Category: SANFL Women’s

SANFL Women’s League

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

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

“Strong” preseason sees Glenelg set for season 2021

THE 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season is upon us and Glenelg is gearing up for an improved season with a more experienced squad stepping up to the plate this season. Whilst brief COVID-19 shutdowns affected the early stage of preseason, women’s head coach Jason Fairall is happy with how his team is shaping up.

We’ve had a fairly strong preseason, two weeks affected by a COVID shutdown but outside of that we’ve actually had an extended preseason given the season starts later so it really hasn’t impacted our preseason at all,” Fairall said. “Nothing really that was as significant as last season where it (COVID) stopped the season, effectively all it meant was we missed our first two weeks of the preseason and so outside of that it’s just been situation normal.

“Majority of our players have actually gotten through the preseason this year, which was a first for us. “Normally we’re managing players at various stages but it’s been fairly consistent and fairly solid so preseason’s been strong.

Whilst Glenelg has dealt with a significant turnover of players over the past few years after an overhaul of its women’s football program, Fairall is confident in the club’s newcomers this season with a more cohesive and consistent playing group.

“A lot less have actually joined our club this year, this offseason than the last two… In 2019 we brought in 20 new players, and in 2020 we had 20 new players as well so out of those 40 players we’ve had 30-odd roll over, they’re still with us,” Fairall explained. “I think only about 13 have come into the program this year so it’s fairly consistent for us this offseason. It’s been really good and a lot of our players are now understanding what our program and what the competition is about. “The 13 players that have come in have pretty much just slotted in seamlessly and our leaders have made sure that they’ve come in and gelled and bonded fairly quickly.”

Whilst the team boasts a number of top AFL Women’s talent, including Ebony Marinoff, Caitlin Gould and Deni Varnhagen, Fairall’s list has plenty of local talent that will look to have an impact once the season begins. The new-look squad also includes a number of youngsters who have stood out during the preseason, returning in 2021 and building on their Under 18s year.

“I know that since they’ve (AFL Women’s talent) actually been involved in our program that our players have certainly learned a lot from them over the last two years but in terms of what’s happening right now… We’ve had Tessa Kohn continue her growth and development. Jess Bates is coming into her second year so her experience effectively doubles overnight and she too has had a very strong season on the track. “We’ve also got Tamsyn – our juniors are actually really growing so Tamsyn Morriss and Brooke Tonon, Ellen Tyminski. I could name a few, like I said it’s been a fairly strong and consistent preseason for us.”

Glenelg will look to continue to be a competitive side in season 2021, and further develop its form with Fairall suggesting that the club’s turnover in players and relative inexperience impacted on its potential over the past few seasons.

“We want to be pretty skilled. That’s something that we’ve worked on since I’ve been appointed in the role of coach,” Fairall explained. “We had made some significant inroads in my first year and probably fell away a little bit last year in that regard because we just had so many inexperienced players in our program, but we do want to be a skilful and a hard side to play against.”

Glenelg’s 2021 season kicks off against Sturt on Saturday, February 27.

Picture credit: Cory Sutton

Finals on the agenda for Sturt in 2021

WHILE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s has been a fantastic initiative for all eight SANFL clubs to be involved in, some sides have had more on-field success than others so far. In Sturt’s three years playing in the SANFL Women’s League, they are yet to make a finals appearance. Changing this record is high on the agenda of Sturt’s senior women’s coach Bruce Dawes in 2021, particularly following their capitulation after returning from the COVID-19 break last season.

“Pre-COVID, we were actually pretty happy with the way we were tracking,” Dawes said. “We were 2-2 at that stage and felt the girls were making pretty good improvements. Having that break really interrupted us. Some girls chose not to come back post-COVID because work and different things changed for them, so after that we certainly didn’t play the football we were hoping to play.”

Sturt did not claim another victory for the 2020 season, concluding the year with two wins, seven losses, one draw and the lowest percentage in the competition, 25.04. This put them in sixth position, just one point ahead of bottom two clubs Woodville-West Torrens and Central District.

“Overall, we were disappointed with the season, no doubt about it,” Dawes said. “You always want to play finals, but I think we’re moving in the right direction now.”

Over the summer period, Dawes has put an emphasis on improving his players’ fitness levels, along with some other key areas of SANFLW football.

