2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Western Australia

IN the second of our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview, we take a look at Western Australia, a team that has a real mix of talents from athletic talls, to hard-at-it midfielders, and key position options in abundance. The 31-player squad will take on South Australia on Sunday, before locking horns with both Victorian sides on the Gold Coast in the toughest draw of all the states at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Sandgropers have three AFL Women’s National Academy members, and a number of 2002-born talents who are still in the draft frame, as well as some unbelievable bottom-agers who are pushing their way up for their first draft-eligible year next year.

2021 WESTERN AUSTRALIA AFLW U19 CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD:

#1 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts/East Perth)
#2 Amy Franklin (Claremont/West Perth)
#3 Matilda Dyke (Claremont)
#4 Lauren Wakfer (South Fremantle)
#5 Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder)
#6 Naomi Wilson (Peel Thunder)
#7 Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)
#8 Ashleigh Reidy (South Fremantle)
#9 Bella Edgley (East Perth/Swan Districts)
#10 Millie Jones (South Fremantle)
#11 Aisha Wright (Peel Thunder)
#12 Emily Gunton (Peel Thunder)
#13 Darcy Clements (South Fremantle)
#14 Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco)
#15 Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)
#16 Emma Nanut (Swan Districts)
#17 Mel Hardy (Swan Districts/East Perth)
#18 Dana East (Swan Districts)
#19 Brianna Hyde (Swan Districts)
#20 Jade Briggs (Peel Thunder)
#21 Emily Bennett (Claremont/West Perth)
#23 Tara Stribley (Swan Districts)
#24 Jaide Britton (Peel thunder)
#25 Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)
#26 Mylee Leitch (East Fremantle)
#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)
#28 Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)
#29 Naomi Baker (Swan Districts)
#30 Tajah Griffiths (Peel Thunder)
#31 Kayla May (Swan Districts)
#32 Poppy Stockwell (South Fremantle)

QUICK SUMMARY:

Western Australia has eight 2002-born players, 14 2003-born talents and nine 2004-born representatives to round of the 31-player squad. As has been the case given the lost (or in Western Australia’s case, reduced year) last season, there are a number of 19-year-old talents who are right in the frame for clubs to look at. Brianna Hyde actually has the rare stance of playing at a championships, way back as a 16-year-old in 2018-19. Both Hyde and Nyra Anderson – who has been named for the South Australia clash – will provide the experience required for state-by-state battles. While we will highlight a few 2003-born talents, the player across the board to watch is forward Ella Roberts, with the 16-year-old – and a December-born no less – star already having clutch moments such as winning the WAFL Women’s Grand Final off her boot by converting important majors. AFL Women’s Academy member Charlotte Thomas has been injured this season and is yet to run out for Subiaco, but will be raring to go for the Queensland fixtures in a few weeks, while Hyde herself is recovering from injury.

FIXTURES:

R1 vs. South Australia (March 28 @ Flinders University Stadium)
R2 vs. Vic Metro (April 12 @ Metricon Stadium)
R3 vs. Vic Country (April 15 @ Metricon Stadium)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)

A silky player who has velcro-like hands on the move and a penchant for hitting targets with ease going forward. Think Georgia Patrikios with her run and carry, as well as balanced skills and decision making. Her coach Steve Markham said he would like “to have four or five of her because she can play all over the ground, but I love her on the outside because she runs and spreads and delivers inside 50″. For the first game she has been named onball given her extraction ability, and whilst Rowley is quite light, she generally makes the right choice by hand or foot, and is a player who will be comfortable taking charge to enter the ball going forward. An eye-catching player through the midfield. Another of the AFL Women’s Academy members in the West Australian squad.

