The Casey Demons’ 2021 VFLW campaign has come to end, suffering a three-point loss to Essendon 5.2(32) to 5.5(35) in their Elimination Final on Saturday.
It was a game of halves at Casey Fields, with the Bombers owning the first and the Demons taking control in the second.
With the home and away season done and dusted, the rebel VFLW finals series became the focus of the Casey Demons - their maiden appearance. Essendon had finished on the same number of wins for the season (eight wins and six losses) and the two teams were only separated by percentage.
Both sides met back in early March where it was the Bombers by eight points. After the restart of the season, the Bombers had won their last two, defeating Williamstown and Darebin. For the Dees, they came in with a win and a loss, but against a tough Bulldogs outfit last week, it was a great tune-up that Casey needed for this final.
It was a hot footy early on in the first quarter. Essendon jumped out of the blocks and continued with moving the ball convincingly into their forward 50. However, it was Casey that was able to rebound from a play to move it down the ground, for Tahilia Fellows to score the first goal of the game.
The Bombers then continued to pepper the goals, failing to convert any majors. At quarter time, it was the Demons with a three-point lead. The defence working overtime, Gabby Colvin (six touches), Nicole Hales (five touches) and Brenna Tarrant (five touches) the leading possession-getters.
The second quarter was all Essendon. The Bombers scored four unanswered goals and the Demons just didn’t have any answers to their dominance.
Casey’s backline was under the pump once again, with Tarrant and Colvin continuing to work tirelessly, and Eliza West busy in and under. At half time the deficit was 23 points, and the Demons had some work to do.
After the half-time break, it was a different Casey side that emerged from the changerooms. The girls were fierce in their attack on the ball and kept pressuring the Bombers to make mistakes.
Alyssa Bannan grabbed an opportunity with a cheeky soccer kick off the ground in the goal square only to follow it up moments later with a nice set shot to bring the Demons back within 11 points. Emma Humphries had been battling hard all day and produced a nice shot on the run from 45 meters out, to make it a four-point game.
Eden Zanker had the chance to grab the lead late in the quarter but only managed a behind. The Demons were inspired and had flipped the game right on its head, as the Bombers had no answers for them.
Jackie Parry in the ruck was causing problems while West, Colvin and Sammie Johnson were doing the damage around the ground. At the last break, Casey was only down by three points and had the momentum.
In the last quarter, it was once again Casey doing all the attacking. Repeat inside 50 entries had the Bombers defence working hard. Shelley Heath snuck in a goal out the back of the pack to give the Demons a three-point lead.
Casey continued to pressure and one of the very few times the Bombers had it near their forward line, a 50-metre penalty was awarded, handing them a sure goal and regaining the lead.
With three minutes remaining, there was still time for the Demons to win back the lead. A few entries into forward 50 but the Demons just couldn’t capitalise and eventually, time got away from them, losing to Essendon by three points.
It was a great effort by the Demons, however, they just fell short at the final hurdle.
“We went in with the theme to win contests,” Casey Demons coach Peter Mercoulia told Melbourne Media post-game.
“We were appreciating it was our first final and the importance of physicality and driving the ball forward, and what that does in finals with increased pressure. Essendon showed that and credit to them, outperformed us in the first half.
“And obviously we just couldn’t get the job done in the last.”
At half time the game looked to be drifting towards a one-sided affair. With the chance to reset, the Demons came back out firing and put on four unanswered goals themselves in the third term.
“It was more just around going back to the basics,” Mercoulia said.
“The girls drove their legs more, took on tackles as well as making their own tackles stick, which I felt they did.
“We also had some personnel changes as well, which changed the look of the side and our game style, which made a big difference for us.”
Despite the resurgence after the main break, it just wasn’t meant to be for the Demons, falling just short of their first finals win.
It was a great effort this season from the Demons, captain Johnson explaining the bond between the girls and the drive to be better.
“I’ve seen a lot of individuals grow this season, not just in football but in all areas of life, and it’s been a pleasure to have been able to lead them this season,” she said post-game.
“It’s been great to be involved here at the club. We’ve got a solid group of girls here and have become much closer through the year.
“However, at the end of the day, we all just want to win more games of football.”
While it wasn’t the fairytale ending the Casey Demons were hoping for, the girls and the coaching staff did a tremendous job this season in making it to the finals.
Casey Demons 1.0 1.0 4.1 5.2.32
Essendon 0.3 4.5 4.5 5.5.35
Goals: Alyssa Bannan 2, Tahlia Fellows 1, Emma Humphries 1, Shelley Heath 1
Best: Jackie Parry, Eliza West, Casey Sherriff, Shree Fairchild, Sammie Johnson, Gabby Colvin