Category: AFLW National Championships

Passion and determination drives Doyle to succeed

AT only 17-years-old, Lillian Doyle has plenty of talent and passion to boot, playing for Eastern Allies in the AFL Women’s U18 Championships and giving both soccer and rugby a try before making the switch to footy, having always been interested in the sport.

“I was kicking the soccer ball over at the AFL oval across from my home one time and I had one of the AFL coaches come up to me and say ‘oh you have a hectic left foot, do you want to come and play AFL with the boys’,” Doyle said. I’d grown up with a whole bunch of boys so I was a bit of a tomboy myself and I’d always wanted to play footy. “I grew up playing rugby when I was younger but I hit 12 and then I couldn’t play anymore. I was 13 when they (AFL coaches) picked me up actually, and they said I was allowed to play with the boys so obviously I snatched that opportunity up and here I am five years later still playing footy.”

Doyle has a wealth of experience, playing with the SUNS Academy prior to joining Eastern Allies and showcasing her versatility with a willingness to shake up her position on the field when needed, such as being thrown back during the AFLW Under-18 Championships.

“So I actually played with the Suns Academy quite a few years back before I played with the NSW side, and we trained there (at Metricon Stadium) quite a few times and every time we go there it blows me away, it’s just such an amazing field and it’s amazing that they actually allow us to play on it every year,” she said. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to at least showcase to the other girls who are coming into the AFL academies that, you know, this is where you can come to one day and what you might be playing on one day.”

“I’ve been thrown in back quite a few times, I think when coaches have a few they can throw up forward … it’s good to experience something different and just to give it a go, I’m more of a flexible player I suppose in that regard and yeah nah it was awesome I loved it.”

In her second year with the Eastern Allies, Doyle says the standard of the competition has lifted immensely with plenty of talent coming through the ranks and in the coaching staff, ensuring players hit their full potential.

“The development has been great, the amount of talent that I’ve seen come through this system is just remarkable,” Doyle said. “Jess Whelan is one of the youngest and she’s an absolute star, she’s just such a standout and just to see these girls come through and show their talent – I just can’t wait to meet them in the AFLW one day, it’s going to be amazing. “Alicia Eva has been our coach for a couple years, she’s definitely somebody that I idolise, she’s just been an amazing support throughout the years and even having her in this academy – it’s been very rewarding for all of us girls, she’s someone I really look up to.”

While the skill of her teammates has lifted, Doyle’s own strengths have become more apparent too with quick hands and a left foot some of her trademark.

“I think I’m really good at attacking the ball,” she said. “I think one of the things I can showcase is my hands and apart from that probably my left foot, not many girls in the competition have a left foot so that’s something that’s a little bit different and unique. “Probably something I can work on would be my cardio, I think that I’ve got a lot to work on with my sprints and my long distance but I mean there’s always stuff to work on, always things to improve. AFL is a sport where you can always develop and you’ve always got things to work on.”

Her 2018 AFLW Under-18 Championships run saw her put out a match-saving performance against the Central Allies, kicking two final quarter goals to cement victory for Eastern.

“It was unbelievable, that was the peak of my career I believe at that point in time,” Doyle said. “It was amazing and I remember like it was yesterday actually, I can’t believe it’s been a year already but yeah I think I actually snatched one off the ground that bounced back up to me and I got a goal so that was cool.”

While Doyle’s football journey alone has been big, the massive travel time getting to and from training and games is a testament to how important football is for Doyle, proving that love, talent and drive to play the sport is worth every moment of travel.

“So since I’m from Grafton it’s a six hour drive – or one and a half hour flight, so it’s quite a trek to get down to NSW when we do train,” she said. “I actually play for Coolangatta up here (Gold Coast) so I travel up here once a week to train and then back up the highway once again we go on a Saturday to play. So I’m quite used to the travel by now and definitely get sick of it quite fast but it’s something I don’t mind doing because I love footy that much.”

Doyle says the ultimate goal for her football journey is to make AFLW and get to the highest level possible. However she doesn’t want to put too much pressure on herself, maintaining that it was something she came into because it was fun and exciting.

“I think a lot of girls put a lot of pressure on themselves just to make it into the AFLW … I’d love to make AFLW, that’s something I aspire to achieve and hope to make the draft at the end of the year, fingers crossed. But yeah I think a lot of girls put a lot of pressure on themselves so I’m just trying not to put a lot of pressure on myself as well, just take it as it comes and hopefully make the draft, that would be amazing.”

