NORTHERN Knights have capitalised on their opportunities in a memorable 33-point premiership win over Calder Cannons at Ikon Park in near-perfect conditions. While grey skies threatened to rain on the game, no one or nothing could rain on the Knights parade, who stormed to victory in a terrific team effort, deserving of the only side who could go through the 2019 season undefeated. They held Calder goalless despite the Cannons piling on the pressure in the second term, to win 6.3 (39) to 0.6 (6). Jess Fitzgerald won the best on ground medal from 15 disposals, four marks, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds, while Nell Morris-Dalton starred with 10 marks and three goals. Alyssa Bannan booted the book-end goals of the game while Ellie McKenzie also converted on her opportunity in front of goal. For the Cannons, Georgie Prespakis and Georgia Patrikios were typically superb, while Alisa Magri looked damaging up front despite missing some chances. Emelia Yassir also played her role for the Cannons.
Northern booted their first goal through Bannan with the ball bouncing over her head but she cleanly grabbed it and snapped around her body for a goal a few minutes into the opening term. Fitzgerald had a couple of chances, going inside 50 but the Cannons defence was holding up. Gabby Newton started having an impact just outside 50 and produced a great kick to Fitzgerald but her shot was touched in the square and hit the post. McKenzie put the Knights’ second goal on the board from 15m out after a couple of chances, having a long-range shot, fell short and Tallia Pulcino won a free for in the back. Her shot on goal came off the side of the boot, but McKenzie was in the right spot with a terrific contested mark and goal. McKenzie was in the action shortly after, kicking perfectly after winning a free to hit up Morris-Dalton deep one-on-one who converted easily and the Knights were out to a 19-point lead at quarter time. Patrikios, Prespakis, Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore all had moments in the first term, but the Cannons struggled to get the ball and did not get it inside 50.
The second quarter was an arm-wrestle to start the term with Patrikios getting a heap of the ball, but could not capitalise with a couple of wild chances on goal. A chance from Yassir and Magri went the wrong side of the sticks. After dominating the term, Calder could only manage a couple of behinds and the first inside 50 of the term to the Knights saw Morris-Dalton run onto the ball and kick from point blank range and boot her second major. The Knights now lead by 23 points and were coming from everywhere to celebrate her goal. Patrikios had a chance to narrow the gap herself but was dragged down and the ball bounced the wrong side of the post. Makeisha Muller then had a chance from a snap set shot but it slammed into the woodwork for the Cannons’ fourth straight behind. The siren sounded shortly after and for all their effort, the Cannons had booted 0.4 to the Knights’ 1.0 to trail 4.1 (25) to 0.4 (4).
The third term started with the Knights rebounding out of defence, as Newton had a couple of deft touches in to keep the ball moving in space and heading forward. A timely intercept mark by Patrikios dropping back to half-back repelled the attack. The Knights were pressing however, and eventually the ball got free from Bannan at a stoppage over the top of a couple of opponents to Morris-Dalton who ran on and kicked her third major of the game. Trailing by 26 points, the Cannons had an attempt on goal off the ground but mistimed and went out of bound. Calder was refusing to give in and having its share of opportunities despite Northern being efficient when going forward. Prespakis went onto McKenzie in defence in a match-up that draft watchers were keen to see for the future and the first contest saw Prespakis pick up the loose ball after McKenzie slip over and kick long, then read the ball perfectly again and kicked to the wing. Bannan gave it over to McKenzie who was immediately tackled by Patrikios in defence, but was deemed to have infringed and McKenzie had a set shot which fell short in the square. The Cannons were holding up in defence, but for all the intercept marks in defence, could not push it past half-back and the Knights continued to drive hard forward. Britney Gutknecht had a chance on goal from 40m but it drifted to the right and bounced through for a behind and the Knights led 5.2 (32) to Calder 0.4 (4). The siren sounded and the Knights were 15 minutes away from the premiership glory that eluded them 12 months earlier.
Sensing the urgency in the game, Calder rushed the ball forward and Magri had a shot on goal but just missed. And the deficit was 27 points again. The Cannons continued to push forward and throw everything out on the table, with Theodore pushing forward and taking a good mark and sending it inside 50. It led to Magri winning a free for high contact and having a set shot from 25m out, which drifted to the left and all but spelled the end for Calder’s chances. McKenzie had the highlight of the match, taking a massive seven-bounce run from half-back to half-forward as the crowd got behind her. The Knights were going to hold on with seven minutes left. If the game was not already done and dusted, by the time Bannan ran onto an intercept ball and slammed it home from point blank, it was game over. The Knights were celebrating with just two minutes left as they led by 33 points. The Cannons defence had held up relatively well in a game that the Knights had control of, and were efficient with their inside 50s, but the minor premiers were just too strong, running out the game to run out 33-point winners, 5.9 (39) to 0.6 (6).
Aside from Fitzgerald and Morris-Dalton who were prominent in the forward half, Newton had 15 disposals, three marks, five tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds, while Sarah Sansonetti had 14 disposals and three rebounds stopping multiple Cannons attacks. Gutknecht (14 dipsosals, two marks and five tackles) was also prolific for the winners, while Patrikios (24 disposals, nine tackles, six inside 50s and six rebounds) and Prespakis (20 disposals, four tackles, two inside 50s, two rebounds) both impressed.
For full game and individual player statistics click here.
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 3.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 | 5.9 (39)
CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 0.4 | 0.4 | 0.6 (6)
Northern: N. Morris-Dalton 3, A. Bannan 2, E. McKenzie.
Northern: J. Fitzgerald, G. Newton, N. Morris-Dalton, E. McKenzie, B. Gutknecht, S. Sansonetti
Calder: G. Prespakis, G. Patrikios, E. Yassir, A. Magri, A. Barba, F. Theodore