REIGNING premiers Peel Thunder are one win away from back-to-back flags, defeating minor premiers Swan Districts for the second time in three weeks to book an automatic spot in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s Grand Final. The Thunder earned themselves a week off with a hard-fought win in the torrential rain, defeating an inaccurate Swans outfit, 2.4 (16) to 0.11 (11).
Despite the Swans having far more chances on goal reflected by their 11 straight behinds, they could not seem to split the big sticks, through a combination of inaccuracy from set shots, and some desperate defending on the last line by the Peel backline. Three Swans players kicked multiple behinds on their way to the narrow defeat, though they were always in with a shot, only going down by a kick in the end.
Demi Liddle was absolutely sensational on the last line for Peel, saving numerous scoring chances, starting with a big tackle on Taylah Edwards in the opening 90 seconds of the match to force a behind. As the rain poured down, Peel started to have a few repeat forward entries, and whilst Ella Roberts‘ flying shot was off target, the teenager was able to weight a handball perfectly to Katie-Jayne Grieve in the final minute of the term to put through the first goal of the game.
Moments later Grieve had a chance, but strong defender Lauren Osborne was up to the task to put enough pressure on her opponent to force a missed kick and only a behind. Peel dominated the majority of the opening term, but only had a seven-point lead to show for it, with the rain causing all sorts of havoc. Ebony Bilcich and Kira Phillips were both looking dangerous in the forward half of the ground, but the likes of Osborne and Swans captain Emily McGuire were holding up the fort well.
Young defender Mel Hardy almost had a moment to forget early in the second term with the usually reliable ball user opting to kick across goal but mis-hitting the pass and landing in the goalsquare with the dangerous Phillips. Not realising she had more time, Phillips tried to quickly soccer off the ground but missed, much to the relief of the home team. Peel was doing all the attacking early, but the likes of Jaime Henry were standing up under pressure, as the teenager took a great mark in the defensive goalsquare.
Swans then took control of the momentum with repeat forward thrusts, kicking three behinds for the game, with a number of chances – such as Nyra Anderson‘s set shot and Kloe Taylor‘s running attempt – falling short with Phillips working hard to be up the other end with a strong, safe grab on the last line. At half-time, the sole goal to Grieve had the Thunder up by just five points, 1.3 (9) to 0.4 (4).
The third term saw chance after chance go begging for the top of the table side, as they slotted six behinds in some atrocious conditions. The Swans picked the worst quarter to have all the momentum, with the rain pouring down and making any sort of clean chances hard to come by. Sarah Wielstra had a couple of shots on goal early but could not find the big sticks, with the usually-reliable Dana East on the run also missing, and even McGuire, who is one of the safest kicks in the competition, drifted her set shot to the left.
As the rain bucketed down, Aisha Wright had a chance but missed to the left and was rushed through, to give Peel an important two-point buffer. Swans continued to have repeat entries, with the Thunder almost taking full advantage of a rare inside 50, but Aimee Ralph was able to save the day with a vital mark in front of Phillips with two and a half minutes on the clock. Stribley had the final shot of the day, running into goal and was tackled in the back right on the siren, allowing the bottom-ager to have a shot after the siren. Her set shot – like so many of her teammates – drifted for a behind, but the Swans had somehow levelled the scores at the final break despite not kicking a goal.
If anyone was wondering if the Swans could win the game off not kicking a goal, then the curiosity kicked up a notch early in the final term. Liddle was unbelievable on the last line, clearing it from danger, but then required to dive with desperation. East had a flying shot, Mikayla Hyde kicked off the ground, but a terrific defensive effort from Liddle to touch the ball saw it rushed through. Regardless, the unthinkable had happened, Swan Districts lead early in the last without kicking a goal, 0.11 (11) to 1.4 (10).
The final term was mostly an arm wrestle, with Kate Bartlett almost hitting a low bullet to a couple of free teammates inside the goalsquare, but a desperate Henry managed to get in the way and stop a certain goal. Steph Cain had a flying shot towards goal up the other end, but another terrific defensive effort – this time from Greta McKinley – saved the day. McKinley not only got a fist on a bouncing ball towards goal, but put it out of bounds to avoid the deficit going to two points.
Then the moment came. Peel had been bravely defending for the majority of the final term, and the quick ball movement from one end to the other saw a clash of bodies inside 50. Bartlett was on the deck, copped a high whack and made sure the umpire saw it, awarding the competition’s leading goalkicker with a set shot in front of goal. Becoming the first person in the match to split the big sticks from a set shot, Bartlett’s attempt made everyone else look silly as she popped it through and kicked what would be the match-winner for her side with six minutes left on the clock.
The Swans desperately tried getting it forward in the final few minutes, with Stribley trying to run inside 50 but was mowed down by fellow State Academy member Jaide Britton, then a quick passage of play forward by the Swans was intercepted by Cassie Davidson in defence. She along with Liddle had been outstanding, and despite the ball being in the Swans forward half when the siren sounded, Peel had done enough to secure the narrow five-point win and book a spot in the grand final, 2.4 (16) to 0.11 (11).