“Preseason’s been really good, one thing we felt last year was that we weren’t as fit as we’d like to have been, so there’s certainly been a focus on fitness,” Dawes said. “All of our GPS information is telling us that the girls have been working harder and their intensity is up, so that’s been a real bonus for us. From there, it’s just constant work on developing our skills and our game plan.”

When asked about their game plan, Dawes said he wants to help his players to develop greater football IQ’s and understand match situations when they are out in the heat of battle.

“We do a lot of work on our strategy type of stuff,” he said. “We want to control the footy then get our timing right of when to go fast and when to go slow. That’s what we’re looking at trying to achieve this year.”

As for Sturt’s recruiting strategy this offseason, they have focused on bringing players into the SANFLW system rather than poaching from rival SANFLW clubs.

“We’ve gone to the local clubs,” Dawes said. “We were able to watch a few local games once our season had finished, and from that we were able to attract a few newer girls who are bit older and have played a little bit of football. A couple of girls from Uraidla, Molly Fletcher and Alisha Gepp, who have really added to our group. Another girl Jess Good, who played at Blackwood, is a tall ruckman that’s come into the squad and been excellent for us. Chloe Forby came over from the Eagles, she’s a little goer that plays small forward, she’s added to the group as well.”

At the Under 18 preseason testing day earlier this month, 2020 Club Champion Zoe Prowse revealed that she is planning to play as a midfielder for the Double Blues in 2021. This surprised some given her prowess and expertise as a ruck, but Dawes clarified their reasoning behind the move.

“We just want to try and develop Zoe’s complete game,” he said. “She’s an outstanding athlete. Will she be a ruck at AFL level? She absolutely can be, no doubt, she has the athleticism to do it. But if we can add extra strings to her bow, where she could become a midfielder and then occasionally pinch hit in the ruck, that would really add to her talent as well.”

As for Sturt players that fans should keep an eye on this season, Dawes had several names in mind.

“A crowd favourite is Kate ‘Buba’ Harris– she’s a hard-working half-forward that goes at everything, is intense and just loves the game, the group love her too, she’s outstanding,” Dawes said. “Zoe Prowse, Alex Ballard, Georgia Swan and Hannah Prenzler are all in the State program, which is excellent for them. All of those girls have been really good. A couple of left field ones [to keep an eye on]. New ruckman Jess Good is not a household name, but she’ll be very handy for us. Maya Rigter, Isobel Kuiper and girls like that have always been consistent performers for us as well.”

Although a finals berth is firmly on Dawes’ mind, he knows this will be difficult to achieve in 2021 due to the strong competition in SANFLW.

“Our goal is to play finals, no doubt about that,” Dawes said. “We think we were on track last year before the wheels fell off a bit, but we really think the list we’ve got now, the development the girls are putting in, and we’re progressing to a stage where we think we can play finals. Things will have to go right for us to do that, it’s a really tight competition that’s always constantly improving, so hopefully we’re improving a bit more than the other clubs.”

Sturt’s season begins on Saturday morning at X Convenience Oval when they take on Glenelg.

 

Picture credit: SANFL

 

For more SANFL Women’s news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

South Adelaide looks to the future in 2021

SOUTH Adelaide have been the most successful team in the short history of the SANFL Women’s League. After winning the 2018 and 2019 premierships, they made the grand final again in 2020, but fell just short against North Adelaide.

Due to the departures of multiple star players and premiership coach Rick Watts, it will be much tougher for the Panthers to return to the big stage in 2021. However, rather than dwelling on their losses, South Adelaide executives have turned their attention towards the future of the club. This process started in the offseason by hiring new Senior Women’s Coach Andrew Brockhurst.

A former 131-game player for South Adelaide’s SANFL side and 38-game player for Fitzroy, Brockhurst said that although he has a reasonably limited coaching background at senior level, he has been involved with multiple women’s amateur sides in recent seasons.

“I’ve spent the last few years involved in the women’s program,” he said. “I spent a year out at Christies Beach coaching with their senior group, then coached Flagstaff Hill senior women last year in the Southern Football League. Then the role at South Adelaide popped up, which was unexpected, and I felt confident enough to apply.”

