It was always going to be a close semi final match between minor premiers the Darebin Falcons and arch rivals VU St Albans Spurs. The Falcons had not dropped a game since their round one clash with the Spurs, pegging one back against them in round eight.
There wouldn’t be a lot which would split these teams. Throw into the mix a game on a neutral, unfamiliar, large ground, subject to windy conditions and you have a recipe for a cracker game. The teams did not disappoint.
Kicking with an exceptionally strong breeze in the first quarter, the Falcons squandered opportunities in front of goal. Their control of the ball was superior to that of the Spurs, and whilst they moved the ball with careful consideration, they failed to hit targets. Their quarter time score of one goal six behinds kept their opposition in the game, and did not reflect the dominance they showed.
The second quarter saw St Albans time with the breeze and whilst they too struggled with accuracy, their ability to put two majors (and three behinds) on the score board meant they headed into half time leading on the scoreboard and with their tails up. Darebin failed to score against the breeze but kept themselves in the game playing tempo footy.
Darebin knew the third quarter was their last chance to make a significant impact on the scoreboard, with the help of the breeze. Both teams had failed to bother the scorer in their quarter against the breeze and no one could deny the mental impact this had on the players.
VU St Albans were just as aware of this fact. They restricted Darebin to two shots on goal, with only one conversion and whilst they themselves failed to score into the wind, this put them only four points down going into the final quarter and a gave them real belief in the win.
In a surprise twist to the day’s events, Darebin managed to score first – into the wind – in the last quarter. This put them ten points up and when a subsequent mark (of the year) to ruckman O’Connor in their forward fifty wasn’t paid, it appeared Darebin lost their concentration, focusing more on what should have been, than what was happening. Darebin moved into their ever familiar lock down mode and whilst they withstood everything St Albans threw at them, it wasn’t enough to stop the Spurs scoring one goal four behinds, and drawing the game at full time.
And so started the battle. Exhausted bodies moved into a fresh centre bounce position. It was to be two, five minute halves. Given the low scoring tussle which preceded, it was clear any score would be like gold. Darebin benefited first from the breeze but only managed one shot on goal, which fell short. Five minutes seemed to fly by and very quickly, the siren had gone and it was St Albans turn with the breeze.
Again, the Falcons turned to their lockdown game play and were successful in shutting down the Spurs. A shattering injury to Falcons utility, Kathleen Roe, stopped play for a stretcher and gave the umpires a chance to check the rules on this unfamiliar circumstance where neither a full game, nor overtime was able to determine a winner. Enter the golden score rule, where play now continues from its current stand point, and awaits simply a score from one side.
A disbelieving Darebin team pleaded its case, wondering how play could continue to advantage a team who were not only kicking with the wind, but had the ball already deep in their forward 50. Falcons captain Daisy Pearce urged her team forward, knowing there was nothing that could be done, but to battle to the end for victory. It was inspired leadership.
Pearce was all over the ground, marking and roving superbly and rallying her troops behind her. Aasta O’Connor was unstoppable in the ruck and amazed all at her ability to not only stop, but win, every ruck contest, when all the Spurs needed was a punch through the goals for a score. In and under the contest, the Falcons backline performed their lockdown play with uncompromising help from their midfield, who just didn’t stop, despite the mounting pressure. VU St Albans had six shots on goal, but wasted all of them, every one going out on the full, or not making the distance.
With what seemed like an eternity, at thirty-five minutes, the ball was gradually moved down the field, against the breeze and into the Falcons forward line. Kristen Douglas somehow found voice to encourage her team mates to never give up and make the most of their moment. Others reminded each other to work as a team to get the job done. It was clear the Falcons would not waste their forward fifty opportunity.
Supporters, substitutes, coaches, runners and medical staff stood rooted to the ground on the sidelines. Heads were in hands, hands were over mouths, eyes were shut, eyes were open and hearts were pounding out of chests! With thirty-six players in the forward fifty, a snap from backman Emma Kerry would not have been a strange way to seal the match, and indeed, the sideline thought it had. But it was marked on the line, pushed back out only to be repelled back in. Was there going to be another thirty-five minutes in this forward half?
In the end, it was wingman Stephanie Simpson who sealed the match for the Falcons, snapping a goal from short range. The cry of joy from the Falcons was resounding. The bitter despair on the faces of the Spurs was crushing. It was a game befitting a Grand Final but both teams knew this was far from the end of season celebration/commiseration it felt like. With the Falcons now one win away from that success, and VU St Albans still in the hunt, the next two weeks are shaping to be an intensely contested challenge for end of season glory.
Darebin 1.6, 1.6, 2.7, 4.7 (31)
VU St Albans 0.0, 2.3, 2.3, 3.7 (25)
GOALS, Darebin : Kristen Douglas 2, Jane Lange 1, Stephanie Simpson 1
VU St Albans : Bree White 1, Moana Hope 1, jasmine Garner 1
BEST, Darebin : Daisy Pearce, Aasta O’Connor, Sarah Hammond, Melissa Bibby, Shevaun Hogan, Emma Kerry
VU St Albans : Bree White, jasmine Garner, Karen Paxman, Danni Teasdale, Georgia Harris, Belinda Hateley
On a blustery day at Craigieburn the Falcons reserves team took on the Spurs for a spot in the grand final. The Reserves division has been a very heavily contested affair this year will all top four teams finishing on the exact same points and only separated by percentage. The Spurs got off to a blistering start, kicking five first quarter goals and keeping the Falcons scoreless. With Spanna and Taz watching on from the sidelines, and Til and Jules suffering injuries throughout the game, it was always going to be a tough ask for the Falcs to peg back such a commanding lead. The Falcs continued to persevere however, but the swirly conditions and the speed of their Spurs opponents made it hard going. The Falcs take on East Burwood this Saturday to keep their finals hopes alive. Good luck!
VU St Albans 5.4, 8.4, 13.6, 15.8 (98)
Darebin 0.0, 1.4, 1.4, 2.5 (17)
GOALS, VU St Albans : Emily McIntyre 5, Amanda Walsh 4, Samantha Radlof 2, Katherine Sivewright 2, Rachel Gullo 1, Jessica Heath 1
Darebin : Victoria Pettit 2