Category: Geelong Falcons

High stakes training: Vic prospects take the field ahead of draft day

VICTORIAN AFL Draft prospects hit the track one last time before draft day, strutting their stuff at Highgate Reserve in a one-off training session on Wednesday. The meet served as a final chance for recruiters to survey the talent available in this year’s pool, just a week out from draft day on December 9.

Players who earned Draft Combine invites in September were split into two major groups, initially separating those from country and metropolitan regions, before being divided even further into small drill groups of five to seven participants. Among those on display were potential number one picks Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Elijah Hollands, the latter of which participated in a running program amid his recovery from a preseason ACL tear.

Draft Central analyst Ed Pascoe was on hand in Craigieburn to recap all the action and give an insight into how things panned out.

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RECAP:

By: Ed Pascoe

A sense of irony came over me walking into Highgate Reserve, the same ground I last got to watch a lot of these young players back on March 15, right before Covid derailed the Victorian football season. It was a Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers trial game on that day and the ground was bustling with keen onlookers, many the same faces I would see today and it was great to see the development of some of these players. One of the big matchups in March was Nikolas Cox vs. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan which looked to be a clash we would see if the National Championships went ahead. Fast forward a few months and both players have bulked up, looking as sharp as ever in the lead up to the most important time of their lives.

To start the day it was the Vic Metro based players who were split into four training groups with the following participants:

Group A

Ewan Macpherson
Reef McInnes
Bailey Laurie
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips
Conor Stone

Group B

Cody Brand
Nikolas Cox
Josh Eyre
Liam Kolar
Ollie Lord

Group C

Jake Bowey
Josh Clarke
Connor Downie
Max Holmes
Finlay Macrae
Corey Preston

Group D

Matthew Allison
Lachlan Carrigan
Luke Cleary
Eddie Ford
Liam McMahon
Fraser Rosman

Injured Group

Max Heath
Campbell Edwardes

Vic Country players would later take the field and were split into three main groups:

Group A

Cameron Fleeton
Zach Reid
Josh Treacy
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Henry Walsh

Group B

Ryan Angwin
Will Bravo
Jack Ginnivan
Charlie Lazzaro
Zavier Maher
Blake Reid
Harry Sharp

Group C

Dominic Bedendo
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Clayton Gay
Oliver Henry
Seamus Mitchell
Nick Stevens

Injured Group (Laps)

Elijah Hollands
Charlie Ham
Noah Gribble

There were four main drills conducted after a warm-up; with ground balls, marking, kicking, and handballing the respective focus areas. The ground ball drill involved taking half volleys, running towards the loose ball coming from behind them, taking on the bump bag and finally working in pairs to pick the ball up cleanly under pressure from a teammate.

The marking drill was changed slightly as the day went on but the main focuses were receiving a high ball before getting called to a certain colour cone to run to, turn, and then meet at the drop zone of the ball. Contested marking was the final focus, with two players coming from either the back or front to contest a mark. This drill was certainly the most competitive and one of the drills players had the most fun in, with plenty wanting just ‘one more go’.

The kicking and handballing drills were fairly standard with a three-man weave, and a short to long stationary handball among the handball drills. The kicking drills consisted of kicking to a stationary target often 45 degrees to another player, and finally a drill which involved kicking to a leading player which really separated the better kickers on the day – especially in the notoriously windy conditions at Highgate Reserve.

Overall, it was a great day for the players to get a run while bonding with some former teammates and potentially future teammates. It was also a nice little refresher for scouts and recruiters as well, who got to see how some of these players have progressed both in their football and in their body. It is hard to gauge who would be considered the ‘standouts’ from this training session but most players put in the effort required and it was also good to see some really get involved with coaches and looking for advice in certain drills, showing their commitment to getting the best out of themselves.

In Contention | Outsider AFL Draft prospects to consider: Vic Country

COME the end of a year like no other, there is likely to be a greater amount of hard luck stories and near misses than ever before, especially after the recent cuts to AFL list sizes. But for all that doom and gloom, the 2020 AFL Draft intake is also poised to provide some of the best stories of positivity as elite level hopefuls rise from the adversity this year has put forward.

In Draft Central’s newest series, we take a look at some of the draft prospects who remain in contention to fulfil their draft dreams despite missing out on invites to their respective states’ draft combines. These combine lists are often the best indicators of clubs’ interest in players, with at least four nominations required for those who were not selected in the two national Under -17 showcase games last year. Outsider talent from the Vic Country regions are next to go under the microscope, and there are plenty around the mark despite missing a full year of football.

Below are pocket profiles of some players to watch, which will also feature in our upcoming annual AFL Draft Guide.

>> 2020 AFL Draft Pool
>> AFL Draft Whispers: 2020 Edition
>> Power Rankings: November Update

BENDIGO PIONEERS:

Sam Conforti | Midfielder/Small Forward
15/03/2002 | 174cm/72kg

The diminutive mover quickly established himself as a mainstay in Bendigo’s lineup last year, going on to average 17.3 disposals across 16 games. He played mostly on the wing but was looking to develop as a hard-running, creative small forward.

