AFLW Round 7 – GWS v Geelong: Fumbling into Finals

 

Sometimes footy can be the perfect healer.

 

Following a day of such tragedy across the border in Christchurch, fans would’ve been forgiven for staying home and missing the crucial clash between GWS and Geelong. Despite the result being put into perspective, a shining light from the Giants provided the perfect story for a tear in the eye and a brave smile on the face.

 

In a clash that would dictate whether the Cats could reach the finals and was important for a disappointing GWS to finish their season with a victory, the Giants appeared to have more to play for from the outset.

 

Sporting black armbands and observing a minute’s silence, Canberra played host to a rampant Giants start, as they were ravenous in hunting the ball and hapless Geelong players all over the ground. The Cats never had an answer for the Giants’ bold play through the middle, with their constant switch kicks and chancy plays coming off in a massive way.

 

AFLW Rising Star favourite Alyce Parker and her co-captain Alicia Eva set the tone early in the middle, bullying the Cats into submission with strong tackles and devastating possessions. With the jittery Cats attempting to rectify their poor form from last week, they were shaky at best, laying them open for a terrific counter-attack when the retiring Gum roved expertly and dribbled a pass to Bernardi to assist the opening goal.

 

Parker was almost Dusty-like in the midfield – brushing off challengers and opening up the game with powerful kicks that exposed Geelong’s brittle defence. Once the ball cleared the half-back line, the Cats had no weapons to defend the free-running Giants.

 

With just seconds left in the opening term, the powerful story of the night came when a dynamic Parker fend off and kick allowed GWS to surge forward. Staunton twisted and turned her way into space in the forward line, allowing her to spot up the first AFLW Muslim player in Haneen Zreika. Despite a day of turmoil and heartache, Zreika took the field and reaped the rewards by confidently taking the chance to kick her maiden AFLW goal. The crowd erupted in the cool Friday night breeze – Giants mobbed her from all corners of the ground. Footy sure does play a large role in people’s lives.

 

The shell-shocked Cats never looked like matching the passion and intensity that GWS exhibited. Maybe they were blown away by the emotion of Zreika’s goal, but they never played like they were in a must-win scenario if they were to reach a maiden preliminary final. Only certain players rose to the occasion – Crocket-Grills fought her heart out and Blakeway’s goal-saving tackle on the dangerous Bernardi epitomised the desperation that some held. Unfortunately, this didn’t inspire her teammates – they continued to be opened up by the Giants, who were playing in a manner that they frustratingly didn’t achieve when their finals chances were on the line.

 

Hickey’s courageous mark before half-time highlighted the Cats desire to not concede again, yet it mattered little when their pushes forward barely reaped an inside-50. Even if it did reach their full forwards, McWilliams and Clifford were the only players who looked like they wanted the footy.

 

Following another half of footy where the Cats were held goalless, something had to change for Geelong. In another chance to establish dominance after the main break, Eva and Parker rose once more. When they powered the ball forward, the superstar in Gum wreaked havoc out the back, constantly getting goal side of defenders and creating dangerous chances. In one such case, she smartly lowered her eyes and set up a goal for the Irish rookie in Bonner with a clever left-foot kick.

 

The Cats finally hissed back – the barometer in Purcell laid a brutal tackle before sizzling a beautiful ball to the leading Clifford. Carrying her forward line, Clifford converted and gave Geelong the slightest of chances. Had that play reversed their fortunes?

 

Going into the last quarter, Geelong had to find a way to beat the Giants’ engine room. If they kicked the first goal, then anything could happen. The belief wasn’t there – maybe they had accepted their fate once Zreika’s fairy-tale goal roused such emotion. Eva capitalised on this, burrowing into packs and extracting regularly. When she skied a kick and presented a chance to Bernardi, who juggled a strong mark, it was only a matter of time before they kicked clear and broke Geelong hearts.

 

It took most of the last quarter, but the scrappy game was finally put to bed when Bennetts’ classy snap fell into the brave arms of Staunton, who nailed the set shot from a tight angle. To put some stylish icing on the cake, Eva unleashed some party tricks with an amazing left foot snap from the pocket. The Cats were writing their obituary from the 2019 season.

 

The night panned out perfectly for GWS, who got to send off their veteran in Gum with a resounding victory that epitomised what they could look forward to in 2020. They had so many wonderful stories from the night and will at least have that Canberra Friday night to proudly remember.

 

Geelong entered the waiting game and were gifted a preliminary final berth against the rampant Crows next week. Did they deserve it? Perhaps not after their last two efforts. But footy is a funny game – let’s see whether they can get their act together and cause the upset of the season.

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.1 2.3 4.3 6.5 (41)
GEELONG 0.1 0.2 1.4 1.4 (10)

GOALS
Giants: Bernardi 2, Zreika, Bonner, Staunton, Eva
Geelong: Clifford

BEST
Giants: Parker, Eva, Bernardi, Gum, Zreika
Geelong: Crockett-Grills, Blakeway, Hickey

INJURIES
Giants: Nicola Barr (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Maddy Collier
Geelong: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Toner, Gibson, McGinness

Estimated crowd: 4524 at UNSW Canberra Oval

 

 

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Comments

  1. Sean, a well-made contrast here about how two teams in very different predicaments respond to their respective situations. Maybe GWS just didn’t have anything to lose and so played with freedom from pressure; perhaps the Cats couldn’t handle the pressure in their first season and will better for it next time round. Interesting to read an AFLW piece where players are referred to by surname only – I expect this will become more common as the seasons unfold and names become better known more widely.

  2. Thanks Ian! I agree – GWS played in a way they hadn’t managed to previously, maybe because of their ‘nothing to lose’ mindset? I have been slowly referring to the players by their surnames throughout the season so that by now there are some familiar surnames, especially for Geelong players. Hopefully this has helped people to steadily remember more names!

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