Author: Peter Williams

Improvement and consistency the key for Gay

CLAYTON Gay has played at both ends and showed off his natural footballing ability as a bottom-ager in 2019. Now in his top-age year, the Dandenong Stingrays utility has his sights set on just improving and building consistent form throughout the season. While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has at the very least delayed the start of the season, Gay spoke to Draft Central at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me about his hopes for the season ahead.

“(I) just (want to) keep improving every game and being more consistent,” Gay said. “I had a couple of high games and a few low games (last season). “If I can get that margin close together, that’s my main goal this year. “I just think play consistently, that’s the main one that I’m focusing on at the moment.”

It is said you are your own worst critic, and that was certainly the case with Gay, prior to his yo-yo test at Maribyrnong College, declaring he was disappointed with his results thus far, but conceded that “it happens” and that it was just not his day.

“I haven’t really hit the scores that I wanted to, but that happens sometimes, and it’s just not your day,” Gay said. “The 20m sprint I was hoping to at least improve, which I was a bit far off. “I dunno, it wasn’t really my day. “Then I had two DQs (disqualifications) in the agility which hurt me a little bit. “So I only had one to go off.”

While it might have been below his own self standards, Gay enjoyed his bottom-age year with the Stingrays, and was looking forward to 2020, albeit with more responsibility as one of the older players in the side.

It is stressful a little bit, because you’ve got the younger boys looking up to you,” Gay said. “I’m just keen to get out there, get on the park and hopefully play some good footy again and see how we go.”

Being a member of the AFL National Academy Vic Country hub – along with teammate Will Bravo – Gay said the experience of training with “so much talent” was unbelievable.

Yeah for sure (it was great for development),” he said. “You don’t get that much talent at all (in one place), so having a week or two with them, just learning off the coaches there who have got a lot of knowledge, just getting to know them as well. “Come to these testing days you get to come say hello too.”

Getting to know the Vic Country players better, Gay said he was excited to play alongside a promising key forward at the National Under 18 Championships, and named a teammate he thought will shine in a more preferred position this season.

Looking forward to playing alongside Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan) in Vic Country, I think he’ll have a pretty strong year,” he said. “Then Stingrays, looking forward to seeing Bayleigh Welsh. “I think he played a bit out of position last year and I think he hopefully gets some more mid time this year and hopefully see him develop a lot throughout the year.”

When Draft Central chatted to Dandenong Stingrays Talent Manger Darren Flanigan, he said Gay would likely start behind the ball where he had been very impressive in 2019, though had the capacity to play in other positions as well. For Gay himself, he thought the back 50 was the best spot for him, but he was happy to play anywhere.

It depends,” Gay said. “At the start of preseason, fitness wasn’t that up to scratch, so probably forward. “But now I feel like I’ve improved my running and endurance, hopefully just being able to play on my player and stick with him all line in the backline, so backline I reckon.”

Now it is just a waiting game to see if Gay and the Dandenong Stingrays can indeed get out on the park and begin the 2020 NAB League Boys season.

Q&A: Jorja Guyatt (Aspley/Queensland)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last week, we head back to the preseason a few weeks earlier where we chatted to a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Taylah Melki chatted with Queensland’s Jorja Guyatt¬†at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

TM: How did you get into footy?

JG: I got into footy in high school. these Auskick coaches came to my school and watched me train and they were like ‘yeah you should come down and play’ so I was like ‘why not?’. So I did and I just loved it, so I kept playing.

What is it you love about footy?

“Probably just meeting new people. “The amount of new people that you meet, we have the same interests so we get along so well.”

Is there a particular area that you think you’re really strong at when it comes to footy?

“I think the running aspect, I just like running.”

Did you do athletics when you were younger?

“Yeah I did triathlons actually. “So the endurance, got used to it easy.”

How have you found that transition from triathlons to footy now?

“It’s pretty good. “Because I didn’t realise how much running you do in AFL so I got there and … because on TV the oval looks so much smaller and you get there and you’re like oh my God it’s actually massive. “I found that pretty easy, so that was good.”

Is there a particular spot you like on the field more than others?

“I love the wing the most.”

Is there a particular area you’re hoping to improve on this year?