Aaron Gundry | Ruck
17/02/2001 | 200cm/84kg

A player who could have benefitted greatly from another year in the NAB League system, Gundry is a mobile ruckman who has also enjoyed stints up forward. The 19-year-old’s clean hands and upside are his strengths, but he has some filling out to do.

Jack Tillig | Half-Back
07/03/2002 | 186cm/84kg

Tillig could have been one to surprise this year with a full NAB League season, set to return to the Pioneers after representing GWV while boarding at St Patrick’s Ballarat for school. He is a solid rebounder who also intercepts well at half-back.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS:

Henry Berenger | Key Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm/86kg

One who contributed a solid bottom-age campaign consisting of 15 games, Berenger showed he was capable of playing a key defensive role. His athletic profile does not jump off the page, but the 18-year-old is a readymade and versatile rebounder.

Blake Kuipers | Key Defender/Ruck
25/07/2001 | 197cm/82kg

A former high-level volleyballer, Kuipers is a player with plenty of upside who featured at last year’s Under 18 National Championships. He is quite raw, but very athletic and can fill key position posts at either end or in the ruck. Was poised for a big 2020.

Deakyn Smith | Outside Midfielder/Forward
22/08/2002 | 179cm/68kg

Part of Melbourne’s Next Generation Academy, Smith is a lightly-framed outside midfielder who can also rotate forward. He has good speed and plenty of raw talent, but is working on adding polish and consistency to his overall game.

Bayleigh Welsh | Midfielder/Forward
19/01/2002 | 180cm/82kg

Dandenong players and staff alike rate Welsh as a talent who was poised to make a real impact in 2020. He averaged a tick under 12 disposals across 14 NAB League games last year and was set for a more permanent midfield role.

GEELONG FALCONS:

Gennaro Bove | Midfielder/Small Forward
14/01/2002 | 177cm/78kg

One of two Geelong Falcons co-captains for 2020, Bove is a clean and agile small midfielder who can also get his hands dirty on the defensive end. His size and smarts bode well for development as a small forward in future.

Darcy Chrigwin | Inside Midfielder
25/07/2001 | 191cm/89kg

Another player who was poised to shift back to his native region in 2020, Chirgwin was also unlucky not to be picked up last year. The 19-year-old has grown to 89kg and would be a readymade choice as far as inside midfielders go.

Jay Dahlhaus | Small Forward
21/05/2001 | 172cm/71kg

Currently plying his trade with Southern Districts in the NTFL, Dahlhaus is an exciting small forward who brings terrific creative energy and defensive pressure to the forward half. Injury curtailed his top-age season last year and he was set to impact as a 19-year-old in 2020.

GIPPSLAND POWER:

Jai Newcombe | Inside Midfielder
02/08/2001 | 184cm/85kg

Was poised to stake his claim as one of 2020’s feel-good stories, having finally made the cut at Gippsland after being overlooked in multiple preseasons. He is an inside bull who proved hard to tackle at this year’s trials and the Power were certainly high on his potential as an over-ager.

GWV REBELS:

Isaac Wareham | Outside Midfielder
24/12/2001 | 186cm/77kg

Another who was unlucky to be overlooked last year, Wareham looked set to put injuries behind him and build on a top-age season which saw him represent Vic Country. He has plenty of development left as a December birth and makes things happen with ball in hand, playing into his overall upside.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS:

Ethan Baxter | Key Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm/82kg

A Richmond Next Generation Academy member, Baxter was an Under 16 All Australian in 2018 and had some development left to make in 2020. He is a strong key defender who can hold his own in the back 50, especially in one-on-one and aerial contests.

Kade Chalcraft | Outside Midfielder
28/03/2002 | 182cm/79kg

Chalcraft was touted for some more time on the inside this year having already showed his worth as a creative outlet on the outer. He is an evasive small-medium type who played 16 games as a bottom-ager.

Sam Durham | Balanced Midfielder
09/07/2001 | 185cm/77kg

One of last year’s state combine invitees, Durham missed out on being drafted as a top-ager but garnered interest with his speedy adjustment to the code as a multi-sport athlete. He moves well and has good skills, but would be working on his game sense and consistency.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Richmond Tigers

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Richmond, a side that struggled in its debut season, going winless and chose to bring in more experience to bolster its stocks in 2021.

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

Boasting the top selection in the AFL Women’s Draft before a couple of later picks, Richmond had plenty of time to prepare for the draft. They ended up bringing in the standout choice of the 2020 season with Pick 1, before plucking a basketballer out of obscurity, and an over-ager talent who missed out on selection last year.

