Category: AFLW National Championships

Thomas well supported during injured season

SUBIACO’S Charlotte Thomas would have no doubt preferred to have run out in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition more than once this season, but unfortunately has not been able to get on the park due to a wrist injury. The AFL Women’s Academy member has certainly had the runs on the board in previous years to have her well and truly in the draft mix, but it has still not been the easiest year.

Thomas thanks the rehabilitation staff at Subiaco, as she eyes a proper return to full fitness. Initially there was hope she would make it back in time to represent Western Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, but it was not to be. However, the talented teenager still have an important role.

“I was running water yesterday (against Allies) so that was good to stay involved but really grateful I still got to come and get around the girls and support them,” Thomas said.

Her journey started quite young, involved in backyard kicks with her family, Thomas said it was only natural she followed her brother into Australian rules football as it was a sport that always came natural to her.

“I have an older brother four years older than me,” she said. “He played Auskick and was kicking with dad in the backyard and it just felt normal to just join in with him. “So started playing Auskick when I was pretty young like six-years-old.”

Fast forward from her days at Auskick, and Thomas found herself at Subiaco, where she has played plenty of matches in the WAFL Women’s League side, praising the Lions for their professionalism and experienced teammates who have helped in her development.

“It’s been really good,” Thomas said. “Down at Subi, all the AFLW girls there, really good experience training with them and playing a couple of games with them. “A really good club down.”

Having shown serious potential from a young age, Thomas has been a member of the AFL Women’s Academy, something that the Subiaco youngster has been “really good”.

“(It’s) just a great base of coaches and support network that I can really rely on and get information from,” Thomas said.

With her kicking and skills named amongst her strengths – as well as reading the ball well and having the footy smarts to know the play before it happens – Thomas said she had a key area of improvement in mind in order to continue developing.

“Probably just my overall fitness and strength,” she said. “(I) just want to get a bit stronger around the contest.”

When looking at her inspirations over the journey, Thomas said a trio of AFL Women’s players in Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy, West Coast’s Bella Lewis and Fremantle’s Gabby O’Sullivan were all talents that she looked up to throughout her career due to the way they went about their football. One day. Thomas said she hoped to join them in the AFL Women’s ranks.

“Hopefully get drafted and just play the best that I can throughout my career and have a good, long healthy career hopefully playing AFLW,” she said.

Bishop enjoying GIANTS pathway

WHILST getting drafted is the ultimate goal for Canberra’s Eleanor Bishop, the talented teenager would have no qualms about going through the GIANTS Academy pathway again in 2022 if needed. Bishop, who represents Ainslie in the AFL Canberra, said the structure and atmosphere of the GIANTS had been really enjoyable and had given her plenty of opportunities to showcase her football on the big stage.

“It’s been really easy,” Bishop said. “The whole management of it has just made it so easy, and I understand what I need to do, and I’m really enjoying it. “I’d really love to get drafted, that’s definitely what I’m working for. If not this year, then I’ll go through the GIANTS again next year because I’ve really been enjoying it.”

Bishop’s journey through Australian rules football started a few years ago where she followed a friend to the Gungahlin Jets, before making the switch to Ainslie after 12 months. From there, one thing lead to another and Bishop was able to run out in the orange, white and charcoal and eventually the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

“I started in Year 9 at the Gungahlin Jets in Canberra,” Bishop said. “I played there for a year and then I decided to move to Ainslie Football Club which is more of a family thing for me. “I first stated at Jets because my friends were, and I didn’t have any friends at Ainslie and then played against Ainslie and I knew the whole team, so then I just moved the next year.

“Then I didn’t start doing any rep stuff until last year and then from that I kept getting invited to the GIANTS stuff, and I’ve been training with the GIANTS Academy boys which has really developed me as a player and I’m just getting so much better. “Now I’m here and I’m really appreciative of my opportunity.”

Bishop played both the Allies games, recording nine disposals per game, as well as 2.5 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50s and 3.5 tackles. Whilst usually an inside midfielder, Bishop’s ability to hit a target and track the ball to win it regularly for her team resulted in her playing an important role in defence.

“I love playing onball, in the middle,” she said. “But in this (AFLW Under 19 Championships) I’ve been thrown in the backline which is very different for me and I’ve adapted pretty well and I haven’t been playing bad.”

Whilst her disposal and accumulation skills are her self-proclaimed strengths, Bishop said she is hoping to improve her endurance, saying she just needs to “run a bit more” in order to increase her fitness. As for inspirations to look up to, the Essendon fan named one of the midfield talents there, as well as a more local inspiration who she hopes to follow in the footsteps of one day.

“In the men’s space I really enjoy watching Zac Merrett because I go for Essendon,” Bishop said. “But in the women’s space Britt Tully because I play with her at my club. She’s captain-coach at Ainslie and I really look up to her because she plays a similar style of game to me.”

Whilst the future might not yet be known, one thing is for sure – Bishop is doing everything she can to improve her game and get on the radar of AFLW clubs.

Bennett enjoying season after “difficult” 2020 season

WHEN your first draft-eligible year rolls around and you are in the State Academy, the AFL Women’s Championships are the pinnacle of state representation. For Claremont’s Emily Bennett, last year – her second in the Academy – was meant to be the year where she tested herself against the best in the country and put her best foot forward.

Instead, like most of the country, travel was restricted, seasons were cut short, and the championships completely abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward 12 months, and Bennett has finally got to represent her state, running out in each of the three games for Western Australia at the championships.

“It (2020) was definitely difficult because it was my second year of state was last year and I was so keen to just smash it out and it was like a year I was hoping for because I could have been drafted last year as well,” Bennett said. “It was pretty tough, because fitness had dropped off because I didn’t have many people to train with so I’m glad it’s happening this year, but it was definitely hard.”

Bennett cited fitness as an ongoing improvement she could make to her game, to be able to “last the full game”, whilst her ability to clunk grabs and run off half-back – be it through or around people – as some of her impressive traits.

“I would say my main strength would be my clean hands, so being sure I’m still able to get some clean marks and under foot I’d say it’s definitely one of my strengths, going through people,” Bennett said.

The talented teenager was like many other sports-mad people growing up, testing herself at a variety of sports before focusing on Aussie rules where she progressed from local football to her WAFL Women’s club.

“I started footy when I was in Year 7 so high school,” Bennett said. “It was just a fun carnival and I was playing netball, basketball and I did a little bit of athletics at the time. “I just thought I’d give it a go, loved it, so I started at my community club and then got invited to go to West Perth, one of the WAFL clubs and have been recently playing for Claremont for League.”

Bennett said while the step up to League might have been daunting, the fact she had entered the State Academy prior to playing a game made the transition all the more easier for her to adapt and feel like she belonged at the level before stepping on-field.

“I was quite a fresh player only having four years behind me,” she said. “It was pretty nerve wracking, but getting in the State Academy before League, I felt really ready and it was such a great experience.”

Being able to not only train with the State Academy, but to travel to South Australia and Victoria with them to finally get a taste of the national carnival, Bennett said she enjoyed every minute of it, and was as much about having fun with like-minded people as it was about developing to be the best possible player.

“I would say all the time it’s such a fun place, people to play with, being able to play with people you can trust because they’re just all so elite and they’re all such nice girls,” she said. “It’s definitely what I look forward to and come back each year and do the same.”

As for her inspirations, Bennett said she had to thank her parents for enabling her to achieve what she had so far, and if she can make it to the top level, it would be as pleasing to somewhat repay the faith as it would be exciting for Bennett herself.

“Mum and dad, I would just love to show them what I got,” she said. “I want to prove to them, they’ve always been there for me in any sport I’ve ever done. “They’re definitely people who inspire me.”

As for her goals in football, naturally AFL Women’s is the ultimate goal for the tough defender, but if her career remains at WAFL Women’s level, then Bennett will still have the one goal within her control – becoming the best footballer she can.

Team-oriented Prenzler “honoured” to lead state

WHEN Sturt teenager Hannah Prenzler was told she would be leading South Australia out against Western Australia at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, the natural leader said she was equally shocked as she was honoured to be handed the co-captaincy alongside SANFL Women’s teammate, Georgia Swan.

Totally shocked when I got announced captain, but I feel very honoured from both the coaching staff and the girls voting me in,” Prenzler said. “I love to show leadership, but I believe everyone’s a leader in the team and everyone could have done the role so well, but it’s pretty awesome to be able to captain the state, and as a standalone for the first time which is pretty cool.”

Prenzler’s journey to captaining her state started off as a young aspiring footballer who had some roadblocks along the way in continuing the pathway, but when she was able to join her beloved Double Blues, the leadership group member quickly switched her focus to the oblong ball game.

“I started off playing Auskick when I was pretty young,” Prenzler said. “There wasn’t really a massive pathway for girls football (and) I really enjoyed my basketball, so basketball all growing up as a kid. “Then about four or five years ago played a bit of school footy and then trialled for Sturt Under 17s and being at Sturt ever since.”

When asked how she had found the two teams seasons with Sturt in the SANFL Women’s, and South Australia in the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, it was no surprise that Prenzler took a team-orientated approach.

“For the SANFLW as a team, Sturt’s not doing as we would have liked to, but it’s good to get back after a year of mixup last year, so obviously as a team we’d love to do better,” Prenzler said midway through the championships. “For the State Team, I think we had a great first game up against WA which was really good, tougher game against Vic but I think it was expected, they’re definitely the team to look out for and I reckon the best, but still great fun, I really enjoyed it.”

As for her own personal performances, Prenzler said she had an up-and-down season with some good individual games, and some quieter ones. She was hoping to improve her run and carry to do it more consistently, whilst also building her endurance to add extra kilometres “under (her) belt”. Considering her kick as one of her strengths, Prenzler enjoyed playing in defence for both levels of football, but admitted she had to step up at the championships as an undersized key defender.

Definitely in the defensive six for both teams,” Prenzler said. “Sometimes in this state team either a full-back or centre half-back switching as a bit more of a taller player which is more of a shock because I don’t consider myself that tall but I guess in this program, but anywhere in the backline is where I sit.”

As a South Australian, Prenzler follows the Adelaide Crows in the AFL Women’s and said there were a number of talents on field that she admires, and has also been lucky enough to play against some of them in the SANFL Women’s at times.

“As a similar position wise, I reckon Sarah Allan (is a player Prenzler looks up to),” she said. “Great defender, composed with it, has a really good kick.” Able to run through to the backline to deliver up and then I guess girls like Chelsea Randall and Ebony Marinoff for their gutsy work.”

In terms of off-field inspirations, Prenzler could not go past the “popular” choice of parents, with the support network allowing her to follow her dreams. In particular, the Sturt talent said her father had helped with the football side of things, aiding her growth and development alongside the variety of coaches she has had coming through the pathway. As for her future ambitions outside of chasing her ultimate goal of getting the most out of football, Prenzler said she was happy with juggling university and sport.

“I finished Year 12 last year and first year uni, I’m doing nursing, so I’m enjoying that,” she said. “Thought I wanted to do something completely footy related but want to save that as a hobby, so something in the health medical field. “I’d love to travel a bit, but obviously with the restrictions, I’m focusing on uni and footy.”

WA Gold level AFLW U17s series with big win over Black

THE second game for the Western Australia AFL Women’s U17s was not quite the contest the previous game was, as WA Gold came in looking to rectify the result, delivering with a resounding victory over WA Black who were held scoreless in the second term as WA Gold ran rampant on the scoreboard, taking home the victory with the final scoreboard reading 8.6 (54) to 3.3 (21).

WA GOLD 4.3 | 6.5 | 8.5 | 8.6 (54)
WA BLACK 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.3 (21)

It would not take long for the scoring to start, with WA U19 Representative Emily Boothman getting seven points on the board for WA Black in the first three minutes, the only score for Black for the half. Tyla Fitzgerald would respond not long after with a goal of her own. The game became a real contest for the next five or so minutes, with both midfields battling hard to try and inch it closer to their respective forward 50’s. The hard work of Olivia Cripps would see Meg Mcaullay deliver a darting kick inside 50 for Tamashya Blurton to take an easy mark and narrowly missing to the right. It would not take long for her to get her first however, taking advantage of a smothered ball in the forward 50 and kicking it through for her first. Gold would kick two more majors for the quarter through Izabella Mirchevska and Riley Hall seeing the quarter end 4.3 (27) to 1.1 (7).

With some fatigue in the legs, it took a little longer for the second quarter’s first goal, as both teams again battled hard in the midfield, seeing the ball ping back and forth between both ends of the ground. The first goal would come from Blurton, who was able to take advantage of a miskick from the WA Black defender, and snap the goal from about 35 meters out. It would not take long for them to get their second on the board either, with Mirchevska getting on to the end of a very good Charlotte Tompkin inside 50 kick, able to convert from the set shot, finishing the quarter 6.5 (41) to 1.1 (7).

After the main break, like the previous fixture, the magnets were thrown about and majority of the girls were in new positions, seeing the game go back to a genuine arm wrestle in the midfield, with both defences in overdrive to repel any opposition inside 50’s. The first goal would not come until almost seven minutes into the quarter, where Abbygail Bushby got onto the end of a small handball chain from WA Gold, took a few steps and snapped through on her left boot for a goal. Not looking to go without a goal for a second quarter, WA Black had most of the play for the rest of the quarter, with Holly Britton being around and involved in a lot of inside 50 contests and finally breaking through for a goal. WA Gold would have their opportunities later on, with the WA Black defence holding up well despite the pressure, forcing it over the boundary line. Anjelique Raison took advantage of her strength to force front position for the throw in, follow up her own tap and kick the goal with just a minute and a half left, seeing the score at the final break 8.5 (53) to 2.2 (14).

As the game came to a close with the final quarter fatigue set in, seeing an increase in congestion and long bombs around the ground, meaning we saw less scoring for the quarter. The only goal came from Boothman for her second, as the WA Black forward line took advantage of a long bomb and handballed it around, until they reached Boothman who was running past without an opponent, able to kick truly through goal, with the final score reading 8.6 (54) to 3.3 (21).

GOALS:

Gold: T. Blurton 2, I. Michevska 2, R. Hall, T. Fitzgerald, A. Raison, A. Bushby
Black:
E. Boothman 2, H. Britton

DC BESTS:

Gold: K. Van Den Heever, T. Fitzgerald, J. Henry, R. Hall, A. Bushby, A. Raison
Black:
G. Fenton, Z. Fish, J. Haines, E. Boothman, A. Reich, N. Browne

 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#17 Kayla Van den Heever (WA Gold): Spending a lot of her game time in the defensive half, where she was one of the main drivers out of the backline for WA Gold, looking particularly dangerous in the second half when WA Black started to get a bit of delivery from the midfield. Van Den Heever was not scared about taking risks, taking on opponents with her run, getting around them and then kicking forward to try and get the ball clear of scoring areas. Not just kicking though, she was good with balancing her disposal, often drawing in opponents to commit to tackling her and then handballing to a loose teammate.

#15 Tyla Fitzgerald (WA Gold): Playing majority of the game in the forward half, Fitzgerald had some flashy moments, where her confidence to take on opponents was on show. Utilising her agility, she had no issues finding ways to get out of tight spots and move the ball on to teammates deeper inside 50, even giving an opponent a ‘don’t argue’ in the second term when running inside 50. With her combination of agility and good use by foot, she was naturally apart of a lot of WA Gold play in the forward half, as Gold actively looked to use her where they could. Had some stints through the midfield where those same strengths were obvious and just made her difficult to match up on.

#28 Jaime Henry (WA Gold): Unsurprisingly Henry played a similar role to the one she played in the previous game, being thrown about into a few different positions but still managing to maintain a consistent impact on the contest. When in defence or up forward she still pushed up the ground to applying pressure in tighter situations, with no one able to break her tackles once she latched on. She won plenty of it on the inside, with no opponent able to pin her arms or bring her down, she was racking up contested possessions, then firing out handballs with ease, but also taking the time to assess options and kick if there was someone leading for it.

#33 Anjelique Raison (WA Gold): Playing almost exclusively in the ruck, Raison arguably was the most impactful of the rucks on field. Despite giving up a bit of height in most ruck contests, Raison was unmatched when following up at ground level, leading to her winning an equal game high 5 clearances. These clearances were not the typical blind bombs either, she was measured in her disposal, often handballing off to an outside opponent and at one stage kicking a goal from one inside 50. In the ruck duels, she would battle for front position and often make it near impossible for her opponents to win.

#30 Riley Hall (WA Gold): Using her agility and speed whenever she had the ball to get significant meters behind her ball use, Hall was one of the more exciting players to watch on field. Spending her time 50/50 between forward and midfield, her game sense and ability to win the footy lead to her topping the disposal charts for Gold, utilising her kick and that previously mentioned game sense to spot up kicks in the corridor, setting up a couple of scoring opportunities in the first half.

#2 Abbygail Bushby (WA Gold): Playing mostly off the wing, Bushby’s speed was arguably her biggest weapon in the game, often receiving a handball from the inside of the contest, bursting away and then kicking forward to a contest in the forward half, with a game high six inside 50’s she was arguably the biggest driver of play offensively. Had the opportunity to kick a goal after the siren in the second quarter, but unfortunately missed, making up for it in the third at the end of an impressive team handball chain.

#16 Emily Boothman (WA Black): Once again looked comfortable as a link up forward, pushing higher up the ground to take marks and then deliver to other leading forwards or kicking inside 50 for teammates to run onto. Opened up the game with the first behind and goal, she ended up as WA Black’s only multiple goal scorer, trying to create whenever she was deep forward. Not selfish with her approach though, she handballed when there was a clear option there. One particular highlight was in the second quarter, where she led up the ground, with the ball dropping short she picked it up and fended off an opponent.

#4 Zippy Fish (WA Black): The winner of the WA U17 AFLW Championship MVP, Zippy was once again an excitement machine with her speed particularly eye catching. A little quiet in the first half, when she was given a bit more of a free rein in the midfield in the second half she started looking more and more dangerous. Although not as clean as the previous game, she still looked good moving the ball forward and weaving through traffic. Her pressure work and tackling was noticeably higher quality to match the more congested game, showing that she is not only willing to contribute in offensive play.

#13 Gracie Fenton (WA Black): Accumulating a game high 22 disposals, Fenton enjoyed a high quality outing splitting her time between the midfield and defence. It was impressive to see that, despite winning a lot of footy on the inside she was still composed and clean with her ball use, placing the ball in front of her teammates to run onto without breaking stride, or kicking to the advantage of her forwards. Positioned well when in defence, taking a couple of uncontested intercept marks in the third quarter.

#1 Jorja Haines (WA Black): The Fremantle father-daughter prospect, with her father Daniel playing 16 games, looked most impressive when she was thrown into the midfield, positioning well around stoppages to win clearances, where her composure with the footy held her in good stead to use the footy well and find teammates in the corridor or leading at her. When she was not winning the clearances she did well to force poor disposal from the opposition with her pressure and tackling work.

Franklin’s “crazy” and “rushed” journey helps fast-track development

THREE years ago, Amy Franklin did not even realise that there was a women’s football club in her area. Had it not been for the chance suggestion from a classmate that Franklin join her local club, then the AFL Women’s National Academy member and State Academy representative might not have ever taken up the code.

“Back in 2018 a girl who recently just moved to my school, I barely knew her, she came up to me and said ‘hey do you want to come play for our local footy club?’, Franklin said. “I thought she meant soccer, and she said ‘no AFL’ and I didn’t really realise there was such thing as a women’s footy club and so I went down there, tried it out, and I just loved it. “I just loved the environment, the girls and the sport.”

Fast forward a few years and Franklin is thriving at both ends for Claremont Women’s Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, earning a place in her state side for the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. It was little surprise to see her included, having been named in the National Academy for the 2021 season after an impressive bottom-age season for the Tigers last year.

“It’s (State Academy) been a great experience especially seeing as last year I didn’t get the opportunity to play, and I missed out on the first round in Adelaide due to a concussion so I was very excited to come over to Melbourne and play a few games,” Franklin said.

“(The AFLW Academy has) been a really good experience. “Especially with COVID it’s been a bit hard to get to know the girls, but we’re having a camp coming up so that will be good to get knowing everyone and the coaches, so that will be good.

“I feel like especially since I only started back in 2018, it’s been very rushed and the journey from community footy to now playing footy and League and state footy, it’s crazy. “The intensity and the girls just in general, it’s a completely different ball game.”

Whilst Franklin said she did prefer playing as a leading forward, she was “more than happy” to play as a defender if the team needed her, knowing the knowledge of playing at both ends could only further help her development. Speaking of her development, the athletic Franklin who has a turn of speed very few her size do, is confident in her ability to clunk grabs.

“I feel like being a tall forward, I feel like it’s a strength for me to have an overhead mark and I think that’s something that I’m very confident in,” she said.

In terms of her improvements, Franklin is looking to work on her ground balls and having more of an impact once the ball hits the deck. Whilst the ultimate goal is to reach the elite level, Franklin said she hoped to play the best football she could at whatever level that might be, wanting to emulate the rise of another talented player who had come from her club.

“I’d like to say Bianca Webb (is an inspiration) because we both started at Ocean Ridge back at 2018 and I’ve just been trying to follow in her footsteps over the past couple of years and she’s just been doing amazing and one day I hope to be like her,” Franklin said.

“I guess (the goal) it’s just to be the best footy that I can play. “It would be great to get drafted, but at the moment I’m really happy with what I’m doing.”

Schirmer’s smooth transition into midfield

GYPSY Schirmer‘s junior football career has almost gone full circle at South Adelaide. Coming in as a young player a few years ago, Schirmer looked up to the Panthers’ abundance of AFL Women’s talent that led her side to back-to-back flags, and now the draft-eligible teenager has been one of the leaders for the next generation coming through.

“It’s been really positive experience actually,” Schirmer said. “Coming into a club that was so established as South coming off two premierships, it’s always going to be a bit nerve-wracking as a new player because you’ve got some amazing AFLW talent that is in that squad, but so many of the girls just took me under their wing and really gave me the confidence to develop my own game and develop my own style of footy, so along with the coaching staff it’s been a really, really positive experience.

“[Of the 2021 team] It’s been interesting, it’s definitely given me the confidence to take on a leadership role within that team. “Obviously knowing what it feels like to be a young player it’s been really important we bring them in as well as we can and bring them under our wing.”

The midfielder/forward has had quite the journey since taking up the sport, and rising through the pathway to represent her state at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships and be included amongst the AFL Women’s Academy’s prestigious group.

“I’ve been playing football for five years now I think,” Schirmer said. “My first kind of experience was through school football, we just had like a very casual nine-a-side program that they needed numbers for and I just filled in at a lot of different sports before. “I wasn’t really thinking it would turn into anything but from there I kind of just fell in love and then my local club that my dad and brother had been coaching and playing at for quite a while started an Under 16s program and started getting into that and it just evolved from there really. “A lot of my other sports dropped off and that stuck and so I’m here now.”

Schirmer said representing South Australia had been a dream, and while the COVID-19 pandemic had put a stop to the national championships last year, the South Adelaide teenager was just excited to be travelling and playing alongside players her age.

“It’s actually been awesome,” she said. “This is my first time travelling with a SANFL State Academy. “I played Under 15s in the schools team in 2018 so as a SANFL program this is the first time, so it’s been a really awesome first experience. “Especially travelling, as much as it’s not the Gold Coast it’s still been amazing to kind of get out and the girls are amazing and just gelling with people your own age, I found really, really valuable.”

In 2021, Schirmer has transitioned from being a more permanent forward to a wing role where she can rest forward and still have an impact inside 50. She described the transition as “pretty smooth” and said the roles were similar, with the midfield role requiring even more focus and running.

“The role I was actually playing in the forward line was definitely that high forward, so lots of running up the ground to then turnaround and weave back and kind of that link up between the defensive line and our mids to the forwards,” Schirmer said. “That wing position is played very similarly, so I felt I’ve been able to smoothly transition quite nicely. “Definitely it’s a bit more intense, more of a midfield role, but I think I’ve quite enjoyed it so far and looking forward to the challenges to come with it.”

While some might get ahead of themselves being included in the AFL Women’s Academy, Schirmer said while the experience was “really special”, and she was not expecting the call-up last year, the inclusion had helped her confidence and leadership more than anything else.

“It’s been really encouraging and given me that little bit of extra confidence to go into my clubland and really embrace my leadership qualities and just play football to my strengths,” she said. “I think it’s really easy to get in your head when you get those kind of opportunities, but if anything it’s given me the confidence to do my best thing on the field because I’m there for a reason.”

Schirmer described her breakaway pace and contested work as her strengths, being able to win the ball in traffic and use her athletic gifts to burn off opponents and wheel out of a stoppage to get the ball to teammates. As for her improvements, Schirmer said it was just about getting the fundamentals right.

“The best footballers you see in the higher levels just do the basics really, really well so I think just for my own game, just to kind of developing my around the ground awareness but also trying to develop a bit of versatility as well,” she said. “Getting used to playing up forward, playing down back, playing in the mids, having it all covered so I get chucked into whatever program’s next, I can just kind of adapt to any situation I’m in.”

Having come so far in the pathway, Schirmer said her father was her greatest inspiration, and the reason she was playing football, having been really supportive through all the sports she had tried as a child.

“He was very persistent for me for the majority of my juniors in different sport, just with my pace and natural skills,” she said. “He was really very encouraging and wanted to get me in, and then coached me for two years when I was playing club football and really drove my career. “He’s definitely my number one supporter, but also definitely an inspiration for why I’m here.”

Now with the AFL Women’s Draft approaching in a couple of months, Schirmer is keeping a level-head, but is eyeing off completing her ultimate goal.

“I think main goal this year being draft-eligible is to make the AFLW,” Schirmer said. “Kind of very open to any possibilities that come my way but I just want to be the best footballer I can be, so wherever that takes me I’ll be forever grateful.”

WA Black topple Gold by a point in AFLW U17s thriller

ANOTHER clash in the AFL Women’s U17s Championships saw the best talent in WA split into two teams and come up against each other on Wednesday night at Cockburn. Despite starting off looking like a fairly easy win for WA Black, the game became a hot contest from the second quarter onwards, with each team having their share of controlling possession, able to keep it in their respective forward halves for long periods. Whilst WA Gold fought hard to bring the game back after trailing by 17 points at quarter time, it was WA Black who came away with the win, 6.4 (40) to 5.9 (39)

WA GOLD 1.2 | 2.6 | 4.9 | 5.9 (39)
WA BLACK 4.1 | 4.2 | 5.3 | 6.4 (40)

The first quarter saw WA Black get off to an impressively quick start, winning the first clearance of the game to get the ball in front of U19’s State Representative Emily Boothman, who sprayed the goal to the left for a behind. A first goal would not elude WA Black much longer though, as Millie Jones kicked truly about three minutes in, with Boothman following up not long afterwards. Gold would get one back half way through the term through Abbygail Bushby, but the end of the quarter saw Black get two goals from Agnes Monisse and Jorja Haines, the latter of which right on the siren, to see the scores 1.2 to 4.1 WA Blacks way.

If it was not for inaccuracy in the second term WA Gold would have put up quite an impressive half time lead, with five scoring shots to WA Black’s one, the only conversion in front of goal came from Amber Sinclair about half way through, able to beat her opponent to the ball at ground level and snap from about 30 out. Alli Nokes worked hard in the WA Black defensive 50 to keep Gold’s opportunities relatively small, with midfielder Gracie Fenton not afraid to get involved to win the ball and move it forward. From WA Gold, Kayla Van Den Heever looked to get the ball to her teammates inside 50 and create contests to keep it there, seeing the quarter end 2.6 to 4.2.

Looking to once again take advantage of their ability to control the play, WA Gold had the ball stuck in their forward half early on, but were unable to fully take control of that control of the play. Sinclair got herself a second goal as a reward for her hard work around the forward half. It was a free kick for a ruck infringement inside 50 that got Anjelique Raison her first and put WA Gold in front by a goal. Athena Mendoza would chime in late in the quarter with a goal, seeing the third end at 4.9 to 5.3 (33) apiece.

With the game tied it was only natural that the fourth quarter would be a tight and hotly fought contest. It did not take long for Fenton to hit the scoreboard for a handy point, quickly followed by Holly Britton who kicked a goal, after dropping a contested mark, where she was cleaner at ground level and then snapped around the body into an open goal. A clearance win inside 50 saw Tamashya Blurton kick a goal and put Gold within a point, but they unfortunately could not score from there, seeing the game end 5.9 (39) to 6.4 (40).

GOALS:

WA GOLD: A. Sinclair 2, A. Bushby, A. Raison, T. Blurton.
WA BLACK:
M. Jones, E. Boothman, J. Haines, A. Monisse, A. Mendoza, H. Britton.

DC BESTS:

WA GOLD: J. Henry, K. Van Den Heever, A. Raison, T. Fitzgerald, A. Sinclair, O. Cripps
WA BLACK:
Z. Fish, E. Boothman, A. Nokes, G. Fenton, A. Reich, N. Browne

TOP PERFORMERS:

#33 Anjelique Raison (WA Gold)

Starting off the game in the defensive 50, Raison impressed with her attack on the ball at ground level and in the air, using her strength to beat opponents one-on-one and win possession. Her use by hand was good, generally hitting her teammates well and quickly. In the second half she predominantly played ruck where she looked competitive and again used her strength, especially at stoppages around the ground, to gain the front position and control the placement of her taps. This strategy got her a crucial free kick that led to goal in the third term to get Gold in the lead.

#28 Jaime Henry (WA Gold)

Playing all around the ground, Henry found it easiest to impact when she was filling a rover role, able to position and time her runs best to win clearances, with the rare times she was challenged in that regard seeing her come off best with her strength. What was perhaps most impressive about Henry was how high her skill work and movement level was compared to the rest of the field, excelling at moving through tight space without being tackled and giving off the hands to an outside runner, and despite showing that this was well within her capabilities, she still looked to give off the quick hands when it was there, not trying to do too much with it. Despite not kicking often, she often hurt the opposition when she did kick, often getting 40+ meters behind it. When she moved into the backline she looked less impactful overall, but still held her own and played her role well, offering plenty when pushing up to assist as a loose behind the play type of player.

#17 Kayla Van Den Heever (WA Gold)

Splitting her time between a half forward role in the first half, and a rover role in the second, Van Den Heever was a consistent contributor in the Gold attacking play, particularly coming to life in the second quarter when the midfield was consistently getting it into the forward line, her ability to spot teammates in opportune spots was impressive, looking to handball or kick to their advantage to give them room to move into with the footy. When in the midfield, she was given more opportunity to utilise her running game and get additional momentum behind her kicks.

 #15 Tyla Fitzgerald (WA Gold)

Almost in a reverse role to Henry, starting in defence and ending up in the midfield, Fitzgerald’s attack on the ball and constant intent to run her distance and kick long led to a lot of opportunities inside 50 for the Gold, who unfortunately were not able to capitalise despite Fitzgerald getting it into the right spots. Although she looked strongest when running with the ball, when she got a mark she was comfortable and confident in slowing down the play and spotting the right option.

#16 Emily Boothman (WA Black)

The sole U19 State Team representative in the game looked one of the clear best and composed in the contest, able to play her role exceptionally well, without letting it stop her from impacting in different areas when required. She was playing as a high-half forward for WA Black, leading up and being a commonly used target when her side was coming out of defensive 50, able to take marks, draw frees or win the ball at ground level, then deliver to other teammates leading for her. When the game was tight in the final quarter, she was thrown into the midfield where she won some crucial clearances and used it well to spread WA Gold.

#4 Zippy Fish (WA Black)

Zippy by name and Zippy by nature, Fish was an electrifying presence through the middle of the ground, and the main driver for WA Black going inside 50, it was her speed, agility and often penetrative kick that kept WA Black in contention even when Gold had the momentum. She produced multiple highlight moments, bringing candy sells and side steps into the game to keep the Gold players on their toes, and almost hesitant to approach her one-on-one when she had the ball. Fish did not let this offensive output affect her defensive efforts though, still able to apply pressure around the contest and pressure Gold into making mistakes with their disposal. 

#29 Alli Nokes (WA Black)

Designated with the kick in duties for the majority of the match, Nokes was able to consistently get the ball well outside defensive 50 to make any rebounding efforts difficult for WA Gold, setting herself up behind play to be best positioned to impact the next inside 50. She was also given an opportunity to show her wares as an inside midfielder later in the game, where she utilised her strength to ran through packs of players to win the ball, this made her a genuinely dangerous clearance option. 

#13 Gracie Fenton (WA Black)

Seemingly one of the harder workers on field, it was common to see Fenton winning possession in deep defensive 50 despite being a midfielder, especially in the second quarter, where she would look to switch the ball out of the backline to give WA Black a different dimension to their transitional work. When in the thick of it in the midfield, Fenton was far more inclined to handball out to a free teammate, or one with space to run into. Executing those handballs quickly proved to be a key part of WA Black getting the ball moving quickly forward, with the rare occasion she turned it over resulting her working hard to apply a tackle.

Picture credit: WAFL YouTube

Top Performers – AFLW U19 Championships: Vic Country vs. Queensland

WELCOMING Queensland into the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, the country’s most northern competitor on the eastern seaboard took on the undefeated Vic Country at Port Melbourne on the weekend. Whilst Country came away with the big nine-goal win, we took a look at number of the performers who impressed on the day.

VIC COUNTRY:

#1 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

A standout small forwards performance on a big stage, Meier’s sense in the forward line with her crumbing and kicking for goal got her three majors for the day, proving that she can be opportunistic, but also win her own ball around packs, following up with her high class speed and agility to get into a goal kicking position. Read the ball well as it came inside 50, able to hit the front and centre of packs often, but time the run so she could get the ball if it spilled over the back easily. Pushed up into the midfield in the later stages of the game where that same speed and agility was a real weapon in getting the ball moving forward.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Traditionally one that plays on the wing and waits patiently for the ball to come out to her, Smith showed that, if required, she may well have a future on the inside as well, with her willingness to put her head over the footy and not move even with incoming front on pressure, being a big part of Country’s ability to force turnovers as she hunted every loose ball that came outside the Country forward 50. She also found ways to impact around stoppages, timing her runs well to be a go to handball option, where she’d follow up with some really well placed and weighted kicks to get Country into space. Her ball use going inside 50 was pivotal at times, almost forcing her teammates to lead to the right spots with her kicks. 

#7 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Having already proved her versatility in the NAB League campaign and previous VIC Country outings, Di Donato once again showed she’s able to have a big impact regardless of where her magnet is. Starting the game in the midfield where she looked to position and move well, especially around stoppages, Di Donato was one that provided as an option almost every time, encouraging teammates to use her as a switch option or a shorter kick inboard. When she went for her stints up forward it did not seem to impact how far she got up the ground, still applying pressure and winning plenty of ball in the midfield, but also working hard when the ball moved forward to get to the front of contests and be a handball option. This hard work and positional nous resulted in two goals for the bottom-aged prospect. 

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Coming in to the game as the leading goal kicker for Country, Scott found herself drawing a fair bit of attention from the Queensland defense, always having an opponent by her side regardless of where the ball was. This forced the bottom-ager to change up her style a little bit, as she looked to push up the ground more than usual and impact around the wings, presenting as a leading option when the ball was on the defensive 50 arc and creating contests to stop Queensland getting easy repeat entries. Still managed to impact inside 50 with two goals, one of which was a real show of power, as she equalised a two on one contest, holding her feet and out running two opponents, taking a bounce along the way, and kicking it straight through. 

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

The Vic Country MVP, Anthony was one of the standout performers for the game with her defensive principles, especially positioning, playing a big part in the big margin, as she got front position in every contest to consistently intercept balls that were rushed forward, willing to push up the ground to win those intercepts high up on the wing and keep the pressure on the Queensland defense. Able to win one-on-ones consistently, even the marking contests, it became evident that Queensland eventually looked to avoid the side of the ground she was on when in transition, pushing Anthony deeper down back to make some goal stopping plays in the final quarter.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Whilst not an overly flashy player, the reliability of Leonard as a running defender, with her attack on the footy and kicking, played a big part in how Country looked to move the ball out of the backline, with Leonard getting involved with her pressure work and positioning, to get the ball going for Country. Not just relying on her kicking for the game, Leonard had multiple occasions where she won a loose ball and assessed the options all around her, finding a handball laterally or backwards to a loose teammate who’d be able to run and kick the ball further than Leonard would have been able to herself.

#16 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Skepper looked good throughout the contest when she was running into packs, winning the ball and then running free, with her speed being one of her bigger weapons of the game, she’d get enough separation on her opponent to win the ball relatively uncontested when it spilled out to her, and follow up with her long kicking forward. What impressed most was the penetration and speed of which she delivered most of her kicks, with one particular play in the third quarter seeing her get onto the end of some transitional work by Country, run it up the wing and deliver the perfect kick up forward to a leading target

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Friend has been thrown about into almost every position this year across the NAB League and National Champs, but may have just put the debate of where she plays best to bed with a stellar performance as a defender. Her marking has always been a strength but looked flawless against Queensland, able to position herself well to take a couple of uncontested marks, but also holding onto some contested grabs well, despite being caught behind on occasion. Used the ball well when she got it, often looking to switch it from the backline, or look direct for a leading target when in the forward half. Looked to assist teammates to create an outnumber in contests, or come in as an easy release handball option.

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Arguably her best performance in the Country guernsey, Slender got involved early with her hunt for the footy in the front half impressive, jumping on any opponent with the ball in her area, even winning a free early for holding the ball, and following up with a well placed kick inside 50. That ball use and pressure work, especially second and third efforts, continued to be a highlight for the game, looking a consistent threat in the forward half, and whilst she didn’t get on the scoreboard she was able to set up a couple with that previously mentioned ball use at a high level even under pressure. It was also good to see that she was taking some contested grabs in the forward half. 

QUEENSLAND:

#2 Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange)

A hard at it and uncompromising midfielder, Hewett’s relentless attack and hunt of the ball, and ball carrier, caused some turnovers that had the potential to be really damaging had it not been for the work of the Country defense. Whilst not a massive clearance winner herself, she negates her opponents impact by getting the front position, allowing her to pounce on any opponent that may win the ball. She also displayed some good bursts of speed, running down a couple of opponents in open play, and occasionally backing that speed to go on runs herself. 

#3 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University)

Playing as a more defensive midfielder for majority of the contest, Pauga was another Queensland midfielder that made getting clean possession out of stoppages difficult for Country, able to read where the play was most likely to go and position herself to be in the way of the opponents running to get there. She did take the opportunity to win the ball herself though, often being the midfielder to collect it when Country won the hitout.

#4 Charlotte Mullins (Aspley)

The bottom-ager was a standout performer in the forward half for Queensland, despite not getting on the scoreboard it was often due to her hard work that Queensland looked like scoring multiple times against the grain of play. She pushed up the ground with confidence, impacting with her tackling to win free kicks on the half back line, then use the ball well to hit leading targets coming at her, or put it to the advantage of teammates when they were outnumbered. She also led well and hard herself, taking a few good marks without breaking stride.

