THE WESTERN Jets have won the program’s first ever premiership – boys or girls – with a stunning last-minute goal securing the 2022 NAB League Girls title by six points over the previously unbeaten Dandenong Stingrays, 7.5 (47) to 5.11 (41).
Played under lights on a balmy, clear night at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee, the Stingrays kicked the first two goals of the game through Jaide Anthony and then Amber Clarke, before the Jets steadied through goals to Caitlin Sargent and Kristie-Lee Weston Turner to lead by a point at quarter-time.
It was the Stingrays who stamped their authority on the match in the second quarter. Having won all 10 of their matches in season 2022 including their semi-final win over Geelong, Dandenong showed why it has been so dominant this season by kicking 3.5 while keeping the Jets scoreless to go into half-time with a commanding 22-point lead, 5.7 (37) to 2.3 (15). Clarke, one of the stars of the competition, had two goals and was behind many forward forays.
But the Jets, who lost their first match of the season before going on a nine-game winning streak to progress to their first NAB League Girls Grand Final, refused to lie down. In front an increasingly vocal crowd favouring the Jets, they clawed their way back into the contest with two goals to none in the third quarter, but still faced a 10-point deficit with a term to play.
The last quarter was tense from the start. The Jets surged forward early and Sargent kicked her second to narrow the margin to four points. Then, at the seven-minute mark a Tamara Henry goal put the Jets in front, 41-40, for the first time since early in the second quarter.
A rushed behind to the Stingrays at the 10-minute mark levelled the scores at 41-apiece and the scoreboard didn’t change for the next nine-and-a-half minutes as both sides threw everything at the contest in an enthralling battle.
In a thrilling final minute, a free kick to the Jets about 45 metres from goal saw a long ball sail to the goalsquare. The ball was knocked to the ground and a large pack formed, with Krystal Russell emerging with the Sherrin and from close range she put the Jets in front and sealed the premiership triumph. The siren sounded as the ball was back in the middle of the ground.
Despite being on the losing team, Clarke’s fine season continued by being awarded the best-on-ground medal with a game-high 28 possessions, two goals, four tackles and a huge nine inside 50s (next highest on the ground was four).
She was well supported by Olivia Robinson (21 disposals, four tackles) and Charlotte Blair (15 touches, four tackles). Emily Shepherd was dangerous and finished with 15 disposals and 1.4.
For the triumphant Jets, captain Charlotte Baskaran played a mighty game with 26 disposals and eight tackles, while Lou-Lou Field (21 touches, four tackles, nine rebound 50s), Laura Elliott (20 possessions, 12 rebound 50s) and Montana Ham (18 touches) were all vitally important.
For the Western Jets program, it was their first ever premiership. The Jets boys have contested two Grand Finals – in the first two seasons of the state under-18 competition in 1992 and ’93.
2022 NAB LEAGUE GIRLS GRAND FINAL
Friday 8 April 2022, 7:10pm
WESTERN JETS 2.3, 2.3, 4.5, 7.5 (47)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.2, 5.7, 5.9, 5.11 (41)
Goals – Jets: Sargent 2, Grieves, Weston-Turner, Henry, Skenderis, Russell
Goals – Stingrays: Clarke 2, Anthony 2, Shepherd
Best-on-Ground Medal: Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
Umpires: Field - Nathan Thorneycroft, Jackson Gillespie, Lachlan Coyne; Boundary - Kaitlin Barr, Harrison Bell; Goal - Bridget Saftenberger, Connor Petrie
Played at: Avalon Airport Oval, Werribee
History of NAB League Girls Grand Finals and Premiers:
2017: Calder Cannons def. Murray Bushrangers
2018: Geelong Falcons def. Northern Knights
2019: Northern Knights def. Calder Cannons
2020: No premiership awarded due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2021: Oakleigh Chargers def. Geelong Falcons
2022: Western Jets def. Dandenong Stingrays