Geelong has advanced past the VFLW Preliminary Final, booking a fourth match-up with the undefeated Collingwood for the year in next week’s Grand Final.
Collingwood has had the wood over Geelong all season, including defeating the second placed side in the Qualifying Final.
However, Geelong has been the side that have pushed Collingwood the most of anyone. The Cats only went down by a goal in their previous finals meeting, and were within two points back in round one.
North Port Oval will host the match between the year’s two strongest sides on Sunday, August 8.
The prelim as it happened
It was all Geelong early, Georgia Clarke kicking the first major of the match after her personal best four goal effort against the Saints.
The Cats managed to register eight inside 50s before the Bombers found one through new AFLW Cat Georgie Prespakis, 12 minutes in.
They wouldn’t waste it, Marianna Anthony finding another soon after and spotting up Tahlia Gillard (drafted to Melbourne) with a big contested grab. Her kick sailed to the right of goals for Essendon’s first score of the afternoon.
Prespakis got the Bombers on the board in the dying stages of the quarter, going into the first break down by a solitary point, 1.1 (7)-1.2 (8). Late charges from Grace Dicker and Libby Hosking nearly broke the Cats defensive wall for a late final score.
Claudia Gunjaca was effective early for the Cats forward of centre, taking two marks and hitting targets inside 50. Ever determined Essendon midfielder Georgia Nanscawen had 10 first quarter touches and five tackles.
Geelong was happy to sit back at the goal line, stopping the Bombers errant kicks inside 50 every time.
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The second verse was much the same as the first, the Cats gaining ascendancy early and keeping the ball locked in their half of the ground.
While the Bombers manage to match them in contested ball and kept them away from goals, Clarke broke through again with a brilliant snap around her body for both hers and the Cats’ second.
Sophie van de Heuvel’s work through the midfield and forward lines was clear to see, finishing the half with 11 disposals and three tackles.
Anthony continued to create forward entries for the Bombers, but Maddy Keryk and Rebecca Webster held steadfast. Jessie Davies looked lively, but couldn’t convert her opportunities to a score.
Webster would finish the half with 14 touches, creating plenty of play for Geelong.
Zali Friswell made her move through the middle of the ground, pushing off her opponent and finding the time and space Essendon had been fighting for all game. Alana Barba was all by herself in the forward line, burned her opponent and nailed an incredible snap to bring the Bombers back in touch.
With the pressure rising, suddenly it was Essendon with all the play. Grace Dicker ran the wings like she does best, and Nat Macdonald threatened the Geelong defence with her electric movement.
Mia-Rae Clifford took a massive contested grab on the forward arc, finding Barba deep inside 50. She couldn’t find the middle of the sticks, and it was all tied up at half time.
Young ruck Olivia Fuller was taking Simone Nalder to the cleaners, both in the ruck battle and across the ground. She led the hit outs 19-9, also having nine disposals, three marks and three tackles.
Forever the fast starters, Geelong began the third quarter with repeat inside 50s, barraging the Bombers backline.
In the absence of Lauren Ahrens, Eloise Ashley-Cooper stood up strongly and took a big pack mark.
Van de Heuvel was impactful once again, hitting Rene Caris on the lead. Her kick went waywardly off the boot, but Webster kept the forward pressure on.
Annabel Johnson intercepted a lopsided Essendon pass under pressure, and converted the Cats third goal of the game to take back a seven point lead.
Not to be outdone, Clarke popped up again and wrapped up Gillard after a fumbled mark, earning herself another shot 35 metres out. With clinical ease, she slotted her third major of the match.
Webster’s clearance work was vital once again, pushing the Cats forward off her own boot.
Johnson may have saved a goal on the line with a timely mark, but she very nearly cost the Cats another major as she turned it straight over into the hands of Friswell. She would have breathed a sigh of relief as Barba’s snap barely slid past the right hand goal post for a minor score.
With a Grand Final spot on the line, the atmosphere at Windy Hill was tense coming into the final term.
Renee Tierney very nearly sealed the match five minutes into the last, gathering off Gunjaca’s rushed kick and snapping truly for goal.
Maddie Boyd made her case to AFLW clubs to earn her spot back on a list, taking another mark on the goal line as Macdonald’s kick just didn’t make the distance.
In a dangerous situation in Geelong’s forward line after the defenders combined to rebound with ease, Essendon’s desperation prevented Madi Maguire’s kick 15 metres from finding its mark.
From that point onwards, the game looked over for the Bombers as the Cats upped their pressure tenfold.
Tierney was the hero once again, gathering 30 metres out and kicking the final goal of the game. Geelong advanced to the Grand Final, defeating Essendon 6.9 (45) to 2.5 (17).
It wasn’t all good news for the Cats though, Clarke going down late with time being stopped as doctors surrounded her. The extent of her injury remains to be seen, though it would be a big blow to Geelong to be missing its star goalkicker against the powerful Collingwood backline.
While Essendon will rue the result, and dropping off in the second half, it was a season beyond all expectations for the standalone side.
The Bombers maiden finals run saw the club win a historic first ever final in the Elimination Final against the Casey Demons, and lose to reigning premiers Collingwood by just seven points.
With a list they’ve built from scratch with minimal AFLW-listed player support, they’ll be back bigger and better than ever next year with the AFLW bid front of mind.
For Geelong, it will have a fourth chance to hand reigning premiers Collingwood its first loss of the 2021 VFLW season, on the biggest stage there is.
|Essendon||1.1 (7)||2.2 (14)||2.5 (17)||2.5 (17)|
|Geelong||1.2 (8)||2.2 (14)||4.4 (28)||6.9 (45)|
Essendon: Barba, Prespakis
Geelong: Clarke 3, Tierney 2, Johnson
Essendon: Nanscawen, Barba, Prespakis, Dicker
Geelong: Webster, Clarke, Van de Heuvel, Fuller, Johnson, Gunjaca
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