Top Performers: 2021 AFLW U19s Championships – Monday, April 12

A COUPLE of big contests at Avalon Airport Oval yesterday saw Vic Country come away with a victory over South Australia, before Western Australia posted a win over the Allies in the second AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships clash. We were on hand to take note of just some of the top performers from each state. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA vs. VIC COUNTRY

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Laitiah Huynh

A player who has come on leaps and bounds in 2021, Huynh continued her promising form and provided a spark for South Australia in the forward half. The diminutive mover has a few key weapons; speed, tackling, and ground level efforts. She put all three to good use on Monday with plenty of efforts where she would be first to the loose ball, and look to take the game on before heading inside 50. She was sometimes caught in those agile little bursts, but was an important driver of momentum for her side. While Huynh did not find the goals herself, she assisted Jade Halfpenny’s second term major and had a shot touched on the line in the third quarter. Was in the wars late on after a heavy collision or two, exemplary of her efforts all day.

#3 Kate Case

While not as outwardly prolific as others, there were a few plays from Case which saw her defy her size in defence and really catch the eye. She built into the contest by mopping up cleanly at ground level and doing the basics well, but had her shining moments in the second half. The first was an effort to out-mark star Vic Country tall Tara Slender from behind during term three, before later laying a holding the ball tackle on her and pushing the electric Paige Scott off a ground ball. Her strong work was noticeable, and matched the intensity of the game.

#5 Lauren Breguet

Somewhat of a surprise packet on the day, Breguet was one of the many hard-at-it South Australians to have an impact at the contest. She started the day on a perfect note, booting the game’s first major score after winning a free kick close to goal. She would go on to show nice movement and bustling bursts through congestion, while also digging in for repeat efforts delivered at a high intensity and speed. She was moved into the centre bounces in the second half and continued to display similar traits, returning a really solid performance overall.

#7 Brooke Tonon

Tonon was a terrific rebounder for South Australia off half-back, with the qualities she has so often shown up on a wing translating well to the improvised role. She constantly moved to good spots across the defensive 50 to either cut the ball off herself, or receive handballs which would allow her to run the ball forward. The Glenelg talent also took on the kick-in duties early, before eventually being moved onto the wing. Tonon’s day ended early on an unfortunate note, as she was red carded for a sling tackle on Vic Country’s Jaide Anthony, which saw her taken off on a stretcher during the final term. While there did not seem to be any malice in the act, the movement and end result had plenty of on-lookers concerned.

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Dolan was another to provide some seriously strong contested work, with the defender-turned-forward proving hard-at-it throughout the game. Her competitiveness and defensive pressure around the ball were impressive, adding another dimension to the South Australian forwardline which sough to lock the ball in and take toll. Dolan delivered some hard knocks and laid punishing tackles, making good on her selection in the side despite being moved away from that more familiar defensive post.

#9 Tahlita Buethke

Buethke is a player with the tools to be a top prospect, but still looks to be working on putting them to use all at once. Employed mostly in the forwardline, the South Adelaide utility showcased her speed to present well up to centre half-forward, gaining separation from her opponent and competing aerially. She also used her turn of speed when breaking from further afield, proving difficult to stop in full flight. Under the pressure of Vic Country, Buethke was a little fumbly at ground level and did not have as much time on the ball as she would usually enjoy. She was eventually moved into the midfield and continued to show promise there. A courageous mark going back with the flight of the ball was her highlight of the day, during the second quarter.

#10 Zoe Prowse

Arguably the premier ruck of this year’s draft crop, Prowse was just about the best player afield in a losing side. Starting at the centre bounces, her sizeable leap made for some eye-catching hitout wins, which normally consisted of taps forward of the contest for midfielders to run onto. Prowse’s physicality at the stoppages was also handy, and she even had a couple of nice moments running with the ball. Perhaps the most promising feature from the 177cm prospect was her ability to dominate the airways with contested marking around the ground. She dropped back on numerous occasions to help relieve with a grab inside defensive 50, while also forming wall at the attacking arc and providing a reliable target down the line. Adding some polish to her disposal, particularly by foot, may be the next step forward for the AFLW Academy member.

