SOUTH Australia has plenty of young talent that is impressing at South Australian National Football League (SANFL) level. With four games played every weekend, we will cast our eyes over how the 2021 State Academy – including initial squad members – perform each week. In some cases, such as Lauren Young this week, there might be some young guns who are below the age to be in the Under 19s Academy, but have impressed enough to feature in the article. All notes are the opinion of the author.
NORTH ADELAIDE vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
#31 Hannah Ewings
Not only the standout on the ground in North Adelaide’s victory over South Adelaide, but across the entire SANFL Women’s competition. The 16-year-old has such an outstanding balance between offence and defence that she is a readymade talent despite having two seasons remaining before being draft-eligible. Her acceleration around the stoppage to cleanly win the ball and put it forward is terrific, but she is just as touch, with some fierce tackles and contested work at ground level and in the air. Her degree of kicking between low bullets and longer kicks is another string in her bow, and she is clean at ground level which makes her so hard to stop because opponents know what she is going to do, but it is hard to legally stop her before she does it.
#33 Julia Clark
The courageous defender worked hard throughout the contest, and earned a free kick for backing into a marking contest. She matched Gypsy Schirmer in the air early in the game, and while Schirmer got her back later in the game with a fierce tackle across the line, the pair had a fascinating battle when one-on-one. She was sold into trouble a couple of times by her teammates, but played a bit of everywhere including running hard forward to have a dribble goal attempt in the third term only to just miss. She kept pushing right to the final siren.
#38 Kate Case
The outside midfielder who also could roll off half-back kept the ball moving in transition well. She was able to run down Schirmer at half-back but unfortunately fell in her back in doing so. Whilst making the odd decision making error, when she was on the move she looked dangerous and was able to read the ball well in the air such as the 10-minute mark of the third term where she intercepted back in the defensive hole and kicked well to half-back. She would continue to run hard for the full four quarters.
#1 Tahlita Buethke
After a quiet first half, Buethke came alive in the second half of the Panthers’ loss, which started with a long kick from half-back to half-forward. She had a few almost-highlights with a big fly nine minutes into the third term, and had sent the ball long to the goalsquare which almost created a goal-scoring opportunity. The final quarter became highlight-reel stuff, when she picked the ball off the deck and burst away to centre half-forward, then burst from congestion to snap on goal, and moments ladder lead up and took a confident mark just inside 50. Whilst her two attempts on goal fell short or were passed, she finished with a lovely kick into Jess Kirk inside 50 in what was an eye-catching second half.
#5 Sarah Wright
The versatile talent returned for her first game since her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and had a solid return. Whilst not racking up a ton of it, she often put herself in the way and was able to lay some good tackles. She was sold into trouble once or twice by her teammates, but made the best of it where possible. Her best play came in close where she received the handball in defence and spun her opponent around and kicked effectively to half-back. She finished with a good intercept mark at half-forward to kick inside 50.
#36 Gypsy Schirmer
No surprise that the AFL Women’s Academy member was the standout Panther in terms of her ball-winning and football smarts. After starting off a forward flank, Schirmer moved into the midfield – specifically the wing at times – where she was able to dictate the flow of transition from defence to offence. Her footy IQ is high that she can read the ball from the taps and get into the right positions, or use her speed to worry opponents. Schirmer copped a number of big knocks in the match, but kept getting up and had a number of moments that were memorable. She provided a couple of scoring shots, including a perfect handball under pressure inside 50 that resulted in a goal in the second term, and then nailed a pass late in the game inside 50. She won her fair share of one-on-ones and once the ball hits the ground is as hard to stop as anyone given her acceleration.
#41 Lauren Clifton
Clifton was reliable in defence and composed as a whole, with the only moment she would like to have back coming in the third term where she marked at half-back with two minutes on the clock, and played on only to be run down with an opponent on her. The ball turned over and went through for a Roosters goal, which was unlucky for Clifton who had been mopping up a lot of loose balls in the back 50. Otherwise she was not deterred from moving the ball quickly and she did just that in the third term, winning a free kick for in the back midway through the third term, and then hit her targets in the final term when North was attacking.
NORWOOD vs. WEST ADELAIDE
#15 Alana Lishmund
While not picking up big numbers of disposals, Lishmund was playing an outside role and then going in to create some class at the stoppages. She showed great hands and vision at half-forward to pass it off to a teammate streaming inside 50 midway through the first term. Lishmund’s sticky hands were on show in the third term where she took a strong mark on the second juggle and moved it to the danger sport quickly. A great tackle in the final term forced an opponent to mis-kick and turn the ball back over for her side.
