The dual Olympian went immediately to ground, clutching her knee and writhing in pain before being stretchered off the park.
Tears in her eyes, Phillips (18 disposals, two goals) waved to the record AFLW crowd of 53,034 as she was afforded an emotive standing ovation from Crows and Blues supporters.
Phillips’ heartbreak headlined a shocking afternoon of injuries at Adelaide Oval with young teammate Chloe Scheer also suffering a suspected ACL injury in the second term and forward Stevie-Lee Thompson hurting her ankle in the third period before returning in the fourth.
Carlton forward Tayla Harris went off the ground after knocking knees with teammate and captain Bri Davey early in a brutal third quarter that also claimed defender Jayde van Dyk with a head knock.
Adelaide, after crushing Geelong by 66 points in last week’s preliminary final, afforded the Blues similar lack of clemency in a commanding second quarter after a sluggish, undisciplined start.
Carlton had a swag of inside 50s early and drew first blood when Maddy Prespakis converted via a 50m penalty, one of three conceded by Adelaide in the opening term.
The Crows led by nine points at quarter-time before putting on a match-winning exhibition in the second term, their lead ballooning to 40 points when Eloise Jones snared an excellent grab and threaded a magnificent goal on the half-time siren.
Excitement machine Danielle Ponter slotted three for the term in quick succession, the first of which came following Scheer’s powerful mark over Karryn Harrington, moments before the young Crow exited with a knee injury.
Phillips took a neat lead mark and slotted the only goal of the second half but her shocking injury took the air right out of the stadium.
The crowd lifted when Phillips made her way around the boundary line on crutches in the fourth before being helped onto the dais by fellow skipper Chelsea Randall and Ebony Marinoff to be presented with the best-afield medal.
Whether or not Phillips is able to again pull on the footy boots again, she has done enough to be regarded as the fledgling women’s game’s G.O.A.T..
In 2017 she co-captained Adelaide to the inaugural AFLW flag, was named best-on-ground in the grand final win and was crowned the best and fairest for both club and competition.
After leading the Crows’ goalkicking last season despite missing games with a quad injury, the dual Olympian has returned better than ever in 2019 and was adjudged best on ground despite playing less than three full quarters on Sunday.
She is again in contention to claim the league’s top individual honour at next week’s awards night.
Phillips’ legacy will be the one chased by future generations desperate to measure themselves against the women’s game’s first true superstar.
GRAND FINAL FOOTY’S ROYAL FAMILY
Teenager Ponter set Adelaide Oval alight for the second week in a row with three goals inside six electric minutes during the Crows’ rampaging second quarter.
After snagging three majors in Adelaide’s preliminary final win, Ponter’s grand final exhibition was just as impressive, following a longstanding tradition of family members starring on the biggest stage.
Ponter’s uncles Maurice Rioli (1982) and Michael Long (1993) are Norm Smith medallists, as is her cousin Cyril Rioli (2015).
As the record crowd started streaming into Adelaide Oval, venue officials needed to act with similar speed.
The upper level of the eastern stand, closed in the lead-up, was opened shortly before the opening bounce and ended up near capacity.
The top tier of the Riverbank Stand at the River End was then opened during the first quarter and also filled rapidly as the previous women’s football record crowd of 41,975 in the 2018 Fremantle-Collingwood clash in Perth was smashed by more than 11,000.
ADELAIDE 3.0 9.2 10.2 10.3 (63)
CARLTON 1.3 2.4 2.5 2.5 (18)
GOALS Adelaide: Ponter 3, Phillips 2, Hatchard, Considine, Martin, Thompson, Jones. Carlton: Prespakis, Davey.
BEST Adelaide: Phillips, Foley, Hatchard, Marinoff, Randall, Ponter, Jones. Carlton: Davey, S. Hosking, Downie, Prespakis, Stevens.
INJURIES Adelaide: Phillips (knee), Scheer (knee), Thompson (ankle). Carlton: Van Dyk (head knock), Harris (leg).
UMPIRES Toner, Heffernan, McGinness
CROWD: 53,034 at Adelaide Oval
Erin Phillips (Adelaide) 8
Jess Foley (Adelaide) 8
Anne Hatchard (Adelaide) 8
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 7
Brianna Davey (Carlton) 7