SANFLW Player Focus: Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)

LEADING the game for disposals, West Adelaide young gun Zoe Venning played a major role in her sides win against Norwood in the recent SANFLW Preliminary Final, where the Wests’ secured their maiden Grand Final berth against Glenelg, who are also appearing on the big stage for the first time. An Under 19s South Australian representative at the recent AFLW National Championships, Venning was a major ball winner, particularly strong around stoppages and on the inside, where her toughness and speed were major weapons, she carried on that style into the game. 

ZOE VENNING | WEST ADELAIDE
4/11/2003 | MIDFIELDER/FORWARD

PLAYER PROFILE:

Arguably one the top South Australian draft prospects for the upcoming 2021 AFLW Draft, Venning is possibly best known for her toughness around the contest and elite endurance, allowing her to run out games without needing an extended break on the bench. She is comfortable either up forward or through the midfield, positioning well to get in front of opponents and create separation, which is particularly handy for her leading and clearance work. Venning is often balanced with her disposal, rarely blazing away and just kicking without assessing her options, where she looks for outside runners to handball to. 

PRELIMINARY FINAL SANFLW v NORWOOD

Q1:

Starting the game in her usual spot at half forward, Venning was involved early, pushing up the ground to be a link up option from the defensive half for West Adelaide, able to get separation a few times and take the marks uncontested and on the chest. The Norwood defence did well to create packs down the line, limiting the effectiveness of her kicks when she did not move the ball quickly. She hung around her ruck when she got a mark or free and attempted to get the handball receive and utilise her kick. She set up Wests first goal, getting the ball from a teammate just inside 50, then kicking into the hot spot about 35 meters in front of goal for a teammate to mark.

With the first term getting her a return of 6 kicks, 2 marks, 1 tackle and 1 free for, she was involved a fair bit and one of the main drivers heading into the forward 50. When she was in the midfield she had the opportunity to win a few clearances but had an opponent tight on her at all stoppages, making it difficult to get separation.

Q2:

With the heightened pressure, in the second term, it was hard for forwards to get clear leads or marks, meaning Venning found it harder to get involved early on playing the link up role. When the ball went in deeper forward 50 she looked dangerous, putting her head over the footy and getting the free kick for a high tackle, taking a shot on goal that was accurate but unfortunately dropped short. She was once again involved around stoppages and got first possession a couple of times, but the Norwood midfield were not giving an inch and were right onto her as soon as she did. Got a free kick for a holding the ball tackle later in the quarter, kicking deep to a contest.

Racked up 5 kicks, 1 handball, 1 tackle and 2 frees for in what was a good quarter overall, playing more midfield than she did in the first and making the most of that opportunity, unfortunately not getting clearances she probably deserves given her positioning work around stoppages, just unable to get through the other side at times.

Q3:

A good display as a balanced type of midfielder for Venning in the third quarter, she played her role really well in the midfield, positioning behind the ball to take an uncontested chest mark early on, and looking to use her kick to get Wests moving quickly. Looking to balance her disposal more she was not so quick to just bomb the ball long, rather assessing if there was a handball option first and then making the decision quickly.

Finishing the quarter with 4 kicks, 2 handballs, 1 mark and 1 free for she was again consistently involved and one of the more noticeable ball winners for the quarter. Again being rewarded for her courage with her head over the ball and drawing the free.

Q4:

A more quiet final term than her first three did not mean Venning had a lesser impact, almost more involved around the play with her pressure work and one-percenters, just unable to convert that into stats. Received a free kick when she was held without the ball in the centre of the ground, with a long kick inside 50 for a teammate to run onto and kick the final goal of the game.

The final quarter saw a return of 1 kick, 2 handballs, 1 free for and 1 clearance as Wests came home strong, securing the win and their maiden Grand Final berth within the SANFLW.

SUMMARY:

21 Disposals, 16 Kicks, 5 Handballs, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 5 frees for
(Note: Discrepancies from official stats may come down to different interpretation or events happening off screen)

Splitting her time about 50/50 in the forward line and midfield, it was impressive how Venning was able to impact to a high standard in both positions, with her pressure work and run particularly impressive. She was not afraid to go in for the contested footy, and the willingness to go in and put herself on the line resulted in her drawing some free kicks she otherwise would not have gotten. With the likes of Richmond listed Sarah Dargan and recently crowned SANFLW League Best and Fairest Lauren Young, in the side, to come out of the game as the leading ball winner for her side is an impressive result and will certainly catch the eyes of recruiters, not just in SA.

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