Author: Tom Cheesman

Third time’s a charm for brilliant Brisbane

BRISBANE has produced a phenomenal team performance in the Grand Final to claim their maiden AFLW premiership, defeating Adelaide 6.2 (38) to 3.2 (20) in front of 22,934 fans at the Adelaide Oval. It was the truest form of redemption for the Lions, who fell just one goal short in both of the 2017 and 2018 AFLW deciders against the Crows and Western Bulldogs respectively.

The premiers dominated the tackle count (76-52), the uncontested possessions (130-92) and the clearances (26-18). However, the story of the day was efficiency when going inside 50. Brisbane were far cleaner than the Crows throughout the contest, going at 61 per cent efficiency to the Crows’ 54 per cent. This allowed the Lions to make the most of their opportunities inside 50, as they kicked it to their forwards’ advantage and gave themselves space to run into. Adelaide had almost double the amount of inside 50s for the match (44-24), but they regularly bombed the ball in blindly and allowed Brisbane defenders to float across and take easy intercept marks. 

Kate Lutkins was outstanding in her role of leading Brisbane’s defence, finishing with 18 disposals (16 kicks), six marks and two tackles along with countless goal-saving efforts. She was rightly adjudged best afield for her performance.

Lutkins was well-supported by Breanna Koenan (14 disposals, six marks, four tackles), Nat Grider (11 disposals, two marks, four tackles) and Shannon Campbell (seven disposals, five marks, three tackles). Ally Anderson (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles), Emily Bates (23 disposals, two marks, two tackles) and Orla O’Dwyer (16 disposals, six tackles) were fantastic in the middle of the ground, while Jess Wuetschner and Courtney Hodder kicked two goals apiece. Hodder’s incredible goal in the second term – a kick out of mid-air from the pocket – was the AFLW Goal of the Year in the eyes of many onlookers.

Brisbane were able to keep Adelaide’s stars uncharacteristically quiet on the big stage. Cathy Svarc did a brilliant job on Ebony Marinoff in the midfield, particularly at the stoppages, and she collected 12 disposals herself. Meanwhile, Koenan and Bates shared the duties on two-time AFLW Grand Final best on ground medallist Erin Phillips and held her to just eight disposals and zero marks. Let’s hope this is not the last time we see Phillips on an AFLW field.

Stevie-Lee Thompson was a shining light for the Crows with 18 disposals and a thrilling goal in the opening term, while Eloise Jones and Teah Charlton worked tirelessly throughout the contest.

Hodder got her side off to a flyer with the opening major, and Brisbane set up perfectly behind the ball from the start. Adelaide showed little-to-no composure going forward, and the Lions were reading their entries with ease. The Crows did not look like scoring until Thompson shrugged a tackle and produced a goal out of nothing in the closing minutes. Scores were level at the first break and it appeared as though Adelaide’s inability to capitalise on their chances would come back to haunt them.

Lutkins made her only mistake of the match early in the second, kicking the ball out on the full after Campbell earned a free kick for holding the ball. Jones then showed her composure to hit a leading Danielle Ponter on the chest and set up Adelaide’s second. Hodder immediately responded with her incredible goal, and Adelaide failed to capitalise on their inside 50 dominance for the rest of the term. Wuetschner made the Crows pay with a clever snap to put through her first and give Brisbane a five-point lead at the main break.

There was drama in the third term, as captains Emma Zielke and Angela Foley both suffered match-ending injuries within minutes of each other. Zielke went down with a right hamstring issue, while Foley appeared to damage her knee in a horrid landing at a marking contest. Foley’s injury occurred in an eerily similar position to where Phillips ruptured her ACL in the 2019 Grand Final.

Zielke’s absence did not spook the visitors, who piled on three majors for the term and held Adelaide goalless. Whenever Adelaide looked like they had a goal scoring opportunity, Brisbane defenders hunted them down and forced a turnover. When Isabel Dawes showed great composure to nail Brisbane’s sixth after the three-quarter time siren, it was difficult to see a way that the Crows could make up the 22-point deficit with one quarter remaining.

A rev-up from leader Chelsea Randall at the last break inspired the Crows to lift in the opening minutes of the final term. Jones brought the deficit back to 16 points with a goal following a 50-metre penalty, but the Crows continued the trend of failing to make the most of their chances for the rest of the term. They had twelve-straight inside 50s and were unable to find a target within range. In the closing minutes, Svarc produced a superb run-down tackle on Adelaide inclusion Ailish Considine to set up Brisbane’s first inside 50 of the term. From there, they locked the ball in and comfortably held on for a historic 18-point victory.

ADELAIDE 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 (20)
BRISBANE 1.0 | 3.0 | 6.0 | 6.2 (38)

GOALS:

Adelaide: D. Ponter, E. Jones, S. Thompson.
Brisbane: J. Wuetschner, C. Hodder 2, L. Arnell, I. Dawes.

DC BEST:

Adelaide: S. Thompson, E. Jones, D. Ponter, T. Charlton, A. Hatchard.
Brisbane: K. Lutkins, A. Anderson, C. Svarc, B. Koenan, E. Bates, C. Hodder.

