Cats win territory battle in “electric” win

WINNING via a Georgie Prespakis goal in the final minute of the match, Geelong was able to breathe a sigh of relief when the siren at GMHBA Stadium to signal a 2.3 (15) to 1.5 (11) win over Richmond. It was far from pretty with the two sides combining for 134 turnovers – the most of any AFL Women’s match – but Geelong had 32 more disposals, 31 more uncontested possessions and six more inside 50s than the Cats’ opponents. Geelong coach Dan Lowther described the win as “pretty electric” with the low scoring building up the hype for the tense final moments.

“We just knew that we just needed the ball in our front half for longer periods,” Lowther said. “I thought Richmond did a great job all game intercepting our entries. Our entries were quite shallow at times, I thought their defence held up really well.

“The message at half-time and three quarter time was we just needed to get the ball inside 50 deeper to give ourselves a chance to score. I thought we got that in the last quarter in particular. But to have repeat entries was really positive for us, and for Prespakis to take her moment was something she built from last year. It’s exciting for the club so really pleased.”

The Prespakis free kick in the final minute that was paid as a downfield from a sling tackle was ticked off by the AFL, though the league admitted that fellow forward Chloe Scheer should have been the recipient of the free kick given the downfield nature. Lowther said he backed her to make the kick, even if Prespakis had taken the shot from the place of the initial infringement.

“I couldn’t quite see, I knew she got a handball in time so I was wondering if it was a throw to be fair, but it wasn’t a throw, so I didn’t see what the aftermath was, but it gave us a shot on goal from a better position,” Lowther said of the free kick. “I would have backed her in still from where she was.”

The Geelong midfield stood up against the quality of the Tigers onballers, with a real team effort across the board, headlined by inside midfielder Amy McDonald and Nina Morrison who had 24 touches each and combined for nine marks, 14 tickles, 10 clearances and 13 intercepts.

“She’s (McDonald) clearly one of our better players in the midfield, she had a super preseason,” Lowther said. “She had a hard battle against Monique Conti, credit to Richmond’s midfield, it was super all game. Ellie McKenzie although she didn’t have a heck of a lot of the footy, she was powerful and fast. Conti’s super all game, so our mids had it pretty tough all game.

“For A-Mac (McDonald) to play the way she did and to finish strong is really important. Well supported rom Nina, Julia Crockett-Grills, Beccy Webster, Georgie Pres of course and I thought our rucks did a great job to battle against theirs. No surprise from our end, but just pleased that they got a win after a really tough game.”

Similarly, Lowther was impressed with the way his back five stood up under pressure, and limit Richmond to just the one goal for the entire match.

“I thought they held up pretty well. A lot of our key themes is to make sure we’ve got some stability in our back half,” Lowther said. “It’s no surprise that over the past few years that good teams have good defence so that’s a priority for us. Claudia Gunjaca going back to fill a role thats been vacated, she showed in the last three minutes how important she is with the contested ball, and I thought (Courtney) Wakefield did a really good job up there. Their forwards looked pretty good too, so I thought it was a pretty even battle, but to hold on late was pleasing.”

Unfortunately for Geelong, there was a bittersweet taste to the win, with talented Irishwoman Rachel Kearns injuring her AC joint after being buried into the turf from Tiger Beth Lynch. The Cats were awaiting on the severity of the injury, but Lowther admitted Kearns was “pretty sore”.

Going forward, the Cats will be looking to score a little more freely as they had during the practice match against Gold Coast Suns, with Lowther expecting a higher scoreline. Though that did not eventuate, the Geelong coach will be hoping for a change against Fremantle next Saturday over in the west.

“I thought the game was probably played too live,” Lowther said. “There was a lot of up and downs between the arcs. “Something we talked about at half-time was to get a bit more control and I think we got that, so a bit more of a live play control and keep the ball on the outside, but it worked out well.”

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