By Murray Silby
NT Thunder has done its hopes of securing a double chance in this year’s VFL W finals no harm at all by easily defeating Williamstown by 45 points in Round 13, 11.5 (71) to 4.2 (26).
The scenario before the match was a Thunder win and a loss by third-placed Hawthorn to fifth-placed Darebin would guarantee Thunder a finals berth.
Hawthorn’s loss to the Falcons has kept the race for the top four alive, but the flip side is that Thunder’s hopes for a double chance by finishing first or second were improved by that result.
Thunder started against Williamstown at speed, kicking three unanswered goals within the first 10 minutes to get the match underway.
Machaelia Roberts got it started inside two minutes with Anne Hatchard kicking the first of her four goals for the day after five minutes.
Emma Swanson then popped up with Thunder’s third for the term at the nine-minute mark.
Sharnie Whiting kicked the Seagulls’ first on 14 minutes to reduce the quarter-time lead to 12 points.
That margin was reduced to a single straight kick after two minutes of the second quarter when Jessica Dufflin goaled.
With the teams going goal-for-goal and some fierce tackling giving the game some spice, Hatchard kicked her second before Sarah Chapman followed for Williamstown and Jordann Hickey kicked truly to close out the half and secure a 14-point half-time lead for the visitors.
With their eyes on a finals prize, the Thunder players turned up the intensity in the third term.
In just her second game of the season, Hatchard was proving a handful for the Seagulls and her third for the day pushed Thunder’s lead out to 20 points inside 30 seconds of the second half getting underway.
Tayla Thorn built on it with her goal after six minutes, and Jessica Sedunary added to her impressive reputation as a goal-sneak with Thunder’s third for the quarter and her 15th for the season.
By three-quarter-time, Thunder had built a 33-point lead.
Thorn’s second on the four-minute-mark of the final term after a strong contested Hickey mark was countered by Williamstown’s Georgia Harris on 10 minutes, which was the Seagulls’ first score of any kind since the 15 minute-mark of the second quarter.
Thunder’s own Georgia – Bevan – capped off some great forward pressure with a clever snap and Hatchard with her fourth on the siren closed out the game, and a 45-point win for the visitors.
Although it won the match, Thunder endured a goal-less second half against Casey last weekend, and coach Tim Weatherald said he was heartened by the way his side responded to Williamstown’s challenge in the second quarter this week.
“The first quarter of the game I thought we had complete control of the game we used the ball really well,” he said. “Our midfield was probably the best it’s been all year. We worked on that all week, so it was pleasing to see us win those stoppages.
“The second quarter they got on top of us a little bit and started making us chase them a little bit and put the pressure on us.
“I think for me, one of the most pleasing things was, last week when we got challenged we didn’t respond, whereas today we went in there at half-time and talked about how could we get better and how could we react and that third quarter we came out and responded really well and then went away from them again in the last quarter.
“So to get challenged and then get control and run away with it was very pleasing.”
Weatherald said the victory had been built upon some fine work by Thunder’s on-ballers.
“Jas Hewett in the ruck gave us first use today,” he said. “She copped a pretty nasty knock to the nose in the second half there and didn’t play much footy after that.
“Anne Hatchard, who kicked four goals, then pushed into the ruck and had a bit of help from Tayla Thorn as well.
“They gave us first use, but then Ange Foley, Swanson, they set the standard. Kristy Irvine was working hard with Sally Riley as well.
“In the stats, we’ve probably been down on clearances all year whereas today we definitely would have won centre clearances and around-the-ground stoppages today which is great,” Weatherald said.
The win over Williamstown sets up an exciting finish for Thunder fans with the club playing ladder leader Collingwood in Melbourne and top two rival Hawthorn at home in its final two games with a bye in the final round of the regular season.
“It means for us that last game will almost be a playoff for a top two spot because we obviously want to get the double chance,” Weatherald said.
“Our percentage is very good, which makes it tough for the teams who are games behind us. It’s almost worth a game for us. That percentage that we’ve worked on all year is going to be pretty handy for us.
“Playing Collingwood next week and Hawthorn last game, if we can win one of those two we can definitely make it and get that double chance.
“We’ve got another big challenge next week, but it’s getting pretty exciting as we get towards the end of the season. We can’t wait for this next month of footy.”
Williamstown: 1.1, 3.1, 3.1, 4.2 (26)
NT Thunder: 3.1, 5.3, 8.4, 11.5 (71)
GOALS: Williamstown – Sarah Chapman, Jessica Dufflin, Georgia Harris, Sharnie Whiting.
NT Thunder – Anne Hatchard 4, Tayla Thorn 2, Georgia Bevan, Jordann Hickey, Machaelia Roberts, Jessica Sedunary, Emma Swanson.
BEST: NT Thunder – Emma Swanson, Anne Hatchard, Tayla Thorn, Georgia Bevan, Machaelia Roberts.