NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Murray Bushrangers, a region which finished strongly in 2021 and boasts a strong crop heading into next year. We recap the Bushies’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across the various age groups.
Murray endured a tough start to season 2021, dropping its first four games by an average margin of over six goals. It wasn’t until Round 7 that the Bushrangers opened their account, keeping Gippsland Power goalless to take out what was a battle of the winless sides. Although a 43-point loss to the finals-bound Dandenong Stingrays followed, Murray carried some positive momentum into its Round 2 make-up game against Geelong during the April break, defeating the eventual grand finalist by 15 points. Capping off the campaign on a high note, the Bushies notched a third victory in Round 9 with what was arguably their strongest starting side.
DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:
Ally Morphett | Ruck
11/11/2003 | 188cm
A dominant and powerful ruck who thrives aerially, Morphett was an imposing figure across her handful of NAB League outings for the Bushrangers in 2021. Ironically, she also ran out against her own region when representing the GWS Academy, before going on to feature prominently for the Allies. She averaged 11 disposals and just under 19 hitouts this season, while also showing her ability to impact while resting forward.
Lily Sharp | Forward/Midfielder
31/05/2003 | 172cm
A forward who is capable of rotating through midfield, Sharp found the goals in three of her six appearances for the Bushrangers in 2021. Able to play team roles and cover the ground, she was a solid contributor in Murray’s side this year as one of the mainstay 2003-born prospects. Sharp is also one who capped off her third season at the level, steadily improving her output each year.
Aurora Smith | Wing
13/12/2003 | 165cm
Smith was deservedly awarded Murray’s best and fairest for her efforts in 2021, averaging 20.7 disposals, and four inside 50s across her six games. Stationed mostly on the wing before trying her hand on the inside, Smith proved one of the competition’s most consistent performers was a true standout in her region. She went on to represent Vic Country, credit to that ball winning consistency and her turn of speed on the outer.
FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:
Zara Hamilton | Wing
14/10/2004 | 171cm
A prototypical kind of footballer, Hamilton locked down her spot in Murray’s side as a tall winger who covers the ground well and is able to generate forward momentum on the outside. She was quite consistent in 2021, dropping below 10 disposals just once and showcasing her ability to find plenty of possessions as a key link into attack. Given her 171cm standing, she could even be set for a move to the inside next season.
Grace Hay | Key Defender
12/03/2004 | 180cm
The talented tall defender, who is also a high-level netballer, proved a pillar in defence across her five NAB League games this year. She was one of the Bushies selected in the 2021 Vic Country Under 17 squad, with her strong marking ability, booming kick and rebounding prowess proving key strengths in a well rounded game. She should, once again, make for an important figure in Murray’s lineup next year.
Keeley Skepper | Midfielder/Defender
15/03/2004 | 163cm
Already one of the region’s top players and a Vic Country Under 19 representative, Skepper continues to deliver on her potential and returned a high standard in 2021. Tasked with more time in the midfield, the 17-year-old was able to win plenty of the ball and set Murray on the front foot with her punishing left-foot kicking. That exact trait saw her consistently penetrate either 50m arc, meaning she impacted in key areas. With a nice base to build off, Skepper is a future star.
Bottom-ager Olivia Cicolini is another to watch for the future, proving a livewire inside 50 and leading her region’s goalkicking charts with 10 majors in six games. Tall top-ager Sophia McCarthy was the next best on five, and showcased her marking prowess in patches. Despite only managing one game due to injury, Cassidy Mailer is a top talent to watch for next year, while Madison Gray is another promising 2003-birth. In terms of mainstays, Molly Kennedy and Chloe Locke were consistent figures, as Mindy Quade held the fort down back and Kate Adams gained some VFLW exposure.