MELBOURNE’S inaugural AFL Women’s Finals campaign was cut short on Sunday, following the league’s decision for the 2020 season to conclude immediately.
The news, which came as a result of the evolving COVID-19 crisis, ended the Demons’ race for their first-ever premiership, with the Semi Final victory over GWS GIANTS being their last of the season.
While the call was met with mixed emotions among the football community, coach Mick Stinear supported the league’s decision.
“It’s disappointing to have to end the season early, particularly after the amount of work that had gone into the program from a club point of view and a staff point of view, and more importantly the level of investment from the players,” he told Melbourne Media.
“But under the circumstances, it’s completely understandable and it’s the right decision to cease the competition. It’s also the right decision not to announce a Premier, given the Finals campaign had just started.
“I believe any team can beat any team on their given day, so it’s certainly the right decision.”
The Demons were preparing to play in a Preliminary Final this weekend, having secured their spot alongside Fremantle, Carlton and North Melbourne in the next round.
With the AFL’s decision coming less than 24 hours after Melbourne's thrilling three-point win at GIANTS Stadium, Stinear said it was somewhat challenging to digest.
“I’ve spoken to a number of players and communicated to the group last night – I think they were a little bit numb and a bit flat,” he said.
“Footy brings so much structure to our lives and the girls were well and truly entrenched in our season and the program.
“For all that to come to an end abruptly can leave you feeling a little bit empty, but I think the positive is they got to share in such an exciting and emotional game at the end.
“We’re appreciative of the opportunity to play in finals and to be able to win our first final is something we can take away from this season – it’s a good memory to have.”
And while the Dees faced their fair share of hurdles this season, the coach is confident it will only drive the group further in 2021.
“I think back to November, and we were full of hope for the season,” Stinear said.
“Unfortunately, we had a number of injuries and illnesses, but the pleasing thing about our group was just the spirit they showed – they treated every obstacle as an opportunity.
“The next person would step up and we played every player on our list that was fit and available.
“I’m really pleased overall of how the team handled such a challenging year and they put themselves in a position to play in a Preliminary Final, so we’ll certainly take that into our next campaign.”