Southern Saints bounce back with an inspiring performance
The Southern Saints were back to their brilliant best as they took home victory by 12-points in an inspired performance at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval on the weekend.
Photos by Tony Vella
The teams were greeted by warm weather and clear skies on what could only be described as a perfect morning for football.
The Saints were coming off back-to-back losses and — with finals on the horizon and some familiar faces on the opposition — it was all to play for.
The Saints came out red hot, as Claudia Whitfort gave them the fast start with a sublime piece of roving and classy finish.
The Saints midfielders started on top and won multiple centre clearances led by Hannah Stuart and co-captain Deanna Joliffe.
With intent the main focus of the coaches in recent weeks, Renee Saulitis set the tone early as a fantastic chase-down tackle was rewarded with a goal.
The rest of the Saints followed suit, and they kept their foot on the gas and were able to extend their lead as Tayla Kearns ran into goal just before quarter time to give them a 20-point lead.
It was a scrappy start to the second as the Hawks lifted the intensity and fought to get back in the game.
The Saints defensive unit was holding firm, but the Hawks eventually capitalised on their forward pressure as Chloe O’Malley was able to finesse one through from distance.
The tide began to turn in the middle, as the Hawks took over the clearances, and soon they had their second as a sharp chance was finished from the pocket by Emily Gilder.
The pressure was building on the Saints and — aided by a blustery wind — the Hawks and Gilder were able to go back-to-back as the margin was cut to just 3-points at the main break.
Coming out of the main break, the equation was simple for the Saints — a win would keep them in touch with the top four, a loss would put their finals chances in serious jeopardy.
With the game on the line, Co-Captain Joliffe showed an act of pure desperation and courage as she went back with the flight and took an unbelievable mark.
Joliffe knocked herself out in the process and was carried from the ground causing a halt in play, but her act was inspirational and worthy of the situation — Joliffe was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons but has since recovered.
With the thought of their leader in their minds, the Saints started to shine, and it was Whitfort who was leading the charge as she troubled the Hawks defenders with her pace.
The Saints were applying outstanding forward pressure with De Angelis and Saulitis both looking dangerous.
Eventually, it was Anna Harris who was able to capitalise, as she converted a kick off the ground in the goal square to give the Saints a 11-point lead.
The Saints came out with a purpose as fellow Co-Captain Tara Bohanna nailed one early to get them rolling in the last term.
The Saints were able to make the most of their dominance in the clearances as Bohanna got her second in front of a raucous home crowd.
At the other end of the ground, the two Burkes — Lucy and Alice — were doing an exceptional job to repel any Hawthorn attacks and maintain the advantage.
The Saints were able to maintain their lead as the clock wound down and came away with one of their best results for the season as they took the win by 12-points.
After a tough week personally, Coach, Dale Robinson was emotional in the rooms after the game as she lauded the performance of the team in a tough contest.
“I think with the work that they’ve been doing, it was great that they got the reward today and finally got some more goals on the board to get those four points,” she said.
“The girls were playing with a lot of passion supporting me for the way I support them.”
“They were believing in themselves — it was taking all the work we’ve done in the last few weeks and finishing it off.”
The Saints now move to 4-5 for the season and are entrenched in the finals race with a stronghold on the sixth position on the ladder as we come towards the closing third of the season.