North Melbourne’s VFLW team saw off a stern challenge from the last-placed Western Bulldogs at Arden Street on Sunday.

Only a win would keep the Roos’ finals hopes alive, but late in the third term scores were level.

With nearly 16 minutes played, the breakthrough came from debutant Meghan Gaffney.

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Less than two minutes later Audrey Rhodes extended the lead to 12 points, and a four-goal final quarter made for much-needed percentage.

Coach Steph Binder was pleased her team was able to adjust their approach in-game, having gone into the main interval only a point up on their winless opposition.

"We knew the Bulldogs had been playing some pretty good footy in the last couple of weeks," she acknowledged.

"It was disappointing that we let them get the first couple of goals quite early on, but then we took control around the midfield and stoppages.

"In the second quarter we were able to get the ball forward a little bit more but we were held up by our shallow entries.

"Once we were able to move the ball a bit faster and get it in deeper, we really gave our forwards the best opportunity."

The Kangaroos enjoyed a spread of seven individual goalkickers, among them defender Jess Jones.

Binder believes it is a feature of her team’s forward line, not a bug, having set up her charges to challenge their opponents on multiple fronts.

"We always go in with a really dangerous forward line where we think everyone has the ability to either take big marks and kick set shots, or get to work at ground level," she explained.

"It’s always good when midfielders can fly forward and sneak a few as well, and one of the really pleasing things was that we got a goal from one of our defenders."

It is easy to imagine Tasmania Devils product Gaffney would surely have been pleased just to have been out on the field with experienced players.

Instead, the 19-year-old from Ulverstone set the game alight.

"She was great, she was a livewire and gave us a really good spark combined with (fellow Tasmanian) Candice Belbin," Binder reflected.

"Candice intercepted the ball and got it in our forward 50, we were able to keep it there and that’s how ‘Gaff’ got her goal.

"They really ignited the onslaught of goals for us, they lifted the team."

The game was skipper Molly Eastman’s last as a Roo, the defender having been signed by the Sydney Swans for their inaugural AFLW season.

Binder explained how Eastman, the runner-up in North Melbourne’s 2021 VFLW best and fairest, will be missed as a personality, not just as a player.

"It was really bittersweet for us," she recalled.

"The girls have loved running out behind Molly as captain, and for her 50th and final game we really wanted to send her off in the way that she deserved.

"I’m sad she’s not going to be leading us out (anymore) but everyone’s really happy and excited for what she’s going to achieve in the AFLW."

So how is the mood around Arden Street, going into the final home and away round?

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The Kangaroos have four points and 17 percentage points to make up on Collingwood if they are to play finals this season.

On Saturday the Magpies will face fourth-placed Geelong, who have won nine of their 13 games and boast a healthy percentage of 157.

The Roos are scheduled to play the fifth-placed Southern Saints on Sunday, so they will know by game day whether their fate is in their own hands.

"The message is cancel all your holidays and hopefully we’ll be playing finals!" Binder laughed.

"Their game is on Saturday, so we’ll know exactly what we need to do on Sunday, whether our season is alive and how much we have to win by.

"We’ll be preparing really well to take on the Southern Saints with the mindset that we’re pushing for finals."

Binder and her side will travel to Trevor Barker Beach Oval in Sandringham for a brisk 9.45am AEST start on Sunday.

NORTH MELBOURNE      1.0     2.2     4.2     8.2     (50)
WESTERN BULLDOGS     2.0     2.1     2.2     2.3     (15)

GOALS
North Melbourne: Skinner 2, Gaffney, Jones, Paterno, Rhodes, Scott, Taylor
Western Bulldogs: Ryan, Sandral

BEST

Reni Hicks - 23 disposals, four clearances
Emily Paterno - 15 disposals, six tackles, one goal
Elizabeth McGrath - 17 disposals, 26 hitouts, five clearances
Brooke Slaney - 18 disposals, six clearances
Jess Jones - 14 disposals, four marks, four tackles

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