Kangas hop into prelim after Dee-molition

NORTH Melbourne has had many impressive performances over the years, but few could argue that yesterday’s demolition of reigning premiers Melbourne to reach the 2023 AFL Women’s Preliminary Finals was not the finest of the lot.

Consistently reminded externally of their inability to win big games – notably against the other top three sides – and having lost their last six games to the Dees, the Kangaroos looked like they had a point to prove from the opening bounce. They kept Melbourne to the Demons’ third lowest score in club history, and handed them their second biggest losing margin – behind a 10-goal loss to Adelaide in Season 3 – in an emphatic performance.

Across four quarters, the Kangaroos were simply sensational and once they got their tails up, never looked like losing. They turned the competition’s best defence into an uncertain and uncharacteristically fumbly side. All the aspects that worked for Melbourne when the sides went head-to-head in Round 8 failed to do so this time, as North did its homework and came away with a massive 7.8 (50) to 1.3 (9) victory.

In Round 8, the Demons won 5.7 (37) to 2.2 (14) and kept North Melbourne goalless for three quarters. Fast forward three weeks and the tables had turned, with Melbourne young gun Alyssa Bannan putting through her side’s first – and only major – 10 minutes into the final term. By that stage, the Roos had blown out the margin to 34 points and it was game over.

North Melbourne would kick two more majors to run out the game strongly and record a massive 7.8 (50) to 1.3 (9) victory over the Demons, who will now have to do it the hard way if they are to go back-to-back, which could include two interstate trips after the semi-finals stage.

Instead of a home preliminary final, Melbourne will travel to Queensland in a grand final rematch should the Demons beat the Cats, and then en route to Adelaide or a rematch with the red-hot Roos in Melbourne for a decider if they win that penultimate match, having relinquished the chance at hosting a grand final with the loss.

Meanwhile North Melbourne earns a week’s rest and will take on the victor of minor premier Adelaide and Sydney Swans in the preliminary final, for a chance to reach the Roos’ first ever AFL Women’s Grand Final.


The counterattack style

Melbourne is often associated with quick ball movement and counterattacking play, while North is known for its possession football. Yesterday the Roos gave the Demons some of their own medicine, by constantly getting the ball over the back and allowing their forwards to run onto it. Even the 183cm Kate Shierlaw went for a dash, burning off Libby Birch at half-forward.

Randall redeems herself

After just two disposals and no goals against Tahlia Gillard in Round 8, North Melbourne key Tahlia Randall produced her best performance since a five-goal haul in Round 6 with three goals from seven disposals. She was simply sensational on the lead and looked dangerous and likely to score when she went near it, combining well with her teammates and even handing one off to Bella Eddey to run in and make a certainty.

Garner goes great guns

Another key to Melbourne’s victory over North Melbourne in Round 8 was tagger Shelley Heath shutting down Coaches’ Player of the Year, Jasmine Garner. Like Randall, Garner turned the tables on her vanquisher from that game, racking up 25 disposals, three marks, 12 tackles, five inside 50s and three score involvements.

Roos guns stand tall

Following on from Garner’s performance, most of North Melbourne’s big guns fired, with Ash Riddell (23 disposals, six clearances), Emma Kearney (22 disposals, eight tackles nad six rebound 50s), Jenna Bruton and Mia King all putting in big shifts. Though the clearance battle was even (32-31) as was the hitouts (34-34), they intercepted well and forced Melbourne into 71 turnovers, which is very un-Melbourne like. Laying 100 tackles for the match was also superb.

Gatt comes of age

North Melbourne winger Taylah Gatt has constantly been improving, but her work in the game really caught the eye. There were others that perhaps did it more consistently, but Gatt applied fantastic pressure with nine tackles to go with her 14 disposals, and had 263 metres gained, often under some serious heat. She remained composed and backed herself, showing a real coming of age in a huge game.


Surprisingly despite the result, Melbourne did not play bad, but the Demons did look the most vulnerable in some time. Many expected a comeback from the high-powered attack, and at the three quarter time break, it was another chance for the Demons’ famed last quarters to come to the fore, but on this occasion, the comeback never came.

Melbourne had a lot of players who were down on their output one-on-one, but the Demons’ best was Tyla Hanks who was sublime with her repeated sidesteps and vision through traffic. She along with the hard-working Olivia Purcell and skipper Kate Hore never stopped trying.


North Melbourne got the monkey off the back in terms of its external criticism for not being able to fire in big games. The Roos were magnificent, and if they bring that standard of pressure to the remaining finals, then there is no reason why they cannot stand up on the first Sunday of December with the premiership cup.

For Melbourne, it was a game to forget, but not quite panic stations just yet. The Demons were outplayed and outhunted for four quarters, but have another chance to redeem against a Geelong side set to miss its best forward in Chloe Scheer. Expect a response from the red and the blue, which would set up a tantalising grand final rematch at the same venue – Brighton Homes Arena – in the preliminary final.

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