2021 VFLW Round 13 preview: Future stars return as teams limited by border restrictions

THERE might not be crowds this weekend, but the stakes are as high as ever for the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s teams, as the penultimate Round 13 finally gets underway after a three-week hiatus due to the Victorian lockdown. Three teams cannot be moved out of the finals race – Collingwood, Geelong and Port Melbourne – though only one of the latter two can secure a double-chance.

The other three spots are up for grabs, though Casey Demons and Essendon effectively need one win to book their spots – with the Demons even needing to just not be smashed in their final two matches to make it given their ridiculously high percentage. Western Bulldogs currently holds sixth spot and is the most in danger of missing out, taking on the Magpies and Demons, needing at least one win – but potentially two – to grab a finals place with Southern Saints, Carlton and North Melbourne all knocking down the door.

HAWTHORN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Box Hill City Oval

A battle between traditional rivals, Hawthorn and Geelong takes place at Box Hill City Oval from midday tomorrow. The Hawks unfortunately not only need to win their games and have results go their way in other matches, but realistically need a draw in one of the Southern Saints games and the other three teams around them – Western Bulldogs, Carlton and North Melbourne – to lose in the game that isn’t a draw. Geelong on the other hand need to keep winning in order to book a double chance, with third placed Port Melbourne just percentage behind and ready to earn a spot against Collingwood in the qualifying final if the Cats do slip up.

Both teams have past and present AFLW talent, with Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner forming a huge midfield for the Cats. The Hawks have some experience tall timber with Meg Hutchins, Tamara Luke and Sarah Perkins among the names in the side. In terms of AFLW Draft hopefuls, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another game in the brown and gold, joining Eastern Ranges’ Bridget Deed, Keeley Sherar, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and debutants, Cadhla Schmidli and Sarah Humm in the side. For the Cats, Chloe Leonard returns to the blue and white hoops again, named on the bench for this match, whilst Jess Foley, Madelyn Keryk and Madisen Maguire are among the other Cats experienced talents.

COLLINGWOOD vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Olympic Park Oval

It might have been a long time for football to return, but luckily for the Magpies, they sewed up top spot and their third consecutive minor premiership last round. They can now play the role of managing players leading into finals, with Chloe Molloy, Jaimee Lambert, Sophie Livingstone and Sophie Casey among the outs for Round 13. In come the younger group in Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Alana Porter to face a hungry Western Bulldogs side needing a win. The Bulldogs can put themselves in pole position for a finals spot with an upset win, and have not held make in doing so with their team selection.

The Bulldogs have a mix of AFLW and NAB League Girls talents, with the midfield of Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabelle Pritchard, as well as Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia and Sarah Hartwig around the ground, there is plenty of top-end talent that could cause a boil-over to the top of the table Magpies. From an AFLW Draft perspective, potential Top 10 pick Ella Friend is back in the side with Rebels’ teammates Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier, whilst Brooke Hards and Simone Ruedin remain the only players to not miss a game for the red, white and blue. The Magpies have a couple of top talents making their debuts too, with Stella Reid and Eliza James – both out of the Oakleigh Chargers’ program – coming into the black and white stripes whilst another AFLW Draft Combine invitee in Olivia Meagher is also in the team. With six players in Draft Central’s recent AFLW Draft Power Rankings playing in the game, it is a must-listen via WARF Radio.

The Magpies deserve to be favourites as an unbeaten side, but the Western Bulldogs could arguably have the stronger team on paper for this clash, so it should be a really big contest.

>> AFLW Draft Power Rankings

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, June 19 @ 1:00pm
Downer Oval

Across at Downer Oval, Williamstown and Essendon will look to control the elements and the game, when the Bombers hit the road for a must-win clash. They take on the bottom two sides in the last two rounds and need just one win, so have the easiest draw in the final fortnight. They still need to get it done though, and the Seagulls still have plenty about them coming up against a Bombers side with a lot of talent. Another potential Top 10 selection in Tara Slender will make her debut in this game for the Bombers, with the Bendigo Pioneers’ utility named at centre half-forward.

Slender will join Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell in the starting team, with the experience of Georgia Nanscawen, Cecilia McIntosh and Mia-Rae Clifford across the three lines. Williamstown have had some consistent performers over the time, but the current border restrictions between Victoria and NSW/ACT has limited the GWS GIANTS AFLW players from taking part. The likes of Erin Meade, Scarlett Dunnell, Aimee Whelan and Megan Williamson have all enjoyed solid seasons and will be looked upon to step up in what is ultimately a tough game for them. Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper are recent NAB League Girls graduates and will be keen top put their best foot forward to impress, while the Bombers as a whole just have to win. Williamstown can play the role of party pooper in this game, and have the advantage of knowing the ground well.

