Category: Western Jets

2020 AFLW Draft review: Western Bulldogs

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 Western Bulldogs, a team that has an abundance of youth, and whilst they did not make finals in 2020, gave plenty of indication that they will be a team to watch in 2021 and beyond.

Western Bulldogs:

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

Western Bulldogs took three picks into the AFL Women’s Draft and managed to pluck out three elite talents in 2020, all of whom are top 10 players on value. They again continued their trend of Vic Metro talents who played under Bulldogs’ coach Nathan Burke last year, as he looks to build that familiarity around his line-up and one that will be a successful unit in the future.

Taken with Pick 2 was Northern Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald who became the second Knight of three to go in the first three Victorian picks. The skilful ball user can win the ball inside or outside and is a big-game performer having been named best on ground in the Knights’ premiership last year. Another natural leader joining the Dogs, she follows her 2019 Knights captain in Gabby Newton at the Dogs.

Coming in at Pick 11 is the best defender in the AFL Draft crop in Sarah Hartwig. A natural interceptor and great above her head, Hartwig offers terrific value at the pick and one who will slot straight into the lineup. Her clean ball use and reading of the play makes her a great player to slot in at half-back, but also know when to push up to the wing if required. She played in defence for Vic Metro in the championships, and will be hard to beat in the air or at ground level with he willingness to take off when given the opportunity.

Another Vic Metro defender who has joined the Dogs is Isabelle Pritchard. The Western Jets defender turned midfielder is a Bulldogs supporter and lived out her dream by being picked up at Pick 16. She moved into the midfield this year and starred in the couple of games she played, performing strongly at the contest and showcasing her versatility. Another player who is top 10 on talent, she is a great steal by the Dogs and one who will be a good player for a long time in the red, white and blue.

Overall the Dogs have added even more elite young talent to their line-up and will be hard to stop when they all get to their peak.

Picture: Western Bulldogs Women’s Twitter

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)

Pritchard takes opportunity into footy

IT was not so much a choice one way or another, but passionate sportsperson Isabelle Pritchard said the decision to pick up a footy and take a chance in the sport was more about opportunity than anything else. Trying her hand at just about anything growing up, and predominantly a netballer, the now Western Jets star has made the most of that opportunity that presented itself a few years ago.

“I had a go at pretty much everything to be honest,” Pritchard said. “Netball was probably my main sport. “I didn’t start that until I was about eight so I was quite young, I played that majority of my childhood, but I had a go at everything else. “I played some basketball, played indoor soccer, I did quite a bit of swimming, etc. and water polo. “I played some cricket, really everything, but netball was like the main thing for me.”

“I think for me it was sort of just, it wasn’t so much a decision it was sort of just the opportunity presented itself in football and I took it, I wasn’t so much weighing up the options of the netball path or football path. It was here’s the path for football, I love football, let’s play football.”

Pritchard said she would consider going back to netball later in life as she loved the sport, but knows the growth in women’s football has been too big to ignore and something she really loved to be a part of.

“Coming from playing netball, it’s quite restricted in terms of where you can run,” Pritchard said. “I loved the freedom of footy being able to go wherever and you’re not controlled by lines on the court or anything like that. “I think I enjoy the physicality as well, being able to get in there, get under the pack and win the ball out for your team is something I really enjoy.”

Pritchard lists her strengths as her ability to win one-on-one contests, as well as the contested ball. The latter of which she only realised after a role switch at the Jets this year saw the traditional intercept marker move from half-back into the middle.

“I really enjoyed it (midfield move) because it gave me an opportunity to be a bit more proactive instead of reactive I suppose,” Pritchard said. “As a defender you’re sort of anticipating where the ball’s going to come in and try and stop them from getting a goal, whereas in the mid your role is to get it forward to try and get a goal.

“I think I really enjoyed that aspect of it, but at the same time I think even when I was playing I still had quite a defensive role, I tended to stay towards the back as that backstop position which I think was good because it gave me an opportunity to translate the things that I learnt in backline into the midfield.”

Rewinding back to the start of her footy journey just a few years ago, Pritchard first tasted football at school as part of a round robin tournament and it instigated a move to sign up for Spotswood, her local football club.