With Pick 1, there was not much doubt who the Tigers were going to select, picking up Northern Knights’ Ellie McKenzie. The second consecutive Northern Knights’ player at the selection after Gabby Newton last year. McKenzie is a readymade talent who will instantly step up and be one of the better players in the AFL Women’s competition. McKenzie has shades of Madison Prespakis in terms of her preparedness to tackle the league, but is taller and more athletic which makes her such a damaging prospect. She will play from Round 1 and be a crucial cog in the Tigers’ midfield or she can go forward and beat her opponents one-on-one there.

The second pick was completely out of the blue when the Tigers selected WNBL basketballer, Tessa Lavey. The Bendigo Spirit player will miss a portion of the preseason due to the Queensland hub for the WNBL 2020/21 season, but the condensed season has meant she will be fully available for the AFL Women’s one. A national representative, Lavey is raw potential and will be one to watch to see how she performs but no doubt will be fully utilised for her power and athleticism.

Finally the Tigers picked up Luka Lesosky-Hay, an overager who was a member of the premiership-winning Geelong Falcons outfit in 2018 and then again in the finals side last year. She was due to represent Richmond VFL Women’s this year after a stint with Geelong VFL Women’s, but the season was cut short. A hardworking midfielder who can win the ball on the inside then find space on the outside, she earns her chance after missing out last year.

Richmond had the most and least surprising picks of the draft with their first two selections, and have now brought in some athletes with power and strength to help try and turn the Tigers’ team around.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Geelong Cats

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Geelong, a side that despite the region being removed as a choice for draftees, still managed to pick up four Geelong Falcons as they added five more teenagers to their list.

Geelong:

#10 – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#20 – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#21 – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
#27 – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)
#39 – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Geelong targeted more youth for its ascent up the AFL Women’s ladder after losing Mel Hickey over the off-season and just missing out on finals. Three Vic Country representatives, a Central Allies representative and an elite junior basketballer earned spots on the Cats’ list as they stuck close to home with their selections.

Darcy Moloney provides some outside class and ball-winning abilities with her superb vision and neat foot skills a highlight of her game. She was the first chosen at Pick 10, and rightly so with an impressive junior career to-date. She will likely play at half-forward where she did in her bottom and middle-age years for the Falcons before becoming a damaging wing or inside-outside midfielder.

Laura Gardiner is your quintessential inside midfielder who is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She loves digging in and finds a truckload of the ball, averaging more than 30 touches a game from her two matches in 2020 including 38 in Round 1. She will feed the ball out to the runners and be a consistent force on the inside, pretty much ready from early on. Like Moloney she played off a flank and even on a wing over the first couple of years, so is capable of pulling off other positions.

Geelong picked up the steal of the draft by selecting Olivia Barber at Pick 21, there is no two ways about it. The key position forward is terrific overhead, a great lead and able to play the role of a small forward when the ball hits the ground. She is a tall who can come in and make an immediate impact, and also comes from a basketball background. As an exciting key forward, Barber is one to watch over the next decade.

Speaking of basketball background, Carly Remmos was picked up with the Cats’ final pick of the draft at 39. She only took up the football pathway over the off-season last year and managed a couple of games before the season was called off. A real unknown coming into the season having been ready to pull on the Geelong Supercats’ top in the NBL1, Remmos showed great progress in a short amount of time as an inside midfielder.

Finally one of the feel-good stories of the draft, with Northern Territory’s Stephanie Williams getting picked up by the Cats. She hoped to remain in Geelong due to her university studies, and she achieved just that when the Cats called out her name at Pick 27. Expect her to develop over time to be a really dangerous forward with good hands, and is a smooth mover.

Overall the Cats really did well out of the draft, with a couple of predictable – but worthy – selections, as well as the steal of the draft, and a couple of raw talents who could really surprise with great development.

Picture: Geelong Cats Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Club-by-club picks

THE dust has settled on the exciting 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Over the next week we will be delving into each club’s selections and detailing more information about those players who earned places at the elite level. Below we have listed each club’s selections from last night’s draft if you are waking up to check out who your newest stars are.

Adelaide:

#4 – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#45 – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)
#47 – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

Brisbane:

#8 – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)
#37 – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#38 – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Pass

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Geelong:

#10 – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#20 – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#21 – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
#27 – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)
#39 – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Gold Coast:

#7 – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)
#23 – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)
#50 – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)
#54 – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)
#57 – Lucy Single (Bond University)
#58 – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)
#60 – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)
#61 – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

GWS GIANTS:

#9 – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)
#29 – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies)
#42 – Libby Graham (Manly Warringah Wolves)

Melbourne:

#5 – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#15 – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#17 – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#35 – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#41 – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#48 – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

North Melbourne:

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Pass

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)
#56 – Pass
#59 – Pass

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Remmos hoping to follow Conti’s lead as a dual elite-level sportstar

CARLY Remmos has come a long way in a short season, going from basketball convert to AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitee off the back of just of a couple of games. The Geelong Supercats National Basketball League (NBL)1 player averaged 15 disposals, five tackles and kicked a goal from her two games in the 2020 NAB League Girls season after deciding to “give it a crack”.

