THERE was no happy ending to the 2012 Football Federation Victoria women’s state league one season for the Ballarat Lady Devils.
The Blockbuster Lady Devils were defeated 3-0 in Sunday’s grand final against top-of-the-table Bulleen.
The first half was a pulsating affair, with both sides showing their desire to win in the early stages.
Ballarat settled early and the game plan appeared to be working in the first 45 minutes.
The Lady Devils knew this was going to be a tough game and sought to absorb pressure from Bulleen and launch quick counter attacks.
This tactic provided a number of opportunities early in the game, with forwards Julia Antonetti and Montana Faull working hard up front to create breaks. However, neither could produce a goal out of the chances created.
The physical nature was also clear early on, with both sides taking a tough tackling approach to the game.
This desire to win the ball meant that this was always going to be a bruising encounter, and both clubs had players needing treatment in the first 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, for the Lady Devils, Beth Taylor was unable to recover from a front-on collision with a Bulleen midfielder, sustained within 10 minutes of taking the field.
Taylor needed to be taken to hospital as a result of the clash.
This was a heavy blow for Ballarat.
Taylor has proven to be a player that can turn a game on its head, but more significantly, as captain, she was the spiritual leader of the team, who can force those around her to rally.
Despite the loss, the Lady Devils acquitted themselves valiantly and at half-time could consider themselves to be marginally on top despite a 0-0 scoreline.
Tessa Curtain had taken control of the midfield and created a number of turnovers through the pressure she applied.
The defence had successfully absorbed any attacks Bulleen had thrown at them; with goalkeeper Jasmina Zdelar kept quiet in the first half.
The Lady Devils had also produced a number of clear chances on goals. However, this was to change in 10 minutes of madness in the early stages of the second half.
Bulleen took the field with a new-found determination and was able to force the Lady Devils into a state of disarray.
Twice Ballarat failed to clear the ball successfully from defence and on each occasion Bulleen made it pay by making clean intercepts and netting two goals.
At this stage, Ballarat coach Ricky Romein decided to gamble. He changed to a 3-4-3 formation in an attempt to claw a way back in to the game, and Emma Moran was moved from the centre of defence into the midfield to provide some much-needed aggression.
While the defence settled down, and the match returned to being a more equal affair, the Lady Devils were not able to launch the attack on the Bulleen goals necessary to get a goal back.
The fatigue among the Ballarat girls was clear as the tough final against Altona had left many of the players sore going into the match, and in the closing stages, Bulleen was able to take advantage and strike again.