Sarah Black (https://www.womens.afl/news/116911)
MELBOURNE has broken through for its maiden AFLW premiership, shaking off a slow start and underdog status to beat Brisbane by four points at Brighton Homes Arena.
It's sweet relief for beloved Dees skipper Daisy Pearce, winning her first AFLW premiership in what could be her final season, while its also just reward for inaugural Dees coach Mick Stinear, who has held the team together beautifully in the face of expansion sides.
The Lions had started full of spark, Dakota Davidson converting a set shot and celebrating in typically exuberant fashion, followed by a Cathy Svarc goal.
The second quarter has been Brisbane's domain this season, having only lost two thus far, but it didn't faze Melbourne in the slightest.
The Dees came out with renewed intent, especially around the stoppages where its quick-passing game began to kick into gear.
Just inaccuracy – and some elite Shannon Campbell defending on the last line of defence, who was named best on ground – kept the Lions ahead by two points at the main break.
Of course, it had to be Tayla Harris to take the lead for the first time, marking a curling snap from Kate Hore at the start of the third.
Davidson had a set shot on the three-quarter-time siren, but her kick drifted right.
The spearhead laid two bone-crunching tackles in the fourth term, but was only paid a holding the ball free kick in one, and while they prevented Melbourne from scoring, they were too far afield to have an impact in attack.
There was an intriguing battle between AFLW leading goalkicker Jesse Wardlaw and the equal-tallest player in the competition in Tahlia Gillard, with the young Dee well and truly coming up trumps.
The Demons' full-team defence was simply superb after the first quarter, keeping the side in the game and suffocating Brisbane's run-and-carry game.
Karen Paxman was caught at the bottom of a pack featuring a soaring Tayla Harris in the fourth quarter, and left the field in groggy fashion.
Desperation in defence
Brisbane had dominated the opening portion of the game, but Melbourne looked like it was finally going to break through on a rare fast break. Some quick hands out of a contest ending in Megan Fitzsimon streaming towards goal, but All-Australian Brisbane defender Nat Grider was having none of it, launching herself forward for a goal-saving tackle.
Brisbane skipper Breanna Koenen left the ground in the tail end of the second quarter, limping badly with a right knee issue. Named All-Australian vice-captain this season, Koenen has been a mainstay of Brisbane's backline for years, and her absence unsettled the Lions. She returned for the second half, but was clearly hindered with a heavily strapped knee.