“I was trying something different because basketball has just basically been what I’ve been doing my whole life nearly, and then nearly a bunch of my friends were like ‘why don’t we play school footy?’ and I was like ‘oh yeah I’d be down’ and went and played and I guess I just loved the contact in it,” Remmos said. “It was a lot more contact than basketball so that was enjoyable. “But it was mainly just to have a bit of fun with schoolmates and that was about it, but I enjoyed it, so thought I’d give it a crack in the long run.”

Both her NAB League Girls and NBL1 seasons were cancelled due to COVID-19, but Remmos was hoping to juggle both for as long as she could, if she could. While she admitted it would depend on both codes and the clubs she played for, Remmos’ hope was to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Monique Conti.

“I’m not really sure (what I’ll do), it just depends who footy takes it if I was lucky enough to get drafted,” Remmos said. “It really depends on their (team that drafts me) take on the whole basketball thing. “If I have to, I’d probably just stick in the footy path, but basically it depends on what the clubs are comfortable with, both basketball and footy, and then just really go from there to be honest.”

“Monique Conti’s one that I have always been like, she does both. WNBL and AFLW so it is possible to do both, it just depends,” Remmos said. “It’s different for every person, but I’d definitely like to go down that path.”

While her football journey is a relatively new one, Remmos is no stranger to the basketball court.

“I started basketball when I was about six,” the Geelong Falcons midfielder said. “I’ve been playing ever since and gone through the Vic Country pathway and gone to Nationals for basketball and all of that sort of stuff. “Then last year I played school footy and I had a go at that and found that so much fun, I found it awesome.”

“Then I went down to Falcons, did preseason and then it was more just a bit ‘oh I’ll have a bit of fun, if it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t’. “It took off and then played the first two games then obviously COVID. “That’s about it. I only started footy in the last year.”

While she does not have a great body of work to go off, Remmos said she felt like her attack on the ball – being a taller player – and her tackling were amongst her strengths. She has no fear in winning the ball and getting it out to her teammates, whilst it is just that polish when in space by foot that she is looking to develop.

“I am very new to the game so I have been working on my kicking a fair bit,” Remmos said. “That’s still got a bit of improvement, but I’ve definitely improved in that area, but just my general skills. “My handballs are pretty good and my groundballs, so it’s mostly just working on my kicking a bit more to get that a bit more on point on both feet.”

Crossing from basketball, Remmos soon found her place training with the midfielders after not knowing if she would even make the final cut. Having the fitness from basketball to match it with her experienced teammates, she was thrown into the midfield. Whilst it was partially because of her fitness, Remmos also joked that the coaching staff could not trust her to hold a line up either end.

“Before the season I knew I was going to be in the midfield,” Remmos said. “I’ll be honest, the structure of forward and back, I don’t think they (coaching staff) were prepared to put me in there yet because it was a bit more complicated than midfield, where you just run around a bit more, see ball, get ball type of thing.”

Remmos’ favourite football memory was her first official game, where she enjoyed a win against Gippsland Power and kicked her first-ever goal.

“I think just my first official game of footy and kicking my first goal, that was pretty cool,” she said. “More just being around the girls for our first game and our win, that was pretty good. “Being new to the environment and sussing it all out and getting to know the girls in a big group is a lot different. “There’s a lot more support and it’s a lot bigger, so there’s a lot more fun in it I think.”

While Remmos was not expecting to develop to the point of receiving a combine invite – she was surprised by the interest – she had a feeling it was coming once she received contact from an AFL Women’s club.

“I was quite surprised,” Remmos said. “Even when I got an email a club wanted to contact me, I was like ‘what’s going on there? that’s very surprising’. “But the combine wasn’t a huge shock, I wasn’t expecting that because I was so new, but it was really good to get the invite.”

Now she is a chance to make it to the elite level in the AFL Women’s. If she hears her name called out on draft night next Tuesday, Remmos said it would be “absolutely awesome”.

“At the start of the year … my eyes weren’t set on getting drafted because I was so new and I didn’t think I had much of a shot,” Remmos said. “But once it got towards the business end as you could call it I guess, I think being in elite sport when I was playing at Nationals, I just thrived in that environment, it was so fun. “Getting drafted would be awesome, just being able in that elite environment with a big bunch of girls. “It would mean a lot, just hard work paid off if I was to get drafted.”

Optimistic Gardiner building in confidence

WHEN it comes to ball winners, Geelong Falcons’ Laura Gardiner is one to watch with an ability to not only accumulate the footy with ease but also use her game smarts to effectively dispose of the ball and do so consistently. The 165cm midfielder is one of a number of players coming through the statewide pathways off the back of junior basketball, before jumping at the chance to shift her focus to the footy field and not looking back.

