GEELONG won an AFLW final for the first time in its history, outworking and outclassing Essendon to secure an 18-point elimination final win on Sunday afternoon.
The Cats started like a house on fire, booting three goals in the opening eight minutes of the match to set up the 7.9 (51) to 5.3 (33) victory at GMHBA Stadium.
CATS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
Essendon mounted an impressive fightback in the final term, reducing the 38-point three-quarter time margin, but ultimately fell short by 18 points.
Young Cat Georgie Prespakis was the star of the show, amassing 23 disposals and a goal throughout the contest. Her ability to extract the ball at the source and then burst out of stoppage with speed was a sight to behold.
The Bombers looked stunned early in what was the club's first AFLW final in just their second season, and Geelong capitalised on its early dominance.
The Cats were too strong across the ground, winning the disposal count (250-201), inside 50s (35-24) and contested possessions (103-97). They also had the ascendancy in the uncontested possession count (+40), with the Cats holding their shape well at the contest.
Bombers young gun Amber Clarke was stretchered off the ground with a suspected concussion in the opening term, but returned to the contest after passing a head injury assessment.
Essendon hit the scoreboard early in the second quarter after Sophie Alexander was walked to the goal square following a 50m penalty, but the Cats put any hint of a Bombers surge to bed, booting four of the next five goals.
Amy McDonald (21 disposals, 11 tackles) was outstanding for the Cats and Nina Morrison (20 disposals) provided strong support to Prespakis and McDonald around the ground.
Becky Webster was terrific in defence, constantly repelling any Geelong forays forward, and finished with 23 possessions.
Georgia Nanscawen (21 disposals, eight tackles) tried hard all day for the Bombers, whilst co-captain Bonnie Toogood (19 disposals, seven marks) also worked tirelessly.
The Prespakis Cup
The battle of the Prespakis sisters has become one of the most exciting battles on the AFLW calendar, and it's advantage Georgie after the Cats tipped the ledger 2-1 in their favour. Maddy kicked a superb goal on the run in the second quarter and added a second as a consolation prize in the fourth. Despite being one of the Bombers' best, Maddy's 20-disposal performance was overshadowed by her younger sister's brilliant outing. Georgie had a best-on-ground performance to propel her side into the semi-final and looms as the potential match-winner next weekend.
Irishwoman Aishling Moloney showed she is made for the big stage. Moloney stepped up in a big way after superstar forward Chloe Scheer was ruled out of the contest late in the first term. She booted two goals and had 18 disposals, but it was her aerial prowess that concerned the Bombers defenders the most. Moloney took eight marks and was lively inside the forward half. Playing in her first AFLW final in just her first season, the Tipperary product highlighted why the Cats were so excited when she signed as an Other Sport Rookie ahead of the 2023 season. The Cats will be sweating on the fitness of Scheer ahead of the semi-final but either way, expect Moloney to have a big say in who wins that contest.
Geelong will continue its quest for a premiership when they take on either Melbourne or North Melbourne in a semi-final next week, with the winner of that clash to advance to a preliminary final. For the Bombers, its season over, but there were plenty of positives to come out of a 6-4 season, where they secured a finals finish in just their second season in the competition.
GEELONG 3.4 7.7 7.9 7.9 (51)
ESSENDON 0.1 2.1 2.1 5.3 (33)
Geelong: A. Moloney 2, Parry, Scheer, Crockett-Grills, A. McDonald, G. Prespakis
Essendon: M. Prespakis 2, Alexander, Toogood, Gamble
Geelong: G. Prespakis, A. McDonald, A. Moloney, Webster, Morrison, Parry
Essendon: M. Prespakis, Nanscawen, Toogood, Alexander
Geelong: Scheer (shoulder)
Crowd: 6,678 at GMHBA Stadium