CAULFIELD Grammar made history by claiming the inaugural APS/AGSV AFL Women’s Senior Football Competition over Mentone Grammar by five goals at Haileybury Brighton campus yesterday. While in the curtain raiser to that game, Haileybury College defeated Ivanhoe Grammar for third, the main game pitted the two undefeated sides against one another in the grand final.
With Mentone kicking with the wind in the first term, they almost exclusively locked the ball inside 50. They missed a few opportunities early and that would prove crucial later on, as the first and only goal of the first term was a snap from Isabella Daddo who opportunistically pounced on a loose ball at ground level from a forward stoppage and snapped around the body. Calls from Caulfield defenders that it was touched were to no avail for the umpires as Mentone took an early quarter time lead of 1.4 (10) to 0.1 (1).
Throughout the first term, Daddo, Mentone vice-captain Annabelle Kidd and midfielder Abbi Maloney were amongst the best players afield, while Sandringham Dragons’ product Marguerite Purcell was the standout for Caulfield. Maloney was strong around the stoppages, as was Purcell, while Daddo had a couple of chances, and Kidd’s long kicking at half-forward was a highlight. It had taken until the final minute for Caulfield to score – courtesy of a behind to Charlotte Murray, but for all of Mentone’s dominance, Caulfield trailed by just nine at the first break.
If anyone wondered how much the wind played a factor in the first term, they need not look far, with Caulfield looking a completely different outfit in the second term. Best on ground Lucy Deller was strong at half-back winning a crucial one-on-one and sending the ball long. Mentone’s tackling pressure was good, with Lotus Jeffs rewarded with a free kick on the wing. But Purcell’s influence through the midfield soon stretched to the scoreboard, laying a great tackle at half-forward, earning a free kick and launching a long range goal to get Caulfield on the board with a major. Sienna Ryan won a free kick from a tackle at half-forward and kicked long, but the Mentone defence was up to the challenge.
Mentone midfielders Anna Laidlaw, Lucy Burgess and Maloney were all starting to get their hands on it as the game went on, but Purcell had the ball on a string – even if her long range attempt from the boundary line under pressure hit the behind post. Nine minutes in, and the pressure up forward Caulfield was showing began to result in goals, with Ryan converting from straight in front from a free kick to give Caulfield the lead. Burgess was winning multiple centre clearances for Mentone, but the Caulfield defence, which included AFL Women’s Academy member Isabella Grant, was rebounding out of the back half with strength and conviction. When a Mentone defender let a ball slip through her hands in the twelfth minute of the term, Ryan made her pay, running onto it and kicking truly. She almost had a third, with a shot from 15m out, but her rushed shot under pressure hit the post. Not long after, Elli Hoskin found space and kicked a goal from 25m out to give Caulfield a very handy 16-point lead at the main break, having held Mentone scoreless in the term.
The third term saw Mentone kicking with the breeze again and hoping to cut down the 16-point half-time deficit. Immediately you could tell Mentone’s tackling pressure and desire had gone up a notch in the premiership quarter, with the crowd getting behind the school with every bone-crunching tackle laid. But much like the first term, some gettable chances went begging, with a tackle at half-back from Jeffs leading to a chance from Olivia Dickson up forward, but the shot was off the side of the boot and out of bounces. Mentone had the best chance of kicking a goal from just a few metres out, but it hit the post. Deller started to have an impact with some big grabs on the wing, taking a number of contested marks along the wing and half-back, and kicking long. Both Laidlaw and Burgess were laying great tackles, with Laidlaw putting her body on the line on the inside, while Burgess was mowing down opponents on the outside. Another chance on goal from Mentone went begging with an out on the full shot, before Lucy Bowman created something out of nothing. On her back under pressure in the goal square, she managed to get boot to ball and somehow put it through the big sticks to give Mentone a boost. It would be the final score of the game for Mentone, with Caulfield’s defence standing up time and time again despite the constant pressure.
A long-range chance from Sarsha Widelski looked good for the most part, until Deller flew and pulled down a terrific contested mark in the goal square. Caulfield almost broke Mentone hearts there and then, with that contested grab beginning a terrific end-to-end play which finished in the hands of Ryan who would look for her third. But instead of going for goal she unselfishly went to pass to a teammate who was not on the same wavelength and it went out of bounds. Purcell had a long booming kick inside 50, but Dekota Mark went back courageously and earned a free for front on contact. Bowman was working her way into the game with a great fend-off on an opponent on the wing and then handballed clear to a teammate, but as Mentone was attacking, the three quarter time siren sounded. Mentone had pegged back half the deficit, but still faced an eight-point margin with a quarter to play, and kicking into the wind where a solitary behind had been scored all day.
It did not take long for Caulfield to put a dagger into the heart of Mentone fans, with a long inside 50, the first of the quarter saw Ryan read the ball in flight perfectly and take a good grab. Her end-on-end set shot went through for her third of the game, and almost had another chance moments later but was found to push Emma Maggio. Laidlaw tried to get her side going with a long kick forward after using her pace on the wing, but Deller was there once again to mop up in defence and send the ball back from its origins. A series of blues from both sides attempting to kick long on the blustery side of the ground resulted in three consecutive out-on-the-full calls right in front of the timekeepers. Arabella McArthur almost had a call for goal of the day, but her attempt from tight on the boundary just held up in the wind and drifted wide for a behind. When Grant marked and lined up from long range for Caulfield, it could have been the ball game there and then, but her shot just missed, keeping Mentone’s hopes alive. But it turned out to be only temporary hope, as the kickout was intercepted by Ella Heaphy who marked, went back and calmly slotted the goal from 35m out to seal the game midway through the final term.
Purcell continued to have the ball on a string in the final term, while Maggio was the best Mentone player in the final term, constantly outnumbered or under pressure on the last line, she battled hard, and while opposed to Ryan, held her own more often than not. In one instance she fended off Ryan and stepped around another opponent to kick long to the wing. Another chance for Caulfield went begging, with the long range attempt but it was rushed across the line by Daddo. McArthur had another chance with a bouncing snap, but once again the Mentone defence worked hard to rush it across the line. Maloney’s speed out of a stoppage continued to impress, coming off half-back and going long to the forward line, but Ingrid Skipworth laid a great tackle at half-back and locked it up, stopping Mentone from having the extra number deep in attack. A chance from Holly Adams after a number of good handballs almost had the crowd up and about, but it was off the side of the boot and cleared by the Caulfield defence. The final notable play of the day was a long bomb inside 50, with Ryan getting goalside and cleanly picking up the ball and booting it home from the goal square to put the cream on the sweetest of cakes. A quick clearance out of the midfield by Maloney to kick long showed she never stopped fighting, but it would be the last possession of the day as the siren sounded, and Caulfield had won 7.5 (47) to Mentone’s 2.6 (17).
CAULFIELD GRAMMAR 0.1 | 4.2 | 4.2 | 7.5 (47)
MENTONE GRAMMAR 1.4 | 1.4 | 2.5 | 2.5 (17)
Caulfield: Sienna Ryan 4, Marguerite Purcell, Alana Vanzo, Ella Heaphy.
Mentone: Isabella Daddo, Lucy Bowman.
Caulfield: Lucy Deller, Maguerite Purcell, Sienna Ryan, Isabella Grant, Gabby Hoskin, Arabella McArthur
Mentone: Abbi Moloney, Lucy Burgess, Anna Laidlaw, Annabelle Kidd, Emma Maggio, Isabella Daddo