THE Northern Knights were one of the most impressive TAC Cup Girls teams this season, executing a near-perfect win-loss record in 2018. The Knights defeated every team except for the Geelong Falcons, who beat them in their home-and-away encounter as well as the Grand Final. But the Knights certainly did not waste their season, showcasing their young talent and fierce scoring power not just against the Falcons, but against every team.
R1: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 35 points
R2: defeated Calder Cannons by 48 points
R3: defeated Sandringham Dragon by 30 points
R4: defeated Greater Western Victoria Rebels by 16 points
R5: defeated Oakleigh Chargers by 51 points
R6: defeated Gippsland Power by 15 points
R7: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 71 points
R8: lost to Geelong Falcons by 8 points
R9: defeated Murray Bushrangers by 30 points
Maddy Brancatisano: The captain led from the front this season, playing a team role whenever she was needed to do so. Brancatisano played her midfield role in a defensive style, laying plenty of strong tackles and nullifying her direct opponent’s influence. The top-ager was included in the AFL Draft Central Team of the Week in round six, when she nullified the influence of Gippsland Power co-captain, Tyla Hanks. Brancatisano now has the opportunity to represent Vic Metro at the AFL Women’s National Under 18 Championships, thanks to a stellar season in Knights colours. The basketballer has also been training with Carlton’s VFL Women’s side in a bid to further boost her credentials as a fantastic player.
Ellie McKenzie: The 15 year-old took the competition by storm, being named amongst the best in each of the six games that she featured in during the season. McKenzie was particularly dangerous in the forward line as her height, good body-work and strong hands combined for 10 goals from seven games (including the Grand Final). McKenzie was also able to float into the back line or in the midfield, where she would use those same strengths as well as her incredible running power to trouble opposition sides. Her versatility earned her a spot in the AFL Draft Central Team of the Year on a half-forward flank. She is also representing Vic Metro in the Under 16 squad in the AFL Women’s National Championships.
Marnie Jarvis: One of the most impressive wingers in the competition, Jarvis provided X-Factor every time she got the ball in hand. She was able to move the ball swiftly by hand and by foot, and always tried to impact the contest. For a small player, she had a big kick and used it to effect to boot the ball forward for the Knights. She is currently representing Vic Metro in the National Under 18 Championships and will play VFL Women’s for the Darebin Falcons.
Gabby Newton: Newton was one of the most influential players in the competition, impressing in every position she played in. She made the AFL Draft Central Team of the Week four times in a different position on each occasion. Arguably her best work was done in the ruck and at half-forward, as she was named as the centre-half forward in the AFL Draft Central Team of the Year. Newton used the ball well both by hand and by foot, often being the catalyst behind the onslaught of the Knights’ scoring that became so common throughout the season.
Neve O’Connor: Carried most of the ruck duties for the Knights throughout the season and could impact a contest with a simple tap. Displayed good body-work on her opponents and had strong hands. She has been selected to play for Vic Metro in the National Under 18 Championships.
Alyssa Bannan: Bannan was a goal kicking machine during the season, finishing second in the TAC Cup Girls goal kicking tally. The 16 year-old booted 14 goals from nine matches and did so with poise, booting majors from all angles. A highlight was when she booted a few goals in a matter of minutes to turn the game in Northern’s favour in round one, which was a pivotal kickstart to the Knights’ season.
Britney Gutknecht: Gutknecht was a great swing player for the Knights, utilising her strength and high footy IQ to make an impact both across half-forward and half-back. However, her main strengths were on show in the forward line, as she booted 12 goals from 10 games, including a bag of seven to be named the AFL Draft Central Player of the Week for that effort. She was also nominated for the AFL Draft Central Team of the Year in the forward line after being nominated three times throughout the year.
The Northern Knights season is one that coach, Marcus Abney-Hastings should be proud of, as the players not only developed but also got plenty of confidence-boosting wins along the way. The Knights bravely took it right up to the Falcons in the grand final, imposing their attacking game on their top-of-the-table opponent. With an average winning margin of 34 points, the Knights were a scary prospect in the competition and with a young side at the helm, they could be in for lots of success in the upcoming years of the TAC Cup Girls competition.