Category: Oakleigh Chargers

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Brayden Cook vs. Conor Stone

OVER the last week, Draft Central launched its brand new series of pocket podcasts, a collection of short-form discussions which narrow in on a range of topics heading into the 2020 AFL Draft. In the next edition, Chief Editor Peter Williams again sat down with AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro to compare two of the most exciting and similar medium-forward available in this year’s crop.

The players under our microscope are South Adelaide’s Brayden Cook, and Oakleigh Chargers’ Conor Stone. They measure up virtually identically in terms of size and athletic attributes, with both prospects having also enjoyed steep rises on the back of their on-field performances. Cook has come from the clouds this year to consolidate his standing as a draft bolter, while Stone burst onto the scene with promising showings in the Chargers’ 2019 NAB League premiership team. Their claims to dual-position status as deep forwards who can also play on the wing adds another air of similarity, making them an ideal pair to set alongside one another.

To listen to the comparison in full, click here.

Here are the respective players’ pocket profiles:
(Click on their names highlighted in red to read their full draft profiles)

Brayden Cook
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: July 18, 2002
Height: 189cm
Weight: 82kg

Strengths: Versatility, athleticism, goal sense, smarts/evasion, overhead marking, game-winning ability, decision making/creativity

Improvements: Finishing consistency, strength

Conor Stone
St Kevin’s/Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

DOB: April 22, 2002
Height: 188cm
Weight: 81kg

Strengths: Goal sense, finishing, athleticism, vertical leap, smarts/anticipation, endurance

Improvements: Untapped versatility, explosive speed, consistent impact/output

Here’s how they match up athletically:

Cook:

Standing Vertical Jump – 58cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L) – 72cm/74cm
Speed (20m) – 3.103 seconds
Agility – 8.45 seconds
Endurance (2km) – 6:48

Stone:

Standing Vertical Jump – 67cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L) – 73cm/83cm
Speed (20m) – 3.10 seconds
Agility – 8.67 seconds
Endurance (yo-yo) – 21.5

Ultimately, there are a few points of difference which separate these two prospects. It should also be pointed out, in the interest of fairness, that Cook’s testing data has been pulled from the recent South Australian Draft Combine, while Stone’s results are from preseason as he awaits the Vic Metro combine on October 31. Furthermore, Cook has been able to push his case massive in 2020 with a full season of football, while Stone has been made to wait it out on the sidelines like all other Victorian prospects this year. Like Cook, he could well have been another to push into top 25 calculations with a big top-age campaign.

Though they measure up at essentially the same height/weight and play the same role, clubs will find little areas which have them leaning towards one player more than the other. At least at NAB League level, Stone has proven more of a forward/wingman, whereas Cook has proven to start on the wing before shifting forward. Both are capable of kicking big bags of goals and can take eye-catching overhead marks, while their smarts at ground level bode for outstanding forward craft. Stone has a strong athletics background and arguably boasts a greater endurance base, but Cook is a touch lighter and more nimble across the ground in open play.

At this point, and by no fault of Stone, Cook is potentially ahead in terms of draft stocks having been able to prove his worth on-field more recently. Time will tell whether that is the case come draft day, which looms on the week of December 7. Both look like second round candidates.

2020 AFLW Draft review: North Melbourne Kangaroos

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 North Melbourne, one of the title contenders who finished top of their Conference in 2020 and will look to be among the premiership favourites again in 2021.

#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)

North Melbourne has beefed up its forward half with the 2020 draft, including a mix of talls, mediums and smalls with its selections. The Roos have also added mature-agers to their list including a basketballer and the daughter of a high-flyer.

The selection known prior to the draft was Aberfeldie’s Amy Smith who would have played with Williamstown in the VFL Women’s this year had the year not been cancelled. As a versatile player who can play through the midfield or out of defence, Smith has some great upside and is able to provide some great depth to that part of the field.

Another mature-age VFL Women’s player was Georgia Hammond who has strong hands and can be a leading target inside 50. As someone who could play in other positions around the ground, Hammond is someone who knows the club well, as a train-on player in 2020. A Darebin Falcons talent, Hammond is a popular player and one who has certainly earned her spot on an AFL Women’s list.

The Roos’ top selection in the draft was talented forward-mid Bella Eddey who is class personified. With silky skills and an ability to create something out of nothing, Eddey does not need a lot of touches to do a lot of damage. She will likely play inside 50 roving to the tall targets, but can play further up the ground and use her speed and run to work off opponents on a wing.