#22 Jade Halfpenny
The marking forward did not need long to have an impact despite West Adelaide being on top across the game, taking a great one-on-one mark midway through the opening term. She protected the ball drop and clutched it to her chest, then moved it on to kick to a one-on-one in the goalsquare. Halfpenny showed clean hands at ground level and was able to punch a low kick into the forward 50, then in the third term showed her athleticism with a spin one way and then the other to five it off to a teammate cleanly. She worked hard later in the quarter to get to the right spot, win the ball but unfortunately scrubbed the kick, though she backed up in the last quarter by helping out in defence and moving the ball quickly in a more direct fashion.
#30 Sarah Branford
In terms of touches, Branford had a quiet game. This did not mean she was not involved though, seemingly around the contests a fair bit and applying good pressure and using her body right. It was just a couple of times she might have overrun the ball or could not cleanly grab it, but once she had the footy, she was able to do something with it. Late in the final quarter, Branford picked it up in the middle, spun and kicked inside 50, hitting a target perfectly.
#8 Keeley Kustermann
Like a number of players in the game, had her moments without being at her absolute damaging best. Her kicking is still a treat to watch and when she gets going she is so balanced with her disposal and cleanliness at ground level. She laid a great run-down tackle in the opening term, and continued to go hard at the contest throughout the match. She might have uncharacteristically rushed the odd kick here or there, but the moments that stuck with spectators would be her dance moves late in the third term, getting around opponents to kick clear to Lauren Young, and then hit up her younger teammate with a perfect delivery going inside 50.
#9 Zoe Venning
Had a huge first term where she was involved everywhere, winning the ball in close at the stoppage and her kick inside 50 led to the first goal six minutes into the contest. She was the recipient of a free kick for being held, and kept presenting as an option around the ground. She hit up Young inside 50 on the lead and was being a driving force to get her team going in the first half. Venning had a shot on goal midway through the third term but unfortunately for her the ball bounced the opposite way. She was quieter in the second half, but still showed great courage by standing under a high ball early in the half, and then taking the contact and creating a contest at ground level. Overall was a strong performer early.
#30 Lauren Young
The standout player across the SANFL Women’s in Round 1, it is hard to believe that Young was on debut. Rotating between midfield and defence, she was everywhere to the point of where it almost looked like West Adelaide had invented cloning. She was involved at stoppages, then if the ball turned over and there was a kick in defensive 50, somehow she was back in the hole to mop up. Rebounding time and time again, there was not much you could fault in her game, which happens when you top the league in disposals, marks and rebounds on debut. The only couple of moments where she was beaten was getting caught under the ball in a marking contest early in the second term and getting pinged for trying to dance around one too many opponents close to goal, but otherwise it was an ultra-impressive effort. Her work rate and footy smarts are through the roof, and she can read the ball in flight and take some strong grabs. Managing to win touches in all thirds of the ground, it is hard to believe she still has three seasons at SANFL Women’s level left before being able to step up to the elite level.
STURT vs. GLENELG
#3 Georgia Swan
The forward had a quieter day as did most Sturt forwards, but she got involved when the ball came into her vicinity. She held her ground late in the second term in a marking contest with Tamsyn Morriss and won a free kick for front on contact. She took a set shot from just inside 50 which was on target, but it fell short though the Double Blues goaled anyway. The third quarter was her best term, picking up the majority of her touches, and kicking a great goal off the ground doubling back to goal, which came five minutes after she missed on doing the same thing. She gets to the right places, but the game was difficult for the Double Blues’ forwards.
#19 Alex Ballard
Standing off the back of the stoppages, Ballard would mop up the ball a few times and kick it clear up forward. She did not have her usual time and space she has when kicking out of defence, but she still took a strong intercept mark six minutes into the third term and deliver into Swan.
#20 Hannah Prenzler
Had a great first term where she was racking up the ball and getting involved everywhere. She would run past teammates and look to drive the ball up the ground, with her composure and ability to hit targets by hand or foot the strength in her game. In the last minute of the first quarter she had a fantastic run through the middle and kicked to a leading teammate inside 50. Laying a great tackle to lock up the ball in the second term, Prenzler was a little quieter later in the game, but was ever-present around the stoppages and still providing rebound and an option out of defence.
#30 Zoe Prowse
Starting in her new role as a midfielder then going back into the ruck in intervals, Prowse ended up having the best of both worlds. The AFL Women’s Academy member has the athleticism to impact in the ruck, but also outbody opponents at ground level, and her ferocity at the ball carrier and second efforts are a highlight of her game. She took a strong contested mark over the back late in the opening term, and continued to hit the aerial contests hard throughout the match. She would occasionally be pinged for holding the ball, but her clean taps and tackling was fantastic for a player of her size and shows just how versatile she could be.
