Melbourne is confident it can make an impact in AFLW finals with or without Daisy Pearce after the Demons’ star suffered a worrying knee injury in Saturday’s win over the Brisbane Lions.
In a cruel blow on the eve of finals, Pearce’s right leg buckled under her when she was tackled while trying to snap a left-foot goal in the opening minutes of the match at Casey Fields.
The 32-year-old immediately clutched at her knee before hobbling from the ground.
Pearce emerged from the rooms in the second quarter sporting a full-length knee brace and sat out the rest of the game.
The Melbourne captain will have scans on Sunday to determine the severity of the injury, but the Demons are hopeful of good news despite the worrying early signs.
“(It’s) just some knee soreness at the moment,” Melbourne AFLW coach Mick Steiner said.
“We won’t know more until we get a scan, but she’s up and about. She’s pretty optimistic. We don’t think it’s anything too sinister, but we’ll obviously get it checked out.”
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Steiner said he was “definitely hopeful” Pearce could still feature in a final for the Demons next week.
However, Melbourne is confident that is could cover the loss of its skipper if she is ruled out for the season, having fought back strongly to knock off the ladder-leading Lions without Pearce on the field.
“She’s a critical part of our forward line but we showed the versatility,” Steiner said.
“A lot of our players were able to step up.
“It would definitely be a blow for us (if Pearce is sidelined), but the work she’s done to lead this team has enabled them to perform their roles when she’s not out there.
“We’d love to have her out there but we think we’re more than capable of being competitive with or without Daisy in the side.”
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Daisy Pearce is unfortunately done for the day (knee soreness).
She came from the field in the first term + won't return for the remainder of the game.
ROOS CLINCH FINALS BERTH, END BLUES’ HOPES
A relieved North Melbourne AFLW coach Darren Crocker has hailed his gutsy backline for the important role they played in the Kangaroos’ thrilling one-point victory over fellow top-six side Fremantle at Arden Street on Saturday.
The result saw North secure its place in finals and ended the top-six hopes of Carlton, who would’ve had the chance to sneak into the finals if they beat GWS on Sunday and North had lost.
Kangaroos defenders Tahlia Randall, Danielle Hardiman and Aileen Gilroy all had to contend with injuries throughout the day, but gritted their teeth to keep the Dockers at bay.
“I don’t normally individualise, but … at one stage I thought our whole defence was going to almost be on the sidelines,” Crocker said.
“But to all those girls’ credit, they were able to find a way to get through the game and they all came back on and I think that’s a really good sign going forward.”
There’s a good chance North and Fremantle will meet again in an elimination final next week and Crocker described Saturday’s clash as “a great dress rehearsal”.
“To come up against a team that have been a really formidable force for a number of years now, they play a really high-pressure game of football which is going to be really similar to finals football,” Crocker said.
Daisy Bateman of the Kangaroos celebrates after scoring a goal.Source:Getty Images
After dominating play for most of the day, North Melbourne did themselves no favours with their substandard efficiency up forward and, despite having 16 more inside-50s for the game (34-18) and 56 more disposals (248-192), saw their early 12-point lead turn into a six-point deficit in the final quarter.
The hosts grabbed back the lead when Daisy Bateman broke a run of three consecutive behinds with a converted set shot from 25m out, but they still had to contend with a few nailbiting moments late.
Fremantle’s Tiah Haynes missed a set shot with 1:10 to go and then a frantic error-riddled play on North’s last line of defence 30 seconds later led to a rushed behind which cut the margin to one point.
“North had quite a few chances to get further in front in that last quarter but we always thought we had a chance to attack with some space,” Dockers coach Trent Cooper said.
Aileen Gilroy of the Kangaroos celebrates after the Kangaroos defeated the Dockers.Source:Getty Images
North Melbourne star Ashleigh Riddell saved her best performance for her club when they needed it most. She gathered a club-record 33 disposals as well as 19 contested possessions, nine clearances and seven inside 50s to be the driving force behind the victory.
HOUGHTON IN HOT WATER?
Dockers forward Gemma Houghton is sure to come under scrutiny from the MRO after blatantly driving a flying knee into Randall’s back after the Kangaroo took a mark in the final term. Houghton was nowhere near the marking contest, but decided to proceed with the knee anyway, in an unsavoury incident.
FREO SLOW OUT OF THE BLOCKS AGAIN
Fremantle made yet another slow start, with their seventh goalless first quarter from nine games this season. And while they’ve made a habit of gradually reeling in their opponents after quarter-time, they weren’t able to finish off the job on this occasion.
