North West AFL: Inverell Saints crowned first women's champions

Inverell Saints skipper Samantha Barber described winning the first-ever North West AFL Women’s League premiership as her best moment of her sporting days.

The Saints were crowned the inaugural champions after defeating the Tamworth Kangaroos 8.0-48 to 2.8-20 in Saturday’s grand final at Wolseley Oval.

“It’s brilliant. Best-ever sporting achievement. Nothing comes close,” Barber said.

Trailing by a point at the first break, the Saints exploded in the second quarter kicking four unanswered goals to take a 23-point lead into half-time.

The Kangaroos had all the early pressure in the third quarter and scored first through Amanda Brown but from there the Saints dominated, Kyla Hamilton kicking successive goals and then finding fellow teenager Eleanore Ford in the forward pocket as they pushed out to a six goal advantage at three-quarter time. 

Hamilton finished with five, Ford, Georgia Strang and grand final best and fairest Alana Hanson each kicking one major.

Beaten their last two encounters, Saints coach Dick Gleeson highlighted their application at training as one of the keys to the turnaround.

“They’ve made a fair few mistakes the other games,” Gleeson said.

“We just tried to keep the ball wide and not turn it over in the centre.”

The former Saints men’s premiership-winning coach said the season had been a lot of fun and praised their commitment.

“They’ve all trained all year and they’ve become a tight knit group,” he said.

Barber expanded on that saying they “play as a family”.

She said the Kangaroos are a great team, and they knew they were going to come out hard.

“We knew we just had to push on,” she said.

The message at half-time was along those lines.

“At half-time we went in there and said it’s a new game,” Barber said.

This season was the first time a sanctioned competition has run and Barber said she has “absolutely loved it”.

That sentiment was shared by the Kangaroos’ Danielle Abbott. One of the driving forces in establishing the Kangaroos women’s team she it will be sad not going to training this week.

Captain Shannon Campbell had said heading in one of the areas the Saints had an advantage over them was experience. That experience came to the fore on Saturday.

The speed and athleticism of the likes of Hamilton and Ford was also decisive.

“From our perspective it looked like they were working towards those key girls,” Abbott said.

The second quarter was where it came undone.

“Nothing really went our way. We had a couple of injuries and those girls had to be taken off. But the girls they played so well and they gave it their all,” Abbott said.

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