Alice O’Loughlin does not have the experience that some others have had, playing just the two games of NAB League football over three years due to rowing commitments and an ankle injury. She does however have serious talent, being an impressive player in Round 1 this year kicking three goals in a big win, and just stands out on the field for Oakleigh Chargers.

The final selection and second last on the night by the Roos was Brooke Brown who comes in from Tasmania having played NBL1 with Launceston Tornadoes. Still only 23-years-old, Brown has shown quick development in her transition playing with Launceston in the football, where the 184cm talent could slot in anywhere as a key position player. With her potential upside, Brown could be one to watch come through the program.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Collingwood Magpies

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 Collingwood, a side that reached finals for the first time in its history last year and aimed to target height, as well as speed and class, in this year’s draft.

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 – Bella Smith (Norwood/Central Allies)

Collingwood had another fairly big off-season with a number of changes including the departures of Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan, whilst bringing in Aliesha Newman and Abbey Green from Melbourne and North Melbourne respectively. The changes – which included a number of retirements – allowed the Magpies to end up with five picks in the draft. Knowing their father-daughter selection in Tarni Brown was a top 10 pick on value, the Magpies traded back to gain extra value out of matching the bid, and then worked their way into have four more picks in the space of nine selections. This year they had a Vic Metro focus, taking talls Western Jets’ Amelia Velardo and Sandringham Dragons’ Abbi Moloney, while also selecting Oakleigh Chargers’ Joanna Lin. Passing on their last selection, the Pies then went and picked up Bella Smith from Norwood to provide some extra height up either end as the interstate recruit.

Brown was long touted as a prospect to follow in the footsteps of her famous father Gavin, and brothers Callum and Tyler and join the Magpies. With superb athleticism and an ability to shrug tackles, she is clearly one of the standout prospects in the AFL Women’s Draft and represents huge value for Collingwood at Pick 19. She is one who could step right up to play at the top level sooner rather than later.

Another player who has been playing most of their life is Moloney, with the Dragons tall a strong mark and had a great start to the NAB League season booting eight goals in three games. She could have been a father-daughter selection to the Western Bulldogs thanks to father Troy playing with Footscray, but has instead made her way to the Holden Centre. She becomes that additional tall target along with Velardo, who by comparison, has had very little time in the sport. She only started last year when choosing to train with the Western Jets over continuing her basketball career and it paid off with a couple of big games for the Jets in 2020. She played as an undersized ruck but expect her to be a forward/midfielder for the Magpies.

Lin has also been a relative newcomer to the sport, with only a couple of seasons in NAB League after a season at local level. She has come on in leaps and bounds, and uses the ball well and creates run in transition from half-back to the wing and going forward. A player you can trust with ball-in-hand, she adds some more class to the line-up alongside Brown. Finally, Smith’s addition as another tall provides versatility for former and now reunited coach Steve Symonds, who chose the Norwood prodigy as an option to throw either back or forward. She has had an enormous season at centre half-back for the Redlegs which could free up others at Collingwood to go forward, but she can also play as that leading target too.

Collingwood has been able to address its needs out of this draft, with some established football names, as well as some newcomers, and expect them to all set the standard during the off-season.

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)

Glimpses enough to show O’Loughlin’s talent

TWO games, two rare accolades. The journey of Alice O’Loughlin is one that is certainly unique in the sense that she has only played two matches in three years at the Oakleigh Chargers, due to other sporting commitments and injury. When she looks back on it, she considers it a remarkable feat to have played one game and then made the Under 16s Vic Metro squad, then only added one more game this year to earn an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to get those opportunities with the very limited game time they’ve seen me play,” O’Loughlin said. “Especially given this season I was hoping to string a few games together and really create a name myself, and get myself out there but I am very fortunate of what I’ve got to do with only two games.”

O’Loughlin has never been far from a sport whether it be a round ball or even oar, which has taken up a lot of her teenage years. After just the one bottom-age game in 2018, last year was meant to be a big year for the middle-ager, but her season was wiped out by an ankle injury. Fast forward to 2020 and after playing the first game, missed the second due to rowing commitments and then the season was postponed.

“I’ve always loved all my sports as long as I can remember so I’ve tried to get my hands on all sports whether it’s basketball, netball, rowing and school sports,” O’Loughlin said. “That means I’ve had to juggle footy with all of them so I haven’t really given footy my biggest footy. “But I’ve loved it, it’s always been my favourite sport and essentially once the pathway I was really excited to see where I could take it.

