Geri and Joseph at Ikon Park
3.35pm, Saturday 11 February
Ikon Park, Melbourne
By Joseph Ryan
A few years ago I was watching my girlfriend Geri’s netball team play. Her teammate in Goal Attack, Phoebe McWilliams, took the ball cleanly, crashed through two waiting defenders like a Jonathan Brown pack mark, then passed to the Shooter for an easy goal. I said “Wow, she could play footy”. The response: “Yeah, she does!”
Phoebe was a great netballer but footy was her passion. She played well for St.Kilda in the VWFL, was drafted into the Demons and then Bulldogs teams for AFL exhibition matches, before being picked for the Giants. Despite being a Demons supporter all my life, I got caught up in Phoebe’s story and jumped on the Giants bandwagon in the AFLW. Geri and I bought GWS jumpers and ironed on Phoebe’s number 3. As they ran out I even sang the theme song – “It’s the sound of the mighty Giants!”
The Giants did most of the attacking early but didn’t register scores to back it up. Even with only 16 per side, a flood was in full effect. Erin McKinnon impressed for the Giants in the ruck, as she won hit outs but also floated across the centre, gathering the ball as Carlton tried to clear. GWS would have been shattered when, after having most of the play, they conceded a turnover in midfield which led to Carlton’s first attack and a goal.
This was the first of many momentum swings of the game. Soon after, GWS had a quick reply through Aimee Schmidt from the centre bounce. Quick movement was working well for the Giants, and when Rebecca Beeson and Stephanie Walker set up Jacinda Barclay for a goal, GWS had the lead at quarter time!
Interestingly, at the quarter time break there was a Chemist Warehouse promotion where a man had the ability to take one kick into a target and win $10,000. Yes, a bloke had the ability to win more than some players are being paid for an entire season with just one kick. Hmm…
In the second quarter, GWS maintained their lead, but only by holding off a string of Carlton attacks. When Darcy Vescio goaled it brought the crowd to life. It felt like Carlton should have registered three or four goals as their skills went up a level, but so did the Giants’ pressure. Carlton only led by a point going into the half time break.
The third quarter started with a memorable moment as Jessica Dal Pos sent the ball quickly into the forward line, for Phoebe to grab a great diving mark. She went back and slotted the goal! We were standing and cheering and so were a huge crowd of her St.Kilda Sharks VWFL teammates to our left. GWS were suddenly more fluent and finding space. Beeson was outstanding and Dal Pos scored a goal of her own on the run and we began to wonder – was the upset on the cards? All the momentum seemed to be with GWS.
But… there was another momentum change. It seemed Barclay had taken a big grab in front but the umpire refused to pay it. The ball headed to the other end but the Giants couldn’t clear it. In the dying minutes of the quarter Carlton had a couple of attacks and eventually broke through. First Audley took the crumbs from a ball up and goaled, then Vescio scored again, and the CARLTON chant rang out around the ground. Scores were level at the final break.
Unfortunately there was no momentum change in the early minutes of the final quarter. Carlton were finding space and hitting targets. They kicked two quick unanswered goals to build a lead, followed by a third a few minutes later. But even 19 points down with seven minutes left the Giants did not drop their heads. They kept applying pressure and with a goal to Hannah Wallett with a few minutes left, an unlikely comeback was on the cards. However, Carlton stayed composed and maintained the 13 point final margin.
Throughout the game I was impressed by the toughness and skills of Brianna Davey, and the way Lauren Arnell read the play and seemed to be in every contest. If they keep playing the way they did today, they will take the Blues deep into finals. For GWS, keep an eye on Mai Nguyen, who seemed to pop into space to cut off plenty of Carlton attacks.
While I still felt for the Red and Blue when watching the later match, seeing the determination of the GWS women in that second half has made me more determined to stick by our mate’s team in the AFLW because it really feels like the first Giants win isn’t far away and something special is building. Just like in the theme song, they never surrender, and fight until the end.
CARLTON 1.0 2.3 4.4 7.5 (47)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.1 2.2 4.4 5.4 (34)
Carlton: Vescio 2, Jakobsson, Audley, Pound, Brazzale, Downie.
GWS: Barclay, Dal Pos, McWilliams, Wallett, Schmidt.
Carlton: Arnell, Davey, Audley, Vescio.
GWS: Dal Pos, Beeson, Barclay.
UMPIRES: Waddington, Toner, Sommerville
OUR VOTES Arnell (CAR) 3, Davey (CAR) 2, Dal Pos (GWS) 1.