The season has come to an end for the Sandringham Dragons’ girls squad, going down in their final match for season 2021 on Sunday.
In what was an entertaining game at the Wangaratta Showgrounds, the Murray Bushrangers eventually proved too strong, running-out 32-point winners, 9.11 65 to Sandy’s 5.3 33.
Despite dominating the territory battle for parts of the first quarter, it was Murray who took a 17-point lead into the first break.
Ebony Angelopoulos was creative in the forward half as a leading target, whilst Bridie Hipwell and Natasha Morris looked to create offense coming out of the defensive half.
The second quarter started positively for the Dragons with Lucy Mitchell kicking their first for the day. After winning a freekick for incorrect disposal against her opponent, she calmly slotted the set-shot from 20 metres out.
Tilly Mottram added another late in the quarter with a nice finish on the run, but the second term ultimately belonged to Murray, outscoring the Dragons by three-goals-to-two to take a 27-point lead into the long break.
The third quarter was another see-sawing affair, with the sides trading goals upon the restart. Angelopoulos started to exert her authority on the contest, kicking two goals in almost identical fashion, winning the ball at the contest and kicking to an open goalsquare, allowing the ball to bounce through.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, they were outscored in the quarter again, and trailed by 33 at three-quarter time.
Sandy needed a hot start to the final term and they got it through Angelopoulos’ third.
She was cruelly denied a fourth after a brilliant solo effort, when a freekick was paid against her teammate for an illegal shepherd on the goal-line.
The Dragons did well to hold the Bushrangers goalless for the majority of the quarter, until they broke the drought last minute of the game, pushing the final margin to 32 points.
Speaking after the game, Senior coach Jackson Kornberg was full of praise for his defensive unit’s ability to withstand the heat.
“I thought our defenders down there were super,” Kornberg said. “They were under siege particularly in the second quarter, the ball was inside 50 a heap and whilst they might have only scored two goals in a row they kicked a lot of points, so the ball was down there a fair bit.”
“We had to work for our goals, we had to work hard for them with our offense inside 50 and then we speak to the girls the entire year that our offense comes off the back of our really strong defense and that’s been a focus of ours.”
Despite breaking even in the midfield battle, once again it was conversion inside 50 that was another difficulty for the girls today, something that has plagued them all year.
Even though today’s result was their second-highest team score for the season, Kornberg said that converting forward 50 entries to scores is something that they’ll look to improve coming into next season.
“I think the ball was down there enough for us to have enough looks, but we just didn’t capitalize every time it was down there,” he said.
“I think the challenge that we’ve continually faced this year that we’ll learn from going into next season with the group and some similar and different players is going to be that consistency of effort and how we can package-up those moments and patches that we get through the quarter into complete quarters and games.
“I think that’s the main takeaway from today and the majority of the season.”
Speaking on individuals, it was a pair of midfielders in Hipwell and J’Noemi Anderson that Kornberg was drawn to for praise
“I thought bridie Hipwell was probably our best player today, certainly around and inside the contest.
Just her ability to win the ball and she’s come off the back of a nationals campaign and I was really happy with her.
“Someone like J’noami Anderson aswell, she came into or program relatively late... She’s a border at Melbourne girls’ grammar and she’s from Darwin, so it’s really exciting to have J’Noemi in.
“Her pressure and intensity around the contest and her willingness to hunt the player and to defend them was really exciting as a 17-year-old.”
With the season coming to a close, the girls will represent their local clubs, their school or play VFLW in the lead-up to the AFLW Draft later in the year.