#6 Bella Smith (Maroochydore)

Appeared to be one of the smarter users of the footy through the game, with her willingness to move the ball by hand and look for wider options opening the game up for Queensland really well, especially in the first half. When not using it by hand, Smith was proactive in looking to get the ball moving with switch kicks, putting the ball in front of teammates to run onto if they weren’t in an optimal position for the kick. She also held her own in contested situations really well, keeping her feet even in an outnumbered situation to keep battling for the ball and making it difficult for country to move out. 

#7 Teagan Levi (Bond University)

Giving Gold Coast fans something to smile about after a tough AFLW season, Levi was convincingly one of the top few most impressive girls on ground, and showed she is close to a complete package in terms of a draft prospect. Lining up in the midfield all game, Levi was a presence around stoppages with her speed, agility and ability to find the ball all combining to see her win plenty of it, where she’d follow up with her pinpoint handballs or penetrative kicks forward to find options up to 50 meters away. She got to the right spots around the ground, able to be at multiple contests in a row to win the ball and hand it off to a teammate. A real showcase of her speed came in the third quarter, where she ran from centre wing to the defensive 50 arc to tackle Country’s Paige Scott for a holding the ball free kick.

#10 Alana Gee (Mackay Saints)

One of the cleaner players on field, the bottom-ager Gee showed qualities awfully similar to her last names sake, Carlton’s Georgia Gee, with exceptional ball use, movement through traffic, speed and game sense all strengths she showed consistently throughout the contest. It was also impressive to see Gee’s workrate around the ground, whilst not one to go in and get the footy, she’d still push down to the backline to be a switch option down deep, or a back handball release option, then use her kicking and speed to get the ball out, often switching it to the other side of the ground. She showed that speed off a few times, with a piece of play in the early stages of the game seeing her taking on an opponent, taking two bounces and kicking inside 50. One of the rarer traits in football and one Gee possess, she looked comfortable kicking with either foot through the game, reliably getting the ball where it needed to be.

#15 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore)

The Lions Academy member worked into the game as it went on, winning most of her disposals in the second half. Despite what might be considered a slower start, she still provided plenty of security in the defensive 50, laying a couple of goal stopping tackles to keep the contest tight early on. The second half saw her become more prolific with winning the ball, taking some intercept marks higher up the ground and using the footy well to give Queensland dangerous inside 50 entries. When she won the ball down deep she still used it well, often looking to switch it across the ground to utilise the space.

#24 Lucia Liessi (Aspley)

Whilst not being a flashy player, Liessi was a valuable member of the Queensland defense, with her importance growing each quarter, being one of the few that did not tire or get worried with the pressure. Her workrate and tackling pressure was immense, forcing sprayed shots and turnovers from the Country forwards with her ability to close down space and carrel them into tight spots.

Class shines through as Vic Country dominate Queensland

IT was a clinical four quarter performance from Vic Country, never taking the foot off the pedal on their way to a 76-22 triumph on Sunday afternoon in the winners’ final game of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. Breaking away in the second term, Country were dominant on all facets of the ground, maintaining control of the ball for majority of the game, and were given free reign for most of the contest. There were brilliant goals up forward and their back six were as solid as you could ask, as they constantly found a way to extract the ball and thwart Queensland attacks.

The game started in seriously contested fashion, with neither side able to break free. The ball lived in the 50m arc for either side, with each fantastic play of transition football followed up by scrappy, hard-fought contests. The drought was broken by Tahlia Meier, who booted VIC Country’s first goal. They say good things come in twos, as Country kicked their second shortly after through Zoe Garth, and suddenly Queensland found themselves on the back foot. Queensland were able to conjure a response through Imogen Evans, and suddenly the momentum looked to sway the other way. The game remained contested, until a late goal on the run from Paige Scott saw Country take a handy lead into the first break.

The remainder of the game was dominated by Country, as they never gave their opponents enough of the ball to hurt them on the scoreboard. In the midfield, the battle was even for a lot of the time, but it was Country’s ability to rebound from the defensive 50 that hurt the opposition. Queensland entered the game with an extremely tall defence, and this was an advantage early in the game, with plenty of long bombs cut off. Country quickly adapted to this, as they constantly lowered their eyes when entering the forward line to great effect. The final quarter saw a slight fightback from Queensland and they ended up producing an equally as effective fourth term, but the final margin still remained at 54 points.

Defender Jaide Anthony was fantastic all day with 19 disposals from the backline. Her spread from contests was something to marvel, as she was constantly an outlet option for her side, finishing off a remarkably consistent 2021 campaign. Up forward, Meier booted three goals in a strong outing, while Scott was dangerous all day. Aurora Smith (15 disposals, two clearances and three inside 50s), Chloe Leonard (14 disposals, seven tackles and four rebound 50s) and Octavia Di Donato (12 disposals, four marks, two inside 50s, two rebound 50s and two goals) were also among Country’s best.

For Queensland, Teagan Levi (16 disposals, six clearances) fought hard all day to provide a spark for her side, alongside Abby Hewett (16 disposals, eight tackles and eight clearances in the midfield. Alana Gee (17 disposals, six marks, three tackles and four inside 50s), Lucia Liessi (18 disposals, six marks, four tackles and two rebound 50s) and Bella Smith (15 disposals, five tackles, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s) were also among the best.

While Vic Country’s AFLW U19 Championships come to close, Queensland face off against Vic Metro in the final game of the carnival next Saturday at Metricon Stadium from 10:45am.

VIC COUNTRY 2.0 | 6.1 | 10.2 | 12.4 (76)
QUEENSLAND 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Vic Country: Meier 3, Scott 2, Di Donato 2, Garth, Schaap, Featherston, Richards, Tierney.
Queensland: Evans, Tarlinton, Sheridan.

DC BEST:

Vic Country: J. Anthony, T. Meier, A. Smith, C. Leonard, O. Di Donato
Queensland: T. Levi, A. Hewett, L. Liessi, A. Gee, B. Smith