#11 Zoe Venning

One of the mainstays through midfield for South Australia, Venning is just about the ideal operator coaches would look to rely on and provide a contest throughout the game. Often the first player to get hands on taps or ground balls, she accumulated a good amount of possessions; often dishing out to teammates on the move or quickly bustling away to fling a long kick forward. Her work rate was impressive in both attacking and defensive aspects, as she looked to chain possessions together as the game opened up, while also inflicting her usually strong tackling pressure. That kind of theme doubled as Venning had a couple of eye-catching breaks going forward, but also made herself accountable with some relieving work in defence. Overall, a solid outing as expected.

#16 Georgia Swan

The South Australian co-captain had her moments forward of centre, and could well have finished with a couple of majors for her work during the third term. Swan’s first big moment of the day was a nice mark in front of AFLW Academy member Nyakoat Dojiok, which is no mean feat against the competitive defender. She then had an impact closer to goal in that third quarter; with a composed step back and flying shot going on to hit the post, and her swift step around a player on the mark resulting in another attempt on goal.

#24 Keeley Kustermann

Usually an assured defender with terrific foot-skills, Kustermann spent plenty of time in midfield and won herself a good amount of ball before moving back during the second half. She consistently got among the action at stoppages and was able to drive her side forward by foot, hitting targets up at centre half-forward after breaking through the congestion. Her late move to defence showcased the versatility which has Kustermann pegged as one of SA’s best prospects for next year. She formed a typically sturdy wall across the backline and was able to relieve pressure multiple times with shrewd intercepts.

#28 Jade Halfpenny

Halfpenny was one who built into the game well and had some really nice moments, especially during a purple patch of sorts in the second term. She got on the board with a well-finished dribbler off the outside of her boot, before heading into the midfield and playing the anchor role at stoppages. From there, she found a decent amount of ball for a taller prospect and was able to boot it forward off the back of packs. Halfpenny rotated forward again and was sighted taking a strong overhead mark in the final term.

#30 Lauren Young

Be prepared to hear plenty about this West Adelaide prospect in years to come. The 2005-born midfielder required an exemption to play at this year’s Under 19 carnival, and has seldom looked out of place. She is already a great size at 179cm and handles the rigours of competing against more mature opponents with aplomb. On Monday, Young was everywhere at times, using her frame to win the ball in midfield and working up both ends to have an aerial impact. Having started at the centre bounces, she copped some attention from quality Vic Country defenders when resting forward, but still managed to look like the most dangerous player afield as the ball entered her area. Her kick penetration was on show as a key trait, though sharpening her short-range game and finishing on goal are skills which will come in time.

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Aurora Smith

Had an outstanding performance across the match, winning plenty of the ball and providing that trademark run NAB League Girls spectators have become accustomed to. The Murray Bushrangers wing drove the ball forward on a number of occasions and even showed she was not to take on much taller opponents, crunching opposition ruck Zoe Prowse in a fierce tackle. She set up the winning goal to Paige Scott running inside 50.

#5 Elizabeth Snell

Was incredibly busy in the first half, having an number of early touches and driving the ball forward inside 50. A couple of her kicks were rushed, but she kept pushing and attacking the contest hard, also attacking the loose ball or an opponent with ball-in-hand. She spread well to win the pill on the wing late in the game, and applied the defensive pressure throughout the match.

#9 Paige Scott

Threatened to do a lot of damage in the first half, then came through with the goods in the second half. Effectively won her side the game getting on the end of great midfield chains down the field, kicking three consecutive goals in the second half, the only player to score a major in the half. Her first major came four minutes into the third term in the goalsquare where she booted the ball into Geelong with a powerful statement, then kicked a goal from a free kick, and finished it off five minutes into the fourth term by kicking her third off a set shot. She had a chance for a fourth in the goalsquare but could not quite collect, which combined with a couple of quick snaps towards goal in the opening term, Scott could have had an even bigger day out.