“I signed up just for a bit of fun and started playing and I really enjoyed the day (at school) so then I began playing at a local team starting up at Spotswood, so I began playing there with a few of my friends,” Pritchard said. “I just fell in love with it, kept playing and I was lucky enough to get into the Western Jets that first year and I’ve played there since then.”

Her rise through the pathway was quick but she adapted, though not without plenty of nerves along the way, becoming a regular standout in the Jets’ side.

 “It was scary especially because Western Jets were such a relatively new team,” Pritchard said. “I think the first year I did it was the first year that the Western Jets was actually a standalone Western Jets. “I think it was a bit encouraging because we were all finding out, learning to play, so that was good. “It was scary, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but just tried to hold my weight.”

Hold her weight she did, having grown up supporting the Western Bulldogs with her family, and her twin brother playing football “since he could basically walk”, the game was hardly foreign for her. As a red, white and blue supporter, it was somewhat fitting that running out for Vic Metro as a middle-ager last season, Pritchard was coached by Nathan Burke who would go on to earn the top job at the Western Bulldogs later that year.

“I was incredibly lucky to play as a bottom-ager in the Vic Metro against some of the most talented players in Australia. It was such a great learning opportunity I think as well being able to work, being coached by Nathan Burke was amazing.

“He and also in the under 16s getting coached by Mel Hickey. “It’s so much knowledge that I was able to soak up and learn from their experience, their wisdom and they’re all great coaches. “Also being surrounded by a lot of players who had played a bit longer than me, but also just getting their help on the field and trying to learn from their experiences. “It’s just good being able to learn from such experienced people in such an experienced environment.”

Not only has Pritchard featured through the Vic Metro program, but has been a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy for a couple of years, something that took a while to adjust to due to a foreign exchange clash.

“I went on exchange when I was 16 for three months to France. “I actually found out that I’d got into the Academy while I was away,” Pritchard said. “I was in France and it was just before the summer that I found out and then I missed the first camp because I was away, and then I went on the second one. “It was a bit scary because everyone knew each other already and then when I went away on the second camp, I was trying to meet everyone, I was trying to get involved, find my place.

“But it was really good, and Aasta (O’Connor, AFLW Academy coach) was such a great role model and such a good coach,” she said. “It was amazing to learn from her, and also just be around such amazing talented players and some of those players ended up being my best friends, so it was really great just to be able to go away and spend some time around so much knowledge and talent and be able to try and learn as much as I can from them as well.”

Over her journey, Pritchard has been particularly looking to improve her skills and her athleticism, with the off-season of late giving her an opportunity to fine tune her fitness and speed. Someone who has always been there for the defender/midfielder is her father who she admits has been her role model throughout her childhood.

“He played football growing up as well, so he’s very passionate about it but I love it because he’s not overbearing,” Pritchard said. “When I want help from him I can ask and he’ll give it to me, but he never forces his opinion on me which I really value and I think his opinion is the most important to me, and whenever I need help I go and ask him what he thinks and he always comes up with something wise, so he’s probably been my biggest inspiration, my biggest role model.

“My brother has played footy since he was a kid and I guess that’s what sparked my intrigue into the game,” she said. “He’s always been so hard-working and humble, not just at footy but at everything he does. “My whole life I’ve just been trying to be as good a person as he is.”

Now with the AFL Women’s Draft looming large tomorrow, Pritchard said the goal for her was to just keep on improving to be the best she could be. Whilst being drafted would be a “huge goal” and an “amazing opportunity”, Pritchard said she would not stop aiming to always improve on herself.

“I mean it’s kind of crazy to think about that four years ago when I started playing I didn’t think that I would be here nominating for the draft, hoping that I would get drafted,” Pritchard said. “But it’s really exciting because it’s a huge opportunity that’s presented itself and the idea of it’s really scary. “I didn’t even know women’s football existed five years ago so it’s crazy, it’s overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly exciting and I can’t wait for the future to see what happens. “Obviously even if I don’t get drafted, I’m just excited to keep playing and keep improving.”

