Category: News

Tigers roar to historic maiden victory at Kardinia Park

WITH both teams seeking their first win in 2021, Friday night’s clash between Geelong and Richmond at Kardinia Park was one of the most crucial games of the season, and it was Richmond who came out on top to claim its first ever competitive win in the AFLW. The historic game for the club was a heavily one-sided affair in which the Tigers never looked like losing, keeping Geelong scoreless in the first half, whilst adding six majors of their own. The complete team performance saw their first victory come by a 47-point margin, 9.6 (60) to 2.1 (13)

The opening goal came from Richmond’s Gabrielle Seymour, receiving a free kick and a 50-meter penalty from a ruck contest. Richmond made the most of the momentum from the goal, controlling the rest of the quarter with a well set up backline ready to sweep up anything exiting the forward 50. The only time Geelong looked close to breaking out, was when young forward Stephanie Williams got free and started streaming towards the forward 50, but Richmonds Akec Makur Chuot was relentless in her pursuit and laid a nice rundown tackle to stop the attack in its tracks. The Tigers went into the break leading by 13 thanks to Courtney Wakefield’s one goal and one behind.

The second quarter wasn’t any easier for Geelong, with an injury to reigning best and fairest Olivia Purcell forcing her off for the remainder of the game. Geelong struggled to create any drive through their midfield and despite the best efforts of their defence, it became open season for Richmond who did well to force turn overs inside forward 50 and create scoring opportunities. We saw Wakefield add to her tally, as well as Ellie McKenzie, Katie Brennan and Sabrina Fredrick getting involved with their firsts for the game.

The third term brought the Cats’ first goal through the effort of Richelle Cranston, who got a boot to ball mid-tackle. That was the spark Geelong needed, bringing a much higher pace and pressure style that made Richmond noticeably more rushed. The Tigers got used to it though, highlighted with number one draft pick, McKenzie selling some candy to multiple Geelong players, and then going for a four-bounce run along the wing, leading to a goal for Kodi Jacques. With that, it was one goal each for the quarter for both sides, with the Tigers leading by 40 going into the final break.

By the time the last quarter began, the Cats had been up against an onslaught of Richmond attacks all game, and the Tigers were playing with the confidence of a team that was very clearly excited about getting its first win. Tigers captain, Brennan got one early in the quarter to extend the lead and remove any remaining doubt. The remainder of the quarter was relatively quiet compared to the rest of the game, with Cat Amy McDonald getting her first AFLW goal and Brennan getting her third for the game with 10 seconds to spare. 

Monique Conti led the game for disposals with 26, with Brennan (17 disposals, five marks and three goals) and McKenzie (16, five and one) also very impressive in the victory, splitting time between forward and midfield. The Tigers also had strong contributions from Harriet Cordner (14 disposals, seven marks and three tackles) and Sarah D’Arcy (16, four and two) coming out of the backline. For Geelong,  Amy McDonald and Renee Garing led the disposal count with 17 apiece, with McDonald also managing to get herself a goal.

GEELONG 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.0 | 2.1 (13)
RICHMOND 2.1 | 6.3 | 7.4 | 9.6 (60)

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Cranston, A. McDonald
Richmond: K. Brennan 3, C. Wakefield 2, E. McKenzie, S. Frederick, G. Seymour, K. Jacques

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. McDonald, M. McDonald, R. Garing, D. Higgins, D. Taylor
Richmond: M. Conti, K. Brennan, E. McKenzie, C. Wakefield, S. Hosking

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Eagles looking for a balance of youth and experience in 2021

WOODVILLE-West Torrens Eagles boast a young line-up heading into their Round 1 clash in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s with development coach, Andy Hood highlighting the amount of work the side has done to become fitter and stronger heading into their 2021 campaign.

“Preseason has been really strong. It started way back in November, we’ve got a real focus on getting fitter. I think in the three years that we’ve been in the competition, I certainly feel we’re better prepared and a lot fitter and stronger than we had been the last couple of years. So it’s been a really good preseason, we’ve got excellent strength and conditioning people in our team that’s been fantastic. It’s been really a strong preseason,” he said.

Over the pre-season, Hood made mention of the number of young players that managed to make their way down and wasted no time highlighting the number of exciting prospects preparing to take on the season.

“During our trials and sort of our preseason we’ve really been able to get some really good young players come into our football club,” he said.

Hood, heaped plenty of praise on the likes of Shineah Goody, Astrid Gooley and Chloe Whitington-Charity with the trio causing waves at the club with their intensity, willingness at the contest and skillset while Audrey Holt has also caught the eye ahead of Round 1.

“The ones that we really have been impressed with is Shineah Goody, young kid,” he said. “From our country zone, really excited about her in the future. She’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. She can play back and up forward, very elusive has a bit of x-factor, reads the ball really well. Just really strong around the front and centre of the contest.”

“There’s Astrid Gooley from SMOSH, excellent, young lady of 16 years of age, big future, great overhead mark, will play up forward.”

“Chloe Whitington-Charity another young kid from Henley just a real fit young athletic type player, fast we feel that she’s going to be a future leader this young lady has done really well to get a debut game tomorrow. Just really fast on the outside, good overhead mark loves the contest.”

