VWFL Grand Final – Kew Bears v Darebin Falcons: Bears storm to victory

There have been some great moments from footballers named “McKenna” in VFL/AFL history. Last Sunday another one made a mark. Sarah McKenna lead the Kew Bears to a mighty victory in the Division 1 VWFL Grand Final held at the Coburg footy ground, in what was a tight and bruising affair. McKenna was awarded best afield.


The Bears went into the game an undefeated team across the home and away season and won their first final against Pascoe Vale to advance straight into the Grand Final. The weight of expectation was obvious. They looked nervous in the warm up. There was plenty of voice and plenty of tempo but I wondered whether they were leaving all their energy on the track.


Darebin went into the game with the view that pressure around the ball might upset the raging hot favourites. Early in the game it worked. The ball got stuck in horrible stoppages and mauling scrums, with neither team able to find space or rhythm. At quarter time the scores were 0.0.00 to 0.0.00. Supporters in the very healthy crowd wondered if we might see a penalty shoot-out finish.


But as expected the game opened up as the players lost their initial nervous anxiety. The key to the Bears was their tireless ruckman Sarah McKenna. She began to get her hands on the ball at the stoppages and throw-ins and started to nullify the high jumping Darebin ruckman around the ground. McKenna is only relatively new to football but she showed plenty of nous when required by getting into good positions on the ground and taking a couple of telling marks in the contests. Clare O’Donnell was going about her job as the extractor, getting her hands on the ball in the packs and feeding it out to the likes of Selina Wilmott, Carter O’Regan, Jessica Burger and Isabelle Harding. One slick handball at a throw in landed in the arms of Gabby Mahoney who curled through a crucial goal in the second quarter. When the Bears got run and movement into their game they looked the better side. And it began to show on the scoreboard as they skipped out to a three goal lead.


But Darebin was not about to throw in the towel. After half time they changed their game plan. Rather than relentless pressure in the packs, which was not helping them score, they began playing a possession game. Chip passes across the ground to team mates in the clear were made to good effect. Emma Oliver for Darebin became prominent as she got the footy and consistently hit targets. The scoreboard began to tick over. The Bears had to adjust again. Jo Metres for the Bears once again showed her class as a smart half back, taking some wonderful contested marks. I like half backs who run in a straight line at the ball and take no prisoners in the process. She does this beautifully. If she doesn’t get possession she ensures that none of her opponents do either. And if she wins possession her foot skills are generally sound. The Bears held up reasonably well in the third quarter as Darebin had the scoring end, but at the last change the difference was 13 points. Game on.


Darebin threw everything they had at the Bears early in the last. They kicked the first goal. Five points the difference. What did the Bears have? Would expectation cut them down? To their credit there was no panic. They got the ball locked in their forward 50 and began peppering the goals. A few shots missed but Darebin could not clear the area as the forwards worked overtime to keep the ball in the attacking zone. McKenna lifted again and took a strong grab on the wing as Darebin surged forward. And when Isabelle Harding kicked a beauty to put the lead out to 13 points there was a sense that Darebin was spent.


The Bears won the clearance and the clock had beaten a gallant Darebin. Gabby Mahoney bombed one through from 35 out as the siren sounded. The 19 point victory belied the intensity of the game, but there was no doubt that the best side won.


The after siren celebrations were raucous. Mums, Dads, partners, friends and supporters of the Bears stormed onto the ground. I was among them. I found Clare in the crush and gave her a big, fatherly, victorious hug. She was ecstatic. I was too. She had worked hard for this moment, not just in her football pursuits, but in her previous sporting lives as well. Things haven’t always gone her way but I was immensely proud of her resilience to get to this day; a worthy premiership player in a marvelous football team. There is nothing like winning a Premiership, like getting reward for effort. These women will be mates for life. That’s what footy does.


Congratulations to the Bears on a wonderful season and just as importantly, well done on showing good grace after the game and shaking hands with their defeated foe. There is no game without an opponent.


As the girls celebrated on the victory dais, which dutifully collapsed under their collective weight, I couldn’t help but wonder what great strides this women’s footy has made in just 12 months. The challenge now is to keep it in the hands of the people.

Clare with the Premiership flag.


Clare with the Premiership flag

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Fantastic stuff,Dips geez how jealous would,Ross Lyon be of the q time score his dream result. A fantastic article in that it contains so many points re father and family and the joy of a premiership at any level is profound ( that is entirely meant as a compliment and not condensing ) youth last sentence is a article in itself ) I issue a challenge,Dips to get every player who is mentioned to comment with there memories of the day and celebrations

  2. Hi Dips, as a dyed in the wool Falcons supporter, well done to the Bears on a spirited and well deserved win. As you note in an excellent appraisal of the game, Premierships are something else. I trust the Bears treasure that. I really like Rulebooks suggestion to get the players to respond and add to your write-up. That is one way to bottle the memories. Cheers

  3. I no it will amaze people but I am good at that ( annoying,harassing people to comments)
    On a serious note,Rick is spot on I have had some of the Norwood guys thank me for making then comment on my greatest win of all article that they really enjoyed and still do reading all the comments by the past,present players and supporters

  4. Great idea RB. I’m trying to get them all involved. I think mad Monday is still weighing heavily.

    BTW – four of the Bears finished in the top 10 in the competition B&F which was counted last night – great effort.

    G Mahoney 2nd
    J Metres 4th
    C O’Donnell 8th
    S Taylor 10th

    Hope I’ve got that right!

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic Dips. Congratulations to Clare and her teammates on a wonderful achievement.
    No surprise to hear an O’Donnell getting in and doing the hard work getting the ball out of the packs…..

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Congrats Clare and the Bears. No mean feat toppling Darebin in a GF. Wonderful memories to savour for the girls and their fans.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Well done Clare and the rest of the good news Bears

    There’s a link to a full replay in this story.


  8. Gerry McShane says

    Fantastic read Dips. Please pass on our congrats to Clare.

  9. Dips, as always a great piece of writing. Tax and accounting are merely the means by which you can afford to give expression to your literary side. A great opening paragraph, an excellent summary of the game proper and an even better analysis of what winning a premiership can mean. Congratulations to Clare on being the Josh Kennedy of the Kew Bears.
    Lee Selleck

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