Despite some early interruptions due to South Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions (brought on by the Parafield cluster), Brockhurst is pleased with how his first preseason at the helm has gone.

“Preseason has been good, a little bit fragmented like most people’s preseasons, but since the beginning of December our season’s been right on track,” he said. “We usually run a really important six-week program prior to our actual preseason starting [that] helps girls with the mechanics of kicking the football. We lost most of that, so we had to adapt our program into our preseason and the girls actually ended up training an extra night all the way through until the end of January to make sure we fit all that in.”

In addition to the skills initiative, Brockhurst has prioritised improving his side’s speed of ball movement and adjusting his recruits to the frenetic pace of SANFLW football.

“We have a number of new girls in our squad this year, so getting them used to the pace of the game and ensuring that we’re trying to move the ball as quickly as we can have been major focuses for us,” he said. “We’re pretty controlled coming out of our backline generally, so we’re worried that the speed coming out of there is letting us down a bit. We’re just trying to speed that pace up and move the ball quicker into our forward line. We back our forwards being quite strong one-on-one, so the quicker we can get it there the better.”

The Panthers lost Teah Charlton, Indy Tahau and Tahlia Meyer to AFLW clubs over the offseason. Brockhurst knows these players are incredibly talented and will be difficult to replace.

“[Those three] are hard to replace overnight, that takes time,” Brockhurst said. “We certainly have some young girls coming along that will be stars within their own right, but that will take a little bit of time for some of those to settle in.”

Brockhurst was optimistic about his new recruits, especially those coming from other SANFLW clubs.

“We have some good ins to our squad; Soriah Moon coming from Glenelg will fit nicely into our program, and Alannah Rochow from Norwood will also play a major part for us this season,” he said.

Brockhurst also said that his younger players have impressed him over the summer.

Gypsy Schirmer has been a standout throughout preseason for us,” he said. “Lauren Clifton is moving really well and Sarah Wright, who’s coming back from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) last year, is back into it full swing. We’re looking forward to Sarah finding her way again early on in the season and having another good year for us.”

While regular improvement is the Panthers’ number one focus, Brockhurst said he would not put a ceiling on what his side can achieve this season.

“We will continue to focus mainly on the development of our players,” he said. “Our other aim every single week, as it would be for the every other club, is to win every game that we play in. As for where that ends at the end of season, we will see what happens. But we will be giving 110 per cent to try and compete and be successful in every game we play.”

South Adelaide’s season gets underway on Friday night when they take on the Roosters in a highly-anticipated grand final rematch at Coopers Stadium.

Picture credit: Nick Hook Photography

For more SANFL Women’s news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

SANFLW Academy Ones to Watch: West Adelaide and WWT Eagles

IN the final of four SANFL Women’s Ones to Watch, we take a look at those West Adelaide and Woodville-West Torrens Eagles players inside the South Australian Under-19 State Academy, and what they could offer to their club.

WEST ADELAIDE:

Abbie Ballard
Midfielder | Over-ager

The over-age talent has a potent left foot that can impact a game when she is able to find time and space. She attacks the contest hard and is a natural ball-winner, racking up big numbers week-in, week-out. Unfortunately Ballard has missed the final cut of 30 for the Academy due to an ankle injury which required surgery lately, and is racing the clock to impact later on this season.

Scarlett Griffiths
Forward | Top-ager

A talented forward with some nice upside, Griffiths uses the ball well and can take good grabs overhead. Possessing some athleticism, she is one who could really step up in 2021 as a top-ager and have an even greater influence on the contest after some promising performances last season.

Abby Hardwick
Forward | Top-ager

Much like Ballard, Hardwick is racing the clock to be fit sooner rather than later. Having strained her quad in the preseason, Hardwick is expected to be back much sooner, and as another forward with good athleticism and strong overhead, is a crucial player to the West Adelaide setup.

Keeley Kustermann
Defender | Bottom-ager

One of the most talented teenagers in the competition, Kustermann earned SANFLW Team of the Year honours in her first season last year, and has such a well-balanced game. She is equally impressive in the air or at ground level and is able to read the ball off half-back and drive it forward. As a 2022 draft prospect, Kustermann stands as one of the top ones to watch for next year, with an ability to hit targets under pressure.

