Hurstbridge have prevailed by 15 points over Mernda in the Cleaning Melbourne Division 3 women’s grand final, securing their first women’s premiership in just their third year in the NFNL competition.
Despite their dominance all season, the Demons couldn’t get anything going in the attacking end, being kept scoreless by a strong Bridges outfit. Two final quarter goals from Paul Reid’s side ensured it was Hurstbridge who would hold up the cup in a 2.3 (15) to 0.0 (0) triumph at Preston City Oval.
Sheridan Bennett stood up on the big stage and was adjudged as best on ground for a brilliant performance. Named as the best for the Bridges in their semi-final defeat to Mernda a fortnight ago, Bennett was a crucial figure inside 50, kicking one of the two final term majors that pushed the Bridges over the line.
Belinda Harris was also in contention for the best on ground with a dominant display in midfield, also creating a couple of chances on goal in the first half.
Captain Amy Graham had an influence around the ground and managed to get boot to ball in the final moments of the game to put the result beyond any doubt.
Tianah Teo did all she could to provide a spark in midfield for the Demons while Natalie Todaro and Monica Bradford also fought gallantly.
While they don’t have a flag to show for it, Mernda’s 2022 campaign has still been a successful one and with just two losses since grading this year, Chris Hoysted’s team will be back contending again next season.
On a beautiful morning it was a scrappy start to the contest, with both sides feeling each other out in the early stages of the match.
It was the Bridges that had the slight dominance in the period but were stopped by a stoic Mernda defence. The Demons did well to keep the ball between the arcs, ensuring that neither side had the advantage at the first change.
The second saw a much similar story to the first, with Hurstbridge doing all the attacking but still failing to create any real chances.
In what was an already highly anticipated ruck battle coming into the decider, the work of both Awek Dut and Chelsy Corcoran was on full show, delivering quality service to their respective midfields.
Despite the Demons defence standing tall once more, Hurstbridge were able to poke through two behinds to head into half time with a slight lead.
Coming out of the main break it was Mernda who took control of the game as they looked to find that elusive opening goal.
However, Hurstbridge stood tall in defence and started to regain control and gain territory following that five-minute burst from the Demons. Natarsha Harrop and Danielle Pike in particular played big roles in keeping the ball moving forward for their side.
The Bridges were able to add a third behind to the score to make it three points at the final change and while Mernda still hadn’t registered a score, they were still only a major away from breaking the game wide open.
But that goal never came as while it was an arm wrestle to start the final quarter, Hurstbridge were able to break through the strong Demons defence and kick the game’s opening goal.
At the eight-minute mark of the final term, they were rewarded for their hard work, with Harris setting up Bennett for a set shot directly in front before running near the top of the goal square to kick the first of the match.
The Demons threw everything at the Bridges following Bennett’s major but as it had been all morning, Hurstbridge stood tall and stayed in control of the contest.
Paul Reid’s side then produced a second major only moments later as Graham roved the pack close to goal and poked through her first goal of the season, capping off an impressive victory for Hurstbridge.