Grand final excitement hits Gunnedah this week and weekend, as the Gunnedah Bulldogs Poochettes AFL women’s side prepare to tackle the Inverell Saints for the 2023 North West women’s AFL premiership.

The season finale will be played at home in Gunnedah. The Poochettes were the first side through to the big dance after their major semi final win against the Tamworth Swans women a fortnight ago.

That semi final was also at Gunnedah’s Wolseley Oval, as the Poochettes put together their best performance of the season in thumping the Swans women 68 to 7.

Following the major semi final victory that garnered the Poochettes hosting rights for grand final day, they’ll tackle the Inverell Saints at Wolseley Oval as the stage is set for the fourth fixture between the two sides this season.

In facing the reigning North West AFL women’s premiers, the Poochettes have a slight buffer over the Saints having beaten them in two of their three matches this season.

The Poochettes have only lost two fixtures this season, with one of those losses against the Saints at Inverell earlier in the season, as player turnover meant they were still finding their cohesion in the early stages of this year’s competition.

Since then though, they have slowly put together an impressive season, littered with fourth quarter comebacks and busting the game open in what they’re now known as fourth quarter specialists.

The Swans were the other side to defeat the Poochettes this season and in last weekend’s preliminary final against the Swans in Tamworth, the Saints put the Swans season to bed with a commanding 26 point victory.

Coach Jakob Vearing is urging his players to embrace the grand final, stating it’s an opportunity to express their talent on the biggest stage on the final day of competition.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase their talent on the biggest stage, especially in front of a home crowd too – they deserve the opportunity.

“We haven’t got to this position to go into our shell now, so we will take the challenge and game head on.

“Like we have done all year, the girls are excited,” Vearing enthused.

Key to the Poochettes this season has been their ability to control the centre through their midfield, continually winning the clearance count through dominant rotating ruckmen Alexa Walker and Annie Elphick supplying a midfield rotation of Rani Grant, Chloe Sumpter, Meg Leaton, Katrina Rekunow and captain Khobi Devine.

That combination of the aforementioned strike was pivotal to supplying the forwards’ first look at the ball inside attacking 50, but it’s been the Poochettes defence that has lead the way throughout season 2023.

Abbey Ruttley has been a rock at fullback and will undoubtedly take the key Saints forward in a lockdown role, whilst at ground level the likes of Rekunow and Laura Ewington are the key drivers and generate the majority of the Poochettes’ attack.

However, time and again coach Vearing has been blessed by contributions all around the park, most notably they have over three players in the top five goal scorers in the league.

Devine has played a forward pock role this season and sits on 18 majors, whilst full forward Meg Foster sits on 19 and poses as a dangerous threat for the grand final.

Apryl Bailey sits on top of the goal scoring tree though and is posing as a dangerous threat in the lead up to the match.

She has 24 majors for the year, with her goal sense and craft around the contest on a half forward line crucial to the Poochettes’ goal scoring capacity this season.

First ball up is 2.30pm as the women’s match will be the main game on the day in an initiative to promote women’s sport in the AFL industry.

In the men’s match, the undefeated Inverell Saints – in a duo rarely seen where both men and women will feature on grand final day – will tackle the Tamworth Swans men who just scraped over the line following an extra time thriller against the New England Nomads in the major semi last weekend.

That match is set down for 12pm to kick off proceedings at Wolseley Oval.

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