The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 11

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter 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. As the NAB League season has now drawn to an end, Round 11 saw plenty more young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 11

Geelong’s winning run towards the postseason continued on Saturday, as the Cats found a way to edge past the Southern Saints on enemy territory. Usual suspects Tamara Smith (17 disposals, seven tackles) and Paige Sheppard (15 disposals, five marks) were among the winners’ best players, as Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels gun Chloe Leonard landed her VFLW debut in the hoops.

Meanwhile, Leonard’s Vic Country teammate and Dandenong Stingrays product Abbey Jordan marked her maiden game for the Saints with a goal, while Gabby De Angelis also found the big sticks in red, white and black.

Northern Knights standout Maeve Chaplin was another to debut in Round 11, turning out for Carlton in the Blues’ epic win over Casey. She managed six touches, as teammate and former Oakleigh Charger, Amber Micallef booted a goal. Talls Bridie Winbanks (eight tackles, 12 hitouts) and Grace Matser (six disposals, six hitouts) suited up once again for Casey, as did Emma Horne (nine disposals).

Collingwood moved another step closer to an undefeated regular season after accounting for Port Melbourne on the road, though it was the Borough who fielded more NAB League graduates. Dandenong pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (seven disposals) again impressed in their second outings, as the only current NAB Leaguers afield.

The likes of Bridie Kennedy, Sophie Locke, and Cleo Saxon-Jones also turned out for the Borough, while tall Neve O’Connor continues her extended run in the black and white.

Standalone sides Williamstown and Darebin played off in the season’s first draw, kicking to 16 points apiece at Downer Oval. Both teams fielded debutants and were served well by each. Sydney Academy skipper and Allies representative Jessica Doyle (15 disposals) suited up for the Seagulls and was one of their best alongside Ruby Tripodi (18 disposals, 11 tackles, one goal), while Northern Knights’ Trinity Mills booted a goal and laid eight tackles in her first outing for Darebin.

A host of past and present NAB Leaguers were scattered across the Essendon and Western Bulldogs lineups on Saturday, as the Bulldogs won out by 18 points. GWV products Nyakoat Dojiok (15 disposals, three marks), Ella Friend (two goals), and Tahlia Meier (10 tackles) were all productive on debut for the Dogs, as the likes of Nikita Wright and Brooke Hards also got on the park once more.

Essendon debuted Calder Cannons prospects Emelia Yassir and Neve Crowley, who joined teammates Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell at state league level. Graduates Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba were among the Bombers’ best, while Tamsin Crook again got a run in red and black.

Sunday’s sole fixture saw North Melbourne topple Hawthorn, with a host of Eastern Ranges and Tasmanian talents getting a chance for either team. Hawthorn fielded four current Ranges, with Bridget Deed the latest to debut. Teammates El Chaston, Tilly Hardy, and Keeley Sherar all returned, running out with graduates Chloe O’Malley and Jenna Richardson, while Gippsland’s Grace McRae earned plaudits for her efforts in brown and gold.

North Melbourne gave debuts to a trio of Tasmanians, in Amy Bissett, Jemma Blair, and Ella Maurer, with more still to come. Jayde Hamilton, another Allies representative, also turned out for the Roos in their win.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina / AFL Photos

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