“Audrey Holt, I’m not sure where she’s from, no she’s from Woodville South. Just a tackling machine hard at it. Will bounce up and just go again and again and again we love her appetite for the contest. She’s someone that you’ll just “geez that girl just goes hard.” A real small frame but just has a real desire for the, for the contest in the battle.

In terms of familiar faces, Hood also made mention of reigning best and fairest winner Jovanka Zecevic along with Lili Gambrainis and Jamie Parish with the trio hoping to elevate their game even further for the Eagles this season.

“[Zecevic] won our club champion last year has had a really strong preseason,” Hood said. “You know, we’re expecting she’ll take her game to another level and starting to develop into one of these players where you’re just a real match winner. Strong midfield player that sets up some opportunities for your team.”

“[Lili] is a real athletic strong at the contest, a real competitor loves the contest and good overhead and you know won’t give her opponent anything.”

“The other is Jamie Parish, of course who has been in the team last year and this year, Jamie’s in the state team and just someone that is going to develop into a really good footballer strong overhead, likes the contests likes to body the opponent has a real strong football brain.”

Although she is new to the team she is not new to the league, as Hood highlighted the influence Brooklyn Kraft has had since crossing over to the club for her first season in Eagles colours despite still being a developing player.

“Brooke Kraft from South Adelaide came over,” he said. “She’s great, overhead mark, tall. “Developing player, but someone that will give us a lot in the aerial contest, which is something that we probably lacked around the ground.”

With youth aplenty throughout the squad it can be somewhat difficult to find that perfect mix of young up and coming players along with experienced members however, Hood believes that the Eagles have really focused on developing a side that can balance all aspects throughout the pre-season.

“I think the coaching staff and just the way we’ve started preseason and trials and just our different phases of how we train is has really been first class and been able to develop the players of our expectations and standards, we’ve set the standards, really early. It was pretty clear what everyone had to do I think that’s been a big help,” he said.

“I think training … it’s an old analogy, but we’re really training the way that we want to play.”

Looking at what the club wants to be renowned for as a whole throughout the 2021 season, Hood made it clear that he was not going to give away all of his secrets but the side is keen on implementing an attacking brand of footy.

“I think it’s just attacking, attacking and taking the game on,” Hood said. “I mean every team wants to do that but you know it’s to win the footy and then attack, you know, get it into the forward line. “It’s to defend and to defend hard and then get the ball in quickly.”

Woodville-West Torrens Eagles are set to kick things off against Central District tomorrow.

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Grand Final rematch opens action

ROUND 2 of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition kicks off with a Saturday night and early Sunday morning fixture to help with the heat, as a number of young guns aim to state their claims against experienced opposition.

SUBIACO vs. PEEL THUNDER
Saturday, February 27 @ 6pm
Leederville Oval

A grand final rematch kicks off Round 2 of the WAFL Women’s, with reigning premiers Peel Thunder unfurling their flag last week, then grabbing their first points of 2021 with an impressive win over East Fremantle. Now they come up against a Subiaco side looking to also go 2-0 after surviving a late fightback from South Fremantle in the last quarter of their Round 1 encounter.

Ella Roberts picked up where she left off in 2020 last week, booting two first half goals before being locked down by the Sharks in the second half. Subiaco knows just how dangerous she can be, so expect another tough day for the teenager who will learn to deal with extra attention. Fellow young gun Courtney Rowley showed good signs in Round 1 and will look to build on that for Round 2, providing a crucial run-and-carry on the outside. Beth Schilling provided a target up forward for the Thunder in Round 1, and throw in Jade Briggs and Kate Bartlett, and the Thunder have heaps of X-factor inside 50. Tanisha Anderson and Jaide Britton are another couple of talents to watch out for, with Britton named as co-captain for Western Australia ahead of the Under 19 Championships.

Despite the Thunder getting up in the grand final last year, Subiaco had won all of the previous four clashes against the Thunder, and will be hoping to restore that back in this game. They have some young talent of their own with Claire Ortlepp off half-back and Jamie Rust up forward. Captain Tarnica Golisano will also give a four-quarter effort, whilst Fremantle AFL Women’s injury replacement player Maggie MacLachlan has been named for the game. Similarly, Kia Buckley and Abbey Dowrick have both been named on the bench with the hope they can return to the side.

Both these sides have some terrific young talent, as well as some crucial state league and top-level experience, so expect it to be a terrific match, though Peel Thunder will be favourites after stamping their authority in Round 1.

 

SOUTH FREMANTLE vs. SWAN DISTRICTS
Sunday, February 28 @ 9.30am
Fremantle Community Bank Oval

Two sides that were on opposite sides of the coin in nail-biting encounters do battle in the second Round 2 clash, with South Fremantle hosting Swan Districts at Fremantle Community Bank Oval. An early 9.30am fixture provides fans with a way of avoiding an averse weather conditions like the Swans suffered through during their six-point low-scoring win over Claremont last week. The Bulldogs lost the points, but certainly lost no fans in a spirited fightback against Subiaco in the final term only to fall short.

Pia Durk in the midfield has been touted as one to watch this season for the red and whites, with Lauren Vecchio the ever-reliable leader onball. Poppy Stockwell returns to the side as a crucial forward option, while Ash Reidy and Tahlia Holtze are others for the Bulldogs who have been named at opposite ends on the flanks. South Fremantle coach Beau McCormack said in the preseason that ex-rugby player Makaela Tuhakaraina is one to keep an eye on in 2021. Zoe Huggett booted three goals in the narrow loss last week and will be a key target once again inside 50.

