Orla O’Dwyer plays key role as Brisbane win AFLW grand final

Tipperary woman scored crucial goal in third quarter of enthralling contest against North Melbourne

Orla O’Dwyer has cemented her status as the pre-eminent Irish import to women’s Aussie rules, playing a key role in Brisbane’s AFLW grand final win and securing her second premiership medal in the process.

The Tipperary woman scored a crucial goal in the third quarter of an enthralling contest against North Melbourne, smartly gathering and snapping home off her left to put the Lions in front for the first time in the game and inspiring a clearly clued-in stadium DJ to blast a snippet of “Zombie” by The Cranberries over the PA.

Later, with just 10 minutes left in the match and Brisbane still a point in arrears, O’Dwyer – who generally plays as a winger in forward areas – appeared in the full back position just metres from her own goal line, making a last-ditch intervention to dispossess former team-mate Lulu Pullar and prevent what appeared to be a certain goal.

The desperate stretching effort to claw the ball away was hailed in post-match punditry by Western Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn as quite possibly the winning of the game for the Lions.


“I daresay If O’Dwyer doesn’t do that, North Melbourne kick a goal and Brisbane potentially don’t go on and win a grand final,” Blackburn said on Fox Footy after the game. “So that’s a really pivotal moment that I have no doubt will be celebrated in [the Brisbane] rooms.”

O’Dwyer was joined on the winners’ podium by Jennifer Dunne, who became the second woman to do the All-Ireland/AFLW championship double after her Dublin team-mate Sinead Goldrick was on the victorious Melbourne Demons side last year. Despite spending most of the game on the field, Dunne had a relatively subdued game in defence with just four disposals.

Despite this being their fifth grand final appearance in eight years and having never lost to North Melbourne since the Kangaroos joined the competition in 2019, Brisbane travelled to Melbourne as underdogs, with North expected to continue the blistering form they had displayed in the finals to date, inspired by the competition’s most admired player Jasmine Garner.

However, despite two early goals from Garner and doing enough throughout a ferocious contest to still be in the lead with a few minutes to play, North fell away in the face of a late Brisbane onslaught, meaning Cork’s Erika O’Shea and Tipperary’s Niamh Martin – who also had quiet afternoons – left Ikon Park empty-handed.

Brisbane’s Dakota Davidson – a divisive player who had entered the game under an injury cloud after jarring her knee in last week’s preliminary final win – emerged as the final-stretch hero, slotting two goals in quick succession to break North’s spirit and set up a Lions victory lap. Meanwhile, North were luckless in injury terms, with their preliminary final player of the match Jenna Bruton getting carried off in the opening minutes with a suspected torn Achilles.

It all made for an epic occasion at a sold-out stadium that will surely serve as a welcome advertisement for a competition that continues to expand but still struggles to gain traction with the majority of AFL fans, even in a footy-obsessed city like Melbourne.

And it certainly won’t have done any harm to the ongoing influx of Irish talent, with the roll of premiership-winning honour now running to five Irish players, with Dunne joining previous winner O’Dwyer and Goldrick alongside Bláithín Mackin (Armagh) and Ailish Considine (Clare) on the list of champions after just seven completed seasons.