OAKLEIGH Chargers came close to making NAB League Girls finals and had five players drafted last year in a huge boost for the metropolitan club, but the development of those remaining on the list for 2020 gives the coaching staff plenty of work with this season. Chatting to Chargers’ female talent coordinator, Jennifer Phefley and head coach Luke O’Shannessy, the pair is excited about what the team can produce this season.
“Really good,” Phefley said. “We are seeing a lot of development from our younger players along with the addition of a handful of talented first year players amongst the older age groups. “The depth of talent across the whole squad makes the next few years look really exiting.”
There have been a number of top performers on the track over the pre-season and standing up are the three AFL Women’s National Academy members in captain Mimi Hill, vice-captain Joanna Lin and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom – the sister of Sydney Swans’ James – as well as a couple of fresh faces making themselves known.
“No surprises that our AFLW Academy girls (Mimi, Jo & Charlie) have been amongst the standouts during pre-season,” O’Shannessy said. “We have also been impressed really impressed by a couple of our first year players in Olivia Barton (19-year-old) and Lucja Boyd-Singer (top-age). “Along with the aforementioned bottom-age talent all of our middle and top-age players are being challenge to stay on top of their games.”
In describing what each of the players offer to the team, O’Shannessy said they were all very different but with high levels of competitiveness and footy smarts.
“Mimi Hill (is) one of our most consistent and competitive players,” he said. “She has the footy IQ to really impact games with intercept marks and line breaking run. She is also one of the best contested marks in the squad able to compete aerially with players taller than her. “She was captain last year (2019) as a middle age player which is a testament to her leadership both on and off the field.”
“Joanna Lin (is a) very smart outside player who covers the ground effortlessly and is extremely is extremely effective with ball in hand. “She also rarely loses a one-on-one contest.”
“Charlie Rowbottom was able to beat some draftable top-age talent as a a key back as a bottom age player in 2019 which speaks volumes about her competitive abilities. “She is a strong contested mark and a very good kick. We see some opportunity this season for her as a tall inside midfielder.”
Along with those already on the list, there have a been a couple of cross-coders who have joined the Chargers’ program with a basketballer and cricketer both opting to test their luck with the club.
“Lara Edmanson comes to us as a 19 year old from an elite basketball background,” O’Shannessy said. “She is currently involved in the Melbourne Boomers squad. “Jasmine Fleming (is the) daughter of Damien Fleming, is an excellent cricketer involved in state and national teams. “She is currently a bottom-age player but will hopefully feature later in the season and over the next couple of years.”
Over the pre-season, Oakleigh has managed a couple of practice matches against Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges in the lead-up to the 2020 season. After showing terrific leadership both on and off the field, Hill has been chosen to captain the side once again, with last year’s best and fairest winner, Lin as her vice-captain. Rowbottom, Kalarni Kearns and Eliza James all join the leadership group for the season ahead.
Leading up to Round 1, Phefley said she was looking forward to seeing the depth of talent on show with the club having built up its talent over the past few years like all regions with the abilities improving across the board.
“The depth of talent in our squad is one of our major strengths,” she said. “The squad is also well balanced in that players are extremely versatile in their ability to play through multiple lines. Another strength for our squad lies in the consistency of the playing group, as a high percentage have been with us for multiple seasons now.”
Oakleigh Chargers begin their 2020 campaign with a road trip to Wangaratta to take on Murray Bushrangers from 1pm on Sunday, They then fly to Hobart for the Tasmania Devils’ inaugural clash in Round 2, a bye in Round 3 and an early morning clash with rivals, Sandringham Dragons in Round 4.