Fitzroy-ACU presented Gippsland Galaxy with their toughest challenge of the 2016 season, but it was a challenge the Galaxy met, taking out the Division 3 VWFL flag in a thriller.
Trailing at three-quarter-time, the Galaxy had to dig deep to ensure that the flag would be going home to Gippsland for the second season in a row, kicking two final quarter goals to Fitzroy’s nil to get the game back on their terms when it mattered most for a nine-point win.
The first quarter was indicative of the contest the crowd were about to be treated to. Both teams were combative, but also managed to string together good passages of play, which allowed for a free-flowing contest. Fitzroy were doing much of the attacking early on, and had chances to score, but could only register three behinds in the first 15 minutes.
However, Ashleigh Riddell intercepted an errant kick-in, and converted for the first goal of the game for Fitzroy, 16 minutes in. Just a couple of minutes later, Riddell was on the end of a second, twisting and turning her way through a couple of Gippsland players, and slotted through a classy goal.
Riddell’s work gave the Roys a 15-point quarter time lead – and the potential for Fitzroy to well and truly upset the applecart in a season which they had opened by losing to Galaxy by 130 points.
The quarter-time break was what Gippsland needed to give themselves a breather, reset and get back into the game. It worked wonders. They took control right from the outset of the second quarter, not allowing Fitzroy any space in the middle to force the ball inside 50, and peppering their own goal frequently.
However, it appeared that most of their good work to get back into the game would amount to nothing, with four behinds kicked in the opening eight minutes. Nicole Garner was finally able to fashion a response for the Galaxy, and kicked a clever goal from 35 out with a big snap to allow them to get back into the game.
After Garner's goal, inaccuracy hampered Galaxy, managing to get themselves up to 1.9 at one point. Nevertheless, Gippsland kept chipping away. Garner snapped another clever goal to give the Galaxy their first lead of the game, and then right on the half-time siren, Fiona Morrow read the ball the best inside 50 to mark, and convert, giving Gippsland a 12-point half-time lead. It summed up a quarter of dominance from Gippsland, monopolising the inside-50 count 9-0, while also winning the clearances 8-2.
The third quarter was some of the most electrifying footy seen this year, with both sides fighting tooth and nail to give themselves their best shot at fighting for the premiership.
Fitzroy were throwing everything at Gippsland but were unable to kick goals regularly. It took until the 11-minute mark for the Roys to get a result, with Matilda Arthur converting a set shot.
After that, a little bit of Alexandra Monacella magic, which saw her intercept a kick-in, gather, and then kick a goal off one step, put the Lions back in front. It gave Fitzroy the lift they were looking for, but they were unable to put another goal on the board, despite their best efforts. The game was well in the balance at three-quarter time, with the Lions leading by five points.
The last quarter was just as fierce as the preceding three quarters. Fitzroy continued to throw everything they had at the Galaxy - but kicking to an end where there had been no score in the first three quarters – were unable to kick the all-important first goal of the last quarter.
Instead, the Galaxy showed why they were the best team in Division 3 all season, and scrapped and scrounged their way to a goal through Brodi Pedretti, putting Gippsland back in front by four points.
When Rachel Drenen marked and converted at the 15-minute mark, it was all over. The Galaxy were 10 points up – surviving an almighty scare in the process – and would be crowned premiers for 2016, beating a gallant Fitzroy 5.12 (42) to 4.9 (33).
Gippsland captain Sarah Jolly led from the front, and was awarded best on ground by the umpires for her efforts in willing her side to victory.
By Michael Thompson
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Last Modified on 23/08/2016 23:16