Top Performers – AFLW U17 Championships: Gold Coast Suns vs. Brisbane Lions
GOLD Coast Suns Academy got the win in game one of the AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships for the Queensland Northern Academies, with a big seven goals to one first half resulting in an eventual 55-point win. We took a look at a few of the top performers from the day from both sides, with all notes opinion-based of the author.
#5 Tara Harrington
A remarkable performance from a 2006-born talent who is not eligible until the 2024 AFLW Draft. Her work off half-back ticked a lot of boxes; from her reading of the play, footy IQ, decision making and execution, Harrington showed that there is a fantastic foundation from which the Suns can build with going forward. Hard to believe that she will only be eligible for the Under 17s next year without an exemption – like Lauren Young this year – but Harrington will be one to watch over the coming years. Her clean hands overhead, and decision making under pressure, as well as her ability to back herself to calmly get out of trouble were all features of her game. One of those players that just has the full package in terms what she is capable of, and while she is the 166cm, she has the footy smarts to beat taller opponents in the air.
#6 Isabella Iverach
Kicked a couple of goals in the game, but outside of her finishing ability, was able to read the ball well in flight. She took a good mark one-on-one at half-forward in the first half, and then kicked a goal after finding space, before setting up Josie McCabe with a nice handball for a goal in return in that second term. She had a clean pickup and quick kick inside 50 which was a promising quarter for her, and then took another good grab overhead early in the fourth, where through a 50m penalty, she kicked her second major. Being a link-up going inside 50, Iverach was able to pinpoint a pass to J’Noemi Anderson inside 50 as well.
#7 Josie McCabe
Another Sun who finished with two goals, McCabe’s both came in the second term, putting a great kick to the advantage of Iverach, and then receiving the handball back later on from Iverach to kick the goal. Within two minutes, McCabe had her second goal after finding space inside 50, taking an uncontested mark and nailing the set shot goal. Outside of her goals, McCabe was clean in close and composed by hand with good defensive pressure, and did not need a lot of it to make the most of her disposals.
#19 Alana Gee
An outstanding best on ground performance. A full player focus will be completed on Gee to go into extreme detail on her work, but her accumulation ability, work inside and outside, spread from the contest, and evasion when under pressure were all extremely good. As a left-footer, Gee loves to get to her preferred side, and whilst in the first half she was rushed into making some uncharacteristic turnovers, really stepped up in the second half to produce some pinpoint passes going forward. Her combination of athleticism, skill and decision making has her at the top of list when it comes to Queensland prospects to watch for 2022.
#23 Maggie O’Connell
Did not win a heap of it, but was lively inside 50, with her first goal showing her class and composure. Winning it under pressure in the opening term, O’Connell was caught on her left side, so with an opponent bearing down, managed to spin and snap around her body on the right to see it sail home. In the fourth term, she took a good uncontested mark inside 50 and nailed the goal 15 minutes into the quarter.
#26 Nyalli Milne
Wow – that’s just about the best way to describe Milne’s athleticism, and particularly evasive sidestep. She kicked the goal of the day in the first term, with multiple bounces from the forward side of the wing and had the composure to straighten up and kick the goal from 25m, sidestepping opponents along the way. The only other goal that came close was her second one in quarter two, where Milne read the ball off hands from a forward stoppage, charged forward, sidestepped two opponents and still had the composure to straighten and goal on the run. She then could have had a third but opted to hit-up McCabe in the corridor, and then another chance late in the game saw an errant bounce not come back to her. It was the second time – after a moment in the third term off half-back – that the bounce did not want to work for her, but she certainly gained plenty of meterage. Another 2006-born prospect with Harrington, Milne has so many exciting traits and raw athleticism that will hold her in good stead for further development in the future.
#28 J’Noemi Anderson
The draft-eligible Northern Territory prospect and Sandringham Dragons player was brought into the Queensland game to run out with the Suns, and had some fierce moments throughout the game. Anderson produced her usual attack on the ball, going in hard and not taking a backwards step, while also copping some big knocks along the way. Her decision making going forward was good, but her finishing – which included a couple of set shots from straight in front and then running into an open goalsquare but miskicked to hit the post – was what just needed cleaning up to make it a more efficient game. Overall she presented and attacked the contest hard.
#29 Fleur Davies
The raw key position utility rucked for most of the game and was far too tall for her various opponents. She was able to get first hands to it and give her midfielders such as Gee first possession at the stoppages. Her ground level work was also impressive, laying tackles and applying pressure, though she did drop the odd marking attempt and gave away a free kick for a block at a defensive stoppage against a much smaller opponent. Still building areas across the board, Davies has the size to be promising with her influence in the ruck and second efforts the particular highlights.
