NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Geelong Falcons, a typically strong region which came together nicely towards the back-end of the season to feature in this year’s Grand Final. We recap the Falcons’ season, and take a look at some of their top performers across the various age groups.
Position: 6th (3rd Country)
Coming into the year as one of the expected contending teams, it was no surprise to see the Falcons do well in the regular season and finals. They asserted themselves on the competition early, with three-straight wins to kick off the season, including two against eventual finalists Eastern Ranges and GWV Rebels. They’d then suffer two-straight losses, to the first ever Sydney Swans Academy side in the competition and a resilient Northern Knights. The last game prior to National Championships duties would be arguably their most memorable, handing eventual premiers Oakleigh Chargers their only loss of the year. A mid-championships fixture against Murray Bushrangers saw the Falcons, who were without their Under 17 and 19 Vic Country representatives, lose, before coming back and getting a win over Calder prior to finals. Beating Dandenong Stingrays and GWV Rebels to get to the grand final, Geelong unfortunately couldn’t get the job done, falling by 37 points to Oakleigh.
DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:
Tess Craven | Midfielder
23/12/2003 | 163cm
Coming into the season as a relative unknown, Craven was a vital cog in the Falcons’ engine room throughout the season. Never dropping below double digit disposal numbers for the season, and only going below 16 once, her consistent ball winning and follow-up ball use kept Geelong in possession and got them into dangerous areas. She’d also work hard off the ball to ensure she was an option, usually as a switch kick or a short inside outlet. A Vic Country Under 19 representative like many of her teammates, Craven brought the same strengths to Country in her two appearances.
Gabbi Featherston | Forward/Midfielder
12/11/2003 | 169cm
An supremely athletic player, Featherston was one of the most exciting players in the competition this year. Although not racking up huge numbers, with Featherston’s athleticism there’s clear scope for development. Her leap and speed proved two key features of her game, resulting in her being a rotating ruck despite measuring up at just the 169cm. Featherston’s aggression on the ball carrier was also quite impressive, not always landing the tackles but often forcing a mistake with the pressure she created. She impressed in her three Vic Country games, playing more as a permanent forward.
Ingrid Houtsma | Wing
20/11/2003 | 176 cm
Consistently filling a role on the wing, Houtsma was at times overshadowed by her higher accumulating teammates but still played a valuable part in the Falcons’ season. Houtsma’s sense of the outside role was vital for Geelong; holding her space to be a release option, she’d often go for runs and then deliver the ball well by foot to teammates coming towards her. On the rare occasion she found herself in trouble through the year, she showed she was able to work through traffic cleanly. She ended up as yet another Vic Country Under 19s representative, where she brought the usual reliability she offers.
Annie Lee | Defender
28/08/2003 | 169cm
Playing taller than her height suggests, Lee was a staple of the Falcons’ backline for the season, reliably able to take marks above head when the ball was at a high point, even when under direct pressure. The defender was often tasked with taking the kick-ins for the Falcons, utilising the pockets to run into and get extra distance behind her kick, looking to get it to teammates near the edge of the centre square. Lee was another who represented Vic Country at Under 19s level, as well as earning herself Geelong VFLW selection. She was consistently able to contribute her strengths to whichever team she lined up for.
Poppy Schaap | Midfielder/Forward
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Utilising her speed and agility through traffic, Schaap proved to be one of the more ‘X-Factor’ players of the competition. As a small forward, she was still able to rack up big numbers, even moreso when thrown into the midfield. It was her ball use in the forward half especially that would be her biggest weapon, spotting out kicks to leading targets or handballing to outside runners to keep the ball moving. Not afraid to take on bigger opponents either, Schaap played the role of a pressure forward extremely well, tackling any player that came into her area. She was able to maintain that output at Vic Country Under19s level as well.
Renee Tierney | Forward
23/05/2002 | 166 cm
The main marking target for the Falcons up forward, Tierney’s accuracy in front of goal and danger on the lead made her one of the biggest forward threats in the competition. Coming back as a top-ager after missing out on last year’s draft, there’s not much more Tierney could have done as a forward to push her draft credentials. Kicking at least a goal in all bar two appearances and averaging 13.1 disposals in the NAB League, she’s a high production player. Making the Vic Country Under 19s team, and representing Geelong in the VFLW, Tierney proved she can keep that production up at higher levels of football.
FUTURE ONES TO WATCH
Ash Van Loon | Midfielder/Forward
11/08/2004 | 169cm
Splitting her time between the forwardline and midfield, Van Loon has shown that she’s a reliable user of the ball, often looking to handball to teammates running from behind, or those that were waiting on the outside as she would dig in and try and extract it from packs. Being on the inside constantly, it’s no surprise that she’s a superb tackler as well, playing as a pressure forward at times. When she represented Vic Country at Under 17s level, she proved that when given significant midfield time she’ll reward, being a big clearance and ball winner, whilst maintaining that tackling output and class by hand.
Taiya Morrow | Defender
26/01/2004 | 159cm
Showing glimpses of her potential to play as an attacking defender, Morrow had moments through the year where she looked dangerous when assisting in offensive play. However, she didn’t get that opportunity often, playing a deeper role for her side when the likes of Lee and Elizabeth Dowling were in the side, where she reliably shut down opponents and stop counter attacks with her positioning and ability to create contests. As she’s given more freedom next season, expect to see her draft stocks enhanced.
Charlotte Simpson | Midfielder
02/03/2004 | 166cm
Already one of the Falcons’ main inside midfielders, the St Kilda and Geelong father-daughter prospect (daughter of Sean Simpson) is one who will have plenty of eyes on her next year. With her strengths including contested ball winning, tackling and stoppage work, she has all the traits to become a premiere inside midfielder of the competition. She’s already had a taste of state representative football as well, with the Vic County Under 17’s as one of their main clearance winners.
Bottom-agers Mia Van Dyke and Kara Stacey also featured in the two Vic Country U17s games, with Van Dyke being a taller forward and Stacey playing a bit like Schaap, they’re two that may get more midfield time next season. Top-ager Zoe Garth had a good season on the wing and half-forward line, earning a late Vic Country U19s call-up against Queensland. Draft-eligible talents Elizabeth Dowling and Keeley Hardingham also played important roles in the defence and ruck respectively, which may see them come into consideration at the AFLW Draft.