Category: Scouting Notes

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Grand Final

OAKLEIGH Chargers took out the 2021 NAB League premiership on Sunday, defeating the Geelong Falcons by 37 points at Avalon Airport Oval. A bunch of stars rose to the occasion in the season’s final game, making for a deep list of top performers from either side. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at those top performers, which are the opinion of the individual author.

NAB League Girls Grand Final
Oakleigh Chargers 11.5 (71) def. Geelong Falcons 5.4 (34)

AFLW Academy:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Freed up to play forward over the last month, Rowbottom returned another powerhouse performance with her strength both in the air and at ground level on full show. The imposing Oakleigh skipper was near-impossible to beat in one-on-one situations, rising to take solid overhead marks and bullocking her way out of would-be tackles to create space where there usually wouldn’t be any. Her intent and physicality were evident from the start and while she was caught holding the ball on a couple of occasions, Rowbottom was key in setting the tone. One of the highlights of her day in that sense was a contested mark in term two, where she leapt into the flight of a high ball with Renee Tierney coming the other way.

Oakleigh Chargers:

#7 Charlotte Taylor

Part of Oakleigh’s sturdy defence, which often flies under the radar, Taylor set her side on the right foot from the get-go. She was a reliable rebounder by foot, able to gain meterage with her run before delivering long kicks down the line. Her work at the contest to force turnovers on a high line was excellent as was her tackling intent throughout the day. Taylor also rotated onto Geelong’s most dangerous forwards at different stages of the game, highlighting her versatility and importance to the Chargers’ defensive set-up.

#10 Stella Reid

Another who has found a home up forward, Reid provided just the spark Oakleigh needed to break away and form an early lead. She was a reliable target up forward and with her combination of smarts and competitiveness, proved very difficult to beat when the ball came her way. Her two first quarter goals were crafty, latching onto the ball close to goal and finishing in quick time with aplomb to create genuine scoreboard pressure. She very nearly had a third in the same term, but hit the post, before posting that next major in term three with a snap. Her bag of three capped a run of six-consecutive games with at least one goal in style.

#14 Eliza James

Although she did not finish with the numbers of others, James was an important part of Oakleigh’s forwardline once more. She’s a powerful type who competes well aerially but also has natural ball winning nous given her time as a midfielder, making her a tough match-up. She proved as much with consistently strong presentation on the lead from half-forward, and some handy passages on the way back towards goal, which helped the Chargers link inside attacking 50. James later got a run in the midfield, having completed her initial job well.

#29 Amanda Ling

The best player afield on the day, those honours were rich reward for Ling’s remarkably consistent season among a team which boasts many stars. Her own star-factor came to the fore on Sunday, with lightning-quick and clean hands on the inside allowing Oakleigh smooth passage out of the centre. She was constantly able to release runners into space with great vision and execution, proving one of the more shrewd decision makers afield. Her zip away from congestion was also evident, as Ling burst away on numerous occasions before sending her side into attack by foot. Usually prominent on the inside, she was able to show nice outside qualities on the day, but was still the primary tone-setter from where it mattered most.

#33 Jasmine Fleming

A handy late-season addition, Fleming has not only freed up others to rotate into attack, but she has also proven an extremely damaging starting midfielder in her own right. The bottom-ager was arguably on par with Ling during the first half in terms of best afield honours, combining beautifully with her fellow midfielder to burst away from congestion and send Oakleigh forward in quick time. Her turn of speed was a real factor in opening the game up, generating valuable forward momentum and putting Geelong’s defence under immediate pressure. She capped off her day with a well-hit set shot goal in the final quarter, and truly is a classy prospect to watch for next year’s draft.

Others:

There were plenty of strong contributors for Oakleigh, who benefitted from another brilliant team spread. From the back, Alexandra McCulloch proved resolute as ever in combination with Taylor, while the wing pairing of Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies got busy. Sarah Morley again got among the goals with an opportunistic haul of three, as Taylah Morton worked hard in the front half to snare one and Kalarni Kearns was combative in the ruck.

Geelong Falcons:

#4 Poppy Schaap

One of the Falcons’ most hard-working players, Schaap was very nearly the fire starter for Geelong in term one. She started brightly with a well finished snap to ensure Geelong could reply to Oakleigh’s scoreboard pressure, and looked dangerous inside 50 with her combination of tackling pressure and smarts on the ball. She would go on to work up the ground and even spend some time back in midfield, transferring her pressure game against classy opposition. Schaap again got on the board with another sharp finish around the corner in the third quarter, but her feats weren’t quite enough to incite a Falcons comeback.

#11 Tess Craven

Arguably Geelong’s most valuable and consistent player throughout the finals series, Craven was again more than serviceable to her side in midfield. The tough ball winner cracked in and was able to rip some quick clearances away early, before going on to impress with her work on the spread. A player who seems to read the flow of play well, Craven timed her forward runs to provide an option as Geelong broke forward, working really hard in such instances after her initial efforts at the contest. Her intent was also evident through a strong tackling game, which proved important against quite stiff opposition in the engine room. She again won plenty of the ball and capped off a brilliant season with aplomb.

#15 Gabbi Featherston

The dynamic and athletic Falcon was tried in numerous roles, as she has been for most of the season, and finished as one of her side’s most consistent performers. Starting in her usual forward post, Featherston was a solid target for Geelong when they broke forward quickly, with her agility and poise allowing for eye-catching work at the drop of what was a very hot football. She made her usual move into the ruck and displayed a springy leap, cutting the size difference and competing valiantly at the coalface. She also attended centre bounces as a midfielder, showcasing her rare versatility. Overall, Featherston was one who looked to make things happen and her technique to spin out of trouble was great to watch throughout.

