North Melbourne withstood a barrage of Geelong inside 50s to win their AFLW elimination final by two points. A week after the Cats kicked the second-highest score in league history, they were kept to their second-lowest score of the season as the Kangaroos grimly held on 2.4 (16) to 1.8 (14) on Saturday night at GMHBA Stadium.
Having ended Geelong’s season, North will now play Richmond next week in a semi-final. “We were actually really lucky to hold onto that – Geelong were outstanding,” heroic North captain Emma Kearney told the Seven Network.
Kearney returned from injury and with her right knee strapped heavily, she marshalled the North defence off half-back. Trailling by four points at quarter-time, the Cats took control and had 40 inside 50s to 18 for the match.
But the Kangaroos laid 82 tackles – defender Amy Smith had a whopping 17 – to Geelong’s 57 as their defence refused to yield. No goals were kicked from the last minute of the first quarter, despite ideal conditions. With less than two minutes left, Geelong’s Shelley Scott marked in a pocket and was well within range, but she scored a behind.
Another shot from Scott a few seconds later was rushed through for a behind. Kearney then earned a crucial 50m penalty after the kickout to clear the ball to the wing and secure a hard-fought win.
A week after Richmond’s Meg Macdonald sat on her in a masterful lockdown role, North ball magnet Jasmine Garner returned to form with 23 possessions and eight tackles.
Kearney made an early impact, her clearing kick out of defence in the first quarter finding Garner. North drove into attack and after Emma King fumbled the ball, she volleyed a kick to Sophia Abbatengelo, who kicked the first goal of the game.
After Darcy Moloney marked and goalled for Geelong’s first, Garner was given too much latitude in attack and she found Alice O’Loughlin. Her snap with less than a minute left in the opening term gave North a crucial four-point lead.
Only two behinds apiece were scored for the next two quarters as Geelong relentlessly attacked. Time and again, North would clear out of defence and Geelong would then gain possession across half-forward for another fruitless charge into attack.
At three-quarter time, Geelong led the inside 50 count by a whopping 36 to 11. Despite heavy attention from North, Cats star Amy McDonald impressed with 23 disposals a team-high four clearances.
But fellow midfielder Georgie Prespakis was down on her usual prolific output, only having 14 possessions. Smith, Nicole Bresnehan, Jas Ferguson, Sarah Wright and Mia King starred in defence for the Kangaroos alongside Kearney.