Despite being without their injured inspirational captain Kayla Osborn for the second half of the season, perennial bridesmaids Across The Waves Eagles women finally made it to the altar.
They toughed out a well executed 6.2 (38) to 2.1 (13) victory over hosts Bay Power in the AFL Wide Bay Takalvans Senior Women’s Premiership grand final on a Keith Dunne Oval mud bath on Saturday night.
Power had gone closest to ending the youthful Eagles’ two-year unbeaten streak in the fixture rounds, leading at every change before being edged out 3.7 (25) to 3.1 (19) when they had previously met in the penultimate round three weeks earlier on 23rd April at the same venue.
Power then ended Hervey Bay Bombers’ four-year title reign with a shock 19-point semi-final victory over them, while the Eagles had returned to their brilliant best with a 47-point demolition of Gympie Cats in their semi.
Playing in their first grand final in front of their adoring home fans, Power also threw down the gauntlet to the Eagles to trail by just one point 1.2 to 1.1 at quarter-time.
But Waves gradually took control, kicking one goal in the second term and two more in the third quarter while their uncompromising defence stopped the Baysiders from adding to their account during this time.
The Eagles, who suffered their only loss of last season with a heart-breaking 3.4 (22) to 3.2 (20) defeat at the hands of the Bombers in the grand finale, had come too far to let this one slip away from them, and they put the icing on the cake with two more majors in the run home, while the Power picked up some consolation by bagging their second goal.
Waves had six individual goal kickers, Sarah Enever, Amber Whicker, Kasey Stone, the multi-talented all-rounder Ruby Rowlands, who was also chosen as goal-keeper in the School Sport Queensland Open Girls Football (Soccer) State Team last week, Sarah Korn, and Rachael Jose.
Victory was very sweet for the Eagles, finishing the season with a perfect 11 wins from as many matches, and their coach, long-serving club champion Jason Bethune, who captained the club to a famous victory in the 2020 Marquis Macadamias Senior Men’s Premiership grand final, said vice-captain Taylor Jardine “stood up as captain for the end of the season and the finals series” after Kayla’s devastating injury.
“Kayla unfortunately injured her knee in the game against Gympie (on 2nd April) which ruled her out for the rest of the season. It was super hard to lose Kayla as she has been our captain pretty much since the start of the women’s comp and she is the heart and soul of the team,” Jason said.
ATW Eagles women celebrate team win
Another player who has also been a rock of the team since the AFLW was inaugurated in 2018, Sarah Enever, was a popular winner of the Medal for Best on Ground.
“Sarah attacked everything all day and was unreal from start to finish, and I thought some of our other best players included Jasmine Fagg, who was thrown into the midfield for the second half and was instrumental in moving the ball forward,” Jason said.
“Also, Scout Strong continued her dominance in the ruck and was nothing short of sensational, and Taylor Jardine and Sarah Pizzey were so strong and physical in the middle.
“Hana Sherlock, Lana Morden, and Rachael Jose were brilliant in defence, rebounding the ball and giving us a number of opportunities to transition the ball from defence to attack, Kasey Stone was also outstanding on the wing, and Beth Gapes was a target up forward all day.
“But the whole team came together in tough conditions to play a fantastic standard of footy. I am so proud of the girls. They deserved this win. They are such a committed group, and I just couldn’t be happier for the team.”
Such was their dominance, the Eagles achieved a staggering percentage of 548.35 during the home and away season, with Bay Power second best with 239.80%.
Of their 25 players, just 12 were part of their side which endured the disappointment of 12 months earlier.
But there were just five survivors from the team which went down 4.5 (29) to 2.0 (12) as the Bombers completed an undefeated premiership in heavy rain four years ago with Kayla Osborn the Eagles’ best – Sarah Enever, Hana Sherlock, Ashleigh Allen, Kelly Blair, and Sarah-Jane Carter.
The Eagles were also beaten by the Bombers 3.6 (24) to 2.3 (15) in the 2019 decider, while Hervey Bay were also declared premiers as the League leaders when the 2020 competition was ended prematurely due to the Covid Pandemic, with Waves in second position.
ATW EAGLES 1.2, 2.2, 4.2, 6.2 (38) d BAY POWER 1.1, 1.1, 1.1, 2.1 (13).
Goals – Eagles: Kasey Stone, Taylor Jardine, Sarah Pizzey, Ruby Rowlands, Kelly Blair, Scout Strong; Power: Ieesha Williams, Kyla Hill.
Best – Eagles: Sarah Enever, Amber Whicker, Kasey Stone, Ruby Rowlands, Sarah Korn, Rachael Jose; Power: Kartika Sims, Abigail Grimsley, Ieesha Williams, Georgie Taylor, Amy Easton, Chaylee Howarth.
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