NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Dandenong Stingrays, the second-ranked Country region which boasts plenty of talent across the draft eligible, and future age groups. We recap the Stingrays’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.
Position: 4th (2nd Country)
We were made to wait through a Round 1 bye before seeing the highly fancied Dandenong Stingrays in action. It was worth it, as they broke to two-straight wins to kick off their campaign in style, before falling just one point short to eventual premier, Oakleigh in what was an instant classic. Another loss followed, to Tasmania, but Dandenong regrouped with three-straight victories before the month-long break. The Stingrays returned with a loss to Northern on the eve of finals, before Geelong brought their season to an end via a 35-point elimination final defeat.
DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:
Jaide Anthony | Defender/Utility
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Recently crowned as Vic Country’s MVP of the Under 19s carnival, Anthony has enjoyed a stellar year of pathways football. The 17-year-old is a great competitor both in the air and at ground level, which is complimented well by eye-catching athletic traits and sharp skill on the ball. While she reads the play beautifully in defence, Anthony is also able to roam up the ground or swing to the other end, with her versatility another tick in terms of upside. She has also gained VFLW experience with Port Melbourne.
Abbey Jordan | Midfielder
8/09/2002 | 170cm
One of the leaders of Dandenong’s group for multiple seasons now, Jordan was overlooked at last year’s draft but came back strongly having worked on her deficiencies. She transitioned from a running outside type to feature on the inside in 2021, leaning on her experience and competitive edge to become a reliable ball winner. Jordan is another Vic Country representative who can play in multiple roles, whether that be on either side of midfield or across half-back.
Ashleigh Richards | Forward/Midfielder
22/10/2003 | 170cm
The co-captain this year alongside Jordan, Richards is another who proved impactful in a couple of roles for the Stingrays. She booted nine goals in seven games having spent a good amount of time up forward, while also showing the ability to rotate through midfield and get her hands on the ball. Like Anthony, she has also gone on to earn selection in the Vic Country squad, while breaking through to crack the VFLW grade with Port Melbourne.
FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:
Amber Clarke | Forward/Midfielder
22/12/2004 | 171cm
Already one of the most exciting prospects for next year’s draft, there is plenty to like about Clarke. Still only 16-years-old, she proved a game-changer for Dandenong in 2021 with her ability to hit the scoreboard in damaging spurts as she rotated forward from midfield. Injury while representing the Vic Country Under 19s cut short her season, but the speedy mover showcased her class and immeasurably high ceiling across six NAB League outings.
Mackenzie Eardley | Key Defender/Forward
13/01/2004 | 180cm
A player who took great strides in her development throughout the season, Eardley is a premier tall prospect who is able to play at either end of the ground. The 17-year-old arguably looked most comfortable down back, where she used her height and sound reading of the play to intercept aerially. Her athleticism also translated to good form up forward, where Eardley bagged a couple of two-goal hauls to prove her versatility may be a weapon to utilise down the track.
Emily Shepherd | Midfielder
5/04/2004 | 163cm
The deputy vice-captain this year, Shepherd is already a prime prospect with enormous class and potential. She made a ripping start to the season with 23 and 24-disposal games, before suffering an injury in the Stingrays’ Round 5 bout. The 17-year-old was able to return later in the campaign, coming in as a stand-in skipper on the eve of National Championships and finding some of her previous form. She is one who seems to have time on the ball, and can make things happen going forward from midfield.
Zoe Hill returned in 2021 as another 2002-born talent with good traits, performing well in her usual defensive post across nine outings. She was joined back there by Jemma Radford, who showcased her high-level rebounding skills, and Felicity Crank. The latter is one of a few bottom-agers to look out for, along with the likes of Charley Ryan and Bianca Lyne.