#30 Ella Calleja
Did not need much of it to have an impact, kicking a couple of goals and setting up another. In the second term, Calleja produced a blind turn out of a forward half stoppage to hit up McCabe with fantastic vision. She then had a great run and quick hands inside 50 to get on the end of one within three minutes in the third term. She kicked her second goal in the quarter thanks to a lovely snap from play to sail through, with her other big moment coming in what was a purple patch for that quarter, taking a great courageous mark in the middle against multiple opponents.
#3 Ava Seton
Clearly one of Brisbane’s best players on the day, Seton’s hard work in the second half was a real driving force in the Lions starting to match the Suns around the ball. Standing at 165cm, the draft-eligible talent showed good evasion under pressure, but it was her ability to accumulate the ball around the ground, mostly through defensive pressure or intent. Her tackling pressure both at half-forward, and at stoppages was good, but she knew when to receive the handball and either evade or flick off a handball, clearing it from congestion. Her defensive work was among the best in the game, and she was strong when being tackled.
#4 Daisy Carter
It was not necessarily the amount of ball Carter won, but how she used it when she had her chances. She showed enough defensive pressure when around the ball, but was clean and composed with her disposal. Cater was strong when tackled, and she took a good intercept mark in the fourth term to kick it forward for her side.
#9 Ebony Milne
Has the traits of a really eye-catching player and one who is still a couple of years away from being draft-eligible. The 2005-born talent is 167cm and her elite bullet pass inside 50 to Brooke Sheridan in the second term directing her forward where to lead was of pinpoint precision. That was not her only neat kick, winning a free kick from a tackle – showing she could do the defensive things well – and then put in a lovely kick to set up a goal to Sheridan off hands. In the fourth term she produced an impressive spin out of traffic too.
#11 Charlotte Mullins
Brisbane’s top four quarter player, Mullins did a lot of the heavy lifting early when her side was being overpowered, and then teamed up well with Seaton through the second half. Having spent time on the outside and up forward last year and early this year, Mullins returned to the inside midfield where her amazing sidestepping ability was on show. She had an early chance on goal for her side by evading opponents, but could not quite compose enough for the shot and it went out on the full. Whilst sometimes she might have not been able to take it cleanly at ground level, when she had it, she was hard to dispossess, standing up in tackles and being a dominant clearance player, and working hard in close. Her pressure around the ground was fantastic, and made good decision with ball-in-hand, which included quick, clean hands or lateral kicks through good vision to open up the ground.
#13 Sarah Browne
Another player who caught the eye with some impressive traits, Browne showed good speed in one instance to cleanly burst through a stoppage and put it on the left boot, then showed great vision in the third term to hit a 45-degree kick and set up Lara Paget who kicked the goal after a 50m penalty. She was composed with her kick on the wing in the final term, disposing of it down the ground after being clean at ground level too.
#22 Brooke Sheridan
Looked the Lions’ most dangerous forward in the first half and went back to help stem the scoring when the Suns were on top. She came alive in the second term with a number of shots from tough situations. Sheridan slid into mark in the right forward pocket but tugged it to the right in the breeze, then marked not long after in the left forward pocket, but this time overcompensated too much to the left and just missed. Both were from tight angles, and soon Sheridan got her chance in general play, reading it off hands well and snapping around her body late in the second term to convert the Lions’ first major. She also had another impressive play in the fourth quarter coming off half-back, using her speed effectively to kick long down the ground. Possesses great speed and evasion, but composed with ball-in-hand.
#23 Kadie Fletcher
Playing forward, the speedy talent worked well up the ground, presenting well in the first half but not able to quite pull down a big mark, then had a highlight play in the third term using her speed and composure going inside 50. She won the ball took off, sidestepped her opponent and had enough composure to slot the goal from 25m out. Fletcher took a good mark pushing up the ground at half-back to kick long down the wing, though her day ended early when she landed heavily in the final term and had to be helped off.
#26 Courtney Browne
One of the two Browne twins, Courtney also had some impressive moments from a defensive standpoint, providing good intercepting with strong positioning. Her ball drop at the boot was a touch awkward at times which is an area to further develop, but her defensive work both in the air and at ground level – with her marking and tackling – was impressive throughout the game and certainly halted a number of Suns forward forays.