“I actually started playing footy at 13 for Geelong West Giants locally, so I’ve been playing for about five years now,” Gardner said. “My mum kind of put me into footy because she knew it had more freedom, because it has a lot more freedom than basketball, as in I can use my endurance, and it has just suited me better like with my fitness level.”

“I ended up really loving it and then when it got quite serious later on I ended up stopping basketball for footy and that’s how I kind of started playing footy for the Geelong Falcons.”

The 17-year-old thrives under pressure, able to use her running ability and agility to consistently win ball and create crunching tackles, something that was showcased in the opening rounds of the 2020 NAB League season prior to the league’s cancellation.

With 38 disposals, 14 tackles, five inside 50s and a goal in the opening round of the 2020 season – earning a Draft Central Player of the Week nomination for her efforts – the youngster proved that she is more than capable of taking the lead when required, backing it up the following round with another 31 touches. But the highest of highs was met with the news that the season had been postponed following the Falcons’ third round bye. 

The worst was yet to come though, with the subsequent cancellation of the season in August and second wave in Victoria meaning the competition and any chance of an all-stars match were out of the question, leaving many asking what was next.

“Yeah so I was a bit disappointed, but so was everyone else so I guess there was nothing you could really do about it,” Gardiner said. “But I just felt like keeping a routine during the time when we were in lockdown really helped me… either going to the oval to practice kicking or running throughout the week, like keeping that Monday, Wednesday and Friday kind of routine.”

With this routine in mind, Gardiner outlined what she wanted to improve on and has steadily worked through a couple of key aspects of her game – things that could certainly make her an even bigger threat when she can return to the field.

“I’ve been really focusing on like my decision making, not just who I give the ball to, but in a way taking my time when I have that extra second or two, so always giving the first option but also looking to see if there is a better option or a time where I can actually run a little bit more than what I would usually.”

“And definitely my kicking. I’ve been practicing a lot throughout this year,” Gardiner added.

While the cancellation was a huge blow, especially for players who have worked up to their top-age year allowing others to flourish, Gardiner has taken the optimistic approach, suggesting it was a good chance to relieve some of the stress of Year 12, especially knowing at least the rest of the Victorian-based players were in the same boat.

“It’s definitely given me more time to focus on my schoolwork compared to other years. I was prepared to be really stressed out this year, and it has been stressful but it has given me a lot more time to actually prep for my schoolwork,” Gardiner said.

“In a way it does have positives as well as negatives. But yeah, I felt like this year has probably disadvantaged a lot of people but also it’s giving people opportunities with other things.”

When it comes to taking opportunities head on, Gardiner is never one to back down. As a middle-ager last year she was part of a core group participating at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships with Vic Country, settling into her role with the squad up in Queensland. The Falcons talent said she felt “really lucky” to play all three games, marking it as a real confidence booster.

“I loved it (Champs). I got to meet heaps of new girls from other teams as well, and even build stronger relationships with the girls I had played with in the Falcons. I felt like it really helped my confidence in a way, because it was out of my comfort zone.”

“I felt like a strength issue was definitely my confidence, I feel like I grew as a person through my confidence, and definitely my pressure around the ball.”

While confidence is certainly something Gardiner has worked on, she is also happy with how she has progressed since last season despite not being able to ply her trade on the field.

“I felt like I worked on that (confidence) a lot in the off-season, and my forward pressure and defensive pressure was good, and definitely teamwork and quick hands, I felt like they were some of my strengths.”

With little contact training allowed in Victoria – even regionally – over the past few months, Gardiner said she has spent plenty of time honing her kicking skills with her dad, crediting her parents for their continued support, on both a football and personal level.

“Definitely my parents, they’re really supportive and they really want me to do the best I can. So I’ve definitely looked up to both of them from a footy perspective and a personal perspective.”

The midfielder says that seeing players progress through the pathways to the AFLW has inspired her, with the young talent on the field rarely looking out of place.

“I look up to some of the young girls from Falcons and other clubs that have gone into the AFL and just fit in really well, like I watch them and you wouldn’t even know they’re a first year player, some of them are just really, really talented,” Gardiner said.

“It’s quite inspiring, I really want to make sure to be like them and put in the work to get to where they are because they’re kind of being that role model to show you that it’s possible and achievable.”

Competitive Moloney continues to strive for greatness

FOR Geelong Falcons ball winner Darcy Moloney, football is very much about determination and getting into the contest. A classy mover with great run and carry, Moloney is an impact player who has had a somewhat disjointed start to her Aussie rules dreams. 

“I’ve always been quite sporty, so I did Auskick when I was really little, but then after a couple years I stopped because in Colac there was really nothing for girls to do in regards to football,” Moloney explained. “Then I didn’t pick up football again until Year 10 when I played school football and found out that I loved it, and then played with ‘Imps’ (Imperials) in Colac, and then got picked up to play V/Line Cup that year and then was picked up at the Falcons.”

