Top Performers: 2021 AFLW U19s Championships – Thursday, April 15

THE AFL Women’s Under 19s Championships concluded for three sides yesterday, as Western Australia, South Australia and the Allies all completed their final matches, while Vic Metro will head to Queensland on May 29 in its final match of the carnival. We cast our eyes over the two games in challenging conditions at Trevor Barker Oval and noted down some of the top performers. The notes are the opinion of the individual writer.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA vs. VIC METRO

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

By: Declan Reeve

#2 Amy Franklin

Chopped and changed from defence, to forward line, to defence, and back to forward line, Franklin didn’t let the inconsistency in position effect her game, continuing to be an imposing figure up either end, with her athleticism a big weapon. Her speed when caught behind to make up ground and spoil the mark was really impressive in the backline, this did not happen too often however as her positioning was really good, making it herd for Metro to get marks inside 50. Up forward she had a lot of attention on her, but was unmatchable, even for smaller opponents, when the ball hit the ground, outrunning anyone that challenged her, even scoring an impressive goal off the ground on the run in the final quarter.

#4 Lauren Wakfer

After an impressive performance against the Allies in the ruck, Wakfer assumed the number one ruck mantle for the clash against Metro, coming up against a much taller Tahlia Gillard, Wakfer set the tone early winning the first hitout to put the ball in front of her teammates. This continued early on in the game, with Wakfer able to get front position when initiating contact and put the ball close to her feet, where she let teammates win it and put a shepherd in to protect them. Also looked good up forward, taking some nice marks on the lead and then putting it in front of teammates to create scoring shots. 

#7 Ella Roberts

Just dominant throughout the game, playing in the forward line and spending a little bit of time in the midfield, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was one of her in every section of the ground. Her work rate up and down the ground was insane, getting herself involved in play in her defensive 50, winning the ball and sending it out long to a free teammate, without fail, to get WA moving forward, or being that link-up option herself pushing up onto the wing and connecting well with her defenders to mark high up the ground. That work rate extends to her defensive efforts inside 50, with a highlight in the first quarter being her tackling a metro o opponent, having the ball spill out to another Metro player, where she then smothered that player’s kick with a dive. After missing out on a goal against the Allies, she got herself on the scoreboard twice, being the only multiple goal kicker, with her first coming from a contested mark and about 40 meters out in the second quarter, and her second being a similar setup in the last to put WA within a goal with just 3 minutes to go. Very deservedly got the WA MVP for the championships, an accolade that she will have the opportunity to retain at the championships next year. 

#8 Ashleigh Reidy

Ferocious pressure and tackling in the forward half of the ground, where her athleticism, particularly her speed and agility, helped her close down on opponents with intensity, following up with smart ball use to teammates. 

#11 Aisha Wright

Another electric forward half player for WA, Wright has all the makings to be a special player at the next level, with her speed and agility being two exciting aspects of her game to watch. Her work rate when the ball is there to be won is immense, often seen pushing up the ground, and winning a loose ball to then deliver inside 50, putting it in front of teammates to run onto.

#18 Dana East

Moved well through traffic in the midfield, finding ways to get on to the end of the ruck taps and then deliver the ball forward with well weighted kicks, or out to runners, with her quick and clean hands in close and under pressure really impressive, especially in the dying stages of the game where it was on the line, she was also a strong tackling presence in close through the midfield, stopping a few promising Metro clearance attempts. Set herself up well on the outside of the forward 50 and took some opportune marks to send it back in quickly.

#20 Emily Bennett

Found herself lining up more in the backline than midfield and was a really strong presence for WA, with her push from the backline on loose balls being really strong, where she would win it and deliver it well to a teammate, usually on the inside. She bobbed up at vital moments, with one particular time being a chest mark on the goal line to stop a certain Metro goal.

#25 Chloe Reilly

Reilly cracked in hard all day, even though she was thrown around positionally, she was not allowing that to impact her performance across the four quarters. Won a lot of the inside ball and followed up with long kicks forward, to the advantage of her forwards or to spots that WA players were at, showing her understanding for the WA structure. 

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

Utilised that blistering pace in the forward half to create a lot of opportunities and exciting moments, with one of those being a goal, and WA’s first, where she ran onto a long kick over the top of a pack, turned on the jets, took a bounce and put it through. Something that was really impressive to see in her game was how good she was at holding the ball up to draw in opponents, waiting until the right time to handball off to a teammate that had less pressure because of her work drawing those opponents in.

