On a night where goals were initially hard to come by, the dynamic Kalinda Howarth sparked a dominant second half showing from Gold Coast, culminating in a 27-point victory over Carlton.
After the Suns failed to register a major in the first half, Howarth was central to her side’s change in fortunes following the main break. Inside the opening minute of the third term, the 23-year-old rolled on to her right boot and snapped truly, igniting a blistering second half from the home-side.
However, beyond just the third quarter, Howarth was influential from the outset, gathering 13 disposals till half-time to be Gold Coast’s equal-leading possession winner on the ground.
Confronted with slippery conditions at Metricon Stadium, Howarth was clean where others fumbled, utilising her creativity and smarts around goal to create numerous scoring opportunities for the Suns.
Often deployed at half-back across various stages of the season, Howarth was used exclusively as a forward this time around, a decision which yielded terrific results for a Gold Coast outfit desperate to remain in the hunt for finals football.
She finished with 18 disposals (10 kicks, eight handballs) and one goal to her name, inspiring the Suns to a six-goal to one second half.
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Trailing the Blues in inside 50s at half-time, the Suns were able to assert more pressure around the contest in the final two quarters, leading to greater territory dominance and repeat forward 50 entries.
This was off the back of the hard-work of an ever-improving Suns midfield, led by the likes of Charlie Rowbottom (26 disposals), Alison Drennan (24 disposals), and Claudia Whitfort (21 disposals).
A reflection of Gold Coast’s superiority through the middle of the ground, the home-side won contested possession by 33 and clearances by 11, outworking the Blues at the coalface.
The result also marked Gold Coast’s first-ever win over Carlton in AFLW history.
Speaking to the media post-game, Gold Coast coach Cameron Joyce lauded his team’s ability to gain the ascendancy following the main break, especially given how much was at stake.
“The players really responded after half-time, and I reckon we started to win some contests across the entire ground. That gave us a bit better field position if you like and then we were able to score off the back of that,” Joyce told the media.
“To score 6.3 in the second half I think was just a credit to the players [and] how they were able to adapt to the conditions and kick it a little bit more than handball around the contest.”
For the Blues, the optimism surrounding a strong start quickly evaporated, with the away-side only booting a single goal post half-time. This lacklustre second half performance meant that the club succumbed to its sixth defeat of the season.
A few positives came in the form of Poppy Schaap and Vaomua Laloifi, both of whom kicked their first-ever AFLW goals. Schaap’s appearance was her first in season seven, having not featured at AFLW level since Round Four last season.
At the other end of the ground, Lucy McEvoy worked tirelessly in defence, accumulating a team-high 24 disposals (15 kicks, nine handballs) along with three marks.
Speaking to the media post-game, Carlton coach Daniel Harford was pleased with his side’s efforts in the first half, however lamented some missed opportunities to hit the scoreboard.
“[In the] first half we came with a really positive attitude and physicality. We had the game almost where we needed it at half-time [but] would have liked another goal or two to really put some scoreboard pressure on,” Harford told the media.
“I thought we really turned up in the first half and made it really difficult for the Suns to do too much damage when they had the footy.”
Gold Coast will be looking to secure a maiden finals birth next weekend when they face Greater Western Sydney. Meanwhile, Carlton will finish its season with a clash against the Western Bulldogs.
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