Crow comeback decides epic Kangaroo clash

TOP four manoeuvres with just a couple of games remaining generally provide plenty of intrigue alone, but comments on North Melbourne’s reputation as ‘flat track bullies’ added extra spice to a clash with Adelaide in what could be considered a dress rehearsal for the 2023 AFLW Finals.

In pleasant springtime conditions in front of 3,632 at The Parade, the locals overcame a three-goal deficit to hold on to their second place – on percentage – spot on the ladder.

The Kangaroos parleyed robust midfield ball winning by best-on and perennial league best and fairest favourite Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, Mia King and Ellie Gavalas into deep forays into a tall forward line of Kate Shierlaw and Tahlia Randall with at times great effect. However, the real story was in the ability of Sarah Allan, Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard to blunt the initial waves before building their own cases as result influencers from the deepest of defence to dizzyingly dangerous counter attacks that had the Crow crowd cawing.

Hatchard was the standout pivot for Adelaide, with a game-high 32 disposals and team-high five clearances the statistical reward for a characteristically uncompromising shift going both ways. Marinoff showed why she’s been so good for so long in what was her record-equalling 75th game; while the Crows floundered under early Roos bombardment, she stood strong from the opening bounce.

Allan had a tough task against the booming tall timber while Riddell with poise and precision and King with guile and guts lined up to deliver from in and around the forward 50m line. She might not have started as well as she would have liked but was enough of a thorn in the side that Adelaide’s mountain to climb was more like the famous hills to the east of the city than an Everest.

As for the fallout for both sides, the Crows can obviously hold their heads high with a deep run into November (or even December) looking likely from the three-time champs. Their ability to turn things around against possibly the most potent side in the competition was admirable and Niamh Kelly’s match-winner at the death was a fitting end to a titanic clash.

Meanwhile, despite falling at the final hurdle against another competitor for the flag, the Kangaroos shouldn’t lose any fans from the result. Not only is top four all-but assured, if not for some magic from Kelly, a contentious non-free in the final seconds, and yes, it must be said, some rushed attempts at goal after the final change, then a famous victory would be in the books. Premierships aren’t (usually) won in October after all.

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