Velardo makes switch to footy after decade-long basketball success

FOR many it might be a move that you want not expect to see coming. Talented basketballer Amelia Velardo had played high-level competitive basketball for up to a decade and it had been her main focus throughout her sporting career. A school captain at Overnewton Anglican Community College and juggling her Year 12 studies, it was always going to be a year of big decisions.

But one of the biggest came prior to the start of 2020 when Velardo decided to stop shooting hoops, and instead focus on kicking goals in a sport that she had not really spent a considerable amount of time in. Luckily for the Western Jets youngster, she had the support of her family in making the big switch, and it allowed her to invest herself in the new sport and everyone could see her passion for it.

“I mean, it was definitely a really big decision for me because basketball has always been my whole life,” Velardo said. “My family have always been incredibly supportive. “No matter what I wanted to do really. “When I started to bring it up, mum and dad were so supportive. “And it helped me this whole year and even just last year, kind of getting myself into the footy scene. So they’ve been amazing.”

“Like I said, they’ve supported me no matter what I wanted to do,” she said. “They could see that I was really keen on just giving it a go, and I mean, I have nothing to lose by giving it a go really. “And even after training for a few games just being in the footy environment, they could see how much I was just loving it. “So they were great supports really.”

Velardo was quite literally a Rising Star in basketball, winning that award for her club, Keilor Thunder in the Big V competition. She received a Most Valuable Player (MVP) in a grand final and she captained her side to a premiership a couple of years back in the youth league. So why the change and why football?

“I kind of lost a little bit of a spark for (basketball) and then footy started becoming more of a a prominent thing in my environment, with school sports,” Velardo said. “And I gave it a go here and there. I just loved every second of it when I was playing. “I had that fire in my gut to really pursue it. “I just I started loving it, so I thought I’m gonna give it a go and definitely have loved every bit of the transition into it.”

Standing at 176cm, Velardo was thrown into the ruck across her three games for the Jets, but often acted as a “fourth midfielder” around the stoppages, having to compete against much taller opponents. In her final game, the undersized Velardo had to go up against the 189cm Maggie Caris as the Jets went down to the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. Velardo played her part though, racking up an equal match-high 25 disposals, as well as eight tackles, five hitouts, two inside 50s and four rebounds. Asked what it was like competing against the taller players in the ruck, Velardo said it was “definitely tough”.

I mean with the Jets list I was one of the taller ones in the group, however I wasn’t the tallest but still, amongst them,” she said. “So that’s where I kind of fit in there for the first games. “And it was definitely tough. “Coming up a few of the other girls, even in the last game, and played against Maggie Caris who had a good 20 centimetres on me. “But I also think it was really good, in a sense, having it pretty short career in footy. “I think it definitely help me to develop some more strategy.

“There were some times where I got up and I wouldn’t jump. “I just wait for it to be tapped to me, develop different strategies, more around the ball. “Like you said as an extra midfielder. “That’s the kind of the role I played. It was really tough, but I just think it was, almost a blessing in disguise to help me become more familiar with that midfield kind of role.”

Velardo finished the three games with an average of 18 disposals. five hitouts, five tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds per game which seemingly had her take to the game with ease.

“I’ve always loved all sports,” Velardo said. “Footy’s always been some part of my life. “We’ve always been avid followers, with the AFL and I’ve always kicked in the backyard with dad and my brother, so the skill set with kicking in the hands was always kind of there for me and I kind of just developed it a little bit more. “But, I think I’ve always kind of adapted to situations that I think one of the things I really made my goal.

“My role was to, just constantly ask for feedback from coaches each quarter, each training,” she said. “So I think that’s why that constant feedback I was asking for, I was able to develop, I think faster than I thought. “And definitely with the three games, I changed a lot. It was a little bit of surprise, because it’s obviously just still getting used to it all. “I’ve always kind of been able to pick up things pretty quickly, especially when I’m asking for feedback.”

Aside from a “couple of weekends” playing Auskick when she was younger, there was a school football tournament back in Year 9 that Velardo took the opportunity to participate in. Despite not having had experience in the sport, she ended up “MVPing” the tournament. But aside from winning the award, she was presented with a gift that she would treasure over the next few years.