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

Adelaide eyes off third AFL Women’s flag

REIGNING AFL Women’s premiers Adelaide Crows have booked their ticket to the 2021 AFLW Grand Final with a convincing 5.3 (33) to 1.9 (15) defeat of Melbourne in the preliminary final on Saturday at the Adelaide Oval. Although they lost the inside 50 battle 28 to 30, Adelaide were far more efficient going forward and deserve the opportunity to challenge for their third women’s premiership against an impressive Brisbane outfit next week.

Midfielders Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff were the stars for the Crows and clearly the two best players on the ground. Hatchard started the game brilliantly, collecting 18 disposals in the first half and providing plenty of run and carry through the corridor. She finished with 27 disposals, five marks, four tackles and a goal in one of her best ever performances. Partner-in-crime Marinoff was just as prominent, equalling Hatchard’s AFLW record for the most disposals in an AFLW match with 35. She also laid 13 tackles and took five marks in the victory.

Despite the loss, Melbourne midfielders Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks did not have their colours lowered. These two gathered 48 disposals and ten tackles between them and led the Demons to winning the clearance battle 25 to 18. Unfortunately, they did not get much help from their teammates, who were ineffective with their ball use and lacked composure going inside 50.

The match was a tight arm wrestle early, with both sides attacking the ball with ferocity and not allowing their opponents to get many uncontested possessions. Melbourne were on top and repeatedly got the ball inside 50, but Adelaide’s defence held up well under the pressure. Their resistance was led by captain Chelsea Randall until she was involved in a heavy collision halfway through the first term with Melbourne’s Eliza McNamara. Despite both players solely having eyes for the ball, they clashed heads, abruptly left the field and were ruled out of the match with concussion. Due to the AFLW’s 12-day concussion protocol rule, Randall will be unable to compete in the Grand Final. This is a major loss for the home side, as her versatility and leadership has been a key part of the Crows’ resurgence in 2021. Youngster McNamara was a big loss for the Demons in this match as well given her elite running capacity and consistently fierce attack on the ball.

As the two players departed the field, Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips earned a free kick in a marking contest and booted the first goal of the game. While Melbourne were well led in the first term by Paxman (nine disposals) and Hanks (seven disposals), their teammates kept blazing away going forward. This allowed Adelaide defenders to zone off and take easy intercept marks. Late in the term, Kate Hore did well to provide Brenna Tarrant with an opportunity to kick her side’s first, but she hit the post due to some relentless pressure from Sarah Allan.

Early in the second, Shelley Scott got Melbourne fans excited with a spectacular mark at half-back. Melbourne’s pressure went to another level in the second, as they won many holding the ball decisions and gained greater inside 50 dominance. However, this was when Hatchard lifted for the Crows, and she was instrumental in setting up Adelaide’s second major, kicked once again by Phillips. Although Phillips had a quiet first half by her standards, she still kicked the only two goals in that timeframe. Marinoff had 20 disposals and four tackles at the main break.

In the third, draftee Rachelle Martin was the one to break the game open with some explosive passages of play. First, she found forward Chloe Scheer on the lead with a well-weighted kick, and Scheer nailed the set shot from a tight angle to extend Adelaide’s lead to three goals. One minute later, Martin caught Paxman holding the ball with a strong tackle inside 50, which allowed Hatchard to take the advantage kick the Crows’ fourth. Martin continued to apply relentless pressure and bamboozle Melbourne defenders throughout the term, creating many more chances for the Crows that they failed to capitalise on. This meant that they remained less than four goals up at the last break. However, Melbourne were still goalless at three-quarter time, demonstrating how brilliantly Adelaide’s defence was holding up.

While Melbourne tried to turn the tide in the last, Crows livewire Eloise Jones had other ideas. Jones, who played predominantly in defence throughout the contest, pushed forward and soccerred one of the goals of the year with her opposite foot under significant pressure. Thankfully for the Demons, Hore was able to get out the back of Adelaide’s defence in the ninth minute and slot her side’s first major. It was a well-deserved goal for Hore, who toiled hard all day and was one of Melbourne’s most consistent contributors. The Demons got several more chances to hit the scoreboard in the final term, but they were very inaccurate in front of goal. Despite the windy conditions, a couple of the misses were inexcusable. It did not matter in the end, as Adelaide ran out 18-point victors. In seven days, they will attempt to become the first ever back-to-back AFLW premiers in a rematch of the 2017 AFLW decider.

ADELAIDE 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)
MELBOURNE 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 1.9 (15)

GOALS:

Adelaide: E. Phillips 2, E. Jones, A. Hatchard, C. Scheer.
Melbourne: K. Hore.

