One-point thrillers seemed to be the order of the first 24 hours of the weekend, with Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team following in the steps of Collingwood the night before who edged out West Coast by a point. The Animalettes left Bennettswood Reserve for the last time in the 2019 season winners, producing four quarters worthy of everyone’s attention. The typical Melbourne weather took cues from the Animalettes themselves, getting better as the morning wore on. Intermittent rain and sunshine streamed down as Prahran Assumption struggled to combat the intensity and pressure that was constantly and consistently being applied to them at every turn. Mental and physical toughness were the key messages Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team ran out onto the ground with and they provided the exact visual representation of that. In arguably tough conditions, they put their heads down and gritted their teeth to get a win for the ages, despite the game being a low-scoring affair.
Put simply, the Animalettes showed that they wanted it more. For four quarters they were willing and able to put their bodies on the line for their teammates and their club, with tackling pressure relentless and constant, unwilling to give in to their opposition. For a game between fourth and seventh on the ladder and with Prahran rightly coming into the game as favourites particularly given the fact that the last time they faced each other, Prahran ran away with the win 66-0, it didn’t show as they were almost stunned with the way Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team came out of the gates. Head Coach Roy Fenton lauded the attack on the footy with Assistant Coach Brendan Ellwood believing it to be the best he’s seen from his team.
The first quarter was a slog, with much of the play in the Animalettes’ attacking half, making them unlucky to go into quarter time with only a point on the board. Still, for a team who aren’t well known for fast starts, they continued their form from their last outing against Swinburne University and controlled the game for a majority of the first half, with nobody scoring in the second quarter. The run and carry game that Prahran beat Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team with the first time was nowhere to be found with the tackling pressure and clean ball usage from the Animalettes ridding them of the opportunity.
The third quarter began much of the same way after a happy halftime break for Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team who went into the rooms already proud of their achievements. But in true Animalettes fashion to keep everyone at the pavilion and on the bench on their toes, the third quarter, while still incredibly impressive, showed glimpses of games past. Momentary lapses gave Prahran some control back, only for the Animalettes to wrangle the game into their own hands again, particularly in the dying minutes of the third. Prahran went into the last break 0.1.1 whilst their opponents had managed two more minor scores and were sitting at 0.3.3.
The situation got a bit dicey in the last quarter before the Animalettes clicked into another gear and had most of the possessions, dominating play and allowing them to hold onto the ball in their forward fifty, despite Prahran adding a minor score to their total. With 40 seconds to go, Sheridan Harris held on to a double-grab mark from an opposition’s clearing kick out of the Animalettes’ forward 50, and knowing she wouldn’t make the distance to goal, used as much time as she could before launching the ball to the top of the square, where a tight contest kept it in until the final siren sounded, the scoreboard 0.3.3 to 0.2.2.
Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team normally finish games smiling, regardless of the scoreboard, but the smiles they wore as they shook hands with their opponents were more blinding than the sun that had made another appearance. To get the reward for their second game in a row is something they’ll remember for a long time. A tight team hug out on the ground preceded the walk off the ground to the rooms, where a rousing rendition of Grand Old Flag could be heard.
Their fourth win of the season gifts the Animalettes a different kind of streak, sending them into the last two games of the year on a two-game winning streak. On-field, they look a settled, united front, with Ellwood enjoying how much his charges are beginning to adapt to each other’s strengths and trusting each other’s abilities. It was a show of complete ease and the gelling of the team that hasn’t been seen in months that got Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team over the line. Fenton was impressed with how well the shotgun handpass out the back worked, with his team hitting targets with nearly every handball. Both coaches are incredibly proud of the way their team goes about their footy and were absolutely rapt with the win.
It’s hard to single out players in a game that was wholly a team effort and where the connection between the entire team was on show. But particular efforts from Abbey Gray, who was a surprise inclusion for the blue and blue, and Maddy Hogan excelled with their abilities to lockdown opposition players in tackles and create stoppages. The defence line stood up strong like they have for most of the season, flourishing and getting the ball out with relative ease on the back of impeccable ball-collecting skills from vice-captain Sam Bridgland, who beat her direct opponent in the air and on the ground every time. Kayla Hetherington and Shannon Harris facilitated movement in the forward line that allowed for easy uncontested marks, and Bridget Monaghan’s work with Hogan in the ruck gave the girls at their feet every opportunity. Both Kate Fletcher and Tara Ingham made their returns to the team, and did so seamlessly, playing their roles to the best of their abilities like they hadn’t missed a few games, with Fletcher’s pressure on the ball-carrier back in full swing, and Ingham’s innate positional knowledge again allowing her to float where she liked.
Winning two games in a row this late into the season boosts the spirits for Emmaus St Leo’s women’s team and sets them up well for the last two games of 2019. This week, they hike over to W.R. Ruthven Reserve to take on the second-placed Preston Bullants. Both teams are coming off wins, with Preston aiming to cement a top two spot and the Animalettes looking to continue finishing off the season on a high. If they play the way they did against Prahran, they’re in with a huge chance for the upset of the year.