The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 3

A HEAP of young prospects are set to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition in 2021, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 3 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently play in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

The Western Bulldogs were again littered with former NAB League talent, but the young pups were soundly outdone by a surging Collingwood side on Friday night. On a positive note for the Bulldogs, Margie Purcell came in for her first game and ended as one of three goalkickers alongside former Sandringham teammate, Molly Denahy Maloney.

2020 Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards gave it everything up forward and through midfield, while Nikita Wright continues to establish her spot. For Collingwood, current Eastern Ranges midfielder Olivia Meagher was again amongst the action and booted a goal in the big win, as tall prospect Neve O’Connor got a third game for the season under her belt.

Standalone rivals Essendon and Hawthorn both fielded some promising NAB League graduates, with the Bombers’ batch proving particularly impactful in their win at The Hangar. Debutant and current Bendigo midfielder Elizabeth Snell was named among the votes alongside Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba. The latter’s ex-Calder teammate, Felicity Theodore also popped up with a goal.

In the brown and gold, Lauren Szigeti‘s strong start to the season continued as she was named among her side’s best players for the third time in as many games. She played a key role as Hawthorn’s prime inside midfielder. Jemma Owen, Maddi Shaw, and Chloe O’Malley were among the other graduates to suit up for the Hawks as they suffered a second loss.

Casey enjoyed a big win over North Melbourne on Saturday, aided by some impactful senior-listed stars. Emma Horne and Bridie Winbanks both notched their third appearances for the Demons, contributing to their side’s second win. Former Richmond youngster Ciara Fitzgerald finished as North’s lone goalkicker and earned votes, while Western Jets defender Marli Klaumanns-Moller ran out for her third VFLW outing in blue and white.

Geelong Falcons pair Annie Lee and Renee Tierney earned VFLW berths with the Cats, with the former being recognised among her team’s best players in the low-scoring victory. Tamara Smith was also influential for Geelong, while Paige Sheppard continues to return promising form in the hoops. Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder were again among Southern Saints’ contingent, battling away in the tough conditions.

Sophie Locke took her season goal tally up to six with two majors in Port Melbourne’s win over traditional rival, Williamstown on Saturday. Fellow Murray Bushrangers product, Kate Adams is another promising youngster to have suited up for the Borough, as Williamstown fielded similarly good youth.

The Seagulls had some high-level youngsters afield too, with Ruby Tripodi again a key figure at the coalface, while the dynamic Megan Williamson earned votes alongside talented forward Tahlia Merrett. Geelong Falcons product Zoe Garth also notched her second game after previously turning out in the NAB League in 2021.

Carlton had a couple of up-and-comers make their third-straight appearances on the season as senior-listed talent continues to filter through, with Amber Micallef and Taylah Kolevski contributing in the Blues’ maiden win for 2021.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

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