While the midfielder picked up the footy again just a few years ago, she tried her hand at any number of sports over the years with a significant break between her youth and junior days.

“I played a lot of different sports, I’ve danced since I was little, I played netball, played basketball for a bit, did cricket with school for a while. Yeah, pretty much anything I could get my hands onto, I did,” she said. 

But it was with school footy that she rediscovered her love for the oblong sport, and with that a love for the gritty intensity that comes with tackling and the innate roughness of Aussie rules. Even playing non-contact sports, Moloney suggested she was always willing to get herself into the contest with plenty of dare lending itself to the footy field. 

“It’s a bit of a funny answer but I just love the toughness, the rough side of football, I love being tackled as weird as that sounds,” Moloney said. “I just love tackling and getting tackled, the roughness, the bumps, the bruises and cuts you get, I just sort of love that. You don’t really get that in many other sports.”

“In netball I’ve always been just really hard at the ball and wasn’t afraid of contesting and getting bumped on or, like out of the contest going for the ball.”

A highly competitive player, Moloney says that her drive to compete hard and contest every ball is something that she has always had.

“I’ve always been like that (competitive), since I was very very very little. I think that’s what continues to make me the player I am,” she said. “Just the attack on the ball, I feel like it’s something that you’re born with it’s not something that you get, like, that you can improve on. So I think that drive and that, you know, competitiveness, is probably my biggest strength.”

A swift transition through the pathways saw the now top-ager not only get selected for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships in 2019, but play all three games for Vic Country throughout the series.

“It was surreal. Like honestly I didn’t really actually know much about it until I actually found out about it,” Moloney said. “And to be honest, I didn’t think, you know, I was good enough to be selected in that side let alone actually get to play all the games and go to Queensland, and it was just a great experience and a shame that we couldn’t do it again this year.”

Like much of the NAB League top-age talent expecting to ply their trade this season, Moloney was shocked and upset when she was told that the 2020 season would not continue, getting two matches under her belt for the Falcons – averaging 26.5 touches and laying 3.5 tackles as she did so.

“I was obviously very shocked when it happened and upset when I first found out, but I realised that I just have to sort of – not get over it, but deal with it and then move on,” she said.

It was this optimistic mindset that kept her going through the confusion and frustration of a missed opportunity on-field, making the most of her chance to improve individually and utilising her aforementioned competitiveness to one-up her own early form.

“It was a great opportunity for me to work on the things that I think I need to work on, review those games and look at what I need to improve on and just work on that, work on my left foot, contest work, that sort of thing,” Moloney explained. 

“It’s a great opportunity for me to improve in the end so that’s just how I looked at it.”

Moloney suggests her isolation effort would see her “miles ahead” of where she was at the beginning of the year, with a wealth of improvements adding to her potential and ability to showcase her strong work ethic. 

“I feel like if we played a game now I would be miles ahead of where I was at the start of the year, I think I’ve improved a lot even in this short period from the two games we got at the start of the season to now. So I think it’ll really help if I was to get drafted into an AFL club.”

With her AFL Women’s dream close to becoming a reality, Moloney says that seeing the depth of talent across the pathways able to now step straight into the top tier is a real confidence boost, playing with and against the best across the country and all striving for that common goal.

“Watching them step into the AFL and having an impact straightaway, it just shows how much talent is in these pathways really and there’s just a bit of a confidence boost that we could potentially do the same thing if we get into a club.”

While her own competitiveness and drive have certainly played a role in getting to where she is today, Moloney credits her parents for their unwavering support and willingness to drive around the state to pursue her AFL Women’s dream.

“Obviously my parents have played the biggest factor, they’ve always been supportive of whatever I wanted to do regardless of if it was playing football or whatever so they probably played the biggest role and are my biggest inspiration because all the driving they’ve had to do for me,” Moloney said.

“Going from Colac to Geelong three times a week, to Melbourne for games and training and all those things, so yeah that would be the biggest inspiration for me just how much they’ve supported me throughout this whole thing.”

Draft Central All-Star Teams Grand Final: East Fremantle vs. Geelong Falcons

THE ultimate All-Star Teams clash has arrived with the two best sides reaching the Grand Final after a month of voting. Top seeds East Fremantle take on second seeds Geelong Falcons, and they would play out a hypothetical thriller if they clashed.

STAR POWER

Both these teams have no shortage of star power, with elite midfields that have deep rotations, as well as strong key position options, and plenty of runners and defensive options. It is no surprise that both these teams reached the final match of the knockout tournament, and it shapes as an absolute thriller. The two captains that lead these sides are Brownlow Medallists and two-club players, Ben Cousins (West Coast and Richmond) and Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong and Gold Coast). They have accolades that few dream of, and when comparing them, Ablett Jnr gets the marginal nod, but both were (and are in Ablett’s case) champion players.

