VFLW Grand Final: Diamond Creek v Darebin Falcons

Sunday, September 24, 12pm

Etihad Stadium

 

The Big Kid with her awesome poster and poster admirer/footballer Lauren Arnell

Is this the Final Falcdown?
“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell
And maybe we’ll come back
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?
It’s the final Falcdown
With apologies to Europe.

 

In the prelim, the Falcons found themselves in unfamiliar territory – facing a straight sets exit from the VFLW finals. Through a combination of grit, determination, and Nicole Callinan’s right hand, they made it to the Granny. I also observed that Daisy Pearce looked less than happy after the Falcs narrowly beat the Sharks to make it into the (cliché alert) *Big Dance* along with long-time rivals Diamond Creek. Darebin were going for five in a row – and yet most would have had Diamo as narrow favourites after their demolition of the Falcs in the first week of the finals. The Creekers had made Coach Jane Lange’s side look slow as they ran all over them in a convincing 25-point win.

 

There was also an underlying drama to this game. During the last few weeks, various ‘second-tier’ media agencies such as the fantastic Girls Play Footy website reported that a shake-up of the VFLW meant that this could be the last time that both the Darebin Falcons and the Creekers field teams at this level. Both clubs, although boasting a galaxy of AFLW current stars (14 at Darebin, 15 at Diamo) and future draft prospects (Chloe Molloy, anyone?), face uncertain futures. Not having a “VFL standard” ground is one issue. Another is that as the women’s game goes professional, the VFLW clubs who have already formed a partnership with an AFL team, or newly formed clubs such as the Essendon women’s club, may squeeze out those without a dance partner. Darebin and Diamo are two such clubs, as are the Eastern Devils. Cranbourne and Seaford have already announced that they will not be renewing their VFLW licences for 2018. The clubs who developed women’s footballing talents for so long may no longer be part of the competition. For Darebin and Diamond Creek stalwarts, this irony is particularly bitter, because as Sinead O’Connor sang, so beautifully, Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home.

 

So here we are. Deep in the giant airport hangar/toilet block inspired architecture of Etihad watching what might be the Final Falcon. I ran into one of my students outside the ground who treated the encounter like a Z-Grade celebrity sighting, simultaneously amused and appalled that a teacher would, a) like football and,  b) exist outside the confines of our school.  The Big Kid, the same mates as last week and some others take our seats on the Falcs’ wing – near enough to the bench to watch the changes. During the week, Darebin had made a call to arms for all Falcs to get along to see the team try for the five-peat. My Big Kid made a beautiful multi-coloured sign and other brought banners, flags and even a vuvuzela. Diamo fans had similarly turned up in numbers, but made the odd decision to tuck themselves away in the pocket. By the time the game ends, there are thousands at the ground for the triple header.

 

It is obvious from the start that the Falcs are going to try a few new tricks after their last loss to the Creekers. Meg McDonald lines up deep in the forward line and Aasta O’Connor is parked at half-back. Shannon Egan goes up in the ruck for the Falcs against Alison Downie who was so dominant in the Semi. Hickey starts in the middle to add grunt along with wily Jess Dal Pos. Some things stay the same. Daisy Pearce seems to be in everything and tagger Libby Birch is glued to (deep breath for mandatory Molloy moniker) potential-number-one-draft-pick Chloe Molloy’s side. Actually, Molloy and Birch spend a lot of the game shoving and whacking each other, but more on Molloy later.

 

The Falcs dominate the first quarter.  Elsie O’Dea plays a ripping term, running hard to pick up marks across the half-forward. Meg Mac’s presence in the forward line worries the Creekers. Anything she does not mark, she brings to ground.  Minutes later, Jane Lange looks like a genius as Meg Mac kicks the first goal of the game after neatly roving a D. Pearce kick. You should get bonus points when your decoy forward kicks a goal. Actually, I love Meg Mac so much, that she should get a goal just for touching the ball. In the end, she nearly wins the game off her own boot – kicking 1.2 for the game in an outstanding crash, bash and smash role up forward. Anyhow. Speaking of forwards, Katie Brennan has, well, not *exactly* a big day out, more like an ‘extremely pleasant trip with very positive outcomes day out’.   She runs and runs and takes about 10 marks for the day, including a juggling effort that has the crowd roaring their approval. KB opens her Falcons winning the GF account with a slightly lucky free for holding (they had each other’s jumpers, but her opponent Hetherington was more obvious about it). Katie kicks truly and the Falcons are two goals to zip.

