Darwin Buffettes v Waratah Warriors
The Darwin Buffettes have won their first NTFL Women’s Premier League premiership, ending a run of five successive cups for Waratah, defeating the Warriors by 18 points, 6.9 (45) to 4.3 (27).
The young Buffettes hit the Warriors with all they had in the first quarter, holding Waratah to just one behind to lead by 16 points 2.5 (17) to 0.1 (0).
Debra Williams Medalist Jess Cunningham and forward Melinda Taylor were the Darwin players to take advantage of their team’s domination, kicking one goal apiece in the opening term.
It could have been worse for Waratah if not for a mighty effort by the Warriors’ defence, led by veteran Lisa Roberts, which kept the pressure on the Buffettes, forcing misses from shots that should have recorded goals.
That inaccuracy threatened to derail Darwin’s hopes for glory in the second term when Waratah’s on ballers and forwards joined the party.
Turning the game on its head, the Warriors held Darwin to a solitary behind for the term while kicking three straight goals themselves.
Breanna Martin took advantage of some Darwin indiscipline and the resultant 50 metre penalty to score from the goal line at the five minute mark, some Hannah Bebbington magic a couple of minutes later saw her kick the ball out of the air for a goal and then Amy Chittick won a scramble for the ball in the goal square for another six points.
Within 10 minutes, Waratah had gone from 16 points down to two points up.
Importantly, after being quiet in the first quarter, Waratah’s star play maker, Alicia Stanley, sprung to life, helping to shift the momentum and forcing Darwin coach Matthew Large to shift Kylie Duggan onto her. The move successfully closed Stanley down for the rest of the match.
That, and a resurgent Buffettes team across the field completely turned the match around yet again in the third quarter with Darwin’s Cunningham adding her second goal and Bianca Stokes contributing another while holding Waratah scoreless.
The 13-point margin at the start of the fourth quarter could have been larger if Darwin had taken full advantage of its opportunities, but any hope the Warriors had was effectively snuffed out within a minute of the last quarter getting underway.
In those 60 seconds Tameka Bullen had goaled for the Buffettes and stretched the margin to 19 points.
Darwin then slammed home the message that it wasn’t going to fade away at the seven-minute mark when Tikesa Docherty-Cole ran into an open goal to kick the sealer.
The Warriors lived up to their name by failing to give in and continued to pepper the forward line, but could only manage one more major to Martin, her second for the game.
For Darwin coach Matthew Large, the victory was made all the more rewarding for it being over the winner of the past five premierships.
“Full credit to Waratah, but it just makes our win all the more special,” he said. “They know how to win, they’ve done it the last five years in a row. They’ve proved it time and time again, but the work ethic of my girls, the commitment of these girls, I take my hat off to them. The utmost respect. Well done.”
Waratah coach Shaun O’Leary said Darwin won the match in the third term.
“We were pretty confident at half time actually. We kind of knew if we could play four quarters we could take it to them. I guess ultimately it was our third quarter, they kicked what ended up being the winning margin and that’s history.
“It was (their pace). We were aware of that and tried to counter that. At the end of the day when you’re fast you’re fast, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
O’Leary said he’s full of pride for the way his players performed, despite the loss.
“I mean right to the final siren, they fought and they gave everything right to the very end. I couldn’t be prouder.”
One of the Buffettes whose pace cut through the Warriors’ defence, was best on ground and Debra Williams Medalist Jess Cunningham, who kicked two goals while causing havoc across half forward.
Although from Bathurst Island and having to make a two-hour ferry ride from the Tiwi Islands to play, Williams chose the Buffettes because her father Robert Cunningham played for Darwin.
Having stepped up from junior ranks last year, the 18-year-old said she was nervous before the Premier League grand final.
“Pretty nerve wracking, this is my first finals,” she said. “Last season I played under 18s and we won. “
Cunningham has AFLW ambitions, but for now is happy with her football home in Darwin with the Buffettes.
“They’re good team-mates, their like sisters, we’re family,” she said.
Darwin 2.5, 2.6, 4.8, 6.9 (45)
Waratah 0.1, 3.1, 3.1, 4.3 (27)
Darwin – Jess Cunningham 2, Melinda Taylor, Bianca Stokes, Tameka Bullen, Tikesa Docherty-Cole.
Waratah –Martin 2, Hannah Bebbington, Amy Chittick.
Darwin – Jess Cunningham, Kylie Duggan, Lucy Adam, Kimberley Cunningham.
Waratah – Lisa Roberts, Sue Nalder, Amy Chittick, Clare Harper.