“Having all those sports, I never really got to play that many games,” she said. “Especially for Oakleigh, because I’ve been in the Oakleigh program for three years or four years. I’ve only ended up playing two games, which I probably would have liked to have changed that but I suppose we can’t now.”

Having played at Kew Comets since she was eight-years-old, O’Loughlin has been lucky enough to play football her whole life, it has just been one of a number of sports that she has juggled with a full platter throughout her journey. She cites the creativity of the game and playing with mates as some of the main attributes that attracted her to Aussie rules in the first place, “everyone working together to win games and thus winning a premiership”.

Having not played for the Chargers in two years, O’Loughlin was pleased to run out in Wangaratta against the Murray Bushrangers back in Round 1 where she booted three goals in a big win.

“I was really excited because I had an ankle injury the previous season so that knocked me out of the whole season,” O’Loughlin said. “Then so I was just really excited to get a few games together but that obviously got cut short because of COVID. “I was really excited to just go out there and just have fun with it. “It was really good game and good to get the win.”

Her experience with Vic Metro was a fond one, and whilst overwhelming considering others had played more games at the level, she thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It was really good opportunity to play alongside the best talent. But yeah it was a great experience for me,” O’Loughlin said. “I must admit I was a bit nervous, and I suppose coming into a new environment I did get a bit nervous and I would have liked to have played a lot better in the Vic game, but it was just a great learning experience.”

While rowing had caused her to miss a number of football commitments – including the Chargers’ trip down to Tasmania for the Devils’ first ever home game – O’Loughlin said it had helped her over the journey.

“It really helped me with my fitness in footy,” she said. “I’ve always tried to balance the two but then after my ankle injury the main reason why I did rowing to gain fitness up again and that strength. “Then transferred that over into footy but then didn’t get the chance to.”

As someone who knew she needed a full season to prove herself, O’Loughlin said she was “devastated” when presented with the news that the season had been called off.

“I banked on having a good season and stringing a few games together,” she said. “I was pretty devastated and didn’t really know what to think at the time but I mean there’s nothing you can really do about it at the time but perform when you get the opportunity too.”

O’Loughlin’s strengths include her skills and reading of the play, which has developed over a decade of playing footy, even if it has not been at NAB League level. Her main goal at the moment is landing on an AFL Women’s list in next week’s draft and hoping to build her game further in an elite environment.

“It would be amazing just to get the opportunity to be put in a professional environment and just to have a preseason because I’ve never really got to have a full footy preseason, or full footy season so really seeing where I can take my skills when I have a full season under my belt,” O’Loughlin said.

Versatile Hill a natural leader

TWO-time NAB League Girls captain Mimi Hill has been a mentor at the Oakleigh Chargers over the past couple of seasons and it is easy to see why. At first she was daunted at the prospect of leading girls that were a couple of years older than her, but she settled into the role and now thrives from the task at lifting the team around her.

“The first year when I was captain, last year, I think I was 16,” she said. “I was like, ‘what is going on?’ “I was just not expecting it at all, and that was quite intimidating getting to captain older girls potentially three years older than me. “But it was also really exciting and a great opportunity to develop my leadership skills and also develop me as a footy player, because instead of like being really hard on myself in the games and getting down on the little things, mistakes I’ve made, it made me refocused on the team, and I think that developed my footy ability.

“Instead of being really hard on myself, I channelled that energy into making sure the team is on track. “If I’m having a bad game, it doesn’t matter. “I’ve still got to focus on that control like everything’s going to be alright.”

After fitting into the role as a middle-ager in 2019, Hill was named captain in her top-age year once again, and she certainly felt more comfortable from the get-go. Not only looking to build on-field performance, but lift everything she could off-field, the Chargers’ leader was “excited” about the 2020 possibilities.

“I was really excited because obviously I had that experience from last year, and it was a much younger team and less experienced team (this year),” Hill said. “I was really excited to develop a really good culture at the club, and I think we achieved that just looking at the results and also the relationships that everyone made at the club.”

Hill came runner-up in the 2019 best and fairest last year, but for her while accolades are a great honour, it is about leading from the front and doing anything she can to get her team over the line on matchday.

“Just because I value that really highly and I think it shows that you do put in each week,” Hill said.

Hill’s journey through football has been one of relative recent times, starting up when she hit high school.