Tamika May
Defender | Top-ager

A raw talent compared to some of her other teammates, May is coming into her second season having had experience at League level last year. Still developing her fundamentals, May is another Bloods defender who could step up with the absence of Madison Newman and other AFL Women’s teammates.

Zoe Venning
Midfielder/Forward | Top-ager

A tenacious midfielder/forward, Venning attacks the contest hard and is not afraid to take on much bigger opponents. Speaking to Draft Central in the preseason, Venning said her goal was to improve her skill to round out her intensity and work rate, also being one of the better athletes across the competition. She had a huge impact for the Bloods last season, and now as a top-ager could take the next step up in her development.

WWT EAGLES:

Charlotte Dolan
Utility | Top-ager

Entering what will be only her second season at SANFL Women’s level, the Eagles utility has shown great progression throughout 2020 and will look to build on that in 2021. Having played as a running defender, wing and also on the inside, Dolan has the traits to be a versatile player with a high-level endurance base from her surf lifesaving and soccer.

Jamie Parish
Defender | Top-ager

Parish had a solid season in 2020 with a strong finish to the year, stepping up in the back 50 for the Eagles. Not a huge ball-winner, but Parish makes the most of her chances and is strong overhead and not afraid to play both offensive and defensive roles out of defence.

Jaida Tabb
Midfielder | Top-ager

The younger sister of former Adelaide talent Jaimi, Tabb is one who got a taste of SANFL Women’s action last season and will be looking to build on that in 2021. Much like her sister, Tabb possesses a mix of power and speed that will help her attack the contest with vigour. She is expected to play an increased role in 2021 after a couple of strong seasons at local level for SMOSH West Lakes.

Picture credit: Karley J Photography

SANFLW Academy Ones to Watch: South Adelaide and Sturt

IN the third of four SANFL Women’s Ones to Watch, we take a look at those South Adelaide and Sturt players inside the South Australian Under-19 State Academy, and what they could offer to their club.

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

Tahlita Buethke
Midfielder | Over-ager

Of the over-agers still in the Academy, Buethke could be one of the biggest movers in terms of her progression in 2021. She has a lot of potential, and felt at home for the Panthers, with her speed and marking among her strengths. She hopes to play on a wing where she can use her strengths to advantage and take the game on.

Lauren Clifton
Forward | Top-ager

As a bottom-ager, Clifton showed her potential to compete against older opponents last season, stepping up to be named in the All-Stars match where she slotted a goal up forward. A player with plenty of potential and a high work rate, Clifton can use the ball well and run hard to get to the right positions.

Gypsy Schirmer
Forward/Midfielder | Top-ager

The most exciting player to keep an eye on from a top-age perspective, Schirmer went from strength to strength last year and was deservedly added to the AFL Women’s National Academy. She has plenty of upside and her nous around goals is terrific. She can push up and play on a wing, with her overhead marking and impact among her best traits. We spoke with her at the preseason testing.

Sarah Wright
Defender | Over-ager

Unfortunately Wright suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in her top-age year, so will return to try and impact in 2021. Now as an over-ager, Wright is one who is a strong defender and will be keen to have better luck to add extra depth to a strong back six at the Panthers.

STURT:

Alex Ballard
Utility | Over-ager

With a knack to play anywhere on the field, it was Ballard’s performance in the All-Stars game last year that reminded spectators what she is capable of. She plays as a loose intercepting defender with a penetrating kick and an ability to move the ball quickly, which helps transition the ball from one end to the other. Looking to improve her fitness this year, Ballard is one that is more than capable at League level and remains a talent to keep an eye on in 2021.

Hannah Prenzler
Defender | Over-ager

The reliable defender is a natural leader, and possesses a pinpoint kick. Having spent some time at half-forward, the teenager is most suited to half-back where she is able to read the ball in flight, intercept and then drive the ball forward making the right decisions. As someone who has proven to be incredibly coachable over the years, Prenzler is looking to iron out improvements and build on her game.

Zoe Prowse
Ruck/Midfielder | Top-ager

The highly-touted top-ager who is in her second year in the AFL Women’s National Academy is set for a new role in 2021. Speaking to Draft Central at the preseason testing event, Prowse said she would roll through the midfield rather than be the number one ruck, and show off her versatility and athleticism for a taller player. Able to play just about anywhere, Prowse is the top South Australian prospect in 2021.

