ANOTHER NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 4 produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of weekend fixtures.
Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.
EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS
By: Alex Venning
#37 Annie Lee
The Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 4, Lee was once again consistent in driving the ball out of defence multiple times and providing a source of rebound in transition. She won a heap of the ball, was strong in the air and is reliable by hand or foot, the latter of which is her choice of disposal. Having been one of the most consistent performers this season, it was no surprise to see Lee again perform strongly and earn the Player of the Week nod.
#44 Charlotte Simpson
Simpson made a very strong start, especially in contested situations. She played an integral part in setting the game up and driving Geelong forward, showing excellent vision to break the game open. She then went forward in the second half and provided option, and when moved to the midfield late in the game proved once again hard to beat, making a comeback hard for Eastern.
#11 Tess Craven
Craven shows an excellent football brain, running to positions to take intercept marks and create a link from defence to the forward line. She stayed on the move all day to keep providing Geelong an option and spread Eastern out. Shows good courage backing into packs to take marks and laying essential tackles throughout the game.
#4 Poppy Schaap
Stays engaged throughout the game, giving her the ability to keep getting to contests and providing an option for Geelong. Gives multiple efforts when around the ball, making it hard for the opposition even when beaten one-on-one. Excellent kicking ability with good penetration to help Geelong take ground throughout the day.
#39 Renee Tierney
Started slow but really built into the game to be a match winner. Was excellent in the midfield when she was moved there, driving the ball forward for Geelong. Proved to be a match winner up forward, kicking late goals to seal the game for Geelong.
#4 Keeley Sherar
With outstanding kicking ability with an excellent football IQ to match, Sherar kept presenting all around the ground for Eastern. She shows ability to win her own ball or get on the outside to set up attacks. A very unselfish player, she is happy to lay tackles or block for her teammates. Kicked to teammates in excellent positions which kept Eastern in the game for a long time.
#44 Georgia Campbell
Shows ability to beat multiple opponents and come out on top. Took some huge contested marks, being too strong for the opposition on the day. Excellent kick, proven by kicking goals to keep Eastern in the game. Was running well, winning a lot of the ball late before being taken off by the trainers.
#11 Olivia Meagher
Keeps finding herself in ball winning positions all day. Gives multiple efforts to try to win the ball, leading to her extracting the ball or slowing the opposition down. Can also break away from opposition when she has the ball. Has excellent kicking ability over short-medium distances.
GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
By: Peter Williams
#40 Grace Matser
Played the best game of her NAB League career to-date, not only having an influence in the ruck, but also getting forward and kicking Gippsland’s sole major of the contest. Matser was busy around the ground and earned a free kick which put her within scoring range in that second quarter. Able to go back and slot it, the Power players were up and about, and it gave her confidence throughout the rest of the game. Clearly the standout Power player on the day.
#25 Lily-Rose Williamson
Did not win a heap of the ball, but is very noticeable when she does. A run-and-carry player, Williamson fends off opponents regularly, and whilst sometimes it can get her into trouble, the bottom-ager shows great strength inside the contest, and has a penetrating kick which she also uses to mop up in defence as she did on multiple occasions on the weekend.
#5 Yasmin Duursma
A touch of class in the midfield and someone who is still learning her football craft, Duursma took a step forward in the game and was winning more of the football than she has in past weeks. She also stepped up to lay some strong tackles, and her work rate to get from defence to offence was good. Yet to turn 17 until the end of the month, Duursma has some good upside for the future.
#26 Grace McRae
The consistent inside midfielder provided great experience at the clinches, as well as strength around the ball. She was a tackling machine to try and mow down opposition players, and while she did not get a lot of time and space during the game, she was someone who continued to push hard and give it a crack despite the lop-sided margin.
#10 Megan Girolami
After three goals last week, Girolami went and doubled that effort in Round 4 with a bag of six. Her half a dozen majors were from a range of sources, including in-play and from set shots, and her accuracy was fairly reliable as well with 6.1 from 10 disposals. She is still a bottom-ager with a year to run, but if her first two games are anything to go by, she looms as a talented and reliable scoring option inside 50 for the Knights.