Swan Districts are a young side, but have plenty of upside, with Dana East and Jessica Cox among the developing talents at the black and whites. They provide the inside presence with ruck Sarah Wielstra getting better by the week as a ruck/forward, while Tara Stribley is the outside distributor needed for that touch of clash. Bella Edgley was the difference for the Swans in Round 1, with her two goals because crucial in challenging conditions, while Jamie Henry is another young talent who will play in defence with the likes of experienced backs, captain Emily McGuire, and Lauren Osborne.

Swan Districts will be favourites to continued South Fremantle’s losing streak, but the Bulldogs showed terrific signs last week and been at home, they know anything is possible with the talent they have brought into the club.

 

CLAREMONT vs. EAST FREMANTLE
Sunday, February 28 @ 1pm
Revo Fitness Stadium

The final game of the round takes place at 1pm on Sunday when two Round 1 losers face-off. Claremont went down in a narrow loss to Swan Districts last week, whilst East Fremantle was competitive early, but ultimately overwhelmed by the end against a dangerous Peel Thunder outfit. The Tigers will be hungry for more success in 2021 after just letting the game slip despite having chances, while the Sharks will need to overcome the loss of Rachel Ashley to injury which was one of the turning points in the game last week after the returning utility booted two goals from full-forward.

East Fremantle have a balance of youth and experience on the field, but are a very different-looking side to 2020. Rosie Walsh returns to the side after missing Round 1 and will look to take up a ruck role teaming up with Laura McClelland who stepped up to League football last week. Sharon Wong provided the four-quarter consistency you expect from her, while Ashleigh Gomes and Kahra Sprylan will be some of the crucial talents in adding experience to the Sharks’ lineup. Chloe Reilly has been named to start in defence again, with the forward taking on fellow West Australian Under-19 State Academy talent Amy Franklin in a huge head-to-head. With Alex Williams named in a back pocket and Sara Lewis up forward, the Sharks having marking targets at both ends.

For the Tigers, Rachel Ortlepp was a source of rebound last week, and she will go head-to-head with another young talent in Zoe Gillard. West Coast’s Sophie McDonald has been named to suit up for the Tigers this week for some crucial stability in defence, while the onball brigade of Ella Smith, Jess Low and Sasha Goranova are as hard as they come. Up forward, Franklin is always an imposing figure with her marking and athleticism, while Jacinta Valentini and Sarah Garstone also have State Academy experience. The Tigers are a well-balanced squad with Brooke Hongell showing some promising signs up forward last week and will be keen to capitalise more in this match.

Claremont seem to be set for a win after getting so close last week, but some important inclusions for the Sharks mean they will be more competitive for longer.

Picture: WAFL

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Men’s Premier League – Finals Week 1

FINALS time is finally upon us after 18 home-and-away rounds in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, with two exciting fixtures set to take place at TIO Stadium on Saturday evening. A high-stakes elimination final bout sees Waratah take on Darwin, while Wanderers and St Mary’s lock horns in the weekend’s qualifying final. We take you through the key numbers and players in both games ahead of what should be a cracking day of NT football.

>> Finals Preview: NTFL Women’s Premier League

ELIMINATION FINAL

Waratah vs. Darwin Buffaloes
Saturday February 27, 4:15pm
TIO Stadium

Waratah and Darwin will do battle for the second time in two weeks on Saturday, as they meet for a high-stakes knockout bout at TIO Stadium. Only percentage could separate the records of these two sides (10-8) after 18 home-and-away rounds, but the Buffaloes have come up trumps twice in their three meetings with Waratah this season. Most recently, their Round 17 clash proved that Darwin can overcome any of the top sides on their day. On the other hand, Waratah’s 0-3 run into finals will be of slight concern, with all three defeats coming at the hands of top three opposition. Tahs have a formidable side on paper and their big names will have to lift against a wily Darwin side here. The Buffs have endured some injury concerns of late, but have proven many a doubter wrong thus far in 2020/21.

Records:
Waratah:
10-8 (4th)
Darwin: 10-8 (5th)

Last 5:
Waratah: 2-3
Darwin: 3-2

2020/21 meetings:
Round 4
 – Darwin by 6
Round 8 – Waratah by 23
Round 17 – Darwin by 19

Most games:
Waratah: Brodie Carroll, Nicholas Gooch (18)
Darwin: Brodie Foster, Kevin Maroney, Nick Lowden, Timothy Eldridge (17)

Most goals:
Waratah:
Cameron Arnold, Jae McGrath (18)
Darwin: Brodie Foster (49)

QUALIFYING FINAL

St Mary’s vs. Wanderers
Saturday February 27, 6:45pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s and Wanderers meet for the second time in as many weeks when they face off at TIO Stadium on Saturday night, with a semi final clash against Nightcliff up for grabs. The Saints sent a resounding message to the competition with a 79-point thumping of their weekend opponents last time out, making it two wins from three games against the Muk Muks this season. With 11 wins in their last 12 outings, the Saint have been in scary form lately. The Eagles have gotten points when expected of them and while they have been competitive against top opposition, have also fallen short on occasion. St Mary’s running game and hardness at the ball will serve well in finals, but Wanderers is a dangerous side with plenty of star names on each line and a spearhead forward who is difficult to stop.

Records:
St Mary’s:
14-4 (2nd)
Wanderers:
12-5-1 (3rd)

Last 5:
St Mary’s: 4-1
Wanderers:
3-2

2020/21 meetings:
Round 2
 – Wanderers by 26
Round 12 – St Mary’s by 38
Round 18 – St Mary’s by 79

Most games:
St Mary’s: Jacob Long (18)
Wanderers:
Brodie Newman, Dane McFarlane (18)

Most goals:
St Mary’s:
Jackson Calder (29)
Wanderers:
Brett Eddy (69)

Most times in best:
St Mary’s:
Dylan Landt (13)
Wanderers: Brodie Newman, Dane McFarlane (12)

Image Credit: Felicity Elliott/AFLNT Media

2021 QAFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Grand Final rematch to take place in blockbuster opening round

A GRAND final rematch in the last game of the round caps off a big week of action for the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition that begins tomorrow.

BOND UNIVERSITY vs. MAROOCHYDORE

Two top four sides that impressed in the regular seasons last year but just fell in the semi-final stage will do battle in the opening round of the QAFL Women’s season. Bond University finished on top of the table, but went down to a rampaging Yeronga South Brisbane in the semis as the Devils marched to the premiership. Meanwhile Maroochydore suffered defeat at the hands of Coolangatta Tweed after winning their elimination final in the week before.

Mikayla Pauga is the key player to watch having crossed from Maroochydore to Bond University over the off-season, and will now lead the Sharkettes onball brigade. The midfield group of Georgia Brehmer and Shannon Danckert makes it a tough group to beat, while Annie Muir on the wing is another talented midfielder who can bring the need for speed. Lily Tarlinton is a tall option to provide a target inside 50, named at full-forward for the clash.

For Maroochydore, a number of the AFL Women’s talents will not be avaialble so they will be looking to the likes of Brianna McFarlane and Chloe Gregory through midfield to give the Roos a spark with talented youngster Bella Smith named in the middle as well. Up the other end, Rianna Maloney and Brooke Matheson have been named as crucial forwards, and former Calder Cannons talent Makeisha Muller has joined the green and gold.

Bond University have enough experience in the lineup to suggest they will be difficult to beat, but Maroochydore still has talent even without its AFL Women’s players.

 

WILSTON GRANGE vs. UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Next up on Saturday afternoon is a battle between two sides who finished in the bottom three of the competition last year. University of Queensland did make finals, but were knocked out by Maroochydore at the elimination stage, whilst Wilston Grange fell short of the post-season series by four points to be one behind the Red Lionesses in seventh.

The game should be evenly balanced, with Ruby Svarc a name to watch for the Gorillas out on a wing. She will provide the team with some great run and carry, and team up with fellow midfielders, Kylie Welsh, Mackenzie Findlay and Kaitlyn Day in the Round 1 team, with Abby Hewett and Brooke Sheridan named amongst the forwards.

Megan Hunt is a crucial player to have at state level and she will run out with the University of Queensland in the clash, while developing talent Tiarna Jericho has been named at centre half-back. Lucinda Benjamin and Grace Brennan are two of the targets inside 50 for the visitors, while Jane Childes on the outside is likely to have a great head-to-head with Svarc.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game with plenty of state league players on both sides, as well as a couple of young players to watch for.

 

COORPAROO vs. ASPLEY

Playing in the finals last season, Coorparoo will be keen to start off on the right note against an Aspley Hornets side that failed to claim a win in 2020. Ther teams are fairly fresh with some familiar names, but also some fresh faces which will make it difficult to predict how the game is going to go. The Hornets in particular have a few key talents to keep an eye on ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships in April.

Lucia Liessi is a young gun who will be key for the Hornets. She has been known to play in defence such as the AFL Women’s Under 18 All-Stars game last year, but has been named in a forward pocket for this clash. Off half-back, Isabella Kotatis, Lucy Pengelly and Hayley Moore make a young developing trio, while Courtney Daniec showed last season she is rock-solid in midfield. Phoebe Baird coming off the bench is another to keep an eye on from the wooden spooners who will no doubt be an improved side in 2021.

For the Kings, Lucy Blue remains a crucial player after being in contention to be drafted last season, but missed out, she has been named in the back pocket to potentially play on Liessi. Renee Teys will head up the followers with Jenae Govan and Jessica McLean in the midfield, while Danielle Cox is one of a number of forward options named in the side. The depth of the Kings is obvious with Macie Brown named off the bench.

Coorparoo will be favourites given the team’s respective formlines last season, but Aspley have a lot to like, particularly in the youth department so do not be surprised if the Hornets cause an upset.

 

YERONGA SOUTH BRISBANE vs. COOLANGATTA TWEED

The QAFL Women’s competition might have saved the best until last for Round 1, with a grand final rematch between Yeronga South Brisbane and Coolangatta Tweed. The Devils will be able to unfurl their flag in front of home fans against the team they upset last season in the decider. Coming all the way from fourth they managed to grab the title in a memorable game.

