Down but not out
The threats of blizzards and hailstorms lead us to believe that Saturday’s final against the Hawks was going to be a scrappy one, but upon arriving at Rathmines Oval the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for finals footy.
We had faced the Hawks twice before, so knew that this was going to be one of (if not the toughest) matches that we as a team would play. With many of us stuck together with medical tape, we took the field knowing that our best would really push the Hawks, and confident that we could qualify for the big dance.
We knew that Hawthorn were going to come out firing, and that they did. We won the first couple of stoppages and threated to attack early, but the Hawks hard-press made it incredibly difficult for us to get the ball forward. An early Hawks goal wasn’t going to break our focus. In what was a monster effort to start at CHF (let alone able to stand despite being extremely unwell!) Amanda Ventura kicked truly from 25m out, reducing them margin. It was around this time that the Hawks got the edge over us. They continued to pummel the ball into their attacking 50 with such ferocity and frequency, resulting in a monster first quarter score.
The second quarter wasn’t as damaging as the first in terms of the scoreboard, and we managed to stem the flow of goals to the opposition keeping them to a solitary goal for the quarter. We only managed to add a couple of points, but it was the work that was being done all over the ground that enabled us to work our way back into the game. Our defenders were put under the pump, but our trusty backline warriors stood up to the challenge, as they always do. You have full confidence that whenever the ball goes anywhere near Henny “Bont” Gelber and her opponent that a goal is the least likely of outcomes. Her manic pursuit to get the ball out of danger saved us on multiple occasions, coupled with Kath Sobey’s fearless run and drive to clear the defensive 50. Madgy doesn’t understand the concept of fear – her sole focus is winning the ball at every single contest, while surging forward. Watch this space – we have a gun in the making.
With a 30-point margin at the half-time break, it would have been easy to assume that the win was out of reach, but that was never once a consideration with this group. We came back onto the field with a clear mission to limit their influence, while slowly chipping away at the score line. Lauren Gibbs was in everything (as always). Providing vital run and carry through the middle, running through packs and in what has become a habit, kicking multiple goals. Imagine what this girl could do with a pre-season!! EmJ was providing her now trademark dash and gut-running through the middle, giving us more drive up forward. Seeing Danni streaming down the wing towards the forward line has become the standard. She continues to showcase sublime skill and awareness every time she’s near the football. Rach Daymond continues to solidify her Scott Pendlebury-like calm out on the field, never once panicking and executing precise disposal under all sorts of pressure.
The three-quarter time margin was still hovering around 30 points, and it would have taken our best effort of the season to win from that point. While we couldn’t quite get there, we did win the quarter, and in doing do limited the dominant Hawks to only 2.1 for the half to our 2.2. While a small victory in the scheme of the game, that shows that we can match it with the best.
Thankfully our hard work during the year ensured that our season wouldn’t end here. While a win would have sent us through to the Grand Final, a loss gives us a chance at redemption against a side that we have come nail-bitingly close to beating during the early stages of the season. If history is anything to go by, we won’t go down with a fight.