Eliza Gelmi had done well with Osborne and McGuire in defence, with Bianca Webb, Cain and Stribley all named amongst the best. For the Thunder, Liddle and Davidson were outstanding, with Sabreena Duffy and Chloe Wrigley winning plenty of it through the middle, and Bilcich having some terrific plays in the match. Now the Thunder get a well-earned break before playing at home against the winner of Swan Districts and Subiaco.
SWAN DISTRICTS 0.1 | 0.4 | 0.10 | 0.11 (11)
PEEL THUNDER 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 2.4 (16)
Swan Districts: Nil.
Peel Thunder: K. Grieve, K. Bartlett.
Swan Districts: L. Osborne, E. Gelmi, S. Cain, T. Stribley, B. Webb
Peel Thunder: D. Liddle, C. Wrigley, S. Duffy, C. Davidson, E. Bilcich
In the do-or-die semi-final, Subiaco held off a determined Claremont by three points in equally wet conditions to remain in contention for the 2021 WAFL Women’s title. The Lions had all the momentum in the first term but could only slot five behinds, as Claremont kicked two of the next three goals to lead by four points at the final break. A late major via a free kick for front-on contact to Amy Hunt handed the Lions the goal they needed, to ensure they won 2.6 (18) to 2.3 (15).
The first quarter was really scrappy but dominated by Subiaco, who did not let it inside the Claremont forward 50 for the majority of the term. There were various shots on goal, but Hayley Miller and Lara Filocamo had the best chances, with the latter after the siren hitting the post to make it five straight behinds for the visitors.
AFL Women’s Academy young gun Amy Franklin kicked the first goal of the game in a stunning against-the-momentum play with a rare inside 50 for the Tigers and beating her opponent one-on-one to win the ball and run into the open goalsquare just two and a half minutes into the game. The sun was back out shining making life a little easier for the players, but Subiaco could still not find the range with Hunt winning a free kick, giving it off to the usually deadly McKenzie Dowrick but her flying shot went out on the full.
Jess Low and Maggie MacLachlan were dominating for their respective sides, and it took a quick kick where luck’s a fortune for Kate Pocsidio to hit-up a sliding Miller. She finally converted her side’s first goal of the contest, and the Lions took a four-point lead into the main break. Both sides had chances late in the term, but the scores stood at 1.5 (11) to 1.1 (7) in favour of the visitors.
Early in the third it was clear the tables had turned in Claremont’s favour, as Low was having a brilliant day alongside midfield partner-in-crime Andie Payne. Tessa Doumanis had a chance from a snap but just skewed it under pressure, before Brooke Whyte and Mikayla Western had opportunities but could not convert. Finally it took some kicks forward in the wet for Amber Goodwin-Wissink to put one through the big sticks, not phased by being brought down, nailing the goal on the run and handing her side the lead midway through the term.
Emily Elkington and Western were getting their hands on the ball to complement Low and Payne, providing good run in forward transition. This time it was Claremont’s turn to have plenty of forward half possession, but make little from it, only kicking the 1.2 in the term. The Tigers did keep Subiaco scoreless in the term, with the respective Ortlepp‘s – Rachel and Claire – toiling hard up opposite ends. By the time the siren sounded, Claremont led by four points, 2.3 (15) to 1.5 (11).
For the most part the final term was a real battle, as Subiaco started strongly with some repeat entries, as the usually reliable Claremont defence was having clanger after clanger coming out of the back 50. They gave the Lions plenty of chances, and eventually the overwhelming pressure was rewarded. A one-on-one between Rachel Ortlepp and Hunt in the forward pocket saw Hunt bump Ortlepp off the ball, win it at ground level and her Claremont opponent desperate to win it back, crashed into her clumsily.
It handed Hunt what seemed like a near-impossible shot in the conditions, about 20m out on the boundary, but the forward made no mistake, popping it through like she was in the goalsquare and the Lions were back in front. Ella Smith was trying to will her side on in the game, with Payne and Low both productive, but Smith’s great tackle inside 50 and attempt to pass to Goodwin-Wissink 15m out was called back. Her shot to the square looked dangerous, but the safe hands of Jayme Harken ensured it did not cause any damage to the visitors.
Tackle after tackle from the Subiaco side really showed their determination late in the contest of what had been a hard slog. Claire Ortlepp mowed down Mhicca Carter, then Taylisha Brown caught Low, accidentally kicking it into the midfielder trying to return it to the field of play. A late intercept mark from Caitlin Walker, then the team defence of Subiaco to gain meterage out of the back 50 in the final minute, followed by a last second tackle by Jamie Rust, ensured the Lions fans went home happy, knowing they had reached a preliminary final.
CLAREMONT 0.0 | 1.1 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)
SUBIACO 0.5 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 2.6 (18)
Claremont: A. Franklin, A. Goodwin-Wissink.
Subiaco: H. Miller, A. Hunt.
Claremont: J. Low, R. Ortlepp, M. Western, E. Smith, A. Payne
Subiaco: A. Hunt, H. Miller, J. Rust, J. Harken, M. MacLachlan
Picture credit: Total Sports Photography via Peel Thunder