Given Brisbane’s impressive showing in the AFL Women’s this season, both these sides still have plenty of experienced talent, with young gun highlight-reel Zimmorlei Farquharson ready to back up her efforts in last year’s finals series and kick off 2021 on a big note. Lucy Bellinger is another Devils player to watch, though there are no shortage of them, with Madison Goodwin, Emmii-Lee ZankerClose, Christine Okesene and Lexia Edwards among those anticipated to impress in Round 1 of the competition.

The Bluebirds have their own stacked side, with Kitara Farrar set for a big year after having injury interruptions during her time in the AFL Women’s. Beth Pinchin was one who received the call-up to the AFL Women’s via the draft last year and will only get better as the weeks go by, while Keyshia Matenga, Sophie Ure and Ahlani Eddy are other players who have come through the State Under 18s program over the journey. The Bluebirds are going to be a contender once again, and will want to grab this scalp.

Yeronga South Brisbane have to be favourites given their X-factor up forward and the special occasion, but Coolangatta Tweed have so much young talent that is more than capable of spoiling the party.

Picture credit: RF Photography

2021 SANFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Grand Final rematch opens season

AFTER a shorter-than-usual wait for the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition to restart due to the delayed 2020 season, the eight sides are ready to go in 2021 starting tonight.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Friday, February 26 @ 6.30pm
Coopers Stadium

What better way is there to open a new SANFL Women’s season than with a grand final rematch? The opening game of the double-header at Coopers Stadium sees North Adelaide take on South Adelaide in a massive clash. The Roosters will be able to unfurl the flag against the Panthers, which should give both teams plenty of motivation. It is worth noting that they will be without a number of AFL Women’s talents which means others will have the chance to step up in their place.

Full-forward Kelly Barltrop will be hungry for success after being unlucky to miss out on last year’s flag, while Kristi Harvey has been named at centre half-forward. With league best and fairest winner Anne Hatchard and leading goalkicker Ashleigh Woodland both playing for the Crows in the AFL Women’s the Roosters will need to look for others to play a role. Jaimi Tabb has crossed from the Eagles to Roosters, while Glenelg ruck revelation Soriah Moon will now pull on the Panthers’ jumper. Providing a formidable tag-team with Montana McKinnon, South should get first hands to it, and with a midfield containing the likes of Czenya Cavouras and Nicole Campbell, they will be hard to beat.

Gypsy Schirmer is the young gun to watch from the Panthers with the half-forward an excitement machine, whilst the same can be said for reigning Rising Star Hannah Ewings who will have added responsibility this season. Throw in Leah Tynan and Lauren Daniel through the onball, and the likes of Cristie Castle and Brianna Arthur able to rotate between midfield and forward, and the Roosters have plenty of options. It will be great to see full-back Sarah Wright return for the Panthers, with both her and Lauren Clifton providing some great stability in the defence.

This match is hard to predict, with either team capable of getting up, and both have a great history of just getting the job done. Just for the home fans the edge might go to North, but there is something about the South lineup that looks ready to strike.

NORWOOD vs. WEST ADELAIDE
Friday, February 26 @ 8.15pm
Coopers Stadium

The second match of the double-header is predicted to be just as good, with reigning preliminary finalists West Adelaide locking horns with the side they dispelled in the elimination final, Norwood. West Adelaide have a huge opportunity to make the next step up, with such a large contingent of state league players remaining at the club, and then bringing in some serious talent such as key defender Sharnie Whiting from Carlton.

The youth of West Adelaide cannot be stated enough, with Zoe Venning a standout in terms of this year, and then over the next two years, the Bloods have Keeley Kustermann and then Lauren Young respectively who both loom as great talents. Venning will start off half-forward and look to push into the midfield, while Kustermann will form a new partnership with South Adelaide’s Natalie Gibbs off half-back with Madison Newman likely to have Crows AFL Women’s duties this season. The 15-year-old Young has been thrown into the deep end to start in the midfield, potentially on the experienced Sophie Armitstead.

Norwood have an array of young talent themselves, with Alana Lishmund named on a wing, and Jade Halfpenny surprisingly named in defence after making her name as a leading forward predominantly last season. Tesharna Maher is a new name in the Norwood line-up, having crossed from Eagles over the break. Melanie Elsegood is a player to stop for West, with the Norwood defence looking strong, as Isabel Martin has been named back there, while the likes of Jess Macolino will come off the bench to have an impact.

West Adelaide could well be the team to beat this season, and therefore should be favourites in this game, but Norwood has some exciting young talents as well to watch out for, in what should be an entertaining game.

STURT vs. GLENELG
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.40am
X Convenience Oval

Fast forward to Saturday and two sides looking to make a strong start to the season after missing finals do battle in Sturt and Glenelg. The Double Blues were actually strong defensively last season, but they just struggled to score at times, whilst the Bays were ultra-impressive in some games, and then just not themselves in others, so will be eyeing off some consistency in 2021. It will be a big game for Caitlyn Swanson who has cross from the Double Blues to the Bays this season and will come off the bench in Round 1.

Glenelg has some some developing talents to watch out for, with top-ager Brooke Tonon alongside over-ager Madisyn Freeman at half-forward. They will be looking to create some run and carry going inside 50, with the likes of Tamsyn Morriss and Sam Franson transitioning from the wings. Looking strong as outside movers, Tessa Kohn has been slotted in at half-back after being predominantly an inside midfielder last season, while Lucy Armitage will never take a backwards step and is also in defence. Without Ebony Marinoff and Eloise Jones the Bays will need other midfielders to step up, but they have the depth there.

