GREATER Western Sydney has all but guaranteed it will play in the NAB AFLW finals for the first time with a hard-fought victory over reigning premier Adelaide on Sunday.
Played behind closed doors at Hisense Stadium in Adelaide's inner western suburbs, the Giants – on the back of a dominating performance from midfield gun Alyce Parker - orchestrated the perfect smash and grab to defeat the Crows by five points, 4.2 (26) to 3.3 (21).
CROWS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
A couple of important milestones were set in the process – the Giants beating the Crows for the first time, which was also a new benchmark for wins in a season, with four.
The Giants (4-2) have moved to second in Conference B with two games to play, while the Crows (2-4) will need a minor miracle to sneak into the finals, trailing third-placed Brisbane by a game and a half.
Irish star Cora Staunton booted a massive goal from just inside the 50m arc at the start of the final quarter to give the Giants a little bit of breathing room.
The Crows booted two goals in the opening quarter when they had the wind, but they didn't kick another major until former Giant Courtney Gum kicked truly at the 15-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
The third term proved to be decisive with the Giants holding the Crows goalless and getting one of their own courtesy of Britt Tully converting a 50m penalty.
Parker was outstanding for the Giants with 30 disposals, Tait Mackrill and Rebecca Beeson were strong and Staunton kicked two goals.
Crows star Erin Phillips was pivotal through the midfield in her return from knee soreness, Deni Varnhagen provided plenty of run on the wing in her first game of the season and midfielders Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff found plenty of ball.
Giants defender Jess Allan was a late scratching after coming down with a cold on Sunday morning, but after being assessed by the team doctor, didn't show symptoms of COVID-19 and was allowed to stay around the team.
Did you see that?
Goals were like gold in a low-scoring slugfest. So, when Irish star Cora Staunton launched a massive set-shot kick from just inside the 50m arc at the start of the fourth quarter, the GWS supporters understandably made plenty of noise. It was a huge kick in more ways than one.
The ladder now
The Giants have all but punched their finals ticket for the first time with their fourth win of the season, moving to second in Conference B. In contrast, the Crows are fifth in Conference B, a win and a half behind third-placed Brisbane. The Crows need to win their final two games and rely on other results going their way to defend their title.
Alyce Parker has been outstanding for the Giants all season, and Sunday was no different. The gun midfielder had a game-high 30 disposals including 15 contested possessions, and couldn't be stopped against a star-studded Crows midfield featuring Erin Phillips, Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff.
Five minutes of madness
Courtney Gum's second goal of the game with a few minutes on the clock put the Crows within striking distance of stealing victory. However, the Giants were able to hold firm and secure a valuable win.
"Adelaide had to win and I felt that we wanted to win. What I talked about to our players before the game was I hoped you wouldn't see that, that in fact, at quarter-time, you'd be able to say that we wanted it more than they did. In the context, I was pretty pleased." – Giants coach Alan McConnell
"I think it will be really challenging for us to make finals from here. If you do the maths, there might be a 0.05 per cent chance, but ultimately that was our opportunity to put ourselves right back into the mix." – Crows coach Matthew Clarke.
The Giants have a six-day turnaround before they host Geelong at GIANTS Stadium next Saturday afternoon (5.10pm AEDT), while the Crows hit the road to face Gold Coast at Fankauser Reserve next Sunday afternoon (12.10pm AEST).
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
ADELAIDE 2.1 2.1 2.3 3.3 (21)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.1 2.2 3.2 4.2 (26)
Adelaide: Gum 2, Rajcic
Greater Western Sydney: Staunton 2, Hicks, Tully
Adelaide: Hatchard, Marinoff, Phillips, Gum, Biddell, A Foley
Greater Western Sydney: Parker, Beeson, Mackrill, Tully, Bennetts, Staunton
Adelaide: Sophie Li (AC joint)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Jess Allan (illness) replaced in the selected side by Emily Goodsir
Umpires: Mitchell, Bryce, Lewis