DC BEST:

Adelaide: A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff, R. Martin, S. Allan, M. Rajcic
Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, K. Hore, S. Scott, E. Zanker

Picture credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

SANFL Player Focus: No first round blues for Sturt’s Morgan Ferres

ATHLETIC Sturt youngster Morgan Ferres is a member of the 2021 State Talent Hub, and one of the most highly-rated South Australian forwards in this year’s draft class. His season commenced on Friday at Unley Oval when Sturt came up against Woodville-West Torrens, and he started the year in blistering form. With six goals, ten marks (two contested), 17 disposals and two inside 50s, it was a day out against reasonable opposition. With four behinds and multiple unselfish goal assists during the contest, it is fair to say that he could have kicked nine or ten. Regardless, he leads the SANFL Under 18 goalkicking tally after Round 1 and has set himself up for a strong season.

Ferres started the match by taking a nice mark on the lead, but sprayed his first shot on goal. He quickly redeemed his miss by juggling a mark, playing on and snapping the Double Blues’ second major in the opening six minutes. This was the first of many instances where Ferres read the flight of the ball far better than the Eagles defenders and got himself into ideal positions. Later in the first term, Ferres pushed up to half-forward to create a higher option for teammates streaming off half-back. He showed that he has quick hands when his handball released a teammate into space and led to a goal from Kai Tucker. Ferres should have kicked his second from the next centre bounce, but he missed an open shot from 35 metres out. Soon after, he worked hard to get open, marked and quickly delivered to Henry Read inside 50, who kicked Sturt’s fourth goal of the day. Ferres’ score involvement numbers were very high on Friday, and he regularly attempted to give the ball to teammates who were in better positions to kick at goal. Another example of this occurred late in the first term when, after earning a free for a hold on the 50-metre arc, Ferres looked like he was going to have a shot but instead passed it off. This unselfish play led to a goal by Cormac Dwyer.

Ferres linked up well with wingman Tucker throughout the match, who used his accurate foot skills to find the leading Ferres on numerous occasions. In the second term, after Ferres got on the end of a pass from Tucker, he was tight on the boundary and attempted to pass it off, but the kick fell short of his target. Ferres is naturally unselfish and passing was the right option on this occasion, it was just the execution that missed the mark. Four minutes in, Ferres completed a beautiful fat-side lead to earn an uncontested mark and he drilled his set shot from 35 metres out. His marking appears to have gone to another level this year, as demonstrated when he took a tough contested grab after a long kick down the line from Brad Jefferies. Ferres immediately looked inside and found Jordan Hein in the corridor, thus opening up the other side of the 50 for Sturt forwards to lead into. At the 22-minute mark, as the deepest forward, Ferres outbodied his opponent, marked and strolled into an open goal for his third. Sturt went into half time with a two-point lead, thanks in large part to Ferres’ three majors and numerous score involvements to that point.

The Eagles got well on top at the start of the third, so the ball did not enter the Blues’ forwardline much during that period. With Sturt ten points down, Ferres claimed a mark but was penalised for a push in the back. It was not until the 23-minute mark that Ferres got another opportunity to make an impact, and he did not waste it as he took a chest mark on the lead and booted through his fourth. He had another chance to goal from the next centre bounce after picking up the ball cleanly and turning sharply around his opponent, but his snap went through for a behind. Sturt reclaimed the lead just before three-quarter time and looked to have the momentum at the break.

Early in the last quarter, Ferres led into the pocket to took a strong overhead mark. With his impressive vertical leaping ability and long reach, it is difficult for his opponents to get a spoil in without chopping his arms. These traits will assist him as he rises up the grades, and this is why coaches will encourage him to take more marks overhead or out in front as he continues his development. After his grab, Ferres went back and kicked a beautiful snap around the body for his fifth. Ferres said in his preseason interview that he has been working on his goalkicking during the offseason, and this hard work clearly paid off in this instance. Ferres is very good at letting his man play in front and calling for the kick over the top into space, thus allowing him to take comfortable uncontested marks. He did this again at the 12-minute mark, which led to his sixth and final goal of the day from approximately 35 metres out. Soon after, Ferres crumbed a contest in the forward pocket, sidestepped an Eagles defender and attempted to dribble through a goal, but he just missed to the near side. As the siren sounded, Sturt ran out winners by 40 points. Ferres would have been happy with the result and his performance, as he proved that he is already a class above Under 18 level.

The scoreboard flattered Sturt in the end, as it kicked the final nine goals of the match to come away with the points. Ferres was certainly their most prominent contributor throughout, and the side required his contributions to be able to score consistently. Although Ferres will also be playing school football at St Peter’s College for much of 2021, he could earn an opportunity to play at SANFL League level depending on how Sturt’s senior side fares. Playing against bigger bodies would be a fascinating challenge for Ferres, and he will seek to compete and shine at the Under 19 National Championships in September and October. It will be interesting to see how Ferres’ game develops throughout the year as he attempts to impress AFL scouts en route to the 2021 AFL Draft.

Image Credit: Mel Faull/Get Snapt

The ‘Vescio Show’ takes over the Sunshine State

CARLTON star forward Darcy Vescio put on an absolute clinic at Metricon Stadium to lead the Blues to a dominant 60-point win over Gold Coast. Vescio collected 15 disposals and kicked a personal-best five goals in the performance, becoming the first AFLW player to boot 40 career goals in the process. If not for her unselfishness in the second half, Vescio could well have finished with seven or eight majors.

