SKOB Saints have come from behind at half time to put on a five goal burst in the third quarter that broke the game open and delivered a third Premiership in a row.
The stage was set for another epic chapter in the rivalry between Kew and St.Kevin’s - two teams that have consistently been at the top of the Premier Women’s competition for the last few seasons. Kew were looking to avenge their defeat at the hands of SKOB in 2022 and having beaten the Saints 3 times already this season, they went into the match as deserved favourites. But SKOB have something special brewing in the Saints program and their experience on the big stage might give them a slight advantage - they only needed to take it on the biggest day. With looming retirements for their co-captains and inspirational leaders, there was a little bit more added incentive for the Saints - but they had a big job ahead of them.
With the aid of the breeze in the first quarter, SKOB looked to jump out early with Kate Stanton taking an inside 50 mark in the opening minute - her banana shot just not bending quite enough to sneak in for a major. Margaret Gleeson was looking dangerous across half forward and she too had a set shot that drifted only slightly wide. SKOB were made to rue these missed chances as Kew took their one and only shot and converted truly to hold a small lead at the first break. Coach Tommy Purcell reiterated to his squad that it was going to take the whole 22 players to win this game, and SKOB lifted intensity in the second term only to again squander a few gettable chances whilst Kew nailed their lines, kicking the only goal of the term to lead by 8 points at the main change.
The match was now all or nothing for SKOB as an even scoring third term would see them right up against it - knowing that they would be heading into the wind in the last. They simply HAD to make the most of their opportunities in the third quarter or the premiership would slip from their grasp. After a couple of early misses, they finally slotted one home after Grace Mills took a bustling mark in front and converted from 25. The reaction was immediate as the live-wire Mills fired up the fans behind the sticks and the players responded. A quick kick forward was sharked by Molly Simpson who snagged one over the shoulder and SKOB were now well and truly alight. Kate Stanton took a great mark backing back and kicked truly to make it three on the trot and shortly afterwards Anne Wallace converted after receiving a free for a high tackle. There was no stopping the Saints now. Having resisted the temptation to push Kate Stanton into the middle, the coaches faith in the likes of Jessica Joyce
and Emily Bloom to get it done was rewarded as they won clearance after clearance. The hard tackling of Izzy Worth and Zara Guss with some solid bumps from Pamela Amber demonstrated how desperate the Saints were to keep the momentum going, then when Stanton marked at the 50 and turned to launch a monster bomb that sailed through from outside the paint, the lead had ballooned out to 27 points. It was only a late strike from Kew to reduce the margin by a goal that gave the Saints a timely reminder the job was only 75% done.
With coach Purcell urging his charges on to one more huge effort, the Saints came out and withstood a flurry of Kew attacks in the crucial first 5 minutes. They then counter punched when Bree Doyle ran on to a loose ball inside 50 and rattled home the sealer to the delight of the fans behind the fence.
Again Kew threw everything at SKOB but the likes of Emily Condon, Tayla Nicholls and especially Charity Russell put up an impenetrable fortress across half back. Sarah Betts was now dominating around the ground, winning her ruck battle against a much taller opponent.
With the shadows creeping across the ground, a clearing kick from Izzy Upfal drifted towards the boundary as the siren rang, sending the bench into raptures as they invaded the field to celebrate with the players. An incredible achievement for the SKOB Saints who pull off a threepeat of Premierships, winning in 2019, 2022 and 2023 (with 2020 and 2021 seasons lost to COVID). Well done to all the players, the coaching staff and volunteers and to the supporters who came out in droves on a beautiful spring day. Long may you celebrate this one. Retiring great and co-captain Bree Doyle was adjudged best afield in her 100th game - an amazing way to go out.
Kew FC 1.0 2.0-12 3.0-18 3.2-20
St Kevins 0.2 0.4-4 5.9-39 6.9-45
C. Stanton 2, M. Simpson, B. Doyle, A. Wallace, G. Mills
B. Doyle, M. Gleeson, C. Stanton, C. Russell, Z. Guss, A. Bloom
Here's Oli Stolz's magnificent review of the Grand Final - see below