#15 Tarrah Delgado
The reliable full-back had a stint in the midfield and further up the ground late in the game when the result was known. Providing her usual service in the back 50 with intercept marks and spoils, Delgado was a driving force to keeping Gippsland at bay when the Power did enter their forward 50.
#3 Trinity Mills
Booting three goals to be the second act to Girolami’s six majors, Mills was hard to stop with her strength and power inside 50. She would work hard up the ground to win her touches, then rest deep and through smarts and strength, fended off the opposition and not only hit the scoreboard herself, but opened up play for teammates to have scoring chances.
#4 Brooke Plummer
The bottom-age runner is a kick-first player. Her long, driving passes going inside 50 and run-and-carry attitude is what separates her from a number of the Knights inside midfielders. She was the player that teammates released into space and she took the game on, even hitting the scoreboard with a good goal to cap off another impressive performance.
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
By: Michael Alvaro
#2 Aurora Smith
Smith was Murray’s leading possession winner on the day and showcased some nice traits through midfield. She has a handy bit of speed which allows her to not only collect the ball at full flight, but also carry that momentum to break away from her opponents in the same motion. The 17-year-old ran straight through the ball and worked to chain possessions, working hard to try and generate some momentum for the Bushrangers.
#14 Molly Kennedy
Perhaps not as prolific in terms of ball winning as some of her teammates, but one of Murray’s hardest workers nonetheless. Kennedy was a competitive member of the Bushrangers’ side and worked well in one-on-one situations, while ensuring her presence was felt in her defensive acts. She laid a game-high 10 tackles to ensure the Jets would not have things all their own way in the second half, providing a much needed physical presence when the ball entered her area.
#17 Keeley Skepper
Still with another year left to go in the talent pathways, Skepper was once again one of Murray’s best. Starting at the centre bounces and continuing through midfield, the 16-year-old showcased her smooth movement and ability to accelerate the play forward. She has great potential at the stoppages with her agility and speed, with the wheel-and-go type of play often her modus operandi. Her disposal and decision making was a touched rushed at times, but Skepper has all the tools to be an exciting player for the future.
#22 Grace Hay
Another hard worker for Murray, Hay had the tough job of stationing in the Bushrangers’ defence. She positioned well behind the ball when Murray was attacking and gave herself every opportunity to compete one-on-one back inside the defensive arc, while also taking on some ruck duties back there. She chimed in with a couple of nice intercept possessions and did her best to get the ball moving back in the right direction for her side.
#1 Charlotte Baskaran
Another outstanding display from the 2022 draft-eligible talent saw her lead Western’s disposal count once again, showcasing a raft of desirable traits. Before looking at her common strengths, it is worth noting that Baskaran competed well aerially with a handy standing leap, while also working well to tackle hard despite her light frame and obvious outside quality. Stationed on the wing, the 16-year-old came off the line hard and ran even harder in general play, able to work into dangerous positions forward of centre and create scoring opportunities. Her usually precise radar was a touch off at times heading inside 50, with the final kick at speed just coming unstuck on occasion. She managed to get reward for effort in the final term though, laying a tackle and spearing home a classy goal from range after collecting the scraps.
#22 Kensley Ward
One of the many promising under-age prospects coming out of Western, Ward made her mark on debut with some nice work inside attacking 50. She booted the first goal of the game with a dribbled finish, converting under heavy duress from behind as the ball skipped over the back. After some quiet patches, she popped up once again in the final term with another couple of shies at goal, before capping her day with a terrific snap goal from deep in the pocket.
#27 Caitlin Sargent
Operating in the forward half, Sargent has good presence when the ball is in her area and is capable of claiming strong contested marks. She did so against Murray, starting with a one-on-one effort during the first term which helped secure her only major of the game. She missed a couple more chances thereafter, but was overall a solid target who looked to be productive in the front half.