Vescio was well supported by speedster Georgia Gee (13 disposals, two marks), Breann Moody (16 disposals, six marks, one goal) and Grace Egan (19 disposals, four tackles). For the Suns, Alison Drennan (19 disposals, nine tackles) and Lauren Ahrens (18 disposals, four marks, five tackles) worked hard until the final siren.

With a score of 13.9 (87), the Blues broke the AFLW all-time scoring record of 12.14 (86) set by the Western Bulldogs during their premiership-winning 2018 season. This was a must-win clash for Carlton to stay in the finals hunt, and a healthy percentage boost was always going to help their cause. The match marked the first time that Carlton has played outside Victoria this season, so it was going to be interesting to see how they came out of the blocks.

To the shock of many, it was Gold Coast who got off to a flyer. The hosts got the ball out the back of Carlton’s defence very easily in the opening minutes. Firstly, Samantha Virgo got out the back and dribbled through a clever goal on the outside of her boot, and then Maddison Levi sprinted onto the end of a kick over the top to put through the Suns’ second. Carlton’s defence was slow and shaky at the outset, while Gold Coast were getting first hands on the ball in the middle. After Drennan kicked the Suns’ third, Carlton lifted their intensity and were able shift the momentum. Gee produced some brilliant play down the wing to allow Vescio to kick the Blues’ first. Soon after, reigning AFLW Best and Fairest Maddy Prespakis missed a golden opportunity to kick the Blues’ second, so the Suns took a 12-point advantage into quarter time.

Vescio looked more dangerous up forward in the second, kicking two consecutive left foot snaps out of congestion to give the Blues the lead. While the Suns got multiple inside 50s, they were ineffective with their ball use going forward and Carlton’s defence put up much greater resistance. After Vescio missed a chance at her fourth from straight in front, first-year Sun Lucy Single made her pay by using her pace through the middle of the ground and kicking an incredible Goal of the Year contender. Despite this, Natalie Plane kicked a nice goal straight from the next centre clearance to give Carlton back the lead going into the main break.

Vescio opened the third with her fourth goal, and the Suns were immediately on the back foot. This is where Carlton opened up the margin, as they held the Suns goalless in the third term and kicked five goals of their own. Although Gold Coast could get the ball inside 50, Carlton repeatedly had numbers back and counterattacked with force. They went coast-to-coast and Lucy McEvoy steadied to kick her first, then Nicola Stevens took a strong contested mark and kicked truly. When Vescio set up Brooke Walker for another major, Carlton had kicked eight of the last nine goals for the game. Lauren Brazzale extended the Blues’ lead to an unrecoverable margin for Gold Coast at three-quarter time.

The ‘Vescio Show’ continued in the final term, as she took a classic high mark in the goal square and drilled her fifth. She then unselfishly set up ex-Demon Elise O’Dea for a goal with a handball over the top, and Plane kicked her second to bring the Blues to within striking distance of the AFLW scoring record. With under a minute remaining in the contest, Moody became the player to officially break the record by taking a contested mark and kicking truly from a set shot.

For Carlton’s finals hopes to remain alive, they must win their clash against GWS at Blacktown next Sunday and hope for other results to go their way. Meanwhile, Gold Coast will aim to end their difficult season on a high when they take on the bottom-placed Geelong at Metricon on Saturday.

GOLD COAST 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.2 | 4.3 (27)
CARLTON 1.1 | 4.4 | 9.5 | 13.9 (87)

GOALS:
Gold Coast: L. Single, S. Virgo, M. Levi, A. Drennan 1.
Carlton: D. Vescio 5, N. Plane 2, B. Walker, L. McEvoy, B. Moody, N. Stevens, L. Brazzale, E. O’Dea 1.

DC BEST:
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, L. Ahrens, L. Single, K. Howarth, K. Surman.
Carlton: D. Vescio, G. Gee, B. Moody, V. Laloifi, G. Egan.

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

 

For more AFLW news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Finals on the agenda for Sturt in 2021

WHILE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s has been a fantastic initiative for all eight SANFL clubs to be involved in, some sides have had more on-field success than others so far. In Sturt’s three years playing in the SANFL Women’s League, they are yet to make a finals appearance. Changing this record is high on the agenda of Sturt’s senior women’s coach Bruce Dawes in 2021, particularly following their capitulation after returning from the COVID-19 break last season.

“Pre-COVID, we were actually pretty happy with the way we were tracking,” Dawes said. “We were 2-2 at that stage and felt the girls were making pretty good improvements. Having that break really interrupted us. Some girls chose not to come back post-COVID because work and different things changed for them, so after that we certainly didn’t play the football we were hoping to play.”

Sturt did not claim another victory for the 2020 season, concluding the year with two wins, seven losses, one draw and the lowest percentage in the competition, 25.04. This put them in sixth position, just one point ahead of bottom two clubs Woodville-West Torrens and Central District.

