GEELONG has secured its first win of the season in thrilling style, surviving a late surge from a brave West Coast to win by three points at GMHBA Stadium on Friday night.
The Cats franked their recent form to deliver new coach Daniel Lowther his first win, and triumph at their home ground for the first time since round one 2019, prevailing 4.3 (27) to 3.6 (24).
CATS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
They were made to work for everything by the still winless Eagles, who trailed for the entire match until pinching the lead with just 90 seconds to play when Aimee Schmidt converted her set shot.
The visitors' lead lasted only 22 seconds, however, with Geelong's Darcy Moloney the hero, picking the pocket of Eagle Tayla Bresland to kick what proved to be the match-winner.
Geelong then survived a late surge, with excellent midfielder Nina Morrison swooping on a dangerous ball deep in attack to put the result the bed.
Midfielder Amy McDonald was superb for Geelong with a team-high 24 disposals and seven tackles, while Morrison was important late and classy with her disposal, finishing with 15.
Rebecca Webster laid a game-high 11 tackles to go with 20 disposals and a crucial late clearance that set up the match-winning moment.
Prized draftee Georgie Prespakis finished with 15 and seven tackles, with her talent and strength in the contest on display throughout.
Phoebe McWiliams' two first-half goals, the second coming after an excellent mark running back with the flight, proved crucial after an armwrestle following the main break.
The Eagles, who have spent three weeks in a Melbourne hub and have been out of action for 14 days due to health and safety protocols, were impressive and pushed the Cats with their pressure around the contest.
Captain Emma Swanson was a force with a game-high 27 disposals, but the skipper was caught off the ground for a long period in the dying stages as the ball became stationed in the far pocket.
Having gone goalless for the for the second half, it looked unlikely the Cats would snare one with just under two minutes left in the game. But Moloney's ability to swoop on Tayla Bresland's errant handball and quickly kick the goal made the 19-year-old the hero. The moment was made possible by Webster's long clearance up the ground, causing chaos inside 50 that the Cats were able to capitalise on.
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The match featured prized draftees Prespakis and Eagle Charlie Thomas, who have each shown excellent early signs. It was Prespakis who provided the most telling involvement, however, late in the second quarter. Caught between three Eagles, she weaved a path around them all and them kicked cleverly to the advantage of McWilliams, who finished the job in style. The No.2 pick in last year's NAB AFLW Draft has been a junior star and it appears only a matter of time until she breaks out at the top level.
The Eagles' inspiration
West Coast regained captain Emma Swanson from suspension and looked a different team with the midfielder leading the way. A fierce competitor, Swanson was in everything early and the Eagles appeared to take their pressure to a level they haven't so far produced this season. It could have gone either way for the club, which is making a significant sacrifice to keep the season going. But after having several players out of action due to health and safety protocols, they gave an excellent account of themselves under Swanson's leadership.
"To get over the line late, and to find some resilience to hold our poise late in the game was good. It galvanised the group. To see them after the game, happy with the work they've put in and the style and method that we're playing … was a real positive." – Geelong coach Daniel Lowther
"We fought it out to the end, but I thought we started slow, which is disappointing. (But) I was really proud of the girls and what they've been through the last two weeks, to be right in the game come that last minute was a pretty good effort by them." – West Coast coach Michael Prior
The Eagles will have a pure recovery focus before their next match on Tuesday, given three days to now prepare for the rescheduled round four clash against St Kilda at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. Geelong has a nine-day break now before travelling to take on Gold Coast at Fankhauser Reserve in Queensland.
GEELONG 2.1 3.1 3.1 4.3 (27)
WEST COAST 0.0 1.3 2.5 3.6 (24)
Geelong: McWilliams 2, Webster, Moloney
West Coast: Bowen, N Kelly, Schmidt
Geelong: McDonald, Webster, Morrison, Prespakis, McWilliams, Moloney
West Coast: Swanson, Lewis, Bowen, N Kelly, Hooker
West Coast: McCarthy (wrist)
Crowd: 1938 at GMHBA Stadium
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