IT was not the first time a bounce of the oblong-shaped ball determined a result, and it will not be the last, but Macquarie University Goannas were certainly relieved when a flying East Coast Eagles attempt on goal went wayward. The attempt came in the dying seconds of the match between the undefeated Eagles and title contending Goannas with scores level. In the end, no score was registered and the teams split the points with a 5.2 (32) to 5.2 (32) result.
In a thrilling contest that could have gone either way, it was a fitting end to the duel at Gipps Road Ovals. At first it looked like the home side was going to get the upper hand, booting two goals in the opening term to lead by 11 points at the first break.
Amanda Farrugia was unstoppable and the Goannas were clearly the better team all across the ground. They were more agile through the centre and much more effective at getting the ball forward. The smaller, zippy forwards were getting some space and two runaway conversions straight through the middle ensued.
As for the Eagles, it was not a quarter they will want to remember. They were second to the ball and had no linkage play whatsoever. It was not the premiership-calibre football they had displayed in their first seven games.
Mac Uni again started the second term as the better side again and Sara Kaukiono was now dominating the space around her with both physical pressure and clearances. The Eagles were not physically backing down, but they simply could not get around the Goannas on-ball brigade.
Then, the mood changed across the entire ground, as everyone now had seen enough play to sustain a belief that an upset was on the cards. The Goannas home crowd really started making noise, but as often happens, big moments change games and a huge chase-down tackle by the Eagles turned it all around. Soon enough the Eagles were back in business and on level begging at 13-apiece.
The second half featured many staggering twists and turns and the Eagles started with two huge moments and two more great tackles. They were the first to put a major on and then, they could have finished the quarter with two separate shots at goal, which staggeringly were going in, but bounced out and away for no score, not even making the line.
Farrugia was again racking up the possessions for the Goannas in a clear best afield effort, but to East Coast’s credit, they had found a way to stop the opposition getting the ball to their forwards or damaging the scoreboard. Jessica Whelan was doing a lot of nice work on the inside for the Eagles.
In a key swing moment, Eagles forward Caitlin Davidson, on a quiet day for her, finally marked a long ball inside 50 and had a set shot to get the margin out to two goals. The feeling around the ground as she lined up was that the Eagles had finally gained the ascendency and would put the game away.
However, she completely shanked the shot out of bounds and 30 seconds later the Goannas went down the other end and scored to make it a one point game. The Eagles were finally going to be tested.
In staggering final stanza, it was the Goannas who dominated in a back and fourth contest. Farrugia was a standout and her side scored a goal to be six points up with three minutes left. The cheer from the home crowd was huge when the shot went in to get the margin to a full kick clear for the Goannas.
However, the Eagles would finally have their turn to dominate field position and they couldn’t get it clear until finally, Whelan picked up a ground ball and hooked it into the 50 where Davidson marked the ball and took the responsibility of the set shot upon herself. This time, the league’s leading goalkicker made no mistake from 35m out and the game was all tied up with two and a half minutes to play.
The Goannas would not touch the ball again, and for two and a half minutes the Eagles had possession after possession, just trying to get any score on the board. All the Goannas could do was defend vigorously and they were doing it beautifully.
With 60 seconds to go, the Eagles launched a running shot from the boundary line, which missed the goal and then took a wicked bound to miss completely, hitting the behind post. Just inches away from a result. Then the siren sounded and the teams had to share the points in the game of the season.
The Goannas showed they are going to be there when the whips are cracking, with their midfielders playing nice evasive football. The Eagles did not play their best footy at all and received a timely reminder that it is not all going to be smooth sailing in 2023.
Farrugia was a star in the win, with a likely 40-disposal game, while Kaukiono was a real danger. For the Eagles, Renee Tomkins was crucial in defence, and Whelan did a lot of good things across the ground. AFLW Academy member Melanie Staunton also turned out for the Eagles, kicking a goal in the win, while Sophie Kavanagh‘s three majors for the Goannas was huge. Eagles’ Annaleise Barton also kicked two.
MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY 2.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 (32)
EAST COAST EAGLES 0.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.2 (32)
Mac Uni: S. Kavanagh 3, A. Farrugia, A. Gray
East Coast: A. Barton 2, S. Codd, C. Davidson, M. Staunton
Mac Uni: A. Farrugia, S. Kaukiono, M. Jansen, J. Brown. C. Fletcher
E. Coast: J. Whelan. R. Tomkins, A. Barton, S. Tarasenko, A. Anderson
AROUND THE GROUNDS
Two of the other three games were decided by 15 points our less, with Manly Warringah Wolves getting the job done on the road against Pennant Hills Demons, 6.10 (46) to 5.5 (35). Trailing by 11 points at the first break, the Wolves got down to business after that, booting 5.7 to 2.3 in the final three quarters.
Jacqueline Green and Jayme Saggers both booted two goals, while Caitlin Johnson was impressive. For the Demons, Rebecca Ives (four goals) was a clear best-on, while AFLW Academy member Olivia Morris also kicked a goal in the loss.
Sydney University picked up a second win for the season thanks to an upset over finals hopefuls North Shore Bombers. The Students only kicked the one goal in the first half, but got to business after that, booting five goals to two in the second half to secure a 15-point win, 6.8 (44) to 4.5 (29).
Mikaela Mahony and Jasmine Smith both kicked multiple goals, with skipper Maryanne Harley again amongst the best Students. For the Bombers, Adrienne Keeffe and Elle Carroll converted two majors, with Emilie Krimmer named the losing side’s best.
The final game of the round was a much more one-sided contest as the second placed UTS Bats stormed to a 71-point victory over the out of form UNSW-ES Bulldogs. The Bats kept the Bulldogs scoreless in the first three quarters and came away with a massive 11.13 (79) to 1.2 (8) win.
Gillian Behan (three goals) and Melissa Lindsay (two) were impressive in front of goal, while Danika Spamer and bottom-ager Ella Parker impressed. Donna Helm kicked UNSW-ES’ only goal, while Hayley Stanford was named in the best.