“Just my defense. “My tackling and stuff because I’m not the best at it.”

How’s the preseason going for you?

“Yeah preseason’s good. “I’ve got shin splints. “I just got back from shin splints so I haven’t been able to run for a while, but hopefully get back into it.”

How’s that recovery process been?

“It’s annoying watching people train and I can’t. “Because I can’t do anything, but being on the bike so getting back into it is pretty good.”

What are you hoping to get out of this year?

“Maybe getting to the draft, but not sure yet. “Dream big.”

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Murray Bushrangers

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Murray Bushrangers, who despite losing the first round match to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points, bounced back to weather a huge number of inside 50s and draw with Western Jets.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points
R2: drew with Western Jets
R3: Bye.

They came away from the first two rounds with a couple of points, but the improvement from the first week to the second was noticeable, and the Bushrangers would have liked to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season. They put together an even team effort and we have highlighted a number of players who stood out throughout the matches.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Mikayla Jones (12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, 2.5 tackles, 4.5 inside 50s)

The top ball winner across the matches, Jones was impressive in the midfield, averaging the 12.5 disposals and 4.5 inside 50s to ensure her team could get service in the forward line. She worked hard across the ground to win the ball and feed it forward, and while many of her teammates were on the defensive end getting it to midfield, Jones was the leading player getting it inside 50.

Grace Hay (11.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 4.5 rebounds)

Had a best on ground performance in Round 2 against Western Jets with a remarkable defensive effort deep in defence. In just her second game with the Bushrangers, Hay had 19 disposals, seven marks and eight rebounds in a huge effort to defend the continual forward thrusts by the Jets. She is still a bottom-ager with two years left in the pathway, but that did not stop her influence so far, recording 11.5 disposals, 4.0 marks and 4.5 rebounds from her two games.

Kate Adams (12.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

The clever forward showed she can play just about anywhere on the ground, winning the ball through midfield and also playing in defence at times to assist her teammates. She managed to get on the scoreboard herself with a major, but it was her work up the ground, and particularly her defensive running that stood out across the games as her versatility was a real highlight in season 2020.

Ally Morphett (7.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 13.5 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

In the absence of Olivia Barber in Round 2, Morphett became the leading tall on the ground as the other key position AFL Women’s National Academy member for the Bushrangers. Playing predominantly through the ruck, Morphett had the 15 hitouts on the day, and averaged 13.5 for the season thus far, using her strength and size to get it down to her midfielders. Still a middle-ager, Morphett has another season to perfect her ruck craft and spend more time forward as well.

Zali Spencer (11.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 1.5 hitouts, 3.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

A really consistent player across the two games and deserving of a spot in the five. While there could have been a number of players to slot in here, her performance, particularly in the second game, was quite impressive and she finished with an average of 11 disposals, three tackles and two rebounds. Able to play through the midfield or drift around the ground, Spencer certainly contributed in the shorter season and was a great team player.

Others who have stood out: Keeley Skepper, Mindy Quade, Lily Sharp, Olivia Barber

As one of the most impressive bottom-agers in the crop, Skepper followed on from her strong performance at the Under 16 Championships match against Vic Metro last season with a strong start to the season. She still has two more years in the system and will be one to watch over that time, while defender, Quade was relentless in the back 50 picking up eight rebounds in Round 1, while Sharp was fierce at the contest and in close. Barber only played the one game but was worth mentioning because of her impact, booting a goal and making the most of her starved opportunities with seven touches and three marks.

Classic Contests: Gippsland Power survives two-point thriller as three future stars debut

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest, we travel back in time to a thrilling clash at Frankston where three future AFL talents made their debuts in Gippsland Power’s two-point win over Dandenong Stingrays – a clash that would have happened last weekend had the COVID-19 pandemic not suspended the NAB League Boys competition.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.1 | 8.4 | 10.6 | 14.8 (92)
GIPPSLAND POWER 2.7 | 5.9 | 11.10 | 14.10 (94)

Round 14 | Saturday, July 29, 2017
Skybus Stadium, Frankston, 2pm

A see-sawing contest between two country sides at Frankston saw an absolute thriller play out with with the fifth placed Stingrays hosting the eighth placed Power. Gippsland trailed the seventh placed Eastern Ranges by eight points and were just percentage ahead of the closing Calder Cannons inside the top eight. For Dandenong, a top four spot was on offer with just percentage separating third placed Sandringham Dragons, fourth placed Murray Bushrangers and the Stingrays.