2019 Western Australia Podcast | Interviews with Sophie McDonald, Taylor Pescud and Rebecca Viney

IN a new Final Siren podcast series reviewing the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships side-by-side, we take a look at some of the top prospects who performed strongly across all three lines, as well interviews with key players within each individual state.

The last edition is Western Australia, and Final Siren podcast host Matthew Cocks, and Draft Central‘s Peter Williams discuss the players who caught the eye across the championships, as well have interviews with Sophie McDonald, Taylor Pescud and Rebecca Viney.

Below is full Western Australia podcast.

You can also find the Final Siren podcast and listen to past or future episodes on the following platforms:

Anchor

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

Spotify

Breaker

Overcast

Pocket Casts

PodBean

RadioPublic

For all the AFLW U18s Championships news, head to our AFLW U18s Championships page and keep an eye out for our features which are underway!

Future bright for pre-listed Sun

FOLLOWING a more traditional pathway to many of her contemporaries, Queensland’s Charlotte Hammans is one of the few Under-18 young guns who does not need to wait until the October AFL Women’s Draft to discover her future. The talented defender and outside midfielder, who is capable of playing other roles, was prelisted by the Gold Coast SUNS who enter the league in 2020. Alongside Queensland teammates, Ellie Hampson and Kitara Whap-Farrar, Hammans will pull on the SUNS jumper next year in their inaugural season. She said that unlike many other players, she has enjoyed a relatively straightforward pathway to the top.

“My journey in football is probably pretty different to most girls because it follows more along the boys pathway,” Hammans said. “I started playing when I was five through Auskick and then played club with boys at junior level for eight years. “(I) played juniors for 10 years, so I’ve been playing for 12 years now and I guess made South Coast rep teams and made my way up to Queensland level.”

Hammans said she was working on her cleanliness at ground level to become that one-touch player, while building on her strengths of disposal efficiency and athleticism. She is known to take the game on at times and provide effective ball use on the outside or coming out of defensive 50. She said her pathway playing against both boys and girls helped her experience different ways of playing.

“It’s been really good through the years,” Hammans said. “I think early on it was very different to playing boys club level football to playing girls football at a higher rep level.”

Hammans said it was exciting to see the growth in female football and experience the pathway leading to the AFL Women’s to show that young girls, like young boys in the past and present, have the potential to reach the highest level. The support from her family has also helped her follow her passion in the sport, as well as following a number of her idols.

“I always wanted to be like Tayla Harris but that’s probably what most girls want,” Hammans said. “Just the way she conducts herself, she’s such a strong player and she’s a role model in the sport but also outside of the sport.”

Hammans averaged 8.7 disposals at the AFL Women’s Championship in shortened 15-minute quarters, complementing a strong inside brigade with her outside abilities, also recording identical numbers for inside 50s and rebounds showing her work rate across the ground. With the AFL Women’s pre-season just around the corner, Hammans is a player who is ready to compete on the big stage and has that opportunity with the league’s newest Queensland club.

Physical side of footy attracts Van Oosterwijck to game

REGULARLY getting fouled out in basketball told Amelia Van Oosterwijck that perhaps she needed a change of sporting scenery. While the tenacious runner enjoyed watching Australian rules football on the television, she never thought she would involve herself to the point that she would run out representing her state at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships.

“My dad was always a massive Collingwood fan and I loved watching it growing up,” Van Oosterwijck said. “Then I started playing basketball and a teammate of mine – she plays footy and I kept getting fouled out all the time – was like ‘why don’t you try footy it’s a bit more physical?’ “So tried that out and ended up loving the game.”

Of the differences between the sports, it was certainly the physicality that stood out to Van Oosterwijck.

“It’s a lot more physical,” she said. “So I love that, I love tackling, I love just the nature of the game. “It’s so much faster than basketball in my opinion.”

That physical style of play is what has become a feature of the small forward’s game, laying more than five tackles per game for Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League Girls competition this year. Her defensive pressure, coupled with her ability to hit the scoreboard – she booted four goals from nine games but spent time up the ground as well to produce more than two inside 50s per game. Van Oosterwijck said the camaraderie at the Chargers was something she loved.

“I love being around the girls,” she said. “The group of girls you play with are lifelong friends, they are all there for you and they all support you no matter if you stuff up or you kick a goal, they’ll always be there and I love that part of it.”

Her form was enough to see her represent Vic Metro at the championships where she played two games – she missed one due to a late withdrawal – and still showed her defensive intent with three tackles per match and a goal on the Gold Coast as well. Speaking at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me in March, Van Oosterwijck said her goal for 2019 was to build her core strength.

“For me personally, I want to get a bit stronger around the hips because I am a shorter player and I do get knocked over by the bigger girls so by improving my strength I’ll be able to withstand those tackles,” she said.

The increased standards were noticeable from early in the pre-season for Van Oosterwijck who said everyone had lifted making it a real challenge in the off-season.

“The standards have got so much higher,” she said. “The physicality, the running side of it, everyone’s got a lot quicker. “It’s a big step up and I think I enjoy the game way more than I did last season.”

Consistency the key for Sansonetti

WHILE others travel far and wide, come into the game late, or are poached from other sports, Sarah Sansonetti has enjoyed a much more linear path on her footballing journey.

The Northern Knights key defender traded the monkey bars and slides for a kick of the footy during breaks at school after her dad introduced her to the oblong ball, and has loved the game ever since.

“At school I was getting around out at lunch – instead of being on the playground, I loved getting out and kicking the footy so then dad decided to try at Auskick,” Sansonetti said. “I had a year down there and then went straight into Under 10s at my local club (Bundoora) which was pretty exciting.”

Football proved a “relief” from normal life for Sansonetti, who continues to enjoy the camaraderie that comes with team sports.

“(I like) the community aspect, the way the community gets together and everyone just enjoys it. You get out there, and it’s sort of just a relief from all your schooling and all that,” she said.

The sport that started as a hobby has turned into an opportunity, with the reliable defender fast becoming a leader in her position.

After featuring five times for the Knights as a 16-year-old, Sansonetti backed up the feat by playing every game in 2018, while returning a 10-game season in her top-age season this year.

Sansonetti’s consistency and ability to play a role in the star-studded Northern side meant her name was constantly one of the first on the team sheet, and it is something she highlighted as a key area during pre-season.

“From a team aspect, playing as a team, getting a lot of run from half-back, our forwards playing their role – I think it’s just everyone getting out there and doing their role, that’s sort of what we’re focusing on,” Sansonetti said during the NAB League Fitness Testing Day hosted by Rookie Me in March.

“(Our goal is to) have a consistent year, be consistent week in, week out and I reckon if we do that, we can go one better”

Sansonetti’s “one better” prophecy came to fruition as the Knights claimed premiership glory with a relatively young side after going down in the 2018 decider.

Her role in the undefeated season came two-fold, proving a pillar in the back six while leading Northern’s bottom and middle-agers through all of the rigours of a year at the elite junior level. It was something Sansonetti touched on during pre-season as she outlined her on-field goals.

“I just try to be a role model at training, lifting expectations like lifting the intensity and showing (younger players) what it takes to be in the program because a lot of them haven’t been exposed to it yet,” she said.

With a fruitful NAB League season done and won, Sansonetti was also a key part of Vic Metro’s unbeaten National Championships campaign in Queensland and is in the midst of a solid VFLW campaign with Darebin Falcons.

While Sansonetti said she is looking to push into more “uncomfortable” areas as her journey progresses, winning is a comfortable aspect of the game she seems to bring with her everywhere – with the Falcons getting up in two of her three outings thus far.

It bodes well for a long, consistent career,

2019 Victoria Podcast | Vic Country and Vic Metro reviews

IN a new Final Siren podcast series reviewing the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships side-by-side, we take a look at some of the top prospects who performed strongly across all three lines, as well interviews with key players within each individual state.

The fourth edition is the Victoria, and Final Siren podcast host Matthew Cocks, and Draft Central‘s Peter Williams discuss the players who caught the eye across the championships from both Vic Metro and Vic Country, looking ahead to the 2019 AFLW Draft as well as the 2020 AFLW Draft.

Below is full Victorian podcast.

You can also find the Final Siren podcast and listen to past or future episodes on the following platforms:

Anchor

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

Spotify

Breaker

Overcast

Pocket Casts

PodBean

RadioPublic

For all the AFLW U18s Championships news, head to our AFLW U18s Championships page and keep an eye out for our features which have started!

Travel just the beginning for Bella Smith

TWELVE hours in the car to get to and from training and games is not the first choice for any budding footballer, but for Bella Smith, it was an easy choice when the Eyre Peninsula local opted to play women’s football in Adelaide. Whilst she did end up moving to Adelaide in the recent years, Smith still remembers the long car journeys to begin her career in the sport she loved.

“I’m originally from Eyre Peninsula so I started playing with the boys up until I was 14 until I was told I wasn’t able to play anymore with the boys,” Smith said. “So I gave it up for a bit because I wasn’t allowed in. “I ended up moving to Adelaide when I was 16 and brought it back up. Had my first season with the girls last year and went from there. “(I) went from under 17s with Norwood, and got into the Under 18s team last year and the Allies last year. (I) came back again this year with the Norwood SANFL team.”

The success of Norwood in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s has helped Smith develop and learn from some of the most talented footballers in the country. It was such a successful program that Head Coach Steve Symonds earned the chance at coaching the elite competition at Collingwood in the AFL Women’s for the 2020 season. Smith said the group was close and wanted to achieve success together, and while they missed out on the elusive premiership this year, they still loved the season.

“It was awesome to be in such a successful team,” she said. “We had such a great minor rounds series and we were just a really tight knit group. “We all wanted to get better, we were all training as a squad and it was really good to be in that sort of environment just learning off other players such as Sally Riley when she’d come back from the Crows. “It was just so good to learn from people who had been so successful.”

Over the years, Smith has noticed a marked improvement in the talent across the board in women’s football, with both the competition and training standards held in much higher regards.

“The talent is just growing more and more,” Smith said. “It’s just getting more competitive and the elite standards. “The standards have just grown so much – just over the past year and it’s just going to continue to grow so much.”

For all the travel as she paved the way to her eventual state representation at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, Smith said there was always the passion burning inside her. Smith thanked her parents for their support and credited them for inspiring her to believe in herself and her career.

“I have my parents have to thank for that, they had to give up so much for me to keep travelling and ended up moving me over,” she said. “Just having that support behind me has been awesome.”

As for on-field, an AFL Women’s premiership captain has been one who Smith has looked up to and tried to model her game on and off the field.

“If I’m talking about role models, I’d probably say Chelsea Randall,” Smith said. “I just think she’s such a fierce competitor. Just the way she plays, I just love watching her play, it’s just so awesome. Watching her train and her work ethic, it’s just so admirable.”

While her top-age year has crept up, The 182cm Smith has been working hard to continually improve her game and hope to take it to another level going forward.

“I think working on would be probably my athleticism, just getting more endurance into me,” Smith said. “As well as using my body a bit more, probably my strengths are my hands and my kicking. I’m able to take a few good marks here and there and can kick a fair distance which is good and efficient.”

Gregory aims to run with her strengths

WITH a neat left foot and plenty of speed to burn, Queensland’s Chloe Gregory has always been told to back herself when deciding whether to take the game on. The utility has played between midfield and forward, and crossed over from netball because of her ability to do just that.

“I started out playing netball,” Gregory said. “I’ve played netball for my whole life and got into football through my dad (Scott Gregory) because he’s head of AFL Academy at Narangba Valley and he got me into that and then tried out for the Sunny Coast team up on the Sunny Coast, made that and then made Queensland in the same year so just been going from there. “It’s been really good so far.”

Gregory’s decision to continue her football journey was two-fold – one because of her dad’s influence, but also because of her natural attributes when it came to her impact in open space.

“I find football to be a lot more open and I can show off my skill a bit more rather than in netball it’s such a small game. I love the running and being able to be so free in the game of footy. “He’s (Gregory’s father) been trying to get me to play footy for a while now and he’s just over the moon that I’m playing it and he’s been one of the biggest coaches in my life and he’s really proud of what I’ve achieved so far.”

Gregory said her father provided her with plenty of advice throughout the journey, but his number one message was keeping it simple.

“He definitely shares a lot of his advice with me, but basically just tells me to take the opportunity where I can. Use my run and carry as much as I can,” Gregory said. “All my coaches in my life – I’m a left foot – say make sure you just get on your left foot, get it forward and run and carry. “(It’s) definitely one of my strengths to win a contested ball, get it out run and carry and kick it on my left boot because it’s a bit unpredictable which side I’m going to kick on.”

While Gregory has made it to the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships representing her state, she is not content to rest on her laurels, focusing on improvements in her game to make her a more complete player.

“(I) definitely need to work on my work rate,” Gregory said. “So I’ve been playing forward a lot this year and as a high-forward, I push in as another onballer so I’ve been trying to work with the midfield as well as push down to the forwards to get to the tall forwards feet. “So work rate is definitely something to work on.”

