From the official VFL Website

Reported by Brendan Rhodes 

Port Melbourne outlasted Collingwood by 12 points to win its first rebel VFLW premiership in a thrilling Grand Final at ETU Stadium on Sunday.

In just their third VFLW season, Port added the rebel VFLW premiership to the 17 VFA/VFL cups in their bulging trophy cabinet in a game that went down to the wire.

Every Grand Final needs a hero, and the Borough had several.

However, the sight of Beth Wilson reaching above a large pack to pull down a contested mark in the goal square with a minute left to seal a courageous victory will live long in the memory of players and fans of the red and blue persuasion.


Playing in front of a large and noisy crowd, the Borough gained an early lead with the wind but looked in danger at the final change when they only led by four points with the Magpies to come home with the breeze.

But the spirit of this grand old club came to the fore and they defended for their lives, holding Collingwood scoreless after the three-minute mark of the final term as they overturned a convincing 26-point loss in the qualifying final only three weeks ago.

It was a remarkable performance from Port Melbourne after it finished 10th last year and was out of the top six as recently as a month before the finals, going on a four-match winning run to take top spot heading into the final round.

A double hiccup – first to 10th-placed Casey Demons in the last round to give up the minor premiership and then to the Magpies in the qualifying final left them needing to take the hard road, but they outlasted Carlton, thrashed reigning premier Essendon and then, in true Borough fashion, simply refused to lose on the biggest day of all.

After Borough skipper Claire Dyett won the toss and kicked with the wind to the Bob Bonnett End, Collingwood got the perfect start when it surged forward from the opening bounce and star midfielder Jess Bates won a free kick for holding.

Her beautiful 20m pass hit Caitlin Sargent on the lead and the hero of the second semi-final made no mistake from 25m out straight in front.

But the rest of the first quarter was all Port Melbourne as Jessie Williams and Lauren Caruso took control through the midfield and used the breeze to their advantage, with the former’s kick into the danger zone getting over the back for Georgia Alomes to drive it home from 30m to square the scores just three minutes later.

The Borough locked the ball inside-50 and were rewarded with a second goal late in the term when an Issy Hartog long ball from a lasso free kick landed at the feet of Courteney Bromage in the goalsquare for their second and an eight-point lead at the first break.

Port defended stoutly for the first half of the second term, holding the ball on the Norm Goss Stand wing for the first 10 minutes and being rewarded with a fast break that found Emily Harley on the lead 45m out.

A delay as she put her boot back on seemed to put the Magpie defence to sleep and she was able to find Nayely Borg unchecked 15m out for the first score of the term after 12 minutes.

However, it sparked the minor premiers into action and they dominated the latter stages of the term with Georgia Ricardo proving impassable on the wing, Bates racking up her usual big numbers, Elizabeth Jackson, Matilda Zander and 50th gamer Rene Caris started to get their hands on the ball.

They added 1.3 in quick time with Nikolitsis inspiring her team by bursting from a boundary line stoppage to kick a great goal and they could have taken the lead when Bates marked 40m out in the canteen pocket as the siren sounded.

She gave it everything but the tallest player in the game, Port ruck Kate Dudley, just got her fingers to it on the line to preserve the Borough’s advantage heading into the sheds.

Collingwood produced an outstanding third quarter against the wind, continually pumping the ball into attack and grabbing the lead when Nikolitsis bobbed up to rove a pack in the goalsquare and snap her second.

In fact, the Magpies could have taken the lead into the last break if it wasn’t for the outstanding efforts of Borough defenders Maggie McKellar and Kristy Whitehead, who had match-winning forwards Nyakoat Dojiok and Monique De Matteo completely blanketed.

Port only had one genuine scoring opportunity in the stanza and took it in the 14th minute when 2023 Rohenna Young medallist Fed Frew put through a ripping checkside to take back the upper hand.

Collingwood captain Caitlin Bunker was helped off the ground by two trainers with an ankle injury shortly after and the Borough led by four points turning for home.

Bunker returned to the action in the final quarter and got an early clearance as the Magpies made a run at it.

But after the Magpies didn’t take advantage of two early chances, the famous old red and blue wouldn’t be denied.

They could have sealed it in the seventh minute when Borg won a free kick outside the goal square but missed the set shot and Williams also missed what would have been a great goal a few minutes later.

Bella Stutt produced two moments of magic, inside the last five minutes, twice beating two opponents and hitting up Harley inside-50.

Her first shot faded across the face to make it six points the difference and the second landed in the goal square where Wilson took her huge contested mark, used her full 30 seconds and drilled the sealer.

Caruso was unstoppable for Port Melbourne, being unanimously voted the winner of the Lisa Hardeman Medal for best on ground after winning 22 disposals, laying 11 tackles and pushing into defence for seven rebound-50s.

The performances of McKellar (11) and Whitehead (8) can’t be understated – they only shared 19 touches but they held Dojiok (6) and De Matteo (3) to just nine and 0.1.

Harley (13 disposals, five marks) took some important grabs, Williams (12 disposals, five clearances) was better than her numbers suggest, Issy Hartog (12) and Courteney Bromage (10) tackled themselves to a standstill with 22 between them.

Bates was once again terrific for Collingwood, picking up a game-high 27 disposals, seven clearances, 10 tackles and five entries. Matilda Zander (19 disposals, seven clearances, five entries), Nikolitsis (16 disposals, eight tackles, two goals), Jackson (15 disposals, six clearances, five tackles) and Caris (14, 29 hitouts) also did well.

COLLINGWOOD 1.0, 2.4, 3.4, 3.5 (23)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.2, 3.2, 4.2, 5.5 (35)

Collingwood: J. Bates, E. Nikolitsis, M. Zander, R. Busch, N. Hales, R. Caris, G. Ricardo
Port Melbourne: L. Caruso, M. McKellar, K. Whitehead, E. Harley, B. Stutt, J. Williams, N. Borg, I. Hartog, C. Bromage

Collingwood: E. Nikolitsis 2, C. Sargent
Port Melbourne: G. Alomes, C. Bromage, N. Borg, F. Frew, B. Wilson


Bec Goddard (Channel 7)
3 - Lauren Caruso (PM)
2 - Evangelina Nikolitsis (COLL)
1 - Maggie McKellar (PM)

Lucy Watkin (AFL Media)
3 - Lauren Caruso (PM)
2 - Jess Bates (COLL)
1 - Emily Harley (PM)

Jennie Loughnan (AFL)
3 - Lauren Caruso (PM)
2 - Jess Bates (COLL)
1 - Maggie McKellar (PM)

Tom Stafford (Carlton VFLW Coach)
3 - Lauren Caruso (PM)
2 - Jess Bates (COLL)
1 - Bella Stutt (PM)

Final votes: 12 – L. Caruso (PM), 6 – J. Bates (Col), 2 – E. Nikolitsis (Col), M. McKellar (PM), 1 – E. Harley (PM), B. Stutt (PM)