We talk to the head coaches of the Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights ahead of this week’s inaugural TAC Cup Girls Grand Final.
Avalon Airport Oval will host the conclusion to the second TAC Cup Girls season, with this year’s extended nine-round home-and-away competition to feature the first U18 girls Grand Final, after the Calder Cannons won the flag in 2017 finishing on top of the ladder.
The Grand Final teams have suffered only one loss between them in 2018 –when the Knights were narrowly defeated by the Falcons two weeks ago in Round 8.
There will be a wealth of future top talent taking to the field on Saturday at 12.30pm, including NAB AFL Women’s Academy members such as Lucy McEvoy (captain and cousin of Hawthorn’s Ben McEvoy), Nina Morrison, Olivia Purcell, Eliza Shannon, Denby Taylor (all Geelong) and Gabby Newton (Northern) as well as dangerous Knights goalkickers Alyssa Bannan and Britney Gutknecht.
The Grand Final is free entry on Saturday, with the Western Region FL Werribee FC U18 girls match between Werribee Districts and Melbourne Uni the curtain raiser game at 10.30am.
The match will also be live video streamed via taccup.com.au Saturday.
GEELONG FALCONS vs NORTHERN KNIGHTS – Saturday 12.30pm @ Avalon Airport Oval
[taccup.com.au LIVE STREAM HERE]
THE SEASON SO FAR
Geelong Falcons: 1st position (9-0 record)
Round 1 d Sandringham by 20 points / Rd 2 d GWV by 39 pts / Rd 3 d Dandenong by 6 pts / Rd 4 d Oakleigh by 70 pts / Rd 5 d Murray by 9 pts / Rd 6 d Eastern by 31 pts / Rd 7 d Calder by 20 pts / Rd 8 d Northern by 8 pts / Rd 9 d Western by 55 pts
Northern Knights: 2nd position (8-1 record)
Round 1 d Dandenong by 35 points / Rd 2 d Calder by 48 pts / Rd 3 d Sandringham by 30 pts / Rd 4 d GWV by 16 pts / Rd 5 d Oakleigh by 51 pts / Rd 6 d Gippsland by 15 pts / Rd 7 d Bendigo by 71 pts / Rd 8 d by Geelong by 8 pts / Rd 9 d Murray by 30 pts
Assessment of the season so far:
Geelong Falcons head coach Jason Armistead: “It’s been really hard work; the girls have worked really hard from November. I thought we’d have a reasonably successful season with our core group from last year but I didn’t expect to go through undefeated. It hasn’t been as easy as it looks. We had a really tough game against the Dandenong Stingrays in Round 3 (a six-point win) and they hadn’t won a game at the time. I think that was the kind of game when you don’t play that well but you fight your way to a win, and it was one when all of a sudden the players start believing in each other.”
Northern Knights head coach Marcus Abney-Hastings: “Our season has been a slow build. Take away the wins and losses and the actual development of the girls has been fantastic. About 90 per cent of our list are 17- or 16-year-olds and we wanted to get as many games into them as we could. They train really hard and they’ve really built a good culture amongst themselves. Round 1 was a real highlight for us – we played the Dandenong Stingrays at Beaconsfield and we won by a few goals (35 points) which was fantastic, but to see things we’d been practising in the pre-season come to fruition was really good.”
Lessons learnt from Geelong’s Round 8 win against Northern:
JA: “It could’ve gone either way, that one. The Knights are a really talented group. Gabby Newton is a really nice player who can play anywhere and is a strong mark; she stood out in Round 8. They have some mid-sized forwards who are pretty handy as well, like Ellie McKenzie and Britney Gutknecht. They’re the highest-scoring team in the competition and their ability to score quickly has been a strength. We need to be mindful of stopping their momentum if they get on a roll.”
MAB: “We learnt that we can match it with them. We had our opportunities to win the game and a lot of our key stats were really good, but we just lost some key moments and they were probably a little bit cleaner around the ball. Geelong moves the ball really well and they have some really good players like Olivia Purcell in the middle, Sophie Walmsley on a wing and their captain Lucy McEvoy.”
Players to watch in the Grand Final:
JA: “Our strength all year has probably been our depth. Players like Olivia Purcell, Nina Morrison, Denby Taylor and Lucy McEvoy are our most talented, but I think our strength has probably been the next 10 or 12 players under them. We have a really even spread underneath those key players and when some of those girls have had off days, other girls have stepped up.”
MAB: “Our captain Maddy Brancatisano has had a really good year and really led from the front. Gabby Newton has been playing in a range of positions and is also a good leader on the field. Neve O’Connor will be really important in the ruck; she gives our midfielders first use of the ball. Marnie Jarvis has been really important with her run and carry on a wing and Britney Gutknecht has also been important for us going forward.”
Keys to victory in the Grand Final:
JA: “We just have to make the most of our opportunities when we have them. That’s what’s going to happen this weekend: Whoever makes the most of their opportunities is probably going to win, because both sides are pretty evenly matched. We’ve also been on about being consistent with our effort over the whole game; if we can do that – and with our depth of players – hopefully we can get over the line.”
MAB: “I think moving the ball (effectively) is one area we were lacking in a couple of weeks ago (against Geelong). We probably blazed into our forward 50 a bit and allowed the Falcons to roll off our players and mark the ball, so it’s about lowering our eyes and getting our forwards to move. We’re really just looking for a four-quarter effort; we haven’t played a full four quarters for a little while.”