Perth Footy Live Scully’s Recap: Rd 9 A Grade Women’s Grand Final & Rd 10 Integrated Preliminary Final
There’s no greater frustration in life than when your day job gets in the way of your footy, and that’s exactly what happened to me. So, while the Perth Footy Live tent made its way to the A Grade Curtin Uni Wesley versus Warnbro Swans grand final match and the week after to the Integrated High Wycombe versus Willetton preliminary final match, I made my way to my laptop in a less than timely manner. Not to worry, here’s the recap finally. And hopefully it’s a good’un.
First up was the A Grade women’s grand final held at Wyong Reserve, the home of the Canning South Perth Tigers. Curtin Uni Wesley came into the match undefeated and circling back-to-back premierships while the Warnbro Swans fought their way to the grand final despite being newcomers to the division. Both teams were gaining momentum at the right time and it looked to be a case of the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. As it turned out, each team had a go at running and gunning for goals or grinding down the play with impassable defence, making for a nail biter of a game that might even have penetrated three layers of SNS.
The Swans came out flapping in the first quarter locking the ball in their half for considerable periods but failing to make the most of their opportunities. At the quarter break Macca commandeered the Swans coach, “Cindy” Crawford, who commended his players’ pressure but did note that they needed to tighten up on the loose ball out the back. Curtin Uni Wesley had different plans for the loose ball though, and in the second quarter they offered up a series of lectures to the Swannies about ruck clearances and reading the ball better out of stoppages.
At the half-time break, award-winning Coach of the Year, Martin Edwards, spoke to our award-winning Perth Footy Live roving reporter and told Macca that he didn’t want to think about the pressure of being the reigning premiers because he was already stressing out enough. Truer words were never spoken on a grand final day.
The Swans went into the third quarter 12 points behind, but Tara Avery brought the commentary team to their feet when she evened the score with two quick goals. With one point the difference going into the final quarter, the game had become a Queen Bey song. Who run the ball? Girls. Girls. Curtin Uni Wesley managed to run the ball just that bit better to secure the win by 9 points, and back-to-back premierships.
Not to toot the horn of my own gender too much, but it seems like Charles Dickens got it right in his dusty old tome A Tale of Two Teams when he said “it was the age of women’s wisdom, it was the age of female footy”. Wasn’t he ahead of his time…
As our listeners know, I’m about as articulate as a cabbage roll when it comes to thinking on my feet, but I have to thank the girls who were flipping burgers for the Canning South Perth Tigers who said that the next time I stumble through commentary I just need to shout out “‘Carn the tigers!” and carry on as if nothing has happened. Anyway, now that I’ve had the chance to closely re-visit the game, here’s what I noticed about the A Grade women’s grand final, and it has little to do with how hard they hit, which, in my opinion, goes without constantly saying it.
I noticed the elite ruck work of Jen Sadler and the way her fingers extended beyond their own limits to hit the leather of the Burley and direct it to her teammates time after time. I noticed Liusaidh Gilchrist blink into a pack and blink straight back out again with ball in hand and target in sight, running obsessively in a forward direction. I noticed Clair Edwards apply clever body work to protect the drop zone and make space for the ball to fall undisturbed into her hands. I noticed Katelyn Guy, Big Red, switch on whatever it is that comes after the after burners - the after, after burners – to outpace whoever took her on.
I noticed plenty about the Warnbro Swans too.
I noticed Narelle McIntyre use her experience to build confidence in her teammates and her body to shepherd and protect their run onto the ball. I noticed Tyneil Merrill pluck the Sherrin out of mid-air like a gecko catching an afternoon snack. I noticed Kerrilee Brown manoeuvre fluidly out of a pack, kick into top gear and stream down the field before the umpires had even had time to adjust their vision. I noticed Amy Verdouw take on the game like an A-ha song, and finally, I noticed Deborah Ward grow extra arms to simultaneously lock down her opponent while wrestling the ball from their hands. I can only hypothesis that it was Deb’s time spent in the 80s wrangling cassette tapes stuck in boomboxes that helped her to build that kind of upper body dexterity.
Unless you’re a blind mole rat, the future of women’s footy looks bright.
The future of Integrated footy also looks bright, and that’s the grade the team covered the next Saturday. While I was away herding cats, the Perth Footy Live tent headed to Scott Reserve to cover the Integrated preliminary final between High Wycombe and Willetton. Perth Football League prides itself on being a competition that is about community footy for all people and so the high value placed on inclusivity is reflected in the Integrated grade.
Integrated footy, supported by Life Without Barriers, provides a space for people with intellectual disabilities to take part in football for the love of the game, and for the social, emotional and personal growth fostered through team sports. I could go on and on about the benefits of Integrated footy, but I think the Vice President of High Wycombe put it best when he was interviewed first up. Dave Barnes simply said that the Integrated grade is “a bloody good idea”. Too true.
As for the preliminary match, both teams came in with finals pedigree. High Wycombe competed in the 2018 grand finals, and Willetton in the 2019 grand finals. In 2020, High Wycombe finished one spot higher on the ladder than Willetton, but whoever won that day would have the almighty task of playing against five-time premiership winners, Coolbinia, in the grand final. I’d liken Coolbinia’s premiership success to that of Hawthorn’s run from 2013 onwards, but I don’t think Docker Dave, Coolbinia’s three-time all-Australian player, would be too happy with that.
Willetton eventually ran away with the game by 9 points but not without an admirable effort from High Wycombe. It was up Willetton’s end for most of the first quarter until the Doggies put two late goals on the board to take the lead. Both teams came out in the second quarter peppering goals and there was only one point in it at half time. It looked like High Wycombe would pull away in the third quarter, but a couple of Doggies combined to bark back and only 9 points separated the teams going into the last. In the final quarter quite a few players hunted the big sticks and between the teams another six goals were scored before it all wrapped up.
While Integrated footy displays the best of sportsmanship and epitomises the spirit of the game, the players still take their footy very seriously, and that was evident in every mark taken, kick sent, and score won by the High Wycombe and Willetton boys. It was also evident in the forward scouting of the Coolbinia coach who took thorough notes on the players he’d need to shut down for the grand final. Unfortunately for Willetton, while victorious in the preliminary final, they ultimately went down to Coolbinia in the grand final by 25 points.
To sum up, in the timeless words of Macca, regardless of gender, grade or skill, when two players converge on the ball “the winner is footy”.
Now that I’ve caught up on these wonderful two rounds, look out for my recap of the B Grade grand final between Wembley and West Coast where I’ll mostly be plagiarising the expert commentary of Cam Robbins from the live feed.