SHE labelled them her 'dream team' and was easy to see why Bathurst Giants coach Liz Kennedy felt that way on Saturday as her side beat the Bathurst Lady Bushrangers 7-8-50 to 4-1-25 to finish the 2019 Central West AFL season as the undefeated women's premiers.
The Giants by no means had it all their own way at George Park 2, the Lady Bushrangers fought hard the entire contest and one stage booted four unanswered majors, but Kennedy's side rose to the challenge.
They ran hard, tackled harder, they worked hard for the contested footy, shepherded well off ball and took some nice grabs. More importantly, the Giants held the Lady Bushrangers scoreless in the second half.
It meant that unlike 12 months earlier when they suffered a heartbreaking seven-point loss on grand final day, this year the Giants got to belt out their victory song after the full-time siren.
"This is unreal, I can't believe this feeling, I'm blown away. Those girls, they are just amazing. They are an absolute dream team and the team I have around me in my coaching team - Mick Sloan is an absolute mastermind," Kennedy said.
"Carissa [Lane] kicked her first goal of the season, so that just amazing. Katie [Kennedy], she's been as sick as a dog ... but I'm so proud of her, she just leads from the front.
"I made a controversial decision bringing Teagan Germech into the team today. But Teagan, she is an absolute athlete. We need to get her into some elite program or something, she is just sensational."
With the breeze at their backs, it took the Giants a tick over 90 seconds to notch up their first inside 50 of the decider and while it resulted in a behind, the minor premiers stayed in control.
Danita Lane booted two majors in the space of three minutes and when Matilda Flood - who shone the ruck - pumped one through from near the top of the area the score sat at 3-3-21 to nil.
Laycee Covington won plenty of possessions for the Giants, while the tackling pressure from her team-mates such as Mariah Gilchrist impressed too.
But there was still plenty of fight in the Lady Bushrangers.
Skipper Amelia Wright worked to help her side win the centre clearances and two minutes from the first break they earned their first inside 50. A major soon followed, but that was only the start of the fight back.
The Lady Bushrangers booted two goals in as many minutes to start the second term to draw within three of the lead.
With Bernadette Flannery and Donalee Delahunty working well in the half forward line, the Lady Bushrangers kept the ball in an attacking position.
Lane kicked her third then another effort bounced favourably to see the Giants with a 5-3-34 to 4-1-25 lead at the long break.
The third quarter belonged to the Giants as they not only added another two majors to their tally, but held their rivals scoreless.
The off the ball work was a particular highlight from both teams - a bump from Lady Bushrangers fullback Elise Hull the pick - as the Bathurst rivals battled for every possession.
There was 23 points between the pair at the final change and while the Giants managed just two behinds in that last quarter, it was enough to seal them their maiden premiership in just their second season.
While there were hugs and tears of joy at full-time from Kennedy and her players, she admitted she had been a little nervous knowing the Lady Bushrangers would have the wind in their favour for the final term.
As it turned out, she need not have worried.
"I remember Mark [Kennedy, husband] saying you always run home with the wind, and then Katie said I won the toss and we're running with the wind in the first quarter. I thought 'Oh no, they'll come home with it'," the coach said.
"I would have liked to be a little bit more ahead in that first quarter, I was a bit nervous then, but hey, we held them goalless in the second half."
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For the Lady Bushrangers it was disappointment at full-time, but given the heart they showed not just in the grand final, but the season as a whole coach Brian Matheson was still proud.
"The Giants were the class team all year and they showed that again today," he said.
"The girls fought hard, we went down early because they had the breeze but in the second quarter when we had it we hit the front at one stage. But the Giants kicked a couple of late ones and that was really telling.
"That just gave them that bit of a break and they were up by four goals at three quarter time and it's a long way back from there.
"But the girls tried hard all day, they tried hard all year. I could not be prouder of the girls, we lost two out of our first three games and thought any chance of making the grand final was a long shot.
"So to be in it at half-time and even in that final quarter, you never know if a few things had gone our way."
- BATHURST GIANTS 7-8-50 (Danita Lane 4, Elise Gullifer 2, Carissa Lane) defeated BATHURST LADY BUSHRANGERS 4-1-25 (Gaby Wilson, Sonia Lang, Beth Durham, Tirah Jarvis)
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