Peel Thunders to second spot and first finals appearance

PEEL Thunder has powered to their first finals series in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, and left Claremont as the collateral damage, winning by nine points in a tight tussle on the weekend. Sitting in fifth coming into the round, but four points and percentage essentially separating second from fifth in various ways, all the teams were capable to making finals with only one to fall out. In this case, it was Peel’s 5.5 (35) to 3.8 (26) win over the then third placed Tigers to book a spot in the post-season series.

Claremont had the better start of the sides, using the wind to advantage and dominating time in forward half. By the first break, the Tigers would have six scoring shots to none on the scoreboard, but led by just 11 points, not capitalising on their chances as best they could. Both teams were missing some key players for the match, but it was Mhicca Carter who in the ninth minute of the term, got her side on the board from a free kick, playing on and snapping around her body to catch the Thunder defence off guard. It had capped off a strong first half of the term that up until that point, had not eventuated on the scoreboard.

Ella Smith was willing her team on multiple occasions, with Sasha Goranova and Brooke Whyte combining on a number of opportunities for the Tigers whilst the Thunder defence has to be given credit for holding up under heat. Tanisha Anderson was superb, particularly in the opening minutes playing off half-back, while Bella Mann on debut was lively, and the likes of Cassie Davidson and Ebony Dowson were doing well deep in defence. The Thunder were fortunate that a number of chances went begging including a late loose ball which saw the athletic Amy Franklin run onto the ball but it just escape her grasp and roll through for a behind much to the relief of Peel defender, Whitney Benson.

Turning their game around, the Thunder began to build their way back into the contest which started with a terrific Shannon Whale spoil at half-back on Whyte in opening minute. Anderson and Jade Briggs were working well in transition between defence to attack, while Laura Pugh was holding up at half-back for Claremont. On more than a number of occasions Sarah Garstone saved the day on the last line, walking it across the goalline off a tricky bounce. Soon Hannah Church got involved with a couple of shots for the Thunder missing a chance from the boundary line, but then working hard to find space 30m out on a better angle off a Tigers turnover to mark and goal at the 12-minute mark.

With Peel now on the board, it was not long before they added another with a free kick to Kira Phillips inside 50, and Kate Bartlett took the chance to play on and fire on the run to extend the lead to five points on the edge of half-time. The work of Whale, Bartlett and Ella Roberts was swinging the momentum in the home team’s favour, and while Emily Bennett and Krstel Petrevski were impressing through the midfield, it was the Thunder who were on top at the main break.

It was evident from early in the third that Peel had already adapted to kicking against the wind better in this quarter compared to the first term, and attacked from the outset. They had an early chance after an inside 50 from Chloe Wrigley to set up Krystal Carter, though the shot drifted. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise however, as Greta McKinley was paid a free kick on the line and with Bartlett hanging a couple of metres around, the AFL Women’s experienced forward knew what to do with the quick handball and snap around her body for her second.

Claremont was defending bravely, and then went on the attack, with Goranova running down Anderson at half-forward to pile on the pressure inside 50. Peel managed to clear the danger zone, but only as far as Tessa Doumanis who spotted a loose Petrevski all alone 40m straight in front. The Melbourne AFL Women’s listed player made no mistake in the eighth minute mark, kicking Claremont’s first goal since the opening term. Smith almost had a couple of chances herself close to goal after a rare Franklin set shot fell short, but a desperate Davidson rugby-tried it across the line for a rushed behind.

Peel took the momentum from the defensive efforts to again rush the ball forward and Krystal Carter had another chance from 40m which again fell short, but brought Roberts into the game with enough air to allow the talented forward to leap and pull down a grab. She made no mistake from 15 metres out and goaled for a 10-point lead. It could have been cut to less than a kick in the final moments of the term, but once again Anderson was there to save the day and cleared to safety.

Holding a handy buffer at the break it was Peel’s game to lose. The Thunder just needed to hold on for another 20 minutes and they would be through to their first ever finals series. Chewing 12 minutes of the clock by both teams defences standing up, the Thunder were gaining more confident by the minute. They just needed to create contest after contest and ensure the Tigers could not get their running game going. Whale provided another goal-saving moment when Mhicca Carter bit off a touch too much by fending off and sidestepping a number of Peel players before trying to do the same with Whale who stood her ground and won the free at half-back. It was one of those game-changing moments that summarised Peel’s efforts throughout the season.

Then despite the best efforts of Smith and Garstone in Claremont’s back 50, it was Phillips who fittingly drove the final nail in the coffin with a set shot goal in the 13th minute. Now the Tigers needed three goals in seven minutes, more than double their score to that point. They did break through with a clever snap for Mhicca Carter’s second of the day with two minutes remaining, but ultimately barring a miracle, their time had run out. Roberts had a massive run-down tackle in the final 30 seconds and when Whale charged off half-back to clear it for the Thunder it was fitting that Peel had charged into its first finals series.

PEEL THUNDER 0.0 | 2.5 | 4.5 | 5.5 (35)
CLAREMONT 1.5 | 1.6 | 2.7 | 3.8 (26)

GOALS:

Peel: K. Bartlett 2, H. Church, E. Roberts, K. Phillips.
Claremont: M. Carter 2, K. Petrevski.

ADC BEST:

Peel: S. Whale, T. Anderson, K. Bartlett, H. Church, E. Roberts
Claremont: S. Goranova, K. Petrevski, E. Smith, M. Carter, E. Bennett

In other matches, South Fremantle played out of its skin against top of the table Subiaco in what was by far its most impressive performance to date. While the Bulldogs ended the season winless, they showed great signs against the minor premiers, going down by just 14 points in the final round. They conceded just one goal in the second half whilst booting three themselves, though the Lions still got the job done, 6.11 (47) to 5.3 (33). Subiaco coach Amy Lavell made a surprise return from retirement to boot three goals in the win, with Tiah Haynes, Aimee Schmidt and Maggie Maclachlan kicking the other majors. Tarnica Golisano and Holly Hyder were nominated as the Lions best, whilst the Bulldogs had five individual goalkickers. Tahlia McRoberts, Lauren Vecchio and Kiara Templeton all impressed in the losing side, while Fremantle ruck Mim Strom got a game in before the end of the season.

In the crucial season-on-the-line clash, reigning premiers East Fremantle kept their 2020 hopes alive with the Sharks getting the job done in a three-point thriller over Swan Districts. Ironically the result meant the teams go at it next week again in a do-or-die semi-final, and the Sharks will hope to start better (goalless in the first half), whilst the Swans will hope to finish better (one goal after quarter time). Alex Williams, Katelyn Catalano and Gabby O’Sullivan all booted majors for the Sharks, as Ruby Schleicher and Maddy Ross stepped up to be named among the best. For the Swans, it was Ashley Sharp, Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Morrison who converted opportunities in front of goal, while Eliza Gelmi and Aimee Ralph were nominated as Swan Districts’ best.

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