“The award actually came with a Sherrin,” Velardo said. “And that was kind of my first actual Sherrin footy. “I like to use that every day now. “It’s torn and wrecked now I’ve had it for that long but I think that was pretty special receiving that. “And I think aside from winning, that just the experience of that game kind of kicked off the possibility that there could be something here.”

There certainly was something there as Velardo opted to take a chance on a sport she loved from that experience, rekindling the memories from that tournament. After several advances from friends, Velardo decided to finally give football a shot and it has already proved to be a winner with the Jets talent.

Still looking to build areas of her game such as her marking, Velardo said she can take advantage of a lot of one-on-one contests in the air given her basketball background, but just needed to stick a few more grabs. As for her strengths, she rated her composure with ball-in-hand and ability to see things down the ground and assess the situation around the stoppages well.

Unfortunately her season came to a grinding halt with the NAB League Girls postponed and then cancelled due to the global pandemic. It was tough on the teenager who had finally found her calling and had her sights set on making a career out of the sport.

“It was pretty heartbreaking really,” Velardo said. “I was absolutely having time my life, and they’re playing and everything was fantastic. “But I just started really settled in and find my feet in the role. “And even in the next few weeks, my coaches were talking now going start playing more of a midfielder role. “So it was pretty shattering. “It just killed me not being able to keep going.

“I just loved it so much, so it was really, really hard when it finished. “Especially even with school not having that sport outlet. “That’s always been in my life. “It was just really hard,I just want to get back into it as soon as we can. “No matter what I’m playing. “I just really miss it.”

The only positive out of the time off has been Velardo’s ability to really focus on her Year 12 studies, having a lighter burden to juggle. It has not stopped her missing the game she loves, but has been following Carlton – the team she supports in the AFL – during the lockdown period. Her greatest inspirations include Erin Phillips – an elite talent who has taken a similar pathway to Velardo albeit later in life – and then those closest to her.

“I’d probably have to say my parents that are closest (inspiration), and that’s that’s a bit cheesy, but dad especially taught me everything, with kicking and all that,” Velardo said. “I do love all sports and I can pick up all sports pretty quickly, but he’s always the one who taught me the fundamentals of the game. “We always sit and watch Carlton on the weekend and watch them play, and he always took him to the footy when I was younger as well. “Both my mum and dad have just been massive supports and taught me to follow what I love to do and just take a chance, and just show resilience and develop all those things as well.”

As for the next step in her football career, whether it is running around at the elite level, or at a state or local level, Velardo just wants to make the most of her choice to move into the sport.

“I really just want to learn the game as best up as best I can really,” she said. I want to develop great knowledge. “And at the end of the day, just become the best footballer I can. “Obviously in the long run be really successful at a club. “Obviously everyone’s goal is to win the premiership at some stage, but my immediate goal is just to be the best player I can be really and learn as much as I can from as many different people as I can. And just enhance all different aspects of my game.”

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

OUR first ever All-Star Team battle is one between two Vic Metro clubs, in the Calder Cannons and Western Jets. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Dane Swan (Calder) and Matthew Lloyd (Western).

>> SCROLL BELOW TO SEE THE TEAMS AND VOTE <<

TEAMS:

Both these teams are considered evenly matched, with Western having a couple of genuine all-time legends of the game, while Calder has more depth across the field. These teams are seeded 16th and 17th respectively, but it is about splitting hairs when it comes to quality amongst the 30 sides, with plenty of even teams running around.

STRENGTHS:

Calder’s strength is its depth across the field, led by Swan in the midfield, who along with Jude Bolton and Dion Prestia, would take control in there. Callan Ward is a star, but the Western midfield is a little weaker, though still competitive with Michael Rischitelli and Heath Scotland in there. Their small forwards are as good of a quartet as they come, which would be exciting to watch.

Western’s strength lies in its bookends with Matthew Lloyd one of the greatest full-forwards of all-time, and Dustin Fletcher one of the greatest full-backs of all-time. Their half-backs of Bachar Houli and James Sicily would provide absolute elite penetrating kicks forward, while their small forwards are as exciting as they come.

WEAKNESSES:

Calder probably lacks a consistent key position forward, with Joe Daniher and Jake Carlisle capable of anything, but not a ‘Lloyd’ like the Jets have. They also have some strong defensively-minded backmen, but not as potent offensively off the defensive line though Brandon Ellis coming off the bench would certainly help with this fact.

