Bulldogs survive fast-finishing Swans

SOUTH Fremantle survived an almighty scare from a fast-finishing Swan Districts outfit to head into its inaugural WAFL Women’s finals series with a win. The Bulldogs looked to have the game covered as late as the 13th minute of the final term, before Taylah Edwards booted two goals in the final few minutes to give the Swans a sniff. Ultimately it was a case of too little, too late and the Bulldogs got up by three points, 3.2 (20) to 2.5 (17).

In a low-scoring, tight tussle, South Fremantle was able to tick another box ahead of finals and build some confidence heading into its massive clash with Claremont next week. Swan Districts has shown its ability to match it with the best, and they did it again to South Fremantle, but rued missed opportunities in the first three quarters.

To the final break, Swan Districts had booted 0.5 to the Bulldogs’ 2.1, despite breaking relatively even in terms of inside 50s. The Bulldogs had more of the ball, but the gameplay itself was fairly consistent, and the home side’s defence was able to shutdown the famed red and white offence.

Gunning for the leading goalkicker award, Courtney Zappara put the first score on the board for the day – a behind from a long-range shot – with Cassie McWilliam also missing having multiple chances outside of the goalsquare. Rushing it up the other end, South Fremantle punished the Black Ducks for their missed chances with Noa McNaughton putting it out in front of Ella Matthews who kept her feet and converted.

Despite being down at quarter time, the Black Ducks were in the contest, but when Ruby Mahony went down with injury and had to be helped off after eight disposals in the first 25 minutes, the home side was on the back foot.

South Fremantle had the run of the play going inside 50 but kicking inside 50 left a lot to bbe desired. The Bulldogs did get their chance at the nine-minute mark however when Hunter Cronin won a holding the ball free and made no mistake from the 25m set shot.

Up the other end, Swan Districts had chances with Kayley King marking all alone off a pinpoint Zappara kick, bbut her set shot from 30m fell short. South Fremantle had a couple of late chances, with McNaughton having a flying shot off a clean pickup in the dying seconds but missed to the left.

Trailing by 11 points at the half, Swan Districts had some good news for fans with Mahony returning to the field. Zappara almost nailed a brilliant set shot tucked up on the boundary line but it just missed, though the black and whites were coming. Ugle-Hayward marked inside 50 and went back from a shot, but opted to handball off to a running Lily Paterson who missed to the right.

Despite having all the forward momentum and keeping South Fremantle scoreless for the third term, Swan Districts only added three behinds for the quarter to reduce the damage back to single digits. Unfortunately their third placed chances would take a hit early in the fourth term where Ariana Hetherington took a ripping contested mark over the top of Swan Districts defender Eliza Gelmi and made no mistake from the set shot.

South continued to attack and put it out to a 15-point margin with eight minutes to play. Needing a miracle as the time ticked down, Swan Districts found it when going full offence, Edwards slipped out the back and Indiana West put it to her teammates’ advantage to nail the goal.

The next centre clearance was crucial and it went the way of the Black Ducks, as Zappara sent a long-range shot towards goal but was marked on the line by Liusaidh Gilchrist. A second snap – this time by McWilliam – was also saved by Gilchrist marking two incredible goal-saving efforts.

It was a matter of time though, with Emma Nanut hitting up Edwards with precision again and the Swan Districts forward converted the goal. It was back to three points with 90 seconds on the clock. A frantic final minute ensued as again Swan Districts hit hard, and a number of chances inside 50 went begging.

The key moment was Kloe Bassett winning a one-on-one against Ugle-Hayward in the back pocket to clear the danger and help the clock run out. The siren sounded and South Fremantle had got away with it, while Swan Districts would play away against East Fremantle next week in the minor semi-final.

Young gun Renee Morgan was super with 23 disposals and eight marks, while the defence of Sprylan, Gilchrist and Molly O’Hehir – who was thrown on-ball late – were all steadfast. Through the ruck Heatherington was strong once again, while Casey Byrne was instrumental, particularly in the early stages of the match.

For Swan Districts, Mahony had a team-high 15 disposals despite missing most of the second term, while Jaime Henry marked her WAFL Women’s return with an impressive 14 touches. King had her moments and Edwards was critical in converting those two late goals.


East Fremantle locked up third spot with a massive win against Peel Thunder running co-currently with the Swan Districts-South Fremantle clash. In a one-sided contest, the Sharks booted 8.10 (58) to 0.0 (0) with a 44-10 inside 50 differential.

State Academy members Zippy Fish (22 disposals, six marks and eight tackles) and Georgie Cleaver (19 disposals, 23 hitouts and a goal) were both influential upon their return, while Mylee Leitch booted two goals from 16 disposals and clunked eight marks. Beth Beckett and Ashleigh Gomes also found plenty of the ball.

For Peel Thunder, the defensive duo of Evie Cowcher and Ebony Dowson combined for 56 disposals, 13 marks and seven tackles in the loss. Greta McKinley (16 disposals, 10 tackles) and Abby Barnden (15 disposals, 10 tackles) also tried hard.

On Saturday, Subiaco finished off its season with a comfortable six-goal win over West Perth in horrid conditions. The Lions battled through torrential rain in the first half and kicked 5.7 (37) to 0.1 (1), with the Falcons’ behind being the first score of the game. It was a one-sided effort as Subiaco had 33 inside 50s to five, and 85 more disposals in the 36-point victory.

The experience of Tarnica Golisano (26 disposals, eight tackles) and Tiah Toth (24 disposals, one goal) both shone through in tricky conditions. Youngsters Olivia Crane and Eva Popovsky were promising, while Hayley Corlett booted two goals from 12 disposals.

West Perth’s main ball-winner was Taylor Ferguson who finished her 2023 campaign with 21 disposals and five tackles, while Kayla Van Den Heever (13 disposals, six tackles) also tried hard across the match.

Claremont had an equally impressive win over East Perth though the scoreboard was a little less one-sided than many might have thought coming in. Minor premiers Claremont booted 6.5 (41) to wooden spooners East Perth’s 0.2 (2) with 95 more disposals and 20 more inside 50s.

The likes of Matilda Sergeant (23 disposals, six tackles), Jayme Harken (21 disposals, seven tackles), Taylah Angel (18 disposals, four tackles) and Sarah Viney (18 disposals, six tackles) all shared around the ball. Competition leading goalkicker Adele Arnup also added two more goals to her final tally.

For the Royals, ex-Tiger Jorja Elisseou laid eight tackles from 17 disposals, while Mel Hardy tried to create some run in transition for her team.

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