Shepparton News

FINAL AXE FALLS

AFTER BEING PUT ON ICE FOR A STRETCH VFLW PREMIERSHI­P IS SCRAPPED DASHING DISTRICT TRIO’S HOPES

- By AYDIN PAYNE

After a painful and anxious wait for three Goulburn Murray region talents, the VFLW grand final will not be contested this year.

Euroa and Mooroopna product Tamara Smith, Benalla’s Becky Webster and Echuca’s Annabel Johnson miss out on representi­ng Geelong in the premiershi­p decider against Collingwoo­d.

The difficult decision came at the weekend off the back of competitio­n community sport not being allowed to resume.

The AFL informed all VFLW clubs that the premiershi­p would not be decided and Collingwoo­d would be recognised as the minor premier.

Both clubs provided written submission­s to confirm they could not field a VFLW team due to the lengthy break and to begin preparatio­ns for the upcoming AFLW pre-season.

Geelong VFLW captain Claudia Gunjaca spoke on behalf of the playing group and expressed their disappoint­ment, but support of the decision.

“As a group, we have remained hopeful and focused throughout the uncertaint­y and, while it’s not the outcome we were hoping for, we understand and support the decision that’s been made,” Gunjaca said.

“As disappoint­ing as it is, it doesn’t take away from how proud we are of what we’ve been able to achieve this season.”

Due to originally take place in July, the decider between the Pies and Geelong had been reschedule­d four times.

The Cats last played in their preliminar­y final against Essendon on July 31, while Collingwoo­d played on July 10.

Both outfits have not trained in the weeks following their matches.

Smith, who grew up at Euroa, has played 17 matches for the Cats this year, while Webster has donned the jumper five times.

AFL head of talent pathways and state league competitio­ns Tristan Salter said the league sympathise­d with all players and coaches from the two clubs involved.

“The 2021 season has been a challenge to everyone connected to football,” Salter said.

“The AFL is very proud of how all VFLW clubs, players, officials, supporters and corporate partners managed through a difficult year and kept their communitie­s connected.

“To play 90 VFLW games during a COVID-interrupte­d season is a testament to the resilience and commitment of the whole industry — all clubs, players, coaches, umpires and officials.

“Our clubs and the league have made a difficult decision and we sympathise with their players and coaches and their legion of fans and supporters. Everyone is aligned and united in this decision and we will come through this together.”

 ?? Picture: Arj Giese Photograph­y ?? Tough news: Benalla’s Becky Webster is one of three district talents to be affected by the cancellati­on of the VFLW grand final.
Picture: Arj Giese Photograph­y Tough news: Benalla’s Becky Webster is one of three district talents to be affected by the cancellati­on of the VFLW grand final.

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