GEELONG survived a late scare to knock reigning premier Melbourne out of finals in straight sets with a five-point win at Ikon Park on Sunday afternoon.
Down by 30 points at three-quarter time, the Demons threw absolutely everything at the Cats in the final term, including three goals from Eden Zanker, but ultimately it wasn't enough.
DEMONS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
The Cats ran out winners 7.8 (50) to 6.9 (45), with a late Lauren Pearce shot on goal fading late to dash the hopes of Melbourne fans.
Nina Morrison was the star of the show, gathering 29 disposals, eight tackles and 10 clearances, while moving around the contest with ease. It was, in part, thanks to the work of Georgie Prespakis (13 tackles, 19 disposals) who maintained great pressure on Melbourne's midfield.
Geelong came out of the blocks on a mission, knowing Melbourne was in a vulnerable position and where it could get the best of the home side. Disrupting the Demons' ability to chain together possession, forcing poor turnovers and flicking the ball into space of their own is how the Cats got the upper hand.
Despite an array of dangerous forward options for the Cats, it was star midfielder Amy McDonald who kicked the opening two goals of the game, signalling to the Melbourne midfield that they needed to be more accountable to their direct opponents if they were to win the game.
Coming off the half-back line, Becky Webster (19 disposals, 357m gained) was a key playmaker, often finding room to drive the ball into attack.
Small Demon Shelley Heath, known mostly for her shutdown roles through the midfield this year, was forced into playing as a key defender for large portions of the game, often giving up 20cm or more on her direct opposition.
Eliza West (28 disposals, eight clearances) made a welcome return, while Maddi Gay (seven intercepts, 18 disposals and a goal) was utilised right across the ground for the Demons.
This continues the most successful season in Geelong's AFLW history, reaching a second ever preliminary final, but the first under the current top eight finals system. The Cats will now face Brisbane on Saturday night.
Melbourne has become the second AFLW side to be bundled out of finals in straight sets, after Richmond was also knocked out last season. The Demons will be ruing the poor patch of form, losing three straight games for the first time in their history and losing the chance to become the first AFLW team to win back-to-back premierships.
Melbourne get busy moving the magnets
As the game wore on and the Cats were maintaining control, Melbourne coach Mick Stinear wasn't afraid to throw the magnets around. Tyla Hanks, who was having to work hard through a battle with Georgie Prespakis, moved out onto the wing. Tahlia Gillard was thrown into the ruck, Liv Purcell roamed the forward line. Eventually it was enough to unsettle Geelong's stronghold, as the home side slammed home the first three goals of the final quarter to put the game back in the balance.
For reigning premier Melbourne, it's end of the line, having been knocked out in straight sets. Geelong, meanwhile, will head to Brighton Homes Arena to face Brisbane on Saturday night for a chance at a maiden Grand Final appearance
MELBOURNE 0.2 1.4 1.7 6.9 (45)
GEELONG 2.4 4.5 6.7 7.8 (50)
Melbourne: Zanker 3, Gay, Hanks, A.Mackin
Geelong: A.McDonald 2, Parry, Darby, Crockett-Grills, Scott, Moloney
Melbourne: Hanks, West, Zanker, Pearce, Paxman, Gay
Geelong: Morrison, Webster, A.McDonald, M.McDonald, Parry, Darby
Crowd: 5,057 at Ikon Park