 

The second quarter is more of the same, but while Darebin continue to own the ball, they cannot put the game away. Meanwhile, Karen Paxman has driven the Falcs forward repeatedly while Lauren Pearce plays a sweeper role across the middle, picking off Creekers’ kicks and taking a number of telling marks. The Creekers manage only 2 points for the entire half. .” I feel optimistic. The Falcs are full of running. Paxman is playing so well that I am wondering why on earth she was not a marquee player in the AFLW. Fancy paying Paxy only around $13k to do a full pre-season and then play seven games of footy? Outrageous.

 

Half time and the kids go for hot chips and a sketchy hamburger. Their adult minders talk about the etymology of such phrases as “cracking in” as in going hard and the mysterious “get around _________” as in “Get around Meg Mac, she had a great first term.”

 

The third term sees Darebin score another goal, this time through Crows recruit, Ebony Marinoff. Noffy looks a little shocked to take a grab in the fifty, but she is very pleased when her trusty left boot steers the ball home. Then came the moment that will be talked about, replayed, analysed for years. Going for a ball on the far side from the benches, the hitherto well-held Chloe Molloy was jammed in a bump sandwich – Paxy on one side, the A-Lister (Annelise Lister) on the other. Molloy went down like the proverbial tonne of bricks and rolled around clutching her arm to her body. Shoulder? Collarbone? Dislocation? Break? In any case, there is a free kick to Molloy for the high contact. Chloe got up off the ‘deck’ (that is another term for the “Etymology of Footy Phrases” book I will be writing upon retirement) and went through her set shot preparations. Runs around, bends it back, GOAL! Molloy goes down again and Captain Steph Chiocci rushes over, more to protect Molloy from over-exuberant Creeker celebrations than anything else. How about Molloy’s physical courage and mental steeliness?  A wrecked collarbone and you kick a crunch goal? Wowsers. To think she is only 19 and the leading VFLW Goal kicker for 2017 (tied with Katie Brennan). Molloy then went off the ground, running, wincing with her arm wedged into her jumper. On cue, like the plot of a movie, the Creekers began a valiant fightback. The tackling became fiercer, each contest more heated.

 

When I was in kindergarten, we once stirred milk all day until it turned into butter. We took it in turns, a strange pre-schooler team of churners walking out to the butter churn in the kinder lobby to stir the pot. Inevitably, the cream rose to the top. METAPHOR! Daisy Pearce now stepped in to have her say. Picking up a Diamo kick out of danger, Pearce gave the Big Don’t Argue and kicked a rare goal on the run. Now Diamo seemed to be cooked. Not so. Deep in the third and early in the fourth, Sophie Abbatangelo popped up with a couple of perfect rover’s goals and suddenly the margin was only 9 points with 14 minutes to go. There was now a desperate, striving, backs to the wall edge to every contest. The fourth began with a series of frantic packs, many of them featuring Paxy winning the hard ball. Hickey moved in behind the ball and began to pick up a few touches, but still Diamo came. Then it was KB time. After winning a free for a perfect tackle, Paxman passed the ball to Brennan who took a strong contested mark, 30 out on a pretty sharp angle. The champion lined it up, took her funny little stuttering run in and bang – a fifty-metre kick straight through the big sticks! KB turned to the crowd and spread her arms as if to say, “How good is that?” We could not help but agree. It was bloody fantastic! What a goal to seal the game for the Falcs. Hoynes kicked a kicked a final goal for Diamo, but Darebin did not look like losing. Unbelievably (and I can’t believe the medicos let her do it) Molloy came on for the last 2 minutes, despite being unable to move one arm at all.

 

On the siren, the Falcs leapt into the air and ran to each other and their fans. The Creekers went down to their haunches. Paxman won the Best on Ground medal, so well deserved. She had stiff competition from Daisy Pearce, Elise O’Dea and Katie Brennan. After the presentations, The Falcs gathered in front of the Falcs bay and sang the song with real gusto. Injured Falcon Darcy Vescio was in tears at the end and watching the highlights later, Lauren Arnell was emotional in her post-match interview.

