Fremantle captain Kara Antonio says it felt like her heart was ripped out when she realised the AFLW season had been cancelled, robbing her unbeaten team of their shot at premiership glory.
The decision to cancel the season - announced by AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan last Sunday in response to the coronavirus pandemic - was handed down 24 hours after the unbeaten Dockers had thrashed Gold Coast by a record finals margin.
They would have started favourites against Melbourne in a home preliminary final, with the winner to have advanced to a grand final.
"I just took a really big deep breath and a few tears rolled down my face," Antonio said on a Fremantle-produced podcast this week.
"We probably expected it to happen but when reality hit, it all seemed pretty real what was going on."
The AFL decided there would be no premier crowned for the unfinished women's season.
Antonio was watching television when her partner - fellow Dockers player Ebony Antonio - delivered the news she had read on the phone.
"It's almost that sick feeling. It's a bit dramatic, but I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest," the Fremantle captain said.
"We knew there probably wasn't going to be three weeks (of finals) and I think that's why we were so disappointed ... that we didn't have the opportunity to play in a grand final.
"It was just a numb feeling and I still don't know what to feel because I feel like it's not over yet."
Antonio said she felt for Fremantle's long-suffering fans, who are yet to see their club win a premiership of any sort since joining the AFL in 1995.
The Dockers men's team reached a grand final under Ross Lyon in 2013, but lost to Hawthorn.
"All the fans (are) posting about how proud we made them this season and I feel a bit guilty," Antonio said.
"Freo, the club's been around, haven't won a premiership yet, ups and downs with the boys and the girls; you feel so bad (because) we were almost there.
"Now they have to wait. God knows what's going to happen with the men's season and with our season next year, but the poor fans have got to wait again another 12 months."
Australian Associated Press