Amy Franklin (Claremont)

As versatile as they come, Franklin is one of those talls who are almost unfairly athletic for her size, but it is what makes her so damaging at 177cm. Unlike some taller players who once the ball is at ground level in space they might be out of the contest, Franklin has terrific speed which will often see her not only beat a smaller opponent to the ball, but create greater separation from her. Traditionally a forward, Franklin has spent some time in defence – and even splitting halves at either end during the WAFL Women’s some games – but named on the bench for game one, it will keep the opposition guessing. An AFL Women’s Academy member with Rowley, Franklin is known for her contested work in the air, powerful set shot and by far, her athleticism for a tall.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)

Much like Franklin, Reilly is a versatile talent who plays far taller than her 163cm might suggest. At first glance at her style, Reilly looks 170cm-plus easily with her competitiveness in the air, strong hands and fearlessness to have a crack at anything. Building her consistency across games, Reilly’s best is incredibly eye-catching and she can pull some some good marks – quite often on the lead with some nice pace – or snap goals out of nothing. Having spent time bulking up over the summer, Reilly is prepared for a big carnival against any opponent thrown her way, and has been deployed up both ends this season after plying her trade as an exciting forward last year. A powerful kick who is reliable with her set shots.

Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)

A new addition to the WAFL Women’s competition this season, Tuhakaraina comes from a rugby background and possesses some unbelievable athletic traits. Her elite speed and agility is hard not to notice when out on the field, with her power and strength to mow down opponents a feature of her game. She might be new to the code from a game sense, but with such raw talent, she will be a pocket rocket that packs a punch, as the 158cm speedster will look to lock horns with a strong inside midfielder. One of the players that has the greatest upside given the amount that may be untapped, she will be one to watch at the carnival.

Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)

One of the most exciting to watch battles will be Lakay up against Zoe Prowse in Adelaide, because Lakay has the athleticism to go with Prowse, and loves a tackle from a second effort as well. She will have the height advantage over nearly any opponent by standing at 186cm, and her athleticism for her size is enviable, not afraid to be made a link in transition. She can play forward or back as well as through the ruck, but expect her to be handed the keys to the ruck division, rotating in with bottom-age talent Lauren Wakfer, as the pair showcase their around-the-ground work just as much as their ruck nous. Another developing talent with upside.

OTHERS:

Charlotte Thomas would very easily be on the list above as an AFL Women’s Academy member, and possessing some great skills and versatility, but is still returning from injury. In terms of other 2003-born players, forward Bella Edgley has been ultra consistent in kicking a goal every game in the WAFL Women’s as one of the big improvers, whilst in defence, Melisha Hardy and Emma Nanut will provide strength one-on-one and drive the ball out of the back 50. Key position talent Beth Schilling has the capacity to roll through the ruck, but is a competitive player who is not afraid to get her hands dirty. From a top-age perspective, co-captains Hyde and Jaide Britton will lead by example, whilst Dana East is arguably the most consistent Academy member in the WAFL Women’s this season, in what was her debut year after stepping up from local football. Emily Bennett is a hardened defender with a powerful kick.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Athleticism
  • Contested marking
  • Forward X-factor
  • Defensive one-on-ones

Western Australia will certainly be an eye-catching team, but it is the Sandgropers balance across the board from its talls to smalls that make it so damaging. Unlike South Australia who only have a few players above 175cm, Western Australia have four above 180cm, and another three at 175cm-plus. The athleticism and work around the ground of Lakay and Wakfer in the ruck will be a strength, but the talls can also pull down contested marks, with Franklin, Roberts and Edgley all strong overhead. They have that forward X-factor with other bottom-age talents in Mylee Leitch, Ashleigh Reidy and Aisha Wright all exciting at the feet of the keys, whilst defensively, Bennett, Hardy and Matilda Dyke will be hard to beat one-on-one. Tara Stribley is a wing who has plenty of X-factor and upside for next year.

In terms of an area where they are inexperienced is potentially inside 50. With the game on Sunday featuring four starting bottom-age forwards, the front six inside 50 is quite raw and developing, where as a lot of the defenders in the other sides have the extra experience and will look to use that in contested situations. The forward line has the capacity to break the game open and really excite everyone watching, but they will have to overcome players who are superb at reading the ball in flight and will not allow them much space to run.

LAST WORD:

Western Australia is going to be an exciting team to watch, with plenty of bottom-agers coming through, and some seriously improved talents over the last 12 months. It will be a tough draw for them to play both Victorian sides and South Australia, but they will not be afraid to take it up to them, and no doubt provide plenty of running and talent around the ground, with athleticism that could worry those sides.

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

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