Women’s Premier Division MOTW: Warriors comeback to bite Bombers in thriller

Image courtesy of Zak Kaczmarek.


Written by Phoebe McWilliams.

Round 15’s Match of the Week was an absolute thriller between fifth-placed Sydney University and ladder-leaders Macquarie University at Sydney University Oval No. 1 on Saturday afternoon.

Macquarie Uni were trailing the Bombers all day, however a goal in the final minute to Warrior, Eleanor Dalgarno-Fixter gave her side the victory by one-point.

The Warriors were trailing the Bombers by 14-points with eight minutes to go, and watching the game on delay, I thought to myself, “Wow, how do Mac Uni get back and win this?!”

The game began at a frenetic pace with the ball travelling end-to-end with very few stoppages. Despite the evenness across the ground, Sydney University had a few more clearances, and as a result more opportunities inside their forward-50.

However, a number of their entries were met by the ‘cool as a cucumber’ Warriors’ defender Ellie Brush. Her composure with the ball and ability to hit up targets was vital as she cleared the ball from the Bombers’ scoring territory.

It wasn’t until five minutes into the second quarter when the first goal was scored – and what a goal it was. Stephanie Gillon received a handball on the boundary in the forward pocket and snapped on goal with a reverse banana. It went straight through from 20m out, and didn’t the Bombers love it.

Their celebrations were short lived though as the Warriors were quick to respond through hard nut midfielder, Ellie Herron. Herron had started the game well so it seemed fitting that she scored her team’s first.

The Bombers kicked their second goal through Maryanne Harley and went into the half-time break with an eight-point lead.

The Warriors seemed to lift after the half-time break and came out onto the ground playing with greater urgency and determination. Simone Freeman for the Warriors started to look dangerous, presenting well and creating contests. One of these contests led to the first goal of the quarter when Mac Uni’s Gabrielle Ferreira sat front and centre and soccered the ball through.

The Bombers then produced an excellent end-to-end goal, moving the ball down the field swiftly, using space on the ‘fat side’ and then switching back into the corridor as they entered their forward 50. Serika Shillingsworth gathered and scored from about 20m out.

Ferreira then kicked her second for the Warriors from a quick turnover and the game was set up for an exciting final quarter with the Bombers leading by eight points.

The Bombers scored the first of the final term with Erin McKinnon roving her own ruck-tap and booting the ball forward 50 metres. The massive kick gave them a forward fifty entry when Amy Foo gathered, ran around her opponent and snapped on goal. This gave the Bombers their biggest lead for the game and it seemed like that goal could potentially put the game out of reach.

Mac Uni had other plans though and went into overdrive. They kicked the next goal from a free kick to Laura Russell directly in front of goal. Amanda Farrugia picked up the ball and played on to advantage to keep them in the game. A few handy points then proceeded and the Warriors were down by five points with a minute to go. From a stoppage in the Warriors’ forward 50 a free kick was awarded to for a holding-the-ball tackle giving Dalgarno Fixter a set shot on goal in the final minute. She made no mistake kicking the goal and giving the Warriors the lead for the first time in the game.

As the ball was being run by the umpires back to the centre the siren rang and the Warriors had won – what a finish.

Best on ground for the Warriors, Pip Smyth, said her side was lucky to come away with the victory.

“I reckon at the start of the season we couldn’t have done it (come back from behind),” said Smyth.

“Usually we start off strong and then die later on, but we’ve sort of learnt how to hold our ground a bit and push through even if we don’t think we’re going to win. We ended up getting there in the end, which was super lucky.”

Smyth played half the game in defence and half against her fellow GWS GIANTS teammate Erin McKinnon in the ruck.

“I felt like it was pretty even, I reckon it was 50/50 so I was happy with that. She’s taught me everything I know about rucking and then I sort of know what works against her, so it was good.”

This is Smyth’s first season at the Warriors and she says she is finding her confidence with the help of the team’s coaches Dan Ranson and David Marsh.

“I feel like at the start of the season I was still getting a bit of confidence back. I was just a bit unsure about my footy, and how I played and what to do. Then I just started playing with all the girls and the coaches have given me some really good feedback.

“They’ve just helped me gain heaps more confidence and now I’m playing footy that I want to play, which is really good. I’m really enjoying it. The coaches just believe in me. They don’t really have to but they have, and I feel like that gives you a lot of confidence when someone believes in you.”

In other matches for Round 15 the Southern Power (8.6.54) defeated the UTS Shamrocks (1.3.9) thanks to a 6-goal haul to Power forward, Rhe Lotter. The UNSW Eastern Suburb Bulldogs (3.17.35) defeated the Western Wolves (0.2.2) and the Auburn Penrith Giants (7.12.54) defeated the Newtown Breakaways (3.3.21) by 34-points.

Phoebe McWilliams is a current AFL Women’s player, recently signed by the Geelong Cats after two years spent with the GWS GIANTS. McWilliams is also a freelance writer for publications such as Inside Football Magazine. Following the 2018 NAB AFL Women’s season, McWilliams is playing for Hawthorn in the Swisse VFL Women’s competition in Victoria, while writing for AFL Sydney.

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