GREATER Western Sydney has snatched victory away from a winless St Kilda, with Katherine Smith converting a 50m penalty after the siren to win by two points at Blacktown International Sportspark on Wednesday evening.
The Saints were four points up with only 15 seconds on the clock, when a free kick and subsequent 50m penalty were paid, bringing Smith right up to the goal square, and the Saints right into a 6.5 (41) to 5.9 (39) loss.
It marked the first time an AFLW game has been decided by a goal after the siren.
With both teams coming off performances in which they failed to kick a goal and posted their lowest-ever score, the last-gasp result was a much-improved effort all around.
The spirited Saints continually lifted in a bid to break their duck and appeared set to do so when Caitlin Greiser and Tarni White booted majors in the final quarter.
The match was in the balance with the Giants leading 4.5 (29) to 3.7 (25) coming into the final term before veteran GWS forward Cora Staunton drilled her third goal to provide breathing room.
Solidifying her status as GWS' leading goal-scorer in 2022, Staunton also notched up eight goals for the third season running.
GIANTS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
After heavy losses to Adelaide and Melbourne, scoring only one goal across the games, a strong start was crucial for the Giants and Staunton provided it by taking advantage of a free kick from the top of the square.
Staunton added another major in a scrappy first half where GWS' Nicola Barr and Saints pair Nicola Xenos and Ashleigh Richards also kicked goals in a tit-for-tat contest.
The Giants were poised to skip clear when Louise Stephenson slotted the Sherrin through the middle of the posts to open the third quarter but Xenos returned serve to set up a thrilling finish.
What was that?
There was chaos on the final siren, as the Giants were awarded a 50m penalty for an incident that both coaches admitted to not seeing live. But the umpires saw it, and that’s all that matters. The ball had landed in the hands of the dangerous Cora Staunton when the whistle was blown but it wasn’t her free kick. Instead, an umpire had noticed an incident off the ball, and paid a free kick and subsequent 50m penalty against a St Kilda player. Confusion abounded as Staunton lined up on the mark, but the umpire ensured the ball was given to Katherine Smith. As Smith lined up on the mark, players and commentators alike scrambled to work out why the 50m penalty, let alone the free kick, was paid. Smith slotted the goal easily and the Giants rejoiced, while the Saints were left heartbroken.
It’s been a bleak season for the Saints, but a bright spot has been Nicola Xenos’ return to form after missing last year with an ACL injury. Xenos’ speed and skill has been on display all season, but the 20-year-old took it to another level against the Giants, booting two goals and keeping the Saints in the game.
“All losses are hard, and that one hurts a little bit. I haven’t seen it [the 50m incident], and I mean that honestly. I was watching the play and how many numbers we had behind the football, and I didn’t see off the ball. I saw two players go down, and clearly it went one particular way, I haven’t seen the incident, and it was a good kick by Smith to finish it off.” – St Kilda coach Nick Dal Santo
“We’ll take it, any day of the week we’ll take it. We’re in the winning business and we won. It probably wasn’t looking that way for a bit late in the game. We looked flat late. In the end, we executed under extreme pressure, that last passage of play was a series of people delivering in a pretty significant moment in the game, and then that shot on goal was another example of that. I saw one of our players go down off the ball [before the 50m penalty] but I don’t know [to make of it], I can’t tell you because I only saw the outcome, not the action.” – Greater Western Sydney coach Alan McConnell
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.0 3.2 4.5 6.5 (41)
ST KILDA 1.1 2.6 3.7 5.9 (39)
Greater Western Sydney: Staunton 3, Barr, Stephenson, Smith
St Kilda: Xenos 2, Richards, Greiser, White
Greater Western Sydney: Parker, Eva, Dallaway, Staunton, Barr
St Kilda: Shierlaw, Xenos, Lucas-Rodd, Phillips, Priest
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
St Kilda: Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
St Kilda: Nil
Crowd: TBC at Blacktown International Sportspark
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