Cats hang on in semi-final thriller

Geelong players celebrate defeating the Demons in the AFLW semi-final against Melbourne at IKON Park on Sunday November 19. (AAP Image/James Ross)


Geelong held off Melbourne’s charge in a pulsating last term to win its AFLW semi-final by five points.

The Demons’ Lauren Pearce grabbed the ball out of a ruck contest and snapped, with her shot narrowly missing inside the last minute on Sunday at Ikon Park.

Had she kicked a goal, the match would have gone into extra time. Instead the Cats eliminated the reigning premiers, 7.8 (50) to 6.9 (45), and will face home side Brisbane on Saturday night in a preliminary final.

Geelong’s only other preliminary final was in 2019, under the defunct conference system.

North Melbourne will host Adelaide on Sunday at Ikon Park in the other preliminary final.

The Cats led by as much as 32 points in the third term and had a 30-point lead at three-quarter time.

With Lions coach Craig Starcevich a spectator at the game, Melbourne kicked three goals in the first six minutes of the last quarter to make it a contest.

Aimee Macklin’s goal after 19 minutes – Melbourne’s fifth to Geelong’s one in the last term – reduced the margin to six points before Pearce went so close to tying the scores.

Star Geelong midfielder Nina Morrison, who was off the ground at the end of the game, was best afield with 29 possessions and 10 clearances.

Eliza West, dropped for the first time in her career last week, starred for Melbourne with 28 disposals.

Melbourne forward Eden Zanker, goalless for the last two games after kicking 22 for the season, came alive in the last quarter with three.

Melbourne, the AFLW’s highest-scoring team this season, went goalless in the first quarter as Geelong took immediate control.

It meant the Demons had managed only one goal in seven quarters.

That nearly stretched to eight, until Maddison Gay marked and kicked a booming goal from 40m after the half-time siren.

Gay’s badly needed goal reduced the margin to 19 points and kept Melbourne in the game.

By contrast the Cats were outstanding in the first half, with Morrison running amok through the midfield.

Amy McDonald kicked the first two goals of the game in the opening eight minutes – also the first time she has kicked multiple goals.

In last week’s qualifying final, Melbourne had no answer to North Melbourne’s tackling pressure.

On Sunday, it was Geelong closing down Melbourne’s run and picking them off as the Demons tried to clear out of defence.

Melbourne started the second half much better and for a few minutes, it looked like it would build on Gay’s half-time goal.

But the Demons could not capitalise and instead Geelong’s Julia Crocket-Grills kicked the first goal of the third term.

When former Melbourne player Shelley Scott snapped accurately at eight minutes, the Cats looked home before the Demons’ final-quarter fightback.

Geelong’s preliminary final against Brisbane is on Saturday November 25 at Brighton Homes Arena at 7.45pm (6.45pm local time). Coverage on Channel 7.