DYNAMIC forward Darcy Vescio created history as Carlton finished the NAB AFL Women's season by holding off a determined Greater Western Sydney second-half comeback to record a narrow one-point victory at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday.
Vescio became the first AFLW player to boot more than 14 goals in a single season and clinched her second goalkicking title in the process with 16 as the Blues ran out thrilling 4.8 (32) to 4.7 (31) winners in an entertaining contest in Sydney's west.
GIANTS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
While Vescio could manage only two majors on Sunday in an enthralling one-on-one battle with Giants stopper Pepa Randall, the veteran forward saved the day twice during the dying stages with telling marks on the last line of defence as the Giants staged an inspired comeback.
It looked like Vescio and Maddy Prespakis (27 disposals) were going to be the matchwinners when the Blues led by 13 points at half-time, but the Giants also wanted to finish the season on a high and fought hard during a spirited second half.
Irishwoman Cora Staunton played a lone hand for the Giants up forward during the opening half and could have easily booted more than her two-goal haul had she had kicking boots on, but it was Tait Mackrill (two goals), Alyce Parker (26 disposals) and Rebecca Beeson (26 touches) who were the sparks in the second half.
Rebecca Privitelli and Staunton had chances to win it for the Giants as the hosts dominated the final term, but Vescio and Carlton's experienced heads saved the day in the final stages to ensure the visitors held on.
The victory means Carlton finishes an up-and-down season in seventh place and one win outside of the finals, while the Giants were a further game adrift in ninth.
It's veteran Carlton forward Darcy Vescio, of course, who seems to be getting better with age based on her efforts this year. Vescio booted 16 goals for the campaign, becoming the first AFLW player to kick more than 14 majors in a season and the only two-time winner of the AFLW goalkicking award. But the 27-year-old is more than just a one-trick pony. Vescio showed her versatility and game awareness against the Giants by dropping back to defence during the closing stages to take a pair of match-saving marks in the defensive goalsquare.
Five minutes of madness
It was edge of the seats stuff during the closing stages of this gripping contest as the Giants threatened to produce the miracle comeback. The hosts had all the play and the ball was situated inside their 50m arc for much of the final quarter, but there was no way through for the gallant Giants. Evergreen veteran Cora Staunton and ball magnet Alyce Parker had a chance to win it late, while Rebecca Privitelli fluffed her lines with a gilt-edged opportunity.
Two stalwarts say goodbye
It was an emotional end for many of Carlton's players at the final siren as the Blues said farewell to a pair of club greats. Tears were flowing freely as Katie Loynes and Alison Downie were chaired off after the match to end a pair of excellent careers at the club. The duo have given their heart and soul to the Blues over the last five seasons and will be thrilled they got to go out as winners.
"That was a very stressful way to end a season. Winning is better than losing and a winning season is important for us," - Carlton coach Daniel Harford
"It was probably the best half of footy we have played in a lot of ways. I am pleased with the effort, I am pleased with the concentration...I am spewing because we lost," - GWS coach Alan McConnell
GWS GIANTS 1.0 2.1 3.5 4.7 (31)
CARLTON 1.1 3.8 4.8 4.8 (17)
GWS Giants: Staunton 2, Mackrill 2
Carlton: Vescio 2, Walker, Brazzale
GWS Giants: Parker, Beeson, Staunton, Eva, Mackrill
Carlton: Prespakis, Loynes, Vescio, Hosking, Harrington
GWS Giants: Nil
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