A FIVE-minute purple patch in the third term and an inspired performance from Denby Taylor has helped the Geelong Falcons claim their second premiership in a year. After the TAC Cup side claimed victory last September, it was the TAC Cup Girls time to shine on the biggest day on the calendar, and it was Taylor who produced a second half to remember to win the best on ground medal.
Taylor was far from alone in her efforts however, with coach Jason Armistead throwing around the magnets at half-time to send Taylor up to the wing and captain Lucy McEvoy forward in moves that changed the game. The Knights were on top at half-time and refused to give in, with it taking until the final five minutes of the third term for the Falcons to thrown open the premiership window and clamber through, booting three goals in red time to find themselves a goal up. From there, they never took the foot off with a superb last term despite the best efforts of the Knights defenders, claiming a great 11-point win.
The opening term saw both teams clearly up for the fight, with Geelong holding the ball inside its forward 50 more often than not. But the great work of Ashleigh Snow, Gabby Newton and Mika Suzuki out of defence was stalling the Falcons from making the most of their first term opportunities. Renee Tierney won a free kick midway through the opening term but her shot cannoned into the woodwork. Perhaps the Falcons best chance for a goal came when Nina Morrison streamed through the middle of the ground to put it in front of Elise Vella and the open goal. Vella gathered the ball, but the implied pressure from Samatha Atkins running hard into defence was enough for Vella to kick it off the side of the boot and roll through for a behind.
Ellie McKenzie produced a great tackle on her opponent up forward, but the Knights could not seem to penetrate past Abbey Chapman who took a number of marks and crucial intercept possessions on the last line, holding her ground well. McEvoy and Taylor were superb in the opening quarter, providing rebound and impacting contests up on the wing. Alyssa Bannan managed to escape McEvoy a couple of times, while Marnie Jarvis and Maddy Brancatisano continued to win plenty of the football through midfield.
The second term belonged to the Knights however, with Abigail Bennett breaking through the scoring drought to nail a goal from 35m out on the run. It was not the sweetest kick off the boot, but it did the job. It was all because of the work of Jarvis who roved the McKenzie marking contest and then kicked to Bennett inside 50. Moments earlier, McKenzie brought down a towering mark, making up for her uncharacteristic dropped mark just 30 seconds prior which bounced off her chest. Bennett had a purple patch in that second term, running down Sophie Walmsley in a great tackle as the Falcons look to roam to the outside. They were rewarded not long after when Britney Gutknecht managed to find a couple of metres of space, gathered the football and snapped round her body given the Knights a second goal and some important breathing space in a low-scoring contest.
The Knights were arguably unlucky not to be further up at the break, with a couple of snaps just missing with both Gutknecht and McKenzie involved. For the Falcons, Chapman continued to be one of their best, rebounding everything she could, and stopping a certain goal on the line, rushing it across. Along with Chapman, Morrison had some eye-catching moments, while Luka Lesosky-Hay and Tarryn Love battled hard at ground level.
The third term seemed to be an armwrestle until Taylor and Love decided they had seen enough and individually spurred their team on with some great efforts. Love won a hardball at ground level and shovelled the ball out while being tackled to the running Sachi DeGiacomi. While he had not had many opportunities early, the key forward seized the moment and put through a running goal for the Falcons’ first. Just a couple of minutes later a long bomb into the forward 50 from Taylor caused a stoppage, and Love pounced shortly after with a snap straight through the middle that will no doubt make the game highlights tape. For a player who had been run down a couple of times already, Walmsley showed no signs of losing confidence when she marked one-on-one inside 50 about 40m out. Rather than going back, she fended off her opponent, burnt her off and then booted the goal to give Geelong a remarkable six-point lead t the final break. Five minutes of brilliance had seen the Falcons take an all-important lead at the last change.
Newton provided the Knights’ highlight for the quarter when she pick-pocketed Love running into goal. It was prior to the Falcons scoring and Newton used an outstretched arm to steal the ball and then in the same motion kick cleanly forward. As Northern went forward late in the quarter, the crowd were roaring knowing the seconds were counting down. A huge tackle by Morrison on Morris-Dalton halted the attacks and less than 15 seconds later the siren sounded.
With the game still in the balance, it was Taylor who rose above all others with an inspired final quarter performance that no doubt will not be forgotten by the Falcons faithful. Her move to the wing in the second half proved fruitful as she booted a goal and narrowly missed a couple of others taking a glutton of intercept marks at half-forward. The goal turned out to be the only one of the final term for the Falcons, with McEvoy playing a strong role down forward and Chapman rebounding everything coming her way in the back half. With 90 seconds left on the clock, Northern’s Ciara Fitzgerald launched a ripper goal from inside 50 to give them the slightest of hopes, trailing by 10 points. When Northern won the next clearance there seemed to be the thought of ‘they couldn’t could they?’ given the time remaining.
A couple of huge tackles at half-back ended any chance of a comeback for the Knights, but they never threw in the towel and were well and truly deserved of a place in the grand final. Snow was phenomenal playing on the last line taking intercept marks and rebounding well. Jarvis on the wing was strong, and the likes of Sarah Sansonetti and Laura Gardiner were also good in the final term for their respective teams. In the end, the Knights had played well, but a five-minute purple patch from the Falcons sealed their place in history.
GEELONG FALCONS 0.2 | 0.2 | 3.3 | 4.8 (32)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 0.0 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 3.3 (21)
Geelong: DeGiacomi, Love, Walmsley, Taylor
Northern: Bennett, Gutknecht, C. Fitzgerald
Geelong: Taylor, Love, Chapman, McEvoy, Morrison, Lesosky-Hay
Northern: Newton, Snow, Jarvis, McKenzie, Suzuki, Bennett