An inaccurate Power side got the jump on the Stingrays with 2.7 to 2.1 in the opening term, before Dandenong powered to the lead with six goals to three in the second term to take a 13-point buffer into the main break. Returning serve with the wind the Power again took control, this time somewhat more accurately with 6.1 to 2.2 and hold a 10-point advantage at the last change. In what became a thrilling final term full of nail-biting moments, it was the visiting side that scraped home by just two points.

Whilst they might have lost, Gippsland fans might remember the game fondly as three debutants – wearing the numbers 41, 42 and 43 all debuted. Their names? Sam Flanders, Caleb Serong and Brock Smith. Fresh off the Under 16 Championships, Flanders and Serong booted three goals apiece and shared in 21 disposals, 10 tackles and six marks, while Smith had the eight touches and laid three tackles.

Dandenong’s best was top draft hopeful, Hunter Clark who tore the game to shreds with 34 disposals (50 per cent contested), eight tackles, seven clearances, 10 inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals. Tom De Koning had 42 hitouts to go with 13 disposals, four marks, seven tackles and a goal, while Bailey Williams also dominated through the ruck with 29 hitouts to go with nine touches and three inside 50s. Future captain, Campbell Hustwaite found the ball 19 times and kicked three snags, while Mason de Wit (21 touches, five marks, four inside 50s and three rebounds) and Jai Nanscawen (20 disposals, two goals) were also busy. Other Stingrays in the match who would go on to be drafted in the future included Tom Murphy (18 disposals, two mark, four clearances and a goal) and Will Hamill (11 disposals, three marks and five tackles).

Aside from the three draftees, Callum Porter continued his superb season with 24 disposals, nine clearances, five tackles and five inside 50s, while future Power talent, Xavier Duursma had 20 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, five inside 50s and two goals as a bottom-ager. Nick Hogan (24 disposals, three marks, six clearances, four tackles, four inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) had a team-high in disposals, while Sean Masterson had 11 disposals, three marks, two tackles, two inside 50s and four rebounds to be named in the best. Unfortunately for one of Gippsland’s draft hopefuls – Matthew McGannon – this game will be one he would not want to remember, going down with injury and missing the rest of the season bar a short return in the finals series.

Gippsland Power would end up making the finals by winning the last four games of the season and finishing seventh, but bowed out to eventual premiers, Geelong Falcons in the elimination finals, while Dandenong would progress to the preliminary finals following a remarkable come-from-behind victory over Eastern Ranges at Victoria Park, before suffering the same fate as the Power and losing to the Falcons.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: GWV Rebels

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to remain undefeated in 2020, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, who had a bye in Round 2 but beat otherwise undefeated sides, Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets in the other rounds.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Sandringham Dragons by 5 points
R2: Bye
R3: defeated Western Jets by 25 points

It was a promising start to the season for the Rebels who looked like one of the big improvers for season 2020. While it has been postponed without certainty of any further action, there were plenty of highlights for the Ballarat-based side with a number of impressive players already standing up and making their presence felt.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Maggie Caris (11.5 disposals, 0.5 marks, 29.0 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s)

The competition’s leading ruck prospect lived up to expectations in the opening two rounds, dominating against two of the smaller ruck groups in the NAB League Girls. She was impressive around the stoppages against the Dragons in Round 1, then was a huge influence in the victory against the Jets in Round 2. So far this season she averages 11.5 disposals, 29 hitouts and three inside 50s per game. Also a talented netballer, Caris is one who hoped to join sister, Geelong’s Rene in the AFL Women’s.

Lilli Condon (14.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 6.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 1 goal)

The tenacious midfielder just seemed to be everywhere in the opening two rounds and would have been the Rebels’ best small accumulative across the contests. She averaged almost 15 touches a game, but racked up six inside 50s and four tackles per match, as well as getting on the scoreboard for her troubles with a major too. The middle-ager packs plenty of punch and has a year left having already played seven games as a bottom-ager last year. Despite standing at 154cm, she is not afraid to match it with taller opponents.

