Geelong have avoided the ignominy of a winless AFLW season, instead inflicting that fate on Gold Coast with a 17-point win over the Suns in their wooden-spoon playoff at Metricon Stadium.
The Cats made the most of a three-goal first term on Saturday to secure a 6.5 (41) to 3.6 (24) win and finish the 2021 campaign with a 1-8 record.
Defeat for the Suns, however, means they end the season bottom of the ladder with an 0-9 record in a year where they have set records for all the wrong reasons.
The Suns not only posted the lowest score in AFLW history this season, they also set a new mark for the heaviest-ever defeat in the competition.
Veteran Richelle Cranston scored two goals for the Cats, including a sensational solo effort in the third quarter where she sold a dummy to her opponent before kicking home from just inside the 50m arc with the outside of her right boot.
Cranston had earlier scored one of the first two goals of the game for the visitors in an opening quarter which ended with a bit of push and shove.
That led to a 50m penalty against the Suns which allowed Rene Caris to kick the Cats’ third after the siren and take a 19-point lead into the opening break.
It was one of 11 free kicks conceded by the hosts in the opening term, which was spent largely inside their defensive 50.
Kalinda Howarth kicked two goals for the Suns, who were unable to get the margin under a goal despite battling hard following their poor opening quarter.
The Cats iced the victory with a goal on the siren that sparked jubilant celebrations, with a pack of players falling on goalkicker Rebecca Webster.
“There’s a little bit of relief for me but joy for the players,” Cats coach Paul Hood said.
“I’m so delighted that they get to take some joy out of the season.
“It’s been a tough one, obviously, but our playing group’s been resilient and their form in the last two weeks has been fantastic.”
A disappointed David Lake said the Cats’ fast start had been something his team had been unable to respond to.
“Probably quarter-time to halftime, somewhere in that little bit there, we turned up and decided to play,” Lake said.
“Geelong are a very effort-based side and they’ve shown that … I felt around the footy they had a little bit more want than us.
“You don’t want to be zip-and-nine but the facts are you are and you’ve got to keep pushing your young girls along.”