HAWTHORN AFL Women’s coach Bec Goddard said she was “grateful” to be on the ground and experience the “pure emotion” of her side enjoying the first win in its club history. Hawthorn defeated Sydney by four points at Punt Road on Friday evening, running out 5.5 (35) to 4.7 (31) in a nail-biter that also was a tale of two halves.
Goddard said despite heading into the side at 0-4 – the same as fellow expansion side Sydney – the Hawks had played some “pretty good” football over the first month of Season 7.
“I think it’s finally some reward for the progress we’ve been making,” Goddard said. We’ve actually felt that we have been playing some pretty good football over the first four rounds of the season despite not getting a win.
“We’ve played four teams in the top eight and tonight was a real opportunity for us to start to kick some goals with the inside 50s that we were having and that was the difficulty that we were having, so to get the reward for that work was really exciting.”
It did not always look like a happy ending for the brown and gold, with the red and white army in full force early. Brooke Lochland slotted three first quarter goals as she steered the Swans to a 26-point lead before the Hawks had even hit the scoreboard. From midway through the first quarter until the final siren, Hawthorn booted 5.5 to five behinds. Though a Tahlia Fellows goal late in the first term cut the deficit back to 20 points at quarter time, Goddard produced one of the most epic sprays of the season.
“Yeah that was probably not the start that we expected and in fact I was quite shocked when I came down at the quarter time break,” Goddard said. It was probably the fiercest I’ve been with the playing group, I was very strong and quite direct with my messaging at the quarter time break. They are such a resilient young group of players that they responded immediately and that really is a credit to them, where they’re at, and their desire and their fight to win.”
Despite kicking five unanswered goals, Hawthorn was far from out of the woods, with the Swans still attacking right until teh final siren and having plenty of inside 50s in the final 10 minutes of the match. Asked if it was a tense time, Goddard said she felt the team had a really good plan heading into the last term, telling her playing group they had the scoring end after being in front by three points at the last change.
“I know there wasn’t much wind tonight but a lot of the goals had been kicked down that end of the ground,” Goddard said. Sometimes its that little mind games with the players that if you get that little bit of hope in there you can sell that message. But Akec (Makur Chuot) had a game-saving moment in the last quarter, Jaz Fleming had a game-saving moving. Everyone kept going to get the team over the line tonight in the end.”
Talented Irishwoman and former Roo Aileen Gilroy got on the end of a Chuot pass down the ground as the Hawks went from defensive 50 to attacking 50 in a flash. Taking a bounce and running into goal, Gilroy bent a snap perfectly around the post for what turned out to be the match-winner.
“I said to Gilly before the game ‘please do not bounce the football it is the one direct message I am giving you tonight, do not bounce the football’,” Goddard said. And what did she do? Not only did she bounced the football she then kicked a goal. So sometimes I feel she goes out there to prove me a fool.
“It was wet and she’s kind of got this step with it, and i just wanted her to pick it up and put the ball inside the goalsquare with Sophie Locke and Tegan Cunningham, that was her job, that was her role and it turned out that she actually kicked one herself with it.”
A standout player on the night, Fleming collected 16 disposals, four clearances and laid 10 tackles despite some fierce pressure – and physical contact – from the opposition.
“She’s a remarkable young player,” Goddard said. I felt that Sydney really attacked her tonight. They wanted to chop into her, bang into her at every contest they could to see if they could put her off her game but she just kept standing up for more.
“She never stayed on the ground and 16 touches, 10 tackles, including a really big effort in that last quarter. She just runs the full length of the ground and she is one hell of a player and is going to be an absolute superstar of the competition and long may she play at Hawthorn forever.”
Though a premiership coach with Adelaide, Goddard conceded that the emotion after the final siren amongst the playing group was unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.
“The first 12 seconds feel like you’ve just won a grand final, and we know we’re many, many seasons away from that potentially happening,” Goddard said. But in the moment when you haven’t had a win and you’re trying to find little ways to get the team up that was one of those top moments for me and my football coaching career for me.”
Despite the emotional and breakthrough win, Hawthorn will now have to regroup and head down to Frankston for a Friday night clash with West Coast. The match kicks off at Skybus Stadium from 6:10pm.