Premiership Poochettes – that’s the title garnered by the Gunnedah Bulldogs AFL women’s side, following their 2023 North West AFL women’s grand final victory over the Inverell Saints.
In a pulsating grand final at Wolseley Oval last Saturday, The Poochettes ground out a hard fought 13 point victory over their rivals, the Inverell Saints.
A staggering amount of behinds early in the match and on the back of that, missed opportunities threatened to derail the Poochettes’ premiership push, but a third quarter four goal blitz all but sealed victory at the last term change.
Inverell rallied late in the match and threatened a comeback in the last quarter, keeping the Poochettes scoreless whilst having several shots on goal.
However, the Poochettes’ stringent defence, lead by Katrina Rekunow – who was named best on ground in a player of the match performance –Georgia Tibbs, the Ewington sisters Kelly and Laura and staple of the side Abbey Ruttley at full back kept the Saints at bay.
Albeit slightly lucky as two set shots from the Saints hit the post in the last 10 minutes of the match, the Poochettes secured their second premiership in four seasons, in the process avenging their heartbreak of the 2022 season against the same opposition, where they were tragically defeated by a single point.
Inverell fired the first shot of the day, as a quick forward entry out of the centre saw them take a mark in the goal square and open the scoring for the match with a major.
Poochettes ruck duo of Annie Elphick and Alexa Walker quickly began to dominate the centre, feeding in and under midfielders Chloe Sumpter, Zoe Palmer and Meg Leaton to consistently have the Poochettes driving the ball inside their forward half.
The lead up work wasn’t to be converted though, and astonishingly they found themselves in front without kicking a major for the first half, registering seven behinds in the first term to lead 7-6 at the first break and then another two missed opportunities in the second term to lead by a single point at 9-8 by half time.
Rekunow was proving dominant off half back, ably supported by the Ewingtons and centre half back Tibbs, where time and again they turned the footy over and enabling the opportunity to rebound from defence to attack.
They worked tirelessly and on rebound began to peel off half back from congestion, stoppages and begin the drive out of the back half into half forward of the Poochettes.
Their ability to link with the midfield gave the forward line of full forward Meg Foster, pocket Khobi Devine and half forward flankers Apryl Bailey and Chelsea Palmer first look at the ball inside the attacking forward 50.
Bailey hit the post twice in the first half, whilst Devine and Palmer both had numerous opportunities spoiled by the Saints’ defence on the goal line all within the first half.
Halftime came at a pivotal point for the Poochettes – holding their slender one point lead, as has been the case all season, they have been a side that is dynamite in the second half of matches.
Usually in last quarters for season 2023, but on the biggest stage they used the premiership quarter of the third term to blast away from their Saints opponents.
Captain Devine kicked the first goal to get the Poochettes rolling, shortly after midfielder Zoe Palmer hit the scoreboard, roving the back of a pack inside forward 50 to slot her major from point blank range on the run out of the goal square.
Sister Chelsea joined the party with a major off a loose ball from repeat forward entries and young winger Bree Ward who also bobbed up inside forward 50 to slot a major on the run – in the process the Poochettes booted four goals inside 10 minutes to put the sword to the Saints.
By three quarter time, the Poochettes blew the grand final wide open and headed into the final change ahead by 23 points at 34-11.
Although a late flurry from Inverell gave their side a glimmer of hope, the Poochettes lockdown defenders again with the backbone of the Poochettes against the momentum of the Saints, as Laura Ewington and Rekunow took multiple intercept marks for the quarter.
The Poochettes team flooded their backline to help in a selfless last term and although leaking two majors in the final term, were able to hold steady in the remaining minutes to secure the Gunnedah Bulldogs club’s 10th premiership (eight male, two female) in a front of an adoring home crowd.To order photos from this page click here