They fought hard from start to finish, but the Tasmania Devils finished their NAB League season with a tough 34-point loss to the Dandenong Stingrays in Tullamarine. The Devils dominated long stretches of play in the first half but couldn’t capitalise on the scoreboard, allowing the undefeated Stingrays to pull away late.
TASMANIA DEVILS: 2.2 3.7 3.9 4.10 (34)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS: 5.2 5.2 7.6 10.8 (68)
Best players: Brooke Barwick, Mackenzie Williams, Meg Thompson, Charlie Vandenberg, Tunisha Kikoak, Madison Brazendale
Brooke Barwick was a standout in Tasmania’s midfield, leading the team in disposals (17), contested possessions (13) and inside 50s (6) and kicking a goal. She was well supported in the middle by Meg Thompson (8 contested possessions, four clearances) and Candice Belbin (5 tackles, 5 clearances), while Tunisha Kikoak spent time at each end of the ground and impressed at both.
The Stingrays burst out of the gates and made a strong start, kicking the first two goals of the game inside ten minutes. That could have easily started an avalanche of goals for the league leaders, but the Devils dug in to keep themselves within touching distance. Bellah Parker extended her lead as Tasmania’s leading goalkicker with her 15th major of the season, and Ruby Pacey also kicked truly late in the quarter. Dandenong were able to find a reply each time, though, and took an 11-point lead into the first break.
The script was well and truly flipped in the second quarter, and it was the Devils that played like they hadn’t lost a game all season. They surged forward in waves, producing countless repeat inside 50s and piling on the pressure, but they still struggled to take full advantage. They kicked four consecutive behinds the open the term, and that made it doubly painful when the Stingrays kicked the first goal of the quarter to pull further into the lead. Tasmania finally had some reward when Barwick won a free kick and slotted the goal with less than 20 seconds left, but that still left them trailing by seven points at half-time despite producing three more scoring shots.
While the Devils continued to push after the restart, the Stingrays found their feet in the third term and locked down defensively. They held Tasmania to a pair of behinds on the scoreboard, and they began to pepper the goals at the other end. The Devils backline was kept busy, with Kikoak swung into defence with good effect and Mackenzie Williams also impressive across half-back, but the Stingrays were still able to add two goals and push their lead to 21 points at the final change.
That momentum carried into the fourth quarter, although Amy Prokopiec was able to momentarily stem the tide with her first goal of the day. While the Devils continued to hold their own in the midfield, they couldn’t peg back Dandenong’s lead before the final siren. The loss signaled the end of the NAB League Girls season for Tasmania, as they finished third in the Country division and narrowly missed out on a finals berth.