“Pretty much I just kicked in the park with Dad and my siblings since I was really little, I never really did Auskick or anything,” Hill said. “Then when I got to Year 7 and a new school, I played a game of footy in class and the teacher afterwards was like you should definitely be looking to join the club team.

“I went home straight away was like, ‘Dad can you please sign me up for footy?’ He didn’t think at the time there was a girls team, but obviously everything was up and running at that point. “So he got me into local team Kew Comets and I played my first game of footy. “I was like, ‘this is actually the best sport ever’ and I basically stopped most of my other sports and just stuck to footy.”

After her first season with Kew Comets, Hill was already showing promise as a future footballing talent. The next season she was invited to join Oakleigh Chargers’ Under 15s which she said was really good because they helped develop her skills whilst she was playing within the school team. Four years later and Hill is a Vic Metro representative at Under 16s and Under 18s level, and earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite.

While Hill missed out on going up to Queensland last year as a middle-ager due to the enormous amount of top-age talent on the list, she enjoyed running out against Vic Country at Werribee, having also pulled on the ‘Big V’ a year earlier at GMHBA Stadium at the Under 16s Championships.

“Vic Metro games are probably my favourite,” Hill said. “They have been my favourite games since I started playing footy just because I really enjoy stepping up like the standard. “I think that I’m able to lift with the standard and it improves my footy as well. “I just love meeting all the new people from different regions and just so great and obviously footy just brings together so many amazing people like-minded people. “It’s so great to get to meet all these new girls.”

While disappointed to miss out on going to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, Hill received an invite to the AFL Women’s National Academy, something she was thrilled about and believed her Metro coach and current Western Bulldogs AFL Women’s coach, Nathan Burke might have had something to do with.

“I was just really excited that, like my hard work had paid off,” Hill said. “Nathan Burke actually mentioned after Vic Metro that he would put a good word in for me, which I wasn’t sure if that was just something he said. “But he held his word, so it was really exciting. “It just meant another trip where I could develop my footy and meet new people to. “It’s so great.”

Hill has always had a team focus, so it is no surprise that the talented top-ager looks back on her time at the Chargers from a team perspective. From struggling in the early days, to narrowly missing out on finals, to starting in a blaze of glory this year, Hill has been a key member of the transformation at the club.

“I think our first game from I think it was when I was in the Under 16s,” Hill said. “That was the first season. “So I wasn’t playing in the main team and I’m not sure they won any games that season. “Then my first game for the Under 18s team, we beat Gippsland by quite a bit, which is exciting, but then we didn’t had many wins after that.

“I think we’ve always had that good potential. We’ve always had good players. “We just weren’t gelling as a team. “But then last year, we got even better. “Girls have been around for a while, so lots of experience and (it was) very disappointing missing out on the finals. “We lost some games we shouldn’t have, and overall it was a pretty good season.”

Hill said the highlight of the 2019 season was being the only side to take points off the undefeated Northern Knights who went onto win the flag.

“The highlight was probably drawing with the Northern Knights because they were actually a powerhouse team in the competition,” Hill said. “We actually had the potential, but then this year we definitely like ‘well, there was quite a lot of new girls and younger girls’. “There was a great culture at the club. “It was just really exciting to see what we could do and it was so disappointing the end of the season (to miss out on finals).

One game in particularly that sticks out in Hill’s mind was the Chargers’ heartbreaking one-point loss to Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in the penultimate round. Just needing to win their last two games, the Chargers were strong favourites against the one-win Rebels, but in a tight contest all day the Rebels kicked a late major to cause a boilover. While Oakleigh won its last game of the season, it allowed Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges to take the final two spots with the Knights and reigning premiers Geelong Falcons and Oakleigh finished fifth.

“That’s probably the game I’m thinking about the most, very disappointing, but I think it just kind of opened our eyes up as a team,” Hill said, looking at the positives. “We should have won it. “We were just disappointed in ourselves because we knew we had more to give. “We beat (grand finalists) Calder in the year and came close to beating (premiers) Northern. “So we felt like we deserved to be there. “But then obviously didn’t. “In the end, we didn’t deserve to be there.”

Putting the disappointment behind her Hill was determined to have a big 2020 and there were few bigger starts to the season with Oakleigh cruising to a back-to-back thrashings over a couple of younger sides in Murray Bushrangers and Tasmania Devils prior to the season being postponed.

