It was a hoodoo-breaking first week of finals in Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s as Diamond Creek advanced to the Grand Final and St Kilda set up a preliminary-final date with Darebin.
A year after missing the top four, Diamond Creek completed a return to the Grand Final with a superb defeat of reigning premier Darebin in the Qualifying Final at Piranha Park, as Callum O’Connor writes.
Having lost 12 of their previous 13 encounters with the Falcons, the Creekers led from start to finish as they out-hunted and outran their opponents in a 7.4 (46) to 2.9 (21) victory.
From the outset, Diamond Creek’s intense tackling pressure and greased-lightning ball movement denied Darebin any chance to play the match on its terms. The Creekers’ attack was rewarded when Christina Bernardi goaled on the run shortly before quarter time thanks to a well-timed shepherd from Chloe Molloy.
It was a taste of things to come, as the floodgates opened in the second quarter. Quick movement into an open forward line saw Molloy and Jess Kennedy push the margin out to 19 points in the first two minutes. A run-down tackle from Kirsty Lamb opened the door for Stephanie Chiocci to kick her side’s fourth goal and when Alison Downie swooped on a loose ball at the top of the goalsquare to curve through a fifth major just before half time, it was code red for the Falcons.
With the margin at 32 points going into the second half, the crowd waited for Darebin to fight back and open up Diamond Creek’s mental scars. However, Bernardi showed there was no stopping the Creekers machine when she wrong-footed Shevaun Hogan to snap her second goal. When Molloy extended her team’s run to seven straight majors with a highlight-reel snap on the run four minutes later, the margin was 44 points and the game was too far gone for even the mighty Falcons.
Darebin finally got on the board from a goal following a 50-metre penalty to Georgia Hammond late in the third quarter but the comeback was never on.
While usual suspects Chiocci, Downie and Millie Barden starred, Diamond Creek had players who took their game to another level for the finals. Kerryn Harrington’s shut-down job on Falcons power forward Katie Brennan was as successful as it was unexpected. Bernardi became her side’s key target up forward and Reni Hicks nullified Darebin champion Daisy Pearce. For 150-gamer and co-captain Tanya Hetherington, the taste of victory could not have been sweeter.
Diamond Creek will now play the winner of the Preliminary Final between Darebin and St Kilda in the Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on September 24.
* CLICK HERE to watch a replay of Darebin vs Diamond Creek
St Kilda consigned decade-long list of failed finals campaigns at the top level to the history books with a comprehensive 20-point Elimination Final win over Melbourne Uni, 9.5 (59) to 5.9 (39).
Having also made finals three years in a row only to be knocked out by the Mugars each time, the Sharks had the odds against them. Within minutes, their furious workrate was running Melbourne Uni off its feet, with Amanda Walsh and Jenna Bruton tackling fanatically. Alarm bells started ringing for the Mugars when Taylor Mesiti slotted St Kilda’s second goal from a high free kick, but it was just the beginning as a stunning solo effort from Sharks forward Jasmine Garner saw her team wrest control of the contest in the second quarter.
A week after her five-goal haul for Victoria in the State of Origin match, Garner added a match-turning finals performance to her growing resumé. Pushing hard on the lead and plucking marks at will, the 23-year old bagged three goals in 13 minutes. By the third quarter, Garner was on her third opponent in Louise Stephenson but it didn’t stop her snapping her fourth major to extend St Kilda’s lead to 23 points.
An engrossing subplot began to emerge in the shoot-out between Garner and her Melbourne Uni counterpart Moana Hope, as the former teammates went almost goal-for-goal, Garner finishing with 4.0 and Hope 3.2.
The Mugars were always just close enough to keep the crowd wondering if they would claw their way back, but the Sharks were cool as ice when threatened. Melbourne Uni failed to kick consecutive goals all match and the result was long settled when St Kilda’s Phoebe McWilliams iced an outstanding game in the midfield with a goal from deep in the pocket in the last two minutes. After a decade of falling short in finals, the Sharks had finally exorcised their demons.
* CLICK HERE to watch a replay of Melbourne Uni vs St Kilda
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