Western’s weakness is its defensive depth. Fletcher, Houli and Sicily are quality, while Daniel Ward, Adam Kennedy and Kyle Hartigan would provide the defensive pressure, but are no world beaters in fairness to them.

SUMMARY

Both these teams have exciting forward lines that would cause headaches for most opposition sides. Depending on which midfield got on top would really go a long way to winning, with Calder’s depth most likely getting them across the line.

Which All-Star team would win?
Calder Cannons
Western Jets
Created with Quiz Maker

All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era: Which club is the best of the best?

EVERY year, a new crop of AFL Draft talents rise up and make waves at AFL level. Some clubs such as Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons are referred to as ‘footy factories’. Others are less well known, but nonetheless vital in providing players with their start to the AFL.

Over the past couple of months, Draft Central has gone through all of the NAB League, SANFL and WAFL clubs and tried to determine the best 24-player squad for their respective clubs. The captains and vice-captains were determined by the public through Instagram voting. Now, it is up to the public to decide which All-Star Team is the greatest of the lot. That’s right, the 30 teams from Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are going head to head in a knockout draw.

Which teams are competing?

NAB League [12]: Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons, Dandenong Stingrays, Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power, GWV Rebels, Murray Bushrangers, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons, Western Jets
SANFL [9]: Central District, Glenelg, North Adelaide, Norwood, Port Adelaide, South Adelaide, Sturt, West Adelaide, Woodville-West Torrens
WAFL [9]: Claremont, East Fremantle, East Perth, South Fremantle, Peel Thunder, Perth, Subiaco, Swan Districts, West Perth

How will it work?

Each day at 10am, we will publish the two All-Star Teams of the AFL Draft era, and the public will be able to vote through the article, Facebook and Twitter, with the overall winner moving through to the next round.

Given there are 30 teams, two sides who we have picked out as the top two seeds – East Fremantle and Geelong Falcons – will have the bye in the opening round, with the other 28 teams seeded appropriately similar to the All-Star Player voting (3rd against 28th, 4th against 27th etc.).

Who is up first?

The first All-Star Team battle is between a couple of metropolitan sides who we have seeded 16th and 17th in the draw. They both have some absolute elite stars, but Calder Cannons and Western Jets will begin the voting on Monday. They will be followed by the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Eastern Ranges on Tuesday, before a cross-state clash sees third seed Port Adelaide Magpies tackle Peel Thunder.

Classic Contests: Jets, Power share 36 minor scores in Round 4 thriller

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at another clash between the NAB League rivals to complete our full series, and today’s battle is between the Gippsland Power and Western Jets. In this edition, we wind back the clock to early 2017, when the two sides went down to the wire in a game of heavy momentum swings.

2017 TAC Cup, Round 4
Saturday April 22, 2:00pm
Downer Oval

WESTERN JETS 3.10 | 4.11 | 5.15 | 9.21 (75)
GIPPSLAND POWER 1.3 | 5.9 | 9.12 | 9.15 (69)

GOALS:

Western: C. Thar 2, O. King, J. Hazik, Z. Butters, L. Hitch, J. Noonan, J. Dundon, B. Smokrovic
Gippsland:
M. McGannon 2, I. Mosquito 2, W. Broadbent 2, C. Henness, A. Quigley, N. Hogan

BEST:

Western: J. Dundon, Z. Butters, B. McGregor, S. Radovanovic, C. Thar, N. Stuhldreier
Gippsland:
W. Stephenson, S. Masterson, J. Hudson, T. Bindley, B. Motton, A. Hodge

Draftees in action:

Western: Tristan Xerri, Buku Khamis, Zak Butters, Xavier O’Halloran
Gippsland: Callum Porter, Xavier Duursma, Irving Mosquito

A pair of teams looking to even up their negative records met in Round 4 of the 2017 TAC Cup season, with Gippsland and Western sitting on the precipice of the top eight at 1-2 apiece. The Power had just broken through for their first win of the campaign a week earlier, while the Jets’ sole set of premiership points were earned in Round 2.