“It was so exciting,” Hill said. “I was just, I’m looking at the team and the relationships we’d built already. “The wins we’d put on put on the board, it was so exciting for the year to come because I’ve really thought that this was the year that Oakleigh would make an impact on on the finals. “And potentially, I mean, it was a bit early in the season, but I thought we could win the premiership. “But I also didn’t want to let the girls get ahead of themselves or myself as well, because it was very early in the season.”

While the team has always been her main focus, you do not make Vic Metro and the AFL Women’s Academy without some serious talent. Hill rates her running ability and cleanliness at ground level amongst her best traits, as well as her decision making with ball-in-hand. Still lightly built compared to other players, Hill was focused on building greater body strength and improving her tackling numbers – something she concedes she could not do due to social distancing – but improve the former through gym work.

Hill is a natural midfielder, but can play inside, outside, half-back or half-forward if she needed to, predominantly sitting at half-back and using her run to advantage, then moving through the middle when required.

“I’m really happy playing anywhere,” Hill said. “Last year, Luke (O’Shannessy, head coach) from Oakleigh said, ‘We’re going to put you on the backline just to give you another area of strength, then that’s good for the draft’. “That was kind of fun learning that new position and I do enjoy getting some running power, getting some running from the backline. “Midfield is probably my favourite position, I like roving the ball, getting in down under as well.”

Hill has grown up a Hawthorn supporter and idolises Sam Mitchell who she draws comparisons to through her own game.

“I feel like I have a similar body type that quite smaller midfielder,” Hill said. “His ability to kick on both feet, it’s just always amazed me, and I think whenever dad and I kicked the footy with each other, if one of us does a really good left foot kick we say ‘oh that’s a Sammy Mitchell’, just he’s just a a legend of the game.”

Focused on the present and what she can achieve, Hill said it would be “so exciting” to hear her name read out at next week’s AFL Women’s Draft. Whilst it might not be for the brown and gold she has grown up supporting, she is just keen to earn a place and where she can meet new people and improve her football further.

“If I got the chance to play next year, it’s just so good,” Hill said. “I just feel like I can belong at that level. “I want to show people that I’m good enough to be there.”

Micallef driven by passion to achieve her dream

OAKLEIGH Chargers defender/midfielder Amber Micallef quintessentially lives and breathes football. It is her “coffee in the morning” that keeps her focused. The talented teenager earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite and spoke to Draft Central about her hopes and dreams of playing at the elite level.

“The reason why I kept playing AFL is because of the passion of it,” she said. “I wake up to it every day and it’s sort of like a job for me. “I wake up and I have a passion for, I love for it. And I guess it gives me that drive and that optimism that I see in everyday life. “In a way, it’s like my coffee in the morning. “If I go out and kick a footy or play a game of footy, it just brings my hopes up a little bit.”

Micallef is one of those aspiring AFL Women’s footballers who tasted footy as a child, but then took a different path – in this case, basketball – before returning to the sport she loved once a pathway, and more opportunities opened up.

“I never really had that luxury like a couple of the girls, how they’ve been playing for a long time,” Micallef said. “I did Auskick when I was about five for about a season. “Then I got asked to play five games for Bulleen Bullants in the YJFL competition. “And then after those five games, I played basketball for 10 years. “There was no footy in that.”

Fast forward to her high school days, and a chance conversation steered her back to the oblong-shaped ball sport.

“When I was in Year 8, my friends said ‘hey, we’re gonna do school footy, are you interested?’. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll give it a shot’, and from school footy we all loved it, even though most of my friends came from basketball like me. “Then we had this new club, coming up with Beverley Hills. They were going to start a new girls competition, and a couple of my friends were thinking about it and asked to me to join.”

Micallef did just that, and while it was a little different at first, Micallef was familiar with kicking the footy from her junior days and had the fitness and athleticism to match it with others thanks to not only her basketball, but her cross country and athletics as well. What really won her over however, was the community spirit and team atmosphere.

“I love it how it’s a team sport,” Micallef said. “And you know, we train twice a week. “We spend a lot of time with each other and really get to know each other on a personal level. “So I love the competition of it too. “I love how you could play anywhere on the ground if you want to, how you can tackle people, you can run and it’s also a really good for fitness, too. “But more so. I just love the community of it. I love the vibe of it, too.”

Her pathway into Oakleigh was a little more conventional, invited to play at the Chargers in the Under 15s development program. Playing as a midfielder then, Micallef was expecting to make the transition into the NAB League Under 18s side in the same role, but then there was a change.

