2021 VFL Women’s Round 4 preview

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 4 this weekend, starting once again with a Western Bulldogs home game as they battle Williamstown at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning. Among the games of the round, Geelong and Port Melbourne do battle in a top four clash, while Casey and Southern Saints look to climb the rankings. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Western Bulldogs (7th, 1-2) vs. Williamstown (11th, 1-2)
Saturday March 20, 11:00am
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Williamstown will both look to shake off losing records when they clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning, opening Round 4’s action. The clash also serves as the Bulldogs’ third home game in four weeks, with a second win up for grabs. Both sides come in off consecutive losses having gained points in Round 1, but will field heavily shuffled lineups.

The hosts regain a big name in vice-captain Katelyn Betts returning to the fold among at least four changes. Senior-listed players Isabella Grant and Annabel Strahan are key losses who go the other way, though an exciting inclusion in the form of ex-Richmond youngster Nekaela Butler should buoy the Bulldogs.

Williamstown will also ring the changes as a handful of players come out of last week’s side, headlined by injuries to Tahlia Merrett and Bridget Costello. The Seagulls have named Allana Dickie to return after being managed, as Asha Price slots back into the forwardline and Bridget Hanrahan looks set to feature down the other end.

Geelong (4th, 2-1) vs. Port Melbourne (1st, 3-0)
Saturday March 20, 5:00pm
Deakin University

Arguably the game of the round sees top four sides Geelong and Port Melbourne lock horns at Deakin University on Saturday evening, making for the weekend’s sole top four clash. The Borough have been outstanding in their maiden VFLW campaign, but face arguably their toughest test yet when travelling to face Geelong, a fellow aligned team often littered with young talent.

That factor is set to be no different on Saturday, as the Cats welcome back Georgia Clarke to help fill out an in-form spine which features fellow senior-listed gun Maddie Boyd up the other end. Going the other way, midfielder Laura Gardiner may find herself among the top ranks once again, while Geelong Falcons Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the NAB League.

The Borough will also ring a few changes to what has looked a rather settled side, with Richmond-listed youngster Sarah Sansonetti among the inclusions alongside former Carlton utility, Bridie Kennedy. In term of the outs, Murray Bushrangers product Kate Adams stint comes to an end, with goalkicker Sarah McNamara also absent.

Casey Demons (3rd, 2-1) vs. Southern Saints (6th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
Casey Fields

Casey Demons will hope to protect its winning record when the Southern Saints come to town, as the two sides clash at Casey Fields on Sunday morning. The Demons made an emphatic return to the winners list last time out, but should be tested well by another aligned team in Southern Saints, who will be keen to bounce back from consecutive losses.

The reserves-like system looks to have payed off for Melbourne-listed player Chantel Emonson, who comes out of the Demons’ side after a promising performance last time out. Young tall Bridie Winbanks is the other player missing from Casey’s Round 3 squad, though midfielder Megan Fitzsimon returns for her third game at the level.

Last week’s Saints debutants, Anna Harris and Madi Southam are among the four players to make way for their team, with senior-listed youngster Jess Matin also in that group. The inclusion of Renee Saulitis should buoy the travelling side though, along with Gabby De Angelis who slots back into the forwardline – in the opposite pocket.

Carlton (10th, 1-2) vs. North Melbourne (9th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
Princes Park

Carlton hosts its second consecutive game at Princes Park on Sunday when fellow 1-2 team North Melbourne arrives for battle. The Blues will also be out for back-to-back wins after opening their account last week, while the Kangaroos’ form has resembled that of a yo-yo with that sole win sitting between their two losses.

In a boost for the home side, a couple of talented young senior-listed players come into the lineup after Charlotte Hammans earned a call-up, with Maddy Guerin set to take her spot at half-back while tall prospect Serena Gibbs promises to add a scoring threat at centre-half forward. The changes see a total of six senior Blues line up in the reserve squad.

North will also benefit from some handy inclusions this week, with Alexia and Jayde Hamilton both in line for returns. The latter will play her second game having recently suited up for the GWS Giants Academy in the NAB League. AFLW-listed forward Brooke Brown looks set to rotate through the ruck having been named there, while Western Jets product Marli Klaumanns-Moller is one of two outs.

Essendon (5th, 2-1) vs. Darebin (12th, 0-3)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
The Hangar

Darebin’s search for its first win of the 2021 season continues on Sunday, as the Falcons take on Essendon for a morning battle at The Hangar. The travelling side has battled hard and faces a third standalone team in four weeks, while the Bombers will fancy a third victory here having won two on the trot.

With key pillars performing well, Essendon looks set to make just two changes to its winning side with Nicole Julian coming in for her first game in midfield, and Grace Dicker named on the bench for her second outing. Going the other way are Elizabeth Hosking and Elizabeth Snell, the latter of whom earned votes in her VFLW debut last week.

Darebin will have a couple of untimely absences, with the reliable Kathleen Roe and dangerous forward Hayley Munro among three players to come out of the team. In their place, Julia McArdle and Mikayla Meyer come in via the bench as Vanja Smiljanic gets her chance starting in midfield alongside skipper, Steph Simpson.

Collingwood (2nd, 3-0) vs. Hawthorn (8th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 11:00am
Victoria Park

Collingwood’s perfect record will once again be put on the line as the Magpies take on Hawthorn at Victoria Park on Sunday morning, rounding out the weekend’s action. This clash marks the home side’s first meeting with a non-aligned club, while the Hawks take on their second aligned team after suffering a second loss last time out.

The Pies’ creative stocks will take a bit of a hit as tall Bella Smith comes out of the side with Imogen Barnett, as well as fellow senior-listed players in Sarah Rowe and Kristy Stratton. Another AFLW Magpie, Abbi Moloney swoops back down to the level to bolster the forwardline, with Maddy Shevlin also in among the four changes.

Hawthorn will make at least three swaps to its Round 3 lineup, with talented Territorian Dominique Carbone among them. She returns home to play for local team, Darwin in the NTFLW grand final. Jemma Owen is out through injury, with Jenna Richardson and Katie Angelis given the opportunity to make their debuts in brown and gold.

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