“Overall, we were disappointed with the season, no doubt about it,” Dawes said. “You always want to play finals, but I think we’re moving in the right direction now.”

Over the summer period, Dawes has put an emphasis on improving his players’ fitness levels, along with some other key areas of SANFLW football.

“Preseason’s been really good, one thing we felt last year was that we weren’t as fit as we’d like to have been, so there’s certainly been a focus on fitness,” Dawes said. “All of our GPS information is telling us that the girls have been working harder and their intensity is up, so that’s been a real bonus for us. From there, it’s just constant work on developing our skills and our game plan.”

When asked about their game plan, Dawes said he wants to help his players to develop greater football IQ’s and understand match situations when they are out in the heat of battle.

“We do a lot of work on our strategy type of stuff,” he said. “We want to control the footy then get our timing right of when to go fast and when to go slow. That’s what we’re looking at trying to achieve this year.”

As for Sturt’s recruiting strategy this offseason, they have focused on bringing players into the SANFLW system rather than poaching from rival SANFLW clubs.

“We’ve gone to the local clubs,” Dawes said. “We were able to watch a few local games once our season had finished, and from that we were able to attract a few newer girls who are bit older and have played a little bit of football. A couple of girls from Uraidla, Molly Fletcher and Alisha Gepp, who have really added to our group. Another girl Jess Good, who played at Blackwood, is a tall ruckman that’s come into the squad and been excellent for us. Chloe Forby came over from the Eagles, she’s a little goer that plays small forward, she’s added to the group as well.”

At the Under 18 preseason testing day earlier this month, 2020 Club Champion Zoe Prowse revealed that she is planning to play as a midfielder for the Double Blues in 2021. This surprised some given her prowess and expertise as a ruck, but Dawes clarified their reasoning behind the move.

“We just want to try and develop Zoe’s complete game,” he said. “She’s an outstanding athlete. Will she be a ruck at AFL level? She absolutely can be, no doubt, she has the athleticism to do it. But if we can add extra strings to her bow, where she could become a midfielder and then occasionally pinch hit in the ruck, that would really add to her talent as well.”

As for Sturt players that fans should keep an eye on this season, Dawes had several names in mind.

“A crowd favourite is Kate ‘Buba’ Harris– she’s a hard-working half-forward that goes at everything, is intense and just loves the game, the group love her too, she’s outstanding,” Dawes said. “Zoe Prowse, Alex Ballard, Georgia Swan and Hannah Prenzler are all in the State program, which is excellent for them. All of those girls have been really good. A couple of left field ones [to keep an eye on]. New ruckman Jess Good is not a household name, but she’ll be very handy for us. Maya Rigter, Isobel Kuiper and girls like that have always been consistent performers for us as well.”

Although a finals berth is firmly on Dawes’ mind, he knows this will be difficult to achieve in 2021 due to the strong competition in SANFLW.

“Our goal is to play finals, no doubt about that,” Dawes said. “We think we were on track last year before the wheels fell off a bit, but we really think the list we’ve got now, the development the girls are putting in, and we’re progressing to a stage where we think we can play finals. Things will have to go right for us to do that, it’s a really tight competition that’s always constantly improving, so hopefully we’re improving a bit more than the other clubs.”

Sturt’s season begins on Saturday morning at X Convenience Oval when they take on Glenelg.

 

Picture credit: SANFL

 

For more SANFL Women’s news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

South Adelaide looks to the future in 2021

SOUTH Adelaide have been the most successful team in the short history of the SANFL Women’s League. After winning the 2018 and 2019 premierships, they made the grand final again in 2020, but fell just short against North Adelaide.

Due to the departures of multiple star players and premiership coach Rick Watts, it will be much tougher for the Panthers to return to the big stage in 2021. However, rather than dwelling on their losses, South Adelaide executives have turned their attention towards the future of the club. This process started in the offseason by hiring new Senior Women’s Coach Andrew Brockhurst.

A former 131-game player for South Adelaide’s SANFL side and 38-game player for Fitzroy, Brockhurst said that although he has a reasonably limited coaching background at senior level, he has been involved with multiple women’s amateur sides in recent seasons.

“I’ve spent the last few years involved in the women’s program,” he said. “I spent a year out at Christies Beach coaching with their senior group, then coached Flagstaff Hill senior women last year in the Southern Football League. Then the role at South Adelaide popped up, which was unexpected, and I felt confident enough to apply.”

Despite some early interruptions due to South Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions (brought on by the Parafield cluster), Brockhurst is pleased with how his first preseason at the helm has gone.

“Preseason has been good, a little bit fragmented like most people’s preseasons, but since the beginning of December our season’s been right on track,” he said. “We usually run a really important six-week program prior to our actual preseason starting [that] helps girls with the mechanics of kicking the football. We lost most of that, so we had to adapt our program into our preseason and the girls actually ended up training an extra night all the way through until the end of January to make sure we fit all that in.”

In addition to the skills initiative, Brockhurst has prioritised improving his side’s speed of ball movement and adjusting his recruits to the frenetic pace of SANFLW football.