Some notable bottom-age talent took the field, with current Port Adelaide wombo combo Zak Butters (Western) taking on Xavier Duursma (Gippsland), while the highly touted Xavier O’Halloran also lined up for the Jets, and soon-to-be Essendon debutant Irving Mosquito was stationed up forward for Gippsland. Arguably the most glaring absentees were Western’s best two top-age prospects, in Cam Rayner and Lachlan Fogarty.

In somewhat of an omen for things to come, Western made the better start, albeit an inaccurate one shooting towards the scoring end at Downer Oval, Williamstown. A Mosquito major split the Jets’ 3.10 with one quarter played, and ended up being the difference come half time after Gippsland enjoyed its own period of dominance in the second term. A four-point lead was extended to 21 at the final break, as the hosts continued to struggle in front of goal.

A mad scramble for the Jets’ kicking boots must have finally become fruitful over that break, as Western stormed home with four goals to nil in the fourth period to snatch victory by a single goal. Gun small midfielder Connor Thar got the ball rolling with two majors in the opening 10 minutes, before Jack Noonan sealed the deal with less than 60 seconds left on the clock.

Judah Dundon, whose late third term goal gave Western a sniff, was named his side’s best player ahead of Butters and Thar, while O’Halloran racked up 23 disposals. Will Stephenson was adjudged the top Power performer with Sean Masterson in tow, while Mosquito added two goals to Gippsland’s cause and Aiden Quigley had 25 touches.

The Jets weren’t able to scrape themselves into finals contention throughout the year, finishing the regular season in 10th at 6-12. Gippsland scrounged enough wins to do so with eight triumphs carrying the Power to seventh place. Their season was brought to an emphatic end at the hands of eventual premier Geelong, who beat them by 85 points in the first round of finals. Gippsland also won the reverse fixture between these two sides by 16 points in Round 17.

Featured Image: Mike Owen/AFL Media

Classic Contests: Tailwind helps Jets soar past Bushrangers

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at another clash between the NAB League rivals to complete our full series, and today’s battle is between the Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2013, when the two sides threw down in an epic elimination final.

2013 TAC Cup, Elimination Final
Sunday September 1, 2:00pm
Princes Park

WESTERN JETS 4.2 | 5.5 | 6.9 | 10.12 (72)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 7.1 | 8.4 | 9.6 | 9.9 (63)

GOALS:

Western: D. Iaccarino 3, J. Sicily 2, M. Singleton, J. Greiser, C. Ellis, L. Hickey, B. Myers
Murray:
N. Holman 2, M. Gibbons, B. Squire, J. Sharp, N. Sneyd, M. Brett, M. King, J. Neagle

BEST:

Western: J. Greiser, D. Iaccarino, L. Hickey, H. Walshe, C. Ellis, D. O’Leary
Murray:
M. Gibbons, J. Cousins, N. Sneyd, J. Impey, N. Mellington, K. Cary

Draftees in action:

Western: James Sicily, Brett Bewley, Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Jayden Laverde, Connor Menadue, Corey Ellis, Liam Duggan
Murray: Michael Gibbons, Nick Holman, Jarman Impey, Max King, Daniel Howe, Kayne Turner

The first week of NAB League (formerly TAC Cup) finals always delivers on upsets and high drama, with most sides near full strength and firing on all cylinders in hopes of impressing on the eve of draft time. Murray was the side hoping to throw a spanner in the works as it met Western for an elimination final clash in 2013, set to face one of the stronger Jets squads of the last decade – a team which beat them by 63 points in Round 8.

Streaks of form were noticeable in the recent form lines of either team, with Murray (8th, 9-8) having just snapped a three-game losing run to bring some slight winning form into finals, while Western (5th, 9-7-1) had its streak of three-consecutive victories cut at the worst possible time. But among a top eight where third was separated to eighth by just four points, anything was possible in the post-season.

The Bushrangers proved just that with a sizzling seven-goal opening term, and while they opened up a handy 17-point buffer, the Jets weren’t too far behind having managed four majors of their own. After such a frantic start, the scoring came to a grinding halt in the second and third periods, with either side managing just two goals each over the 50-minute period.

