The Giants played strongly in every quarter to see off a determined Magpies outfit in their last home game of the season and Sharni Layton’s last home game ever.
The Magpies had patches of brilliance but were outclassed, especially in the last part of each quarter and this is where the Giants were able to pile on the goals.
Off the first centre pass, the game was at a high intensity. Defensive pressure from Ash Brazill on Kim Green saw the ball spill over the line and the Magpies drew the first blood. The centre pass proved a struggle for the Giants at the start with the Magpies covering their players well and limiting the options on attack. The Magpies went out to an early lead much to the delight of the crowd.
The Giants found their feet soon enough with an intercept by Sam Poolman on the circle edge. Layton was struggling against the mobile work of Susan Pettitt and was called for contact on multiple occasions. Green seemed frustrated with the attention she was receiving from Brazill who won the battle with her in the first quarter and limited the options for the Giants in the attacking third.
The Magpies were finding brilliant harmony in attack with the drives by Madi Robinson into Caitlin Thwaites and Erin Bell a highlight. The Magpies shooters were rewarding them well with Erin Bell taking impressive long shots under intense pressure from Bulley. The Giants defenders were finding the feed into the Magpies circle difficult to disrupt.
The Magpies looked a decent chance of winning the quarter, but a held ball on the shot by Thwaites with three minutes to go saw the Giants spring into action and they scored six of the last seven goals of the quarter. They went into the first break up by two goals.
The Giants started the second quarter with much tighter defence and the turnovers came quickly with limited options for the Magpies in attack. Jamie-Lee Price was covering Robinson well and the Magpies were unable to drive forward off their first centre pass losing the ball once, winning it back and then losing it with too many side-to-side passes. Harten picked up an intercept in the middle third and the Giants extended their lead.
The battle between Brazill and Green was heating up and became a much more even contest than in the first quarter. Brazill was still decreasing Green’s influence with tight marking cutting her off as an option in attack, but Green was much more mobile in moving around Brazill. She found more space in attack and started feeding the shooters with more confidence.
The Magpies were dropping in intensity while the Giants lifted defensively. Where the Giants had been struggling on the feed before, they were streaming up the court easily and the Magpies were in chase mode.
A timeout was called with nine minutes to go in the quarter. This had the desired effect with an April Brandley tip converted. However, in what has been a pattern over the season, the Magpies lost the ball on the next centre pass with Price picking up the intercept.
An intercept by Layton lifted the crowd and the team and a beautiful long shot by Bell let the Magpies draw back within one goal. The Magpies got plenty of wins defensively but these were being lost in transition.
Serena Guthrie and Price were making life difficult for the Magpies on the circle edge and the flow in attack from the first quarter was nowhere to be seen. Harten silenced the crowd with a beautiful long shot from the baseline to send the Giants into halftime up by four goals.
To begin the third quarter the Magpies stepped up their defensive pressure on the second phase and were rewarded with a held ball in the midcourt. The attacking line for the Magpies still seemed to be struggling to move through the goal third with the defensive pressure from the Giants. Special mention should go to Brazill whose heroics kept the ball in play on a couple of occasions from some poorly placed passes in attack.
Silly turnovers were creeping in for both teams because of the physicality and intensity of the game. Passes to Green in the pocket were sailing over the sideline for the Giants and misplaced feeds for the Magpies meant these couldn’t be taken advantage of.
As Kristy Keppich-Birrell commented after the game, the key difference was the Giants tended to be better at converting the turnover ball when they got it, while the Magpies were much too frequently losing it in transition.
The Magpies threatened to draw level several times throughout the third quarter but were unable to convert at key times. The consistency of the Giants and the strength of their game in attack was unstoppable. Brandley had some periods of dominance over Harten throughout the quarter, but the Giants were adapting quickly and changing up the path into the circle.
A timeout with four minutes to go saw Ravaillion go to the bench and Shae Brown brought on at centre. Brown’s first touch of the ball was not a good one with a replay ball. The struggles continued for the Magpies who seemed unable to hold onto turnover ball. In addition, the Giants were easily finding their shooters while the Magpies struggled in their second phase. The Giants went into the final break up by nine goals.
A pickup by Brandley saw the Magpies string two goals together, an occurrence which was becoming rare for them late in the game. The Giants kept up their strong defensive showing all over the court. As the minutes ticked down, the intensity of the game was showing with several players ending up on the floor from late contesting.
Bell kept up her sublime shooting form to keep the Magpies in with a chance. Layton grabbed another intercept, but it couldn’t be converted down the other end. This was the story of the game and the Magpies season. There were patches of brilliance for the Magpies, but the ball was lost in transition far too often.