 #28 Courtney Rowley

Genuinely feels like there is nothing she does not do well, coming head-to-head with two of the best inside ball winners in the Champs, despite being newer to the inside role Rowley did not back down, taking it right up to her opponents to win a lot of ball and then handball to more outside teammates on the run. When she got on the outside herself, her usual speed was on show, happy to take on opponents and then deliver a well weighted kick forward, or a handball to a teammate further up the ground. Worked hard defensively as well, often going into the backline and applying pressure or winning the ball and getting it out.

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#3 Charlotte Ryan

Stationed almost exclusively on the wing, Ryan played one of her best games to date. The Sandringham Dragons product was busy all day, particularly in the early stages where she found a heap of ball and tried to drive Metro forward. She hit a couple of targets going inside attacking 50 by foot and won key ground balls on the outer, keeping her side in the contest. Overall, a really solid display to build on.

#4 Emelia Yassir

The diminutive ball winner played a strong role in Metro’s midfield rotation and enjoyed plenty of minutes around the action. Among a familiar centre bounce combination with a couple of Calder Cannons teammates, Yassir found a good amount of ball at the coalface and used it craftily by hand. One of the more pleasing aspects of her play was her work rate and repeat tackle efforts, which helped set the tone as the classy Metro movers went to work going forward.

#5 Amanda Ling

Another of the small ball winners in Metro’s engine room, Ling’s outstanding work rate and ability to get to repeat contests came to the fore on Thursday. She even managed to get on the scoreboard with a goal in the second term, finishing nicely from about 15 metres out to thwart Western Australia’s momentum. She was one to do all the tough stuff and dig in at ground level, showing clean hands and quick reflexes to flick out handballs to her runners. Add six tackles to the mix, and it was a relatively complete game from the midfielder.

#9 Maeve Chaplin

Once again reverting back to her defensive duties, Chaplin was a cool head in the back half and showcased her best traits. She displayed great composure on the ball, a neat point of difference in the fast-paced contest, especially in tough areas to work out of. She was not afraid to baulk an opponent to find more space before delivering neat kicks, with her efficiency quite high on the day. Chaplin’s positioning was also sound, as she read the play well to intercept, and also marked an Ella Roberts snap in the goalsquare, relieving pressure on the last line.

#12 Georgie Prespakis

Unsurprisingly Metro’s leading ball winner once again, it is remarkable the consistency Prespakis has been able to produce at such a high level. As a permanent midfield figure, the pick one contender was a class above at the contest, able to dig in to win her own ball despite heavy opposition attention at ground level. With clean hands, she would extract, slide out of tackles and flick out cleanly instead of blazing away long by foot, which was a nice adjustment for some previous form. She lifted a touch in the third term to help Metro break away, but was just as important throughout the contest. A couple of goals could have been the cherry on top of her figures on the day, but Prespakis was just unable to find the big sticks with two behinds.

#13 Eliza James

A key figure in Metro’s forwardline, the usual midfielder showed nice signs of adjustment to her relatively new representative role. She used her strength in one-on-one situations to compete both aerially and at ground level, while also presenting well as a viable target. She was particularly lively to start, but could not quite convert a couple of set shots inside 50, while a snap fell short. She would have a couple more shots but failed to register major scores in the second and third terms, and began to look more lively again in the fourth. Having finished with four behinds from about a half-dozen attempts, it was a day of ‘almosts’ for James, but her work to create such opportunities was notable.

#15 Stella Reid

Having won the ball at a terrific rate all year, Reid did so again and was impactful going forward from her familiar wing position. One of the many terrific Oakleigh Chargers prospects this year, she worked up and down the ground to accumulate and get her side going on the front foot. Reid again gained good meterage with her run and finished with classy use on her favoured left side, often proving a chain in Metro’s movement down the line.

#16 Brooke Vickers

The half-back/winger better known as ‘Chook’, Vickers rotated between the two roles and contributed some handy touches throughout the day. Starting in defence, she was able to provide her usual run on the rebound got into dangerous positions up to the front half of the ground. In her rotation onto the wing, Vickers continued to build a wall behind Metro’s forward 50 and was noticeable when the ball was loose in space, where she would often be first to it to mop up cleanly.

#18 Charlie Rowbottom

Metro’s skipper led from the front with an ominous display from midfield, constantly bustling her way forward with unstoppable straight-line strength. The Oakleigh Chargers product notched four clearances and eight inside 50s, indicative of her style of play. She was able to put her side on the front foot with irresistible burst from congestion, pushing aside would-be tacklers and often disposing of the ball with opponents still hanging off her. Rowbottom’s overhead marking was also on display, impacting around the ground with a couple of trademark contested clunks.

