THE BRISBANE Lions have ended the NAB AFL Women's competition undefeated after drawing with a late-surging Carlton at Ikon Park on Sunday.
The Lions looked to have the game in control, leading by 24 points in the fourth term, before four quick goals to the Blues saw the match end in a draw, 6.1 (37) to 5.7 (37).
Inaccuracy hampered the Lions, who kicked seven behinds to Carlton's one and peppered the goal in the second half without being unable to put the Blues away.
Despite having top spot and Grand Final hosting rights locked away, the Lions opted not to rest any players against the Blues. They did not emerge unscathed, with veteran Nicole Hildebrand limping off with a knee injury that ended her afternoon and defender Tahlia Randall copping a big hit.
The scores were level at a goal apiece at half-time, before the game broke open in the third term and nine goals were piled on in the second half.
Lions midfielder Emily Bates led the way for her side with 22 disposals and Megan Hunt was the next best with 19.
Lauren Arnell and Brianna Davey did the damage through the midfield for the Blues, combining for 31 disposals.
Carlton star Darcy Vescio, restricted to just the one disposal in the first three quarters, gathered seven last-quarter touches and was instrumental in the side's comeback.
Five minutes of madness
The match seemed over. The Lions were up by four goals, had full control and the Blues couldn't even get the ball inside 50 until Sarah Hosking kicked a goal against the flow of play halfway through the final term. Katie Loynes put her body on the line and kicked one moments later, before a free kick to Rebecca Privitelli gave the Blues another and suddenly they were within a kick. In a matter of minutes, the Lions were completely up against the wall after they looked like waltzing home in a warm-up for the Grand Final. Darcy Vescio gave it off to Bianca Jakobsson for the goal that levelled the scores with 23 seconds on the clock.
At the end of the day
The Lions came into this game knowing their ticket to the Grand Final was booked, but the Blues had something to prove. Carlton will finish fourth on the AFLW ladder, losing to the three sides above them by six points or fewer. Injuries plagued the Blues and may have been the difference between fourth and second, but they can take a lot of positives out of the inaugural season.
Work in progress
The key area the Blues need to assess is classy midfielders getting on top of them. Today, Emily Bates led the way with 22 disposals and the likes of Daisy Pearce, Emma Kearney, Karen Paxman, Kara Donnellan and Ebony Marinoff have gotten a hold of them week after week. They'll need to address that issue before next season, likely by adding more depth to their midfield.
The draw had no effect on the Lions' path to the Grand Final, given they were two games clear of the Crows before the final round. Regardless, they went into this game at full strength despite a few niggling injuries in a belief that winning form is not a thing to be tinkered with. Having earned the right to host the inaugural AFLW decider, the Lions wait for the AFL's decision.
"Nicole Hildebrand came off and had to ice her knee and we'll have to see what the medics say about her, but otherwise we got through unscathed for the Grand Final." – Brisbane Lions coach Craig Starcevich
"I'm very proud of our performance this season. I think no doubt we'll improve over the off-season from a skills perspective and I think it presents us with an opportunity to get better at what we do." – Carlton coach Damien Keeping
CARLTON 1.0 1.0 2.0 6.1 (37)
BRISBANE LIONS 0.0 1.0 3.3 5.7 (37)
Carlton: Arnell, Downie, Hosking, Loynes, Privitelli, Jakobsson
Brisbane Lions: Harris, Zielke, McCarthy, Frederick-Traub, Gibson
Carlton: Davey, Arnell, Loynes, Gillespie-Jones
Brisbane Lions: Bates, Kaslar, Harris, Hunt, Frederick-Traub
Brisbane Lions: Hildebrand (knee)
Umpires: Jankovskis, Garroway, Strybos
Official crowd: 5801 at Ikon Park