“We have a number of new girls in our squad this year, so getting them used to the pace of the game and ensuring that we’re trying to move the ball as quickly as we can have been major focuses for us,” he said. “We’re pretty controlled coming out of our backline generally, so we’re worried that the speed coming out of there is letting us down a bit. We’re just trying to speed that pace up and move the ball quicker into our forward line. We back our forwards being quite strong one-on-one, so the quicker we can get it there the better.”

The Panthers lost Teah Charlton, Indy Tahau and Tahlia Meyer to AFLW clubs over the offseason. Brockhurst knows these players are incredibly talented and will be difficult to replace.

“[Those three] are hard to replace overnight, that takes time,” Brockhurst said. “We certainly have some young girls coming along that will be stars within their own right, but that will take a little bit of time for some of those to settle in.”

Brockhurst was optimistic about his new recruits, especially those coming from other SANFLW clubs.

“We have some good ins to our squad; Soriah Moon coming from Glenelg will fit nicely into our program, and Alannah Rochow from Norwood will also play a major part for us this season,” he said.

Brockhurst also said that his younger players have impressed him over the summer.

Gypsy Schirmer has been a standout throughout preseason for us,” he said. “Lauren Clifton is moving really well and Sarah Wright, who’s coming back from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) last year, is back into it full swing. We’re looking forward to Sarah finding her way again early on in the season and having another good year for us.”

While regular improvement is the Panthers’ number one focus, Brockhurst said he would not put a ceiling on what his side can achieve this season.

“We will continue to focus mainly on the development of our players,” he said. “Our other aim every single week, as it would be for the every other club, is to win every game that we play in. As for where that ends at the end of season, we will see what happens. But we will be giving 110 per cent to try and compete and be successful in every game we play.”

South Adelaide’s season gets underway on Friday night when they take on the Roosters in a highly-anticipated grand final rematch at Coopers Stadium.

Picture credit: Nick Hook Photography

For more SANFL Women’s news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Prowse set for a positional change in 2021

ZOE Prowse is one of South Australia’s leading Under 18 Women’s football prospects. The promising Sturt youngster will be eligible for the AFL Women’s Draft at the end of the 2021 season, and she has generated plenty of buzz in women’s football circles in a short space of time.

While Prowse did gain some football exposure as a junior, she did not begin playing competitively until 2017.

“I started by doing Auskick with my brother, but then I stopped for ages,” she said. “It wasn’t until I went to school in Year 8 and there was a girl’s knockout team for me to join. I played and developed my game from there.”

The Mercedes College student said the school has been fantastic for her football development, and she identified two key people that have helped her progress.

“Mercedes have been really good to me, two of my teachers Mr. Caire and Mr. Hill played SANFL League at Westies, so they basically got my footy career started,” Prowse said.

After taking a cheeky dig at her brother Spencer, Prowse said all members of her family have been helpful throughout her football journey.

“My family has been very supportive, she said. “My sister Arabella has come out to every game, so she’s really encouraged it, as well as mum and dad. They all get around it.”

When asked how she thought she went at the South Australian Preseason Testing Day on Sunday, Prowse was her typically modest self.

“I think I did alright, I probably could have done better in some tests, but I think I did okay,” Prowse said. “My jumps are my strength on a day like this, especially my running jumps.”

On the footy field, Prowse is known for her incredible rucking ability and follow-up work, a “fourth-midfielder” style of role that she enjoys. However, she will be looking to develop a new side to her game this season.

“I think I’m not playing in the ruck this year, I’m actually playing as a midfielder, so that will mean a lot more running around,” she said. “Sturt have two new ruckmen this year, so I think we’ll try and get them to take that role so that I can move around, try new positions and continue to develop my game.”

Prowse believes this change will provide a unique opportunity for her to enhance her aerobic base.

“I’m looking to improve my fitness this season, just being able to consistently run out a full game,” she said.

Overall, Prowse has one objective in mind for 2021, and locals will be ecstatic about where she wants to end up.

“My goal for the year is to get drafted, I want to be drafted by the Crows,” Prowse said.

 

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

 

For more SANFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

2021 AFLW Preview: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE will aim to catapult itself back into premiership contention after an injury-riddled 2020 season. Head coach Matthew Clarke has made some major changes to his coaching staff, with club greats Scott Thompson and Tom Lynch joining the panel. The trio will restock Adelaide’s side with a number of returning premiership stars.

2020 RECAP
The Crows finished sixth in Conference A last year, winning just two of their six matches. Premiership players Chelsea Randall and Chloe Scheer missed the entire season with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions, while Deni Varnhagen and superstar Erin Phillips only played three matches between them as they returned from their own respective knee issues. Injuries to several other players meant that the Crows were forced to blood more and more youngsters as the season progressed. Adelaide’s two wins came early in the season against St Kilda and Geelong, two sides that did not qualify for finals in 2020. Realistically, the Crows just struggled to move the ball from end to end and failed to apply enough pressure on opposition sides.

