The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 7

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 7 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side and a few players make their debuts. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 7

Collingwood maintained its unbeaten streak with a win over the Southern Saints on Saturday morning, with Eastern Ranges standout Olivia Meagher enjoying an extended run in the side. She had 11 disposals, laid three tackles and picked up votes for the Magpies in their seventh win. For the Saints, Gabby De Angelis notched 12 touches, while fellow pathway graduates Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder each found the ball nine times.

Essendon boasted a host of current and former Calder Cannons products in its win over Williamstown, with the young brigade making a real impact. Zali Friswell booted two goals to feature among the Bombers’ votes with Kasey Lennox, as former Cannons Alana Barba (11 disposals) and Grace Dicker (10) also fared well.

Meanwhile, country coup Eloise Ashley-Cooper racked up a team-high 17 disposals, while current Bendigo Pioneers standout Elizabeth Snell laid 10 tackles in the sash. For Williamstown, Ruby Tripodi was again superb as she found the ball 20 times, but could only manage two behinds among them. Megan Williamson had it 16 times, booting a goal and laying nine tackles to feature among the Seagulls’ votes.

Casey and Hawthorn treated fans to a relatively high-scoring spectacle, with the Demons coming out on top and the Hawks continuing to blood exciting youth. The Eastern Ranges representation was high in brown and gold, as Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, four tackles), Isabelle Khoury (11 disposals, seven tackles, one goal), Eloise Chaston (six disposals, five tackles), and Tilly Hardy (five disposals, four tackles) all continue to acclimatise to the level alongside graduate, while Jenna Richardson (eight disposals) also impressed.

Emma Horne was arguably Melbourne’s pick of the NAB League products, notching nine disposals and finishing with four tackles. Versatile tall Bridie Winbanks managed two disposals and eight hitouts, as 19-year-old former Dandenong Stingray, Harmony Thomas also ran out for the Demons.

Geelong’s top four charge rages on, as the Cats kept North Melbourne at bay in Sunday’s opening bout. Paige Sheppard was again terrific in the hoops, racking up 22 disposals to go with seven tackles and four marks. Tamara Smith had it 14 times and got her hands dirty with eight tackles, as current Geelong Falcons guns Annie Lee and Renee Tierney returned to the fold. Ciara Fitzgerald had 10 touches for North, while 20-year-old Tasmanian Camilla Taylor collected seven on debut.

The Western Bulldogs returned to the winners list with an emphatic victory over Darebin Falcons, with a continued injection of youth and AFLW-listed players aiding their cause. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods had a memorable debut with three goals, running out for the first time alongside Stephanie Asciak. GWV’s Lilli Condon celebrated her first win at the level with 11 disposals and five tackles, as Brooke Hards and Molly Denahy Moloney continued their runs in the side. For Darebin, youth product and Calder ruck Peppa Poultney entered the fray with 10 disposals and a couple of marks.

The final game of the round saw Port Melbourne come from behind to edge Carlton on home turf, seeing the Borough remain top of the table. Recently delisted Richmond AFLW tall, Cleo Saxon-Jones finished with 11 kicks among her 12 disposals, as former Carlton utility Bridie Kennedy had 10 touches, and current Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton matched that output, but could not quite snare her maiden goal.

For Carlton, Northern Knights graduate Marnie Jarvis collected 12 touches and laid four tackles, as Amber Micallef had it a handful of times and Murray Bushrangers standout Kate Adams came in for her fifth game – ending with three disposals for the third game running.

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