NAB League Girls Round 4 preview: Unbeaten sides to go head-to-head across Super Saturday

NAB League Girls action is back for a second consecutive week – unfortunately for the first time this season due to the Victorian snap lockdown – but it provides teams with a couple of instant classics, as well as sides that are battling for their first wins of the season.

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.30am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Two unbeaten sides go head-to-head in the early Saturday morning game when Geelong Falcons travel east to take on Eastern Ranges at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve from 10.30am. The Falcons are coming off back-to-back wins over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers in the opening rounds, while the Ranges put Gippsland Power to the sword last week with a record-breaking 114-point win after getting past an inefficient Western Jets in Round 1. Both these sides come into the game as two of the most in-form teams which spells the potential for a classic.

The Ranges’ midfield is a real strength with the likes of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher providing inside contested grunt work, and the class of Jorja Livingstone on the outside providing the run. Inside 50, Alyssia Pisano has become a revelation with four goals last week following a promising Round 1 debut, and the bottom-age prospect is shaping as a top-end talent for 2023. Georgia Campbell was outstanding in her effort against Grace Matser last week, and will look to hold down the fort again coming up against Keeley Hardingham of the Falcons, whilst Geelong have a number of inside midfielders themselves with Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson always having a crack in there.

Up forward, Renee Tierney has already kicked six goals in two games, with captain Lucy Were, and the dynamic Gabbi Featherston capable of anything when inside 50. It will be up to the Ranges’ defence to try and contain the Falcons forward six, with Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch having promising starts to the 2021 season. Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling up the other end have been impressive at flanking Mia Van Dyke to be a dominant half-back line, intercepting nearly anything that comes their way. The Ranges will need to be smart with their ball use, and pinpoint their passes inside 50 to ensure the best efficiency going forward.

The game is neck and neck, with the Final Siren podcast team split, with Geelong marginally ahead 2-1 in the tipping, though it genuinely could go either way.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, February 27 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two sides looking for a big effort are out at Morwell East when Gippsland Power heads back home to host Northern Knights. It will be their first game at the venue this season following the Round 2 home game with the Eastern Ranges being flipped around and played at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve instead. The Power will be looking to put in a more competitive effort in Round 3 after a 114-point defeat at the hands of Eastern Ranges last round, and will look to do it against a Northern Knights side that looked pretty good against Sandringham Dragons in Round 3. The Knights were blown away by Oakleigh Chargers in Round 1, but responded last week, and Gippsland will look to do the same in this clash.

The Power have a strong inside midfield group, led by Grace McRae who is a natural ball-winner. She will need to lead the way with hard ball gets against a Northern side that feasted on it last week thanks to the work of Maeve Chaplin. Lily-Rose Williamson is another inside body that will help extract the ball from the contest, whilst Matilda Van Berkel can play anywhere from midfield, ruck to key position and was the main interceptor in defence last week. Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma are happy to run the ball forward and that is where the Power can take advantage, with the Knights missing AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby from the clash.

Matser has a chance to take control in the ruck with dominant hitout specialist Georgia Kitchell also missing the game, though the Knights have plenty of depth to step up. Ella Smallacombe and Megan Girolami were busy last week combining for five goals, and the likes of Van Berkel, Holly Booth and Courtney Fletcher will have their work cut out for them. Expect Tarrah Delgado to continue her form and be a rock in defence, while Brooke Plummer will step up to bring that outside run on a wing and become the key playmaker in the match.

Northern are favourites after last week’s effort, but missing a couple of key personnel could make it a little tougher, but should still get the job done. Gippsland have the strengths to match it with Northern on the inside, with the battle between McRae and Chaplin the highlight.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.15pm
Cathedral College, Wangaratta

Up north, Murray Bushranger host Western Jets in a battle of two winless sides looking to get on the board in season 2021. The Bushrangers went down to Bendigo Pioneers in the opening round, then lost out to GWV Rebels in Round 3. The Jets were unlucky not to capitalise against Eastern Ranges in Round 1, before just falling short against Dandenong Stingrays in Round 3. Heading into this game, the Jets will be keen to make almost-there become success.

Grace Hay returns for the Bushrangers having to juggle her football and netball commitments which immediately strengthens the Bushrangers’ back six and provides another strong ball user out there. She will team up with a half-back line featuring the strong hands of Molly Kennedy – due for a great battle with Jets’ Caitlin Sargent – and Chloe Locke who both can provide some offence to go with their defensive work. Mindy Quade at full-back is another strong player who can win one-on-ones regularly, and use her powerful boot to clear the area. Going head-to-head with Jemima Woods, the Bushrangers’ talls will need to quell the Jets’ targets inside 50.

Two of the more in-form wings could go head-to-head in Charlotte Baskaran and Aurora Smith, with both having outstanding games in the opening two rounds. Montana Ham and Keeley Skepper are two of the most promising prospects for next year and will likely lock horns in the midfield, while Krystal Russell will look to take full advantage in the ruck with Bushrangers’ AFL Women’s Academy member Ally Morphett out. The Bushrangers still have scoring options in the likes of Kristy Whitehead and Sophia McCarthy, while Kate Maxwell and Laura Elliott were good in defence last week.