The Double Blues have some of the best young talent running around, and the depth through the key position options is showing, with Zoe Prowse now running around as a midfielder instead of ruck. The 180cm talent has the athleticism to beat much smaller opponents, and she will provide a point of difference at ground level. Alex Ballard looks set for a move into the midfield, while other over-agers such as Hannah Prenzler (half-back) and Isobel Kuiper (half-forward) will be better for another season. Add in top-ager Georgia Swan at centre half-forward, and the inclusion of Eagles’ Chloe Forby, and the Double Blues are starting to build some firepower.

It will be another tough match to pick, and without Georgia Bevan – having been picked up late to Gold Coast Suns – more will fall to the likes of Maya Rigter for Sturt, but they have the young talent to get it done. One cannot discount Glenelg though, as they have some great outside movers.

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.25pm
X Convenience Oval

The final match of the round takes place with Central District hosting Woodville-West Torrens in a battle of the league’s two newest clubs. Though now into their third seasons, both the Bulldogs and Eagles are becoming well established, and if 2020 is anything to go off, they should be more competitive again. Without a heap of AFL Women’s talent last season, both these sides are well adapted to being without that top level experience, which puts them in good stead to have plenty of developing young guns coming through the programs.

The Bulldogs were one of the more exciting teams in 2020 even if their results may not have shown it. They were willing to run the ball forward, and with the need for speed, were taking it up to sides. Latiah Huynh is a perfect example of the way the Dogs play – with speed and tenacity, as well as confidence – and teaming up with fellow youngster Lauren Breguet in the forward half, Central District will look to share the load outside of notable goalkicker Katelyn Rosenzweig. Eagles’ key position utility Kiana Lee has been named at full-back with Anastasia Falkenberg another reliable talent in defence, as is Jamie Parish.

The midfield battle will be just as intriguing with new captain and reigning best and fairest winner Shelby Smith leading the Bulldogs onball, and the likes of Caitlen Teague and Lauren Smith in there. A couple of experienced recruits in Paige Allan and Nicole Mark among those inclusions into the Bulldogs’ line-up, while Madison Lane is a top-age talent with reliable foot skills from defence, while Demi Sonneman is always one to watch coming out of the back 50. A big inclusion for the Eagles is former South Adelaide raw ruck/forward prospect Brooklyn Kraft who will make her debut amongst a host of new faces coming out of the local leagues, while Kiley Green has made the move from the ACT and been named at centre-half back. Charlotte Dolan and Jovanka Zecevic are others to keep an eye on in the match for the Eagles.

Central District has beefed up its side in 2021, with more experience to settle the youth down and the Dogs could start favourite in this one, though the Eagles are always tough to score against.

Picture credit: SANFL

2021 VFLW season preview: Hawthorn

FOR the first time since 2018, Bec Goddard is set to take the senior coaching reigns during competitive action, when she leads Hawthorn’s VFLW side into battle for Round 1 of the new season. Heading a historic all-female coaching staff, Goddard says she is “excited” to be part of the Hawks’ initiative to provide greater opportunities for women in football – not just on the field.

“For me, and when I talk to the players about it, it was always about the best coach for the job and they happen to be women,” Goddard said. “I’ve got some great teachers on coaching staff that support me, have got a lot of similar values and they just hadn’t had an opportunity at the next level. This is their opportunity.

“It’s one of those things where in five years time when Hawthorn is in the AFLW competition, we could look back and go ‘well, what do we do to get more women in these positions at the club?’ and start from that point, or we could start now. It’s brave and overt leadership by the club to say that we want to change the industry and give opportunities to women, not just in playing but all elements of the football department.”

Goddard will have familiar faces at her disposal in 2021, leaning on some legendary names in the women’s footballing sphere while also attempting to get the most out of some promising young talent. 39-year-old utility Meg Hutchins is among the experienced members of Hawthorn’s revamped squad, described by Goddard as akin to “the timeless piece of furniture in an expensive house.”

“She’s got so much football experience and will bookend our team this year,” Goddard said. “Meg and I often talk about how the end of football is going to wrap up for both of us and I keep saying to Meg ‘well, you’re a long time retired so while you can keep playing, why don’t you?’.

“That’s where she’s at so it’s great to have her playing, and she’s fully fit. In fact, I look at Meg and I think she’s the fittest I’ve ever seen her across her years of women’s football. It’s exciting, hopefully she has a great season and you might see her in some different positions.”

With such vast experience in the women’s coaching ranks comes a handy list of contacts, which has played a part in Hawthorn’s recruitment of players like Abbey Holmes and new skipper Jess Trend. Both have been AFLW-listed players and the latter is a “surprise package” of sorts according to Goddard, hardly missing a beat since deciding to join the brown and gold. She was one of the many signings identified as key members of the side by her new head coach.

“‘I had a couple of texts with (Trend) and then she came down to training and she hasn’t missed a session,” Goddard said. “I think coming out of a global pandemic, we’re looking for a carrier of a good disease and Jess Trend is just that. She’s infectious with her attitude, her happiness to be around football and bringing good elite habits to the group.

