Goannas clip Bats’ wings in tight contest

PARRAMATTA Goannas ground out an important six-point win over UTS Bats in challenging conditions for Round 9 of the AFL Sydney Women’s Premier Division. Though the rain around Sydney had stopped prior to the match, it did not make life much easier for the two teams, with the ground very wet under foot and leading to a low-scoring contest that was eventually taken out by the home side, 4.3 (27) to 3.3 (21).

In a scrappy affair, the first surprise of the day was that Eleanor Rugg started on the bench, while the second surprise was that from the opening bounce, the Bats did not touch the ball before a goal was scored. Sera Kaukiono started in the ruck, got a tap to Caitlin Fletcher who used nice evasive footwork to get a linkage play going down the forward right wing for Sophie Kavanagh to finish off the first goal from right in front.

But that was where the Goannas’ dominance ended, as the Bats started gaining more and more of the football and the game evened out. Chaye Hartwell provided a good target up forward on the first quarter for the Bats and they found two direct avenues to goal – exactly where Rugg would usually be intercepting and reading the play – by going over the top to runners who finished relatively easy goals.

The Goannas had gone into the game with a plan to find multiple handpasses of either one or two metres to extract the ball from stoppages and it was not working. While Amanda Farrugia and other midfielders were getting multiple first possessions, the passes were only short and directly into pressure or into traffic or with the Bats players were able to get a hand on the footy to disrupt the linkages.

This led to a game with a huge amount of stoppages and “almost” possessions. But the big story of the day was the ruck contests. Georgia Knight and in particular youngster Madeleine Quinn were very good on the day. Parramatta tried to adapt and rotated Lauren O’Sullivan and a few others into the ruck, but it was a domination from the Bats rucks. UTS would go into the half-time break leading 14-12.

Aoife Berry, who had a good game for the Bats, and Kaitlin McCaffrey were putting together some dominant linkages down the right hand side of the field. The reasons the Goannas were still in the game were due to the speed of Kavanagh out of contests, Kiera Yerbury hassling opponents with and without the footy and getting involved in everything, and Chloe Davis mopping up everything across the defensive line. Kaukiono was also trying very hard to put the team on her shoulders in doing the hard work required.

The third quarter is where this game was won and it was by tactical awareness and good old fashioned hard work. It had been such a game of repeat stoppages that there was a point early in the third where the Goannas stopped contesting or even going up for the ruck contest. and just tried to rove to the UTS tap.

Whether it was coaching, experienced players adjusting or even just frustration leading to the fact that something had to change, the Goannas midfield now realised they had to clear the ball out of the immediate inside football congestion and they would have the advantage.

Farrugia who was racking up the ball at will, now started clearing the ball out of the immediate area and downfield as much as possible, and the Goannas gained the advantage. They would constantly surge the ball forward and the field position now was all Parramatta’s. The Bats forced a behind and then an unfortunate slip up from the kickout in the wet conditions lead to Brianna Wade converting the foal to tie the scores.

The Bats would go into the final quarter with a one-point lead, 21-20, however within seconds of the fourth quarter starting, Parramatta had forced the ball forward and not been caught stationary. That lead to Fletcher bursting out of the contest and driving the ball forward. Kavanagh showed brilliant evasive footwork to again clear the congestion and drove the ball in front of the sticks, where Lauren Easton forced through the tying point.

Two minutes into the quarter and the winning play clicked into gear. Finally the short passes philosophy worked in a spectacular fashion from the centre. Farrugia dished off the ball to Fletcher in an advantageous position, who immediately passed to a moving Megan Mifsud in an adventurous position. She flicked it out over the top for Olympia Plummer on the fly.

A four person chain of extraction handpasses proved to be clearly the best piece of play for the day, and the type of football required to go further and challenge other teams at the top end of the league. The ball was forced forward in surge football and Lauren Easton finished off what would be the winning goal. Another 10 minutes or so of back and fourth ensued, with neither team able to score and the final result was 27-21 to the Goannas.

Either team could have won on the day, and there were a lot of good contributors all across the ground. As predicted, the Bats would have to stop Farrugia and the central unit of the Goannas to win the game, and they did for two and a half quarters, but the change of tactics and execution philosophy resulting in repeated and cleaner extractions/exits towards the end of the game proved too much on the day.

PARRAMATTA GOANNAS 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.2 | 4.3 (27)
UTS BATS 2.0 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 3.3 (21)

L. Easton, A. Gray, S. Kanagh, B. Wade
UTS: J. Quade 2, C. O’Brien

A. Farrugia, M. Mifsud, S. Kaukiono, E. Daniel, S. Wilkins
UTS: A. Berry, M. Quinn, T. Kirk, B. Martini, S. Gaukrodger


The other tight contest of the weekend was between North Shore Bombers and Sydney University at Gore Hill Oval with the latter getting up by 10 points, 5.6 (36) to 3.8 (26). In a tight low-scoring contest, the Students only kicked one goal to three quarter time and trailed by 11 points before piling on four in the last quarter to come away 5.6 (36) to 3.8 (26) winners. Emma Walsh kicked two goals for the winners, while Kendra Blattman was named best on ground. Adrienne Keeffe managed a couple of majors for the Bombers.

Manly Warringah Wolves did their best work early against Pennant Hills Demons, kicking three first quarter goals, and while the Demons restricted them to just three after that, it was enough for the home side to take out the win, 6.9 (45) to 1.1 (7). Zara Hamilton and Hannah Woolf both kicked two goals with Ashleigh Carter named best-on for the Wolves, while Kaitlin Noble was a standout in defeat for the Demons.

Reigning premiers East Coast Eagles were far too good for newcomers St George Dragons to produce a blowout 109-point win. The Eagles started comparatively slowly with just two goals in the first term, but then kicked six, four and five goals over the respective final three quarters before romping to a 17.14 (116) to 1.1 (7) victory. Young gun Amelie Prosser-Shaw booted five goals in the win and was best on ground, though she was not alone with Caitlin Davidson (six) and Brooke Bailey (five) also filling their boots. Grace Parsons was the Dragons’ best in the loss and kicked their only goal.

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