CASEY DEMONS vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, June 19 @ 2:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey Demons are a win away from booking a spot in the VFL Women’s finals series, and providing the last placed Darebin do not roll them by a considerable amount, the Cranbourne-based team can potentially secure a home final in the process. They have a mix of past and present AFLW talents – including some recent delistings hoping to earn a second chance – whilst the Falcons will rely on some youngsters and their VFL Women’s players to try and cause an upset at windy Casey Fields.

Former Carlton player Winnie Laing and ex-Roo Kate Gillespie-Jones are lining up for Casey this weekend following their recent delistings from the Blues and North Melbourne respectively, alongside Mietta Kendall who is hoping for another chance in the red and blue, and then the most recent addition to the Demons’ rookie list in midfielder Eliza West. The latter has been a prominent ball winner for the VFL Women’s side and earned a promotion, whilst Imogen Milford is one player with plenty to prove after receiving an AFLW Draft Combine invite. Shelley Heath, Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon are also in the side, though there is an abundance of VFL Women’s talent in the team for the clash with the Falcons. Darebin have the experience of Nicole Callinan and Alyssia Mifsud who have played at the top level, but otherwise have the NAB League Girls talents of Trinity Mills and Peppa Poultney, as well as another former NAB League Girls player in Katelyn Hazlett. Samara David and Stephanie Simpson have enjoyed impressive seasons up forward, whilst Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan are reliable players with Callinan in the back 50. Expect Casey to be too strong, but Darebin will be keen to cause an upset.

CARLTON vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Sunday, June 20 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

A virtual elimination final in many ways, the loser of Carlton and Southern Saints will need to rely on other results in order to make finals, with the Blues in particular having a line put through their name given the percentage difference. If the Saints lose, they will need the Bulldogs to also lose to the Magpies in order to make the finals, or if they win and the Bulldogs win, it will come down to the final round. The Blues cannot overtake the Bulldogs unless they win big and the Bulldogs lose, but it will keep them in the finals hunt with a clash against Williamstown in the final round.

Carlton know the stakes by winning the match, with Lucy McEvoy named once again alongside some AFLW talent in Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans. They do have a lot of VFLW talent in the side still, with Amber Micallef, Ally Bild, Jennifer Lew and Jorja Borg among those who have had some impressive moments this season. Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin and Tara Delgado are in the side again to try and stake their claims ahead of the AFLW Draft, while ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Teagan Brett returns to the Navy Blues. The Saints have not fully confirmed their side at the time of publishing, but they were favoured to take it up to the Blues, with Alice Burke, Tyanna Smith, Jess Matin and Alice Burke all named in the side that narrowly went down to Western Bulldogs last round. Dandenong Stingrays’ Jemma Radford has really held her own in the side, with Sandringham Dragons’ Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber among those on the extended list for the Saints.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 20 @ 1:00pm
ETU Stadium

Completing Round 13 of action is a game with plenty on the line for both teams in different ways. Port Melbourne is gunning for a second chance if the Borough can get up and hope Geelong loses, whilst North Melbourne can keep their hopes of finals alive with an upset win on the road at ETU Stadium. Much like Williamstown with the GIANTS, the Roos have been impacted by not being able to utilise their Tasmanian contingent, which has meant plenty of changes for the blue and white stripes. Port Melbourne on the other hand have not held back in their selection, with experience and young guns galore in what will be an exciting contest.

Roos captain Meagan Kiely is based in Victoria and the Tasmanian talent will look to continue her ripping form this season teaming up with Brooke Slaney and Reni Hicks in midfield. They have a tough job with Ellie McKenzie making her VFLW debut for the Borough, and Courteney Bromage and Mel Kuys rounding out a strong midfield. The Port Melbourne bench is as exciting as one could be, with Dandenong Stingrays duo Jaide Anthony and Ashleigh Richards, and Oakleigh Chargers duo Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers – all who received AFLW Draft Combine invites – playing in the match. Sarah D’Arcy also makes her debut up forward for the Borough, alongside Emily Harley and Sophie Locke. The Roos will have Alexia Hamilton through the ruck and Jayde Hamilton and Elisha King up forward, whilst Molly Eastman and Beth Lynch are among those likely to create some run out of defence for the visitors in the Sunday afternoon clash. The Borough have the advantage at home and can snuff out the Roos’ finals chances with a win, but North have proven to put up a fight most weeks so should give the game a shake.

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