With five minutes to go, Brazill was forced off court with an injury to her eye when she clashed with Kim Green in the air. Ravaillion was brought on to replace her. Going into the last five minutes, things were increasingly messy for both teams.
Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald could be heard shouting “steady!” as the Giants gave away soft turnovers. Time was called by the Giants with three and a-half minutes to go and it worked for the Giants who timed it perfectly to win the quarter.
The Giants were dominant when it counted while the Magpies will rue a season where consistency for 60 minutes has been lacking. The Magpies were strong for ten minutes or more of each quarter but dropped off in the last five or so minutes. They next take on the Firebirds in Brisbane.
Celebrations for Sharni Layton broke out soon after the final whistle, who summed up her influence on the game with a spectacular mic drop at the end of her speech.
Giants 66 def Collingwood Magpies 56
(16-14, 34-30, 51-42, 66-56)
Player of the Match: Jo Harten (Giants)
Pettitt 30/32 94%
Harten 36/41 88%
Thwaites 37/41 90%
Bell 19/23 83%
Robinson (Magpies) 29
Green (Giants) 24
Guthrie (Giants) 19
Layton (Magpies) 3
Price (Giants) 3
Starting line ups
Changes: Q3: C Brown Q4: WD Ravaillion
What they said
Julie Fitzgerald, Giants coach
On getting the win and the points
“I think everyone knows how valuable they are at this stage of the season and Collingwood are a class side – I don’t care where they sit on the ladder – we knew we were really up against it and that was a hard fought match.”
Were you making sure you got that extra point in the last quarter?
“I was. It’s always nice to get the eight and it’s nice to know that we’ve got the consistency in us to get the eight. And particularly in that last 30 seconds they controlled it really well and played it really well. So I was really pleased to come away with it.”
On how the Giants built up the lead from quarter to quarter
“I think they had really good resilience, you know. I thought particularly the Collingwood defence end played a very good game today and the fact that we were able to stick with it and not get flustered by the pressure they put on us was a good thing.”
On the defence from the Magpies and how Giants negotiated it after the first quarter
“I think as the game went on, we got a bit smarter. I think initially we played into their hands a little bit but we got a bit smarter and we started to use the ball and change our direction and pace a little bit better towards the end.”
On the importance of next week’s game against the Fever
“It’s where we always wanted to be – that the fate of it all would be in our hands and we know what a mammoth task that is going to be. They’re such an impressive side and they’re so hard to stop and it’s so hard to get ball from them, but we’re certainly up for the challenge.”
Will there be less pressure knowing they’re a certainty for finals now?
“We won’t be fighting for our lives but in some ways we are. I mean, we still have the potential to come out of that game in third place and not first or second and we want to be in that top two so we know exactly what we’re fighting for.”
Kristy Keppich-Birrell, Magpies coach
On the game
“It’s really disappointing not to get a win. Our last home game as a whole group and for Sharns as well but we fought right to the end and did some good stuff out there. It’s patchy like we’ve seen all year, but when they’re great, geeze they’re amazing.“
On retiring as coach
“Yeah, it is a difficult decision to come to, but it was one that I needed to make. I’m obviously just trying to focus on the next big game and as the team does as well. You’ve got two games to go and it’s not about one person. It’s about our whole club.”
Where was the game lost?
“Their ability to put scoreboard pressure on so every time they got an intercept they were more than likely to get a score on the board, whereas we were probably only at about 30 or 40 per cent of a chance of making it through to goals so that’s where we paid the price.”
Who was the standout player for the Magpies?
“That’s a good question. I don’t really think I’ve got an answer. I think Madi is always the playmaker down there and there’s not many errors that come off her hands. She’s quite exceptional.”
Sharni’s last home game
“Yeah, definitely – got feet moving and on the run. It’s obviously a different play against someone like Pettitt rather than a tall, so it was great to see her find her body angle and run through the ball lines and get a couple of tips and leave a few bruises out there on the court I’m sure. from the Giants point of view.”
On being foundation coach and what she sees as her greatest achievement
“I think opening up the world of a male-dominated football club is something that I’m pretty proud of and the people there are amazing.
“But to open the doors of something that’s steeped in 125 years of tradition of doing it a particular way was a challenge, but I’m really proud that those doors are open for any female staff member or athlete to walk through them now.”
Report: Cara Gledhill
Photos: Aliesha Vicars
Loved your report, Cara, and really great photos, Aleisha. I loved the one with Erin Bell’s shot for goal – we nearly needed a ‘find the ball’ competition