#12 Gabbi Featherston

Applied some fierce defensive pressure around the ground and set the tone early with a fantastic run-down tackle through the middle. She had a powerful kick from a set shot outside 50 to the danger zone, and looked dangerous when she went near it. She kept her defensive mindset strong throughout the match and remained switched on.

#13 Emily Shepherd

Had quite a lot of the ball early in the match with a number of high kicks around her body. She placed the ball to the right spots more often than not, even if they were not exact precision. She had a shot on goal through the same kicking action but missed to the side, then did hit a pinpoint kick inside 50 in the second term.

#14 Jaide Anthony

Backed up her first game over a week ago with another terrific job against South Australia. Unfortunately her day ended when she was stretchered off after being on the receiving end of a fierce tackle. Prior to that she was mopping up plenty of ball inside defensive 50 and driving it out to the wing. At one stage she competed against multiple opponents, not only able to spoil, but also tackle one on the line and force a throw-in.

#17 Annie Lee

Reliable as ever, Lee was one of a number of defenders who kept mopping up and being an important cog in the back 50 for the Country side. She took a good intercept mark on the defensive side of the wing in the first term, and then was able to dispose of the ball quickly under pressure at different points throughout the second half. She provided some good running off half-back and worked well to clear the danger zone.

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok

One of Vic Country’s best with her dare and run from defence, she kept taking grass by tucking the ball under her arm and going for it. She even found herself at half-forward during the second term, running inside 50 and aiding in a goal to Renee Tierney. Then she was back on the goal line in the third term, playing the role of party pooper with a terrific spoil which would have handed Laitiah Huynh goal of the day. Finishing off, Dojiok won a crucial contested ball in the defensive 50 and kicked clear to the middle.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling

Played with real intent throughout the match, Dowling was best described as ‘fierce’ for her attack on the ball and the ball carrier. She laid some big tackles, but also did the one percenters in the backline, taking a strong mark deep in defence in the second term, and provided some offensive run off half-back as well.

#26 Grace McRae

The dominant ball winner for the Country side, McRae racked up the ball with ease across all four quarters and was a consistent player throughout the match. She would get the ball forward and her short kicking game was noticeably more effective, also working hard around the ground to win the ball time and time again. She produced a quick snap around her body to get it inside 50 in the fourth term, and always went hard at it to extract it from the contest.

#28 Tara Slender

A mixed bag of a day from the star utility, who looked dangerous on many occasions, kicking a goal in the first term thanks to a great tackle and free kick to nail the set shot from a slight angle 30m out. She won a free kick in the third term but missed the set shot out on the full, and early in the match also kicked a behind from the goalsquare whilst under pressure. She presented well throughout the match and almost clunked a few more marks, but then her day ended early when a stray elbow to an opponent saw her receive a yellow card.

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA vs. ALLIES

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

By: Declan Reeve

#1 Sarah Lakay

Showcased her athleticism when she was in the ruck, often out-jumping Morphett to make a genuine contest at stoppages, able to hold her own when Morphett initiated contact as well. It was her work when she was resting forward that really made her stand out, with her marking being really strong, taking a contested mark on the goal line in the second quarter to kick her first, and then another in the final term after a good piece of team play further up the field. It wasn’t just the ball falling into her lap either, she made some strong leads throughout as well, and whilst not rewarded she opened up spots for teammates to lead into in the process.

#2 Amy Franklin

Having spent time at both ends, but predominantly forward in the WAFLW, Franklin lined up at centre half-back for Western Australia, where she was able to show off some really good positioning being on the ball and down the line, where her strength and leap led to her taking some impressive intercept marks when the Allies were coming in hard. Earlier on in the piece she found herself caught behind a couple of times, but her acceleration meant that she was able to get close enough to spoil any marking attempts. Unfortunately went off with what appeared to be a head knock in the final quarter.

