The Northern Knights are the 2019 NAB League Girls premiers after defeating the Calder Cannons in the Grand Final at Ikon Park on Saturday.
The Knights claimed the flag a year after falling to the Geelong Falcons by 11 points in the 2018 decider, capping an unbeaten campaign (10 wins and one draw) with a comprehensive 6.3 (39) to 0.6 (6) triumph.
This is how you sing the song after winning the #NABLeagueGirls premiership. See the result from @NthKnights grand final win over @CalderCannonsFC here: https://t.co/9jXNI1NK7z pic.twitter.com/XzyKWgVrB4
— #NABLeagueBoys / #NABLeagueGirls (@NABLeague) May 26, 2019
Calder upset the Falcons in last week’s preliminary final but couldn’t repeat the dose against the minor premiers on the weekend, matching the Knights for effort but ultimately lacking their polish inside 50.
Northern was powered by a defence that seemed impassable at times. Jessica Fitzgerald sparked several dangerous Knights attacks following turnovers, winning the best-on-ground medal for a team-high 15 disposals as well as five tackles and three rebound-50s.
Sarah Sansonetti (14 disposals and three rebound-50s) and Phoebe Chisholm (seven and five rebound-50s) were also integral in rebounding the ball for Northern, particularly in the first quarter when the Cannons barely crossed the centre line and the Knights set up their victory with three unanswered goals.
* Download the NAB League app via the App Store or Google Play to see match stats and watch a full replay of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final.
Calder clearly lifted its intensity in the second stanza, but despite dominating the territory battle, the Cannons could only manage four behinds for the term – while Northern scored a major through Nell Morris-Dalton (three goals from 10 disposals for the match) on one of the rare occasions it ventured inside 50.
That theme persisted through the second half, the Knights pressing home their advantage with another two majors on the back of work from the likes of Ellie McKenzie (13 disposals, six marks and one goal), Britney Gutknecht (14 and five tackles) and captain Gabrielle Newton (15 and five tackles).
Alyssa Bannan kicked two goals from eight touches for Northern, while Zara Flanigan laid a clear game-high 14 tackles despite having her day ended early through injury.
2019 PREMIERS!!!!!! 🏆
— Northern Knights (@NthKnights) May 25, 2019
For Calder, skipper Georgia Patrikios was a constant driver through the midfield with game-highs of 24 disposals (21 kicks), six inside-50s and six rebound-50s. Georgie Prespakis (20 disposals) was also prolific, as Felicity Theodore (nine) and Terira Fry (seven and three rebound-50s) worked hard in defence.
Knights head coach Marcus Abney-Hastings said his team’s fast start was crucial in allowing Northern to hold off the Cannons when they started getting the upper hand in contests.
“(Starting well) was a real focus coming into the week,” Abney-Hastings said. “Our start last week was pretty good against Eastern (Ranges, in a six-point win), but there were just a few little areas – like setting up behind the ball – that we spoke about during the week that really came into focus, especially during that first 10 minutes.
“I was really happy with the start.
“They (Calder) were getting a lot of ball inside their 50 (in the second quarter), but I think ultimately our leaders really stood up – led by our marvellous captain (Newton), and in our back line Phoebe Chisholm and Sarah Sansonetti are really strong leaders… (who) took the sting out of the game.”
Abney-Hastings said the Grand Final performances of Northern players across different age levels justified the club’s approach to list management during his two years in charge.
“It’s been a two-year journey for us,” Abney-Hastings said. “We made conscious decisions in both pre-seasons (2018 and 2019) to really develop our bottom-agers (under-16s) and middle-agers (under-17s), and I think today that’s really come to fruition.
“I think it’ll be pretty similar next year.”
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 3.1 4.1 5.2 6.3 (39)
CALDER CANNONS 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.6 (6)
Northern Knights: N. Morris-Dalton 3, A. Bannan 2, E. McKenzie
Northern Knights: J. Fitzgerald (best-on-ground), E. McKenzie, N. Morris-Dalton, Z. Flanigan, S. Sansonetti, B. Gutknecht
Calder Cannons: G. Patrikios, G. Prespakis, F. Theodore, T. Fry, Z. Hardiman, K. Delia