The Magpies are on the march back to the AFLHCC Women's grand final after finishing as runners-up last season in the final Black Diamond campaign. Image via Geoff Robinson.

Wyong Lakes struck late against Cardiff in their elimination final at Max McMahon Oval in the opening round of the AFLHCC Women’s postseason, with Aleece Williams slotting a hat-trick to break open the low-scoring playoff battle.

Neither side could find an early advantage as they looked to overcome strong winds at the neutral venue, and the Hawks grabbed a marginal one-point lead off a single behind from the opening quarter.

The midfield battle proved fierce, with Hawks captain Sheree Vukovich proving pivotal for the sixth-seed squad as she locked horns with Rebecca Ives in the centre of the park. Then the Magpies found first advantage, in the second quarter’s 16th minute.

Aleece Williams slotted home her first of the afternoon to give Wyong a tenuous 8-1 lead heading into the half-time break.

In the end, Williams proved to be the lone scorer for the match. She struck twice more early in the fourth quarter, blowing out Wyong’s lead to 19 points.

The tight margin was enough for the 2018 runners-up, firing them through to the final four alongside a victorious Newcastle City.

“It was very tough conditions in Maitland, when we turned up I think the wind decided to pick up even more as well,” said Wyong coach Josh Lawler. “It was a really gutsy win by the girls, and a real confidence builder for us going forward.”

Lawler, who guided the Magpies to a shock upset victory over minor premiers Nelson Bay in the semi-finals last year before falling just short against finals juggernauts Newcastle, believes his team can go one further this time around.

“We looked at that run from last year and a few people said we were lucky, but we’re heading down the same path this year so it wasn’t a fluke,” he said.

“The team is potentially 80 minutes away from another grand final again, and it’s been a massive achievement for the club building every year. We’re just taking it one game at a time, and we’ll see how it all pans out come Saturday.”

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City faced arch-rivals Terrigal Avoca at Weeraman Oval at the same time, and Molly Simpson led the way for the defending champions to clock up a 59-1 win over the fifth-placed Panthers in the all-or-nothing fixture.

Simone Wood – who collected two majors on the day – and Sarah Halvorsen struck early in the opening quarter, before Annalise Norton and Simpson added a goal apiece in the second to boost the Blues to a 27-1 lead.

Simpson and Wood rounded out their multi-goal tallies in the second half, as Meaghan McDonald and Samantha Thompson joined them on the scoresheet. The 9.5-59 to 0.1-1 win confirmed City’s pathway through to the season’s semi-finals.

Two blockbuster fixtures now await AFL Hunter Central Coast Women’s fans.

First up, defending champions Newcastle travels to Adelaide Street Oval to face off against 2019 premiers Killarney Vale.

The Bombers will have revenge in their eyes as they get their postseason rolling following the first-week bye. City was the only team to knock Killarney Vale off their undefeated perch, defeating the premiers 5.3-33 to 2.3-15 in round 5.

Also on Saturday at 12pm, at Newcastle No.1 Sportsground second-placed Maitland welcomes the defensive Magpies to another sudden-death clash. Wyong Lakes hold the head-to-head record, having beaten the Saints twice this year.

The two victorious teams will contest the AFL Hunter Central Coast Women’s grand final at 11.50am on Saturday, September 7 at the Newcastle No.1 Sportsground.

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