NORTH Melbourne has produced a clutch performance to come from behind and defeat Fremantle at Arden Street and secure a 2021 AFL Women’s finals spot. The Roos trailed by five points at the final break, but kicked the only goal of the last quarter to grind out a win, 4.6 (30) to 4.5 (29) over the finals-bound Dockers. The win meant North Melbourne held off seventh placed Carlton to secure the post-season series wrap, and confirm the finalists for this year.
Back at their spiritual home, North Melbourne took just 57 seconds to kick the first goal of the game off the boot of Sophie Abbatangelo and race off to a six-point lead. Despite the early goal, it was a tight armwrestle for the first term, with just an Emma O’Driscoll behind added to the scoreboard, and the final 15 minutes seeing neither team add to their total. North Melbourne led by five points at the first break, and much like the first term, were out to a flyer in the second. This time it took less than 90 seconds to convert their second goal, this time through Daria Bannister off a perfectly timed crumb, and the lead was out to two straight kicks. In eerily similar circumstances, the Dockers again hit back with a score at the three-minute mark, but this time it was through the big sticks off Gemma Houghton running into goal.
Beth Lynch missed a chance 90 seconds later to respond, and it was Gabby O’Sullivan who capitalised via a free kick for push in the back midway through the term to cut the half-time deficit to just one point. It was neck-and-neck at the main break as neither side could really break away. The key for the Dockers was not allowing North Melbourne another early goal in the third term, and trying to grab the momentum themselves. But alas for the visitors, Jasmine Garner was the first one to create a major, in the first four minutes, and the gap widened to eight as the Roos were edging closer to a finals berth.
Fremantle refused to give in though, and created their own chances in the third quarter with Kiara Bowers being her usual self after being allowed to play in the crucial contest, kicking a goal midway through the quarter. That major cut the deficit to just two points, and when Kara Antonio goaled in the dying minutes of the quarter, Fremantle was out to a five-point lead. The Dockers held that advantage heading into three quarter time, and the onus was on the home side to return fire if the Roos wanted to play finals in 2021.
A Roxy Roux behind in the opening minute was a chance gone begging after a massive contested mark for the Dockers as they came out firing, and the lead was a team-high six points. Three consecutive behinds over the next eight minutes had plenty of nervous moments for the home fans, as North Melbourne slowly clawed its way back into the contest. Daisy Bateman became the hero with a goal in the tenth minute of the term, with her major putting her side three points up after being knocked over going for the mark. It would not be completely done and dusted just yet, as Fremantle would throw everything at the Roos in the last eight minutes to try and win the game. Ironically it would be Bateman again up the opposite end who would again play the role of hero, almost handing the ball across the line in the dying moments, waiting to be tackled for pressure, and it was enough to secure the one-point win.
Ash Riddell was unbelievable in the win, racking up 33 disposals, three tackles and seven inside 50s to lead all-comers, while Garner (24 disposals, six marks, three tackles, three inside 50s, two rebound 50s and a goal) and Emma Kearney (24 disposals, two tackles and six inside 50s) were also prolific. Bateman’s clutch efforts late were important in getting her side over the line, while Bannister (11 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal) and Emma King (eight disposals, three marks, two tackles and 23 hitouts) were also among the best on the day.
For the Dockers, Bowers was relentless throughout, picking up 19 disposals, two marks, two inside 50s, five rebound 50s and laying seven tackles. Stephanie Cain (14 disposals, six marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Tiah Haynes (14 disposals, three marks and four tackles) were also impressive, while the experience of O’Sullivan (nine disposals, four marks and a goal) and Kara Antonio (nine disposals, two marks, four tackles and a goal) was vital.
North Melbourne’s win means the Roos will finish sixth, but their opponent is yet to be determined. Collingwood plays Adelaide today, and if the Pies get up, the Roos will remain in Melbourne to face the Demons, whilst if Adelaide get up, the margin will depend on whether or not they head to South Australia, Queensland, or remain in Victoria to face the Magpies in the first week of finals. For the Dockers, they are in a similar boat, with fifth place secured, and as of now will head to South Australia if the Crows lose to the Magpies, but could face the Demons in Melbourne if Adelaide wins against Collingwood.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 4.6 (30)
FREMANTLE 0.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 4.5 (29)
North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo, D. Bannister, J. Garner, D. Bateman.
Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, G. Houghton, K. Bowers, K. Antonio.
North Melbourne: A. Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney, D. Bateman, E. King
Fremantle: K. Bowers, S. Cain, T. Haynes, G. O’Sullivan, E. Antonio
Picture credit: Robert Cianflone / AFL Photos
DEMONS CLINCH HOME FINAL FROM LIONS’ CLUTCHES
IT was a two-point ball-game that decided the AFL Women’s top five on Saturday afternoon, as Melbourne pipped Brisbane Lions at the post in a huge battle for a home final next week. Whilst the Lions commanded possession and retained control for much of the middle two thirds, the final quarter was all Demons as the red and blue ran home in front of a home crowd, 6.2 (38) to 6.0 (36).
