Our last five minor round games provided us with the perfect preparation leading into finals. Tough finals-like games against teams in and around the top 4 meant we had to consistently do a lot of things right to just make the finals. Every challenge was embraced and surpassed as we put all our efforts to become a team that is consistent and hard to play against.
All that is well and good, but when you have to play the first final against a team that has clearly been the best minor round team across 11 rounds at their home ground and has had your measure on every occasion except the first time you played them way back in 2017, the challenge is as big as it gets.
The first quarter was tough, dour and contested footy, with both teams working back to help their defence. As the quarter progressed, we started to get some territory control, with the ball in our half for good periods of time. Defence reigned as we took a two point lead into quarter time, with neither team able to get a major on the board.
The second quarter was another tough, but very even contest. Norwood kicked an early goal courtesy of a very fortunate bounce. Some ten minutes later we kicked our first after Sarah Goodwin had a couple of repeat efforts to drive the ball long into our forward line, where Caitlin Gould received a free kick and duly converted. Half time and the lead remained at two points.
Third quarters have been strong for us and this week was no exception. Statistically, this was as dominant as we have been all season. 15-1 forward entries underpins the control we had. That said, player density in our forward half was the biggest challenge between us and the scoreboard. Norwood defended exceptionally well and we could not capitalise on our dominance, with three behinds our only return. So, we took a five point lead into the last break on the back of five more scoring shots.
When you play quality sides, you must capitalise when you have momentum or typically you pay the price when the opposition gets momentum. That was the challenge for us in the last quarter. Pleasingly, our players continued to take control of the game, with a goal to Meara Girvan in the first three minutes giving us early momentum. 11-2 forward entries meant we were not going to let this opportunity slip. Caitlin Swanson kicked a cheeky checkside goal and then Jess Searle kicked her first goal for the club on the backend of some very unselfish football. A 23-point win and we booked a spot into the Grand Final.
This was our first ever finals win in our second ever final. 11 scoring shots to 3, where we kept the opposition scoreless after the 3 minute mark of the second quarter. This was as good as we have ever been in the biggest game we have ever played.
Our best is more than good enough, but as we said to the players after the game, this can’t be our Grand Final. This can’t be the highlight of the season. We must ensure we are ready to battle in a couple of weeks when we take on either Norwood or West Adelaide for the ultimate prize.
We had even contributors all over the ground. Whilst our backline, lead by Sheridan Howell, wasn’t challenged much in the second half, their ability to ensure they stayed in the game all game was outstanding. The midfield was superbly lead by Ellie Kellock, Caitlin Gould, Ebony Marinoff, Jess Bates and Tessa Kohn. The forward line, lead by Sam Franson and Chelsea Packer, all ensured that any rebound from the opposition was under pressure.
We would really like to thank the supporters for coming out and cheering us on. The noise you all made was deafening and could be heard loud and clear on the ground. The players lifted as you all got behind them. We are really looking forward to having as many of you as possible behind us at the Grand Final in two weeks time.
– Jason Fairall, Senior Coach
Goals: Caitlin Gould (1), Meara Girvan (1), Caitlyn Swanson (1), Jess Searle (1)
Best: Caitlin Gould, Ebony Marinoff , Ellie Kellock, Piper Window, Sheridan Howell, Brooke Tonon, Sarah Goodwin, Jess Bates, Tessa Kohn, Chelsea Packer, Grace Duffy, Meara Girvan, Ellen Tyminski, Lucy Earl, Caitlyn Swanson