Two kicks – that is how close the Bathurst Giants came to winning the Central West AFL premiership in their maiden season.
The gallant Giants fought hard until the final siren in Saturday’s grand final at George Park 2, but in the end it was the Dubbo Demons who emerged 3.5.23 – 2.4.16 victors.
The Liz Kennedy-coached Giants led going into the final term and while they were unable to close it out, she couldn’t fault the effort of her players.
“A couple of things didn’t go our way, but we gave it everything that we had. There was not one girl out there today who did not play her heart out and I’m just so proud of them all,” she said.
“I allowed myself to dream a little bit after that third quarter, but hey, as I said, everyone gave it their all.
“Every other team has got three years of experience on us, we’ve got 18 games. They are just an amazing group of young women.
“They are plucky and they fought hard against Dubbo, who are such a good side. They played their hearts out today, they just couldn’t have done any more.”
While a swirling breeze made it hard to hit targets, the tackling pressure was intense from the opening bounce, as was the battle in the centre of the paddock.
It took seven minutes for the first attempt at goal to come, but Tamara Thompson’s effort from the pocket for the Giants did not find the mark.
When the Demons had their first inside 50 five minutes later, Chelsea Gibbs came up with a brilliant defensive shepherd for the Giants.
While both teams had their chances at quarter-time it was nil-all.
The first scoring shot of the match came on 18 minutes when kick from Giants’ Rachel Hull bounced through for a behind.
However, Warner was starting to earn some quality possessions for the Demons in the centre and helped her side drive inside 50. She then grubbered through a major.
Two minutes out from the long break the lead changed hands again as Danita Lane found the mark with her second set shot of the decider. It made it 1.2.8 – 1.0.6 in the Giants’ favour.
In the third term the Demons dominated the inside 50s and hit the front thanks to a Warner behind.
But the Giants scrambled to keep themselves in the contest and on the stroke of three-quarter time, Sophie Dixon ran into an open goal and put her side back in front 2.2.14 to 1.4.10.
Ninety seconds into the final term after taking a diving mark, Alicia Clark was awarded a controversial goal – the Giants appealing that it hit the post – and the Demons were back in front.
Lauren Hazell then added another for Dubbo with just over two minutes left.
While the Giants’ defenders appealed they had touched the ball, the goal was awarded, sealing the Demons’ maiden premiership.
Warner was delighted that her side was able to rally in the final term and go one better than last season when the Demons finished as runners-up.
“I think we just had to give it everything we had, leave everything out on the field, that is what we had to do from the start and we definitely did that in the final quarter. Right from that first bounce,” she said.
“To kick that first goal [of the term] was unreal, it just gets everyone up and going with confidence.
“It’s just those little one percenters that i think won us the game, some of those big tackles, they get all the girls up and running again.
“It was just a really good team effort.”
Warner also paid tribute to the beaten Giants, who came so close to a fairy tale premiership in their maiden season.
“It’s unreal the amount of talent that they’ve got,” she said.
“A lot of them I don’t think have really played a lot before. To make it to the grand final, to beat the Bushrangers last weekend, it's just a real credit to them for all the effort they put in.
“It was just tough the whole time.”
DUBBO DEMONS 3.5.23 (Emily Warner, Alicia Clark, Lauren Hazell) def BATHURST GIANTS 2.4.16 (Danita Lane, Sophie Dixon)