In the second quarter, North skipper Emma Kearney was taken high by Freo’s Kiara Bowers, but the umpire inexplicably paid Bowers the free kick for holding the ball. So bemusing was that decision that Bowers’ teammate Roxanne Roux gave Kearney the ball, assuming the North star won the free kick. At one stage the Kangaroos trailed the free kick count by a whopping 18-2.
KANGAROOS 1.0 2.2 3.3 4.6 (30)
DOCKERS 0.1 2.1 4.2 4.5 (29)
Kangaroos: Riddell, Garner, Kearney, Randall, Bateman, Bannister, Hardiman.
Dockers: Bowers, Cain, Cuthbertson, Antonio, Haynes, Webb.
Kangaroos: Abbatangelo, Bannister, Garner, Bateman.
Dockers: Houghton, O’Sullivan, Bowers, Antonio.
CATS BREAK THROUGH TO END ON A HIGH
Gold Coast has been handed the AFLW’s wooden spoon after falling to a 17-point loss to Geelong in an arm-wrestle to avoid the timber cutlery at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
Both teams took winless 0-8 records into the Round 9 clash and the Suns have followed Richmond (2020) as the second club to complete an AFLW season without singing the club song once.
The Cats exploded to a matchwinning 19-point lead at quarter-time after goals to Phoebe McWilliams, Richelle Cranston and Rene Carls with the last major coming after a scuffle when the Suns gave away a free kick and 50 metre penalty.
The Gold Coast came out with more intensity in the second term which was rewarded through a goal to Kalinda Howarth which narrowed the margin to 12 points by the main break.
The sides booted two goals each in the third term with Howarth and Sam Virgo hitting the scoreboard for the home side while Cranston and Olivia Barber maintained the breathing room for the Cats.
After a dour fourth term when the teams traded behinds, Rebecca Webster kicked a goal on the full-time siren to put icing on the cake for the Cats who celebrated like they had won a final.
GEELONG 3.2 3.3 5.3 6.5 (41)
GOLD COAST 0.1 1.3 3.3 3.6 (24)
Geelong: Cranston 2, McWilliams, Carls, Barber, Webster
Gold Coast: Howarth 2, Virgo
Geelong: McDonald, Gardiner, Cranston, Webster, Crickkett-Grills
Gold Coast: Howarth, Drennan, Ahrens, Levi.
IN-FORM DEES BANK BITTERSWEET WIN
Melbourne will enter the AFLW finals on the back of wins against powerhouse sides Brisbane, Adelaide, and Fremantle, but is likely to be without its skipper.
The Dees won a thriller at Casey Fields against the Lions by two points to cement a home final next week against either North Melbourne or Fremantle.
But it came at a cost with Daisy Pearce suffering a knee injury early in the contest which will likely see her out for the rest of the season.
Pearce was sporting a full brace on her right knee when she re-emerged from the changerooms in the second quarter.
Entering the last quarter Melbourne found themselves 11-points down but rallied with goals from Tyla Hanks and Alyssa Bannan to snatch a memorable win.
It was another bizarre build-up to a game for the Lions who had a home game moved to Melbourne just a fortnight ago.
The Lions were forced to undergo COVID tests on Friday night after a case of the virus in the Sunshine State came to light.
Brisbane defender Breanna Koenen said players were confined to their hotel since landing on Friday.
“It was interesting doing the captain’s run in the halls of the Novotel, that was definitely a first for me,” she said on Channel 7.
“We take each challenge as it comes, and you’ve got to be adaptable this year.”
Melbourne is one of the form teams after defeating Brisbane Lions in a thriller.Source:Getty Images
Finals permutations for Melbourne
The win guarantees the Dees a home sudden death final next week against either North Melbourne or Fremantle.
The four points has the Dees sitting third on the ladder and a Collingwood win against Adelaide tomorrow would lock them into that spot and a home sudden death final against North Melbourne next week.
If Adelaide knocks off the Pies, it will leave Melbourne sitting fourth with a home sudden death final against Fremantle.
Finals permutations for Brisbane
The loss leaves Brisbane sitting second on the ladder and relying on the result from Adelaide and Collingwood’s game tomorrow to find out there they’ll finish.
A Collingwood win tomorrow against Adelaide would leave the Lions in second spot and give them a week off before a playing a home final to qualify for the Grand Final.
An Adelaide win could leave the Lions first, second or third depending on the margin.