#24 Sofia Hurley

Coming into the Under 19 lineup after a dazzling 17s display, Hurley was able to bring some of her key strengths to the fore. She rotated through a supremely talented midfield and held her own, winning the ball at a good rate and constantly using her turn of speed to break away from congestion. Her ability to work into space within a flash was handy for Metro on the attack, and she made a couple of dangerous runs towards the forward 50, but could not quite find the end product.

#27 Montana Ham

One of the prime prospects in next year’s draft crop, Ham was not afforded the midfield minutes she enjoyed last time out, but still looked lively up forward. The Western Jets standout used her strong frame to rip the ball free inside 50 and have a say both in the air and at ground level – despite only clunking one mark. She ended the day with three behinds, but handed off to Georgia Campbell for a goal assist in term three and looked hard to beat in contested situations.

#28 Georgia Campbell

Having come to prominence this year as Eastern’s primary ruck, Campbell has adjusted well to playing more permanently up forward for Vic Metro. She started inside attacking 50 and again showed her willingness to compete at ground level, before rotating into the ruck in term two. She would pop up again in the third term with a nice goal on the fly, and really rose with her aerial work in the last quarter. Her clean hands were terrific in those marking situations, complimenting her athleticism well.

ALLIES vs. SOUTH AUSTRALIA

ALLIES:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Cynthia Hamilton

Followed up her game against WA with another superb performance in the engine room, earning herself the Allies MVP medal for the Championships. Her grunt and pure aggression at the football was vital for the Allies, winning the contested ball and bombing it long for the Allies forwards to quickly take advantage of. Her defensive work, especially tackling, was phenomenal throughout the contest, with that previously mentioned aggression and relentlessness earning her plenty of free kicks for catching opponents holding the ball, one of which getting her a goal in the first quarter.

#7 Jess Doyle

The Sydney Swans Academy captain and AFLW Academy member showed good marking prowess throughout the contest, finding a way in front of her opponent often to take it cleanly on the chest or out in front. Although Doyle did not end up getting herself on the goal scorers list for the game, she did plenty to attempt to set up her teammates, selflessly looking to involve them in the game in any way she could. When in open play with ball in hand, she oozes class, with an incredible ability to get around opponents or stand up in tackles to deliver a handball to an outside runner, when she herself gets free, her left foot will more often than not find a teammate on the lead.

#11 Perri King

Another AFLW Academy member in the Allies team for the game, King started like a bull out the gates, with tackling pressure and intensity a theme of her game from the get go, amassing a massive 15 tackles for the game. There is no questioning her defensive workrate even from the midfield. It was not just defensive pressure however, she won herself plenty of the ball, generally following up with a long kick to the Allies advantage in the tight contest.

#15 J’Noemi Anderson

Whilst not racking up a whole heap of the ball, Anderson had some really good passages of play where she influenced the contest heavily. Her marking was good when the ball was in her area, taking a particularly good grab in the 4th quarter where she pushed past an opponent to take it on her chest and have a shot at goal. It was also impressive to see her desire to spread by disposing of the ball laterally or look for inside 45 options.

#16 Ella Maurer

Had a really good showing from more midfield minutes than she had gotten against WA, positioning well around stoppages to find herself winning the ball or getting a handball receive from a teammate pretty often, where she’d run her distance without taking any major risks and deliver the ball inside 50, setting up a couple of scoring opportunities that unfortunately went unrewarded.

#20 Ella Heads

Was involved in a lot of play in the defensive half of the game, but really came up big in the final quarter when the game was on the line and SA were surging forward, able to take one particular commanding mark over an SA forward, slow down the play and then hit short option to continue chewing up the clock. Earlier in the game, her attack on the ball and ability to create contests even when outnumbered was impressive, and played a big part in the mid-game deadlock.

#25 Isadora McLeay

Playing as the Allies deepest defender, there were plenty of times where she impacted contests or the ball within the goal square that kept the Allies in front for the game, able to position well in marking contests and intercept deep inside defensive 50, then use the ball cleanly coming out so SA didn’t have repeated opportunities.

 #30 Ally Morphett

Came up against fellow AFLW academy member Zoe Prowse in the ruck and probably broke even through the course of the game, with both having little periods of dominance in the ruck, it was an exciting battle to watch unfold, with Morphett being especially good when she could initiate contact in the ruck to knock her opponent out of the contest and demand first position. There were a few times where she just ran straight through the contest to punch the ball long and then try to run onto it out of the centre, making her look very dangerous.

 SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

By: Peter Williams

#1 Laitiah Huynh

Completing an impressive championships, Huynh came off half-forward, and after a quiet first term – mainly due to the ball being locked up the other end – she hit the ground running in the second term and was one of the better players in the final three quarters. She laid a great tackle early in the second term, and then showed off her cleanliness at ground level to pick it off the deck and dance through her opponents. She took a strong mark at speed in the third term, then had a one-touch play again at ground level on the wing, easily darting onto her right side before an opponent could get a hand on her. In the end, Huynh had a match-high five inside 50s, as well as the second most tackles on the ground (eight).

#4 Madison Lane

The standout small defender on the ground, Lane overcame a one-on-one loss in a marking contest to Cynthia Hamilton – who kicked a goal – to put in a steadfast effort and mop up time and time again in the back half. Symbolic of her team, after that first quarter, she was able to compose herself and not only find the ball, but get it out of danger moving it well down the ground. She recorded a match-high eight rebound 50s, which was three more than any other player on the ground. She attacked the ball well at ground level, tracked it and kept pushing hard to drive it down the field and hold up the Allies, restricting them to just six behinds after quarter time.

#6 Gypsy Schirmer

Really prominent early and showed clean hands in wet conditions, dropping back to help the defence as well. The AFL Women’s Academy member had a better game than against Vic Country on Monday, and was just that smooth-moving option on the outside. She used short chips or quick handballs to keep it moving, and whilst at times the pressure and conditions forced her into handballing, she was able to have a fairly consistent performance throughout the match and be one of the most prominent ball-winners on the ground.

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Back into the midfield after a stint up forward in her previous games, Dolan had an impact with her fierce tackling and contested ball-winning ability. Teaming up well with Zoe Venning on the inside, Dolan was able to win a number of clearances, particularly late, which were influential in crunch moments. It was her clean pickup and quick kick in the path of Lauren Young to kick a goal for South Australia to put them within six points late in the game. She did not mind having a scrap throughout the game with a couple of opponents, and certainly played her best game of the championships back in her more familiar midfield position, cracking in hard and having a go.

#10 Zoe Prowse

Was everywhere in the first half, particularly first term as she made her mark around the ground trying to wear down opposition fellow AFL Women’s Academy member, Ally Morphett. While Morphett got up over Prowse due to the 12cm height difference at throw-ups, Prowse was clever to avoid too many one-on-ones with the stronger Morphett, and instead use her high endurance base to cover the ground and work her opponent over. The Sturt ruck got worked over by the opposition with some fierce tackles, and even dropped behind the ball later in the game, but clearly took the chocolates in the ruck battle and was one of the more prominent ball-winners on the ground as well.

#11 Zoe Venning

Conditions that suited her and her inside game, Venning played the way you would expect with her hands good in close, and plenty of contested possessions and tackles, She kept attacking the ball hard and was one of the clear four-quarter performers for South Australia, doing well on the inside and then working hard on the outside. In the fourth term, she won a 50m penalty for being slung to the ground and kicked a crucial set shot goal from the goalsquare with six minutes left to give her side a glimmer of hope late.

#15 Alana Lishmund

Played her best game of the championships after building each game, taking a strong mark at half-back and providing the run from the defensive half of the ground and along the outside. She spread across the ground and formed an option to use in transition and was able to win a number of touches through that, as well as being one of the more prominent tacklers on the ground.

#19 Alex Ballard

Played up forward this game, and had an ‘almost game’ though was still very impressive. She kicked the one goal right before the quarter time siren with a kick across her body, then had a couple of chances over the next two quarters, with a quick kick rushed, and another from a set shot that just drifted to the left. She was strong in the air and at ground level, taking some great marks and laying some fierce tackles, definitely improving on her game a few days earlier up the other end, and showing off her versatility and strength in this outing.

#20 Hannah Prenzler

The co-captain was a reliable source from half-back with her composure and strong decision making impressive. She did not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact, and she was able to settle the team down in defence, and keep the opposition from scoring, whilst providing some run in transition going forward. One of the side’s top rebounding forces on the day, and a crucial cog in the back six.

#30 Lauren Young

There comes a point where you run out of superlatives to describe a performance, and Young had done that by the third quarter, let alone almost dragging her team across the line in the final term. To finish with 37 disposals at this level is unheard of, but to do it as a 15-year-old who had to get special permission, is absolutely remarkable. Best on ground by a long way despite being on the field with so many quality players, Young took an array of strong intercept marks, was crucial in not only rebounding the ball out of the back 50, but getting it forward in transition and being a leading option. Her coverage of the ground is elite, and her hands overhead and clearance ability unbelievable. She looked like the one to stand up when required, and did so with a crunch goal in the final term with five minutes remaining, and almost took another grab with about three or four opponents spoiling her. Impressively, it was not just her offensive output that shone, but her defensive aspects as well, and it was hard to fault that kind of performance in any way, shape or form.

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