22/04/2024

Katie Brennan celebrates one of her three goals in the qualifying final loss to Brisbane. (Photo: AFL)

Richmond skipper Katie Brennan has been listed as a test for more weeks than not in season seven.

She’s been battling a persistent foot injury that has limited her to six games out of a possible 11. But after kicking three goals on the weekend, it’s clear the forward is back to her best.

Brennan has now played the last four games in a row, and looks to be through the worst of it.

“It’s been a bit of a challenging one this year, but I’m so well supported by the medical team,” the Tigers captain told media on Wednesday.

“[They’re] making great decisions [for me] be available at the back end of this season.

“We always have a joke that they’ll have to hold me back or I’ll just go out there and get a jersey anyway! I’m bullish about playing every game going forward.

“It’s finals, I want to be out there with the group. All you want to do is be out there playing footy with our group.”

It was a strong performance from Brennan, but a tough afternoon for the Tigers in what was the club’s first AFLW finals appearance.

The Lions, full of seasoned finals veterans, set the tone early before a late-charging Tigers side held them to just one goal in the second half.

Gifted with the double chance, Brennan’s troops live to see another day, faced with a must-win semi final against North Melbourne on Saturday.

She explains that they have already taken away plenty from just one final so far.

“Earning that double chance was massive for us. We set a bit of an internal goal to make finals this year and really push ourselves,” Brennan said.

“To be able to earn the opportunity for top four, and really sit in that position for the week, we were over the moon. With that comes a second chance.

“It gives us a great opportunity off the back of a loss against the best team in the land… in the Lions. They played incredibly well on the weekend.

“We were certainly able to match them at times, but we learned a few lessons that we really need to neaten up in our game to make sure that we come out firing against the Kangaroos this weekend.”

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Both sides come into the match at Punt Road fresh off a draw in Round 10, where neither the Tigers or Roos could gain the ultimate ascendancy.

North Melbourne will look slightly different to that match-up with veteran ruck Kim Rennie and skipper Emma Kearney returned to the side in their final, while Erika O’Shea misses with an eye injury.

The Tigers found the early jump last time through young star Ellie McKenzie, who was her high-flying self, finishing the day with two goals.

Brennan believes that game already gave the group a clear picture of what the final month of the season would be like.

“Week in, week out, you learn enormous lessons, whether you win or you draw or you lose,” she explained.

“I think the lessons we took was that it felt like a finals-like game for us. It felt like our first taste of finals regardless of it being a Round 10 game. You take a lot of growth from that, from the intensity, from the contest, and just from their ability to bounce back.

“We had the run in the first quarter, we were able to get a bit of scoreboard pressure, but every great team comes back. The Kangaroos were no different.”

Katie Brennan celebrates a goal against Brisbane with Grace Egan. (Photo: AFL)

While she may not come across like it, Brennan is facing the finals series with just as much inexperience as many of her teammates who are only starting their footballing careers.

After famously missing the Western Bulldogs’ 2018 premiership through suspension, the match against Brisbane was her first finals appearance – also her first time captaining a finals team.

Reflecting on the journey the club has been through, taking 11 matches to win its first AFLW game, to now being one game away from a preliminary final, is incredibly special.

“There hasn’t really been added [responsibility as a leader in finals] from my point of view,” Brennan said.

“We’ve got a great leadership team, and many leaders across our group that don’t have the leadership title. We’re so big on people standing up in situations and leading by example.

“For me, it’s just going out there and giving my best and empowering the girls around me. We’re just able to go out there and give it our best every week.

“I feel incredibly proud, I think we’ve been reflecting every week on how far we’ve come. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to play finals.

“We were so hungry to improve and hungry to get amongst the top teams. To be able to do that has been so huge for our group. It’s only the beginning for some of the talent we have coming through.”

Young midfield superstar Monique Conti played her 50th match last week, while Jess Hosking notches up the milestone this week.

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