The VFLW Bombers’ maiden finals series has ended after Geelong ran away with a 28-point victory in Saturday’s preliminary final at Windy Hill.
It was a tale of two halves as the Bombers were level with the Geelong at the main break, but the Cats' experience proved too strong in the 6.9 (45) to 2.5 (17) win.
Geelong came out firing to kick the opening major, but the Bombers’ intensity lifted as they fought hard to maintain possession.
It took until the last minute of the opening quarter for the Bombers to hit the board through No.2 AFLW draft pick Georgie Prespakis, who broke through a contest to snap a goal.
Like the first quarter, Geelong opened the second term with a quick major, but the Bombers continued to fight hard and took control of the game.
A long kick from Zali Friswell found Alana Barba in open space and she weaved through multiple opponents before waltzing into an open goal square.
The two sides couldn’t be separated heading into the main break with a late behind from Barba levelling the score.
After the main break, Geelong’s intensity lifted and it broke away with consecutive goals.
But the Bombers’ defenders in Tamsin Crook and Eloise Ashley-Cooper stood strong under immense pressure, cutting off multiple Geelong forward entries.
Momentum turned in the final minutes of the third term with the Bombers’ locking the ball in their forward half, but unfortunately they couldn’t convert.
Geelong dominated the final quarter, but the Bombers’ intent didn’t waiver as the home side fought hard to reduce the deficit.
Essendon conceded multiple goals in the final minutes, sealing the Cats’ 28-point victory to advance to the VFLW Grand Final.
Tale of two halves
Despite waiting three weeks in between games, both sides started the game with fast ball movement and clean skills.
While the Bombers kept up with the Geelong’s intensity for the first half, the Cats stepped up after the main break and took control of the game.
Essendon captain Georgia Nanscawen said the Bombers started the game well but struggled to stop Geelong’s momentum throughout the second half.
“It was a pretty tight for first half and I think we matched it with them really well. They got off to a bit of a start and we pulled them back extremely well. I thought we were actually on top of the contest, feeling really good going into half-time,” Nanscawen said.
“I think their class just showed through in that second half. They got a bit of a run on and a bit of momentum, and it was hard to stop. In the end credit to them, they've had a great season and played the game really, really well.”
Nanscawen said the Bombers struggled to overcome the pressure from the Cats which meant they couldn’t utilise their own structures and capitalise on their outside speed.
“We looked at the stats at three-quarter time and they started to get on top in the contested possessions,” Nanscawen said.
“They use the players around the back of the stoppage really well and we weren't able to number off as well as we would have liked, so they were able to get that bit of a run on and unfortunately we didn’t have the answers to them today.”
Disappointing end to a historic season
Although it was a disappointing end to the season, the VFLW Bombers can reflect on the season with pride as they were a part of the team which led the club to a maiden finals series.
To the fans, thank you for the support through 2021. Every week we are honoured to don the sash to inspire the next generation of footballers.— Essendon VFLW (@essendonfcw) July 31, 2021
Thank you to those who have supported us both in person and online throughout this season.
Bring on 2022! #EnjoyTheRide pic.twitter.com/K2a7CONIGn
Nanscawen said her side never gave up throughout the season and embraced any challenge that came their way, including the disruptions caused by COVID lockdowns.
“Obviously I'm extremely proud of the group, proud of the club and I think the club's proud of us as well,” she said.
“One thing is we've never backed down and we've always enjoyed doing it as a group. I'm extremely proud to be part of this group and proud to stay with the Bombers going forward and developing us to hopefully go one step better next year.”
ESSENDON 1.1 2.2 2.5 2.5 (17)
GEELONG 1.2 2.2 4.4 6.9 (45)
Goals: Prespakis, Barba
Best: Prespakis, Nanscawen, Gillard, Barba, Crook, Ashley-Cooper
Disposals: Nanscawen 26, Barba 18, Prespakis 17, Heil 13