 

About 2,000 people were there for the start of the game, but the crowd built up as Tiger and Borough fans arrived for the men’s decider. Over 100,000 watched the women’s game on Channel 7 – a remarkable number, really.

 

Kudos to the Darebin coach. Ringing those changes meant a 32-point turnaround from the semi-final result – quite an achievement.

 

If this is the end for the Darebin Falcons, as we know them, then it was quite the way to go out. The Falcs have been under the pump all year with a tough draw, injured stars and the pall of an uncertain future hanging over them. Daisy Pearce summed up what this win means on her social media accounts:

 

“@darebinfalcons; a family for the last 13 years. I never went to one school or lived in any one house for as long as I’ve been going to AH Capp three times a week. Thanks to everyone who has made it such a special place. Winning a flag that The Man tried hard to stop us from winning was a bloody nice way to finish. Forever grateful.” This sounds like a goodbye from Daisy.

 

It must feel bittersweet for the veterans of the Falcons team. Who knows what happens next? Not me, not yet. As I wrote this, it was confirmed that my team-from-birth, North Melbourne, have an AFLW license for 2019, along with Geelong. Gold Coast, Richmond, St. Kilda and West Coast will join the women’s competition from 2020. Further shake ups to the so-called ‘lesser’ competitions are inevitable.

 

The Big Kid got her excellent poster signed by a few Falcs players, we got some nice snaps and then it was all over. The Falcs are the VFLW champions for the fifth year in a row – matching their Peta Searle era efforts. I have loved every minute of Darebin’s season. I went to 12 of the 14 home and away games and all 3 finals. I have become a Falcons’ tragic. Through the AFLW and now the VFLW, I have re-discovered my passion for footy. And I have brought the Big Kid along with me. For her, watching women play sport is the norm. She talks of Darcy, Lauren, and Katie and Daisy as I once spoke of Ross Glendinning, Wayne Schimmelbusch and the Krakouer brothers. If this has to be the Final Falcdown, then the Darebin Women’s Sporting Club Football team have gone out winners.

 

Earlier this year, a friend of mine reported that she consoled her daughter after her beloved Port Power lost a close one with the dreaded words “It’s only a game, my love.”

 

Her 5-year-old shot back “It is NOT only a game Mum, it is people, and it is life.”

 

I agree. I was at Etihad with the Falcs family to watch Darebin do it all one more time.

 

It was people and it was life.

 

 

DIAMOND CREEK      0.2      0.2      2.2      4.4 (28)

 

DAREBIN                2.1     2.3     4.4     5.5 (35)

 

Goals:

 

Diamond Creek: Sophie Abbatangelo 2, Chloe Molloy, Katie Loynes

 

Darebin: Katie Brennan 2, Meghan McDonald, Ebony Marinoff, Daisy Pearce

 

Best:

Darebin: Daisy Pearce, Karen Paxman, Katie Brennan, Elise O’Dea, Libby Birch, Lauren Pearce

Diamond Creek: Katie, Loynes, Lauren Morecroft, Lauren Brazzale, Steph Chiocci

 

About Jackie Lynch

North Melbourne fan by birth, but Bulldogs for the AFLW and Darebin Falcons for the VFLW.

I am a high school teacher in the Mighty West and a parent of two kids.

Other interests include history, reading, running slowly and the Facebook Page Shit Brick Fences of Melbourne.

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I’ve enjoyed your passionate reporting on the finals Jackie. I watched this game with much interest. It probably wouldn’t have been telecast if it was a stand-alone fixture I suppose.

    I’m bemused as an outsider as to how the AFLW/VFLW “thing” is going to work out, especially as the former undergoes expansion. The AFL wants complete control over its organic supply chain.

    The Falcs family seems very special. Thanks again.

  2. Jackie Lynch says:

    Hi Swish

    Yeah, it’s a great time for women’s footy – some real mega-stars in the making. But as with all that it touches, the AFL seems to want to own and control the lower levels to the extent that as the Girls Play Footy article points out they may squeeze out the greatest footy nurseries for girls and women thus far.

    Also, Etihad. Yuk. It’s so great that the game was televised, but the atmosphere there with the smaller crowds leaves a lot to be desired. It’s the price they pay though. The players certainly moved faster over the Etihand turf and because there’s no mud, there were far fewer miskicks. Brenny’s last quarter goal was a ripper. Perhaps not possible under windy conditions.

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