Saturday’s WAFLW Grand Final was all about glory for Peel Thunder as they ground out a 15-point victory against Subiaco at Arena Joondalup.
For Fremantle senior coach Trent Cooper, it was about the excellent signs for the future as a youthful Thunder outfit triumphed on the big stage.
While the extreme winds to one end may have limited the spectacle, Cooper said Peel were masterful at handling the conditions.
“Peel played very well defensively for the two quarters when they were against the wind. Then they were able to break the game in the second quarter when they had the wind, which was enough for them to get the job done,” Cooper said
“We didn’t have any players out there for Peel but it was still really pleasing to see all the young talent coming through in their team. There were quite a few girls that have been in our academies that played really well and it was pleasing to see.”
The game ended in heartbreak for a Freo trio, with coach Amy Lavell, captain Hayley Miller and defender Ange Stannett all on the losing side with Subiaco.
“It would have obviously been very disappointing for Amy to go through such a good season with just one loss and then to lose in the Grand Final,” Cooper said.
“Injuries got the better of them and one of our own, Janelle Cuthbertson, not being able to take her place in the Grand Final was pretty costly for them.”
Cooper praised Miller for showing her class and power through the midfield on the day.
“Hayley led from the front, she worked really hard in the clearances and she couldn’t have tried any harder,” Cooper said.
“She should be very proud of her year as a player and also as captain.
“She’s a natural leader and she took it to another level this year. She’s really conscious of improving her leadership as well.
“That’s something that we’ll definitely look for her to bring in again to our squad for 2021.”
Cooper added that Stannett would have taken a lot from her season. A former Perth Glory player, Stannett has starred at Fremantle since making the switch to Australian rules football two years ago.
“Ange did the job on Kate Bartlett, she’s a very dangerous Peel forward, she kept her goalless and she’s another one that couldn’t have done any more on the day,” Cooper said.
“She would have played somewhere in the mid-twenties of football games in total in her life. Any footy for her is just a benefit.
“She’s learning all the time and learning out there. She finished the season really strongly as well.”
While much of the state’s best players didn’t take part in the WAFLW season as they rested over the winter, Cooper said he’s seeing the standard continue to improve.
“The top end talent isn’t there like it was a couple of years ago but the rising standard at the base and the young ones coming through means that all sides can go out with a full team that play at a really high standard,” Cooper said.
“It’s only going to get better and better, I watched the Rogers Cup Grand Final between South Fremantle and Peel and that was a real spectacle for skill and athleticism.
“They’re the players who are going to keep coming up through the system and you only have to look at Peel who finished last in 2019 and won this year with virtually the same squad.
“It’s exciting from a perspective of what this comp can do, both as a spectacle but also in developing AFLW talent.”