#38 Montana Ham
One of the most exciting talents for next year’s draft, Ham continues to put all her potential on the table. Starting in midfield and pinch-hitting forward, the under-age prospect proved a competitive beast over the ball with her strength and repeat efforts. While she would have liked to be a touch cleaner at ground level, Ham’s hands were again strong overhead – especially in one instance where she worked back to clunk an intercept mark. She showed great spacial awareness to explode and turn her opponents numerous times, breaking forward with intent and only just putting a couple of flying shots wide. Her dynamism and ability to create exciting passages in a flash meant she was one of the more impactful players overall.
#41 Ciara Singleton
Singleton’s role was an important one in Western’s defensive structure, acting as the intercept and rebounding outlet. She set up well behind the ball and showed terrific anticipation to cut off Murray’s aerial attacks, before looking to get on the move and deliver forward in good time. Singleton’s disposal by foot was a little awkward, but by no means hurt the Jets in terms of costly turnovers. With a touch more work in that area, she could be a very effective player on the half-back line and still has some development left as a 19-year-old.
BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS
By: Declan Reeve
#41 Georgie Prespakis
Prespakis was thrown about positionally all day, finding herself up either end more often than in the midfield. It didn’t stop her from having her usual brilliance at times though. When positioned in defence she produced dangerous drive through run-and-carry, attacking loose balls from stoppages near her, not to be outdone by her brilliant positioning behind the ball to be an intercepting threat in the air as well. Up forward she would play as a target, and then look to bring other team mates into the game with handballs or short kicks. When the game needed to be won she was thrown back into the midfield for the quarter and really stepped up when the Cannons needed her, forming a good one-two punch with Reese Sutton around stoppages. A highlight of her final quarter was when she won a clearance in the forward 50, shook off two would-be tacklers and kicked Calder’s second goal.
#8 Zali Friswell
Calder’s most prolific ball winner behind Prespakis, she was another one that got thrown around quite a bit for the day. Doing her usual high level midfield work when she was in there, she also showed she’s a capable defensive option, running off the half-back a few times to generate drive for Calder and setting herself up behind the play to take some intercept marks.
#3 Emelia Yassir
Used her athleticism and burst from contests well throughout the game, but also seemed to get more of the ball around the ground rather than from stoppages like usual. She was aerially strong despite only getting three marks, she should’ve come out with more but often found herself getting spoiled by multiple Pioneers players.
#5 Neve Crowley
Became a real rebounding threat in the second half of the game, presenting as a loose marking option on the other side of the ground and behind the play. Moved well with the ball out of the backline when she started taking kick-ins, running out and getting extra space.
#28 Tara Slender
Had a great performance where she was thrown into just about every position at one stage or another, with her contested marking being a highlight throughout the game – there wasn’t anyone able to challenge her in the air. She roamed up the ground when she was playing forward, being a great link up option for the Pioneers moving forward. When she was in the midfield she just knew where to be to win first possession, and her composure with the ball meant she took her time and kicked well from the centre, playing a big part in the Pioneers’ early dominance. A particular highlight came in the first quarter when she took a contested mark over the top of Calder’s Yassir, reaching around her to mark the ball in front.
#37 Madeline Marks
A really solid game for a ruck, where she was strong in the stoppages, but a real highlight was her follow-up work at ground level and how she made herself a marking threat around the ground. She more often than not finds an option to kick long to which makes her dangerous with the ball in hand. Was stationed in defence for much of the fourth term and was difficult for Calder to get through in their attack.
#27 Jayda Richardson
Showed versatility around the midfield, starting as a rover and being a tackling presence in-close. She would also provide as a chop out in the ruck and compete well when in there. When she was up forward she was a dangerous option, kicking a goal in the second quarter.
#30 Octavia Di Donato
Gets involved in everything she can when Pioneers are on the offensive, getting good run out of the backline but it’s her aerial game that really shined against the Cannons. She flew for everything that went near her which provided a consistent nuisance for Calder going forward, and when she held onto them she used it well to get the ball moving forward again.
