North holds nerve to break glass ceiling

NORTH Melbourne has broken its AFL Women’s Grand Final hoodoo, holding their nerve in a tense final quarter of yesterday’s preliminary final to defeat Adelaide and reach a maiden women’s decider.

For the second time in the space of only a month, it was a nail-biter that was ultimately decided by one tense final quarter, but how did the Kangaroos turn things around second time around and ensure they did not suffer the same heartbreaking fate again?

There were a few different factors that changed from Round 9 to yesterday afternoon. Back in Round 9, the Kangaroos were leading by a goal at the final change, whereas yesterday that margin was half that.

In both games, North had the majority of the forward 50 time in the final quarter, but how they used that time improved from Round 9 to yesterday.

Back in Round 9, the Kangaroos’ forward 50 time was chaotic. The inside 50 feeds were messy, and the forwardline was not working quite as harmoniously as it did yesterday. Yesterday, the forward line was working together much better, not getting in each other’s way and spoiling potentially crucial marking opportunities.

This more harmonious forwardline made it more difficult for Adelaide to easily exit its defensive 50 compared to how it could back in Round 9. A month ago Adelaide’s defenders could easily intercept the ball, get it out to its runners and they would be away. That did not happen yesterday, and even when it did North Melbourne’s defensive wall was set up much better so getting past it became practically impossible at times.

That element also helped North Melbourne dominate the inside 50 count. The finished with 10 inside 50s to two for the quarter, and Adelaide’s two did not come until about five minutes before the final siren.

It was also overall a more composed game from North Melbourne yesterday compared to what it was in Round 9. Although the margin was of a similarly tight nature and the stakes were just as high, perhaps it was thanks to the memories of the heartbreaking finishes one month and one year ago, but the Kangaroos were a lot more composed with ball in hand.

There was no rushing, the Roos were finding targets well and it ultimately helped them in the end. Even though Adelaide got a goal agonisingly late again like they did in Round 9, North Melbourne’s improved composure meant they did not make the costly mistakes they did back in Round 9 that lead to Adelaide goals.

North Melbourne won the inside 50s count by four (35-31) and had three more shots (14-11). Among the top ball-winners going inside 50 were Jenna Bruton (28 disposals, seven inside 50s anf four score involvements), Mia King (19 disposals, five inside 50s and four score involvements) and Jasmine Garner (22 disposals, four inside 50s and six score involvements) who guided the Roos into the AFL Women’s decider.

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