AFL Sydney Women defeat AFL Canberra
Sunday morning saw the first representative match of the season played when the AFL Sydney women took on AFL Canberra at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval in the ACT.
AFL Sydney had a new look coaching panel with Simon Berry and Stu Newman taking the reigns along with assistants Yucel Celenk and Abraham Caroca. The coaches kept a similar game plan to the successful one of 2014 and with a number of new faces into the team from last year, the team was confident heading into the first game of the series which also had NSW/ACT spots up for grabs. Additionally, with the Western Bulldogs womens coach Craig Starcevich in attendance, it provided an opportunity for the womens draft hopefuls to show their wares.
The lead up to game one had been good with the team structures put in place over the past months training sessions with strong numbers. Stalwart Jennifer Lew was appropriately named as captain of the side with Kathryn Hull Vice captain.
Conditions were perfect for good fast footy on Sunday however it was a dour opening half as both sides sized up their opposition. Sydney started the better and had a number of forward raids however were unable to capitalise managing the sole behind. Canberra weathered the early attack and then went forward and found key forward Karina Demant who kicked truly to get the opening goal of the game. Canberra star Heather Anderson then imposed herself on the game with plenty of the football and contested marks, including one hanger to drive the ball forward. Demant goaled again on the run and Canberra went into the quarter time huddle with a 13 point lead.
The second quarter again saw Sydney have the better of the play but were again unable to capitalise and only managed the 2 behinds for the quarter. The sides defence held strong though led by Lara Hilmi and Kristy De Pellegrini as Canberra were unable to hit the scoreboard at all. Up the ground, Jen Lew was dominating the centre racking up plenty of positions but the side was unable get the key first goal on the board and trailed Canberra 2.2 to 0.3 at halftime.
The halftime break was just what the Sydney girls required as a number of positional changes and the reinforcement of the game plan from the coaches was made. It had an immediate impact as Kristy De Pellegrini who had moved from her regular defensive position to the forward lined goaled within the opening 2 minutes to finally get Sydney on the board. This sparked both sides into action as the game noticeably lifted in intensity with some great play and tough footy being played led by small stars Steph Walker and Maddie Collier who were ferocious with their tackling. Lael Kassem also injected herself into the game with some electrifying run and carry which really sparked the side into action. One of Kassem’s runs then led to Kristy De Pellegrini kicking her second goal of the match and all of a sudden the Sydney girls had hit the lead. A couple of late points from Canberra saw the home side take a 2 point lead into the final break.
After dominating the 3rd quarter, Sydney hit the ground running in the last quarter and Lael Kassem was rewarded with a running goal in the opening minute of the last to give Sydney back the lead, one they wouldn’t surrender. With the shackles broken, the Sydney girls completely outran and outplayed their Canberra counterparts who started running out of legs and the floodgates opened. Brilliant youngest Tayla Stahl kicked a well deserved goal which was closely followed by goals to Nikki Perrett, Laura Holdsworth and Ashlee McClure and the game was secured. Captain Jen Lew then kicked a well deserved goal on the final siren to round a comprehensive victory for the Sydney-siders 8.5-53 to 2.6-18.
The Sydney side had the better of the play for the majority of the match and thoroughly deserved their victory. Captain Jennifer Lew was voted the players player from her side after a great performance which saw her win plenty of the football all game. Closely behind the skipper was Lael Kassem whose run and carry sparked the side in the third quarter while Tayla Stahl was next thanks to her hardness at the football.
Game 2 will be played over the June long weekend at BISP with AFL Sydney out to claim the State of Origin series.