#26 Ingrid Houtsma

Geelong’s big inclusion for the day, Houtsma took up her spot on the wing and was a reliable contributor for her side. She was particularly prominent in the early stages, tackling well to win back possession and accumulating on the outer as she sought to send the Falcons forward. Houtsma was usually clean and quite apt in terms of her disposal, which helped in such a high-pressure kind of contest.

#37 Annie Lee

Easily among Geelong’s best players, Lee made the best of a tough role in defence and proved a real leader back there. Her ability to read the play and back herself in to intercept was important as Oakleigh looked to get well on top, while her tackling efforts matched the high-stakes intensity of the occasion. She took the kick-ins and was largely Geelong’s designated distributor for the day, though Oakleigh was eventually able to catch on to her repeat long kicks out to half-back. In terms of competitiveness and the ability to lift on the big stage, Lee did just that and would have really pleased her coaches in that sense. Reliable.

Others:

Chasing her second NAB League premiership, Renee Tierney came into the game late for Geelong, while Charlotte Simpson was lively early with her effort at the contest and tackling pressure. Liz Dowling was down on her usual numbers in defence, but also showed good intent back there, as Zoe Garth popped up in patches further afield.

2021 VFL Player Focus: Ned Moyle (Oakleigh Chargers/Collingwood VFL)

MID-SEASON draft fancy Ned Moyle has taken to senior football with aplomb in 2021, rising steeply to become one of the premium rucks available. The 19-year-old ruck is now three games deep into his Victorian Football League (VFL) career with Collingwood, having managed the same amount of NAB League outings with Oakleigh Chargers. He also turned out for the AFL Academy last month as an additional squad member, making him one of just two 2002-born prospects to earn those representative honours this year.

With the mid-season intake approaching, Moyle has already gotten a taste of what the top level may be like having competed against a bunch of AFL-listed rucks – with no less than three in his latest outing against Sydney. His 205cm frame, work rate and developing craft are traits which stand out, as many top flight clubs scramble to top up on viable rucks for the future. Moyle is the prospect under our VFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 5 showing.

Ned Moyle
Oakleigh Chargers/Collingwood VFL

DOB: February 15, 2002
Height/Weight: 205cm/87kg
Position: Ruck

2021 Averages:

NAB League: 3 games | 9.0 disposals | 3.0 kicks | 6.0 handballs | 1.7 marks | 4.3 tackles | 27.7 hitouts | 0.3 goals (1)
VFL: 3 games | 11.3 disposals | 3.0 kicks | 8.3 handballs | 3.7 marks | 0.7 tackles | 17.7 hitouts | 0 goals

2021 VFL, Round 5 | Sydney Swans 12.14 (86) def. Collingwood 8.5 (53)

#65 Ned Moyle (Collingwood)

Stats: 8 disposals | 3 kicks | 5 handballs | 2 marks | 1 tackle | 1 rebound 50 | 23 hitouts | 2 behinds

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

As Collingwood’s primary ruck for the evening, Moyle might have been pinching himself as he stared down senior-listed bigman Callum Sinclair at the opening centre bounce. But the youngster started as he sought to go on, not afraid of the physicality such experienced players bring and willing to jump through each ruck contest. While he looks a lumbering type at times, Moyle reacted well to when the ball moved either way by fulfilling his duties on the spread and ensuring the Sydney rucks would not be able to sneak forward or drop back to mark easily.

He showed he was keen to compete, but that nervous energy was perhaps misplaced in some of the early ruck duels as Sinclair was able to use Moyle’s momentum against him and gain a better read of the ball in flight as they wrestled for position. Still, Moyle showcased some of his reliable ground level work by mopping up when called upon. He was clean by hand and played the percentages, putting his big frame over the ball before keeping it simple to dish out of congestion to his midfielders and essentially bring them into the play.

Around the ground, Moyle’s work rate held up to AFL standards as he got to each contest without fuss, while also doing the one-percenters like competing on the goalline when Sydney was about to have a long-range set shot. He could be caught out in transition with quicker ball movement as speed is not a strong suit, but against similarly athletic talls he is able to keep up and ensure they don’t become easy options. At the contest, he was outdone for upper body strength and that developing mobility meant he looked a touch more comfortable when operating in straight lines, or under the high ball – where his reach could be used to advantage.

Q2:

Starting in the ruck once again, Moyle’s next challenge would be against the athletic Joel Amartey, another AFL-listed tall. He made a good decision early to spread hard as Collingwood won a free kick at the centre bounce, becoming an option in the corridor and being duly rewarded. From the uncontested mark, he again took the team option to hand off to a runner as the Magpies continued their forward break.

He also became an option for long kicks down the line, positioning between the arcs with the ball coming away from either arc and doing his best to compete aerially. Speaking of, the highlight of Moyle’s game was a nice clunk inside forward 50 as he sat under a high ball and rose to take the mark under oncoming heat. While the 35-metre set shot from just about directly in front drifted off to the left, Moyle’s previous act showed a nice area of development in his game.

The Oakleigh Chargers product continued to show no issue in his desire to compete despite the stiff opposition, splitting a bunch of ruck duels and even laying an aggressive lock-up tackle on the wing. Though his more experienced adversaries began to get on top with class, Moyle showed good appetite towards the hard task of taking on (essentially) the sole ruck duties, with Mason Cox giving him a chop-out. The half time break proved a well earned one, with the second term arguably Moyle’s best for the evening.

