Merewether battled through a tight contest with Warners Bay at John Street Oval, drawing on their 3-1 lead from the first leg to book their ticket to the Women’s Premier League grand final next weekend.
The Panthers drew first blood in front of their home crowd. Tara Pender drew the overall aggregate back to a one-goal lead for Merewether in the 17th minute, before United’s Jane McDonald answered back within two minutes.
Tamara Nash found a second for the travelling team just ahead of half-time to reinstate Merewether’s two-goal buffer in the battle, and give them a 2-1 lead on the day. Cassidy Davis scored early in the second, and the final 2-2 score sealed Merewether’s triumph.
For Cass Koppen, who has guided the Llamas to four grand final showdowns in the past five years, the two-all draw may just have been the “most complete performance” her side has put out onto the park in the 2019 season.
“The game was certainly one of the best we’ve played in a long time,” said Koppen.
“It was the best we’ve played all year on the field, we were quite dominant and the girls did exceptionally well. I think our midfield – Jane McDonald, Leah Guiffre, Taylah Braithwaite – controlled the game and were the difference for us.
”They’re the best midfield combination in the league and the game this weekend saw them click perfectly for the first time this year. Jane getting a goal was great, and Leah and Tay added a lot of chances. They were just phenomenal for us from start to finish.”
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Merewether left John Street Oval on cloud nine. Warners Bay, who lost to the Llamas in a high-stakes slugfest in last year’s decider, will miss the big dance for the first time since 2015. Merewether scored a 3-2 victory over Valentine that season.
“First half we were nowhere near good enough, we started off the game beautifully scoring the first goal but then we just gave away a cheap one a minute later to put us right on the back foot,” said Panthers coach Craig Atkins of his side’s performance.
“We didn’t have enough urgency, and we lost the battle in the first half. We looked good once we got the ball onto the deck but just couldn’t find that consistently for 90 minutes. We’ve got a lot to build on next season, and a lot to learn from.
“With the squad we have here at Warners Bay we want to be back here again, and back in the final. Next year we need to get back there, the girls will definitely be hungry to do that for sure. We just have to suck it up now, take a break, and get back into it all again.”
Merewether will now contest the Women’s Premier League grand final at Rockwell Automation Oval next Sunday, September 1.