Brisbane Lions players celebrate winning the AFLW grand final
Brisbane Lions players celebrate winning the AFLW grand final against North Melbourne. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Lions thrive on underdog tag to claim second AFLW flag

Oliver Caffrey December 3, 2023

The Brisbane Lions have thrived on the underdog tag to claim their second AFLW premiership after storming home to beat North Melbourne by 17 points.

After trailing by seven points at three-quarter time, the Lions were able to avenge last year’s grand final defeat against Melbourne to win 7.2 (44) to 4.3 (27) in front of 12,616 fans at Ikon Park on Sunday.

Wounded forward Dakota Davidson booted two of the Lions’ four last-quarter goals in a performance that will be long remembered in AFLW circles.

North were kept scoreless in the final term as the Lions’ run and pressure proved irresistible.

Davidson was under an injury cloud all week after damaging a knee in the preliminary final win over Geelong, but stepped up when it mattered on Sunday after struggling for impact in the first three quarters.

The 24-year-old made no mistake twice in the final term after taking two big marks, converting both set shots to swing the match in Brisbane’s favour.

Ellie Hampson’s second goal with three minutes remaining sealed the match, but Lions captain Bre Koenen added an exclamation mark with a major in the dying seconds.

Bre Koenen of the Brisbane Lions
 Bre Koenen of the Lions receives the medal for being best on ground in the AFLW grand final. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Koenen was awarded the best-on-ground medal by recently retired legend Erin Phillips after finishing with 19 possessions and 10 tackles.

The 28-year-old was part of an outstanding Lions defence, along with Nat Grider and Shannon Campbell, that helped quell North’s midfield dominance.

Despite it being the Lions’ fifth grand final appearance from seven completed AFLW seasons, North were warm favourites ahead of their maiden decider.

Brisbane’s only other grand final victory came in a similar fashion in 2021 when they stunned the Crows at the Adelaide Oval.

The Lions are coached by 1990 Collingwood premiership player Craig Starcevich.

“I think we kind of like being the underdog. I think it suits us,” Koenen said.

“We’ve been the underdog for, somehow, a really long time over our history, so I think the girls revel in it. 

“It almost gives you a perspective of we’ve got nothing to lose, like we can take risks and we can play the way we want.

“I think it gives the girls confidence, strangely enough.”

North, playing in the club’s first grand final – men or women – since 1999, were led superbly by superstar midfielder Jasmine Garner.

Garner, who again missed out on winning the league best-and-fairest despite an excellent season, set the tone for North out of the middle and up forward.

The 29-year-old had to work overtime when her midfield partner Jenna Bruton injured her right achilles in the opening minutes and took no further part in the match. The injury could keep Bruton sidelined for up to 12 months.

Jasmine Garner.
 Jasmine Garner was superb again, but couldn’t lift North to their first AFLW title. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

The Lions hit the lead for the first time in the match four minutes into the third term through a classy Orla O’Dwyer snap.

But after North’s Kate Shierlaw converted her set shot after an inspirational grab, Garner burst from the centre clearance and Alice O’Loughlin slotted a goal to reduce the margin to seven points and put North in reach of their maiden AFLW premiership, before Brisbane’s title-securing final term

North coach Darren Crocker was left disappointed, but excited about the future.

“We spoke about climbing the mountain, and we’ve taken so many steps forward,” he said.

“We put ourselves in a position to win that game, win our first ever AFLW premiership. We were right there, but just couldn’t finish the job. 

“I just said to the girls, ‘Don’t be disheartened’ by it because we’ve learned so much about ourselves and we’ve come so far this year’.”