Fremantle’s AFLW home final hopes at risk after heartbreaking one-point loss to North Melbourne
Fremantle’s AFLW finals fortunes rest in the hands of their opposition after the Dockers cost themselves a chance at a home preliminary final with an agonising one-point loss to North Melbourne.
Re-drafted midfielder Tiah Haynes had a chance to complete her redemption story and put the Dockers ahead in the dying stages of the match.
But her nervous set shot fell wide of the right post and instead, Fremantle will be left to rue their 4.6 (30) to 4.5 (29) loss at Arden Street.
Fremantle could still qualify for a home final if they finish third or fourth but will now await the result of Melbourne v Brisbane this afternoon.
Fremantle could still finish 5th and be forced to travel in week one of finals if Melbourne can overcome the Lions this afternoon.
Just two weeks ago, the Dockers sat atop of the AFLW ladder before back-to-back losses to Melbourne and North Melbourne cruelled their top-two hopes.
Although played on the east coast, there was a distinct WA flavour to the clash when North’s Emma King and Fremantle trio Kiara Bowers, Hayley Miller and Tiah Haynes all lined up at a centre bounce.
The quartet once plied their trade for the Coastal Titans in the WA Women’s Football League before forging paths to the national stage.
Bowers was the star of the four, brushing off a mid-week tribunal appeal to finish with 19 disposals, seven tackles, five clearances and a crucial goal in the third quarter.
But her supporting class wasn’t able to stifle the likes of Jasmine Garner (25 touches, four clearances and a goal) and Ashleigh Riddell (33 touches, nine clearances, seven inside 50s) as North Melbourne overcame the pressure of the must-win match to qualify for their second finals series.
Despite vowing to address it during the week, Fremantle’s cursed first quarter run continued.
For the seventh time in nine games this season, the Dockers went goalless in the first term and found themselves on the back foot within a minute of play when North’s Sophie Abbatangelo snapped truly.
Former AFLW league best and fairest Emma Kearney ran rampant, collecting 11 disposals before Bowers and unheralded rising star Bianca Webb restricted her to two in the second.
The two heavyweights traded barbs in the second quarter as Fremantle’s defence held strong, conceding only two goals from 21 inside 50s to trail by one point at the main break.
Emma O’Driscoll had a chance to put Fremantle in front early in the third quarter, as the defender played an unconventional lockdown role on North rebounder Jess Duffin.
Instead it was captain Kara Antonio who managed to put Fremantle ahead for the first time, converting a set shot from an uncontested mark.
Midfielder Steph Cain ran rampant, collecting five touches and three inside 50s for the quarter.
With five points the difference, young star Roxanne Roux had the chance to extend the margin minutes into the final quarter, dragging down a sensational pack mark only to drag her set shot wide.
With a finals spot on the line, North Melbourne rose to the occasion and threatened to break the dam of Fremantle’s sturdy defence.
Point by point, they chipped away at the margin before Janelle Cuthbertson gave away a free kick and Roo Daisy Bateman kicked the sealer from close range.
Star Dockers forward Gemma Houghton could come under MRO scrutiny for a late knee to Randall in a marking contest in the fourth quarter while Emma King could receive an infringement after instigating a three quarter time fight between the two sides.
North Melbourne: 1.0, 2.2, 3.3, 4.6 (30)
Fremantle: 0.1, 2.1, 4.2, 4.5 (29)
Goals – North Melbourne: D. Bannister, S Abbatangelo, D. Bateman, J. Garner
Fremantle: G. Houghton, G. O’Sullivan, K. Bowers, K. Antonio
Best – North Melbourne: A Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney, K.Gillespie-Jones, D.Bannister, E.Gavalas
Fremantle: K. Bowers, S. Cain, B. Webb, J. Cuthbertson, G. O’Sullivan, T. Haynes
Injuries – North Melbourne: T. Randall (ankle)
Umpires: N. McGinness, L. Porter, M. Rodger
Crowd: 1223 at Arden Street
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