The GWS Giants have been dealt an unfortunate slice of history, receiving the wooden spoon after the Western Bulldogs finished their season on a high.
A 32-point victory gave the daughters of the west something to cheer about after what has been a difficult season thanks to injuries and complacency.
The final match also offered another opportunity for Ellie Blackburn and Emma Kearney to show how good they are no matter their team’s form, as the two Melbourne Uni midfielders gathered 44 disposals between them.
After the opening 15 minutes, it became quite clear why these two teams sat on the bottom of the ladder, with turnovers and poor decision making turning the match into a slog.
The attack on the football and tackling pressure deserves plenty of praise, however, but both sides lacked the polish required to damage the opposition.
To nobody’s surprise, Jess Dal Pos and Emma Swanson continued to lead from the front for the Giants, while Emma Kearney found plenty of the footy despite the rhythm-less quarter.
Jacinda Barclay finally broke the deadlock, marking strongly in a contest and using her unusual ball drop to guide the footy through the big sticks.
Skipping out to an 11-point lead, Rebecca Beeson received a handball out of a pack and snapped truly around her body.
The Giants did their best to hand momentum to the Bulldogs, giving up two 50m penalties that gifted relatively elementary shots at goal to Angelica Gogos and Ellie Blackburn, but neither could take full advantage.
After five straight behinds, Kirsty Lamb finally registered the Bulldogs’ first goal, gathering at ground level and turning onto her left foot to snap home an impressive major.
Almost unbelievably given their poor play and wastefulness, the Bulldogs took the lead with less than 30 seconds remaining before half-time, as Gogos made up for her earlier error by winning a free kick for holding the ball and converting from straight in front.
Continuing their impressive finish to the first half, Jaimee Lambert kept the scoreboard ticking over with an impressive set shot snap from a tight angle.
The stalemate returned after Lambert’s goal though, with neither side able to overcome the congestion for long enough to impact the scoreboard.
Blackburn’s ability to carve a path made the difference nearing the end of the term, allowing a deep entry into the Bulldogs’ forward 50 and setting the table for Lamb to kick her second, a highlight reel dribbler from a tight angle.
Having been dropped for inaccurate kicking earlier in the season, Kirsten McLeod cashed in her opportunity to curl the footy around her body, get back on the goal kickers list and stretch her side’s lead out to four goals.
Party time was signalled when Hannah Scott got some reward for her defensive work in trying conditions, gathering outside the 50 and launching for a massive major.
Phoebe McWilliams showed her class up the other end, however, converting her seventh goal of 2017 in a team that has struggled to impact the scoreboard at times.
A last-second goal for Ellie Blackburn capped off a 25-disposal performance, and gave the Dogs some positives to build on come the pre-season.
Though the final siren brought relief for the Bulldogs after a tough season, escaping the wooden spoon won’t bring much comfort to the former premiership favourites who clearly under-performed regardless of injuries.
Inaccuracy has been the constant thorn in their side; even this victory should’ve been by a much larger margin.
The Giants can also claim that injuries hampered their season.
Despite losing marquee player Renee Forth before the season and a delayed start for Emma Swanson, GWS has surpassed expectations even if they receive the wooden spoon when all is said and done.
It was expected they would be non-competitive, but the Giants pushed Carlton and Fremantle all the way, and their scalp of Melbourne in the pouring wet is a real feather in their cap.
GWS: 0.1, 2.1, 2.2, 3.2 (20)
Western Bulldogs: 0.2, 2.5, 4.6, 7.10 (52)
GWS: Jacinda Barclay, Rebecca Beeson, Phoebe McWilliams
Western Bulldogs: Kirsty Lamb 2, Angelica Gogos, Jaimee Lambert, Kirsten McLeod, Hannah Scott, Ellie Blackburn
GWS: Emma Swanson (18), Jess Dal Pos (17), Nicola Barr/Rebecca Beeson/Britt Tully (12)
Western Bulldogs: Ellie Blackburn (25), Emma Kearney (19), Hannah Scott (13)
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