AFLW Round 6 – Adelaide Crows v Melbourne Demons: Under a splendid sunset
There were gasps and woahs, and wows and quiet sighs. If not for the action aplenty across the sun hardened surface of TIO Stadium, we would have been marvelling at Darwin’s splendid sunset. Not even one of the more glorious evening skies that Southerners could bear witness to (on the telly) could distract from this do–or–die contest. Well, maybe every so often. Certainly not as the clocked ticked down and the game hurtled to an unscripted upset. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This was Melbourne’s first unofficial final. Lose, and next week is a dead rubber. Win, and they are still in the hunt. The Crows sprang from the starting gate hell bent on ruining the Dees’ day. They crunched the Dees, literally. Half way through the First Melbourne had two players injured on the bench. The Dees were scoreless and shaken. Phillips’ specky late in the quarter was both a beauty and a metaphor. She climbed the back of her hapless Dees opponent as if writing their destiny. Her game was almost as good as that grab. When Adelaide forward Bevan goaled with 10 seconds left in the First it may well have told the story of the game.
Dees were bruised and smarting. Another quarter without scoring said something about their season. You can’t win like that. Both teams seemed tired. Was that the unyielding heat or the result of playing six competitive games of footy (plus scratch matches) so early in the year. On the positive side, this season, with hard training through summer, has produced 250 players who are as prepared as you can get for their State seasons proper.
Footy, as they say, is a funny game. Less than 20 seconds into the Second the Dees were on the Board. Daisy cleared the centre with a swiftness that told her teammates a win was more than a modest proposal. Berry took her cue and kicked true. They might not win but they would play all the minutes of their game.
Melbourne, who couldn’t get the ball past the centre in the First, now took the game on. They moved the ball cleanly, more players got their hands on the ball. Smith, barely 18, took a strong mark and grew taller. Like, before our very eyes. But the Crows aren’t sitting second on the ladder for nothing. Their backline held firm. Melbourne’s ball work worked until they got a bit too clever (I always tense up when the Hawks do the same), turned the ball over and watched the fast paced Crows kick it clear into their forward line. Randall (sensational player) sprinted on to it and goaled. This could hurt the Dees more than the first quarter dizzy spell. It didn’t.
Melbourne picked up their ball movement and pace, played the switch on their half forward flank and Daisy goaled from deep in the pocket. Minutes later, Lauren (the other Melbourne) Pearce took a great defensive mark deep in the Crows forward. Dees had one more chance late in the quarter but couldn’t finish it off. This has been the story of their season.
Paxman and Daisy have been the Mitchell/Hodge of the Dees. A play early in the Third summed up Paxman’s skill and endeavour. She started a classic Dees run, centring it to Scott, who passed it to Berry. She saw a free woman running into space on the forward flank. It was Paxman. A minute later Mifsud snapped/stole a goal and the Dees hit the front. Then the game, being played in 30 degree heat and 70% humidity, got even tougher.
The Melbourne backline, with Grierson and Smith rising to the occasion barely let the wind past their watch. Phillips, as a roving half-back, was doing good stuff. Hickey, of course, was her usual uncompromising self. This, the premiership quarter, highlighted footy at its toughest, both teams defence was superb. Smith, out of the Dees backline found Newman who ran it forward. Scott’s goal was a big moment for the Dees. And the Crows were held scoreless.
The last quarter saw one superstar in Randall line up against another in Daisy and that my friend is why we go to the footy. Under a splendid sunset, crimson and electric, two battle weary foes squared up, two teams that have done their clubs proud readied for one more stanza and a competition that has produced more than its share of history making moments imagined what more could this contest offer. The game was the thing.
When Newman ran into a Melbourne goal, after selling so much candy even Sammy Davis conceded she was in fact the candy-man, the Dees were up by 14 points. The game was over, you’da thunk. And you’d be wrong. I’m talking to you Rick. The Crows refused to read the script. Adelaide’s Gibson soccered a great goal in a scramble. Then Perkins, held quiet for the game, proved her mettle with a goal on the run. There was 58 seconds on the clock and two points in it. Oh, and a whole stack full of pride hung in the balance. The Dees hung on. They won. They defeated their inner demons. They are still in the premiership hunt.
ADELAIDE 2.1 3.1 3.1 5.2 (32)
MELBOURNE 0.0 2.1 4.3 5.4 (34)
Adelaide: Riley, Bevan, Randall, Gibson, Perkins
Melbourne: Berry, Pearce, Mifsud, Scott, Newman
Adelaide: Phillips, Foley, Bevan, Randall, Randan
Melbourne: Pearce, Smith, Newman, Berry, Paxman
Umpires: Andrew Crosby, Brodie Raynor and Nathan Toner
Official attendance: 5100
Our votes: 3 Pearce (M), 2 Phillips (A), 1 Smith (M)