The Southern Saints are the new VFLW ladder leader after an impressive 27-point victory over Hawthorn on Sunday.
Peta Searle’s side broke clear at the start of the last term to down the reigning premiers 7.9 (51) to 3.6 (24)
The win saw the Saints leapfrog Collingwood at the top of the ladder with just one round of the home-and-away season remaining.
The win was set-up largely by the work of Kelly O’Neill on a wing, Sam Johnson in the middle, and the talents of Kate McCarthy and Molly McDonald.
McDonald and McCarthy both kicked two goals, while Olivia Vesely was another standout with her work at the stoppages.
Starting against a strong wind, the Saints’ in-form midfield controlled the play early.
Clinical around stoppages, the Saints were clean and composed going forward, giving their versatile attack plenty of avenues to score.
A set shot from Kate McCarthy gave the Saints an ideal start but the Hawks answered soon after to level the scores prior to quarter time.
The wind now working with them, the second quarter saw the Saints grab control of the clash.
Some impressive intercept work from O’Neill allowed Kate Shierlaw to put away her first, before McDonald continued the onslaught.
One of the Saints’ pre-signings for AFLW, McDonald’s first was monster from outside 50 that carried the pack and bounced through.
Her second was even better.
Hemmed into the left forward pocket, she avoided two opponents before slotting a check-side that even Eddie Betts would be proud of.
Hawthorn briefly interrupted the procession with a strong third quarter, but wasted opportunities meant they only managed to record one goal despite controlling a large proportion of the play.
With the wind back on their side the Saints regained composure and dominated the early stages of the fourth term.
The opening three minutes saw McCarthy cap her extraordinary game with a classy snap in the pocket, followed soon after by Emma Mackie with a memorable kick off the ground.
Goal number three followed at the 17-and-a-half minute mark, when Tara Bohanna nabbed a spectacular contested mark then nailed a set shot blowing the margin out to 33 late in the final quarter.
Hawthorn managed to put one away in the dying minutes, but it was too little too late for the away side, leaving the Saints to claim a comfortable victory.
Coach Peta Searle commended her team on what was a hard-earned result.
“It was always going to be a tough game as they needed to win to make finals, and us to take first place so it was really positive to win and win comprehensively in the end,” she said.
“The pleasing bit for me was it was a game that required us to really think our way through situations and I think that we did that.”
“We had some strategy around how we were going to play against the wind and we were able to execute that well.”
Searle said that the win has increased her confidence heading into finals in two weeks time.
“A lot of the teams have improved immensely so you can’t really read into it too much, but I know that if we play our own game of footy we really give ourselves a chance,” she said.
The Saints finish the season against fourth placed Richmond next Saturday.