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Grand finals don’t reward season’s best team, AFLW star Ebony Marinoff says

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As the dust settles on a drought-breaking premiership for the Melbourne Football Club, two-time Adelaide Crows  AFLW premiership player Ebony Marinoff still has doubts over the current finals system in Australian rules football.

Aussie sport is something of an outlier in the global landscape, with all the top football codes in the country having a finals system to decide who will lift the trophy.

Elsewhere, most major US sports have series throughout the playoffs, rather than single, do-or-die games, while in many football leagues around the world, including the English Premier League, the team that sits on top of the table at season’s end is crowned the champion.

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They also often bring in the potential for promotion and relegation across different leagues.

Even the Champions League has two legs for each knockout match-up, except for the final.

Speaking on ABC Sport’s Kicking Back, Marinoff revealed her concerns over the use of a grand final to crown the best team in the league after the Crows’ loss to Brisbane in the decider in April.

“Everything happens for a reason … I feel like we were capable of winning the grand final and it hurts that we didn’t,” Marinoff said.

“I look at the Western Bulldogs back in 2016 and they got momentum in the [men’s AFL] finals series, but I don’t believe they were the best team that year. You look back at the Crows in 2017 and they were the best team and they lost. I can put us in that AFL Women’s.

Melbourne’s win over the weekend was a captivating conclusion to a 57-year fairytale, but it was also only the seventh time under the top-eight system that the AFL minor premiers finished the year with the flag since its introduction in 2000, and the first since Hawthorn in 2013.

In the AFLW, two of the four premiers finished the regular season with the best record, with Fremantle unable to complete their attempt to become the third in 2020, when COVID-19 cancelled the last two weeks of the finals series.

New Crows base best for modern landscape

As the Adelaide Football club prepares for life after an AFLW grand final loss — and a second consecutive bottom-four finish in the men’s AFL — a major focus for the club remains the search for new headquarters, which has seemingly been narrowed down to Thebarton Oval or the Brompton Brickworks site.

For some Crows fans, the decision to leave West Lakes while it remains rent-free until 2038 seems ludicrous, but for Marinoff, the decision is essential.

“I would love to move. [The women’s team has] been at the club five years now. It’s definitely time for this club to move to a more state-of-the-art facility,” she said.

“Our SANFL boys can’t train at West Lakes any more because there’s no lights, so they’re based down at Thebarton. It’s just those small things. We’ll spend a month of our pre-season at Norwood because we train at night.

“You want to be at your club 12 months of the year, have lights, have separate training rooms and facilities for the SANFL, AFL and AFLW. It’s a big stepping-point for the club.

“We’re not too far away from getting the site for the build to begin.”

You can hear more about your favourite athletes and their views on the sporting landscape on ABC Sport’s Kicking Back podcast on Mondays at 6:00pm AEST or catch up online.

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