AFL North West grand final day will be held in Gunnedah for the 2023 season, following the minor premier Gunnedah Poochettes women’s side’s obliteration of the Tamworth Swans women in the major semi-final last weekend.
The Poochettes were ruthless for the entirety of the semi-final, compiling a 68-7 victory in front of a boisterous home crowd at Wolseley Oval.
It ensured Gunnedah will host the AFL North West grand final day in a fortnight’s time – impressively, it will be held by the Bulldogs club for the fourth time in six years.
Imperatively, it was the Poochettes barnstorming victory last weekend that enabled the opportunity for it to become the feature match on the day in which it put together a four quarter performance that lived up to its billing.
From the outset in the centre, first year Poochette and ruckwoman Annie Elphick was crucial to the Poochettes early ascendancy, continually supplying the midfield of Chloe Sumpter, Rani Grant and Meg Leaton with first use of the ball.
In turn, that gave the Poochettes dynamic forward line the opportunity in front of goal and it was half forward flank Chelsea Palmer who honoured the hard ball get from Leaton out of the centre.
Palmer ran into an open goal to kick the first major for the match.
Full forward Meg Foster turned a half chance into the Poochettes second major for the opening quarter, following a deep forward entry from Grant where the football was supplied to her on a platter by Elphick in the ruck who was stamping her authority on the match.
By quarter time, the Poochettes opened a 15 point lead as their backline pressed up the ground and were stringent in keeping the Swans scoreless and stuck inside their own half.
Continuing the momentum in the second term, Elphick kept the ball at the mercy of the Poochettes midfield as continual entries inside forward 50 saw captain and forward pocket Khobi Devine slot a set shot, further extending the margin to 21 points.
Although the Swans rallied, the backline stood firm and continually repelled any attacking raid the Swans attempted to garner.
Laura Ewington was essential to the Bulldogs drive off the back half and in combination with Katrina Rekunow, they intercepted the football in the air and at ground level at will to give the Poochettes continual drive out of its back half.
After an interception from Ewington, she laced out Grant through the centre of the ground who was able to turn and go to find half forward Apryl Bailey, as Bailey converted a snap across her shoulder for the Poochettes’ second major of the term.
Emphatically, by half time the Poochettes breezed to a 29 point lead and impressively, continued to keep the Swans scoreless into the main break with the scoreline 29-nil.
However, the Swans came out in the third quarter with an invigorated attack which began to wrestle some ascendency out of the centre and pepper the Poochettes backline.
Although conceding one major for the term, the Poochettes remained solid and were able to keep the Swans attack at bay, with fullback Abbey Ruttley in combination with Rekunow and Ewington time again proving pivotal in defence.
Rekunow found herself following an initial defensive effort, turning defence into attack following an intercept mark off half back.
She rewarded herself with a major, bobbing up inside forward 50 having started the attacking chain, kicking the Poochettes only major for the third term and ensuring they retained their commanding 29 point lead heading into the final three quarter change.
Last quarters have been the Poochettes’ strong suit in season 2023, and the opportunity to ram home its advantage and opportunity to book the first spot in the big dance did not deter it on semi-final day either. Its run and gun style of handball linkage from defence to attack is its trademark and again was on full display – from the back half it dominated the contest again through Rekunow, Ewington and Ruttley.
On turnover, it found willing and allied runners all over the ground, utterly dominating the last term in piling on five majors.
Emphatically, for the third quarter of the match, kept the Swans completely scoreless.
Sumpter, Bree Ward and Leaton all kicked goals for the quarter while Devine and Bailey added to their tally to slot two apiece as the only multiple scorers out of a total of eight Poochettes that hit the scoreboard on the day.
In running out convincing 61 point winners at 68-7, the Poochettes booked its spot in the big dance on their home patch, Wolseley Oval set down for August 26 in Gunnedah.To order photos from this page click here