All eyes were on Casadio Park on Sunday where the first ever Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association Senior Women grand finalists met in a rematch.
With International determined to remain the pacesetters of the competition and Blue Lake out for revenge, it had all the makings of a blockbuster battle.
The Rangers were wearing a different uniform compared to when they performed in the big dance, but many of their stars remained despite being slightly short on numbers.
The visitors started strong and looked threatening during the early minutes, but their moves forward lacked polish with the faster Inter defenders often able to intercept at the key moments.
Elly Bachmann, Satomi Unayama and keeper Naomi Zwjinenburg were the main reasons Inter kept Blue Lake at bay often rebounded the ball out of the defensive zone.
This allowed the hosts to eventually dictate terms with star Tess Andrews controlling proceedings in the midfield.
She was supported well by Evany Rex and Florencia Llambi, who worked as a unit and moved the ball forward with strong structure and vision.
International’s presence completed by the speedy Ella Doody on the wing put the Rangers under immense pressure and coach Tanya Frost had no choice but to place one of her biggest names down back.
Chelsea Frost was often the last line of defence and worked overtime repelling many Inter moves.
However, Frost was unable to do it all and could not keep up with Doody when the big names dueled on the wing as the Inter striker kept on running and nailed the ball into the back of the net.
The long-running play sent Inter into the lead after around 15 minutes of football and ensured normal service resumed following the side’s grand final win last year.
Doody continued to run hard and cause headaches for the Blue Lake defence with her intensity across the game.
She went on to score another goal to put the result beyond doubt and ensure she secured best on ground honours despite receiving a yellow card.
Evany Rex also found the back of the net to complete International’s formidable performance and announce to the competition it has found top gear again.
There were still plenty of positives for Blue Lake with Chelsea Frost and Richelle Huntly digging deep under siege in the backline.
The second half re-energised the Rangers and captain Aimee Brooks led from the front scoring a spectacular long-range goal.
Despite Brooks’ strike against the run of play, Blue Lake was never able to mount a major threat to Inter and get revenge from last year’s grand final.
Inter coach Ricky McRobert said the leaders stood up in the big game.
“The team fought hard throughout the game,” he said.
“We had a strong defensive unit, while the midfield of Evany Rex, Florencia Llambi and Tess Andrews showed how dangerous they can be.
“Ella’s work rate was incredible and her intensity was unmatched.
“She put away two goals and made some great runs to help us win.”
Nothing could separate Millicent and Gambier Centrals as the rivals shared the honours during a 0-0 draw.
The Lions entered the contest as overwhelming favourites, but their playing list was ravaged by COVID-19 before kick off.
The club’s depth was tested as only 12 players made the journey to McLaughlin Park and the headaches only increased for coach Scott Dickson as injuries emerged during the second half.
The Lions threatened to score early, but could not break through the home side’s unrelenting defensive structure.
Captain Kiah Connelly took control of the midfield, while Olivia Gwilym looked to attack the goals alongside Rylee Seidel.
Seidel looked the most threatening to score the breakthrough goal during the closing stages, but yet again Millicent held firm.
The home side also suffered some injury issues as the contest became a war of attrition and searched for a score themselves.
But both teams were forced to shake hands after the 0-0 stalemate and regroup for next week.
Apollo found little resistance when it travelled to Naracoorte for their second round contest.
After an encouraging near miss against reigning premier Inter, the blue and white under the guidance of James Stephenson were keen to show their strike power.
Everyone who saw the snippets of the 90 minutes left without a doubt Apollo could do some damage when it gets on a roll after the visitors demolished the hosts 15-0.
The hosts were depleted due to illness and outside commitments and it did not take long for the visitors to show their dominance.
Being outnumbered Naracoorte struggled to mount a challenge as Apollo enjoyed peerless position to create countless shots at goal.
Many were converted as five individuals found the back of the net to lay the foundations for the convincing 15-0 win.
Zoe Brooksby, Daylia Daylia and Isobelle Fewster had a lot of fun, kicking four goals each to send a statement to the rest of the competition.