After a slow first quarter, the Western Bulldogs went into the break leading Melbourne 1.3 to 1.2.
It was in the second term that the Doggies shook off any nerves and found their rhythm, cheered on by a crowd heavily in favour of the red, white and blue.
Darcy Vescio and Moanna Hope showed why they were both chosen as marquee players for next year, all class in the Bulldogs’ forward half, whereas Melbourne struggled in front of goal, booting 2.5.
By the dying minutes of the last quarter the Doggies’ had the game stitched up and won 14.6.90 to 7.9.51.
The Bulldogs sang the team song out on the ground, replacing “sons’ of the West with “daughters.”
“You can’t beat the girls of the Bulldogs breed, we’re the team of the mighty West.”
There were 6,365 football fans at the Whitten Oval.
Hope goes hard into a contest. Photo: Getty Images
Moanna Hope reads the ball as well as anyone in the game. After a couple of uncharacteristic misses in the first quarter, she top scored with six goals.
When AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan presented the Collingwood marquee player with her jumper he remarked that she would fit right in at the Pies – the forward is covered with tattoos. She showed the Whitten Oval crowd on Saturday night just how magical she is in front of goal, prompting Magpies staffers to send out the message on Twitter – “Don’t forget… she’s ours.” Collingwood fans would have been very glad she will be wearing black and white jumper next year.
Hope was later named player of the match.
Midfielder Daisy Pearce, widely considered one of the players in Australia, was typically dynamic for the Demons, an on-field leader with 12 kicks and 13 hand passes for the game.
Western Bulldogs captain Steph Chiocci was crucial, leading the Doggies’ possession count with 24 disposals. Perhaps surprisingly she was not chosen as a marquee player by any of the eight clubs, but looks certain to be picked up in the draft. An unselfish player, she helped the ‘Doggies move the ball smoothly up the ground and finished the match with 24 disposals.
In accepting the winner’s cup after the match Chiocci thanked Melbourne for the contest, saying women’s football had been the victor that night.
She thanked the club, the AFL and especially the fans who turned out on the night.
“This is for you, stay tuned for next year, it’s going to be a ripper,” she said.
Sabrina Frederick-Traub Photo: Getty Images
Melbourne’s Sabrina Frederick-Traub is an English-born super-star. Tall and strong with a sure pair of hands, the forward was chosen by Brisbane as one of their marquee players for the 2017 season. But nerves seemed to get the better of the 19-year-old when she hit the post from 15 metres, directly in front.
Play of the Day
It is impossible to go past the brilliance of Hope and Vescio, who is headed to Carlton as a marquee player in the new year. Vescio moved quickly through the centre of the ground and a lobbed a long kick into the Bulldog’s forward-50. She found Hope on her own, who was able to run into an open goal.
Under pressure from her Melbourne opponents, the Bulldog’s Kaitlyn Ashmore injected new energy into the game when she goaled with a beautiful right-foot snap shot for the first major score of the second term. After a low-scoring first quarter from both teams, it opened the floodgates for the ‘Doggies.
The AFL’s decision to trial a 16-a-side in the women’s game was not universally welcomed, but it did seem to encourage quite a free-flowing style of play. Towards the end of the match though, when the players began to tire, they may have appreciated more options around the ground.