KEY STATS

Brownlows: East Fremantle (3) – Geelong Falcons (4)
All-Australians: East Fremantle (29) – Geelong Falcons (41)
Best & Fairests: East Fremantle (21) – Geelong Falcons (33)
Coleman Medals: East Fremantle (2) – Geelong Falcons (1)
Norm Smiths: East Fremantle (1) – Geelong Falcons (3)
Rising Stars: East Fremantle (2) – Geelong Falcons (0)
Average Games: East Fremantle (83.1) – Geelong Falcons (66.6)
Average Brownlow Votes: East Fremantle (13.2) – Geelong Falcons (11.2)

KEY MATCHUPS

Simon Black (East Fremantle) vs. Jimmy Bartel (Geelong)

Alongside their Brownlow captains, Black and Bartel were some of the classiest and most consistent footballers going around. They also have near-identical accolades with three premierships, a Brownlow and a Norm Smith – the only two players to achieve those feats and still play over 300 games. Bartel was one of the best wet weather players, whilst Black hardly played a bad game, and with three club best and fairests during a golden era for the Brisbane Lions, the East Fremantle product might marginally get the nod.

Harry Taylor (East Fremantle) vs. Jonathan Brown (Geelong)

If these teams played out in a match, this would be absolutely crucial to the success of their respective teams. Like their real-life teammates (but on opposite sides in this) above, they had plenty of success during their careers and were among the best in their respective positions. If Taylor could shut down Brown it would go a long way to the Sharks winning, whilst a big bag of goals from Brown would aid in the Falcons getting up.

Aaron Sandilands (East Fremantle) vs. Matthew Primus (Geelong)

You would probably hand the points to Sandilands in the ruck battle due to the added centimetres, but Primus would potentially have more influence around the ground. Both their midfields are star studded, so it would be a huge start for the rucks to win first hands to the ball. However given the quality of the onball groups, if one ruck got on top of the other, the midfielders would no doubt be able to learn to shark the opposition taps.

KEY QUESTIONS

Which midfield gets on top?

It is a tough question to answer because both are ridiculously talent rich to the point of All-Australians, Best and Fairests and even Brownlows and Norm Smith Medals feature highly. East Fremantle have the star power in terms of the starting onballers, but the half-forwards for the Falcons in Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield provide better rotation, though Daniel Kerr coming off the bench and Elliot Yeo rotating through there would be electric.

Who does Cameron Ling tag?

Imagine being the Falcons coach and having to pick just one player to saddle up Ling alongside with given all the rest will likely get off the chain. The first impression would be Black as the most damaging, but Cousins is another option in there as someone who must be stopped. Jordan Lewis could even play a defensive role, whilst the likes of Dom Cassisi and Josh Carr coming off the bench would likely follow around Dangerfield and Bartel.

Are the defences too tall?

It would be an interesting proposition for the coaches seemingly having two key position players in each forward line, but three key defenders. Chances are, the Sharks may throw Cale Hooker forward, which gives Lachlan Henderson a matchup, otherwise Henderson goes in without a direct player to man for his size. The Falcons might opt to bring in young guns James Worpel and Sam Walsh, but with these kinds of midfields, chances are they would not play in their preferred position. For the Sharks, they have David Swallow who is waiting in the wings, but with midfield depth for days, it is hard to squeeze them all in.

OVERALL:

This match is an absolute cracker with elite players across both sides. You get the feeling that Geelong’s elite group stretches a little more, but the East Fremantle side has greater depth in the right areas. Either of these teams could win on the day and it is fair to say they would bring in a full house with this kind of star power on show.

Which All-Star Team is the best?
East Fremantle
Geelong Falcons
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Geelong Falcons vs. Port Adelaide Magpies

IT is getting serious now. The final four in the Draft Central All-Star Team matchup are the top four seeds which means it is only the best of the best. The four sides are evenly matched with two Victorian teams, as well as one from South Australia and one from Western Australia. In our first semi-final today, we look at Geelong Falcons up against Port Adelaide Magpies.

TEAM COMPARISON

Geelong Falcons have had the most players of any club reach the AFL, with 153 having made it to the elite level (including those yet to make their debut). The Port Adelaide Magpies are lower down the list with 92, but with an average of 82.5 games between them, the Magpies are ranked second – behind our top seeds East Fremantle (83.1). Even more remarkably, Port Adelaide has had one third (34 per cent) of the players who have passed through the club to go on to reach 100 games, agains second of the top sides with this feat.

The Falcons are still great with 25 per cent, but it is the Brownlow votes and premierships where Geelong comes to play. They sit third of the teams with 50 players or more in the system, averaging 11.2 Brownlow votes per person, third overall behind Port and East Fremantle. They have had 18 premiership players, three more than the Magpies, and only 24 per cent of their graduates fail to play a game at AFL level (28 per cent Port).

Overall both these sides are clearly in the top three overall for top-end quality.

