The Brisbane Lions have coughed up a 24-point lead in the final quarter to give up two premiership points against Carlton, the rampaging Blues piling on five goals in a row to milk a draw.
The Lions hardly made it out of second gear over the four quarters, an approach that came back to bite them in the last term as Carlton ended its season on a massive high, even if it wasn’t a victory.
Emily Bates and Megan Hunt were given the chance to have heavier loads through the midfield, and they did not disappoint with a combined 41 disposals.
Lauren Arnell stepped up to the plate for Carlton after a few quiet games, finding the football 16 times and kicking a goal.
The Lions made a bold move to not rest any of their stars despite having the Grand Final wrapped up, and it appeared as though the move might have been a mistake in the early going.
Carlton dominated possession of the game, though great defensive efforts from the Lions prevented the Blues getting full reward.
A breakthrough came from Lauren Arnell, who has been quiet in the last few weeks, when she converted a long-range set shot.
Their inability to further hit the scoreboard came back to bite the Blues, however, as one moment of burst running from Kate McCarthy set the table for Tayla Harris to respond with a major in the second term.
The Lions would’ve been in front at half-time if not for a spilled mark from Harris, but a tight first half ended with the scores locked at only one goal apiece.
Emily Bates’ 13 disposals in the first two quarters is a further sign she is building as the season goes on, a positive ahead of the big match against Adelaide next weekend.
Brianna Davey’s 10 disposals and four marks continued her great season, keeping her side in the contest as Brisbane turned the screw late in the second quarter.
Harris quickly made up for her dropped mark with a ripping hanger to start the second half, as did teammate Kate Lutkins with a terrific pack grab, but neither could impact the scoreboard.
Playing through a calf injury, Sabrina Frederick-Traub couldn’t take her opportunity from close range either, but the pressure eventually paid off.
A smother off the boot of Tilly Lucas-Rodd from Kaitlyn Ashmore allowed Frederick-Traub to handball to Jessica Wuetschner, whose inventive over-the-shoulder pass gave captain Emma Zielke a clear path into the open goal.
Alison Downie responded up the other end, receiving a free kick which the ruckwoman put through the big sticks against the tide.
Her major was essentially wiped off the board when the miraculous Kate McCarthy created and finished a goal for herself, chipping forward to Bates, backing up to get the handball receive and running in to kick yet another highlight goal.
The game looked to be wrapped up early in the final term, first when Frederick-Traub goaled, then by Brittany Gibson marking from a Carlton kickout and sending the footy back where it came from.
Up by 24 points with under 10 minutes remaining, the game was turned on its head with Darcy Vescio’s kick around the body that fell in the lap of Sarah Hosking.
Her goal began a tidal wave of pressure on the Lions defence as Katie Loynes gathered and threw the ball on her boot, and Rebecca Privitelli was awarded a 50m penalty to reduce the margin even further.
With just over 20 seconds remaining, Vescio was again the creator, passing off to Bianca Jakobsson in space to level the scores.
Time will tell what the result means for the Brisbane Lions before next week, but the draw is sure to buoy the Blues after their season crumbled in the back half.
Nicole Hildebrand’s injury is a further blow to the Lions who opted not to rest players in favour of playing for form before the Grand Final.
Carlton: 1.0, 1.0, 2.0, 6.1 (37)
Brisbane: 0.0, 1.0, 3.3, 5.7 (37)
Carlton: Lauren Arnell, Alison Downie, Sarah Hosking, Katie Loynes, Rebecca Privitelli
Brisbane: Tayla Harris, Emma Zielke, Kate McCarthy, Sabrina Frederick-Traub, Brittany Gibson
Carlton: Lauren Arnell (16), Brianna Davey (15), Shae Audley (12)
Brisbane: Emily Bates (22), Megan Hunt (19), Sabrina Frederick-Traub/Nikki Wallace/Emma Zielke (12)