Decent match report. I forgot they were also debuting in finals last year.
A stellar defensive performance proved critical for Casey’s VFLW side as it held out the Pies to claim a stunning 35-point elimination final win.
The Demons’ defensive group was brilliant from the get-go in nullifying Collingwood’s forward targets and then repelling with speed and flair.
When Casey’s midfield and forward line then clicked into gear in a destructive second term, Casey kicked a winning score and held on in tough conditions to win 7.3 (45) to 1.4 (10).
Casey coach Peter Mercoulia said the club’s first women’s program finals win meant plenty for the group.
“It’s been building over five years for the club,” Mercoulia told Casey Media.
“To have our first finals win as the Casey Demons VFLW side is massive. The club has been building towards it.
“The players have worked hard and committed enough to deserve the win today.”
Defensive duo Maeve Chaplin (16 touches, seven tackles) and Rebecca Grant (16 disposals) were immense from the first bounce, intercept marking with ease and setting up plays with dynamic kicks that cut through Collingwood defenders.
They controlled the half back line and ensured Collingwood didn’t break through with a goal in the opening term, as a dour start full of finals intensity remained scoreless for most of the first quarter.
Mercoulia praised his defenders for remaining disciplined and strong when under pressure.
“I thought their ability to stay connected to the game was brilliant,” Mercoulia said.
“I thought their one-on-one work was really strong. They didn’t panic at any stage and it’s a real positive and credit to the group.”
It was eventually broken open with one stunning play, as a running Charlotte Blair, who never stopped being prominent in trying conditions, broke a line and kick started a superb handball chain.
Cara McCrossan then swooped on the footy and set up Zoe Mitchell for a game-breaking goal just before the quarter time siren.
Casey then capitalised off this momentum in the second term, slamming on three goals to zero as the midfield started dominating.
Lucy Wales (26 hit outs) began to get ascendancy in the ruck and brought the likes of Eliza West (14 touches, four clearances) and Mel Hogg (23 disposals, six clearances) into the game as the Demons recorded clearance after clearance in a scintillating 20 minutes of footy that had Mercoulia rapt.
“We started getting some nice connection in stoppages,” Mercoulia said. “We thought if we put Collingwood under enough pressure defensively that the cracks would appear.
“To our wings’ credit I thought they played aggressively and that created that perceived pressure that helped us to score goals that weren’t aesthetically pleasing but nonetheless vital goals.”
McCrossan started the trio of second term goals when she intercepted a Collingwood defender’s handball and slammed through a quick-thinking goal, before Monica Harasimiuk smartly soccered through a goal on the goal line.
When Katie Angelis got in front position and marked strongly before converting the set shot, Casey had raced out to a four-goal lead it would never relinquish.
The third term looked to be a goalless affair until Collingwood finally broke through for its first goal of the contest just before the final break.
But Casey still held an 18-point lead heading into the last quarter and held onto it despite some Collingwood desperation in the final minutes.
McCrossan continued her trend of breaking open the game, intercepting another loose ball and dashing away to kick her second running goal and ice the result.
Alison Dowler then completed a wonderful day at the office with her first goal late to confirm a spectacular finals win.
A 50-metre penalty and third goal to McCrossan started the celebrations.
Mercoulia praised his players for the maturity they showed in grinding out the do-or-die win.
“The reality is for us with this group we’re two years in so they’ll continue to learn and develop,” Mercoulia said. “They found ways to counter and beat a good side today.
“Our ability to keep turning up to contests and taking the ball forward allowed us to kick some goals and win the game.”
Following the exciting result, Casey will look to book a date in the VFLW Grand Final when it plays the undefeated Essendon in a Round 14 rematch.
CASEY 1.0 4.1 4.3 7.3 (45)
COLLINGWOOD 0.0 0.2 1.3 1.4 (10)
GOALS: McCrossan 3, Angelis, Harasimiuk, Mitchell, Dowler
DISPOSALS: Hogg 23, Chaplin, Grant 16, West 14, McCrossan, L. Wales, Woolcock 12
BEST: Hogg, Chaplin, Grant, West, McCrossan, L. Wales, Kirkwood