Crows AFLW footballers will vote for their new captain at training this afternoon, as they look towards a new era without their premiership-winning co-captain Erin Phillips in the lead.
Phillips, 35, has been Adelaide’s captain alongside three-time All-Australian defender Chelsea Randall, since the inaugural AFLW season in 2017.
The two-time AFLW best and fairest winner told teammates at training last Friday that she would relinquish the captaincy, saying it would allow the next generation of girls to step in and take control.
It’s expected that Randall, 29, will be voted back into the captaincy, given her experience in the role, but it’s less clear whether she will be voted as the side’s first stand-alone captain.
The Crows will officially unveil the captain on Monday, after Sunday’s trial game against Greater Western Sydney and ahead of their Round 1 clash against Melbourne away at Casey Fields on January 30 (unless COVID forces a fixture change).
Phillips endorsed Randall as a natural leader.
“I’d be highly surprised if it wasn’t Chelsea, she’s done a fantastic job and I’m sure she’ll continue to hold that rein,” Phillips said.
“But I’m not sure if it’s going to be co-captaincy, stand-alone, but whoever it is, is going to be great.”
Phillips will instead move into a mentoring role, helping the next crop of leaders.
At Friday’s vote, the team will also decide on their leadership group, which last season had five members: Marijana Rajcic, Sarah Allan, Angela Foley, Courtney Cramey and Jess Foley.
The retirements of Cramey and Jess Foley means at least one spot is open for a new member of the leadership team, which Phillips said could be filled by the likes of young midfielders Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard, or young forward Eloise Jones or defender Deni Varnhagen.
“It will be a difficult vote, there’s at least five or six of them who could step up and take that role,” Phillips said.
“In the last week, I’ve been seeing them up and about, more vocal, leading the way, it’s going to be a really tough vote … I’m excited to see who gets voted in to put the club in a really good position.”
Phillips said the side was looking forward to its first hit out of the season, when it takes on the Giants in a practice match on Sunday at Norwood Oval.
“At this time of the year, it’s hard to know where you’re at, but if you’re basing it on time-trials, fitness, strength, we’re smashing all those areas,” she said.
“The standard of training keeps going through the roof … (It’s good) we’ve got a game and we can see where we’re at.”
Meanwhile, GWS will relocate to Adelaide on Friday amid Sydney’s COVID-19 cluster, and will spend an extended period of time in SA to avoid border closures and ensure the AFLW season can go ahead.
GIANTS RUSH TO ADELAIDE TO SAVE CAMPAIGN
Greater Western Sydney’s women’s team will relocate to Adelaide and will stay in South Australia for an extended period as the AFL grapples with border closures that are complicating the AFLW fixture.
With the season scheduled to start in two weeks, the league is facing the prospect of having to rewrite at least the opening round if Western Australia does not soften its border restrictions.
The Giants will leave Albury in regional NSW – where they have been camped since January 1 – and travel to Adelaide on Friday to play a practice match against the Crows at Norwood Oval on Sunday.
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The AFL has committed to playing seven practice matches this weekend with Saturday games being played between Geelong and Melbourne at GMHBA, Carlton will take on St Kilda at Ikon Park, Richmond playing the Western Bulldogs at Swinburne Centre, Gold Coast playing Brisbane at Metricon 2, and West Coast playing Fremantle at Mineral Resources Park.
Then on Sunday, Collingwood will play North Melbourne at Ikon Park and the Crows will play the Giants.
On Wednesday, the South Australian government announced it would lift its hard border with regional NSW, paving the way for the Giants to enter SA without mandatory quarantine.
The benefit of GWS being camped in SA, is that while WA has hard borders with Queensland, NSW and Victoria, it is open to SA.
Giants head of footy Jason McCartney thanked Albury for providing the team with everything it needed.
“We’ve seen once again over the past fortnight that it’s an ever-changing landscape but we’re working with the AFL for the best possible outcome to see the season continue as planned,” he said.
The Giants are scheduled to play Fremantle in Perth in their Round 1 clash on January 31, which could now go ahead if the team stays in Adelaide for two weeks, but there are further complications with West Coast scheduled to travel to Queensland to take on the Suns in Round 1 (WA’s hard border making it difficult for the Eagles on return) and in Round 2, Richmond is drawn to play the Eagles in Perth on Sunday, February 7, while Fremantle heads to Melbourne to play Collingwood at Victoria Park on the same day.
With GWS in Adelaide, there is now the possibility that a footy bubble could be created, where the fixture is rewritten and the Giants, Adelaide, West Coast and Fremantle play each other in the opening rounds and the Victorian and Queensland teams play each other, before the AFL reassesses its fixture considering border closures.
Crows star Erin Phillips said it was a relief the AFL had been able to schedule practice games with Adelaide to play GWS on Sunday at 12pm at a closed Norwood Oval.
“They are a great opponent to play,” the two-time AFLW best and fairest said.
“They play really hard, contested footy, which is similar to how we play, so that will be a great hit out, a really good first game for us.”
Phillips, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament during her side’s victorious grand final in 2019, returned to the field in 2020 and played two games.
She said she was fit and was expecting to take to the field on Sunday.
Phillips said the Adelaide side was handling the uncertainty around the season well.
“It’s not ideal … but it’s the nature of the world,” the 35-year-old said.
“It’s the nature of what last year was, and that’s the attitude you’ve got to in with this year, which is be fluid, know that things could change at any point and while it’s not ideal, we’re just going to have to be flexible and you just come prepared to go.”
The SA government announced people travelling into SA from outside the Greater Sydney area would need to have COVID tests on day 1, 5 and 12 of arrival in SA, but would not need to self-isolate while awaiting results – unless they have symptoms.