#4 Lauren Wakfer

Really came to life in the second half of the game when Lakay moved to a more permanent forward role and she got an extended run at playing as the main ruck for WA. Despite conceding eight centimetres to Morphett, she did not let that stop her, utilising her elite leap to get over and higher than Morphett and continue to give her midfielders first use around the ground. It was good to see that she’d get her knee on Morphett’s hip regularly to give her an extra boost and keep Morphett below her. Her work at ground level was also exceptional, competing with small midfielders well, tackling strongly and then delivering long and high kicks forward when she won it.

#5 Beth Schilling

She would not have had a whole heap of the ball, but she had some impressive moments where she would push off her opponent to take a grab in front of another opponent and send the ball back out for WA to get going forward again, or she’d leave her opponent to cover for a teammate she’d tell to push up and impact the ball, sacrificing her own game for the betterment of the team. Also took most of the kick ins for WA where she would play on and deliver long outside 50, generally to the advantage of WA with numbers.

#7 Ella Roberts

Roberts was one of the standouts for WA despite their even contribution across the board. Setting up as the team’s centre half-forward, and regular target around the ground, the bottom-ager’s marking above her head was just one of many impressive weapons she brings to the table, even managing to take a juggling one-handed contested mark in the third quarter. It was a common sight to see her working hard up the wing to be a link up player for WA out of defence as well, with a highlight in the first quarter being her getting the ball on the centre of the wing, taking on an opponent with a run and three bounces, then delivering to a teammate waiting in the goal square perfectly for their second goal. Whilst she did not quite have that highlight every time she got the ball, she was confident and composed with taking opponents on and delivering well to leading forwards throughout the contest.

#11 Aisha Wright

Unsurprisingly was another impressive small forward for WA that just found ways to get involved in the forward half and could never be counted out of a contest, with her speed and evasiveness being a difficult combo for the Allies defence to nullify, this being made even more obvious with her getting an impressive snap from close to the boundary line in the third quarter.

#15 Bella Mann

Another WA defender that really nailed her role within the team and played a vital part in the victory and keeping the Allies off the scoreboard. Mann impressed with her positioning in the backline, seemingly always where the ball was entering to take some really strong intercept marks and rebound effectively, with her contested marking being one of the best on ground throughout the game, she was truly the biggest issue for the Allies going forward.

#20 Emily Bennett

Bennett played an underrated but vital role in the victory for WA, splitting her time between the rover role and half back, her natural sense of the game meant she was dangerous particularly around stoppages in the midfield and as a half back cutting off Allies attacks, holding onto marks even with incoming pressure or contact. A big highlight came at the beginning of the game, where she followed up a tap won by Allies’ Ally Morphett, running directly at the ball and oncoming pressure, and as soon as she collected the ball she fired out a lighting handball to her teammate running off the back line, to set up an early scoring opportunity.

#24 Jaide Britton

Really wanted the ball as much as she could get it, but did not let her get sucked in and break structure to hunt for it which kept WA strong around the ground. Made herself a genuine option for every ball, either running past teammates for a handball to get some momentum behind the disposal, or leading out wider to give WA the option to switch and spread the Allies. When she was targeted by teammates she marked well, working hard to get in front of opponents to take it on the chest.

#28 Courtney Rowley

Put on what can only be described as a complete performance in the WA engine room, regularly rotating between the rover and wing spots to keep the Allies midfielders guessing, managing to maintain a high level impact in either spot. Super classy throughout the game, with an incredible sense of what’s going on in the game, predicting what opponents are going to do and shifting herself accordingly, it was a regular occurrence to see her move out of a big contest with the ball in her hand, and then deliver out wide to a teammate with a darting kick, or a really well placed handball for her teammates to run onto. When she was out in space, it was her speed and follow up work that impressed, with a particular highlight in the 3rd quarter being her taking an impressive mark high over her head, handballing to a teammate, getting it back after running with her for 20 metres, and then handing off again to a teammate in a good scoring position, with that sort of workrate to assist teammates not common amongst this age group, it was just one of the many things that helped her stand out.