“I got asked to play in the backline, and I was really unsure because I never really played any defensive work, or played in the backline in general,” Micallef said. “Oakleigh trained me up for about four years and I’ve been playing in the backline and a little bit of in the midfield this year, too, “Which was really cool.”

Micallef was a fast learner and soon she earned a spot in the Vic Metro Under 16s team, following up from representing her state in the Under 15s School Sports Victoria (SSV) side. She described the feeling of running out on GMHBA Stadium against Vic Country as an “awesome experience” and visibly noticed the rise in skill level from both sides compared to her local competition and even NAB League.

Her pathway to follow her dream was tracking nicely as she was putting together consistent performances for Oakleigh each week, playing nine games in her middle-age season, and then averaging a career-high 14 disposals per game in her two games in 2020. Then it all came to a grinding halt. The season was postponed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. At first, Micallef said she was not too worried, expecting it to return at some stage, before the realisation hit her following the official cancellation in July.

“Well, at the start, I really didn’t believe that it was gonna get cancelled,” Micallef said. “I guess I was always optimistic. “So when it first got called off, I was like, ‘Oh, it’ll come back in a week’ and then a week led to ‘It’ll come back in a month’ or ‘come back in a few months’. “I never really expected it to get called off. “When it got cancelled, that’s when I realised ‘Oh, it’s really not coming back’.

Immediately the natural leader tried to get around her teammates and keep the positivity going and make sure everyone was in the best form of their lives with other opportunities – such as the AFL Women’s Draft Combine – still a possibility.

“I’ve always been training through that,” Micallef said. I always went around the girls saying, ‘you know, you always got to have high hopes, keep on training, you never know what opportunity will come up’, but yeah, it was a bit devastating to hear that the whole competition got called off. “Everyone was in the same boat, so it’s like you control what you control, and you can see how you want to see it.”

Micallef rates her tackling, stoppage work and vision as her greatest strengths, particularly capable of playing behind the ball or through the midfield when required. She is looking to tweak some of her fundamental skills such as her opposite foot kicking, contested marking and fitness, which is what she has done over the break. But for her, it was not being able to play out the season which had promised so much after Oakleigh recorded back-to-back massive wins over Murray Bushrangers and Tasmania Devils prior to the season ending.

“Oakleigh this year was probably the most memorable for me, even though it was only two games,” Micallef said. “We went to Wangaratta in Round 1 against Murray Bushrangers. “By that first game, that first win, I could see, out of all the training stuff that we did a couple of bonding sessions that we did, I think that one hit home for a lot of us and we sort of had a feeling ‘you know what? We actually might win this this season’.

“It was just a really good feeling. “And then going into Tasmania, I’ll say it was one of my favourite games to play. “Even just representing Oakleigh against Tasmania was a great feeling, and I could see a lot of the girls would be the same highlights for them.”

Micallef has always been an analyser of sport, watching others intently to try and learn everything she can about being the best possible player she can be in football. Whether it is teammates or opponents, she always wants to be the best and thrives on learning off others to reach their levels.

“I’ll say my journey of football I never really had an athlete or a celebrity I looked up to. It was more so my teammates on the field, especially when I started in junior level,” Micallef said. “I used to play against Ellie McKenzie a lot, and she used to dominate, as she still does now. “But I used to look up to her and say, ‘why can’t I do that? Why can’t I do what she’s been doing?’ “And then especially going into Oakleigh Chargers, you have Nicola Xenos, Gemma Lagioia, even Mimi Hill. “They’re just amazing players and I’m just like, ‘why can’t I do what they can to do?’ “What they’re doing now, I want to be the best, like them.”

So how exactly does Micallef try and emulate those she wants to match at the level?

“I try to train as much as I can, especially with Mimi,” Micallef said. “I like to watch back on vision and see how each of them play. “So when we went played against Northern Knights, I watch how Ellie McKenzie moved. “Or, Mimi at training, like try to see through her eyes what she sees on the field. “So I always tried to create what they’re doing and always improve on what I need to improve, to be like them.”

As a Rising Star for Marcellin Eagles, and then finishing second overall in the YJFL Division 2 League Best and Fairest and Team of the Year, Micallef’s goal for 2020 was to build confidence. Along with spending more time in the midfield, Micallef just wanted to play the best football she could. As well as watching Tayla Harris and her beloved Blues in the AFL and AFL Women’s for enjoyment, Micallef keeps a sharp eye on how the defenders play to see if she can implement any strategies into her own game.

