It was a long time coming, but the Cats made it count in the final round of the 2021 AFL Women’s Competition when they defeated Gold Coast Suns by 17 points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday evening.
With both teams desperate to end the season with a win, the Cats brought some of their best footy and produced memorable highlights.
Here are the Round 9 Talking Points, presented by Villarosa Real Estate.
Pressure Creates Opportunities
The Cats knew they needed a strong start to set themselves up against the Suns on Saturday, and they hit the ground running.
Their intent was clear from the outset as they took the pressure right up to the Suns. Despite having just three more disposals for the term, the Cats were able to lock the ball in their forward half for much of the term.
They won the tackle count that quarter 23-12, had 11 inside 50s, rebounded all four of the Suns’ inside 50s (conceding just one behind), and took a very handy 19-point lead into the first break.
From there, the pressure was on the Suns to bridge the gap, but the Cats were able to respond to every challenge, walking away 17-point winners.
Oh Captain, Our Captain
Playing her 25th AFL Women’s game, and with long-time teammate (across three different teams) Aasta O’Connor retiring, nothing could keep Cats captain Meg McDonald from the field on Saturday.
The 29-year-old put in another solid effort in defence, including six intercepts, but her night looked set for an early finish when she injured her left ankle in a tackle mid-way through the third quarter.
But after medical staff assessed the ankle, she made a brave return to the field in the final term, playing in the forward line, and was first there to congratulate Becky Webster when the youngster kicked a goal on the final siren.
Aasta’s Pride in Finish
Aasta’s smile after the game said it all: this was a big one.
The retiring Cat was adamant she wanted the focus of the game to be all about the team, but it was clear the Cats knew what it would mean for the veteran to finish on a win.
“(It was) a bit emotional, but I really wanted tonight and today to be about the group,” she said.
“Now that it’s all over, I’m going to celebrate it, enjoy it. (There’s) something really special about the Geelong Cats.”
The 33-year-old is also optimistic about the future at the Cats, as her young teammates stood up again at the top level.
“The kids that we’ve got – they’re not really kids anymore – but they’re a class above,” O’Connor said.
“I know this year has been really tough, but they would’ve learnt a lot that’s going to hold them in good stead going forward.
“I’m just so proud of them, and I’m so glad I got to share the field with them.”
It almost rivalled the reaction on the final siren: the team getting around Rene Caris when she kicked a goal after the siren in the first quarter.
It was a significant moment for a few reasons: it put a brilliant finishing touch on a dominant first quarter (the scoreboard was 20-1 the Cats’ way at the first break), it was the Cats’ biggest quarter for the season, and it was the popular Cats’ first goal at AFLW level.
Caris, an emerging ruck, had played just four games across her opening two seasons, but in 2021 has continued her development and played five senior matches.
After the Suns gave away a free and 50m penalty on the quarter-time siren, Caris made the most of her opportunity, and all her Cats teammates flocked to her to celebrate her first AFLW goal.
The Future is Bright
Although the wins weren’t forthcoming for most of the season, the improvement in the Cats’ younger players has been a highlight, and it was on display again on the weekend.
Becky Webster (20 years old) and Amy McDonald (23) have had breakthrough seasons in the midfield and they’ve grown in confidence. With Nina Morrison (knee) to return to the mix next year, they form a potent core that will serve the Cats’ midfield well for years to come.
All five first-year players have played at least two games at the top level now, and Laura Gardiner – who featured in three games – was named in the best in the last two weeks. Liv Barber and Steph Williams have brought plenty of excitement, while Darcy Moloney and Carly Remmos have been eager to embrace the challenge.