#5 Elizabeth Snell
Won plenty of footy on the inside throughout the day, quickly getting the ball moving with kicks forward out of the contest, allowing Bendigo’s outside runners to get onto it or their marking forwards to make a contest. Snell was also the standout tackler for the day.
TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
By: Hamish Spence
#11 Perri King
King’s class and poise shone through in such a congested and highly pressured game. She wasn’t necessarily the player winning the ball at the coalface, but separating herself and getting the second or third touch off the contest. What set her apart from everyone else was the space and time she managed to find in these situations, using it to lace out or set-up her teammates. She ran all over the ground and worked hard to support her forwards and defenders. She finished with a game-high 21 disposals, nine tackles and six inside 50s in an impressive outing.
#16 Ella Maurer
Maurer picked up from where she left off two weeks ago, continuing to find a way to accumulate possessions with 20 disposals. The inside midfielder has an innate ability to gather the ball and distribute it to one of her teammates, as indicated by her 12 handballs. She often forced her way through tackles and absorbed pressure, while still finding a way to move the ball forward.
#9 Claire Ransom
The tough midfielder optimised Tasmania’s game style, applying constant pressure and being aggressive with her ball movement. She stood out early in the match when she rallied her side after its slow start in the first term. She ultimately finished with 15 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s in a strong performance.
#29 Jemma Blair
Blair’s six disposals don’t tell the totality of her game, with the half-back playing an important structural role for the Devils. She constantly repelled Oakleigh’s attacks down back and was used as a loose player at the top of Tasmania’s forward 50 to bring the ball back inside whenever the Charger’s tried to exit. Her work allowed the Devils to lock the ball at their end of the ground in the second half.
#7 Meghan Gaffney
Her primary task was to carry and use the ball on the outside, which she repeatedly did by utilising her impressive speed. Gaffney played an important game on the wing, collecting 13 disposals and participating in several run-and-carry plays. She shirked off and evaded opponents by using her acceleration to separate from them.
#18 Georgia Clark
The half-forward had a magic minute in the first quarter when she kicked two quick goals to ignite her side and the Twin Ovals crowd. But her game went beyond that, working hard to impact the contest and providing a link into the forward line with her 12 disposals, three marks and five tackles.
#8 Charlie Rowbottom
The star on-baller was the ultimate competitor, dominating around stoppages, competing up forward and even putting her hand up in the ruck. Her 20 disposals, seven tackles and two inside 50s already illustrate a strong game, but she added another string to her performance. She went up forward late in the third quarter, taking two strong marks near the goalsquare and converting the latter, which ended up being the difference between the two sides. She also got the better of fellow AFLW Academy member, King when the pair lined up at stoppages.
#24 Holly Kenealy
Kenealy played a prototypical small forward’s game, making the most of any opportunity she received. She only had four touches, but turned three of them into goals. Her efficiency stood out after Oakleigh struggled with inaccuracy early on and her goals came at clutch times to either spark her side or break Tasmania’s momentum.
#10 Stella Reid
The winger continued her excellent 2021 campaign, having another productive day where she worked all over the ground. There were ominous signs for Tasmania when she started the game on fire and she didn’t let-up, finishing with 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s. She always seemed to put herself in the right position to help drive her team inside 50, finding open space around the field. If she had converted her two first quarter behinds into goals, it would have made for an even more prolific game.
#9 Brooke Vickers
The half-back flanker was Oakleigh’s main outlet out of defence, repeatedly intercepting the ball and taking the game on with her daringness and evasiveness. Her 15 disposals and four rebound 50s show her ability to gather touches and set her team up coming out of the backline. Her efforts were particularly important late in the game, when the Chargers’ back six was under immense pressure and repeatedly stifling Tasmania’s surges on goal.