Q3:

The fatigue of playing a lone hand against stronger and more mature talls perhaps began to set in after the main break, as Moyle’s ability to leap through or into his opponents at the centre bounces became less of a factor. He still managed to notch a few nice taps to advantage, competing well in wrestles to protect the drop zone and hit to viable options at the stoppage.

With the game played at a relatively high intensity and bringing forward a lot of end-to-end action, Moyle really had his work cut out for him in terms of ground coverage. He got a sizeable rotation in after about 13 minutes and came back on with just over five left to continue his work in at least halving a good amount of ruck battles. His confidence showed as he won his lone disposal for the quarter by grabbing from the ruck duel and dishing off by hand – albeit to a teammate under pressure.

Q4:

Moyle did his best to run out the game strongly, continuing to try some new things in the ruck and essentially refusing to be soundly beaten. His bodywork was solid and allowed him to win taps on the right side of the stoppage, though he found himself out-jumped by Sam Naismith at a few centre bounces – lacking the same kind of spring after three hard quarters.

His two disposals for the quarter came by foot. The first was via a free kick for holding inside defensive 50, which he used to bomb long to a contest on the wing. Some nice work to nudge Sinclair under the ball and prize a snap away on goal was the second kick, and also resulted in Moyle’s second behind for the game. Overall, he rose to the occasion of competing against solid AFL rucks and while they outclassed him at times, his competitive spirit kept him in the contest.

Closing thoughts…

With many AFL clubs in need of rucks who can provide decent foil for primary options, Moyle has put his hand up through some solid VFL form. Though his numbers are not always high, he competes well both in the ruck duels and at ground level to impact at that sense at the least, and his 205cm frame is continually building to be able to keep up with the rigours of senior football. Mobility, explosiveness, and building the strength to mark around the ground are all areas of growth, which can be worked on with a few more preseasons. The 19-year-old has shown good development already, so will rightly get attention in June’s mid-season draft.

Image Credit: Michael Klein/Herald Sun

2021 VFL Player Focus: Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges/Box Hill Hawks)

TOP five AFL Draft prospect Tyler Sonsie became one of the few 18-year-old NAB Leaguers to break through for a Victorian Football League (VFL) berth on Saturday, debuting for the Box Hill Hawks in their 37-point loss to Werribee. The Eastern Ranges talent is a silky midfielder with clean skills and an eye for goal, traits which have put him in good stead during his three NAB League outings so far in 2021. He also turned out for the AFL Academy last month and while he was quieter than usual, was afforded full-time midfield minutes.

Sonsie has long been on the draft radar, bursting onto the scene in 2019 to take out Vic Metro’s Under 16 MVP award, before becoming a member of Eastern’s minor premiership winning side which contested the NAB League grand final. With the elite Victorian Under 19 competition in the midst of a month-long hiatus, Sonsie and Box Hill took the opportunity to test his worth at senior level. It is fair to say he took it with aplomb.

Sonsie is the prospect under our VFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 4 showing.

>> HEAD-TO-HEAD: Tyler Sonsie vs. Nick Daicos

Tyler Sonsie
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro/Box Hill Hawks

DOB: January 27, 2003
Height/Weight: 181cm/76kg
Position: Midfielder

2021 averages*: 25.3 disposals | 15.6 kicks | 9.6 handballs | 3.0 marks | 1.3 tackles | 4.3 inside 50s | 1.6 rebound 50s | 1.3 goals (4)

* – from three NAB League games.

2021 VFL, Round 4

Box Hill Hawks 8.5 (53) def. by Werribee 13.12 (90)

Stats: 24 disposals | 15 kicks | 9 handballs | 1 mark | 5 tackles | 5 inside 50s | 4 rebound 50s | 2 goals

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Easing into his first taste of state league football, Sonsie rotated into the game and was first sighted at just over five minutes into the first term. His opening act was a lock-up tackle to hold the ball in a force a stoppage, having followed the play well from off the bench. Off that ball up, the 18-year-old received on the periphery of the contest and booted a clearance forward which fell to space and was turned over. Sonsie looked up for the contest in these early stages, winning a holding the ball free kick for good blanket pressure near the boundary line, and kicking long down the line.

Before long, we got to see how Sonsie would fare at stoppage situations. Stationed on the attacking side of a forward wing throw-in, he reacted first as the rucks both fresh-aired their hits to swoop on the ground ball and flick out to a teammate, who then kicked long inside 50. Sonsie tended to sag off at stoppages and was rarely manned with touch, allowing him to follow the flow of play and look to be an attacking threat in those situations. It meant he afforded time and space to opponents who gained first or second possession, but seemed to have been given that license to roam free and play his own game first.

While he was pushed off the ball at times and rushed a little under pressure, Sonsie showed some of his trademark silk when baulking an opponent at half-back, before his left-foot kick to the wing was unlucky to be picked off. Having rotated forward, he had the last say in term one having presented inside 50 for a nice mark on the lead, as Box Hill broke quickly. With a cool head, the debutant went back and slotted his first senior goal with a post-siren set shot from about 45 metres. He finished the term with four kicks and one handball, including that major score, his lone mark for the game, and a stoppage clearance. His repeat early pressure acts were also solid.

