K rock Football

Nervous wait for Cats

GEELONG has been left to rue a missed opportunity and now faces a nervous wait as its finals hopes hang in the balance after a crushing loss to the GWS Giants in Canberra.

The Cats, who were guaranteed a preliminary final spot with a win, buckled under the extreme pressure that the Giants produced at UNSW Oval.

However, the enormity of the occasion may have proved too much for Paul Hood’s emerging group, beaten by 31 points, 6.5 (41) to 1.4 (10)

GWS was switched on from the moment the ball was bounced, and debutant Haneen Zreika lifted her fellow teammates and helped the struggling Giants finish their season on a high.

Zreika, the first Muslim woman to play AFLW, had an enormous impact despite an incredibly challenging lead-up to the game.

Players from both sides donned black armbands and the crowd stood for a minute’s silence after Friday’s shocking attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Geelong’s players were visibly dejected as they left the field on Friday night, however Cats coach Paul Hood admitted his players had “learnt a lot.”

“We’ll stay together as a united group,” he said. “Our team and club does that really well.”

“It’s a season that moves so quickly and the players have represented the club and the Geelong community so well.”

Young midfielder Liv Purcell did her Rising Star award chances no harm, as she amassed an equal game-high 19 disposals and four tackles.

However, for first-gamer Hannah Burchell, a fairytale debut was not to be.

Coach Paul Hood spoke of the “really nice moment” before the game, where “all the players celebrated her debut.”

Burchell, who played for Geelong’s VFLW team in 2017 and 2018, had to wait until the last game of the home-and away-season to get her chance after battling quad issues for much of the last four months.

Her teammates cheered as she was handed her jumper pre-game, and her family also joined in the special celebration.

To secure second spot on the Conference B ladder, Geelong is now reliant on the bottom-placed Collingwood beating Brisbane at Victoria Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Cats are sitting one game ahead of the Lions but now have an inferior percentage.

Twitter: @LauraThistle9