Former Opal strikes Grand Final gold after whirlwind few months

IT'S BEEN a whirlwind few months for Adelaide ruck Jess Foley.

The former Australian Opal basketballer was drafted by the Crows with pick 30 last year after her first season of footy.

Playing for Sturt in the SANFLW, she was named starting ruck in that competition’s 2018 team of the year.

The 35-year-old spent most of this pre-season readying herself for a key defensive post for Adelaide, but when established rucks Rhiannon Metcalfe (left ACL) and Jasmyn Hewett (right ankle) went down in a practice match in mid-January, Foley was suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

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Heading into Sunday's AFLW Grand Final against Carlton at Adelaide Oval, Foley is also in the running for an All Australian berth, having been named in the 40-player Virgin Australia AFLW All Australian squad.

"It was really disappointing that Rhi and Jas went down, because they really were superior in the ruck," Foley told womens.afl.

"I was sort of preparing to play a defensive-type of role, but having said that, in the SANFLW last year I played in the ruck throughout, so it wasn't brand new for me.

"Given my height (183cm), I'm a little bit shorter than the other rucks in the League…I've just had to adjust the way I play a bit."

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The Crows and the Cats clash in the Preliminary Final of the AFLW

Foley, a night-shift doctor at Noarlunga Hospital (south of Adelaide), is fast forming a dominant midfield team with stars Erin Phillips, Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard.

She is averaging 19.1 hitouts, 14.6 disposals and 3.5 clearances a game, and also has kicked four goals.

"They're pretty easy to have around. They probably make me look a little bit better than I am," Foley said.

"It's a good combination, you've got that experience of Erin, 'Noffy' (Marinoff) is just so hard-nosed, and 'Hatchy' has been unbelievable this year.

Jess Foley in the ruck against the Cats

"She's got brilliant hands. Her skills are silky and she goes in hard as well. It's certainly made my job a little bit easier."

Adelaide was nothing short of clinical in disposing of Geelong by 66 points in the preliminary final, leading from the fourth minute and keeping the Cats scoreless until the 12-minute mark of the last term.

The week before, the Crows kept Melbourne from scoring until the third term (a rushed behind).

"We certainly prepared for an armwrestle (against Geelong). You come out expecting anything in finals. We just brought the pressure from very early in the game, and I think that held us in good stead," Foley said.

Adelaide and Carlton met in round two, with the Crows coming from three goals back to record a 16-point win.

"They were really tough…they really brought it to us. We pride ourselves on pressure and tackling in the contest, and their contested football was really strong that day," she said.

"We were pretty lucky to win, and it would have been a bit different if we'd been 0-2 at that stage of the season (instead of 1-1).

"I'm expecting a really tough contest from them again, looking at what they did [on Saturday against Fremantle]. Considering some of the really quality players they have, it's going to be a great game."

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