Western had cut the quarter-time gap by just two points in that time, but were soon about to flick the switch and boost past a fast-starting Bushrangers outfit. Four unanswered goals saw the Jets enact an even 24-point turnaround in the final term, seeing them get over the line by nine points. They managed six goals to Murray’s two after quarter time after promising a shootout, controlling the game well and opening it back up on their terms to advance to the semi finals.

Jake Greiser (31 disposals, one goal) and David Iaccarino (28 disposals, three goals) were named the victors’ best players, while a bottom-aged Corey Ellis was also thereabouts with 21 touches, and James Sicily chimed in with two goals. Michael Gibbons (29 disposals, one goal) found a heap of ball as usual to be name Murray’s best, with fellow draftee Jarman Impey also impactful. Blue-turned-Sun Nick Holman booted two goals for the Bushies.

While Murray’s season was brought to an end there and then, Western lasted only one more week as Calder bundled it out of the premiership race in the semi finals.

Draft Central All-Star Team: Western Jets

THE WESTERN Jets have produced some all-time greats of the game, while also laying claim to the production of a bunch of current elite level stars. In this All-Star Team of the AFL Era, Draft Central takes a look at how the best possible Jets side would line up, with a good field of players to select from over the last three decades.

THE TEAM

Bombers fans should get a good hint of nostalgia with legendary premiership players Dustin Fletcher and Matthew Lloyd making up the spine of our side. There are a good number of medium-small types who have provided plenty of highlights in their time, particularly in the forward half, with versatility a handy attribute of the squad overall. Remarkably, 11 of the selected players are still in the midst of their AFL careers, as a good boom across the 2000s lifted the region’s standing. The team as a whole, particularly the starting 18 is strong on all three lines, and stands up among many of the other Victorian metro programs.

DEFENCE

As mentioned, 400-gamer Fletcher slots in at full back to anchor the side, and is surrounded by some pretty handy support. The half-back flank pairing of Bachar Houli and James Sicily would prove a phenomenon in any modern-day lineup, with the former a two-time premiership player and one-time All Australian, while the latter is already a Hawthorn fan favourite. Two more current players, Adam Kennedy (GWS) and Kyle Hartigan (Adelaide) also earned their spots for over 100 games at the top level, along with former Demon, Daniel Ward.

MIDFIELD

Our proposed midfield core is strong, and features one of the more underrated players of the 2000’s, Heath Scotland at its heart. The former Pie and Blue was perhaps better known for his work off half-back and on the outside, but won plenty of ball and is the perfect leader to follow in the engine room.

He’s joined by expansion club marquees Callan Ward and Michael Rischitelli at the centre bounces, with both adding to the hardness of the side. Ward continues to go strong despite injury troubles, while Rischitelli has recently retired. Majak Daw is the ruckman they’ll feed off, with his journey back into the North Melbourne side one of the greatest sporting stories of the year.

On the wings, former Shannon Grant of Sydney and North Melbourne fame is joined by maligned Bulldog Lachie Hunter. Both are able to rotate through slightly different roles, but feature on the outside of a relatively solid midfield group.

FORWARD

You’d be hard pressed to find a much better full forward to base your attack around than Lloyd, who is the centrepiece of an exciting six-man forwardline. At his feet is Brad Johnson, one of the Western Bulldogs’ greatest players of all time. Not only did the pair boot nearly 1500 goals between them over their careers, but they also co-hosted the Auskick’n Around TV show on Fox Footy during the early-2000’s.

Johnson’s long-time teammate Daniel Giansiracusa features at half-forward, while current players Cam Rayner and Will Hoskin-Elliott bring some high-marking power and goal sense to the forward 50. Mature-aged success story and four-club veteran James Podsiadly rounds out the six, slotting in at centre half-forward as a very handy key position option.

DEPTH

A pair of Port Adelaide players have snuck in on the bench, with young livewire Zak Butters joining ‘The Cannon’ Trent McKenzie as solid depth. Josh Mahoney and Craig Ellis were solid players in their day and get a look-in, while cult figures Ty Zantuck and Lance Picioane also make the cut-off, certain to bring even more nostalgia to 90’s kids. Brent Prismall was a player right on the precipice, while the likes of Liam Duggan, Jayden Laverde, Corey Ellis and Daniel Venables could all enter the fold in future.