Conditions at the Whitten Oval fluctuated throughout the Vic Metro v Vic Country U/21 women’s match on Saturday, but the blue Metro girls took the trophy home, 9.13.67 to 6.10.46.
With the day considered to be the pinnacle for the young talent coming through the Victorian system, it showed, as the girls physicality continued to intensify each quarter.
Melanie McNamara (three goals) had Country singing in the first term, kicking two majors before Metro’s Sarah Perkins (four goals) evened the ledger. The run from Country was a notch above Metro in the first quarter, but a goal to Zoe Alston near quarter time had Metro sitting one point behind Country.
Country went a player down early, with Nicola Stephens heading to the bench with a suspected knee injury.
The skies were threatening to open at any moment, and neither side could breach the last line of defence for a goal. It turned into a good old-fashioned scrap in the second, before Country looked to find some slight breathing room from Grace Campbell.
Metro’s Stephanie Webb answered back quickly, and her impact in defence for the rest of the game was what allowed the blue V to keep Country at bay in the last quarter. Ellie Blackburn nailed one from the 50 metre arc as the siren sounded, two points separated the sides at half time, 36-34 to Country.
Factoring in the wind in the second half became a vital tool for the side using it in front of goal, Emily Smith getting Metro started for the third quarter after squandering an opportunity just minutes earlier.
McNamara slotted her last, but after that, it was all behinds to three quarter time. Country’s Darcy Vescio, to the delight of the crowd, climbed onto a pack on the grandstand wing to bring down a ripping mark.
It was the Sarah Perkins show in the last quarter, as she put all three of Metro’s final term goals on the board, while Country was stifled by Webb and Olivia Aing. Perkins had fantastic support from Blackburn, who unfortunately narrowly missed on three occasions, but was at every contest and passage of play in the second half. Crumbing beautifully, Emily Smith set up Perkins’ second last major.
The crowd found its voice in the final term as well, one free kick subject to controversy. However, Metro pounced, and with an 11 point margin created with less than 10 minutes to go, the game was over. Vescio and Madeleine Boyd gave it a major crack, but turnovers were ultimately Country’s undoing.
Kelsey Houghton and Lisa Halfpenny created plenty of targets for the Country girls to deliver into, and they pounced, but once again could not get it the extra metre to score.
Metro coach Shannon McFerran lauded the efforts of the girls on a day where they get to show off their skills.
“It (the day) brings a lot of young talent in both the under 21’s and the seniors, we have a good spread across all teams. It’s sort of a showcasing that there are no national championships, so it gives the girls an opportunity to represent the league and their clubs beyond a normal home and away game.”
With the wind and rain on and off all game, the game tactics constantly changed, but McFerran admits being on the sideline makes it difficult.
“I really think that the girls adapted well, with the ball slippery at the start. You just have to be ready for anything, unfortunately we don’t get to play on Etihad, with a nice roof on top.”
Media coverage of such competitions is continuing to increase, and it is a great thing for the game, from McFerran’s perspective.
“The more people start to cover women’s footy in the media, the better. Being able to have photos taken and people really interested in it means the message is getting out there that women are in sport.”
The day displayed just why the women’s competition is becoming so highly regarded. Vic Metro reigned supreme despite Vic Country’s early legs. From here, the only way for this competition and representation is up.
(This will be a cross-publish with AFL Victoria – originally written for them)