Inside the Southern Saints’ elimination finals win
“At the end of the third when we had a bit of a lead and kicking with the wind in the last quarter, I think we all had that belief and wanted it so badly that it all just fell into place.”
Photo by Tony Vella
With it all to play for on Sunday afternoon at ETU stadium, Saints’ captain Tara Bohanna perfectly encapsulated the desire of the girls to bring it home, and keep their premiership hopes alive.
Having battled all year to make the final six, winning their last two games to guarantee the finals spot, the Saints are certainly no strangers to scrapping out a result and that was no different over the weekend.
It took until the third quarter, but when Jessica Matin was able to slot one for the Saints against the wind, the girls entered the three-quarter time huddle full of confidence, coming home with the breeze and a nine-point lead.
“When we got that goal against the wind, we thought here we go, we can do this,” Bohanna said.
“(The message) was to just keep going, don’t take your foot off the brake."
"Dale (Robinson, head VFLW coach) has been saying it all year — if we play our Saints footy and the way we have been with our pressure, things will go the way we want it to and that’s what happened.”
The following saw the Saints play one of their best quarters of the season, kicking three goals and a further seven wayward points, while also keeping Port Melbourne scoreless in what was described as “party” for the team.
They were eventual 34-point winners, despite Port Melbourne being one of the form teams of the competition all year along with Collingwood and Geelong.
Bohanna played a huge role in the win, with two goals to go with her 20 disposals, the co-captain stepping up when counted on.
“I won’t deny that it felt good to play a good game in a final, and I’m happy that we could bring a performance like that — I think you go in thinking you can do it but you’re not 100% sure,” she said.
“I’m just happy and in a real good space."
"We’re all really enjoying our football and it’s just pure happiness — that has really contributed to how we’re playing, and it's combining to be something that’s really special.”
The team sure is building something special.
Bohanna knew her forward line was in for a treat when she saw the intensity from the midfield early on.
“The intense pressure that was coming out of the midfield, we just had the momentum and kept going pressure, tackle, pressure, tackle,” she said.
“We’ve always been a team that gelled really well, and I think that that connection is peaking at the right time in terms of our midfielders to our forwards connection, and our backs are just stopping anything.
“We knew going into it that we’ve just been building for the last few weeks and were peaking at the right time.”
Southern Saints’ own VFLW coach Dale Robinson echoed the sentiments, saying she can see the rise in the team over the season. However, she’s in no way surprised by it.
“It’s been the culmination of just stepping up a little bit more each week over the last few weeks,” she said.
“They’ve developed off the back of the culture we put into the place four years ago, but it’s kind of gone to another level this year."
“We’ve never had an instance all year of girls going ‘I’m not coming to training tonight, I don’t feel like it.’ I think they recognise that it’s a pretty special group they’ve built this year, and they want to be able to keep playing together.”
The team will play Geelong this weekend, with a win allowing them to progress to a preliminary final.
And while the situation would overawe many who haven’t been in it before, the club is lucky enough to have renowned AFL operator Marcus Ashcroft at the Sandringham helm.
Ashcroft spoke to the girls post-match, imparting years of wisdom on the young team.
“(His message was) it’s about getting another week, some people put a lot of pressure on finals but at the end of the day it’s another game of football that you’ve got to go about and prepare for,” Robinson said.
With potentially three more games to go in the season, the Saints will hope their upward trend continues to blossom on the field.
Written by Seb Mottram - Sandringham Football Club Media