GEELONG has vaulted to the top of its conference with a powerhouse 27-point victory over Brisbane in Saturday afternoon's AFL Women's match at Burpengary.
The Cats hit the lead on the stroke of half-time with a Mia-Rae Clifford goal and completely dominated after the interval, winning 5.5 (35) to 1.2 (8).
Brisbane's score was the lowest in AFLW history.
With two rounds remaining, Geelong is now one game clear at the top of Conference B and in a great position to qualify for a preliminary final in its first season.
The up-and-down Lions are now in a fight for second spot after their third heavy defeat in four matches.
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One week after being dropped, forward Kate Darby starred for the Cats, kicking three goals in the low-scoring affair, including a contender for goal of the year and a 50m bomb to ice the game in the final term.
While Geelong's defence was stout, it won the game with its suffocating pressure and ability to lock the ball inside forward 50.
Brisbane hardly moved the ball forward of centre in the second half, with Geelong winning the inside 50 count 37-17.
"I think it's a really proud defensive unit and really proud team," Cats coach Paul Hood said.
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"A lot of these players have played together for a while now and know each other's games pretty well."
Richelle Cranston (23 disposals), Olivia Purcell (20 and nine tackles) and Renee Garing (18 and eight tackles) were standouts.
Brisbane's day was soured even more when in-form defender Shannon Campbell copped a knock to the head in the third term and could not return.
It looked like the teams would go to half-time deadlocked – until Mia-Rae Clifford stepped up. The powerful Cat earned a free kick from an Arianna Clarke indiscretion and calmly went back to kick the goal from 35m right as the siren sounded. Geelong led by six points and never looked back.
There were plenty for the Cats, but forward Kate Darby had a day she'll long remember. Geelong's leading goalkicker in the VFL the past two seasons was dropped for last week's win over Carlton, but bounced back with a bang. She kicked the first goal of the game, added another in the third quarter and then iced the contest with a towering 50m set shot in the final term.
It was a simple game plan and Geelong executed it to perfection. Match the strong Lions midfield on the inside and once they got the ball forward, lock it in. The Cats won the inside 50 battle 37-17, helped by a 12-3 tackle count in that part of the ground. After Brisbane executed a record 22 tackles inside its forward 50 the previous week, there was no way the Cats were letting it down there that often again.
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There was one highlight for the Lions and it was a memorable one. Reminiscent of the dashing goals that made her a feature of the first AFLW season, Kate McCarthy got clear over the back in the second quarter and sprinted away into an open goal. Her two-handed celebration was interesting, if a little obscure, but gave Lions fans something to cheer about.
"We've played some decent footy and we've played some very ordinary footy but we're still alive in our conference. There'll be some soul-searching after this one, but we've got an eight-day turnaround now, a good chance to prepare well – onwards and upwards." - Brisbane coach Craig Starcevich
"What we're most pleased about is we're getting better every week and we've got the opportunity to maybe get an extra game in. It's terrific to be alive this late in the season and still have something to play for every week." - Geelong coach Paul Hood
Geelong can all but lock away a spot in a preliminary final if it beats Fremantle at GMHBA Stadium next Saturday afternoon at 2.35pm (AEDT), while Brisbane will be desperate to keep its season alive on Sunday afternoon with a win over Carlton at Ikon Park. That match starts at 4.05pm (AEDT).
BRISBANE 0.1 1.1 1.2 1.2 (8)
GEELONG 1.1 2.1 4.3 5.5 (35)
Geelong: Darby 3, Clifford, Purcell
Brisbane: Bates, Anderson, Keeffe, Virgo
Geelong: Cranston, Darby, Purcell, Garing, McMahon, Ivey
Brisbane: Campbell (concussion)
Geelong: McWilliams (finger)
Umpires: Adair, Baigent, Strybos
Official crowd: TBC at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex