Author: Tom Cheesman

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.

AFLW: Players to watch from your club in 2021 – Part 3

As we lead into the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central is highlighting the top players to watch from each club. Here is part three of the series, this time taking a look into four of the bottom sides in 2020 which will look to move up the ranks this season after combining for just four wins last season.

Richmond: Ellie McKenzie

There is always major pressure on pick one of the draft in any sport, and this is no different for McKenzie. Richmond did not win a game in 2020, so they will be hoping that McKenzie adds a spark that can propel them away from the bottom of the ladder. She has great versatility, with proven capabilities as a midfielder and a half-forward. Her kicking ability on both sides and elite fitness level set her apart from the other draft prospects, so look for these qualities to shine through at the Tigers in 2021.

St Kilda: Caitlin Greiser

Despite having just one year of AFLW experience, Greiser is already one of the most exciting players to watch in the competition. Her ability to change any game within minutes is quite incredible, as she has an imposing presence up forward and can kick crucial goals at any stage. She finished second in AFLW’s 2020 leading goalkicker award with ten goals in six matches, which was particularly impressive considering her Saints only won two of their six games. Greiser averaged nine disposals, two marks and three inside 50s as well, and she made the AFLW All-Australian side for her efforts. The 21-year-old will attract many fans through the gates at Moorabbin – if possible – in 2021.

West Coast: Isabella Lewis

Lewis was taken with pick three in October’s AFLW Draft and will immediately improve the Eagles’ midfield stocks. The youngster from Claremont has elite running power, speed and applies plenty of pressure. Lewis thrives at the contest, enjoys the physicality and is always willing to take the game on. It will be entertaining to watch her make an impact for West Coast in her debut season.

Western Bulldogs: Gabby Newton

The number one pick in 2019’s national Draft, Newton was one of the Bulldogs’ most prominent young guns. She played every game, averaged 13 disposals and led her club in tackles with a highly impressive 42 in six matches. Newton also ranked second at the club for contested possessions and marks while sharing responsibilities up forward and through the midfield. Expect her to take her game to another level and impact the scoreboard more in 2021.

Part 1 // Part 2

AFLW: Players to watch from your club in 2021 – Part 2

As we lead into the 2021 AFL Women’s season, we are highlighting the top players to watch from each club. In Part 1 Draft Central highlighted key players to keep an eye out for from Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood and Fremantle as some big names across the AFLW world return ahead of Round 1 for pre-season. With all of this in mind, here is Part 2 of the series detailing our top players to watch from each club in 2021.


Geelong: Meg McDonald
McDonald won Geelong’s 2019 best and fairest after courageously playing the final three games of the season with a stress fracture in her foot. Her injury woes continued in 2020, as she had to miss the first two rounds with a finger fracture. She produced a strong output when she returned, averaging 14 disposals, four marks, two rebound 50s and two tackles across four matches. The former Bulldog is a great intercept mark and reliable mover of the ball. Expect McDonald to make a significant impact in her fourth AFLW season and be one of the favourites for Geelong’s best and fairest once again.

Gold Coast: Kalinda Howarth
Howarth was one of the unexpected stars of the 2020 AFLW season. The crafty forward kicked nine goals in seven matches, including a four-goal haul against West Coast and three goals in the drawn QClash. She also found plenty of the ball and applied some strong tackling pressure, all of which helped her earn a selection in the 2020 AFLW All-Australian team. The 21-year-old will hope to build on that momentum and lead the Suns to their first finals victory in 2021.

GWS: Alyce Parker
One of AFLW’s youngest stars, 19-year-old Parker was her side’s best midfielder in 2020. She averaged an impressive 21 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s, with her strongest performance coming in round six against the Crows when she had 30 disposals, seven marks and three tackles. GWS were a strong side that finished second in their conference, which only made it more impressive that Parker led the club in disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, clearances, score involvements, inside 50s and rebound 50s. Parker made the All-Australian side for her efforts and looks set to take the next step by challenging for AFLW’s best and fairest award in 2021.

Melbourne: Tyla Hanks
Hanks is undoubtedly one of Melbourne’s brightest young stars and looks set for a huge year in 2021. She had a fantastic second season in 2020, earning more midfield minutes after starting her AFLW career as a forward. The 20-year-old led her side for tackles with an average of just below five per game, and she also averaged ten disposals. Expect her to spend even more time in the middle in 2021 and really showcase that go-get it mentality.

North Melbourne: Grace Campbell
Campbell was a surprise inclusion for North Melbourne over the trade period and will immediately add to a midfield that already includes the likes of Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney. 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. Expect her to build on this and help the Kangaroos contend for the 2021 premiership.

AFLW: Players to watch from your club in 2021 – Part 1

WHEN the 2020 AFL Women’s (AFLW) season ended abruptly in March, all 14 clubs immediately shifted their focus to 2021. In the off-season, numerous high-profile names switched clubs and October’s national Draft reinvigorated lists across the country. Some injured AFLW stars are aiming to return in time for Round 1, and pre-season has now commenced for 13 of the 14 clubs. With all of this in mind, here are our top players to watch from each club in 2021.

Adelaide: Chelsea Randall
Randall is arguably the most courageous defender in the league and, at her best, she can impact games as potently as any player in the competition. She did not play at all in 2020 after going down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during the first pre-season training session of the season. Adelaide sorely missed her skills, courage and leadership, as they went from 2019 premiers to missing the 2020 finals series all together. The 29-year-old will immediately bolster Adelaide’s defence and should help them catapult back into finals contention.