Georgia Swan
Forward | Top-ager

A talented forward who has shown some real promising signs over the past couple of years, Swan is a crafty forward who adds a different dimension to the Double Blues’ front half. She is strong overhead and knows where the goals are, but often roams up the ground to win the ball and doubles back to aide teammates. One to watch as an improver this year.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Bulldogs build brand and now ready to bite

CENTRAL District coach Shaun Ribbons will head into the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season confident his side can begin to put into place the learnings of the first two seasons to take the next step in the competition.

Playing in a trial match against North Adelaide on the weekend, it was clear to Ribbons that despite the interrupted year in 2020, and the challenges that have come with being a new club entering the league after the majority of others, the Bulldogs are now progressing to beyond just being competitive.

“I think a lot of our girls have now had two or three preseasons and what we find is all the strength and conditioning, fundamentals of the game, footy IQ, it’s just starting to accumulate and they’re just starting to understand what playing at this level is all about,” Ribbons said. “So we’re really seeing a faster progression than I thought we would this season, and we were able to in our trial match on the weekend, give that a bit of a test, and the girls played really well against North Adelaide and their training this year has been at a really high standard.

“We’ve been able to in the first couple of years implement some pretty strong training standards and expectations, and that takes a little while for girls to adjust to when we’ve really taken them from amateur footy and some of them haven’t played much at all, to semi-elite stuff. “It just takes a bit of time, and the group’s been awesome this year, really positive and we’re starting to see a bit of progression.”

Last season the Bulldogs might have taken home the wooden spoon with just the two wins, but it was clear to everyone that despite dropping back a spot on the ladder, Central District had made massive strides going forward. Ribbons said there were times where his side looked to have had momentum in games, it was about making the most of those opportunities, which was something he is expecting in season three.

“We knew that some of the teams we were coming up against were obviously really talented and they’d been in the comp for longer and just played more footy so we based everything in the first two years in building a brand that was competitive, things that we could control,” he said. “We wanted to be a really good tackling team, we didn’t want to shirk any issues and be a team that’s known to compete really well, and then just add layers upon that.

“In terms of how we use the ball, how we defend, we knew our fundamentals, our strength and conditioning and our footy IQ would come at some point. “We’re starting to see that now, but as long as we competed really well, so I think that’s what we achieved in the first two years. “It didn’t matter who we played, we held our own in the contest in terms of competing, but we just have to be a bit patient with some of the other stuff.”

An example Ribbons used was a match against reigning premiers and 2020 grand finalists South Adelaide, where the Bulldogs had 17 more inside 50s, but still went down comfortably.

“There were some good indicators, but obviously some key areas that we just needed to get better at,” Ribbons said. “Some of that is experience, and some of it is just development and a little bit of personnel.”

Last year the Bulldogs had limited AFL Women’s players coming back to the side, with Sarah Allan being a standout performer, but in 2021, the teams will once again be without their top-level experience for the most part, which is something Ribbons said the playing group used for motivation last year, and as a positive coming into this year.

“For our girls that was a really great learning experience, there’s no doubt about that, and that will hold us in good stead for at least the first part of the year, and I think at times we were able to match it with some of those girls, so that’s the situation we’re in where we don’t have a heap of AFL girls, and we’ve just got to focus on the girls that we do have and building a strong brand within our community and that’s a long-term thing,” Ribbons said.

“We’re pretty hellbent on having good connections within the Barossa and the Northern suburbs in terms of footy growth, and that will be our competitive advantage going forward. “We might not quite have the stimulus of girls coming back from interstate to play for us, but I think we can build something strong if we get it right.”

One aspect the Bulldogs have been able to add over the offseason is experience, with Sturt’s Jess Schulz and Brianna Burt, North Adelaide’s Paige Allan, and South Adelaide’s Nicole Mark providing “an immediate injection of 60 or 60 games”. Ribbons also said the Bulldogs’ good crop of young talents led by Lauren Breguet, Maddy Lane and Laitiah Huynh was promising, in what he described as a “much more balanced group”.

Leading that group is new captain Shelby Smith, who had a remarkable first season in the SANFL Women’s and won the team’s best and fairest, and earned the respect of her teammates enough to be chosen as captain for the 2021 season. Ribbons praised Smith’s ability to represent the brand and herself, whilst still learning the game.