Q2:

Starting at the opening centre bounce, it was evident the Box Hill coaching staff and midfield group rated Sonsie’s talents highly, as he was the go-to option on multiple occasions. For the most part, he set up in an anchor position behind the ruck and was not always manned. Even when an opponent shifted to his side of the stoppage, they would seldom engage in a wrestle as either player tended to allow each other to make their own ball-winning movements.

Sonsie made a few uncharacteristic skill errors in this term, perhaps feeling the pinch of Werribee’s superiority at that stage. If not the direct tap option, Sonsie again lurked on the outer and looked to receive from congestion, where he would normally send a damaging disposal forward. It meant that while he was not always defensively accountable, he remained active and looked to have a positive say at each contest.

While he moved to good positions and again showed nice composure to shift through traffic on one instance, Sonsie just lacked the finishing touch to find a teammate up ahead. To be fair, he had a severe lack of options at times, so those quick kicks forward were snapped up easily by the well-structured Werribee defenders. The tendency to react to heat with rushed disposals proved the main source of his inefficiency, which is not usually how he plays at Under 18s level. There, he uses his turn of speed and class to exit traffic with poise. In a sign of his smarts, Sonsie looked to correct that by coming away by hand and was much better in this sense after half time.

In a term where he essentially played permanently through midfield, Sonsie registered four kicks and two handballs, with a couple of those disposals counting as clearances and inside 50s. It brought his tally up to 11 disposals at the main break, split with eight kicks to three handballs. Having dipped his feet in senior football, it was time for Sonsie to dive in.

Q3:

Akin to the first term, Sonsie started the third from the pine but came on after about five minutes and resumed his follower role. In what was arguably his best period of play for the game, the youngster attended plenty of centre bounces and began to really look lively as Box Hill broke back into the contest. His first possession saw him play for a high free kick on the move at half-forward, but he was forced to pop a left-foot kick to the hot spot when the umpire saw through his trick.

Sonsie began to get the ball in those dangerous areas though, able to send it inside 50 and get some run going in the process. The final 10 minutes of the term is when he came to life, starting with his highlight of the day. Sonsie latched onto a handball as he streamed through the corridor, before steadying nicely and effortlessly booting a goal from 50 metres to give Box Hill a big lift. At that point, the Hawks had kicked three-straight majors and were drawing to within striking distance. Scoreboard impact; tick.

Still relatively free at the stoppages, Sonsie showcased his high footy IQ by continuing to read the flow of play nicely – both in an attacking and defensive sense. At one stoppage, he would time his run perfectly to receive or latch onto a tap, before coming off his line hard to tackle at the next contest. His clean hands were also evident, making one-grab plays and on one occasion, hitting a ball at pace on defensive wing to gather off the deck and flick out a quick handball all in one motion.

Sonsie ended another quarter of midfield play with consistent figures once more; four kicks and two handballs. His goal served as a potentially key moment in the match and will certainly end up in his highlight reel, but there were a few more isolated efforts which stuck in the memory and highlighted the 18-year-old’s elite-level potential.

Q4:

Following on from the confidence gained in term three, Sonsie produced another terrific quarter of play and looked much more settled. He remained quite casual in his work on the spread, but got to good positions again and showed the right intensity when called upon. His usual composure at stoppages began to unveil, with his cleanliness a real feature as he chained together some nice passages by hand and allowed teammates to clear in space with releasing passes.

Speaking of confidence, Sonsie even showed a bit of cheek after dragging an opponent over the boundary line with a great tackle, earning a free kick for his trouble. On the other hand, he could not quite stick a tackle inside defensive 50 and was made to pay as Werribee slotted a goal, which was essentially the dagger in Box Hill’s hopes of a comeback. His efforts were still an improvement on previous work, with his offensive work in possession becoming a highlight and making up for any misses going the other way.

He capped off his day with another three kicks and four handballs, making for his most prolific quarter stats-wise. His production throughout the game was consistent though, staying around the same mark throughout and becoming more influential with his disposals as time wore on. Overall, a top effort in his first game.

Final thoughts…

It was great to see one of this year’s true top five talents be afforded the license to play his own game and showcase his strengths, even as he climbs the grades with points on the line. While his work in defensive transition remains an area of improvement, Sonsie was still able to show why he is one of the more damaging midfielders available with his class on the ball and knack for kicking goals. He took some time to find his feet and adjust to the speed of the game, but brought a hunger and came away with some terrific moments. His numbers were very good too, particularly in a losing side on debut, with this state league stint potentially being a long one if such form continues.

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls grand finalists were decided on Saturday, via an enthralling double-header at Avalon Airport Oval. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 6.10 (46) def. EASTERN RANGES 1.9 (15)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Starting each quarter up forward as she has done for the past few games, Rowbottom continues to be a commanding presence wherever she lines up on field. She lead well in the forwardline, and whilst not always holding the mark she would generally knock it to the advantage of teammates to run onto. When she got a clean opportunity inside forward 50, she was far more keen to pass it off to other teammates than take shots herself. She showed off her power around stoppages and on the inside with some good burst to run onto and win the contested ball, even delivering a few fend-offs in the third quarter. She came out comfortably on top over any player that tried to run with her through the midfield, able to cover the ground and work hard to get back and help in defence better than her opponents.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Looked dangerous in the forward 50, with her past two games having been good performances, just missing the finishing touch at times. James looks really good with her leap, and whilst not dragging in every mark, she managed to get a touch on more often than not, tapping it to players on the ground. She is no slouch with her own work at ground level either, having a few clean one-grab pick ups in the forward 50.

#33 Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)

It is unbelievable to think that this was just her second appearance at this level. Looking comfortably one of Oakleigh’s best players and biggest ball winner for the game, Fleming was a force through the midfield. Her work around stoppages was particularly good, winning the first of the day with a good burst of speed straight through the pack, before continuing that throughout the game. She had one of the plays of the day where she won the ball on the wing, took a bounce whilst burning an opponent and kicked it to the top of the 50, then ran past to receive the handball and then delivered it well to Charlie Rowbottom, who unfortunately missed the goal. That precision kicking and hard running for handball receives was a constant through the game, making all of her disposals damaging.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

After an impressive showing last week against a taller Calder forwardline, Woodford followed up, playing a crucial part in the backline. She positioned well behind the play, taking a few intercept marks without much issue before looking to kick long forward to numbers. Woodford also positioned well in contests to get front position, meaning she could run onto the ball if it was spoiled by opponents.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Having moved up forward for gradually longer stints over the season, it appears Reid is fully comfortable as a mainstay in the Chargers’ forwardline now, becoming a regular and reliable goal kicker, and target in the forward 50. Her leading patterns are impressive, particularly given she does not need much time or space to make things happen, reacting quicker than her opponents to get to good spots without much pressure, while also working them over. She was also good at looking for teammates inside 50 rather than blazing away.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Busch has been a highlight for Eastern over the season and continued to live up to that against the Chargers, once again showing exceptional positioning behind the ball. She constantly moved towards it to get an intercept possession higher up the ground, taking it at speed and then kicking forward, looking to put it in front of leading teammates. The bottom-ager moved into the midfield in the final quarter and looked more than comfortable, suggesting a positional switch for season 2022.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Whilst she struggled to have the impact around the ground she has become renowned for, Campbell took advantage of her superior athleticism in the ruck to win almost every ruck contest she was involved in, with a game high 27 hitouts being her biggest return for the year. Even though she did not win a whole heap of ball around the ground, her follow up work around stoppages was impressive, getting low a few times and firing out handballs to teammates running past.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

A few factors have set Sherar out as a prospect for this season, with her burst of speed and ability to find the ball two of them. She managed to show those off once again in her last NAB League game for the season. What was also impressive from Sherar was the fact she was an aerial threat around the ground, showing off an impressive leap when required. While she seems to favour kicking, her hands in close are really impressive, with the ability to spot teammates through traffic and find a way to get it to them.

OTHERS:

Alexandra McCulloch was impressive in defence for the Chargers, almost playing as an extra midfielder at times with how high she got up the ground. Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers, whilst not as prolific as usual, were still influential for Oakleigh in the win, as was Charlotte Van der Vlies. For the Ranges, Bridget Deed was a strong winner on the inside for the day, offering assistance in defence as well. Matilda Hardy had arguably her best performance for the season on the wing, having some moments where she showed off her pace.

GEELONG FALCONS 5.6 (36) def. GWV REBELS 3.4 (22)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV)

Had a difficult day looking for ways to get in it, being thrown about from the forwardline, to the wing, to the backline on multiple occasions. Although she struggled to get much of the ball or show off her usual high-level marking, Friend still commanded a player constantly on her and used the ball well when she did find it.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)

Starting the game in her usual backline role, Dojiok tried her best to intercept and impact the ball to different levels of success early on. She nabbed one particularly memorable intercept possession in the second quarter along the wing, where she went for a run and bombed it deep inside forward 50 to give GWV a chance to score. She moved into the midfield for a short period in the second half which worked wonders for her, and the Rebels, winning the contested ball with ease as a taller player through the engine room. She even got herself a goal for her troubles. That move looked to have given her confidence, as she returned the backline and looked far more assured and confident in her attack on the ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

It may have been her final game of the year at NAB League level, but fans and recruiters alike should be excited that we get one more year of Scott with the Rebels. After an impressive showing in the Country representative games, she came back to the NAB League in hot form, kicking five goals prior to the match with Geelong. She started the game in the midfield, winning the first clearance with ease and setting the tone for a really strong display. She continued to show her strengths, taking some contested grabs as a forward and looking dangerous on the lead. What was most impressive about this game was her increased work-rate and intensity, where her second and third efforts got her a second goal. In that instance, she dropped a mark but followed up with a tackle, knocking the ball loose and then putting it through the middle. She looked strong as a contested ball winner, running in and bursting out of the pack, then kicking long to get space.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Would have to be the form player of the competition currently, and is timing her run superbly as she helped book the Falcons spot in the grand final next week. Craven showed off immense stoppage craft all game, as one who regularly timed her runs to hit the ball with speed when it left the rucks’ hands, taking advantage of knowing where the ball was going each time. Once she started, she looked near impossible to stop. It has been noted previously that she is good at hitting those shorter kicks rather than bombing long, and she continued doing that this game, looking for and finding those kicks that would’ve been no more than 15 or 20 meters. They put the Falcons in a better spots to move forward. Craven showed she knows when to handball or kick as well, balancing well between them and not being overly reliant on either skill.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