Renee Saulitis (12.0 disposals, 2.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 2 goals)

The AFL Women’s National Academy member won the opening round’s match off her own boot with an inspired last term, getting to the right positions and slotting two majors, while still having influence around the ground. With an ability to play anywhere on the ground, Saulitis has lovely skills and is most damaging close to goal. If the wind-swept Mars Stadium had been a little kinder to forwards, she could have been right up there with the leading goalkickers despite playing one less game, finishing with four behinds.

Nyakoat Dojiok (11.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

The daring speedster does not need many possessions to have an impact, and she certainly did that in the opening two rounds. She often starts at half-back but can burst away and not only get the ball clear from the defensive 50, but also get it inside 50 as well. She is hard to stop when running at full stride, and picking up 11 disposals per game and an even balance of inside 50s and rebounds shows how she has a capacity to play on the wing and use her outside gifts to hurt the opposition.

Crystal Summers (9.0 disposals, 3.0 marks, 2.0 tackles, 3.0 rebounds)

Having an impressive opening round match where she was named best on ground for her efforts, Summers was tireless out of the back half and continually drove the ball from the danger zone. With more structure in the Round 3 game, Summers might have had less to do, but still had plenty of influence on the contest from defence, and she finished the two games averaging nine touches, three marks, two tackles and three rebounds. One of the Rebels’ top-agers who led by example.

Others who have stood out: Alice Astbury, Ella Friend, Paige Scott, Chloe Leonard

Astbury and Friend could well have been in the top group after their amazing second game teaming up and dominating in the forward half. Given the season only included the two games, only those who played both made it in, but make no mistake these two were ultra-impressive. They combined for 34 disposals, seven marks, 12 inside 50s and three goals in a good day out. The likes of Scott and Leonard were just ever-consistent through that midfield and half-back respectively, and there were far from alone with half a dozen more players who were fairly even across the start of the season for the Rebels.

Gadsby eyes off role change in 2020

EXCITED about what 2020 held in store for his team the Geelong Falcons, Noah Gadsby was ready for a big season a few weeks ago. Fast forward and the COVID-19 pandemic might have put a massive dent in the hopes of every AFL Draft hopeful – and the season itself – but rest assured that many of them would be doing everything in their power to improve their game during the break. Gadsby, one of a eight Falcons players selected in the AFL Academy Vic Country hub, said he was looking forward to playing a new role this season.

I’m playing a bit of a different role this year,” Gadsby said. “I’m playing up forward and I’ve never really played there much. “Pretty excited to see what I can do.”

While Gadsby admitted he had some areas of improvement to come with the role change, the 185cm prospect who played through the midfield last season in five games, was excited to give it a go. He did not kick a goal in his bottom-age year, and that is something he hoped to change in 2020.

“(I’m) just trying to do my goalkicking, just get that right because I’ve never really played forward,” Gadsby said. “Just working on my finishing game.”

Last year Gadsby was a member of the Falcons side that finished bottom of the ladder and had just the one player – Cooper Stephens – drafted. Despite the on-field and off-field results, Gadsby said 2020 would be a very different looking Falcons outfit, considering a lot of the players who gained vital time last year would be a season better for it.

Yeah it was a tough year, but I think this year we’re going to bounce back and I think we’ve got a lot of talent this year so I’m pretty excited to see what the boys can do,” he said. “Tanner Bruhn‘s not back yet, but I’m looking forward to playing with him. “Gennaro Bove our captain and Cam Fleeton, I love the way they go about it, and a couple of the other Country boys like Charlie Lazzaro and Henry Walsh. “Can’t wait to see what they do this year.”

Speaking at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day in March hosted by Rookie Me, Gadsby said he had enjoyed the day, saying it was “always a bit of fun”. Rookie Me tests the Falcons multiple times over the off-season which the talented top-ager said was a bonus when the team attended the league-wide testing day.

Yeah (it’s) about the third time this preseason (Rookie Me has tested us), good (that it’s) last time for the year,” Gadsby said, before he added “maybe at the combine, see how the year goes.”