As for her own personal football memory, it was the Round 1 game this year, but more so for the off-field result rather than the on-field one, though that was the icing on the cake as well.

“Playing in Wangaratta, my nan came along, she lives in Corowa, which is in New South Wales, so she barely comes to watch my games,” Micallef said. “It was just really nice for her to come to that game in particular and actually see me in the midfield and me kicking the ball to my teammates getting goals and overall I was just really happy with the game. “I think she saw I was happy, and it made me happy that she was happy.”

Now Micallef is edging closer to fulfilling her dream to reach the elite level. If she is able to achieve that, then it will be something special, but also seen as a job half done as she looks to always improve.

“It will mean all the hard work that I put in, all the blood, sweat and tears and all the people around these you supported me will finally pay off,” she said. “It’s not totally finished, I’ll always want to improve on stuff and improve on my game. “But I think it would be an absolute dream.”

AFL Draft Watch: Maurice Rioli Jnr (Oakleigh Chargers/NT Thunder/Allies)

IN the midst of football’s long-awaited return, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state in some capacity leading into 2020, or are bolting into draft contention. While plenty has changed between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Oakleigh Chargers and NT Thunder prospect, Maurice Rioli Jnr. He is the son of late Richmond great, Maurice Rioli, and is eligible to be taken by the Tigers in this year’s draft under the father-son rule. As his pedigree would suggest, the 18-year-old is an excitement machine out on the field, boasting electric pace, sharp skills, and an uncanny knack of finding the goals. While he stands at just 173cm, Rioli is not afraid to get stuck in, boasting a high contested possession rate and applying smothering defensive pressure as he rotates forward through the midfield.

Having moved down to Victoria this year to complete his studies at Scotch College, Rioli was also keen to run out for Oakleigh in the now-scrapped NAB League competition. Nonetheless, he remains one of the sole prospects based in the Southern state to have completed a season of football in 2020, after he helped St Mary’s qualify for this year’s NTFL Grand Final in a memorable post-season.

PLAYER PAGE:

Maurice Rioli Jnr
Oakleigh Chargers/NT Thunder/Allies

DOB: September 1, 2002

Height: 173cm
Weight: 73kg

Position: Small Forward/Midfielder

Strengths: Speed, smarts, goal sense, defensive pressure, creativity
Improvements: Consistency/sustained impact

2019 NAB League averages: 3 games | 11.3 disposals | 1.3 marks | 6.3 tackles | 3.0 inside 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

>> Feature: Maurice Rioli Jnr

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Standing Vertical Jump: 60cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L): 62cm/78cm
Speed (20m): 2.98 seconds
Agility: 8.11 seconds
Endurance (Yo-yo): 20.5

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

SCOUTING NOTES:

2019 NAB League Round 3 vs. Tasmania Devils

By: Alex Gibson

The way this bottom-ager plays, it is no surprise he is a Rioli. His presence of silky skill was complimented beautifully by his dashing speed. Although he did not have huge numbers, his possessions were damaging thanks to his precise vision and ability to lower his eyes. A run-down tackle at the start of the third quarter got the crowd up on its feet.

2018 Under 16 National Championships vs. Tasmania

By: Michael Alvaro

The latest of the Rioli clan, Maurice has all of the traits you would expect given his pedigree. While he did not find a heap of the ball in the forward half, he looked dangerous in possession and started the game off perfectly with a snap after slipping his opponent. While he is still very raw, Rioli has plenty of talent to work with and is not afraid to pull off a party trick at full pace. At 173cm, he is not quite yet ready for a spot in the midfield, but was given a run at a centre bounce in the third quarter.

Featured Image: Maurice Rioli Jnr in action for St Mary’s | Source: Keri Megelus/News Corp Australia

>> 2020 AFL National Draft Combine List
>> 2020 Allies U18s Squad Prediction

>> August 2020 Power Rankings
>> July 2020 Power Rankings
>> September 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Charlie Byrne
Jackson Callow
Blake Coleman
Braeden Campbell
Alex Davies
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden
Joel Jeffrey
Patrick Walker

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Brayden Cook
Zac Dumesny
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Lachlan Jones
Tariek Newchurch
Caleb Poulter
Tom Powell
Taj Schofield
Henry Smith
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Jack Ginnivan
Oliver Henry
Elijah Hollands
Zach Reid
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jake Bowey
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Eddie Ford
Max Heath
Bailey Laurie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Jack Carroll
Heath Chapman
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Zane Trew
Brandon Walker
Joel Western
Isiah Winder

AFLW U18s to Watch: Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Next under the microscope is Oakleigh Chargers’ midfielder Joanna Lin who was the highest poller for her club in the league best and fairest in her middle-age year and was a reliable player through the midfield.

Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

Height: 162cm
Position: Outside Midfielder
Strengths: Footy smarts, strength, skill, work rate, decision making

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 14.5 disposals | 2.0 marks | 2.0 tackles | 4.5 inside 50s | 1 goal

2019 NAB League stats: 10 games | 12.0 disposals | 2.1 marks | 3.5 tackles | 2.4 inside 50s | 2 goals

A clever and slick outside midfielder, Joanna Lin showed throughout her middle-age season that she did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact. Averaging just the 12 touches per game, Lin’s ability to run and spread from the contest, and cover a ridiculous amount of ground was telling. Often coming off a wing and being the player that her teammates looked to in transition, Lin also had the smarts to make the right decisions with ball-in-hand.

Of all the traits required to be an effective outside midfielder, Lin had the majority. She had the footy smarts, skill, work rate and decision making to win the ball, move it on and hit targets down the field, which earned her a place in the AFL Women’s Academy alongside Chargers’ teammate, Mimi Hill. It also earned her plaudits from the Chargers’ coaching staff, finishing the highest in the league best and fairest for her club and winning Team of the Year honours, and continuing that form into 2020.

Whilst she only managed to play the two games due to the season being cancelled, Lin showed that she had brought the same intensity to the season that she had in her middle-age season. At 162cm, Lin is not very tall, but she has good strength and is hard to shift when battling for the ball, particularly at ground level. Her ability to hold her ground and use her strength to position herself well, then never give in, allows her to constantly remain in the contest.

Lin is one who was rated highly by the coaches last year for her effectiveness with ball-in-hand and coupled with the fact she ran all day long and got to contest after contest, she earned every touch. With some development still left in her, Lin has some nice traits that are obvious whenever she is able to win the ball and move it in transition.

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between two Victorian clubs, in the Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood midfielder, Steele Sidebottom (Murray Bushrangers) and West Coast counterpart, Luke Shuey (Oakleigh Chargers).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded fourth (Murray) and 13th (Oakleigh) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the winner of Northern Knights and Swan Districts.

STRENGTHS:

Where do you start with the Bushrangers? The balance they have across the field is ridiculously good. They have a nice balance of midfielders, plenty of depth at key positions, and a plethora of hard and skilful midfielders. That is before you get to a forward line containing Fraser Gehrig, Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite who provide a three-prong attack to die for. The midfield of Sidebottom, Clayton Oliver, David Mundy, Tom Rockliff and Brett Deledio is just perfect for matching up on any other midfield.

The Chargers have an elite midfield that bats really deep, from the inside talents of Jack Macrae and Dan Hannebery with Marc Murphy, to the outside run of Shuey and Andrew Gaff. The forward line is damaging with the likes of Robbie Gray, Toby Greene, Jordan De Goey and Jack Billings joining Luke Power. With Darcy Moore as centre half-back and Josh Gibson coming across as the third tall, the defence should have great intercepting ability, whilst Todd Goldstein will control the ruck.

The battle of the midfields would be unbelievable, though the Bushrangers would back their defence in against a dynamic Chargers’ forward line.

WEAKNESSES:

There really is not one on paper for the Bushrangers. Genuinely their depth goes beyond the squad of 24, with the initial team featuring Josh Fraser who could also come in and replace one of the rucks going around. The only question mark might be the durability of some players with the Reid brothers – Ben and Sam – as well as Jamie Elliott and Justin Koschitzke all having their injury troubles over the years.

The Chargers lack a little in defence, with Bret Thornton the second best key position player, and the depth for small defenders being a little weaker than other sides. Their forward line is undersized, though still provides X-factor, but would need to use the ball well with a lack of height in there.

SUMMARY:

In this match-up you would expect the Bushrangers to stretch the Chargers’ backline, but at the same time, the speed of the Chargers forward line would trouble the taller defenders there, meaning there is every chance one of the Bushrangers’ key position stocks would drop out and a small come in.

Which team would you pick?
Murray Bushrangers
Oakleigh Chargers
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