ESSENDON’s rebel VFLW Grand Final against Southern Saints this Sunday won’t just be an attempt to complete the second undefeated premiership in the league’s six-season history.
It will be the culmination of four seasons of hard work and commitment to a cause started by the team and its coach Brendan Major when the Bombers entered the competition in 2018, winning just one game and picking up the wooden spoon, improving to six wins in 2019, 10 and a preliminary final appearance last year and a 14-0-2 record this year.
While just seven players remain at the club from that 2018 squad and as few as five will play in the Grand Final, those players and the eight who arrived in 2019 form the core of Major’s mainstays – but the build has been about so much more than that – it’s about buying in as a united group, including the coach.
“It's hard to encapsulate that many seasons and that much hard work and so many people involved,” Major said on Monday as he wore his signature red scrunchie on his right wrist.
“From the start the club has been fantastic in its support of women’s football and support of the program.
“As a staffing group and a coaching group we focused on the fundamentals and put our people first and as the years have gone by we’ve just maintained that focus on good people and developing our people and creating a space for them to develop – they’ve taken that responsibility to develop and we’re here because of that.
It’s when you’re playing comes to you and says wear this (the scrunchie), you wear it, it’s as simple as that.
“There’s no superstition, anything that makes me more connected to the playing group I’ll buy into, so if the players ask me to do something, I’ll do it.”
Major admitted Essendon would go into the Grand Final as favourites on the back of its undefeated season, but was quick to say he didn’t expect it to be a walk in the park against a very competitive opposition with their tails up.
“If you look at the two contests we’ve had with Saints, it was a draw and it was 10 points and it could have gone either way – it was close for most of the game and the first half they had most of the run of play,” he said.
“Although statistically without losing a game this year I can understand why people would say that, but we expect a very even game this week, I don’t think it is going to be too favoured one way or the other.”
The NAB AFLW Draft on Wednesday night adds another layer of intrigue to the contest, but Major was confident his players would be ready for the agony or ecstasy for individuals selected or overlooked.
“Whether they be at Essendon or another club, our whole focus in the VFLW is to get players drafted – yep, we’ve had on field success in terms of wins and that’s great, but over the years, we’ve had success in preparing players for the next level,” he said.
“There’s no doubt the draft on Wednesday will affect players differently but that is going to be exactly the same for both sides.”
Major said the Bombers had a couple of days off on preliminary final weekend and almost a clean bill of health for the Grand Final, with the efforts of Nicole Julian (calf) and Eleanor Cornish (hamstring) to force their way back into the team set to create a tough night at the selection table on Thursday.
“We did our normal training sessions and then we gave them the weekend off,” he said.
“We’ve got a fantastic high performance and medical team and they’ve prepared the players very well so we think we’re in a good space and the break was what we thought the best thing for them was, so it was just business as usual.
“There’s a couple of little niggles as you’re always going to have at this time of year so selection this week will be difficult, but that’s not unexpected for the last game of the season.”
Sunday, July 3: rebel VFLW Grand Final: Essendon v Southern Saints (ETU Stadium, 12.15pm).
The rebel VFLW Grand Final will be televised live on Channel 7 from 12pm on Sunday, with a free stream also available via afl.com.au and the AFL Live Official App, with a replay available later at www.VFLW.tv. The Grand Final will also be broadcast on www.warfradio.com from 11am.
To access live scores, results, ladder, stats and to link to live streams/replays, download the VFL/W Official App from the Apple or Google Play stores.