Friday, October 2, 2020 - 11:34 AM

On Saturday 12thSeptember the Falcons Women’s Reserves played their last game of the season in the preliminary final against Claremont Tigers. It was the best of time, it was the worst of times, it was the age of women’s footy, or so the saying goes. We were defeated by a mere four points to the side that went onto win the grand final last Saturday against East Fremantle at Provident Financial Oval. 

Claremont came out strong in the first quarter with an immediate clearance and goal. From there the ball spent a significant amount of time in their 50 with our defensive team displaying exceptional composure despite the intensive pressure. Tiahna Scandrett dislodged a few fangs with her hard tackling, but the Tigers were eventually able to swipe through for a second goal. Their third came from a long kick into the goal square that Hope Ugle-Hayward initially chased hard to foil, but Claremont had the reinforcements to get it back through the big sticks. We regained some ground towards the end of the quarter after an undisciplined act resulted in a 50-metre penalty to Sarah Henderson who kicked truly in her debut Reserves game.

Talk during the quarter break noted the efficiency of the Tigers’ entries but also centred around building our confidence so we could be cleaner with the ball. Off the back of the earnest and encouraging words of the coach, Edward Beck, our skills were so clean in the second quarter we pretty much turned David Grays Arena into a car wash. Rebecca Boladeras kicked off our fightback with a beautifully delivered set shot at goals. Not long after Claremont were gifted a free in front of goals, but the flight of the ball was read perfectly by Scandrett for the intercept and exit. The midfield tussle was a battle of the ages and our players consistently came out victorious, even in a three-on-one mark taken by the magnetic hands of Ashleigh Greenwell. If there was wrestling to be had in a pack, you’d also find Kelly Keane in the thick of it. 

Claremont attempted a couple of advances but Trish Medwin stood strong in defence and epitomised leadership by marshalling the backline to combine with the mids to move the ball back to our advantage. She was ably supported by the Dixie Corcoran whose unrewarded tackle nevertheless forced a turnover that led to Hope Ugle-Hayward kicking with pinpoint perfection in front of the miniature juggernaut Courtney McDaniel who then gathered and goaled. Our thorough detailing of the ball in the second quarter meant we’d made up lost ground, and the Claremont dug-out had become blissfully silent.

The third quarter became a grind for both sides with tired bodies working their way slowly back into the game. In the wild, less than 10 percent of hunts end successfully for tigers and that could be applied equally to the footy field. Claremont worked a handful of points onto the scoreboard along with a goal, but the majority of their forward forays were foiled by our defensive structures, and the likes of the safe hands of Zoe Smith. At the other end of the ground, our intensity began to increase and we swooped hard at goals but weren’t able to capitalise. Nevertheless, we had slowed Claremont’s scoring by winning the ball out of hard fought congestion in packs, just as the coaches had requested. 

The first half of the final quarter saw the Falcons spread their wings and take advantage of their speed to rapidly change the direction of the game and outmanoeuvre the Tigers. Henderson dived onto the ball again for goals, followed by another Rogers Cup debutante, Jaymee Duke, and then by Reserves stalwart Greenwell. For a sweet 120 seconds we took the lead and the Tigers’ roar dulled to a pitiful meow. Unfortunately, Claremont took advantage of their League-hardened players and snarled a further two goals on the board to win back a 10-point lead.

The story does not end here though. In the dying minutes of the game, Katherine Bennett, with all the strength, grace and agility of her feathered brethren, smashed through to the goals with a booming kick from yonder after an exceptional effort from our midfield team to win the centre bounce. If the Tigers’ dug-out wasn’t already full of scat, they were certainly up to their eyeballs in it after Bennett’s goal. We might have given them the fright of their lives but, as mentioned earlier, it was also the worst of times, and so that moment came in the final seconds of the game when Claremont’s underhanded tactics delayed the ball’s return to the centre. Having just won the centre clearance, the dreaded sound of the final siren crushed our last offensive push and our grand final hopes.

The Reserves women didn’t bow their beaks for long though. Over a challenging season they’ve created an impenetrable team bond and spirit, driven by a deep commitment to each other and the club. Through the strategic and innovative leadership of coaches, Edward Beck and Rebecca Boladeras, along with specialist support from Louise Carey, Matt Harskamp, Bryan Bennington and Bastien Auna, our Reserves women have learned to wear their Falcons strip like armour plating every time they run out onto the field, and this has served them well, and will continue to serve them well, in their future premiership flag pursuits. Make no mistake, we’ll be ready to shake a tail feather in 2021.