The Jets are favoured in this contest, but some of the one-on-ones should be fantastic to watch.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

From two winless sides to two with a 1-1 record, Bendigo Pioneers host Calder Cannons in a much anticipated Round 4 matchup. The Cannons were arguably the team to beat given their two AFL Women’s Academy members and host of likely Vic Metro talents, but were just outclassed by an incredible Oakleigh Chargers outfit last week, after knocking off Sandringham Dragons in the opening round. Bendigo took out Murray Bushrangers in the opening round, but then suffered defeat at the hands of Geelong Falcons in Round 3, so will be looking to make up for that loss with a huge scalp here.

Tara Slender returns from a concussion precaution that kept her out of the Pioneers’ Round 3 loss, and will play a crucial role at centre half-forward. It forces one of Neve Crowley or Kasey Lennox to make sure she has a close-checking key defender on her, with Tegan Williams seamlessly slotting into Slender’s role up the opposite end of the ground. Bottom-ager Lila Keck, as well as top-ager Lily Den Houting have been named inside 50, and could provide scoring options for the home team. Meanwhile up the other end, Alisa Magri and Jessica Zakkour could be targets inside 50 for the Cannons.

The ruck battle between Madeline Marks and Peppa Poultney will be a fascinating one, with the Pioneers midfield getting a huge challenge to try and contain the Cannons’ onball group. Georgie Prespakis and Zali Friswell will head in with Emelia Yassir this week, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson will line up with Chantelle Mitchell to try and take control in there.

The Cannons will go in as strong favourites, but the Pioneers are back to full strength with Slender returning, and if they can get on top in the midfield, anything is possible.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Twin Ovals

After missing out in Round 2, Tasmania Devils return to Twin Ovals for their first home game of the year. They take on Oakleigh Chargers who 12 months ago, took them to pieces in a triple-figure victory on the Apple Isle. Fast forward to 2021, and the Devils are a stronger, more cohesive unit that are coming off an impressive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power in the opening round. Oakleigh Chargers are a different group altogether and right now the benchmark of the competition, which gives Tasmania a great chance to measure themselves against the top team.

The Devils were able to have high efficiency going forward in Round 1, with Amy Prokopiec slotting four goals – including two in the first quarter – against the Power, while Amy Bissett also nailed a couple of majors. Having Charlie Vandenberg take the first ruck spot has enabled Camilla Taylor to be another target inside 50, while the midfield group of Perri King, Ella Maurer and Claire Ransom was terrific against the Power. Now they meet the most dominant group in the league, with Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Eliza James on-ball, and Stella Reid tearing it up on the the outside.

Tasmania will need to ensure the Oakleigh midfield does not get off the chain as the Chargers can score quickly and heavily when given the chance, especially with Jemma Rigoni and Ameille Smith being targets inside 50. Charlotte Thomas and Candice Belbin are some of the defensive options back there for the Devils, whilst up the other end, Brooke Vickers has been a source of run and carry for the Chargers. If Oakleigh can get the ball forward, they have an abundance of smalls running around at the feet of the talls, such as Taylah Morton who could hit the scoreboard.

Overall, the Chargers have passed every test thrown at them and deserve to be overall favourites. The key to this game is seeing how much the Devils have progressed in 12 months, and if they can cause a huge boilover in front of their home fans.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS VS. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Sunday, February 28 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The standalone Sunday game is a must-watch, with the GWV Rebels sitting 1-1 and the Dandenong Stingrays 1-0 after a delayed entry into the competition. The Stingrays were due to return to the competition in Round 2, but Victoria’s snap lockdown pushed it back a week, where they took care of the Western Jets in a competitive match. The Rebels had a similar clash in Round 1 going down to the Falcons, before they put Murray Bushrangers to the sword in a seven goals to two first half last week at Epsom Huntly, then steadied in the second half to record a strong win.

The Rebels are one of only two sides – with Calder Cannons – that have two AFL Women’s Academy members, and this week Nyakoat Dojiok has been named beside Ella Friend in the half-forward line. With Dandenong’s abundance of strong defenders, it provides the Rebels midfield with another target to use, and Dojiok is more than capable of taking on opponents at ground level. Mackenzie Eardley will have a huge job on the contested-making Friend, while Tahlia Meier works hard both ways and will need to hit the scoreboard whilst being aware her opponent Brooke Smith can do damage the other way. Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony are all capable of intercepting in the back 50, so the Rebels will need to be good with their ball use.

In midfield, Amber Clarke has been thrown there alongside last week’s Draft Central Player of the Week Emily Shepherd, and top-age talent Abbey Jordan. The trio of Paige Scott, Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers worked well for the Rebels in Round 3, and they will lock horns in a fantastic battle of inside midfields. Chloe Leonard is the key for the Rebels off half-back, though Molly Walton has also made a splash for the Rebels in her debut season, and they will have to rebound the Stingrays’ attacks, with Ashleigh Richards one to watch inside 50 who could do some damage.

This is a 50-50 game and both these teams have such a well-balanced list. The Stingrays might be able to get the job done due to their intercepting firepower, but the Rebels have plenty of attacking options. Expect it to be a tough, low-scoring game.

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