#7 Brooke Tonon
Providing run in the back half going forward, Tonon is aggressive with her disposal and tries to break the lines with her run. She won a number of free kicks – including a couple thanks to the last touch rule in the second term – and was able to hit targets on that 45-angle which was fantastic. Her disposal was clean and picked up a goal assist three minutes into the final term after receiving the handball and kicking long to a teammate in the danger zone. She did have a bit of a scrubber kick out of defence a few minutes later, but it worked out to a teammate and then side-stepped an opponent to kick forward midway through the final term.
#12 Tamsyn Morriss
Had a strong first half where she competed strongly one-on-one and was able to nullify a number of contests on the wing. If she did lose a marking contest – such as 14 minutes into the second term, Morriss dug deep with a second effort to win it back. She laid a number of fierce tackles or defensive acts throughout the match, and her body positioning, as well as her impact by foot are among the highlights of her game.
CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. WWT EAGLES
#28 Lauren Breguet
Looked set for a massive day out after an eye-catching first term that saw her lead out and mark with confidence in the opening minutes and provide a goal assist for a teammate. Not long after, she was getting on the end of one after running hard deep inside 50, sidestepping an opponent and slotting it on the move with a celebration to match the effort. Another strong mark a couple of moments later looked ultra-impressive, though she went a bit too much on this occasion, was almost caught by her opponent when Breguet attempted to side-step, and had to give it off quickly. A defensive effort to lock the ball inside 50 later in the term showed her intensity as well. A second goal assist to a teammate with a lightning handball whilst under pressure less than five minutes into the term was another highlight-reel moment, and while her third quarter was quiet, her fourth term stepped up again with a couple of big marks on the lead and then was moved into the centre where she won the ball and handball quickly to a teammate.
#40 Madison Lane
Playing in defence, Lane did not have a great deal to do in fairness, but she had a mix of memorable moments, and one forgettable one. The only real blip on her performance was getting too close to the person on the mark in the back pocket and kicking off the side of the boot and out on the full. Other than that, her cleanliness at ground level and defensive intent – though giving away a free early – was great. She intercepted a ball on the win in the third term, spun around, was slung and won a free kick, which came after she ran down an opponent on the wing, forced a turnover and kept running as an option.
#41 Laitiah Huynh
Having seen her last season show some promising signs, this game felt like a special performance that was a huge sign of things to come from the tenacious speedster. Her defensive pressure was terrific, and whilst she has always had the break-neck speeds that catch the eye, Huynh matched it with getting to the right positions and remaining involved even when the game was not necessarily going her way. From the get-go she was active, and had her usual high-level tackling pressure on-point. She got into the right position at a forward stoppage for a teammate to tap to her unimpeded, and she was pushed in the back, then nailed the subsequent set shot from 30m out. Her second goal came following hard running forward and snap a goal with nine minutes down in the second quarter as a perfect crumbers’ goal. Expecting her to fade out in the second half as can be the case with smaller forwards, it was fantastic to see Huynh still remain busy and apply plenty of further defensive pressure and still win her fair share of the ball to round out the game.
#8 Charlotte Dolan
Into her second season at the level now, it is clear Dolan is starting to piece more and more together with extra experience. She is starting to really win more of the football in damaging areas and using her run-and-carry to advantage. As a premier athlete, she has the combination of speed and endurance which helps her burn off opponents, as well as a knack for applying great defensive pressure. While her kicking at times still needs some work, her courage and aptitude to the contest could not be questioned. Dolan just found space and made her own room at times, clean off the deck and taking off before an opponent could get to her. Even if she was caught, such as early in the second term, she found a way to get her hands free and dispose of it. A highlight was in the final term when she fended off a couple of opponents and kicked forward to hit a target.
#25 Jamie Parish
Using her bigger body to advantage, Parish built into the game after being quiet in the first term. She applied plenty of pressure to the opposition in the defensive half, and made sure she put body-on-body contact in marking contests. Parish is quick to dispose of the ball when she does win it, and is able to get into intercept marking positions. Predominantly winning it in the bak 50 or along half-back, Parish is another player who takes the game on and is willing to back herself.
#33 Brooklyn Kraft
Playing for her new team, Kraft was getting used to the new structures that come with a new midfield, but gained valuable minutes in the ruck role rather than being a more permanent forward. She was quick with her hands and able to dish off to teammates who could run the ball, and while she could still build on areas such as her contested marking, Kraft held her own at different points around the ground with her stoppage craft.
Picture credit: On The Ball Media