GREATER Western Sydney's chances of making the NAB AFL Women's Grand Final are well and truly alive after a stunning upset 18-point win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday in Canberra.
The Bulldogs dominated the first term, but led by veteran midfielder Courtney Gum and Irish recruit Cora Staunton, the Giants were relentless for the next three quarters to earn their third win of the season.
The home side led by just one point at the final change but kicked the only three goals of the last quarter through experienced trio Gum, Alicia Eva and captain Amanda Farrugia to seal the result.
Gum finished the night with a game-high 23 possessions and 10 clearances, while Bulldog counterpart Emma Kearney had 22 disposals and eight tackles to be her side's best.
A goal inside the first 30 seconds of the match to Kirsten McLeod gave the Dogs a perfect start and they played the match on their terms for the entire quarter, but GWS turned the momentum after quarter-time.
Staunton and fellow key forward Jacinda Barclay gave the Giants a pair of moving targets, while star midfielders Gum and Eva capitalised on the dominance of Erin McKinnon in the ruck to seize control of the match, despite Kearney's ability to find the footy all over the ground.
Young guns Monique Conti and Nicola Barr engaged in a fascinating one on one battle for the entire night, with the Giants curbing Conti's influence after she threatened to have a big night with a bright start to the match.
The Dogs did everything they could to grab the lead back in the third term but the GWS defence held firm, and despite being held scoreless, did enough to maintain their lead, before pulling away in the final quarter for a memorable win.
Did you see that?
Irish recruit Cora Staunton continued her amazing transition to her new code with some brilliance in the second term. The key forward took a running mark on her chest before immediately playing on, sidestepping another Bulldog, and slotting a class snap to put GWS eight points up.
Bulldog Kirsten McLeod booted the opening goal of the game with a smart kick off the ground inside 30 seconds, but her second was even better. The small forward swooped on a loose ball off the pack inside 50, before snapping it across her body from the pocket to produce the goal of the match.
The Giants had no answer for Emma Kearney's dominance in the first half especially at stoppages, where she used all her experience to great effect. But the All Australian was shaded after the main break by Courtney Gum. The surprise packet of this AFLW season, Gum took some timely grabs in defence when the Dogs challenged in the third quarter, then inspired her team to finish the job in the final term.
It was over when …
GWS captain Amanda Farrugia floated forward to kick the sealer. It gave the Giants the only three goals of the final term and put them 19 points up. It was fitting reward for the skipper who was one of her side's best again.
The Giants celebrate on the siren after their three-goal win over the Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos
"We need to win next week and that’s all that really matters. I know that’s a boring answer but that’s how it is." - GWS coach Alan McConnell
The Giants' Grand Final chances could be on the line when they head back to Sydney to take on Brisbane next Friday night, while the Dogs will be in the same position when they host Melbourne at Whitten Oval on Saturday.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.2 4.4 4.4 7.4 (46)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.2 3.2 4.3 4.4 (28)
Greater Western Sydney: Hicks, Staunton, Dal Pos, Farrugia, Gum, Eva, Schmidt
Western Bulldogs: McLeod 2, Conti, Bruton
Greater Western Sydney: Gum, Eva, Staunton, Barr, Hetherington, Farrugia
Western Bulldogs: Kearney, Blackburn, Lamb, Conti, Lochland, Scott
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Crowd: 4,146 at UNSW Canberra Oval