A shining light throughout 2020 was midfielder Anne Hatchard, who won their best and fairest and made the AFLW All-Australian side after averaging 25 disposals, six tackles and three inside 50s per game. Tackling machine Ebony Marinoff was effective alongside her at the clearances, but the pair did not get much help from the Crows’ wingers or forwards, particularly late in the season. Sarah Allan was the side’s other strong performer, as she led Adelaide’s defence well and was rewarded with a spot in the All-Australian side.

NEW FACES
Lively forward Jess Sedunary returns to the club after playing one season for expansion side St Kilda. Sedunary was a premiership player for the Crows in 2017 and is a proven goalkicker at senior level. Although she is coming off a broken fibula and may take some time to reach full strength, she will bring a wealth of leadership and experience to the group. Former Giant Lisa Whiteley will be an important addition to the Crows’ defence, while young winger Hannah Munyard, who has good pace and skills, provides some much-needed depth after playing three games for the Bulldogs in her debut season.

Draftees Teah Charlton, Rachelle Martin and Ash Woodland are three readymade recruits that should make an immediate impact for the club. Charlton, taken with pick four in the AFLW Draft, is a talented midfielder and half-forward from South Adelaide with goal sense, effective ball use, overhead marking ability and aggression. Expect her to be in the running for the NAB AFLW Rising Star Award. Midfielder Martin won the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) 2020 best and fairest award (alongside Hatchard) and played a match for the Crows last year as an injury-replacement player. Flexible utility Woodland gained AFLW experience for Melbourne in 2019 before winning North Adelaide’s best and fairest award last year in a premiership side. She also won the SANFLW Leading Goalkicker award in 2020.

With Randall, Scheer, Varnhagen, Hannah Button, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Phillips all set for full seasons this year after serious injuries in 2020, they can be considered ‘new faces’ as well. On the other hand, Adelaide loses veteran Courtney Gum along with premiership players Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey and Sophie Li to retirement.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021
Chelsea Randall is the one to watch. She is arguably the most courageous defender in AFLW and her skills, leadership and football IQ were sorely missed last year. With Randall positioned alongside Allan and Marijana Rajcic in defence, Adelaide should prove very difficult to score against.

Justine Mules is the other Crow to keep an eye on. She finished third in Adelaide’s 2020 best and fairest count after averaging 11 disposals, two tackles and two inside 50s per game. The two-time premiership player has shown continuous improvement since her debut season and looks set to have a major impact on a wing in 2021.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT
Two words: premiership experience. With 19 premiership players on their list, the Crows have more of these than any other side in the competition. This experience will prove valuable in finals, and it is well known that the Crows’ top names are made for the biggest stage. With numerous young players rising up the ranks and some veterans nearing the end of their careers, the hunger to recapture premiership glory should be there as well.

QUESTION MARK
Adelaide’s lack of depth is their biggest question mark. This was exposed last season following injuries to their franchise players, as the young Crows struggled to hold up their end of the bargain. However, this experience could prove valuable for the inexperienced players as they should now be more comfortable competing at senior level. Additionally, the inclusions of Sedunary, Whiteley, Munyard and the draftees should help improve their depth.

FINAL WORD
A line-up that includes Randall, Marinoff, Hatchard, Phillips and Allan is a scary proposition for any opposition side. The Crows have elite talents all across the ground and should catapult back into finals contention, but it is unclear whether they are truly premiership contenders. Fremantle, North Melbourne and Carlton were the best sides in 2020 and deserve favouritism ahead of the Crows at this stage.

Much of Adelaide’s hopes depend on the fitness and agility of the seasoned players returning from injury. Their forward line was the main area that struggled last year, as they often failed to lock the ball inside their forward 50 and relied far too heavily on Stevie-Lee Thompson, Eloise Jones and Danielle Ponter. The returns of Scheer, Phillips, Sedunary and Button should help spread the workload in this area.

We we will learn more about the Crows’ premiership aspirations when their season gets underway on the 30th of January against the Demons.



For more AFLW news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Top 5 AFLW recruits for 2021

THERE were several important off-season trades that will impact AFL Women’s, as some big names moved to premiership contenders and others relocated in search of a fresh start.

We at Draft Central have decided to name what we consider the top five AFLW recruits ahead of the 2021 season.

Elise O’Dea (Carlton)

Former Melbourne co-captain O’Dea was the biggest coup of the trade period, as she will immediately boost the Blues’ midfield and provide valuable leadership. In her four years at the Demons, O’Dea averaged 17 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three marks per game. It will be daunting for opponents to have to deal with O’Dea playing alongside the likes of AFLW best and fairest Maddy Prespakis and Darcy Vescio at Ikon Park.

Grace Campbell (North Melbourne)

Campbell was a surprise inclusion for North Melbourne over the trade period and will add important depth to their midfield. Coming from Richmond, Campbell has strong contested ball traits and makes good decisions under pressure at stoppages. She averaged 12 disposals, five tackles and two inside 50s in her debut season. Learning from the likes of Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney will only help elevate the 24-year-old’s game, so expect her to help the Kangaroos contend for the 2021 premiership.

