Gunnedah Bulldogs AFL women’s Poochettes side are minor premiers for the 2023 North West Women’s AFL competition, following their 61-17 victory over the Inverell Saints women at the weekend.
It is their third minor premiership in as many seasons having consolidated top spot throughout the regular season.
Again on the weekend they demonstrated their ability to close out matches, with a last quarter blitz in consolidating top spot on the ladder.
Inverell matched the Poochettes in the early exchanges with either side unable to gain any flow through their ball movement, with stoppages a regular through both side’s attack on the footy and tackling pressure.
By quarter time the Poochettes led through majors to full forward Meg Foster and midfielder Katrina Rekunow and led by seven points at 14-7.
Scoreless in the second term, Inverell gained the ascendancy out of the middle, restricting the Poochettes’ renowned linking style of play.
By the main half time interval, the match was in the balance with the score at 15-apiece.
Although conceding a major for the quarter, the Poochettes backline held strong and the combination of fullback Abbey Ruttley, halfbacks Georgia Tibbs and the Ewington sisters – Laura and Kelly – repelled numerous waves of Inverell attack to keep the scoreboard in check by the main break.
Following the half time interval, the Poochettes began to display their run and carry out of defence which again was led by the Ewingtons and Tibbs.
Firstly, they turned the ball over in defence and that enabled them to link with midfielders Rekunow and Chloe Sumpter, who in return gave the forward line continual supply.
Beneficiary of the lead work up the ground were pockets Khobi Devine – playing her 50th match for the club – Apryl Bailey and full forward Foster who all nailed majors in the third term for a three-goal turnaround while keeping the Saints to two minor scores heading into the last change ahead by 16 points at 33-17.
From there, the floodgates opened for the Poochettes, with Devine and Bailey adding to their tally to kick two majors for the match, while Foster led the tally with three as the multiple goal scorers on the day.
At the finish, the Poochettes had dominated the last term to pile on four goals while keeping their opponent scoreless, running out convincing winners 61-17, in the process securing the minor premiership.
In the major semi-final – with a golden opportunity to secure a home grand final – the Poochettes will face the Tamworth Swans women in round one of the finals, set down to be played at Wolseley Oval this weekend.
In the men’s fixture, the Bulldogs matched a slick Saints outfit in the first term but were down at the first break 26-15, albeit having one less scoring opportunity on goal.
Midfielders Adam Curgenven, Braydyn Finlay and Ryan Smith were strong in the contested ball in the centre, but time and again their entries into the forward 50 were cut off by the Saints’ flooding defence.
From there, the Saints controlled the flow of the ball on turnover and quickly turned defence into attack.
Their precise kicking meant their forwards had consistent goal scoring set shots, as their forward line duly repaying the lead up work.
They piled on four goals in 10 minutes, but the Bulldogs did rebound and slotted a goal of their own as Finlay was rewarded for his constant attack on the ball at ground level.
That was the Bulldogs only score for the term though and by the main halftime break, the Bulldogs were down by five goals at 53-23.
Inverell put the match to bed in the third term, putting together some free flowing ball movement and adding another five majors for the quarter to the Bulldogs’ one, with the score at 86-30.
In the Bulldogs last quarter of the season, the side battled valiantly and again were led by Smith, Finlay and Curgenven in the midfield, to keep the Saints at bay in the last term.
As did Darcy Hill on a half back flank who continually rebounded out of defence, finding Smith and Curgenven.
James Mack began to pose a threat down forward, adding respectability to the scoreboard for the Bulldogs to kick three majors as the only multiple goal scorer for the Bulldogs.
However, the Saints’ second and third quarters were the nails in the coffin for the Bulldogs, which did match them in the last term but ultimately went down by 65 points at 109-44.