Geelong’s Georgia Clarke smashed a personal best in last weekend’s semi-final win over the Southern Saints.
The match was hanging in the balance at the main break, the Cats trailing by 11 points. The Saints had found the mojo they’d displayed the week prior against Port Melbourne, dominating clearances and scoring accordingly.
Desperation was needed for the Cats. They’d already forfeited their double chance the week prior, barely dropping the qualifying final to the relentless Collingwood.
Clarke was the player who knew it was her time to step up.
Having already kicked a goal in the second quarter, she fired off the first of the third with just two minutes played to spark some life in her teammates.
Though the Saints kept pushing, Clarke didn’t stop. She would finish with four goals to her name, her best in an V/AFLW match.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, she believes that the consistency she’s been able to find has come through constantly playing games in 2021. Clarke has now played 15 games between the state and national competitions this year.
“Since AFLW started [this year] I haven’t stopped, if I have it’s been for one game,” she said.
“The more games you get into you, you’re building on that match fitness and you’re building on skills and stuff like that. No training can replicate games. I think it’s been good to just have continuous games.
“Back when you’re in your youth girls you’re playing lots of games like that, so I think coming back and just playing lots and lots of games, it really helps you get more and more consistent… you keep building on it each week.”
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And build on her form Clarke has. Playing between a mix of wing and forward roles, the 177cm key has been playing some of her best footy yet.
She’s averaging 11 disposals, two marks, three tackles, and has kicked 15 goals for the season in a strong Geelong outfit. Clarke will be no doubt adding to her 14 AFLW games come the 2021/22 season.
Clarke is beginning to see the fruits of her labour, and is taking pride in the year she’s put together.
“I’m very happy with [my form], I love playing in the forward line,” she said.
“The best part of a lot of playing in the forward line, people would say is just kicking goals! I do take a lot of pride in that I did help the team out and kicked some goals. Whether that be from a set shot or on the run, I’m glad I can bring both of those to the game.
“I definitely do pride myself on that. I do want to be able to show to my teammates that they can believe in me.”
That winning feeling
While Clarke was instrumental in giving the Cats the lead, the sealer came courtesy of teammate Becky Webster.
The clock was winding down, the Cats just one point up. Clarke says the celebrations were incredibly rowdy, even from the interchange.
“It was just awesome when Becky kicked that goal,” she said.
“I was on the bench at the time and I just went nuts! Seeing everyone get around her, just the team vibe every time we kicked a goal was just awesome.
“…that just helped not relax as such, because seven points is still very achievable, but it definitely helped us feel like alright, we can really tough out these last minutes and not let them put another score on the board.”
Keeping the Saints out of the game for the last six minutes of the match, the Cats booked a preliminary final showdown with Essendon.
While Clarke knows that if “we lose we’re out,” keeping it at the back of her mind, she’s approaching the game with confidence.
The two sides last met in Round 10, Geelong getting the win to the tune of 23 points.
While Essendon are typically one of the strongest contested and pressure team in the VFLW, Geelong managed to win the tackle count 85-69. It also dominated moving forward, with 42 to 24 inside 50s for the match.
The Bombers backline held up well, Lauren Ahrens responsible for a number of rebound 50s. It was clear that the Cats hand a handle on the Bombers fast and tough gamestyle.
Having come off a tough grind of a loss to Collingwood in the semi final, Clarke says they’ll approach the resilient Bombers like any other opponent.
“Essendon have gotten themselves this far with the way they’ve played, so that’s definitely something we need to respect and watch out for,” she said.
“We’ll review how Essendon played, and we’ll look at how our strengths can beat them. I think that is off… how we’re a much more free flowing team and game. Where they might out contest us, we can beat them on the outside and play our way.
“With our style of play, we can definitely match and bring it to them.”
The winner of Saturday’s preliminary final will play Collingwood in the VFLW Grand Final, set to be held at Ikon Park on Sunday, July 25.
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