Was Pearce’s overall AFLW season what the football public had come to expect from the best player in the country? Probably not.
This was the fate that ultimately befell Daisy Pearce who, prior to the AFLW, was the indisputable queen of women’s footy.
A seven-time best-and-fairest winner in the VFLW, the Darebin skipper’s achievements were unparalleled.
That was until Erin Phillips came along.
In what was one of the more extraordinary stories – and there were a plethora that made up the narrative of the AFLW – Phillips usurped Pearce as footy’s golden girl.
She did so having not played footy since she was a teenager.
For those who are counting, some 12 years prior.
An Olympic silver-medallist with the Opals and a two-time WNBA champion with the Indiana Fever and then the Phoenix Mercury, Phillips’ sporting CV already read well.
But by the time the Crows had claimed the first ever AFLW flag, under Phillips’ leadership as skipper no less, it would read as one of the best in the country.
Premiership? Tick. Best player in the grand final? Tick. AFLW best-and-fairest player? Tick.
Oh, and throw in the goal of the year as well – a booming kick from beyond 50 that ultimately got Adelaide over the line late in the game against Carlton in round three.
Phillips had achieved everything possible in the eight short weeks that were the sum of the AFLW.
And by the time all the champagne had been sipped at the AFLW best-and-fairest ceremony, she had dwarfed Pearce, 14 votes to seven.
But that’s really only half the story.
Not only did Pearce play the opening fortnight of the AFLW season under duress with a leg issue – which is why she played off half-back as opposed to her preferred role in the guts – she had carried the weight and expectation of the competition since it was first touted.
It was more than a year in the making.
Pearce was not only undertaking a traineeship at the Melbourne Football Club, but training and playing for Darebin, while also spruiking the AFLW.
At every promotion or press conference, there was Pearce.
At every kids’ clinic or talent search, there was Pearce.
In fact, she even ran a nation-wide talent search that encouraged elite athletes from other sporting codes to try their hands at footy.
Put simply: by the time the AFLW kicked off, Pearce was exhausted.
Before I go any further, let me put something on the record: Pearce’s AFLW season wasn’t poor.
In fact, against the Western Bulldogs in round three, she was incredible, racking up 26 touches in a best-on-ground performance that showcased all of her balance, guile and power.
But was Pearce’s overall AFLW season what the football public had come to expect from the best player in the country? Probably not.
However, with a fire in her belly, not to mention a VFLW season where she played sparingly, I’m backing Daisy to come back bigger and better than ever this AFLW season.
No longer the hunted, Daisy Pearce is coming for Erin Phillips and that can only be a good thing for women’s footy.