The pacy utility said she was constantly asking for feedback on her game from coaches to try and build on areas of improvement and “hopefully implement them as much as I can into my game”. Having already tasted senior football with Brisbane Lions in the Winter Series competition, Gregory said she was keen to “get a good look” at AFL Women’s and make the step up to the highest grade if selected. She said the competition against stronger bodies was definitely noticeable compared to her peers at Under 18s level.

“It’s definitely a big step up, bigger bodies, it’s really hard to get into the game there,” Gregory said. “I remember I played wing in the first game and that was a really different opportunity for me and I really took that with the run and carry and now coming back to nationals and playing forward it’s a completely different game. “I just hope I get to play at that AFLW level.”

During her time at the Lions, Gregory has leant off another left footer who has an eye for goals who she sees as her biggest idol on the field, and has helped her build her burning desire to achieve her dream of playing at the highest level.

“Definitely (Jess) Wuetschner from the Lions,” Gregory said. “She’s been a big influence on me through the Winter Series comp and just the advice she gives is awesome and I take it on board every time we have a chat. “Now she’s playing down back after she was more of a forward last year and gets her cheeky goals and everything so, and the left foot like me so I look up to her a lot.”

Passionate Lion eyes AFLW future

BRISBANE is a long way from Frankston in the south eastern suburbs of Victoria, but the Sunshine State, and more accurately, the Brisbane Lions is where exciting mid-forward Belle Dawes‘ heart lies. She moved from Victoria up north and brought her love for Australian Rules football with her, and credits much of her recent development – which saw her make the 2018 AFL Women’s Under 18 All Australian side – to then-coach Craig Starcevich.

“I’ve lived in Frankston Victoria and I just started playing, me and my brother signed up for Frankston Rovers Under 9s,” Dawes said. “I played there at that club until Under 12s, and then just played with boys and I moved to Queensland. “That’s when I thought I’ll come play footy up here, come play with the boys and then the girls team started. “Played in the school comp, got seen and then got selected for regionals and started from there.”

Starcevich has been a huge inspiration for Dawes who she said “opened up her whole game” with some crucial advice.

“He’s supportive, a real cool coach, I’ve learnt a lot from him,” Dawes said. “Swivel the head was a big thing, and that opened up my whole game, kicking left and right and swivelling my head to switch it. “Because he’s been my coach over a few years I’ve got to know what he teaches and just developing that each year.”

Dawes admits the change from an Australian Rules dominant state to one that is predominantly rugby was different, but refreshing because it helped her feel more at home in the pathway system.

“Coming from Victoria it’s all like AFL, it’s really different up here, it’s very rugby like,” she said. “Even at schools there’s no fields, no one really follows it, so it was different, it’s quieter, but I kind of like it because when we did all the regional stuff I knew all the girls, it was all the same. “We all got to know each other and we became more of a family so it was cool.”

It has helped Dawes that her family has been so supportive in helping her chase her dream.

“My mum is really supportive, she loves it, she is my number one fan,” Dawes said. “My brother plays too. “He’s 16, but he plays and he loves it too, and my sister just kind of follows whatever we do.”

Dawes said her strengths include accumulation and being able to read the play and the ball from ruck taps and around the ground, indicating a high football IQ. While her fitness “always can” improve, she is just as focused on working on her skills to make the right decisions by hand or foot and reduce rushed disposal.

As for her ultimate goal and club of choice, Dawes summed it up in just two words – “Draft” and “Brisbane”. Should Dawes be granted her wish, she will get the opportunity to continue with her mentor in Starcevich and help the Lions continue their already impressive AFL Women’s history.

2019 Queensland Podcast | Interviews with Ellie Hampson, Lily Postlethwaite, Serene Watson and Kitara Whap-Farrar

IN a new Final Siren podcast series reviewing the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships side-by-side, we take a look at some of the top prospects who performed strongly across all three lines, as well interviews with key players within each individual state.

The first edition is Queensland, and Final Siren podcast host Matthew Cocks, and Draft Central‘s Peter Williams discuss the players who caught the eye across the championships, as well have interviews with the four All-Australians Ellie Hampson, Lily Postlethwaite, Serene Watson and Kitara Whap-Farrar.

Below is full Queensland podcast.

You can also find the Final Siren podcast and listen to past or future episodes on the following platforms:

Anchor

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

Spotify

Breaker

Overcast

Pocket Casts

PodBean

RadioPublic

For all the AFLW U18s Championships news, head to our AFLW U18s Championships page and keep an eye out for our features starting soon!