Najwa Allen to feature in AFLW Grand Final
Written by Sam Burge (AFL Canberra Media)
When Najwa Allen moved to Adelaide at the start of 2019, she attended the AFLW grand final merely as a spectator.
Tomorrow she’ll be playing in it.
Allen was one of the 53,034 people who watched on as Adelaide dismantled Carlton to win their second premiership. It was a historic day for women’s footy and a day Allen describes as amazing.
Tomorrow, the former Eastlake Demon will be playing in an Adelaide Crows team looking to win their third premiership in the fifth year of the competition.
There won’t be 50,000 there tomorrow because of Covid restrictions but it will be the biggest crowd Najwa Allen has ever played in front of.
“I got goosebumps running out last week in the preliminary final, so it’s going to be pretty wild this weekend,” Allen said.
Allen’s story is remarkable considering she’s only in her sixth season of football.
Brought to Eastlake by a friend in 2016, Allen hasn’t looked back, developing into a dominant player in the Canberra competition and winning best on ground honours when Eastlake won the Premiership in 2018.
To seek greater opportunities, Allen moved to Adelaide to play for Norwood in the SANFL in 2019.
The Canberran had a stellar season and won the competition’s best and fairest medal, before being selected with Pick 37 of the 2019 NAB AFLW Draft by the Adelaide Crows.
Allen debuted for the Crows in the 2020 season and went on to play 5 games in an AFLW season that was eventually abandoned.
This season, the 26-year-old has been a consistent performer across halfback for the Crows, playing all 10 games in an Adelaide team that finished on top of the ladder and won their preliminary final comfortably.
Half the Adelaide team will be aiming to win their third premiership and will draw on the successes of 2017 and 2019.
“To have that success and that experience, it definitely helps, particularly with the nerves,” Allen said.
The Crows will be without their courageous captain Chelsea Randall for the decider, after she suffered a concussion in the opening stages of last week’s win against Melbourne.
“We just have to trust our depth. She went off pretty early last week so it helps knowing we can do it without her.”
Adelaide will take confidence in the fact they beat Brisbane by 12 points earlier this season.
“We know how competitive they are and know how they like to play against us, but finals are a different ball game.”
In terms of big game players, the Crows have a few.
Erin Phillips has been best on ground in each of the Crows’s premierships.
“Flip (Erin) is a big game player, she stepped up last time against Brisbane.”
Then there’s Ebony Marinoff, who was enormous last weekend.
“Noffy had a huge game for us in the preliminary final. If she plays like that again there won’t be too many people stopping her.”
As for Allen, she will have a wealth of support behind her from Adelaide to Canberra.
Some of her old Eastlake teammates that “got her playing footy in the first place” will be making the trip to the Adelaide Oval.
“It’s pretty special that they’re making the trip, Mum, Dad and my brother are coming as well,” she said.
In terms of preparation, Allen will be keeping things pretty routine and will be trying not to expend too much energy before tomorrow.
As for the nerves, she just doesn’t know.
For young girls in Canberra aspiring to play in the AFLW, Najwa’s rise can be put down to hard work and a belief that wasn’t always easy to come by.
“If you spend time believing in yourself, you can really achieve whatever you want in football.”
The AFLW Grand Final will be on 7 mate tomorrow, with coverage starting from 1:00pm and the first bounce at 2:00pm Canberra time. Tune in and watch the Adelaide Crows’s No. 8 play in the biggest game of her life.