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

As one of the smaller players taking the field, it is no surprise that her agility and work at ground level is a big part of her game, and an advantage on most of her opponents, but it is her breakaway speed that is often paired with the agility that catches the eye more than anything else. It was entertaining to see so often that she would come in from the side to win a ground ball, then burst away and out of the pack to kick long forward to the advantage of teammates.

 

ALLIES:

By: Peter Williams

#4 Cynthia Hamilton

The clear standout midfielder for the Allies, Hamilton put together a terrific four quarter performance from the first bounce to the final siren. She laid some mammoth tackles to win free kicks, going in hard each and every time she went near it. In the second term one of those tackles also earned her a subsequent 50m penalty for mark encroachment and she nailed the set shot from 25m out. She had the ball on a string and kept pumping it inside 50 to be the one to catch the eye through midfield.

#6 Meghan Gaffney

Always a hard worker, Gaffney once again covered the ground with ease. She spread the ball around the ground to win the ball in each third, taking a good mark at half-back and kicking to the wing, winning the pill through the midfield, then had a set shot in the third term sliding in to mark, but her running shot went to the right.

#7 Jess Doyle

As clean as they come, Doyle treated the conditions like they were a dry, sunny day, backing up her efforts for Sydney Swans Academy against Geelong Falcons in the NAB League Girls. She provided some great run and hit the scoreboard with a couple of goals to be the Allies’ most damaging forward. She kicked her first off the ground eight minutes into the second term pouncing after reading the ball well off the contest. She then kicked a second around her body with her clean pick up off the deck. She hit the post in the final term, and missed a set shot after a great mark on the lead, but set up a goal to Ashanti Bush in the process thanks to a nice kick inside, remaining lively throughout the match.

#9 Claire Ransom

Another clean player in the wet, Ransom won plenty of the ball both on the outside and in one-on-one and whilst she did not have it all her own way as she has at NAB League Girls level, she still produced some highlights. Her running in transition and clean kicking caught the eye and used the body well against an opponent on the wing in the second term.

#11 Perri King

After a quieter start to the match, King worked into it in the second half with a strong clearance early in the term. She kept running hard throughout the match and found more of the football, and tried to open the game up with passes inside. She still applied her trademark defensive pressure in the game and made life difficult for her opponents at stoppages.

#16 Ella Maurer

Won plenty of the ball in midfield and was consistent in close, using clean hands to get the ball out to running teammates on the outside. She amassed touches throughout all four quarters and just remained involved in there to play that key inside role and try and get her team back on top. An overall solid performance across the board from the midfielder.

#19 Maddy Hendrie

Had a tale of two halves in terms of her marking, but she was still one of the most consistent players across the game for the allies. She was clunking grabs left, right and centre in the first half, including a number of intercept marks to either save goals or attacking forays and rebound it out. In the second half she slipped a few up, but still attacked the contest hard with second efforts, and provided some good run out of defence going forward.

#25 Isadora McLeay

Playing deep in defence, she had a couple of standout moments such as her one-on-ones and spoiling right on the line. There were a couple of instances in the first term where she spoiled or rushed the ball across the line to save would-be goals, and then took a terrific intercept mark in the third term. In the final quarter she went forward, took a mark and converted a set shot goal.

#30 Ally Morphett

Announced herself with a big thump in the opening ruck bounce, then would use her strength around the ground to win the ball in tight. She gave away a free kick in the third term for an overzealous tackle, but won a clearance later on, then got back to take a strong mark at half-back and provide a target around the ground for the Allies.

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