19-year-old Mikayla Bowen stars in West Coast’s thrilling AFLW win over Gold Coast Suns
Cometh the hour, cometh Mikayla Bowen.
In just her 10th game and second season of AFLW football, the 19-year-old nearly single-handedly dragged West Coast to a thrilling 5.4 (34) to 4.9 (33) win over Gold Coast at Mineral Resources Park.
With just two points separating the two winless sides at the final break, Bowen, in an emphatic best on ground performance, spun out of trouble to deliver the wining goal.
The killer blow was the icing on top of her 21 disposals, seven marks and three clearances.
“Her development has been really good, even last year watching her from afar,” coach Daniel Pratt said.
“She just keeps working so hard and she’s an emerging leader within our group and I think she played like a leader today.”
The one point win marks West Coast’s second AFLW victory, their first since round four of the 2020 season, and the first under new coach Daniel Pratt.
And West Coast had to do it the hard way, losing star defender Tayla Bresland to a suspected hamstring injury late in the first quarter.
They also lost midfielder Aisling McCarthy before the bounce due to the ongoing impacts of a knee issue sustained against Greater Western Sydney.
“We’re getting pretty thin again with our numbers,” Pratt said.
“That was probably the best part of winning today, the depth of our list was playing and they were able to find a way to win.
“Pre-Christmas, we had 10 players training and January we started getting some girls back.
“The education and building a brand, a culture and our game style has been difficult but they’ve been first class in how they want to learn.
“It’s been a lot of effort and work from the girls to get to this point.”
The game threatened to take a dramatic turn in the dying stages when Gold Coast All-Australian Kalinda Howarth made it a two-point margin from the goal line.
A runner infringement by West Coast messenger and former Eagles player Jacob Brennan then gifted the Suns the ball just beyond the 50m arc in one final twist.
But Gold Coast will rue their inaccuracy, finishing with nine behinds and 13 scoring shots to West Coast’s nine shots on goal.
Co-captain Hannah Dunn summed up her Gold Coast’s day when the game was on the line in the third quarter, kicking straight into the man on the mark from 15 metres out.
But West Coast’s accuracy from limited opportunities proved the difference.
At half time, the Eagles had four scoring shots, three of which were goals, from four inside 50s while the Suns could only manage 11 points from 22 entries.
Bowen, captain Emma Swanson (22 touches, six tackles and four clearances) and Maddy Collier (22 touches and four tackles) were the difference in the midfield.
While the defence, led by Belinda Smith (17 touches and six tackles), held firm all day.
Gold Coast coach David Lake said his side felt the effects of a knee knock to key forward Sarah Perkins, ruling her out of the game.
“One point can define how you feel about yourself,” he said.
“I thought it was the first time for four quarters we had a crack as good as that.
“We just weren’t able to take our chances.”
Late inclusion and West Coast social media manager Kate Orme provided the highlight of the day, converting the Eagles first goal on the back of a stunning passage of play which involved the likes of Alicia Janz, Melissa Caulfield, Emma Swanson, Grace Kelly and Hayley Bullas.
Midfielder Alison Drennan (14 touches and five clearances), defender Lauren Ahrens (19 touches and seven marks) and forward Jamie Stanton (14 touches and one goal) were the best for Gold Coast.
West Coast: 3.1, 3.1, 4.3, 5.4 (34)
Gold Coast: 0.4, 1.5, 3.7, 4.9 (33)
Goals – West Coast: K. Orme, I. Cameron, G. Kelly, M. Caulfield. Gold Coast: S. Perkins, P. Parker, J. Stanton, K. Howarth
Best – West Coast: M. Bowen, E. Swanson, M. Collier, B. Smith, I. Lewis, G. Kelly
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, L. Ahrens, J. Stanton, L. Bella, D. D’arcy
Injuries – West Coast: A. McCarthy (knee) replaced in the selected side by K. Orme. T. Bresland (hamstring). Gold Coast: L. Kaslar (ankle) replaced in the selected side by G. Bevan. S. Perkins (knee).
Umpires: M. Adams, C. Gibson, G. Simmonds.
Crowd: 1,119 at Mineral Resources Park.
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