The Northern Knights knocked the Geelong Falcons from the top of the NAB League Girls ladder for the first time since Round 2 with a big victory in the 2018 Grand Final rematch on the weekend.
Northern (1st on ladder, 7-0-1 record) triumphed 6.7 (43) to 0.7 (7) at Deakin University in Geelong on Sunday, inflicting the Falcons’ (2nd, 7-1) first NAB League Girls defeat since Round 4 of the 2017 season.
A young Knights outfit fell to Geelong by 11 points in last year’s decider, but a host of defeated players from that match were integral in Northern taking a measure of revenge and keeping the potent Falcons goalless in Round 8.
Knights head coach Marcus Abney-Hastings indicated his team had learnt some lessons from the 2018 Grand Final.
“Our message to the players pre-game was about winning the key moments and we probably took our chances a little bit better than Geelong in the end,” Abney-Hastings said. “It was quite a scrappy game and there were a lot of stoppages – probably not too dissimilar to the Grand Final last year, where the Falcons took their chances a bit better than us.
“It was a wonderful challenge for our players to test themselves against the benchmark team of the last two years and put into practice everything we had been working on at training.”
Abney-Hastings said the most pleasing aspect of Northern’s victory was the contribution he saw from players across all age levels.
“Our leaders really stood up and played key roles across the ground, but a couple of our bottom-age players in Teleah Smart and Maykaylah Appleby were fantastic as well and continue to play beyond their years,” Abney-Hastings said.
“Britney Gutknecht, Ellie McKenzie and Sarah Sansonetti are in our leadership group and played really well, while Gabrielle Newton – our captain – continues to set the bar high and be a fantastic role model. Nell Morris-Dalton worked really hard playing forward and Phoebe Chisholm and Ciara Fitzgerald played well in defence, while Jaime Nelson continues to improve with every game.”
The clubs may meet at the pointy end of the season again in 2019, with both virtually assured of a top-two finish (ahead of a four-team finals series) no matter the result of their final home-and-away games next week.
* CLICK HERE to see full match results, goalkickers and best players from NAB League Girls Round 8.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Ranges (3rd, 6-2) locked in a finals berth of their own by comfortably defeating the Gippsland Power (12th, 1-7) at Morwell Recreation Reserve, 9.10 (64) to 2.1 (13). The Ranges are six premiership points clear of fifth position on the ladder but can still slip to fourth with a loss to the Sandringham Dragons in Round 9, which would set up a semi final against the minor-premiership-winning team.
Eastern’s Serena Gibbs booted three goals from 18 disposals against the Power, with Tarni Brown also instrumental in the victory with 24 touches, eight tackles and seven inside-50s.
The Calder Cannons (4th, 5-3) are in the box seat for the other finals spot after leapfrogging the Oakleigh Chargers on the ladder partly thanks to a 4.6 (30) to 1.3 (9) win against the Bendigo Pioneers (7th, 4-4) at Rams Arena. A victory over Gippsland next week is now all that will be required for Calder to seal a place in a semi-final.
The Cannons started sluggishly against Bendigo, only booting their first goal through skipper Georgia Patrikios early in the third quarter. However, it was all Calder from that point, with 16-year-olds Laura Cocomello (17 disposals and six inside-50s) and Tamsin Crook (six and 13 hitouts) among the most influential players in the result.
MATCH REPORT | With one match remaining our @NABLeague girls are one win away from cementing a finals berth. Read about their crucial Round 8 victory against the Bendigo Pioneers.
— Calder Cannons FC (@CalderCannonsFC) May 6, 2019
The Cannons also benefited from an Oakleigh (5th, 4-3-1) loss at the hands of the GWV Rebels (11th, 2-6) at Avalon Airport Oval, 3.2 (20) to 2.7 (19). Poor conversion in front of goal came back to bite the Chargers, who must now defeat the Pioneers in Round 9 and hope Calder loses to the Power in order to see finals action.
After scores were level early in the third term, Oakleigh kicked five straight behinds before the Rebels snatched the win thanks to a Lilli Condon major with four minutes remaining in the match. Condon was among GWV’s best players with five inside-50s from 11 disposals, while her captain Sophie Molan kicked a goal from 20 touches.
Also in Round 8, the Dandenong Stingrays (6th, 4-4) are now effectively out of the finals frame due to their relatively low percentage, despite winning 6.4 (40) to 3.9 (27) against the Murray Bushrangers (8th, 3-5) at Shepley Oval. Brooke Vernon (19 disposals and 12 rebound-50s) and Isabella Shannon (14 and five inside-50s) made an instant impact upon returning to the Stingrays line-up after missing recent weeks.
Finally, the Western Jets (9th, 3-5) enjoyed a third win in four games with a 3.3 (21) to 1.3 (9) defeat of Sandringham (10th, 2-6) at Avalon Airport Oval. Elisabeth Georgostathis (game-high 22 disposals and eight rebound-50s) and Ciara Singleton (17 and seven) proved important in restricting the Dragons to one major with their consistent rebound from defence for the Jets.
Great win by the girls today only one round left and we want to see more of this. pic.twitter.com/7Cbu0qzrac
— Western Jets (@WesternJetsFC) May 5, 2019