“I remember watching her play at Eastern Park and she’s one of those girls who you know what you’re going to get,” Ribbons said. “She’s just a real competitor, so I was confident in that. “She obviously had a fantastic season, I mean the great thing about her is her attitude, she really fits that brand that we’re trying to drive, and she’s a great learner as well. “She’s still always trying to find ways to improve and I think in terms of what we value at our footy club, she’s just a great role model.

“She has been somebody that anybody within the group can look towards and she’s got so many great attributes, so she’ll be a fantastic captain and leader, and she’s still developing her game because she’s really only played at this level for one year, and we’ve already seen signs that she’s going to be a really strong competitor for us and do well.”

The first match is now just over a week away, with the Bulldogs hosting Woodville-West Torrens Eagles at X Convenience Oval in the second match of a double-header. Ribbons said one focus for the team was improvement in fundamental decision making, which was a focus for the group over the off-season.

“We feel really strong about our brand, but what we’ve been able to do is really try and take the next step in terms of our methods with ball-in-hand,” he said. “We’re probably a team of going forward at all costs, but not necessarily with great method, so we’ve done a lot of work on how we want to exit from contests, and we want to be better users of the ball. “We’ve spent a lot more time on structure and role playing within the preseason.

“Our big improvement will come from how we’re able to use the ball to put teams under pressure, because we had so many times last year where we had opportunities but there’d be a fundamental error, just a dropped mark or a kick where we couldn’t just execute when we had our opportunities, so I think that is our big growth area.”

Picture credit: On the Ball Media

SANFLW season preview: Norwood

NEW Norwood women’s coach Mat Creeper will be eager to get his SANFLW career off to a bright start when his side kicks off their 2021 season later this month.

The Redlegs have been a consistently strong outfit throughout the entirety of the competition’s existence, claiming the inaugural premiership in 2017 and qualifying for the finals in all four seasons.

Creeper, who worked as Senior Women’s Assistant Coach at the Collingwood Football Club last season, said he was pleased with the clubs off-season, despite being forced to deal with a COVID-related setback prior to the Christmas break.

“The girls have been working very hard since the start of November,” Creeper said. “We capped off our first six-week block with a training camp to the Yorke Peninsula which was well received. “I’m confident to say that most (players) are fitter than they have ever been. We managed to navigate the short interruption prior to Christmas really well, the whole squad was given a program to adhere to in the down time which was challenging but at the same time was completed by all, which allowed us to keep progressing forward without missing a beat upon return.”

The Redlegs were knocked out in the first week of finals by West Adelaide last season – a frustrating defeat considering the side’s agonising preliminary final loss to North Adelaide in 2019.

However Creeper said he felt confident the squad has what it takes to make it all the way this season.

“There are a number of girls who are primed for big seasons, our ruck Leah Cutting is in career best shape and defender Shai Hiscock has been like a wrecking ball thus far,” Creeper said. “New vice-captain Elisha Gallagher is super fit and has bulked up, she looks set for a breakout year and Isabel Martin has taken her game to a new level.”

Creeper identified Jess Macolino, Tesharna Maher, Sarah Branford, Jade Halfpenny, Liz Drake and Morgan Johnston as being among the names to watch out for as the season progresses.

With an established contingent of stars, Creeper also highlighted the squads youth, led by exciting midfielder/forward Alana Lishmund, who is expected to play a prominent role after impressing in her first season at the level last year.

“We have a large portion of returning players, fantastic new recruits plus a solid group of juniors, so our expectation from the outset has been to come together quickly, learn, grow and succeed together,” Creeper said. “We’re always looking for improvement week-in-week-out, so if we can achieve that then we will take greater steps in our development which will lead to greater success.”

Although the club is tipped to make their fifth straight finals appearance, Creeper insists his side “isn’t looking too far past round one”.

“We’re setting our focus on one week at a time,” said Creeper. “We’ve created the pathway for where we would like to be and the process of how to get there, but we are firmly focused on one step at a time. We would like to think that we’ve created a quality list that is capable of being a major player at the pointy end of the season.”

The Redlegs will be seeking revenge over West Adelaide when the clubs meet under the lights of Coopers Stadium on the opening night of the season (February 26).

