Fremantle captain Kara Antonio said it was difficult to put her feelings into words after the AFL announced the cancellation of the 2020 NAB AFL Women’s season, meaning the undefeated Freo would not have the chance to play for a premiership in 2020.
Freo were 7-0 for the season, including their historic 70-point semi-final win against Gold Coast on Saturday, but on Sunday it was determined the season would be cancelled in the wake of the emerging Covid-19 crisis.
While Antonio said she was ‘100 per cent’ behind the suspension of football from this week, she said the group was deflated to not have the opportunity to play for a premiership.
“We feel like our business hasn’t finished yet, we had such great momentum throughout the season and obviously on the weekend, our first final, we were really building into something special,” Antonio said.
“To get that cut short, it’s really deflating.
“We’ve dedicated many months to this season, made a lot of sacrifices as players, not just at Fremantle, the AFLW as a whole.
“To not have a premier at the end of a season, it feels like a bit of a waste.
“We understand there’s a bigger issue of the health and safety of all of us and the rest of Australia, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t hurting and this is a really tough time for all of us.
“It’s a feeling going through the entire playing group at Freo and no doubt the entire playing group of the AFLW who were still in contention at this pointy end of the season.”
Outside of the cancelled season, some other side effects of the Covid-19 crisis were already being felt at Freo with a handful of AFLW players losing their jobs in the past week.
Antonio said the bonds built between the players were bigger than football and they would be there for each other through this period.
“That’s the bigger picture, there’s more to life than footy,” Antonio said.
“A number of girls, not just at Fremantle, but no doubt across the entire AFLW and society have lost jobs.
“I think the one thing keeping us all together and keeping us moving forward and keeping us pretty positive was having the ability to be able to play the greatest game in the world. Rock up to training and train with your best mates and have a bit of fun while all this was going on outside the football club.
“Obviously (the cancelled season) has been added to the pile that we have to deal with, but we’re a really tight-knit group and we’ll stick by each other through the good times but more importantly through the tough times.
“We’ll get through this, we know it. It’s just hard to comprehend at the moment.”
Antonio said the players were already feeling the love and support of the Fremantle fans, praising their passion throughout the season.
“We’re sorry we couldn’t finish the season off for you guys,” Antonio said.
“I’m just so proud to be able to lead such an amazing football club. I might be biased – but we’ve got the most incredible fans out there, they’re the most loyal, they’ve stuck with us through the good and bad and trust me, there’s that much more fire in the belly now after what’s just happened in the last couple of hours.
“We’re going to build on this for next season so stick by us, we’ll be training hard in the off-season, getting ready for what will be.
“I just can’t thank them enough for sticking by us and coming down to Fremantle Oval every home game and getting behind us. They’re like another player and the atmosphere they create down there is like no other, so thank you very much.”