St Kilda’s loss to Fremantle in Round Four will burn for a long time to come. While the headlines after the match were in relation to a late brain fade in defence, it will be the fact the result should already have been beyond doubt before this that will hurt most. By not taking advantage of their dominance in the second and third quarters, they offered the undefeated Dockers an unwarranted opportunity to steal the game at the death.
After a goalless opening quarter, it would be Olivia Veseley’s first AFLW goal that broke the early stalemate. The 20-year-old has been one of the Saints best performers in the club’s inaugural AFLW campaign. This was no different against the Dockers with Veseley once again among the best on the day. Rosie Dillon was another to shine for the Saints. The 23-year-old Dillon was not only the teams leading possession getter but also its leading tackler too.
While the lead, earned by Veseley’s goal, would be lost again by half-time, it would not be through any lack of effort. In fact, through the middle stages of the game it was the Saints who looked most likely to break the game open with their run and dare. Their ability to slingshot the ball from defence to attack, combined with a domination of the centre clearances meant they consistently created greater scoring opportunities. Holding the Dockers scoreless through the third quarter, the Saints frittered away chances to turn their advantage into a deserved match-winning lead at the last break.
Sadly, without the lead their effort warranted the Saints would also enter the final term short a number of key contributors too. The AFLW knee injury epidemic reared its ugly head again with Tarni White and Kate McCarthy unable to complete the match as a result of incidents earlier in the match. It would prove to be a second ACL tear for White, after suffering the same injury in the AFLQW Grand Final in 2018. For McCarthy the news was better but it is unlikely she will recover from MCL injury in time to take further part in the 2020 AFLW season.
Even with the odds stacking up against them the Saints would not go quietly into the night. A Molly McDonald goal would restore the team’s seven-point lead but unfortunately for the young Saint it would be a later involvement that would be front of mind at the final siren. Having been unable to mark a Tilly Lucas Rodd kick before it gone out of bounds on the full, McDonald would make a fateful decision. Rather than handing the ball to the Fremantle player awarded the free kick, McDonald left the ball on the ground instead.
While it would be fair to note at this juncture that the officiating in the match was short of an acceptable level, the umpire had no choice in this instance but to award a 50-metre penalty. This ofcourse meant rather than at the point where the 50-metre arc met the boundary line, Kate Flood would take her shot for goal from the goal line. She would make no mistake and leveled the scores with less than two minutes to play. As unquestionably correct as the decision was, in a game where the average player struggles to kick 50-metres consistently, it is equally a penalty disproportionate to the crime. Perhaps the rule makers should consider whether a 15, 25 or 30 metre penalty is a more appropriate penalty for future breaches of a similar nature.
“The last 30 seconds when Gemma (Houghton) unfortunately missed that goal, we thought it was a draw.”Fremantle Midfielder Hailey Miller
Incredibly, those in attendance at the ground and the players themselves weren’t aware of the true score of the match as it entered its final stages. Somewhere along the way the scoreboard at the ground had missed a Fremantle behind and it displayed the wrong score for much of the final quarter. Sadly for the Saints, the rediscovered point would prove decisive.
AFLW 2020 ROUND FOUR
ST KILDA 0.1 1.1 2.4 3.5 (23)
FREMANTLE 0.2 1.3 1.3 3.6 (24)
St Kilda: Greiser, Vesely, McDonald
Fremantle: Stewart, Bowers, Flood
St Kilda: Vesely, Drennan, Watt, Dillon, Greiser, Lucas-Rodd
Fremantle: Miller, Bowers, Grieve, K.Antonio, Seth, E.Antonio
St Kilda: Tarni White (knee), Kate McCarthy (knee)
St Kilda: Nil