IN THE FINAL few minutes of the match, the Casey Demons have seen its lead evaporate as the Southern Saints piled on two goals in the final two minutes to run out 11-point winners at Casey Fields.
The result spoiled the inclusion of three key AFLW-listed players to the Casey team, including the inspirational Ainsle Kemp who returned from an ACL injury.
It was a frank assessment of the match by co-captain Nicole Garner.
“It shouldn’t come down to the last quarter and the last 10 minutes for us to win,” Garner said.
“We had our opportunities in the first and second quarters but couldn’t get the job done.”
DISPOSALS: Birch, Guerin 20, Jakobsson 19, Emonson, Lampard 17
A heartbreaking end to a thrilling contest
After battling back into the contest in the third quarter, the Demons took the ascendency through outstanding forward pressure in the final term.
But couldn’t turn the pressure into scoring a major, rather five behinds, leaving the door open for the visitors.
A slight lapse in defensive structures in the final minutes allowed the Saints to relieve the pressure, move down the field and kick the eventual sealer, breaking the heart of the big Casey home crowd watching on.
Libby Birch in the engine room
When the Demons needed a lift on Sunday, the newly recruited Libby Birch provided the spark.
The 21-year-old was inserted into the midfield to get her hands on the ball first and give her teammates a lift, and that is exactly what the savvy playmaker did.
Birch was instrumental in a second-half resurgence of the Demons, putting pressure on the Saints midfielders, while winning the ball and getting it to her teammates, it was a best on ground performance.
Couldn’t sustain the Casey game plan
It was a shift in the third quarter towards moving the ball by hand and keeping possession the Demons fought their way back into the contest.
The movement resulted in the ball quickly transitioning along the wing and towards the Casey forward 50, where the Casey forwards were challenged in the air and brought the ball to ground.
Once on the ground, the Casey small forwards of Kiana Oates, Heath and Lisa Davies were stellar in trapping the ball in the forward lines.
The constant pressure resulted in frustrated Saints defenders giving away a free kick to Birch who found Chantel Emonson for our lone goal of the match.
The shift in game style shows the maturity and adaptability of the squad, but the Demons couldn’t complete the shift to the Casey way of football.
“The team adapting to how the Saints were playing,” Garner said.
“So, we saw how they were playing and adapted and wanted to play our style of quick hands.
“Get on the boot and we are out… We tried to transition to our game style, but it just didn’t come off today.”
Ainsle Kemp makes a successful return
Kemp was returning from an ACL knee injury suffered during the 2018 AFLW season and looked to be quickly on the road back to her best.
The 22-year-old hard running winger showed her class forcing her Saints opponents into errors which led to intercept marks by the Demons defenders.
“We spoke it during the week it’s been two years since she has played a VFLW game,” Casey Demons head coach Damien Keeping told Melbourne Media.
“So, it was great for her to get through the game.
“She has been as eager as you can be to get out there and share the experience with her teammates.
“She is through the first game today… We put her in the midfield later in the game and she had an impact in there.
“She will be better for the run and can’t wait to see the next few weeks of what she can do for her team.”
A word from the coach
“What is really show showing is when the team tap into that confidence, they’ve got the trust in one another then they get the outcomes like that on the field,” Keeping told Melbourne Media.
“There have been some real lessons from the three rounds of the season, not just today.
“That when they trust each other and commit to each other, they get the outcomes we are looking for.”
Round 4 will be a result which will stew in the pit of the stomach of the Casey Demons, the team had their chances at securing the victory, but this go down as one that got away.
It should be the kind of match that drives a hard week on the training track in preparation for perhaps the Demons biggest of the season so far welcoming Collingwood to Casey Fields.
The Magpies boast their own AFLW star-studded line-up which will make for an entertaining match come Sunday at 11:30am, the first game of our Casey double-header against the old enemy.