A really consistent ball winner and strong inside player for the game, Simpson’s strength and ability to stand strong in tackles was extremely impressive. She would also get her arms free in those situations, where she was able to handball off to a teammate in space, or throw it on the boot to keep the Falcons moving forward. She was sound defensively around stoppages as well, regularly wrapping up Rebels players that broke free with the ball.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Meier is one of those zippy small players that just excites with her speed, agility and work-rate around the ground, especially the forward 50. That work-rate was highlighted constantly, as she kept going for second, third, and fourth efforts when around the ball, and it led to some almost moments in the forward half, where she almost broke away and got a goal at times, but the Falcons’ defensive setup kept her from snaring a major score.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard has been one of the most consistent performers for GWV this season, and she stood up through the midfield for them against the Falcons in what will be her last game for the Rebels. Leonard positioned well throughout the game, sweeping up or marking uncontested hack kicks forward from the Falcons, but also attending stoppages to be a handball receive option before delivering well measured kicks forward.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Schaap struggled to get into the game early, held well by the bottom-aged Rebel Molly Walton in the first quarter, not something she has had to deal with of late. It did not last long though, as Schaap started to work more and more up the ground to get involved outside the forward 50, impacting every contest she was near – either winning the ball herself or laying a tackle to get it to spill for a teammate. Once again she looked good using the footy, with her quick hands to teammates in space particularly impressive.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee continued on from her good home-and-away season form. As arguably the biggest aerial threat afield, she punished the Rebels early on when they attempted to kick inside 50 without penetration behind their kicks. As usual, she used the ball effectively by foot as well, being another one that looked to move the ball into more central spots to open up the ground going forward.

OTHERS:

Molly Walton and Lilli Condon were two more that stood up at times through the contest for GWV, with Walton continuing to be an essential part of the Rebels’ defence and Condon showing off her speed and inside ball winning. For the Falcons, there were plenty of others that contributed well. Kara Stacey and Ash Van Loon were two that went through the midfield at times and provided a bit of spark. Renee Tierney was opportunistic in the forwardline, rewarding well placed kicks from midfielders and hitting the scoreboard.

SANFL League Player Focus: Matthew Roberts (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH Adelaide midfielder Matthew Roberts broke through for his maiden SANFL League outing on Saturday, joining fellow top 10 AFL Draft candidate Jason Horne in the Panthers’ seven-point win over Woodville-West Torrens (WWT). The hard-working youngster earned his call-up though sheer domination in the Under 18s, where he averaged 32 disposals, 6.3 clearances, and almost two goals a game across his three outings this season. Roberts also turned out for the AFL Academy last month, playing exclusively up forward in the side’s heavy loss to Geelong VFL.

The 18-year-old has long been one of South Australia’s most promising prospects, having represented his state twice at Under 16s level and dominated the SANFL Under 18s competition as a bottom-ager. He also captains the St Peter’s College First XVIII and looms as a key figure in SA’s Under 19 carnival side this year. Roberts’ running capacity, decision making, and ability to hit the scoreboard while resting forward are just some of the desirable traits which have him pegged towards the pointy end of this year’s draft crop.

He is the prospect under our SANFL Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through his game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of his Round 6 showing.

Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide/South Australia

DOB: July 31, 2003
Height/Weight: 183cm/81kg
Position: Midfielder/Forward

2021 averages*: 32.0 disposals | 23.0 kicks | 9.0 handballs | 8.3 marks | 7.7 tackles | 6.3 clearances | 7.7 inside 50s | 4.0 rebound 50s | 1.7 goals (5)

* – from three Under 18 games.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

2021 SANFL League, Round 6

Woodville West Torrens 13.13 (91) def. by South Adelaide 15.9 (99)

Stats: 14 disposals | 5 kicks | 9 handballs | 2 tackles | 3 inside 50s | 1 goal

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Roberts started and stayed at half-forward in the greasy conditions, but set the tone for himself early as the wet ball did not affect his cleanliness. An early gather around a pack with a slick handball under pressure was a sign of things to come as all his work was done below his knees for the day. Although he was a little passive at some stoppages around forward 50, he was still trying to work into his first League game and understand where to position best. Despite this, he did manage to get first hands off a ruck tap but was unable to find a teammate before the ball was knocked from him. Roberts pushed in at centre bounces when starting high and managed to wrangle in a hacked kick to space and find a teammate with a beautifully weighted kick inside 50. Pushing up the ground when the ball was stuck in his defensive 50, he did a good job of positioning himself to be able to hit the contest from a clearing kick at pace, and when presented the chance to crumb, he did so very well on one occasion, opting to find a teammate with a sweeping handball which opened up the attacking fore.

Q2:

The second quarter was one of Roberts’ quieter ones although it did highlight his good acceleration to apply defensive pressure, which he did all day. Two tackles are not earth-shattering but in his first League game, he adjusted to the pace well and would have registered plenty more pressure acts without a tackle. Once he settles in, you can expect that tackle count to rise. A hack kick off the ground also assisted with the surge forward as he applied a defensive effort to follow up after an Eagles defender swept up at ground level.

Q3:

His output picked up again this quarter as he continued his good timing to rove around packs and do it with one grab, brilliantly composed. He showed good strength to bump off a tackler on one occasion, showing he is physically up to the League level, accentuated by his stability over the ball in congestion having rarely hit the deck. Pushing down from his high positioning after a deep forward entry from the centre bounce saw him gather cleanly after the ball spilled out, before snapping around on his trusty left boot to put through his first League goal – a tidy and clean finish in-tight. Although a pair of fumbles came later in the quarter off some hot, tumbling balls, he showed he was getting to good positions to win his own ball. Roberts then made up for them with a perfect pass to Jake Tarca inside 50 for a goal. He had a couple of missed handballs on the far wing, but also showed solid positioning after contests and packs to either fill gaps, get dangerous, or prevent exits for the opposition.

Q4:

Although it was not a busy quarter like the previous for Roberts, he did some important things as the tight contest intensified. More clean pickups and quick hands from below the knees allowed the Panthers to maintain possession on several occasions. He also started to find his feet with his positioning in forward half stoppages, often leaving the contest to ready his run into forward 50 should his side clear it forward.

Final thoughts…

Coming off a dominant Under 18 performance, Roberts repaid the faith from head coach Jarrad Wright for bypassing a typical Reserves induction game. A serviceable outing playing a role should warrant another selection as he seemed comfortable in the contest to gather cleanly so often. 14 disposals with no marks indicates his ground ball nous and barring a few missed handballs, his disposal was reliable all game. The half-forward role is a difficult one to make a massive impact on the game, but Roberts did well to maintain his space and get to the front of contests to keep driving the ball forward. He was able to do this by not always flying for contests and positioning himself well, while working hard to get dangerous when the opportunity presented itself. Overall, a solid first League game with a goal for Roberts.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 6

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 6, with the latest weekend of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

STURT 5.7 (37) def. by GLENELG 16.20 (116)

By: Tom Wyman

STURT:

#10 Jake Aish

The Sturt midfielders were soundly beaten by the high-flying Tigers, but Aish was clearly Sturt’s best through the engine room. The number one clearance player on the ground, Aish spent the game cracking in hard at ground level, where he won his fair share of contested ball. When the heavens opened and the game turned into a stoppage-fest, Aish adapted well, with his strong inside game suited to the slippery conditions. His clearance ability was particularly important when the game became one of yardage. Although he lacked some polish when in space on the outside, Aish can hold his head high despite the lop-sided result, finishing with 24 disposals, six tackles, eleven clearances, nine inside 50s and five rebound 50s.

#17 Mitch Felton

With the ball seemingly living in the Glenelg forward half of the ground for much of the clash, Felton was never far from the action in defence. Charged with the kick-in duties in the first half, Felton was one of few Double Blues who regularly looked to take the game on, attacking each contest at speed and looking to utilise his clean, long foot skills out of defence. He took a couple of important intercept marks by positioning himself well down back. In the second half, Felton appeared to take on a more close-checking role, spending some time on Glenelg spearhead Corey Brougham. Clearly among Sturt’s best, Felton accumulated a team-high 29 touches (including 26 kicks), five marks, five tackles and 13 rebounds.

#25 Kade Harvey

Playing a similar role to the aforementioned Felton, Sturt’s Harvey was also in-and-around the action from start to finish. Harvey’s aerial ability was a real feature of his game, with the defender’s intercept marking particularly impressive. Although some poor kicking let him down at various stages, Harvey was often under the pump, especially when the rain set in. Sharing the kick-ins with Felton, Harvey generated some meaningful drive from the half-back line and finished with a game-high 14 rebounds from defence.

Others: 

Midfielder George Pope fought hard in the loss, winning nine clearances for the Double Blues along with 15 disposals. Edward Davies and Blake Fidge both applied plenty of pressure, laying seven and six tackles respectively. In attack, Chad Baulderstone and Nathan Houston were Sturt’s only multiple goalkickers, while Dylan Thredgold was strong in the ruck, winning 25 hitouts.

GLENELG:

#5 Hugh Stagg

Stagg produced another impressive performance in the yellow and black. With his explosiveness and ability to break tackles up there with the best in the state, the talented forward/midfielder wasted no time getting involved. Possessing one-touch cleanliness at ground level and the ability to brush off opponents with relative ease, Stagg appeared unstoppable at times. His kicking was inconsistent, with some hitting their desired target and others being chopped off or falling short, however Stagg produced another very strong showing. He concluded the contest with 24 disposals, two marks, nine inside 50s and a goal.

#12 Brodie Edwards

Edwards, the youngest son of Adelaide Crows legend Tyson, was typically classy for the Bays. The bottom-ager lined up in defence but was soon moved into the midfield. In both positions, he displayed calmness under pressure and made the most of his possessions. One of a long list of Tigers with the capacity to play a variety of roles across the field, Edwards finished the game with 19 touches, three marks, six tackles and three inside 50s in a solid showing.

#20 Lewis Rayson

The ever-consistent Rayson once again had a significant say over proceedings at Unley Oval. Spending time through the midfield and down back, Rayson was able to break lines with his dash and cut through the Sturt defence with his precise foot skills. Although his football smarts, skills and speed will stand out to recruiters, Rayson certainly cracks in hard when unleashed in the middle and showed he is a capable contested ball winner. When allowed to drift back a kick behind the play, Rayson took intercept after intercept, positioning himself to perfection and using it well for the most part. Certainly one of the most exciting South Australian draft prospects, Rayson continued his sensational start to the year by gathering 35 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and five clearances in the 79-point triumph.

#31 William Watts

Strongly-built utility, Watts put on a clinic for Glenelg, dominating proceedings in the midfield and up forward. Watts used his strength to damaging effect through the guts, where his contested ball winning and cleanliness by hand proved the catalyst for several Bays forward movements. Given the Tigers’ excellent depth through the midfield, Watts was often rotated through the forwardline and proved hard to contain. His vice-like hands on the lead ensured Watts became a genuine focal point in attack. Watts’ bigger frame was ideally suited to the slippery conditions of the clash, with his contested ball winning capacity and stoppage nous proving important. In a best-on-ground showing, Watts finished with 36 disposals, 10 marks, three tackles, eight clearances and a goal.