SANFLW Academy Ones to Watch: North Adelaide and Norwood

IN the second of four SANFL Women’s Ones to Watch, we take a look at those North Adelaide and Norwood players inside the South Australian Under-19 State Academy, and what they could offer to their club.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

Kate Case
Forward | Top-ager

A real lively player with plenty of upside, Case is a danger inside 50 and complements an already strong outfit. She is able to find the space and create scoring opportunities, and in 2021 with a lot of the Roosters’ experience heading back to the AFL Women’s, Case has a chance to step up and become a crucial cog in the forward half, and even push up and impact the midfield when required. There will be plenty of ball going inside 50, so Case can use her goal nous to be a consistent scorer.

Julia Clark
Defender/Forward | Over-ager

Having been played at both ends, Clark prefers defence where she can read the ball coming in and nullify her opponent. Building her confidence over time, Clark has the attacking streak in her, but is strong defensively, and often locks down on her opponent to take them out of the game. She uses the ball well and makes good decisions, and once she is able to build on her efforts in 2020, the reliable distributor will be a key chain out of the back 50 for the reigning premiers.

Jorja Eldridge
Utility | Over-ager

A country talent who forced her way into the Roosters outfit last season, Eldridge hails from Whyalla and showed in her glimpses that she could compete at the top level. Much like the other young guns running round in the red and white, Eldridge could have much more of an impact in season 2021. She told Draft Central last year about her move to Adelaide ahead of this year for study, and it will reduce the travel as well as continue to build on her fundamental skills to match her fantastic athletic ability.

Hannah Ewings
Midfielder | Bottom-ager

The reigning SANFL Women’s Rising Star is the best young talent in the competition and a name which will continue to rise once the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships are here. Boasting ridiculous talents of athleticism, skill and smarts, Ewings showed since making her debut at 15-years-old that she can compete against players twice her age. Having started forward and then rolled through the midfield, Ewings has high X-factor, a booming kick and is incredibly strong overhead. She can burst out of a stoppage, shrug off opponents and then create goal-scoring opportunities out of nothing. Still not at her draft-eligible year, Ewings will become the key playmaker in the midfield with Anne Hatchard and other Crows spending more time at AFL Women’s level.

Andie Zbierski
Defender | Over-ager

Another Whyalla prospect in the Academy alongside Eldridge and Ewings, Zbierski was able to play in the All-Stars match last season. Whilst travel and injuries have been a challenge for the now over-ager, she is looking to impact at SANFL Women’s level this year after not yet cracking in for a debut. She is a natural defender, and will add more talent to a back six that was already stingy in last year’s premiership tilt.

NORWOOD:

Sarah Branford
Midfielder | Top-ager

Formerly a train-on soccer player with Adelaide United, the talented teenage star is one who is making waves in the preseason according to new coach Mat Creeper. He said speaking to SANFL Radio, she was looking to play midfield and hone her craft in there following a decision to take up Australian rules football. She is a new face who could slot in to a midfield that has added more youth over the past couple of seasons.

Jade Halfpenny
Forward | Over-ager

A tall marking forward with clean hands, Halfpenny is one who showed plenty of potential in her top-age year last year. A former basketballer who has taken to the oblong-ball game like a duck to water, she is someone who could play at either end, or push up into the midfield. Halfpenny said chatting to Draft Central last season that she was keen to improve “everything”, there is plenty of scope for improvement from the teenager who could be a key target for the Redlegs in 2021.

Alana Lishmund
Utility | Top-ager

The Redlegs most impressive top-ager, Lishmund played in the All-Stars game last year as a bottom-ager. She can play forward or through the midfield, but has the traits to play anywhere on the ground and is a real X-factor inside 50. She has a fierce attack on the football with high tackling numbers, and is just looking to maintain her one-percenters. Likely to gain some more midfield minutes in 2021, expect the left-footer to use her pace and skill to impact games for extended periods of time.

Jess Williams
Forward | Top-ager

A member of the Port Adelaide Female Talent Next Generation Academy, Williams is one to watch this year looking to step up to senior level in 2021, though is currently recovering from a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury. Playing for Hectorville Football Club, Williams plays primarily as an inside midfielder who can also go forward with a great blend of power and skill in her game.

Picture credit: AFL Media