Gadsby said he hoped to continue to improve his agility throughout the season as that was one athletic test he was “not too good at”, but his preferred tests were the yo-yo and 20m sprint. He also added being a member of the Vic Country hub helped him develop further and was keen to build on the strengths in his game.

I like to run with the ball, so the 20 helps translate, so that’s probably my favourite test,” Gadsby said. “It’s been really good (Country hub). “Last year was a really, really good year to learn. “Can’t wait to attack it this year, had a really good summer with Country so I’m excited.”

While the season start might be a while off with much uncertainty around it, Gadsby has been lucky enough to already be identified as one to watch having played in the Under-17 Trial game last year for Vic Country before being included in the hub. Whatever the future holds, expect his name to be one of many who will be doing all they can to impress AFL club recruiters throughout the postponement of the season.

Laurie uses bottom-age year as experience

OAKLEIGH Chargers’ Bailey Laurie might be in a similar position to every other aspiring AFL footballer out there given the COVID-19 pandemic at the moment, but the Vic Metro hub member is thankful for his bottom-age year. Despite the season being delayed for 2020 thus far and uncertain if and when it might recommence, Laurie said playing with the likes of top two picks, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, and led by fellow draftees, Trent Bianco and Dylan Williams was a huge boost for any developing player.

“Yeah 100 per cent (it helps your development),” he said. You can learn so much at training and stuff, and all those guys are really good blokes so you can always have a chat with them and pick their brains a little bit. “Last year helped me a lot. “Going through the preseason this year with them has made it all a lot easier. “I feel a lot more confident, having experienced what I did last year with all those other boys, so I’ve been pretty grateful for that.”

Speaking to Draft Central at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me in the preseason, Laurie said agility is one of his greatest athletic strengths and said he enjoyed the day.

Yeah it’s been pretty interesting,” he said. “It’s always good to see where you’re at I guess and see your mates from other clubs, but I’ve enjoyed it. “I think agility is probably my strongest one. “I was happy with how I went in that.”

Given the amount of talent onball, it was hard for the talented Charger to squeeze into the midfield consistently, instead playing forward and looking ultra impressive in the finals series. On NAB League Boys Grand Final day, Laurie had 17 disposals, five marks, four tackles, six inside 50s and two goals in a role that might have been overshadowed by the antics of Rowell – who racked up a lazy 44 touches and 12 clearances – but was still valuable nonetheless. It was not a one-off either, having had 17 touches the week before, and 16 and two goals in the first final. When asked if he was looking forward to more midfield minutes now that top-age group had moved on, Laurie said he was happy to play anywhere on the field.

I’m not too fussed, whatever the coaches want,” Laurie said. “Obviously I’d probably want to go in there a little bit, but we play our role for the team. “If my role is forward then that is where I’ll be. “I just enjoy wherever, I just enjoy footy.”

Laurie finished the season with seven games to his name last year, averaging almost a goal a game as well as 15.3 disposals, 3.1 marks, 3.6 tackles, 2.6 inside 50s and 1.9 rebounds. It earned him a place in the Vic Metro hub, where he was able to train alongside some of Victoria’s top talents for the 2020 AFL Draft. Of those talents, there were a couple Laurie hoped to don the ‘Big V’ with at the AFL Under-18 National Championships.

Connor Downie, I’m pretty good mates with him outside of footy so hopefully I can play alongside him,” he said. “There’s other boys like Jackson Cardillo from Calder. “All of them are really good blokes, and really good players obviously, so yeah can’t wait to hopefully get out there with them.”

While any goals in the current climate are difficult to achieve, Laurie was just hoping to improve and take his game to the highest possible level.

Obviously just make the good teams I guess,” Laurie said. “Just try and be at my best, and hopefully I can do that if I work hard enough.”

