FOR SOME, the chances of Melbourne making the 2021 AFL Women’s Finals Series were slim.
Having farewelled a cohort of players and welcoming youth into their side, the Demons were tipped to take a backwards step this year, with questions of their approach around from day dot.
For Melbourne, the belief was always there – belief that took them to a Preliminary Final and a second-straight Finals appearance.
But for senior coach Mick Stinear, season 2021 fell short of his and his group’s expectations.
“Our aim was to win the Premiership, so we didn’t get to that achievement this year,” he said in his post-match press conference on Saturday.
“I think it’s probably a cross for the season for us in terms of what we wanted to achieve.
“Obviously, we wanted to be in a position to play finals, so we can tick that, but this group definitely wanted to win a Premiership.”
The Demons recorded eight wins in 2021, including a Qualifying Final victory in Week One of the Finals Series.
Despite a dip in the middle of the season – they had consecutive losses to the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood – they showcased that their best footy can match it with anyone.
Their most impressive showings came in the back half, where they faced a fixture of Adelaide, Fremantle and Brisbane in the final rounds of the regular season, and convincingly earned their spot in the Top 6.
And it’s this cohesion that pleased the coach the most.
“The key positive from a coaching point of view is what they’ve built amongst the group this season and to win five games in a row at the backend of the season, we’ve actually built something we know works,” Stinear said.
While it was a tough way for the Dees’ 2021 campaign to end, Stinear is confident the group will only learn and grow from it.
And although the feeling is still pretty raw, it won’t be long until the attention turns to 2022 and achieving that ultimate success.
It hurts, but it's all heart. ?— Melbourne AFLW (@MelbourneAFLW) April 13, 2021
Some words from our captain + coach following our Preliminary Final loss to the Crows on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/0bKZbXTTOe
“There’s not a lot you can say to take the hurt away, you want that still to be there – if it didn’t hurt, you’re probably in the wrong sport,” Stinear said.
“Our group put a lot of heart and soul into this year, so that’ll hurt for a while, but then that hurt becomes fuel to improve next year and you’ve got a benchmark to reference off.
“No doubt we’ll come back bigger and better.”