Zanker’s record-breaking quarter
Eden Zanker’s move into the Demons’ midfield has been nothing but a resounding success, but she took her meteoric rise to new levels against the Lions.
In the first quarter the 21-year-old broke the AFLW record for most disposals in a first term, recording 14, one more than the previous record.
Zanker also recorded 253-metres gained in the quarter, before finishing the game with 25 touches.
DEMONS 1.1 3.1 4.1 6.2 38
LIONS 1.0 5.0 6.0 6.0 36
DEMONS: Zanker, Scott, L.Pearce, Mithen, Paxman, Hore, Hanks
LIONS: Anderson, Zvarc, Davidson, Hickie, Bates
DEMONS: Scott 3, Paxman, Bannan, Hanks
LIONS: Davidson 2, Wardlaw, Hodder, Smith, Arnell
MIDFIELD GUNS HELP DOGS END ON A HIGH
Kirsty Lamb and Ellie Blackburn owned the midfield to ensure the Western Bulldogs finished their season with a 13-point win over Richmond.
For a while everything felt back-to-front at Whitten Oval.
A Dempsey dominating, but not for the Bulldogs, instead Kate Dempsey for Richmond.
Katie Brennan and Monique Conti on the same ground as those in red, white, and blue, but for the first time the dynamic duo was attempting to bring about their downfall.
But it didn’t take long for things to start to feel normal again, as Blackburn and Lamb dominated, Brennan kicked goals, and Ellie McKenzie delighted.
It was a season of growth for both outfits after the Dogs cleared the decks and invested in youth, and Richmond entered its second season, clinching its first two wins in AFLW history.
The result spells the end of the 2021 chapter for both clubs who won’t feature in finals, but laid foundations for success to come.
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Liftoff for Ellie McKenzie! 🛫#AFLW | #AFLWDogsTigerspic.twitter.com/WbecnTMOnB
Last year’s number one draft selection McKenzie submitted a late entry into the AFLW’s mark of the year competition with a spectacular grab on the back of Brooke Lochland.
At the nine-minute mark of the second quarter Ashleigh Guest won a loose ball for the Bulldogs just forward of centre and sent it to the point of the 50 where McKenzie set herself.
The 18-year-old climbed onto the shoulders of Lochland and took the mark overhead.
It was a final highlight and cherry on top of the season McKenzie, 18, has had, in which she’s played every game and averaged 16 disposals while kicking four goals.
Ellie McKenzie reeled in a monster grab against Western Bulldogs.Source:Getty Images
Daughters of the west
Brennan and Conti reminded the Bulldogs what they were missing after the Tigers snared the duo from the kennel for its inaugural AFLW season last year.
Richmond captain Brennan was dangerous and polished and pulled her side back into the game with two goals early in the third quarter.
Her three goals were enough to momentarily take to the top of the goal kicking list ahead of the rest of the weekend’s games.
Conti wasn’t at her prolific best but provided a spark around the ball Richmond so dearly needed to combat Blackburn and Lamb.
Kirsty Lamb was prolific for Western Bulldogs.Source:Getty Images
More votes for Blackburn
She’s one of the favourites for the AFLW best and fairest award and Blackburn did her chances no harm with a midfield masterclass.
It’s shaping as a four-horse race between Kiara Bowers, Bri Davey, Erin Phillips and Blackburn, and the Dogs’ skipper put on a clinic despite injuring her ankle in the first quarter.
Blackburn came from the ground at the 11-minute mark but returned on the stroke of quarter-time to finish the game with 20 disposals.
Maddy Brancatisano scraps with Western Bulldogs opponents.Source:Getty Images
It’s been a feature of their footy at times in 2021, but the Bulldogs’ kicking in front of goal once again separated them from an opponent.
Richmond didn’t kick poorly, in fact far from it, but it was the fact the Dogs were able to kick them from anywhere.
That included a 52-metre bomb after a run down the wing and two bounces from Kirsten McLeod in the first quarter.
And a Lamb banana on the run after a contested mark to all but end the game at the start of the last quarter was the icing on the cake.
BULLDOGS 4.0 5.0 5.3 7.3 45
TIGERS 1.0 2.1 4.2 5.2 32
BULLDOGS: Blackburn, Lamb, McLeod, Lochland, Brown
TIGERS: Brennan, Cordner, Dempsey, Hosking, McKenzie
BULLDOGS: McLeod 2, Lochland, Morris-Dalton, Huntington, Lamb, Toogood
TIGERS: Brennan 3, Stahl, Wakefield
Originally published asDaisy knee blow rocks Dees’ AFLW season
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