Sarah D’Arcy (Richmond)

One of three Sarah’s moving to Richmond in 2021, D’Arcy will bring significant experience and football smarts to Punt Road. The 28-year-old played 24 games and kicked ten goals for Collingwood while averaging 10 disposals, three marks and two tackles across her four seasons. Richmond’s Head of Women’s Football Kate Sheehan said that the club hopes to reinvent D’Arcy as an attacking half-back. This will be an interesting development to keep an eye on.

Sarah Hosking (Richmond)

Hosking has not missed a match since AFLW’s launch in 2017 and will be a major addition to the Tigers’ lineup. Crossing from Carlton, the 24-year-old midfielder is brilliant at the contest and will provide fantastic support for Richmond’s reigning best and fairest winner Monique Conti. Hosking averaged 11 disposals, three tackles and three marks in 2020, and she is also capable of hitting the scoreboard.

Aisling McCarthy (West Coast)

McCarthy is an important addition to West Coast’s midfield, as they prioritised increasing their midfield depth in the off-season. The Irishwoman started her AFLW career as a forward but transitioned into the Bulldogs’ engine room in 2020, averaging 13 disposals, four tackles, three marks and two inside 50s across the six matches. For her efforts, McCarthy finished fourth in the Victorian club’s best and fairest. Do not be surprised if she features heavily in West Coast’s count at the conclusion of 2021.

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Top 5 AFLW matches to look forward to in 2021

AS the AFL Women’s (AFLW) clubs continue their preparation for the 2021 season, AFLW fans eagerly await the announcement of the fixture. The only hints provided so far came from AFL Chief Executive Officer Gil McLachlan last Friday, when he anticipated that the season will commence in early February with nine home and away rounds and three weeks of finals.

Here are the five matchups that we hope to see in the fixture when it is finally released.

1. FREMANTLE v NORTH MELBOURNE

A matchup between the two best teams of 2020 is an absolute necessity for 2021. Fremantle went undefeated in 2020 and the Kangaroos only lost once – to Melbourne in Round 1 – but we never got to see these sides face each other during the season. Among many other dream matchups on the field, the midfield battle between Jasmine Garner and Kiara Bowers would be thrilling. Had COVID-19 not forced an abrupt end to the season, we probably would have seen these two sides battle it out in the 2020 Grand Final. It would be fitting to open 2021 with the matchup that should have concluded last season.

2. ADELAIDE v CARLTON

These two sides produced one of the best matches of the 2020 season when Carlton came out on top by eight points at Richmond Oval. Led by superstars Darcy Vescio and Maddy Prespakis, the Blues were too skilful for the Crows in the second half. However, Adelaide was undermanned due to injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears that kept premiership stars Chloe Scheer and Chelsea Randall out for the season. They will both be returning to the field in 2021 and should lead Adelaide back into finals contention. The Crows have also recruited Jess Sedunary, Hannah Munyard and Lisa Whiteley from other clubs to strengthen their stocks, while Carlton got the prized signature of former Melbourne co-captain Elise O’Dea to bolster their midfield. Both sides will look stronger on paper and it would be fascinating to watch another clash between the 2019 AFLW Grand Finalists.

3. COLLINGWOOD v NORTH MELBOURNE

A rematch of last year’s semi-final between these two sides would be a must-see affair, as it was arguably the match of the year when the Kangaroos just got over the line by two points. Britt Bonnici was brilliant on the day in a losing side, as were Jaimee Lambert and Bri Davey. These Magpies stars will be hoping to attain their club’s first finals win in 2021, and they would certainly love another opportunity to defeat the side that eliminated them in 2020. That will be easier said than done against the star-studded Kangaroos, who will be hell-bent on contending for their maiden AFLW premiership in 2021.

4. FREMANTLE v ST KILDA

These two sides played out a classic contest in 2020 when the Dockers got over the line by one point, and there is no reason why a clash between them in 2021 could not be just as good. While Fremantle have one of the best sides in the competition, St Kilda is also building strongly on the back of young stars Georgia Patrikios, Caitlin Greiser and Nicola Xenos. Despite not winning the 2020 matchup, this was when the young Saints developed the belief that they could match it with the best. They would love to go one step further and upset the Dockers in 2021.

5. CARLTON v COLLINGWOOD

The list would not be complete without arguably the biggest rivalry in AFLW, Carlton and Collingwood. Carlton has been the more successful AFLW side over the journey, but Collingwood appear to be on the way up after making their first finals appearance in 2020. Magpies defender Stacey Livingstone added plenty of spice to their rivalry following their 15-point defeat of the Blues last year when she said in an interview, “you’ve just got to stop [Tayla Harris] in the air, that’s her game. If you can do that, she’s useless.” This is the type of spirited commentary that fans love to see from players, as public sledging only adds intrigue to the competition. Let’s hope that we see more aggression and trash-talk between these two sides in 2021, as the lead-up to the match could almost be as entertaining as the contest itself.

For more AFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.