns, in particular. There are quite a few of the girls who made the Woomera squad and the talent all over is just really exceeding everyone’s expectations and I think it’s going to grow from here.”
On a personal level, Anderson said one of the most memorable parts of the inaugural AFLW season was the bond she developed with the rest of the Brisbane team.
It’s something she says is special about the sport and makes her role as a coach even more rewarding.
“I absolutely love it because I actually did my first (role as) head coach last year and it was just one of the best experiences of my life,” she said.
“Just seeing the girls, they just come together so fast and they get along so well and I just want them to have the best time of their lives and they go away with new friends from all over Queensland and they still talk now.”
For Stevie-Lee Thompson, who was part of Adelaide’s 2017 premiership-winning side, that sense of community was a big drawcard for her to pick up the sport.
“It’s unbelievable, indescribable actually, on how much we’ve bonded, day one to now,” she said of her experience with the Crows.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. We’re so proud of one another, especially our staff and our coaching staff – just unbelievable.”
Having moved to Darwin from Brisbane, Thompson, of New Zealand descent, only started playing Aussie Rules a couple of years ago, starting her journey with Wanderers.
“I’ve come from a (rugby) league background, so anything can happen,” Thompson said.
“If you just put your foot forwards through that door and give it a good crack – anything can happen.
“I never thought from a touch football background, to league background, I never thought I would be ‘Adelaide Crows champion of 2017’.
“Any woman who wants to give (playing footy) a go in the NT … I will put my foot forwards, every NT girl will put their foot forwards so that every other girl gets an opportunity provided.”
Anderson’s AFLW grand final experience was bitter-sweet for a number of reasons, but perhaps none more so than that the decider was played on her birthday.
“The whole day before the grand final, I was just thinking ‘Grand final grand final’ and then occasionally someone would be like ‘Oh, happy birthday’ and I was like ‘Oh yeah, it’s my birthday, forgot about that’,” Anderson said.
“So it wasn’t the focus of the day, it was definitely about the game, and then afterwards it was a bit like, “Oh this sucks”.
“It was nice though. I guess it’s a day I won’t forget, regardless of whether it was my birthday or not, but it just made it a bit extra special.”