Antonio looks for Swans to continue hot form in Grand Final

Friday, September 13, 2019 - 11:56 AM by Chris Pike

SWAN Districts enters Saturday's WAFLW Grand Final on a five-game winning streak and captain Ebony Antonio sees no reason they can't maintain that form and she can't hold up the inaugural premiership cup with coach Kara Donnellan.

Swans are no strangers to making history and back in 2017 they did that by winning the league, reserves and Rogers Cup premierships in the one WA Women's Football League season.

Now after not making finals in the last WAWFL season, Swans are back to being a force again in 2019 and it's partners leading the way as captain and coach in the form of Fremantle Dockers AFLW pair Ebony Antonio and Kara Donnellan.

Swans finished the home and away season in the new WAFLW competition in 2019 in third position but their impressive form was building with thumping wins against Claremont and Peel Thunder, and a one-goal win over Grand Final opponents East Fremantle.

Then in the finals, Swan Districts thrashed Claremont by 41 points in the first semi-final and then Subiaco by 45 points in the preliminary final to book a spot in this Saturday's Grand Final at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park.

Antonio is now looking forward to the Grand Final experience with the knowledge that it's the big stage they will now be playing on as the WAFLW takes female football in Western Australia up another level.

For the AFLW players in the team they will be used to the exposure of the game being live on Channel 7 and with the bigger than usual crowd, but Antonio will be urging the rest of her teammates to embrace the whole experience before turning their attention to the job at hand.

"From a Swans point of view, last year we missed out on finals so over the last six weeks we've been building to something special and we're very honoured to be in the position we are today. Obviously this is the inaugural season so to get our name on that cup and to hold it up on Saturday would be fantastic," Antonio said.

"It's obviously quite exciting for the young ones who have never played on TV or such a beautiful big ground. I'll probably speak to my girls before the game and we'll walk out onto the oval and I'll get them all together, and tell them to take a moment to soak it in and enjoy it. 

"Then we'll focus on the game and the job at hand but it's really important to enjoy the day as well and soak it in, and get all the hype around the cameras and whatever else is there on the day. 

"So you have to enjoy it and get that out of the way as soon as possible, and focus on the game. It will be a really exciting game for the young ones who have never played on TV before so it will be good."

While Antonio deserves to feel upbeat about the chances of Swan Districts entering the Grand Final given the impressive five-game winning streak they are on, she knows that it's going to be quite the tough battle against East Fremantle.

Throw in the fact that the game will be on Channel 7 and played on neutral turf at Lathlain where they haven’t played all season and she is expecting quite the spectacle from both teams come Saturday afternoon.

"I think it's going to be a pretty brutal game to be honest. There's a few Freo girls playing, Eagles girls playing and some really good up and coming under-18s girls playing as well. I'm expecting a tough contest through the midfield and will be a great spectacle for the fans to watch through Channel 7 as well," Antonio said.

"Neither teams have played here all season so I'm kind of glad it's a neutral ground and neither of us teams have played here. 

"The oval looks fantastic, hopefully they keep those dimensions out there to spread the wings out and there'll be a lot of run and carry, and hopefully we can put a good show on for the wider public to view women's footy as an exciting game to watch. 

"Hopefully we can put on a good show and the better team will win on the day."

The form of Swan Districts over the past five games has been remarkable with them scoring thumping wins against Claremont, Peel Thunder, the Tigers again and then Subiaco by an average of 50.5 points.

There was a one-goal win over East Fremantle thrown in to make up the winning streak but in those other four games, Swans only have conceded a total of five goals as they have really hit full stride late in the season.

Antonio couldn’t be happier with the way Swans are playing heading into Saturday's Grand Final and she feels it gives them an edge to try and continue their momentum having played the past two weeks while East Fremantle had last weekend off awaiting their opponent to be determined.

"Over the last six weeks we've been building and we've had some really good wins, but I think it's helped with our AFLW girls coming back having had the first part of the season off and you add under-18s girls coming into the side after going away to Queensland," she said.

"So we've got the right people back at the club at the right time of the year and we're just lucky enough to be in the position that we are today.

"I think it's an advantage because we've been on a bit of a roll so to keep that momentum growing has been good for us. 

"The last couple of times we've had byes throughout the season we've come off them real bad so I'm glad that we haven’t had the bye and can come straight into this game coming off a win last week."

While she certainly wouldn’t complain if Donnellan was out there playing with Swan Districts in 2019, Antonio has enjoyed having her as coach while she lets her body rest up ahead of another AFLW campaign with the Dockers in 2020.

She has no doubt that she has done a terrific job as coach while it might be frustrating at times not being able to influence the game herself and now come Grand Final week, having to make some gut-wrenching selection decisions.

"Now that we've got our core group and we've been able to gel the last couple of games, Juddy has got some hard decisions this weekend to make some selection calls but I'm sure she'll make the right ones for the particular match ups for the day," Antonio said.

"Compared to our game last week, East Freo have some bigger and stronger bodies so we might have to go for some bigger bodies ourselves. But I'll leave that up to her.

"I think coaching is difficult and we've had plenty of conversations at home about it. As much as she would love to be out there, she is thoroughly enjoying her time as coach. 

"She can only say and do so much, but it's up to us players to put those plans into action. So on Saturday when she gives her final address and heads up into the box, I think she is a bit nervous because she's done all she can and it's up to the players to put it into action."