20/04/2024

Demons skipper Daisy Pearce celebrates her stunning sealer to send Melbourne into the AFLW Grand Final. Image: @MelbourneAFLW

A Daisy Pearce sealer has put Melbourne through to its second Grand Final of 2022, overcoming a spirited North Melbourne by 17 points in a tense Preliminary Final at Ikon Park

In a tense and low-scoring affair in front of a boisterous crowd, Pearce stepped through three North Melbourne defenders to kick the sealer, giving herself, and the Dees a shot at redemption this year, with another shot at the title.

Speaking post-game, Melbourne coach Mick Stinear said his veteran forward had inspired his side to victory.

“[She’s] such a special player and a will to win,” he said.

“She was willing the troops on the whole game and she’s such an inspiration.”

Stinear said that despite the clunky performance today and only really shaking the challenge from North Melbourne late, his side was building towards its best performance of the season.

“We’re excited to enjoy the week ahead now and we’re building and hopefully we’ll have our best performance yet,” he said

The Roos got off to the perfect start, hitting the scoreboard in the opening minutes after Tahlia Randall pounced on a loose ball at the top of the goal square and snapped truly.

The Demons hit back to take the lead at quarter time through goals to both Megan Fitzsimons and Lily Mithen.

There was a slight scare for the Dees in the first quarter when star Tayla Harris pulled up lame from a ruck contest, cradling her left shoulder. She went off the ground for treatment and strapping before re-joining her teammates at the quarter-time break.

She took her place in the second quarter and looked unhindered, taking a strong contested mark as the Dees’ looked to exit defensive 50 after multiple attempts on goal from North Melbourne.

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Both sides looked increasingly nervy after halftime as the game tightened up. The ball and the play lived in the Kangaroos’ attacking half of the ground, dominating the inside 50 count 32-14 at three-quarter time.

But for all the attacking and possession, the Roos could not capitalize on the scoreboard.

Stinear said the addition of Karen Paxman to the Dees’ midfield mix in the fourth had steadied the ship after the Roos got on top.

Paxman, who has been playing a different role this year from her regular inside midfield role where she has built an impressive reputation and resume in the league, became an option for Stinear to turn to regain some run and drive in the middle.

“After putting Paxy in there we were able to get on top and that got us going,” Stinear said.

“We were beaten in the middle but once we got back on top we could hold forwards ahead of the ball and play with more confidence.”

The nervous moments continued into the fourth quarter, with the ball staying at the same end of the ground as it had been all day.

Kate Hore took a strong mark inside 50 and converted the set shot halfway through the final term to push the lead out to 10 points and give the Dees some breathing space as the clock began to tick away, before Pearce stepped up as only she could to send the Dees onto a showdown with the Lions next Sunday for all of the glory.

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