Bombers book VFLW grand final spot as Saints rise

ONE grand finalist is decided in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s with Essendon defeating Casey Demons to move one win away from an undefeated 2022 season. The Bombers destroyed the Demons by 67 points in a convincing semi-final result, as Casey will now take on Southern Saints in the preliminary final, after the Saints got past an understrength Hawthorn by 16 points.

ESSENDON 1.1 | 7.3 | 9.6 | 11.10 (76)
CASEY DEMONS 0.3 | 0.3 | 0.3 | 1.3 (9)

Minor premiers Essendon showed exactly why they are the team to beat in the VFL Women’s competition following an outstanding 67-point triumph over Casey Demons. The first term was a tight one, with the Demons having more scoring shots and opportunities, looking likely to take it up to the Bombers as they did towards the end of the regular season. But alas for the visitors who packed into Windy Hill, it was going to be a day for the red and black faithful. The Bombers slammed home 6.2 to 0.0 in the second term to race out to a 42-point half-time lead.

That lead only grew in the second half, with two goals in the second half of the third term to Joanne Doonan – making it three for the game – blowing the lead out to a 57-point Bombers advantage. That bugger grew out to as much as 70 points in the last quarter as Kendra Heil and Mia-Rae Clifford joined in the party. Alison Dowler kicked the Demons’ sole goal of the game midway through the final term, and while it proved to be the last of the game, it did little to stop the home crowd celebrating, with Essendon getting up 11.10 (76) to 1.3 (9).

The Bombers simply dominated, racking up 47 more disposals (272-185), 18 more inside 50s (42-24) and a whopping 41 more marks (66-25), as they gave the Demons no time and space at all. To the losers credit, they still won the hitouts (29-27) and clearances (25-22) against a strong Bombers onball brigade, but it would mean little in the end with the 67-point defeat.

Captain Georgia Nanscawen lead from the front with 25 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s, five rebound 50s and a goal to steer her side into the grand final. Fellow midfielder Amelia Radford (22 disposals, three marks, two tackles, five clearances, three inside 50s and a goal) was also strong around the stoppages, whilst Alana Barba and Jordan Zanchetta found plenty of the footy. Doonan and Federica Frew both outscored the Demons themselves, slotting three majors apiece in the win.

Youngster Maeve Chaplin put her hand up for a second chance at AFLW level with an impressive 15-disposal, five-clearance, six-tackle and four-inside 50 game. Stephanie Wales (12 disposals, 12 hitouts, five clearances) and Melanie Hogg (14 disposals, four clearances, eight tackles and two inside 50s) were also prominent at the stoppages. Rebecca Grant (17 disposals, five marks and six rebound 50s) tried hard in defence, while Alison Brown battled away across four quarters for the Demons.

Essendon: J. Doonan 3, F. Frew 3, M. Clifford, K. Heil, N, MacDonald, G. Nanscawen, A. Radford
Casey: A. Dowler

Essendon: G. Nanscawen, A. Radford, K. Zanchetta, J. Doonan, C. Ugle
Casey: M. Chaplin. M. Hogg, R. Grant, A. Brown. S. Wales

HAWTHORN 2.2 | 3.2 | 6.3 | 6.3 (39)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.2 | 5.4 | 8.5 | 8.7 (55)

Southern Saints have claimed a second big scalp in as many weeks, knocking off second placed Hawthorn to send the understrength Hawks out from the finals series in straight sets. The Saints defeated Geelong in the first week of finals, and have advanced from fifth spot into the final three with victories over fourth and second respectively. Hawthorn was without its AFLW players who headed to the first week of preseason training with the fast-approaching Season 7 coming up. In the end that was likely the difference as the more experienced Saints claimed a 16-point victory despite a Hawks comeback in the third term.

Neither side could be split at quarter time with both sides booting 2.2 in a tale of two halves. The Saints raced out to a 14-point lead in the opening 13 minutes, before the Hawks then scored 2.2 themselves, with a late Kristy Stratton levelling the match at the first break. The Saints were fast out of the blocks in the second term to piled on the first two goals through Tayla Kearns and Kayla Ripari, with the pair to slot a combined five for the match. Extending the buffer out to 14 points in the second term, it took just six and a half minutes in the third quarter for the brown and gold to get up and about to Box Hill.

Goals to Mietta Kendall, Katelyn Cox and Sky Wilson turned that 14-point deficit into a four-point lead. Unfortunately for the Hawks, that was when the Saints turned over. They piled on the last three goals of the game themselves, with Gabriella De Angelis, Hannah Stuart and Kearns all slotting majors, and eventually running out 16-point winners, 8.7 (55) to 6.3 (39) to advance to the preliminary final.

Stuart was a standout in the win, collecting 29 disposals, seven marks, eight tackles, four clearances, two inside 50s and a booting a goal. Deanna Jolliffe (22 disposals, eight marks and eight rebound 50s) and Winnie Laing (20 disposals, three marks, four tackles and two inside 50s) also found plenty of the ball. Kearns slotted three goals from 13 touches and four tackles, while Ripari managed two from 11 and three. Rebecca Neaves picked up 18 disposals, six tackles, four clearances and three inside 50s, while Madison Capsalis (13 disposals, five tackles, seven clearances and four rebound 50s) and youngster Olivia Robinson (12 disposals, four inside 50s) also strong.

Inside midfielder Grace McRae stepped up in the absence of key teammates, racking up 19 disposals, eight clearances, five tackles, three marks and three inside 50s in a strong performance. Cox kicked a long-range goal and recorded the 15 disposals, four marks, nine tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s), while Stratton had 18 touches, three marks and four tackles. Jordan Mifsud (12 disposals, six tackles and six clearances) and Sophie Bolding (11 disposals, six tackles and four clearances) also worked hard.

Hawthorn: K. Cox, A. Favell, M. Kendall, K. Stratton, S. Wilson, J. Wise
Southern Saints: T. Kearns 3, K. Ripari 2, G. De Angelis, C. Slater, H. Stuart

Hawthorn: G. McRae, K. Cox, K. Stratton, J. Mifsud, N. Garner
Southern Saints: H. Stuart, D. Jolliffe, R. Neaves, T. Kearns, W. Laing

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