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Gippsland Power

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, having been competitive in patches, but still losing both matches, Gippsland Power.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Geelong Falcons by 33 points
R2: Bye
R3: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 52 points

While the season has been cut short for the Power players, their first round loss to Geelong Falcons was brave outside the scoreboard. There were times where the Power was able to sustain the forward thrusts by the 2018 premiers, and have control themselves. A slow start against Sandringham cost the Power, but full credit to them winning the second half of that contest.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Matilda Van Berkel (16.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 27.5 hitouts, 4.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 2.5 rebounds)

The talented tall was the best Power player across the two games, thrust into the ruck duties due to injuries to other players, and not only did the key position player tick the required boxes, but she thrived. Van Berkel dominated the hitouts with 27.5 per game, and worked hard around the ground to provide a target for her teammates to finish with 16.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 4.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s and 2.5 rebounds. She was often the link in the chain between defence and offence and the fact the season ended early would be frustrating as she looked like one of the biggest improvers for her top-age season.

Megan Fitzsimon (19.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.0 tackles, 4.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 2 goals)

The sole Gippsland Power AFL Women’s National Academy member, Fitzsimon continued where she left off last season, and was okay in the first round before really taking control in Round 3. She was best afield for the Power in their loss to the Dragons, and in 2020 showed off her defensive pressure (six tackles per game) to go with his ball-winning abilities (19.5 disposals). Fitzsimon has also been able to get the ball forward with four inside 50s per game, as well as get on the end of a couple of majors with two goals to her name.

Grace McRae (15.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.5 tackles, 4.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

The tough inside midfielder thrives on the contested side of the game and showed signs in her middle-age last year before taking on a bigger role again in 2020. She averaged the 15.5 disposals and 6.5 tackles per game to kick off the season, and most importantly she works hard defensively to help out her teammates. In two games she averaged four rebounds a game, but also got forward to kick an important goal back in Round 1, which helped keep her team in the game.

Shanara Notman (12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, 1.0 hitouts, 2.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 3.5 rebounds)

After missing out on being drafted last year, Notman returned to the side as an overager and did not miss a beat, impressing in the opening round and being a terrific interceptor in the defensive 50. Injury curtailed her 2019 season, but did not stop her having a late impact and making the Vic Country squad where she played up the other end as a key forward, who could also float through the ruck. The talented tall was back inside defensive 50 to start the NAB League Girls season this year, where she averaged the 12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks and 3.5 rebounds, starring in the opening round of the season.

Leyla Berry (10.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 6.5 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 2.5 rebounds)

Having not played since her middle-age year back in 2018, another overager who showed her experience in the early stages of the season was Berry who helped out with the ruck duties. She averaged the 6.5 hitouts, but was often stationed off half-back where she can find the ball and run with it down the field. She gets to the right positions and averaged the 10 disposals and 2.5 rebounds per game as she was the fifth Gippsland Power player to find plenty of the ball in the opening rounds.

Others who have stood out: Holly Booth, Sunday Brisbane, Alexei Guy-Toogood, Lily-Rose Williamson

The Power have a lot of talented youngsters that could fit into this group, some of which have played in previous years and others that are coming through the program and are at NAB League Girls level for the first time. Booth had good experience last year playing six games, but has already doubled her ball-winning ability, playing in the back half of the ground and able to run through the midfield. Brisbane and Guy-Toogood are both smalls who never back down and win the ball with the former running along a wing and the latter deep in defence. Given all three are middle-agers, expect to see them again in 2021 if the rest of the season does not commence. The fourth player to raise is bottom-ager Williamson who shone through the V/Line Cup and was only allowed the one game last year, but is one to keep an eye on in the coming years as a high-potential player through that midfield, who will often come off half-back and use her speed and skill to advantage.

Milne keeps focus simple in top-age year

AS part of our special Queensland series, we take a focus on Yeronga South Brisbane player, Kayla Milne. The top-age talent is a member of the Brisbane Lions Academy and tested at the Queensland preseason testing day last month. Speaking with Draft Central’s Taylah Melki, the 17-year-old spoke about her journey and her dreams for the future.

“My little sister, she started playing four years ago,” Milne said of her football beginnings. “I liked the look of it, so I decided to start playing.”

When asked about what it was that kept her in the sport, Milne’s answer was clear.

“Just making new friends and hanging around people, well new people,” she said. “I just love it.”

