MELBOURNE has booked its spot in the NAB AFLW finals series with a nail-biting five-point victory over Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The Demons led by four goals at half-time and looked on their way to an easy victory, but had to withstand a spirited second-half comeback from the highly rated Dockers to register the 5.7 (37) to 4.8 (32) triumph.
Kate Hore kicked two goals for the Demons in an excellent display up forward, veteran Karen Paxman collected a game-high 24 disposals, while Lauren Pearce (21 touches and 16 hitouts) was dominant throughout in the ruck.
Roxy Roux booted two goals for the Dockers and was the spark the hosts needed to get them back in the contest, but she failed to receive much support as the Demons notched the upset victory and moved up to fifth in the process.
Hore gave the Demons the perfect start by booting the first two goals of the match and, when Eliza McNamara also kicked truly, the visitors led by 19 points at the first break.
Daisy Pearce got the Demons' fourth midway through to second term to increase their buffer, but Hayley Miller and Kiara Bowers started to win more of the ball in the midfield as the momentum started to change.
Gabby O'Sullivan hit the post early in the third, only to be rewarded for her persistence when she kicked truly moments later as the Dockers had their first of the afternoon.
A Brenna Tarrant turnover on the stroke of three-quarter time led to Roux's first as tempers flared on both sides and set-up the thrilling final term.
Gemma Houghton put the Dockers in front with a major midway through the last, but Maddison Gay hit back for the Dees shortly after following a lovely pass from Daisy Pearce to ensure the visitors held on.
Did you see that?
Daisy Pearce may not be as electrifying as she once was, but the 32-year-old can still make the footy talk when gifted with time and space to utilise her excellent skills. Pearce turned back the clock when she kicked a lovely snap in the second term when the Dees were on top and then helped set up Maddison Gay for the sealer in the final quarter to cap off yet another strong performance.
While gun midfielder Kiara Bowers is regarded as one of the favourites for the AFL Women's best and fairest this season, the Fremantle superstar was well held by the Demons on Sunday afternoon. The Demons used a few different players against Bowers during the clash and restricting her to just 12 disposals went a long way in deciding the match. To Bowers' credit, she fought hard and did manage to lay 11 tackles.
The ladder now
The Demons' victory means just one win separates top-placed Brisbane and fifth-placed Melbourne as we head into a thrilling final round of AFLW. While the Kangaroos currently occupy the final spot in the top six, there is still a chance they could be usurped on the final day of the regular season. If the Dockers can defeat the Kangaroos in Melbourne on Saturday, then Carlton will head into its final round clash against the Giants knowing they could still snatch sixth with a big victory.
"I missed a few the last few rounds and was a bit nervous and a bit shaky, but I just had to relax, breathe, go through my routine and put it through for the girls," Melbourne forward Maddison Gay on her goal in the final term.
"It was always going to be tough coming over here and beating Freo in this heat, but I am just really proud of the girls. "
The Dockers are back on the road to tackle on North Melbourne at Arden Street on Saturday afternoon, while the Demons finish the regular season at home against the Lions at Casey Fields on the same day.
FREMANTLE 0.1 0.5 2.7 4.8 (32)
MELBOURNE 3.2 4.5 4.7 5.7 (37)
Fremantle: Roux 2, O'Sullivan, Houghton
Melbourne: Hore 2, D.Pearce, McNamara, Gay
Fremantle: Roux, Miller, E.Antonio, O'Sullivan, Haynes
Melbourne: L.Pearce, Paxman, Scott, D.Pearce, Gay
Melbourne: Goldrick (hamstring)