AFLW Preliminary Final – Adelaide v Geelong: Prelim humiliation

AFLW – Adelaide v Geelong – Prelim Humiliation


Preliminary finals can produce anything.


Following Carlton’s brutal dismissal of Fremantle on Saturday to blitz through to the AFLW Grand Final, around 13,000 people bustled into the Adelaide Oval to discover who will meet the Blues.


In the shadows of their AFL loss the previous day to a tactically astute Hawthorn, Adelaide supporters were desperate to see a victory. They faced an unknown in Geelong, who had astounded all in their maiden season by reaching the finals despite finishing in lacklustre form.


Regardless of how they fared going into the contest, the Cats couldn’t even raise a paw. Adelaide had recaptured the form that saw them win the first AFLW Premiership, with Erin Phillips dominating both forward and in the middle. They rose to a new level on Sunday.


The Cats challenged early, knowing they had to kick ahead while they had the chance to take the crowd out of the contest. Unfortunately, their efforts yielded no rewards, and the Crows began to implement their aggressive and free-running ball movement that produced match-winning totals. Using their hardened frames that had developed over three seasons of gritty AFLW football, the Crows bullied the lighter and younger Geelong bodies. By doing so, the prolific ball winner of Marinoff was fed and duly slotted the opening goal to signal their intentions.


Adelaide, sensing blood, continued to dominate in the middle, gaining clearance after clearance to prevent Geelong from getting near their goals. Luckily, the Cats had a dour defensive line that had held up well all season. They hadn’t been under this much pressure before though – Deni Varnhagen bounced on a lacklustre kick to dance past two hapless Cats and fire it off to Scheer. Of all people, the Stevie J-like Scheer was never going to miss, seizing the big moment to slot a fantastic running goal that broke the spirit of the Cats early. That’s how you grab a finals contest and make it your own.


For the rest of the quarter – nigh, the game – the Crows built in confidence and peppered Geelong’s defence. Full-back McDonald was Geelong’s best by far, constantly intercepting attacks and dragging down runaway Crows to claw back the deficit. She prevented any more goals from being scored in the first quarter, and desperately clung to Eloise Jones after spilling an overhead mark to win a deserved free kick that saved an open goal. She wasn’t without her mistakes, but she seemed to be one of the only players able to match it with Adelaide’s explosiveness.


These efforts weren’t going to kick Geelong back into the game though, with Cats’ forwards not even seeing the Sherrin near the 50 metre arc. They would push their tally of consecutive goalless quarters up near double digits, while Danielle Ponter (from the same talent-laden bloodline of the Rioli’s and Michael Long) ripped contested marks out of defending hands and slotted easy goals to blow out the margin.


By the time Adelaide players, such as the mercurial Stevie-Lee Thompson, could side step Geelong training cones with ease, the sting was all but out of the game. The Crows had two extra years of AFLW experience and body development on the Cats, and it was abundantly clear. They were stronger, quicker and smarter. Ready to adapt and ruthlessly willing to execute their game plan because they knew it would take them to a Grand Final, and perhaps a Premiership.


Minutes before half time Adelaide began to bust out the party tricks – clever taps from Thompson allowed Jones to craft a neat dribbling banana to thrill the crowd, as Scheer continued to pile on the pain after the interval by slamming through an easy crumbing goal. Geelong had been sapped of all confidence, fumbling around the Adelaide Oval fortress and timidly chipping forward in hope. Adelaide players seemed to grow even more, darting around with confidence. Even the industrious Purcell couldn’t burrow her way through contests to benefit the Cats – she was among the 20 other Geelong players were beaten and bruised all day by brutal tackles and bumps.


Phillips was barely seen in the middle after the opening quarter, deciding to wreak havoc up forward in a safer way. She had a Grand Final to dominate. Plus, Marinoff was the general who ensured that the midfield was in no need of help. Irish rookie Ailish Considine slotted a marvellous banana set shot to confirm this. Geelong had given up – a terrible dropped chest mark by Clifford resulted in Ponter shimmying like her ancestors to bend through another exhilarating goal. Would Geelong finish scoreless?


Just as this question neared reality, Adelaide’s hectic intent to pressure the Cats into submission came at a cost – a free kick and fifty metre penalty meant the battling Cranston could slot a major to instil relief. But the humiliation was already complete – if defender Chelsea Randall could kick them up the other end and Ponter could nail her third goal then was it really that hard?


Marinoff capped off her best afield performance with an open goal to the delight of the applauding Adelaide crowd – they had made them beam with pride in a way the AFL team hadn’t done since 2017. Let’s just hope the AFLW team link arms during next week’s anthem and don’t have to listen to “we are the navy Blues” on repeat over the next few months.


ADELAIDE   2.2   4.4   7.6   11.7  (73)
GEELONG   0.0   0.0   0.0   1.1   (7)


 Ponter 3, Scheer 2, Marinoff 2, Jones, Considine, J. Foley, Randall
Geelong: Cranston


 Marinoff, Phillips, J. Foley, Randall, Ponter, Rajcic
Geelong: McDonald, Blakeway, Garing, Teague


 Cramey (head knock)
Geelong: McMahon (concussion, replaced in selected side by Clarke), Clarke (head knock)


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Broadbent, Rebeschini, Johanson


Crowd: 13,429 at Adelaide Oval


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