AS the curtain closed on another AFL Women’s season, the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition gets underway this weekend as a standalone game before a further four games take place next weekend. All matches are part of the beyondblue Round with the VFL a strong supporter of the cause. In the opening game of the season, last year’s minor premiers travel to RSEA Park to face the Southern Saints in what should be an interesting match to open the season.
In the game, the Pies have plenty of AFL Women’s talent, led by reigning club best and fairest winner Jaimee Lambert, as well as the uncompromising Britt Bonnici, and young stars Lauren Butler and Mikala Cann. For the Saints, Alison Drennan was traded back to St Kilda after a year at North Melbourne and will be a crucial player in the midfield, but the Round 1 team is mostly littered with young stars who are hoping for the opportunity to be pre-listed by the Saints. Given Peta Searle coaches the VFLW side and the AFLW side when it comes in, it means all players will be determined to please the coach for a potential opportunity at the big time in 2020. Among those players who missed out on being drafted last year are cross-coder Caitlin Greiser who has come from Melbourne University and provides a strong key forward option, as well as former Sandringham Dragons captain Jemma Owen, and Eastern Ranges duo, Ashleigh Allsopp and Gabriella De Angelis.
The Magpies also have a number of VFLW listed players to keep an eye on, with one name being full-back Jess Blecher, an American keen to make a name for herself and one that could well have the job on Greiser this weekend. Along with Blecher, Emily Browning who managed to play some games last year while still completing Year 12 studies is back again, as Jasmine Ferguson who has balanced her netball and football well. Grace Buchan and Ally Bild are a couple of Caulfield Grammarians who could be key players in the Pies’ side this season, and will be keen to start the year off with a win. Collingwood heads into the game as favourites, and considering the AFLW talent, the Magpies’ season last year and the determination within the group to atone for the straight sets exit, one would expect them to get the job done. Southern Saints will put up a massive fight however, and they look to have assembled a list that should see them rise higher than their eighth placed finish this season.
SOUTHERN SAINTS v. COLLINGWOOD
(Video stream / WARF Radio)
Round 1 – 05/05/2019
B: 41. R. Neaves, 47. F. Hocking, 26. F. Steiert
HB: 19. L. Ahrens, 30. E. Keaney, 4. G. Ricardo
C: 22. C. Jones, 2. A. Brown, 20. K. O’Neill
HF: 35. L. McCarthy, 15. T. Bohanna, 10. J. Vogt
F: 49. A. Allsopp, 43. C. Greiser, 36. J. Owen
R: 12. C. Fitzpatrick, 18. O. Vesely, 8. A. Drennan
Int: 34. G. De Angelis, 14. D. Jolliffe, 11. H. Stuart, 7. C. Phillips
Emg: 17. L. Olsen, 24. K. Ripari, 3. D. Smith, 16. K. Thompson
23P: 48. J. Kelly
B: 22. S. Casey, 58. J. Blecher, 41. K. Stratton
HB: 13. J. Lambert, 75. E. Bliss, 65. E. Browning
C: 23. L. Butler, 67. M. Doherty, 63. P. Nash
HF: 55. C. Bunker, 70. J. Ferguson, 52. N. Hales
F: 25. M. Cann, 61. A. Malander, 72. K. Lee
R: 92. S. King, 60. D. Calautti, 50. G. Buchan
Int: 48. A. Bild , 8. B. Bonnici, 80. S. Mastras, 49. K. Newton
Emg: 77. K. Dudley, 54. A. Dyer, 90. C. Rooks
23P: 76. A. Levin
Coach: Penny Cula-Reid
Last year: 1st (12-1-1) Preliminary Final loss
After the harrowing AFLM Grand Final loss, the next biggest heartache for Collingwood fans was the moment Chloe Molloy limped off the ground in the preliminary final with what turned out to be a season-ending foot injury. It meant Molloy missed the entire 2019 AFLW season, and the Magpies clearly lacked that extra bit of star quality around the ground. What they showed last year was the ability to get the job done and recruit really top-end VFLW players who lead the way for the Magpies to be able to rotate their AFLW talent from week-to-week. While their AFLW talent from the 2018 season was below that of their rivals, their VFLW talent was arguably the best as a collective – leading to them finishing as minor premiers. Unfortunately for the Magpies, back-to-back losses to Geelong and Hawthorn saw them bow out in straight sets. There is no reason they cannot go a step further into the decider in 2019, with Maddie Shevlin, Georgia Gourlay and Jordyn Allen all staying at the club for the VFLW season after playing for Casey last year. Lauren Butler (Williamstown) and Mikala Cann (Hawthorn) are others who will remain in the black and white from AFLW to VFLW after being drafted from other VFLW teams. A couple of Oakleigh Chargers prospects already secured for the second half of the season are Gemma Lagioia and Emily Harley who have been impressing in the NAB League Girls competition, while Jasmine Ferguson and Emily Browning were another couple of young stars who with some more development could be AFLW options.
Coach: Peta Searle
Last year: 8th (5-9)
In 2018, the Southern Saints had seven players drafted into the AFLW (one pre-listed) in what was arguably a better season than many predicted given they had no AFLW current talent on the list 12 months ago. Eleanor Brown went to the Western Bulldogs in the top 10, paving the way for the likes of Charlotte Wilson and Rhiannon Watt (Carlton), Alison Drennan and Courtenay Munn (North Melbourne), Serena Karlson (Western Bulldogs) and Shelley Heath (Melbourne) all moving up to the next level. Much like the Tigers, Southern Saints have the ability to attract youth with the knowledge they will be able to pre-list players ahead of their entrance into the 2020 AFLW season. Drennan, Watt, Karlson and Munn have all made their way back to the Saints, while also picking up the likes of Caitlin Greiser and Olivia Vesely who have gone through the talent pathways and are looking for an opportunity. With Dandenong Stingrays’ Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon already on St Kilda’s list, expect them to become key players in the second half of the season, and a number of Stingrays and Sandringham Dragons to follow suit to try and get their chance at AFLW level. Any team with Peta Searle as coach has to be viewed as a danger, and expect them to improve this season, although whether or not they have enough to make the jump into finals is yet to be determined.