CAPTAINS

The two captains are legends of the game in Geelong superstar Gary Ablett Jnr (Geelong Falcons), and one of Collingwood’s best of all-time and current coach, Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide Magpies). Ablett has won two Brownlow Medals, eight All-Australians, five Most Valuable Players (MVPs), six best and fairests, three AFL Coaches Association Awards, and two premierships. Buckley has won one Brownlow Medal, one Rising Star Award, seven All-Australians, six best and fairests, one Norm Smith Medal and one AFL Coaches Association award.

GEELONG DEFENCE vs. PORT ATTACK

We begin breaking down this match up by looking at the Falcons’ defence going head-to-head with Port Adelaide’s attack. Full-back Matthew Scarlett will likely play a sweeper role opposed to Clive Waterhouse, but could go up and match-up with Warren Tredrea if he starts to get out of hand. Will Schofield might find himself without a pure matchup, but realistically, he could be the one to go to Waterhouse, Scarlett to Tredrea, and allow Tom Stewart to be the intercepting force.

With Nick Maxwell there to come across as third man up, expect Maxwell to take the least dangerous forward, which in fairness is arguably Brett Ebert. Steven Baker would likely lockdown on Alan Didak, with Luke Hodge going head-to-head with Lindsay Thomas, knowing the former Hawks skipper could run off his opponent whilst doing enough defensively to remain accountable. Tredrea’s ability to take contested marks would be dependent on his teammates’ abilities to remain accountable on their direct opponents. Peter Burgoyne could be the damaging option at half-forward to try and make Stewart more accountable as well and the Port midfield would look to hit him up going forward.

GEELONG ATTACK vs. PORT DEFENCE

Geelong’s forward 50 is ridiculous filled with talent, and could be an All-Australian forward line – right down to the midfielders named on flanks. Having the luxury to play elite midfielders in Ablett and Patrick Dangerfield there is amazing, while Shaun Higgins would be free given he would have less attention than usual with the stars at half-forward. Luke Dahlhaus is the other pocket who is always damaging around goal, and would love roving at the feet of one of the greatest centre half-forwards in Jonathan Brown, as well as champion Bomber, Scott Lucas.

The key for Port Adelaide here is the matchups, because they have so many elite kicks and composed decision makers, that they can also put the Falcons on the back foot if Geelong goes ball-watching in attack. Andrew McLeod, Corey Enright and Gavin Wanganeen coming out of the back 50 – keeping in mind Buckley could roll back there as well – and any loose ball could be picked up and hitting a target back up the field. The counter attack by the Magpies would be sublime. Graham Johncock himself is more than capable too, but he will likely play a more defensive role to keep Higgins or Dahlhaus under wraps.

The key defensive posts in the Wakelin brothers – Shane and Darryl – would have big jobs, but expect Enright to come across as that third option to mark in front of Brown or Lucas. The fact we could see McLeod on Dangerfield would simply be mouth watering, and whichever one of Enright, Wanganeen and McLeod is not taking Ablett or Dangerfield would be the designated user from defence.

MIDFIELD BATTLE

Much like everywhere else, this is a beauty. You would hand the points to Matthew Primus over Scott Lycett in the battle of the big men, but an onball group of Buckley, Craig Bradley and Scott Thompson is great, but then you compare them to Jimmy Bartel, Travis Boak and Cameron Ling. One would expect Ling would go to Buckley to tag as the best user of Port’s trio, whilst the speed of Shaun Burgoyne on the wing would be great against Jack Steven of the Falcons. On the other wing, Jordan Lewis and Byron Pickett will go head-to-head and everyone knows neither player will back down.

Of that midfield group, you would hand the points to Geelong because of the depth – keeping in mind Ablett and Dangerfield could role through there – despite Port having the elite talents at the top-end in Buckley and Bradley.

DEPTH

Again Geelong have the edge in terms of midfield depth with the likes of Ben Cunnington and Taylor Adams just sitting on the pine. Lachlan Henderson is also there and capable of taking a Tredrea or Waterhouse to free up one of the rebounding defenders, whilst Maguire is another option. They do not have as many forward options as the Power, so would rely on the midfielders to hit the scoreboard.

On the other bench, Port have plenty of forward options with Scott Hodges kicking 100 goals in 38 games, as well as Brad Ebert a known goal kicker as a mid-forward. Che Cockatoo-Collins kicked more than 200 goals in his career, whilst further up the field, Darren Mead, Michael Wilson and Greg Anderson would assist the Magpies with depth.

OVERALL

This is as tough as it gets. As a general rule of thumb it looks like skill against hardness but that is not to say the opposite teams do not have plenty of the other. Port Adelaide is the most skilful side through this series, whilst Geelong has arguably the greatest top-end talent and balance across the ground. The Falcons are second seed to the Magpies’ third, but you can easily make a case for either side getting up in this one.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Geelong Falcons
Port Adelaide Magpies
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