2021 NAB League Girls season review: Oakleigh Chargers

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Oakleigh Chargers, the benchmark team all season and deserving premiers in the end. Across a campaign which only yielded one defeat, the region’s dynamic squad mixed beautifully with a strong draft eligible core leading the way. We recap the Chargers’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across the various age groups.

Wins: 7
Losses: 1
Position: 1st (Premier)

SEASON SUMMARY:

Starting the season with a resounding 54-point victory over reigning premiers, Northern Knights, the Chargers stamped themselves as one of the contenders early on in the year, and rarely looked like they weren’t the main premiership threat. They were challenged at times, with a three-game stretch against Tasmania, Dandenong and Sandringham seeing them win collectively by 13 points. Their only loss of the season game against Geelong Falcons by 11 points, in the round before the National Championships. They’d return after the champs with a 100-point win over Gippsland Power, and convincingly won all three of their finals, with the last a 37-point triumph over Geelong to take out their inaugural NAB League Girls premiership.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS

Charlie Rowbottom | Midfielder/Key Forward
22/01/2003 | 178cm

The AFLW Academy member and potential Victorian number one pick had a season to be proud of. She started the year off predominantly in the midfield, where her burst, positioning and strength around stoppages made her a key clearance winner and large part of their play going forward. As the season moved on she spent more time as a marking target up forward, where her leap and aerial presence were valuable in one-on-one contests, able to out muscle opponents that tried to make it a grapple, but also blitz them on the lead if they tried to play off her. Often getting extra attention as the season went on, she found ways to stay involved and will be better off for it in future. Representing Vic Metro as captain, she clearly has leadership attributes and may continue that at the next level.

Stella Reid | Utility
10/09/2003 | 173cm

A versatile left-footer, Reid progressively moved up the ground as the season wore on; starting in the backline and spending a couple of rounds down there before progressing to the midfield for a few rounds, then spending the rest of the season in the forwardline, where she’d go on to be the side’s leading goal kicker. With that versatility comes a wide range of traits that will allow her to slot into whichever area the team she ends up at needs, with her speed, ball use by foot and ability to hold space three of her most impressive strengths. Representing Vic Metro, she was predominantly used on the wing, which perhaps offers some insight into where recruiters picture her playing long-term.

Amanda Ling | Midfielder
09/07/2002 | 161cm

Playing an often under-appreciated role, Ling’s ball winning as an in and under type was vital in allowing her other midfield teammates to prosper during the season. As Rowbottom got more and more attention during the season, Ling consistently stepped up to be the main clearance winner, utilising her side step and quick hands to shift past opponents and get the ball out to teammates. She proved herself as an able forward as well in the last match of the home-and-away season, kicking 3.1 stationed almost permanently in the forward 50. She would step up in the most important game of the year, the Grand Final, to win best on ground honours in the victory. A Vic Metro representative and recent Port Melbourne VFLW debutant, Ling has shown she can maintain that form at the higher levels.

Brooke Vickers | Wing/Defender
06/03/2003 | 171cm

One of the surprise packets for the Chargers this season, Vickers, like Reid, started the season in defence and moved into a more permanent wing role later in the season. That was where she settled in well and became a consistent contributor, receiving handballs from the inside and delivering it to leading teammates by foot. When she was representing Vic Metro, she split her time between the two roles she had at Oakleigh, looking most impressive at half-back where her rebound game was typically strong.

Eliza James | Forward/Midfielder
01/10/2003 | 168cm

Possessing good burst speed and agility, James showed her worth as a medium forward, but has some work to do with her finishing on goal. To her credit, James often looked to give the ball off to teammates inside 50 when she had it rather than blaze away, showing off a selfless approach that led to much of the Chargers’ attacking proficiency. Another Vic Metro representative, she was a key link up player in their fixtures.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Jasmine Fleming | Midfielder
05/11/2004 | 165cm

With strong family sporting ties, (mother Wendy an Australian Under 21 netballer and father Damien an Australian cricketer) it’s no surprise that after just three games Fleming is one of the best prospects heading into 2022. Faced with the choice of cricket and football in the future, AFLW clubs will be hoping Fleming is leaning towards footy. With her speed and agility being big weapons around the contest, and her follow up ball work also at a high level, she already has a high skill base to start with and develop.

Charlotte Van der Vlies | Wing
19/01/2004 | 162cm

One of the few bottom-agers that started the year where she ended, Van der Vlies was a consistent contributor on the outside for the Chargers, where her deceptive speed and balanced ball use made her a damaging player going forward. She showed she was able to operate in congestion as well, using that speed to get separation on her opponents before disposing of the ball. Representing Vic Metro Under 17s on two occasions, Van der Vlies was a major player, showing her clearance capabilities as well.

Charlotte Taylor | Midfielder/Tall Defender
18/01/2004 | 177cm

Coming into the side in Round 7, Taylor made an immediate impact in the midfield for the Chargers, pairing well with fellow tall midfielder Rowbottom early on. As more players come in for the Chargers, Taylor’s height, and athleticism saw her moved into defence for the finals series, holding her own and offering plenty on the rebound and in the air. When representing Vic Metro Under 17s Taylor rotated between the rover, wing and half forward roles, showing her versatility and piquing the curiosity of watchers with where she’ll end up playing.

Lily Hart | Midfielder
29/09/2004 | 161cm

Spending majority of the season rubbing shoulders with the midfield brigade, Hart added a touch of class and balance through the midfield. Often the player that received the handball from one of the in-and-under teammates she has, Hart’s balanced and polished ball use was always a damaging blow to the opposition from the midfield. Yet another charger that represented Vic Metro Under 17s, she’s one that has enough midfield experience heading into next year to be one of the players to lookout for, who might just explode in 2022.

OTHERS:

Taylah Morton is a 19-year-old prospect that has played for Port Melbourne at VFLW level, as a midfielder-forward she brings a tough edge to whichever line she’s on. Alexandra McCulloch was a consistently reliable defender all season, offering plenty of damaging rebound, while Erin Woodford turned into a more than handy lockdown defender in the latter stages of the season. Looking ahead to next year, the Chargers have more exciting prospects. Key forward, and occasional rotating ruck Ameile Smith is a proven goalkicker who may be the main target up forward next season, Mia Clift is a rebounding defender with the scope to move onto a wing or through the midfield. Melbourne father-daughter prospect, Jemma Rigoni, has played in all thirds of the ground and possesses remarkable speed, whilst Rianna Thiele will be one to watch as the key defender returns from injury next year.

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