The win was soured by an early injury though, as Dees superstar Daisy Pearce went down with what appeared to be a knee injury within the opening minutes, which saw the side sent into a flurry rotating the roles to suit the loss. Eden Zanker was pushed up through the midfield and had an immediate impact, piling on 12 touches in the first quarter alone as the Lions stayed in touch by a lone goal to be a minor down at the first break. But the second was where the game broke open, with both sides finding the scoreboard with ease and a tantalising contest became apparent. Dakota Davidson was the first to put a goal on the board in the second term before a huge running goal from Courtney Hodder proved the Lions would not back down on the Dees home turf. The Demons bit back with two of their own as Karen Paxman and Shelley Scott pounced on the ground ball, while a second within the term to Davidson proved the two sides had a game on their hands. A goal to Taylor Smith right on the halftime siren saw the Lions head into the second half with a marginal 11-point lead, with players across the field playing their roles and doing it well to create a phenomenal matchup.
The second half began with another tight quarter, as the two sides remained accurate in front of the big sticks with limited opportunity credit to tight defence. Veteran Lauren Arnell got in on the action and piled on another major to extend the lead, before a third Scott goal showed the Dees would not relent, especially with finals on the line. The match really came to blows in the final term though as the red and blue overcame the 11-point margin and turned it into a two-point win, with two straight goals to young guns Alyssa Bannan and Tyla Hanks, popping up at the right time to force the Lions onto the back foot as the physical matchup went to the dying moments, with Greta Bodey afforded a shot on goal after the siren but falling agonisingly short.
The tight matchup was set up by the likes of Zanker and Cathy Svarc, with the opposing duo both relentless in their own way – Zanker with her game-high 25 touches and Svarc with her whopping 21 tackles. Hodder (eight tackles, 10 touches, one goal), Sophie Conway (10 touches, seven tackles) and Ally Anderson (22 touches, six tackles) also provided plenty of hunt for the Lions, as Lily Mithen (23 touches, five marks), Paxman and Kate Hore (both 18 touches) and Lauren Pearce and Maddi Gay (both 17) were well and truly in the match. Hodder and Eliza McNamara were both lively for their respective sides as Scott’s three goals and Davidson’s two paved the way in the huge matchup.
Next week’s finals encounters will be decided by tomorrow’s Round 9 results, with both sides awaiting confirmation given their guaranteed finals entry, although the Dees will be waiting for news on Pearce’s injury.
MELBOURNE 1.1 3.1 4.1 6.2 (38)
BRISBANE 1.0 5.0 6.0 6.0 (36)
Melbourne: S. Scott 3, K. Paxman, A. Bannan, T Hanks.
Brisbane: D. Davidson 2, J. Wardlaw, C. Hodder, T. Smith, L. Arnell.
Melbourne: E. Zanker, S. Scott, L. Mithen, K. Paxman, L. Pearce, K. Hore
Brisbane: C. Svarc, T. Hickie, A. Anderson, O. O’Dwyer, S. Conway, N. Grider
GEELONG GETS UP IN BATTLES OF THE WINLESS
GEELONG claimed its first points of season 2021 at the final time of asking, holding off Gold Coast to win by 17 points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The result sees Gold Coast finish the season as wooden spooners, becoming just the second side in AFLW history to go winless through a full campaign. The Cats’ three-goal burst in the first quarter set up their salute, as they held strong thereafter to come away 6.5 (41) to 3.6 (24) victors.
The Cats had many reasons to celebrate on the day; with young ruck Rene Caris booting her first senior goal during the opening term, women’s footballing stalwart Aasta O’Connor sent off to retirement in style, and Rebecca Webster‘s goal on the final siren proving the cherry on top of a memorable day for travelling side. On the other hand, Gold Coast could not scrounge a saving grace in what was a season which earned them a series of unwanted records.
First year midfielder Laura Gardiner finished as the winners’ highest ball winner on 18 disposals, one ahead of Amy McDonald who was one of her side’s revelations during 2021. Veteran forward Richelle Cranston was the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, while Webster and Olivia Barber were others to prove impactful while hitting the scoreboard.
For Gold Coast, Alison Drennan capped off a terrific individual campaign to lead all comers with 23 touches, as the reliable Lauren Ahrens also fared well for the second year side. Kalinda Howarth tripled her season goal tally in one go with a couple of majors, arcing back to her roots having become an All Australian forward last year.
The 2021 season ends there for both clubs, with just one win between them and plenty to work on heading into the next campaign. With a bunch of exciting youth scattered across either squad, the green shoots have shown and should give these sets of fans plenty more to cheer about going forward.
GOLD COAST 0.1 | 1.3 | 3.3 | 3.6 (24)
GEELONG 3.2 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 6.5 (41)
Gold Coast: K. Howarth 2, S. Virgo.
Geelong: R. Cranston 2, O. Barber, R. Caris, P. McWilliams, R. Webster.
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, K. Howarth, L. Ahrens, M. Levi
Geelong: A. McDonald, L. Gardiner, R. Cranston, R. Webster