The fighting fury is ready to roar
THE Tweed Coast Tigers are aiming to cap a remarkable rise with a grand final win over arch-rival Lismore in tomorrow's AFL Northern Rivers Women's grand final.
Last season was the first year of women's competition in the Northern Rivers region.
Riding the wave of support for the women's game through the popularity of AFLW, the Tigers cobbled a team together from a bunch of former soccer players, netballers, basketballers, touch players and others with a passion for footy.
Some of them had never kicked a footy before, and most had never copped the hits in the rough and tumble of a contact sport.
It's a patchwork that has worked to perfection.
From day one they played with the same physicality and mateship that has defined Tweed Coast Tigers footy since the club's earliest days on the field.
These Tigers proved to be fast learners and were soon holding their own in training drills with the Tigers' men.
And on the field, in just 18 months, the improvement has been exponential. Skills that were not long ago foreign are now honed. A playing structure that was once unclear now has a game-plan, team tactics and defined individual roles.
The team has inspirational skippers in Eleanor Crawley and Rachel Kelly, cult figures like Blossom Grimshaw, and the competition's golden boot.
That golden boot belongs to Eleanor Crawley, who has kicked more than double the goals of anyone else in the competition.
"Inspirational" is an inadequate way to describe Crawley's effect on the Tigers around her.
It's not only her influence on games, authority in the forward line and prowess around goal; her will to push on through an acute hand injury, and play in a grand final with her mates, is leadership personified.
But, as coach Shane Art quipped, one hand is all she needs.
The Tigers went within a whisker of a grand final berth in their debut season last year and only missed out due to a contentious Lismore goal right on the final siren in the preliminary final.
But this year, it was the Tigers' turn to win in a preliminary final heart-stopper, this time in extra-time against Ballina.
Now, the Tigers will march into Saturday's big dance evolved, brimming with confidence, and with a travelling army of yellow and black right behind them.
Who: Tweed v Lismore
When: Saturday, 12.25pm
Where: Cavanbah Centre, Byron Bay