Four AFLW captains lament a lost GF opportunity

SATURDAY should have been AFLW Grand Final day.

Instead, the history books will show the global coronavirus pandemic forced an early closure to the season and subsequently no premier for 2020. 

Carlton and North Melbourne were supposed to fight it out for one Grand Final spot, while Fremantle and Melbourne were set to meet in the other preliminary final. 

womens.afl has spoken to the captains of all four clubs to get their reaction, find out which of their teammates would have thrived on the big stage, and which rival they would have faced. 

Kerryn Harrington (Carlton)

"There was obviously disappointment immediately after the announcement, but your focus changes pretty quickly to what was going on with everyone's jobs and family situations and those sorts of things. As time goes on, you do think about the opportunity that we had. The difference between the team this year and last year was the consistency of performance. That was the most pleasing thing from a team point of view, but certainly the momentum we were carrying into the finals was really something exciting. It was great to be part of that. It's certainly disappointing, given how well placed we were to have a real crack at the flag this year. I think the best thing we had going for us this year was the consistency in the form of the team. There was a stretch heading into what would have been the preliminary final where we'd had an unchanged lineup for over a month. The fact we didn't have a bad run of injuries or a bad run of form meant we were able to consistently select the same side, which was started to build to something pretty special. For us, we were quite shell-shocked with how quickly Adelaide jumped on top of us in the Grand Final last year. The group would've learnt a lot off the back of that Grand Final in terms of its maturity and experience. All the teams that had qualified this year did such a great job. Melbourne was a tremendously difficult opponent and Fremantle was really untried away from home. The Dockers would've been tough to beat, had we had gone over there."

AFLW Match Highlights: Carlton v Brisbane

05:20 Mar 22. 2020. 3:12 PM

The Blues and Lions clash in the Semi Finals

Emma Kearney (North Melbourne)

"It was a weird feeling (finding out the season was over) … I felt really flat. It was strange even in the lead up to finals. The club was really quiet and there was hardly anyone around – nothing was normal. It probably took a week for it to sink in that the season was over. But it was sort of like, 'You know what? We're far better off than others who have lost lives or are losing jobs'. We started quite slow and probably didn't play to the best of our ability but then we started to jell more towards the back end of the home and away season. There were still areas we needed to get better at to beat the top teams but we were heading in the right direction. Jas Garner would have stepped up on the big stage – she had a terrific year. But even the likes of Britt Gibson and Tahlia Randall. They played in a couple of Grand Finals at Brisbane, and I know they speak about the heartbreak a lot and the fact they didn't want that to happen again. They would have played with some extra motivation. I'm staying at my parents' farm at Cavendish, near Hamilton, about three-and-a-half hours west of Melbourne. My dad's got a few little projects around the farm, so I'll be keeping busy that way. I reckon we would have played Fremantle."

AFLW Match Highlights: North Melbourne v Collingwood

05:03 Mar 21. 2020. 2:33 PM

The Kangaroos and Magpies clash in a semi-final of the AFLW

Kara Antonio (Fremantle)

"It feels like a lifetime ago. I was sitting on the couch, recovering from the day before – we'd taken on the Gold Coast Suns – relaxing, watching some telly. My partner, Ebony (Antonio), was on her phone on social media and read the news. I can't pinpoint one emotion but the one word that comes to mind is gutted, and almost empty. We thought we were onto something pretty special and for that to get ripped from underneath you was a gut-wrenching feeling. In my personal opinion, the fairest decision was made … to allow eight teams to play in finals, because of the two rounds that were cut short. Did we have three weeks? I didn't think we did. Based on the year, you'd probably back North Melbourne to go the whole way but in finals you just never know. I've got the lucky job of sitting out on the wing and watching (Kiara Bowers) go about her craft on the inside, and the way she just carried the team across the line on a number of occasions was inspiring. The other one that comes to mind (who would have thrived in a Grand Final) is Hayley Miller. The last couple of games were the two best games I've seen her play. We've got a bit of a gym happening in our backyard, so Ebony and myself try to get a workout in every day, and I suppose (today) won't be any different. We'll get up, walk the dog, get some fresh air, then spend the day cooking, but we have nothing planned – we're just trying to keep ourselves busy."

AFLW Match Highlights: Fremantle v Gold Coast

05:25 Mar 21. 2020. 6:54 PM

The Dockers and Suns clash in the AFLW semi-finals

Daisy Pearce (Melbourne)

"Immediately, it was a pretty disappointing end to the year given all the hard work you tip into it. But it's certainly gotten a bit bigger than footy. I know everyone at Melbourne, while we were disappointed, we were fairly accepting of the reasons why. It's a strange way to end a footy season. Even though there wasn't a result, I'm pretty proud of the team's achievements throughout the season given how many challenges we had injury-wise. To get through and still be standing by the end is something that's pretty satisfying, even though there was no result on paper. It became something that strengthened us. We knew that if we were going to achieve any success for the season, it was going to take a contribution from every one of us and that became empowering. I was satisfied that we'd won that first final … I think that will help to define us as a team and a club in future years, so it won't be for nothing. Because of fixturing and conferences, it's really hard to get a form line on what the Grand Final would've looked like. We hadn't yet had the chance to play Fremantle, so they would've been a tough opponent. We had played North Melbourne and we managed to get over the top of them, but their best footy got better and better as the season rolled on. But to me, Carlton was the best team we played all season. They were big, strong, athletic and hard-running. They've got stars everywhere you look across the field."

AFLW Match Highlights: Greater Western Sydney v Melbourne

04:37 Mar 21. 2020. 4:51 PM

The Giants and Demons clash in a semi-final of the AFLW