PEEL Thunder have added another chapter in their resurrection story, backing up their fairytale maiden premiership in 2020 with a second consecutive West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s flag. The Thunder defeated Swan Districts by 21 points in the decider, accounting for the minor premiers for the third time in six weeks, with a fourth quarter flurry of two goals to zero securing the win. Fremantle AFL Women’s talent Sabreena Duffy won the Lou Knitter Medal for best on ground in the Thunder’s triumph.
In one of the more strange scoring trends, the first four goals of the match went into the breeze, before the final three went the way of the wind-assisted team. Key targets inside 50 Kira Phillips and Kate Bartlett slotted all five majors for the Thunder, as Peel had the majority of the play for the day, though it was the defence, combined with the midfield work of Duffy and Sarah Verrier that saw the home team get up and claim their second consecutive flag.
Bartlett slotted her first just 90 seconds into the game, winning a free kick for too much holding on and made no mistake from just outside the goalsquare. Despite having the two weeks off due to the bye and then the state lockdown, Peel showed no signs of rustiness into the breeze, with Phillips shrugging off a tackle inside 50 and snapped around her body for her side’s second. Tara Stribley had her side’s best chance in between the two majors, but her kick which looked perfect off the boot showed just how strong the breeze was, violently tugged to the right for a behind. Fellow youngster Abbygail Bushby, and Swans captain Emily McGuire both had chances inside 50, with Bushby’s kick going into the player on the mark, and McGuire’s swaying out on the full.
Already the likes of Duffy and Bartlett were looking dangerous, with Ella Roberts competing hard but often having a defender wearing her at every contest. McGuire, Eliza Gelmi and Lauren Osborne were holding up well, restricting the Thunder to just four behinds with the breeze in the second term, as Bianca Webb returned serve on the reigning premiers with a set shot 25m out off a 50m penalty to stab home a goal. Roberts and Bartlett both had rushed chances but could not going on target, with Phillips’ shot in line with the behind post curling too thin.
Teenage talent Jaime Henry was tasked with the huge job on Phillips, but was far from overawed in the one-on-ones. The breeze was so tricky even the deadeye Roberts missed a set shot from 30m out with it tugged late and into the post. A late chance to Taylah Edwards inside 50 was marked safely in the square by Verrier, and the Thunder headed into half-time with a nine-point advantage.
Swan Districts had the breeze again and had several chances early, with Steph Cain and McGuire both having chances inside 50. Demi Liddle took a strong mark in the goalsquare and settled the team down on the last line, as the Thunder defence – along with Cassie Davidson and Tanisha Anderson – were continually intercepting and driving the ball down the field. McGuire’s chance also caught up in the breeze as she spent the quarter forward, and then Bartlett made it sting with a clever kick around her body one-on-one with Gelmi at the top of the quarter to extend the lead out to 14 points.
The final five minutes of the premiership quarter were spent in the Swans attacking half, as Mikayla Hyde began asserting herself inside 50 after a strong first half. She missed her first chance with a snap towards goal in the 14th minute, but then got goalside off a back and dribbled one home to cut the deficit back to seven points at the final break. It was the first goal with the breeze, and whilst the Swans were within striking distance, the Thunder now had the wind, and the home crowd to try and drive them home.
It did not take long for Phillips to match Bartlett with two majors, winning a fortunate free kick against a very unlucky Jess Cox in the tackle, to slot the set shot and extend the lead out to 13 points just three minutes into the final term. The final stanza was highly contested as both defences refused to yield, though the ball was exactly where Peel wanted it – in the Thunder’s forward half. Phillips was asserting herself on the contest with a massive contested grab midway through the quarter, but she kept the door ajar for the Swans with a miss to the left.
Off the subsequent kickout, Bartlett ran down an unsuspecting Aimee Ralph to earn a set shot, but that too missed, and the lead was out to 15 points. With the time winding down, Peel was able to really lock the ball inside the forward half for long periods of time, and as if it was a fitting exclamation mark on the win, a dangerous inside 50 from youngster Gracie Fenton put to the advantage of Phillips who snapped with the last kick of the day for a goal to seal the 21-point win, 5.6 (36) to 2.3 (15).
There was a great mix of youth and experience on show, with Duffy, Phillips and Bartlett clearly the three best on the ground, as Roberts looked dangerous at high half-forward, Verrier covering plenty of ground, and Davidson and Anderson in the back 50. Fenton found a heap of the ball through midfield, and whilst she did bite off more than she could chew at times, was willing to take the game on. For the Swans, Mikayla Hyde was a standout with Gelmi, Cain and McGuire all among the best, and Henry holding up in defence, and Stribley looking to run off limited chances. Sarah Lakay also really impressed in the opening half with her work through the ruck.
PEEL THUNDER 2.0 | 2.4 | 3.4 | 5.6 (36)
SWAN DISTRICTS 0.1 | 1.1 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)
Peel Thunder: K. Phillips 3, K. Bartlett 2.
Swan Districts: B. Webb, M. Hyde.
Peel Thunder: S. Duffy, K. Phillips, K. Bartlett, E. Roberts, C. Davidson, S. Verrier
Swan Districts: M Hyde, T. Stribley, E. Gelmi, S. Cain, E. McGuire
Picture credit: WAFL