“In the middle of the field we’ve brought in some experience in Abbey Holmes. Abbey and I obviously worked together at Adelaide for the inaugural premiership year. She’s got a wealth of football IQ that she brings and shares with the younger players in the group, as well as some great physical attributes for football. She’s tough at the contest, so it’s exciting to see Abbey contribute at Hawthorn.

Olivia Flanagan will play an important role this year. She’s coming back from a little bit of sickness in the last couple of weeks so she’s named as an emergency this week, but I expect ‘Liv’ to play a lot of football. She’ll make an impact up forward and on the ball this year to make her a bit more diverse in what she does.

“We’ve got young Territorian Dominique Carbone coming in from Darwin this weekend to play her first season in the VFLW, she’s a really exciting young talent with a basketball background. She plays low to the ground, looks like an athlete, is an athlete, behaves like an athlete, and she’s ready to take her football to the next level.”

Goddard is also excited to have full access to the next generation of prospects swarming through the elite talent pathways. Through a competition restructure, the NAB League Girls season now runs concurrently with that of the VFLW, allowing Under 18 and 19 players to also ply their trade in the state league system.

Their impressive skill and scope for improvement has impressed many a VFLW coach, no less Goddard who suggested tongue-in-cheek that she is “really looking forward to the (NAB League) byes” in order to gain access to said talent as much as possible.

“They’re such great footballers,” Goddard said. “Their skills are so impressive and they’re just growing in terms of their football IQ each week, understanding how we want to play football. It’s just great to have them there and contributing to a really high standard of training.

Speaking of training, the Hawks returned in “better than expected” shape after a year on the sidelines, though plenty of craft sessions and a heavy incorporation of match simulation into training has lifted their touch back up to scratch. A single scratch match, against Geelong provided even more insight into how the brown and gold are shaping up ahead of Round 1, with 29 players trialled and a bunch of magnets locked in on Goddard’s whiteboard.

Players returning from injury will also have a say on the side’s shape during the season, with a few players who earned high praise from Goddard expected to make a splash once fully fit. The new 12-day concussion mandate has also been a factor in availabilities across the competition.

“We’ve got a couple of players to come back still,” Goddard said. “We’ve got Tayah Kelly who obviously is a fairly damaging midfielder, she’s still out with a bit of an issue with her hip, so I think we’re at least three weeks away with her.

Chloe Bain, who I think is probably going to be one of the most exciting centre half-forwards in the competition – new to the game and she’s an extraordinary athlete with a rowing background, very long levers – is out this week with concussion. But when she’s fully fit and firing she will take the competition by storm, I’ve got no doubt.

Hawthorn’s first point of call in 2021 will be a clash against the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval on Sunday morning. Goddard says she is taking a “simple” approach when it comes to expectations, but is excited to be able to get back into action.

“I think we’re going to keep it really simple and we want to enjoy our first game together as a group, that’ll be the most important thing,” she said. “Also just being in the contest and making a real fist of Round 1 and getting to feel what it’s like to be with the team to achieve a common goal.”

Image Credit: Hawthorn Media

Top Performers: Around the Country – WAFLW Round 1

IN the first week where multiple Under 18s competitions have run, we introduce a new article titled ‘Around the Country: Top Performers’. For this week we take a look at the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition and see who impressed on the weekend, with a focus on West Australian State Academy members or Draft Combine invitees from last year.

>> NAB League Girls Top Performers from Round 3

WAFL Women’s:

With two games footage accessible, we viewed Peel Thunder’s win over East Fremantle, and Swan Districts’ victory over Claremont and noted down the top performers.

Jade Briggs (Peel Thunder)

A quick thinker with quick disposal and a lovely left foot, Briggs is a danger inside 50. She finished with two majors including a long goal that flew over the back of a pack. Her vision and placement in the match was impressive as well and is yet another Peel talented teenager.

Bella Edgley (Swan Districts)

Edgley always looked busy inside 50 with raw talent. Her first few kicks inside 50 went astray to defenders, but she was looking dangerous. Then she took a strong one-on-one mark and converted the set shot from 35m out, before dribbling home a second goal from a tight angle. Rushed a flying shot in the third term to kick it out on the full, but certainly caught attention with her X-factor.

Amy Franklin (Claremont)

Like a blank canvas, Franklin is a player with high potential and one who could go far given her attributes. She has high-level athleticism for a tall forward, and while she can clunk her marks, she is even better at ground level, as she showed in kicking the first goal of the game by bursting away and taking a few bounces to kick a major from point-blank range. A powerful kick, Franklin is not afraid to get her hands dirty, spoiling an opponent in her attacking goalsquare front on but only connecting with the ball to try and kick it off the ground but ran out of space.

Jess Low (Claremont)

One of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees last year, Low has used the extra preseason to prepare for an extra season of building on her game. She had a terrific game on the weekend and was constantly involved in midfield. Low cracks in hard and puts her body on the line, and is not afraid to lay some big tackles on opponents. At times her kicks went a bit wide and missed targets, but her disposal is becoming more consistent, with a clean kick inside 50 in the fourth term to a teammate on the lead.

Emma Nanut (Swan Districts)

Plays traditionally in defence but can have an impact further up the field, Nanut won her touches in a variety of positions. She is one who assesses her options before disposing of it, she attempts inboard passes to open the game up. Nanut did well in a one-on-one close to the line in the fourth term to avoid a late goal going the way of the Tigers.