Milne makes the drive from north of Brisbane down to Yeronga where she represents the Yeronga South Brisbane Devils in the Queensland Australian Football League Women’s (QAFLW) competition. In 2019, Milne played two games for the Development side, named in the best on both occasions, and then stood up in three games for the senior side. Unfortunately a promising start to the 2020 season was ultimately cut short when Milne made just one appearance before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the AFL to suspend all football competitions across the nation.

Milne had initially set herself straightforward goals of getting fit and making the Queensland state team. She did not have a particular area of strength or improvement, but just hoped to keep building her game throughout the year, and making the state team would mean she had achieved plenty in 2020. For her, making the state team would mean “a lot”.

“I’d love it, it would be so good,” Milne said. “That’s just what I’m aiming for.”

Her dedication to her craft is obvious with her commute to train and play for the club she loves. Having to manage training throughout the week, Milne admits it can be difficult at times.

“I play for Yeronga, which is in the city,” she said. “So I travel probably about 50 minutes to get to there, and then from Coorparoo it takes me like 45. “So I train four days a week and I train in the city most of the time. “Yeah it is pretty hard especially with school and work, so I don’t really have much time to myself. “But yeah, it’s worth it.”

Much like every other aspiring elite level footballer, Milne might not be able to get out on the park at this stage, but no doubt once the leagues get the green light, she will be back out there striving to achieve her goals.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Geelong Falcons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, splitting their results with a win and a loss, Geelong Falcons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points
R2: lost to Northern Knights by 25 points
R3: Bye

Much like Eastern Ranges in our most recent team review, Geelong Falcons have only played the two games for one win and one loss. There are plenty of positives to take out of the 2020 season so far and a number of impressive players for the 2018 premiers who had a middle and bottom-age heavy list.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Laura Gardiner (34.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 11.5 tackles, 5.0 inside 50s, 3.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

Far and away the dominant ball winner in the NAB League Girls competition, Gardiner racked up more than 30 disposals twice and averaged 34.5 per game from her two matches. She was strong on the inside with a league-leading 11.5 tackles per game as well, along with five inside 50s and three rebounds in really impressive start to the season. It would have been great to see how far she could have gone this season with a full few months of action.

Darcy Moloney (26.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds)

Forming a damaging duo with Gardiner in the midfield, Moloney had her own impressive numbers to start the year, working hard on the outside for an average of 26.5 disposals per game. She also laid almost four tackles and managed to win the ball in all thirds of the ground. Predominantly she used her clean hands to open up space with teammates, or take the game on and force an opposition player to approach her in order to release a teammate going forward.

Poppy Schaap (18.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

The tenacious small just never gives in and puts out a four quarter performance. Whether or not it’s in-and-under through midfield or locking the ball inside forward 50, her teammates can rely on Schaap to give it her all throughout the match. She averaged 18 touches in her own right and provides that experience to a young list alongside her Vic Country capped teammates. Loves the contest and just a huge work rate.

Annie Lee (12.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 4.5 rebounds)

Speaking of younger prospects, Lee still has another year to perform in the competition and was already showing promising signs of improvement after three games last season. She had a ripping game in the Round 2 loss to Northern Knights, and has averaged 4.5 rebounds from 12.5 disposals – predominantly kicks – playing a key role in Geelong’s defence this season.

Carly Remmos (15.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 5.0 tackles, 1.5 inside 50s, 1 goal)

It is a frustrating time for most, but certainly for the top-ager who came into the program with an elite basketball background. Remmos did not look out of place in a midfield with a lot more experience around her, and she finished the two games averaging 15 touches and five tackles a game. Remmos even got to celebrate a goal prior to the season being cancelled, and no doubt her talent across both sports will see her continue to improve regardless of where she ends up playing.

Others who have stood out: Mia Van Dyke, Keeley Hardingham, Ashleigh Van Loon, Elizabeth Dowling

The Falcons always have good depth and 2020 is no exception with a lot of young stars coming through the group. Hardingham held up well in the ruck, averaging 13 touches, 10 hitouts and five tackles, while Van Dyke is a highly rated prospect who excelled in the V/Line Cup and remarkably only turned 15 on the third-last day of 2019. Throw in Dowling who is a strong mark leading out of the forward 50 and can rotate through midfield, and Van Loon who along with Dowling combined for 14.5 tackles, while running hard between the arcs.