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GWS deal cruel blow to Geelong's AFLW hopes

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 15/03/2019 Caden Helmers
a group of football players on a field: The heat is on as the Cats and Giants clash in Canberra. © Rohan Thomson The heat is on as the Cats and Giants clash in Canberra.

If a cat truly has nine lives, Geelong have just lost one. They may well burn through the other eight in a matter of 48 hours.

The Geelong Cats' AFLW finals hopes have been dealt a cruel blow after the GWS Giants pulled off a 31-point upset to avoid the wooden spoon at Manuka Oval on Friday night.

Courtney Gum enjoyed a dream farewell to football as she announced her retirement after steering the hosts to a 6.5 (41) to 1.4 (10) triumph in front of 4324 football fans in the capital.

Geelong's hopes of a finals appearance in their maiden campaign are now teetering precariously with the Brisbane Lions creeping up on the Cats with a game in hand.

Brisbane can leapfrog Geelong into second in conference B should they account for the winless Collingwood Magpies on Sunday.

"It's always good to be in control of your own destiny, so that is a disappointment," Geelong coach Paul Hood said.

"The first thing for us to address is our performances over the past couple of weeks, they haven't been what we wanted. But to get three wins over those first five games was a really great achievement. I look forward to the future and building on them.

"We'll stay together as a united group, our team and our club does that incredibly well, no matter who is out there. The Giants just outran us, they were really daring with their ball movement.

"If we get another game, we'll make a few changes to the line-up. We'll change the way we look to make us a little bit faster around the ball.

"It will be a great opportunity for us, and we welcome it if it comes. If not, we'll do those things via the VFLW program and in the off-season to come back bigger and better next year."

The Giants' campaign has run its course, with Alan McConnell's squad resigned to watching the top four do battle from afar. But it at least ended with a big, big sound from Canberra town.

Desperate to avoid the dishonour of a possible second wooden spoon finish in three seasons, GWS fired the first shot as Haneen Zreika and Christina Bernardi orchestrated a first quarter blitz.

a female football player on a field: Ellie Brush pressures Melissa Hickey of the Cats. © AAP Ellie Brush pressures Melissa Hickey of the Cats.

McConnell says the secret was simple: the Giants had 70 tackles, well up on their season average of 43, and on par with the number that almost took them to the grand final last year.

While they won't feature in the business end this time around, the work is far from over for the Giants.

"It's an interesting time for our footy club, probably more challenging than most in this competition with 23 girls who come from out of Sydney," McConnell said.

"There's decisions made around contracts, living arrangements, work arrangements, both here and where they come from. There's a fair bit to be done, in a competition where we have one-year contracts, it's a bit of a stretch, what goes on now for the next month for us."

Geelong and Brisbane have been left to sweat on a possible finals berth with Carlton set to advance from conference B, while the fate of conference A rests with a blockbuster in the west on Saturday.

North Melbourne and Fremantle are locked on 20 points apiece and a final round showdown will determine which side advances to its maiden AFLW finals campaign.

Regardless of which side cracks the final four, the one that misses out may well be asking plenty of questions about the future of the controversial conference system.

The top four teams in conference A could all finish with more points and a higher percentage than the two finals-bound outfits from conference B.

AT A GLANCE

GWS GIANTS 2.1 2.3 4.3 6.5 (41)GEELONG CATS 0.1 0.2 1.4 1.4 (10)

Goals: GWS: C Bernardi 2, H Zreika, Y Bonner, C Staunton, A Eva. Geelong: M Clifford

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