Rachel Ortlepp (Claremont)

A reliable defender already tasked with the kick-out duties, Ortlepp just mopped up her team’s messes in the back half and was consistent with her ball-use. Even though she did fumble a mark at one stage in the third term, her recovery to pick it up and give it off was crucial. A real rock, deep in defence that could also push up and provide a high line. Ortlepp also showed good penetration with her kicks.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)

Did not have a huge impact on the game, but a telling moment came 13 minutes into the third term where she slid in to take a good mark just inside 50. Known for her set shot goalkicking, Reilly kicks through the ball, though the ball fell marginally short. Over the off-season Reilly has added size to her frame in order to compete even better in one-on-one contests.

Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)

Wow, just wow. It is hard to comprehend what the talented 16-year-old is able to do at such a young age, especially given she only turned 16 in December. Her ability to read the play, sidestep more experienced opponents, clunk contested marks and slot miracle goals, she is a human highlight reel who is not eligible to be drafted until 2023, but will be worth the wait. Roberts kicked two goals in the first half and set up some more before being tagged by the opposition before she could get any more off the chain. An elite talent.

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)

Just had her moments on the weekend, and while she is lightly built, is just clean and clever, able to work through traffic with minimal fuss. She had a few chances on goal in the final term but missed, though her highlight came earlier when she was being tackled but still got a handball off to a teammate which enabled them to have a shot on goal. A top prospect for 2020.

Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder)

An athletic ruck who showed some promising potential. Her competitiveness in the air with a good vertical leap was noteworthy, and her attack on the football was great. She had a couple of shots on goal that either fell short or she opted to pass, but as a raw talent she showed some good signs coming through the Thunder program.

Tara Stribley (Swan Districts)

The outside player provided some good run and carry across the ground, and is incredibly quick to put the boot to ball, A couple of times her kicks forward were picked off by the opposition half-backs, but then showed her skill later on with a lovely kick from half-back to bend around her body and hit a target as Stribley was being bumped. Possesses terrific acceleration which she loves to use.

 

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Westies youth ready to soar after promising 2020

WEST Adelaide is gearing up for a bumper 2021 South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) season, boasting an abundance of talented young prospects, and a side that showed it could match it with the best teams in the competition. Taking down experienced finals campaigner Norwood in the elimination final before bowing out at the hands of reigning back-to-back premier South Adelaide in the preliminary final, there was plenty to like about the Bloods’ season.

Ball magnet Rachelle Martin shared the SANFLW League Best and Fairest Award with North Adelaide’s Anne Hatchard, showing she was just too good to be at state league level. The Adelaide Crows agreed, and drafted Martin onto their senior list after being a train-on player and getting a game when injuries struck the Crows 12 months ago. It means Martin’s availability for West Adelaide will be dependent on AFL Women’s selection, but she, like her sister Hannah Button, are natural footballers with high work rates.

The Bloods will also be without the likes of Madison Newman and Chelsea Biddell when the Crows are playing, with the two continuing to impress at the elite level. Newman formed a deadly combination with bottom-ager and 2022 draft prospect Keeley Kustermann off half-back, with the pair both making the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year there. Kustermann was able to gain plenty of experience against senior bodies in 2020, and she will be one to watch not only in the SANFL Women’s competition, but at the AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships in April. Her balance, composure and skill by foot is impressive, and expect her to play an important role for West Adelaide.

Kustermann is not the only young talent on West Adelaide’s list, with Zoe Venning one of the highly touted draft-eligible players on the list. A hard nut who shows great courage around the ball, Venning can play as a lead-up forward, a high-forward or predominantly as an inside midfielder where she can crack in, win the ball and exit the stoppage with fair athleticism to match her contested ball-winning abilities. Speaking to Draft Central in the pre-season, Venning said she was hoping to improve her skills to take her game to the next level.

Unfortunately some of West’s talented teenagers have also been sidelined during the pre-season, with Abby Hardwick (quad) and Abbie Ballard (ankle) both looking at time out of football. Hardwick is eyeing off a return sooner rather than later being a strain, while Ballard will miss a large chunk of the season – unfortunately including the championships – but will no doubt be a vital inclusion later in the season. Other members in the South Australian State Academy squad are Tamika May – a developing football talent – and Scarlett Griffiths – an athletic marking forward – who are also looking to impress in 2021.

Fast forward to a couple of years down the track and 15-year-old Lauren Young is a player whose name will no doubt keep popping up, with the teenager set to play a big role in her debut season this year as a versatile key position option. Speaking of key position options, Carlton’s Sharni Whiting has crossed to the SANFLW to be a contested marking replacement for retired duo Lauren Rodato and Helen Maidment. Whiting has great experience and will be one of the more notable key position players in the competition.

Louella McCarthy has also crossed from the Southern Saints, with former Woodville-West Torrens Eagles young gun Teagan Usher a perfect replacement for Newman whilst she is out with AFL Women’s commitments. Norwood duo, Taylor Glover and Chloe Meyers, South Adelaide’s Natalie Gibbs and Sturt’s Paxton Davis-Mattner are among the other inclusions to the Bloods side with state league experience.

West Adelaide kicks off its 2021 SANFL Women’s season tomorrow night at Coopers Stadium against Norwood from 7.45pm. The Bloods are an exciting team with plenty of youth, so expect there to be eye-catching moments galore.

Picture credit: SANFL