EAGLEHAWK has produced one of its gutsiest and certainly most significant wins in years to advance to a BFNL A-grade preliminary final.
The Hawks defeated last season's runner-up Gisborne by one goal at the QEO on Sunday, in a game marred by an injury stoppage, and interrupted by rain and hail.
But a 47-46 victory came at a cost for the Hawks, who lost wing attack Bridget Murray with an Achilles injury.
The classy midcourter went down early in the final quarter and was transported to hospital via ambulance during a break in play due to the atrocious weather conditions.
Hawks joint coach Mali Roberts said Murray's injury was the only dampener on a fantastic day for the A-grade side.
"It was a tough blow for her," she said.
"Bridget is one of our key players and has been all season, but this is one of the reasons we train as a squad and why we have everybody around the A-grade team.
"I am more than happy to use our A-reserve players, they know what our structures are; I have every confidence in them to see it out."
It was the second major injury this finals series, after Kangaroo Flat lost star defender Kate Burton to an ankle injury injury last weekend.
Rival midcourter, Gisborne's Tiana Newman was quick to pass on her club's best wishes to Murray.
"I hope she's alright, seeing an ambulance here is never good," she said.
"We'd like to wish her all the best on her recovery."
Players on both show sides plenty of resilience to tough the contest out, with the lead fluctuating throughout.
The Hawks led by six goals at quarter time, but trailed by two at half-time, before scores were all square at 38 at the final change.
A titanic struggle in the last quarter produced just 17 goals, with Clare Vearing bringing the Bulldogs within one goal just seconds before the final siren. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Hawks from notching back-to-back finals wins and continue their march towards a potential grand final berth.
Roberts praised her players ability to keep fighting and seal what was their third win this season over Gisborne, with two of them coming by just one goal.
"Gisborne we never take lightly and they are used to finals; throw in the weather and Bridget going down, there were all these walls," she said.
"But we got through them.
"We had a good start and we haven't had too many of them this year, but then the pressure rose from Gisborne.
"We missed some opportunities, but it was good to hold on."
A loss for Gisborne ended a season, which began full of promise and led to a second place minor round finish, but ended with losses in four of their last five games, including a pair of finals.
Pinpointing reasons for their drop-off in form proved difficult for the Bulldogs centre Newman.
"It's hard, we have a lot of girls in Melbourne, so getting to training is a bit tricky," she said.
"We probably didn't step up when we needed.
"We're still pretty shattered but we will be right next year."
Newman gave the Hawks every hope of upstaging Kangaroo Flat in next Saturday's preliminary final.
"It will be a tough game; it will be won and lost in the goal ring," she said.
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