GREATER Western Sydney has ended its disappointing season on a positive note with an upset 31-point win over Geelong at UNSW Canberra Oval on Friday night.
The Cats had everything to play for with a win assuring them of a finals berth, but it was the struggling Giants who played with more intensity, with the home side's attack on the footy and the opposition superior from the opening bounce.
Geelong must now hope that Brisbane loses to Collingwood on Sunday to retain second place on the Conference B ladder and qualify for the finals, after the 6.5 (41) to 1.4 (10) loss.
The Giants were inspired by first-year star Alyce Parker who was outstanding through the midfield alongside Alicia Eva, and livewire forward Christina Bernardi, who kicked two goals.
Veteran Courtney Gum was also a big contributor for the Giants in what was her retirement match.
Despite the obvious rewards on offer for the Cats it was the home side that started with more intensity around the contest in the opening quarter, with Parker and Eva influential, and the Giants' ability to move the ball from defence into attack also hurt the Cats.
Bernardi kicked the opening goal of the game when she was on the end of a Gum assist, while Haneen Zreika provided a feelgood moment when she nailed her first AFLW goal minutes later from another quality passage of play that started deep in the Giants' backline.
Both teams wore black armbands and stood for a minute's silence before the first bounce to honour those killed in Friday's horrific attack on mosques in Christchurch, and Zreika, the first Muslim to play AFLW, was determined to play well despite a challenging build-up to the game.
Parker continued her dominance in the second term and racked up 10 possessions in the first half, and while the Giants couldn't capitalise inside 50, it mattered little.
Geelong failed to find the goals for the fourth consecutive quarter and trailed by 13 points at the main break.
The third term was another dour affair with both sides struggling with their efficiency going forward, but back to back goals from the goal square to Bernardi – after a soft free kick – and Yvonne Bonner, gave GWS a 25-point advantage.
Mia-Rae Clifford then answered quickly to finally break the Cats' goal scoring drought less than five minutes before three-quarter-time to give the visitors some hope, but despite seizing control of the game, they still trailed by 17 points with a quarter to play.
The Cats needed a fast start to have any chance of a comeback in the final term but as they had done all night, the Giants proved too good.
Cora Staunton booted her first to give GWS another handy break, and when Eva bobbed up with a brilliant left foot snap from deep in the left forward pocket, the contest was over.
GWS coach Alan McConnell addressed the tragic events of Christchurch pre-match and when Zreika kicked truly for the Giants' second goal, it was clear how highly her teammates thought of her when she was mobbed. After an incredibly sad day for the Muslim community, Zreika's performance was phenomenal.
It was over when...
Eva's influence on the match had been mainly through the midfield for most of the night, but her first goal and the last of the night capped a great win for the Giants. The Giants led by 24 points when the vice-captain received a slick handball from Bernardi and slotted it from near the boundary on her opposite foot with less than six minutes on the clock.
Parker came into her first AFLW season with plenty of hype and she delivered in a major way. The tough midfielder excelled in tight against the Cats when the game was up for grabs and should be favourite to win the Rising Star award.
The ladder now
The Cats had two hands on second spot when they ran onto the ground on Friday night, but walked off with maybe a couple of fingers clinging on. If the Lions beat the winless Pies on Saturday, Geelong's finals hopes are dashed.
Farewell to a star
Rumours were circulating pre-match that Giants midfielder Courtney Gum was set to retire, and she confirmed the talk after helping her side to a second win for the year. Last year's AFLW Players' MVP and All Australian only played for two seasons, but her impact on the League was enormous.
"After what happened in New Zealand the girls really got around me, they wore black arm bands which was really beautiful, and I'm so happy to be part of a club like this." - Giants midfielder Haneen Zreika
The Cats have a nervous wait to see if they make it through to the preliminary final in their inaugural season after a woeful performance, while the Giants head into the off-season on a high.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.1 2.3 4.3 6.5 (41)
GEELONG 0.1 0.2 1.4 1.4 (10)
Giants: Bernardi 2, Zreika, Bonner, Staunton, Eva
Giants: Parker, Eva, Gum, Bernardi, Hetherington, Zreika
Geelong: Crockett-Grills, Blakeway, Hickey, McMahon, McDonald
Giants: Nicola Barr (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Maddy Collier
Umpires: Toner, Gibson, McGinness
Estimated crowd: 4524 at UNSW Canberra Oval