BOTH favourites suffered losses in a cracking first week of Victorian Football League (VFL) finals. Collingwood went down to the Hawks on Saturday, giving Hawthorn the first spot in the decider. Meanwhile, Geelong managed to knock out the high-scoring outfit, NT Thunder on Sunday, setting up a mouth-watering clash between the Pies and the Cats on Sunday.
Collingwood 3.3 (21) defeated by Hawthorn 5.2 (32)
By: Carly McClen
Led by captain Emma Mackie, Hawthorn capitalised on its double-chance by booking in a well-earned place in the VFLW Grand Final with a semi-final win over the Collingwood Magpies.
The Hawks despatched Collingwood with their characteristic spread game and run and carry that could not be interfered with, despite the Pies’ best defensive pressure attempts on the day. Hawthorn leader, Meg Hutchins, who played 12 games for Collingwood across the 2017 and 2018 AFL Women’s seasons, was impressive with her pace and composure and showed her experience and leadership against her old side. The Hawks had 19 more handballs than the opposition, they stuck to their game plan, and created forward opportunities that converted on the scoreboard. Hawthorn applied consistent pressure, causing uncharacteristic turnovers and wasted opportunities in attack by the Magpies. Although it was an 11-point margin to the Hawks at half-time, the Pies had not found what would galvanise the group to lift and getting the job done looked out of their hands.
The Hawks had team-lifters across the ground such as Sarah Perkins with her hard chase and run-down tackle followed by an overhead mark and goal. Rosie Dillon had 20 disposals and was dangerous at both ends. Lou Wotton was dominant with her ruck work, muscling out Eliza Hynes and winning in hitouts. The three goals by skipper, Emma Mackie, one being a long bomb from centre half forward to bounce through, proved the combination of these individual efforts was too lethal and most damaging in securing the upset victory.
The Pies needed team-lifters and there was the usual class from Chloe Molloy early in the second quarter when she cleverly collected the ball and easily ran past a defender to kick straight and bounce a goal through. Molloy was solid in her role throughout but some real magic was on display in the last quarter when she kicked a 40-metre goal on the run that bounced through. The steady defensive work from Nicole Hildebrand and the high disposals and hard hitting from Sarah D’Arcy impacted the game, but these efforts did not ignite the Collingwood mindset to play their game, and they were unable to hold up the momentum of the Hawks. Both teams stepped up their physical presence on the day, but it was the Hawks who put it on the scoreboard and were unperturbed by the off-the-ball chat from the Pies.
NT Thunder 6.6 (42) defeated by Geelong 7.9 (51)
By: Connor Ferris
Sunday’s elimination final saw a thrilling contest from start to finish. The Thunder got the jump at the start, benefiting from a strong breeze as they dominated time in forward half. Despite the dominance, the Thunder were only able to register one goal on the scoreboard, squandering several opportunities en route to kicking five behinds.
Geelong failed to take advantage of the wind in the second quarter as the Thunder extended their quarter time lead from nine points to 15 at the main break. As the wind died down in the third quarter, it was the Cats who took control of the game, kicking three goals to one and cutting the Thunder lead to just one point heading into the final term, setting up a grandstand finish.
In the end it was Geelong who came out on top with a dominant fourth quarter to run out nine-point winners and book their place in the preliminary final against Collingwood next week.
Richelle Cranston was spectacular all day long with two goals and 19 possessions as she willed her side to victory. Fellow midfielder, Olivia Purcell also impressed, kicking one goal to go along with 19 possessions. For the Thunder, Marijana Rajcic was dangerous up forward kicking three goals, while captain, Angela Foley led from the front with a terrific game. The loss signals the end of the Thunder’s season, which had incredible promise. They’ll look to re-group and return even stronger in 2019. For Geelong, their victory gives them the opportunity to take on Collingwood in another do-or-die contest for a position in the Grand Final against Hawthorn in two weeks’ time.