The VFLW Bendigo Bank Cats have secured a Preliminary Final berth after a brilliant win over the Southern Saints at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The 6.4 (40) to 5.3 (33) victory means that Geelong will meet Essendon next week to play for a spot in the Grand Final.
Georgia Clarke starred, kicking four goals in a best-on-ground performance for the Cats.
The Saints kicked the opening goal of the game and took a six-point lead into quarter-time, with the two sides locked in a high-intensity contest.
Geelong continued to work hard and found reward for effort as Clarke kicked her first goal midway through the second quarter. The Saints were up for the challenge however, extending their lead to 11 points at the main break.
Back-to-back goals in the third term to Clarke and Paige Sheppard saw Geelong take a one-point lead into three-quarter-time, with the Cats determined to play the game on their terms.
Geelong scored the first goal of the final quarter through Clarke, before the Saints managed a quick goal in response. Clarke kicked her fourth goal from a beautiful set shot, but again the Saints responded, with the two sides locked in a tight contest.
The Cats led by one point with eight minutes remaining before Becky Webster kicked the sealer, much to the delight of the strong home crowd.
VFLW Coach Andrew Bruce was thrilled with his side’s performance.
“I was just really pleased that the girls continued to pressure all day, and that the Southern Saints kept on coming but we were able to continue to give ourselves scoring opportunities, which was great,” Bruce said.
Bruce credited the team’s ability to continue to work hard after trailing at half-time.
“We changed things up a little bit, we pushed Renee Garing forward which really helped us get some forward pressure and our mids worked really hard.
“We were really comfortable through that third quarter that we had actually outworked them right across the ground, with attack on the footy and also our tackling was really good.”
Clarke enjoyed a stellar day in the forward line, and Bruce praised her confidence in front of goals.
“GC was magnificent; last week she was down on herself because she missed some opportunities but we just said, look you gave yourself those opportunities so keep on working and they’ll come and today they did. She kicked four and was best on for me.”
Becky Webster had 21 disposals and eight tackles in a strong performance, while Paige Sheppard also impressed with 19 disposals and six marks.
“Becky Webster through the midfield was great again, getting some really dominant clearances out and Paige Sheppard was back to her best on a wing, winning plenty of the football and used it extremely well,” Bruce said.
Acting VFLW captain Claudia Gunjaca said that the players thrived in front of the strong home crowd at GMHBA Stadium.
“It was fantastic, obviously some of the girls have played on this deck before with a crowd but a lot of us haven’t as well, so we just soaked it up and enjoyed the atmosphere so much,” Gunjaca said.
“I think that also helped us get the win today, they (the crowd) were so vocal and we really appreciated all of the support from the fans today.”
Bruce said that the approach to next week’s Preliminary Final will be business as usual.
“Just be us. (Making sure) that we prepare well, we bring our pressure and we look to use the football well and hopefully give our forwards the opportunity to take some marks and kick some goals," he said.
"We won’t be changing anything we do; we know our brand and we’ll keep on doing that.”
The fixture for the Preliminary Final will be confirmed early in the coming week, with the winner to meet Collingwood in the Grand Final.
VFL Women’s First Semi Final
Geelong Cats 6.4 (40) def Southern Saints 5.3 (33)
Goals: Clarke 4, Webster, Sheppard
Best: Clarke, Sheppard, Webster, Keryk, Johnson, Gunjaca
At GMHBA Stadium