Brisbane: Orla O’Dwyer
O’Dwyer looked exciting at AFLW level in her first season, averaging eight disposals as a half-forward. Inaccuracy in front of goal cost her the chance to have a bigger influence, as she kicked 1.4 across seven matches. She showed her capabilities in her debut against Adelaide, when she snapped an incredible goal on her left and picked up some nice touches around the ground. O’Dwyer has fantastic fitness, agility and speed, so expect her to make a greater impact in 2021 now that she has some experience at AFLW level.

Carlton: Elise O’Dea
Former Melbourne co-captain O’Dea made the switch to Ikon Park at the conclusion of last season. She was an important part of Melbourne’s midfield, averaging over 17 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three marks during her four years at the club. With the move to Ikon Park, she now gets to work with the likes of AFLW best and fairest Maddy Prespakis and Darcy Vescio at the Blues, a daunting proposition for opposition sides. Expect Carlton to be near the top of the 2021 ladder and O’Dea to be leading the charge.

Collingwood: Chloe Molloy
After missing all of the 2019 AFLW season with a serious foot injury, Molloy came back firing in 2020. She kicked six goals in seven matches and averaged 13 disposals, four marks and two tackles per game. The 2018 Rising Star winner was dangerous in her new role up forward and proved that she is a vital part of the Magpies’ spine no matter what position she plays in. At just 21-years of age, Molloy’s best is yet to come.

Fremantle: Sarah Verrier
Fremantle’s side went undefeated in 2020 and looks even stronger after the drafting of Peel Thunder youngster Verrier. Taken with pick 14, Verrier is a reliable half-back with great footy smarts and kicking ability. She should slot nicely into Fremantle’s defence, but there will be plenty of jostling for spots with Alex Williams and Stephanie Cain (who can both play in defence) hoping to return from injury in 2021. No matter what stage of the season Verrier breaks into the Dockers’ side, she will bring consistency and a high level of skill to their already talented outfit.

Launceston paints the town blue with seven-point TSL Women’s premiership

LAUNCESTON has claimed the 2020 Tasmanian State League (TSL) Women’s premiership with a seven-point victory over Glenorchy at UTAS Stadium on Saturday. The result marked Launceston’s third women’s flag and redeemed their heartbreaking Grand Final defeat to Clarence last season. North Melbourne AFL Women’s player Mia King was sensational in the midfield and rightly awarded the medal for best on ground.

The minor premiers were slow out of the gates, with Glenorchy controlling the majority of the play early. The Magpies were kicking with the wind and locked the ball in their forward half for the majority of the first quarter. However, they dropped some easy marks inside 50 and could not capitalise on their opportunities. Elise Barwick earned a free kick in a forward 50 ruck contest midway through the term, but she got too close to the woman on the mark and opened the scoring with a behind. Tiarna Ford, who looked dangerous in front of goal early, hit the post with a snap just moments later. Perri King then laid a strong tackle inside 50 and won a holding the ball decision, but she missed her set shot as well to the near side. Launceston was scoreless at quarter time and trailed by three points.

The second quarter is where Launceston won the game, as they kicked all 13 of their points in this term. Going towards the scoring end, the Blues were finally able to get on top in the midfield. King was the leader of their dominance, as she won plenty of clearances and created some strong link-up play through the middle of the ground. Her attack on the ball clearly set the tone for her side coming out of quarter time. In the fourth minute, forward Brooke Brown produced some magnificent play on the half-forward flank to set up Cecilia Cameron for the first goal of the match. Just minutes later, Brown kicked the second with a nice snap around the body from 30 metres out. For the rest of the quarter, Glenorchy kept kicking the ball over the boundary coming out of defence, so Launceston locked it in their forward half quite easily. Abbie Hoiberg-Cox’s dash off half-back was a highlight of this term, as was Cameron’s strong presence up forward. Launceston went into half-time with a 10-point lead.

Glenorchy had most of the play in the first half of the third term, but Launceston’s defence led by Dearne Taylor and Hayley Whyte stood up magnificently. Sarah Skinner eventually earned a free kick right in front of goal, but her set shot was touched by the woman on the mark. While the Magpies had a couple of other opportunities to hit the scoreboard, their lack of composure inside 50 continued to haunt them. They were pressing until Cameron took one of the marks of the year in defensive 50 running back with the flight to shift the momentum. Skinner was equally as courageous in this contest, as she blindly ran back the other way and copped a massive hit for her troubles. A great contested mark from Brown on the wing released the pressure for Launceston even more, and Glenorchy did not earn any more scoring opportunities for the rest of the quarter.

In the final term, Launceston always had extra numbers back to stop Glenorchy from kicking a major and getting back into the game. Ford almost broke their goal-scoring drought at the eight-minute mark, but Taylor sprinted back with desperation to touch the ball on the line. Launceston held up well after that and ran out deserving winners.

Launceston 0.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 (13)
Glenorchy   0.3 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 0.6 (6)

GOALS:

Launceston: C. Cameron, B. Brown.
Glenorchy: Nil.

BEST:

Launceston: M. King, D. Taylor, K. Hill, M. Binns, C. Cameron. G. Hill
Glenorchy: L. Haines, P. King, A. Clark, R. Clifton. G. Sullivan, Z. Crawford

Picture: Solstice Digital & Photography


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