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There were emotional scenes at Alberton Oval as the siren sounded on AFLW great Erin Phillips’ last game, with Port Adelaide saluting her with a huge 58-point win over Greater Western Sydney on Saturday.
The crowd, which included Phillips’ father Greg and mother Julie (both in tears after the game), more family and friends, and Adelaide captain Chelsea Randall, erupted as the curtain finally came down for the three-time premiership player after eight seasons and 67 games.
Erin Phillips celebrates a goal during her final AFLW match.Credit: AFL Photos
“It was an awesome game and four quarters of Port Adelaide footy … It was awesome to finish up like that,” Phillips told Fox Footy after the 13.10 (88) to 4.6 (30) win over the Giants.
Earlier, she told the ABC that she wanted her legacy to include doing everything she could to grow the game.
Richelle Cranston of the Bulldogs is chaired off the ground by teammates Isabelle Pritchard and Ellie Blackburn after announcing her retirement.Credit: Getty
“Hopefully I can be remembered as someone who took their opportunities, loved the game and was willing to do whatever it took to ensure the next generation was in a better position,” she said.
The 38-year-old kicked a momentous goal from a set shot in the final quarter, and she was smothered by her jubilant teammates afterwards.
“I don’t think I’ve been as nervous to kick a goal in my life, to be honest,” she joked. “But nah, it was awesome.”
On Saturday, the competition also said goodbye to Western Bulldogs forward Richelle Cranston, who has battled stage five chronic kidney disease while playing this season.
Cranston, who was an inaugural AFLW player, will start kidney dialysis in January so had no option but to hang up the boots and focus on her treatment and health.
“[I’m feeling] sad. Emotions hit me when the siren went. It’s been a really emotional week, the girls have really gotten around me. But yeah, my health has sort of deteriorated, it’s been a really hard year,” Cranston told Fox Footy after the Bulldogs lost to North Melbourne 7.13 (55) to 1.3 (9).
“But I go out with on a happy note. I love these girls and I’ll be over at the pancake pocket [Pancake Parlour at Whitten Oval] watching them from now on and have a few bevs on the sideline.”
Roos’ lock in top-four spot; Dogs have issues to work through in off-season
North Melbourne secured third spot on the ladder and the double chance in finals after downing the Western Bulldogs by a whopping 46 points. They will head into finals with momentum but a glaring issue to work on: kicking accuracy.
Despite the comfortable win, they could have done a lot more damage after booting double the number of behinds to goals.
Star midfielder Ash Riddell, who had 36 touches and seven clearances, said she was excited to go up against Melbourne or Adelaide in the first weekend of finals depending on other results this round, as they were the only two sides who beat them this year.
North Melbourne have secured a top-four spot for finals.Credit: Getty
“I’m excited like I think the group’s coming together really nicely and where really well-prepared compared to previous years,” Riddell told Fox Footy. “So, I can’t wait I think it’s an exciting time for us.”
The game was one-way traffic against the Dogs with the game played almost entirely in the Roos’ attacking half. Riddell credited her side’s “team performance” after two losses to the Dees and Crows.
For the Western Bulldogs, it was another tough day out as they notched their ninth loss of the season. They won just one game this year, an eight-point victory last weekend over 17th-placed West Coast.
Britney Gutknecht kicked the Dogs’ only goal against the Kangaroos, which came early in the final term to avoid a record for the lowest AFLW score in the history of the competition. The Dogs have plenty to work on for next season as they look to regain a competitive edge, which was lost after a finals berth last year. Along with being in a rebuild, they were badly injury-hit this season and used 32 players, more than any other club.
Suns secure finals spot
Unsung hero Lucy Single has helped Gold Coast book their second AFLW finals appearance with a 14-point win over Essendon.
Losing midfield powerhouse Charlie Rowbottom to an ankle injury proved no obstacle in the Suns’ maiden clash with the Bombers, as they finished the regular season with a 6.3 (39) to 3.7 (25) victory to kick off pride round at Great Barrier Reef Arena on Friday.
Gold Coast could finish as high as third should results go their way, while Essendon are at genuine risk of slipping out of the top eight.
Coast with the most: Georgia Clayden of the Suns celebrates after kicking a goal.Credit: AFL Photos / Getty Images
While their men’s side have yet to make a finals appearance, this is the second time Gold Coast’s women have clinched a playoff spot, having also done so in the cancelled 2020 season.
Single filled the massive Rowbottom-size gap, collecting 25 disposals and six clearances in her prolific performance across the field while also playing a crucial tagging role on Maddy Prespakis.
The former rugby sevens player was well-supported by Claudia Whitford (25 possessions) and Alison Drennan (22 touches).
Prespakis was held to eight contested possessions, well below a season average of 14 per game, while Georgia Nanscawen proved a potent threat with 13 contested possessions and three score involvements.
The Bombers broke through first with a goal from Amber Clarke but young talent Darcie Davies (two goals) was able to respond after being gifted 50 metres from a protected area infringement by Mia Bush.
Daisy D’Arcy, Jacqueline Dupuy, Jamie Stanton and Davies attempted to break away from the low-scoring tug-of-war in the second with goals of their own.
But two goals from Amelia Radford and Georgia Gee kept the hosts close, while defender Ellyse Gamble (nine intercept possessions) proved a roadblock for the Suns’ attackers.
Single lit up the park with a clinical slice through the corridor, dodging two tackles to put the ball in the hands of Georgia Clayden, who capped the centre clearance with the only major of the third term.
With both sides goalless in the final quarter, the Suns were able to cruise home.
Should Essendon fail to progress to the finals, inaugural AFLW player and former Brisbane premiership performer Jess Wuetschner would have played her last AFLW game, having decided to hang up the boots earlier in the week.
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