The ANZ NFNL Women’s finals series begun in incredible fashion, with the qualifying and elimination finals offering close results at Epping Recreation Reserve.
The Division 1 finals series begun in nail-biting fashion, with Bendigo needing extra time to overcome VU Western Spurs 6.9 (45) to 4.7 (31) in the qualifying final. The Thunder kicked two goals to one to take an eight-point lead into half-time. Both sides only managed behinds in a hard-fought third term and the Thunder held a nine-point lead at the final change. In an enthralling fourth quarter, the determined Spurs hit back and outscored the Thunder 3.4 to 2.1 to tie the match at 31 points apiece. With the match tied at full time, the teams headed into extra time that included two five-minute halves. The Thunder showed all their class under pressure to produce two goals and a 14-point win. Lauren Datson and Jacinta Louttit were pivotal in getting the Thunder over the line, while Caitlyn Brown and Stephanie Holland excelled for the Spurs. The Thunder’s win means the reigning premier maintains the double chance heading into the second week of the finals and will now face Keilor in the second semi final, with the winner to book the first place in the Grand Final. The Spurs will face Diamond Creek Women’s in the first semi final on Sunday, where a win will seal a preliminary final berth.
Diamond Creek Women’s advanced into week two of the finals with a 6.5 (41) to 2.7 (19) win over Darebin. After suffering a two-point defeat to the Falcons only three weeks ago, the Creekers came out firing, kicking the opening two goals via Isabella Farchione and Linda Thorp to take an 11-point lead into quarter time. Kicking with the wind in the second term, the Falcons only managed to add two behinds and were hurt by Brittany Grech’s stellar banana from the pocket, which handed the Creekers a 16-point half time lead. The Creekers produced a terrific third term, controlling the play and adding three goals to the scoreboard to ice the game. In the fourth quarter, consolations goals came for the Falcons via Stephanie Normington-Dickens and Sabine Cowley Du Parquet, but they proved to be too little too late. Shae-Lee Murphy-Burke had plenty of the ball and Brittany Grech kicked three goals to contribute to the Creekers win, while Falcons captain Shannon Egan left everything on the field.
In Division 2, the VU Western Spurs moved into the second semi-final, defeating La Trobe University 5.6 (36) to 5.1 (31) in a hard-fought match. The Spurs kicked the first two goals in the opening quarter and gained a 15-point advantage before La Trobe responded with a two-goals to one second term to close the gap to nine points. A strong third quarter by the Spurs saw them add two goals to the scoreboard and stretch their lead out to 24 points by the final change. Two early fourth quarter goals for La Trobe gave them a chance at pinching the match and a Kaitlyn Ritchie goal brought them within five points in the final five minutes. However, the Spurs fought hard to hold onto their slim lead until the siren sounded. Olivia Osborne and Brittany Salt were fantastic for the Spurs, while Kate Bond and Stephanie Castagnini carried their strong form into the finals series for La Trobe. The Spurs win sets up an exciting second semi final against West-Preston Lakeside, who they lost to by a single point in their last encounter. La Trobe University will look to keep their season alive against Montmorency in the first semi final.
Montmorency produced a 9.6 (60) to 6.6 (42) victory over South Morang to move into week two of the finals. With the wind blowing heavily in their favour, the Magpies made the most of their opportunities and kicked five goals in a superb opening quarter display. The Lions were unable to hit the scoreboard with the wind advantage in the second term, while the Magpies managed to stretch their lead out to 36 points via a Madison Bayes goal. Making the most of their time with wind once again in the third term, the Magpies got out to a 56-point lead thanks to goals from Lauren Dow, Bayes and Teisha Parkinson. Two goals by Shenay Reeves in the span of five minutes to begin the fourth quarter kick-started a late momentum surge for the Lions, who proceeded to add four more goals in a display that closed them to within 18 points and would have had the Magpies grateful for the final siren. Lauren Dow and Madison Bayes played crucial roles in setting up Montmorency’s win, while Cassie Hurst ended her outstanding season named as the best performing Lion for the fifth time.
In Division 3, St Mary’s defeated VU Western Spurs 4.11 (35) to 2.3 (15) in the qualifying final. The Burra secured the opening two goals of the match to grab a 15-point lead, before the Spurs booted their first goal to close the gap to nine points at the main break. A great premiership quarter from the Burra saw them dominate the play and stretched their lead out to a match-winning 27 points at three quarter time, with the Spurs unable to hunt down the deficit in the fourth quarter. Taylor Marshall and Emily Temple were fantastic for the Burra while Eden Cassar and Ashley Gulka were stalwarts for the Spurs. St Mary’s will be hoping to carry their momentum into their second semi final against undefeated Bundoora, while VU Western Spurs turn their attention to Eltham in the first semi final.
Eltham kept their season alive with a 4.18 (42) to 2.4 (16) victory over Greensborough. Early goals to Kate Cardamone and Rhiannon Burleigh gave the Panthers a 16-point quarter time lead. The Boro responded with goals from Rachel Spencer and Giuseppina Tarantello to close the deficit to just six points by half time. Eltham’s inaccurate third quarter saw Maegan Devine’s goal sandwiched in between eight behinds, but nonetheless they stretched their lead out to 20 points by the final change. Cardamone’s second goal early in the fourth quarter ensured the Panthers ended their day on a high note as they ran away 26-point winners. Kate Cardamone and Leah Darcy were named best afield for the victors, while Olivia Angwin and Rebecca Buckley were the best performers for the Boro – who bowed out of the finals with the defeat.
Epping Recreation Reserve will again host the semi finals this weekend, with the second semi finals taking place on Saturday, and the first semi finals on Sunday.