#29 Amanda Ling
The inside midfielder did all the groundwork for Oakleigh, going into the trenches and winning the ball at the coalface. The fact that 11 of her 13 disposals were handballs shows that her main role was to get the ball and distribute it to one of her teammates. She also thrived in the congested nature of the contest, laying 10 tackles and producing multiple one-percenters.
#5 Mia Clift
Stationed down back, Clift was not afraid to use her bursts of speed to take the game on. It sometimes sold her into trouble, like when she was pinned for holding the ball inside Tasmania’s forward 50, but she generally gave Oakleigh another strong avenue out of defence with her 10 disposals and two rebound 50s.
GWV REBELS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
By: Declan Reeve
#20 Ella Friend
Was relatively quiet in the first half where she played mostly as a stay at home forward, but took some nice grabs when it came into her area earlier on. She started working her way up the ground more in the second half where her marking was too good for any Dandenong player to compete with.
#30 Nyakoat Dojiok
Was up forward early on in the game where she wasn’t getting a whole heap of it, but still had some nice moments and marks that showed that she could play as a forward with some more time. Moved into the backline for the second half where she got a lot more involved and was a crucial part of the backline from there. Her run-and-carry out of defence is as dangerous as anyone in the league, while her kicks have good length and penetration to spot up targets on the wing or through the midfield with ease.
#1 Lilli Condon
Condon was hard at the ball and opponent in the midfield which caused Dandenong some headaches. She’s a second effort machine as well; no matter how hard she’s hit she’ll keep going for it until the whistle is blown.
#15 Chloe Leonard
Does some really good work off the half-back line, and outruns opponents to get good drive as well. Her kicking is good on the run which makes for a very dangerous attacking defender that almost requires the forwards to play as defenders on her, especially when she has such a knack for positioning behind the ball as well.
#5 Paige Scott
Hard at it in the midfield and smart around the ground, Scott set herself up well to take uncontested marks around the ground. She is not afraid to take opponents on with ball in hand either, which makes her dangerous in one-on-one situations. She has clean skills and with a long kick she provides plenty of dangerous plays for GWV.
#34 Ashleigh Richards
Playing a split role between the midfield and the forwardline, Richards she had a game to remember, showing her versatility as not just a ball winner but a goal kicking option in attack. She finished the day with an equal game-high of three goals, while her work rate and pressure around the forwardline was a key part of many Stingrays goals.
#27 Charley Ryan
Super composed throughout the game, it’s rare to see a player at any level not flinch even a little bit under immediate pressure, but she’s nailed it well, even willing to cop a hard tackle to get a quality kick or handball out. She played more on the wing than she did against Western the week prior, but played the outside space well and really controlled her side of the ground.
#11 Emily Shepherd
Just like last week was a key cog in the Dandenong midfield. Her mix of inside and outside game is well balanced, performing well as either a first possession getter or a handball out option. Shepherd plays a natural game, and you can see how trusted she is with Dandenong looking to get the ball into her hands. She regularly ran past teammates that had earned free kicks or marks to get a handball receive and deliver a dangerous kick forward. Her forward craft is exceptional too, doing some crucial work to lead to Dandenong goals when she’s resting down there.
#5 Mackezie Eardley
Super reliable throughout the day in the backline as the last defender. She’s naturally strong in the air being a taller player, but her work at ground level is really top quality even in contested situations. Hard working as well, she often pushed over to any contest in the defensive 50 and had an impact, whether it be winning the ball or tackling. Her positioning when the ball was inside Dandenong’s forward 50 led to some crucial intercept marks throughout the day. Not stopping there, she got herself involved forward with two goals to round out what can only be described as a complete performance.
#31 Jemma Radford
Playing mostly as a forward for the day, she took the most of her opportunities when they came, finishing the day with three goals. Worked well in tandem with both Amber Clarke and Richards to cause headaches for the GWV defence as the game progressed.
#6 Amber Clarke
Spent more time in the midfield than last week but impressed in similar ways. She’s just an exciting player to watch, with her speed and leap making her a threat in any situation she finds herself in. Works very well as an inside midfielder, bursting out of stoppages.