Others: 

Glenelg’s outstanding depth was on full display at Unley Oval, with 14 players accumulating 15 or more disposals. Darcy Gluyas was important in the middle and up forward, looking particularly threatening in attack as the rain fell. His classy snap goal was a highlight, however he probably should have finished with a couple more to his name. He finished with 30 disposals, four marks, three tackles and five inside-50s. Darcy Porter was excellent up forward, booting two goals (and three behinds) to go with 29 touches and four clearances. Hunter Window was busy and his effectiveness by hand stood out. He finished with 30 disposals, four marks, six tackles, six clearances and 12 inside 50s. Harrison Kaesler won 23 touches of his own, while forward Corey Brougham made the most of his limited opportunities, nailing three goals from six disposals.

NORTH ADELAIDE 8.12 (60) drew w/ WWT EAGLES 8.12 (60)

By: Tom Wyman

NORTH ADELAIDE:

#4 Isaac Keeler

After an impressive showing in the ruck last weekend against the Tigers, Keeler was moved back into the forwardline for the Roosters’ encounter with Woodville-West Torrens. Although he still did much of the ruckwork in the forward half of the ground, the talented bottom-ager struggled to get his hands on the football early on, with North bigman Adam Heath being the primary target in attack. He showed glimpses of elite athleticism and cleanliness below his knees, however it was a largely frustrating day for the South Augusta product. But, as all good players do, Keeler stood up when it mattered most, flying high for a mark-of-the-year contender with a couple of minutes left on the clock before calmly slotting the subsequent set shot to level the scores. Recruiters will certainly have enjoyed his clutch grab when the game was on the line. Keeler finished the game with 14 disposals, four marks, six hitouts and a goal.

#12 Hugh Jackson

It was quite simply the Hugh Jackson show on Saturday afternoon at Prospect Oval, with the balanced midfielder having it on a string. He spent much of the first term stationed down back, where he was able to set up the play with his deadly left foot. His skillset is well suited to a role as a ‘kicker’ down back, however, with the Roosters needing a lift around the ball, Jackson was soon thrown into the middle and dictated terms from then on. As has been on display all throughout the season, Jackson’s quick-give handballing was elite, as was his vision, ability to win the ball at ground level, and burst of acceleration. Jackson always seems to free his hands, even while being tackled, allowing him to pass it off despite the mounting pressure. His extraction work and stoppage smarts were excellent, but when allowed time and space, Jackson really made the Eagles pay, hitting targets by foot with ease over a variety of distances. Even when he was rested up forward, Jackson still couldn’t get away from the action, getting on the end of a spearing inside-50 ball from Isaac Keeler. His couple of misses in front of goal were just about the only blemish in what was a complete performance from the ball magnet, who finished with 41 disposals, nine marks and eight clearances.

#15 Harvey Harrison

After struggling slightly against the Tigers, Harrison was back to his prolific best in the Roosters’ draw with the Eagles. Once again, his eye-catching run-and-carry really opened up the ground and provided a point-of-difference through the middle. His foot skills on the run were excellent and, albeit for a rare miscued bounce, Harrison rarely wasted a possession. His ability to win the footy at the coalface and apply pressure around the ball is well complimented by his speed and composure. Harrison concluded the game with 24 disposals, five marks, six tackles and three clearances.

Others:

Defender Shaun Bennier stood tall for the Roosters, putting a stop to several inside 50s. Tough and courageous in the air, Bennier was strong overhead, hauling in four contested marks, but also provided plenty of rebound. Crafty midfielder Zyton Santillo had some excellent moments, with the speedster providing some energy through the middle. Using the ball well, he finished with 22 touches, five marks, four tackles and four clearances.

Providing serviceable support for Jackson and Harrison through the midfield, Kelsey Rypstra won 23 possessions and booted a goal while James White gathered 18 disposals and sent the ball inside 50 four times. Up forward, Adam Heath booted the first goal of the match and also snagged an important major late in the contest, finishing with three maximums. His presence up forward proved important for the red and whites. Ruckman Oliver Moors competed well against Eagle big-man Zac Phillipswinning 18 hitouts to go with eight touches and four marks.

EAGLES:

#4 Jack Murphy

Murphy was one of the Eagles’ best performers at Prospect Oval. A natural ball-winner with a clean kicking action, Murphy used the ball well on the outside and also showed an ability to win his own ball in-and-under. He finished the game with an impressive 30 disposals, three marks and three inside 50s.

#5 Brayden Calvett

Calvett provided the Eagles with some run-and-carry from defence. Pushing into the midfield as the game wore on, Calvett used the ball well by foot and booted a nice goal late in the final term, but will likely rue his three behinds. The hard-working Calvett finished with 26 disposals, two marks, two tackles and four inside 50s.

#24 Zac Phillips

Ruckman, Phillips was the dominant bigman on the park for much of the contest. He regularly provided the Eagles on-ballers with first-use (Eagles won the hit-outs 30-20), but it was his work away from the stoppages which impressed. Phillips clunked several big pack marks, despite flying from three-deep at times. Showing handy athleticism and mobility for a player of his size, Phillips looked to play on wherever possible and generally used the ball well.

Others:

With Port Adelaide father/son prospect Jase Burgoyne playing League football for the Magpies, William Neumann and Dustin Launer stood up for Woodville-West Torrens. Neumann, the Eagles leading possession winner, showed excellent work rate up around the ground. He finished with 31 disposals and 11 marks, while Launer gathered 29 possessions, four marks, six clearances and four rebounds. Up forward, Will Pearce booted three majors and also gathered 19 disposals. At the other end of the ground, Jonte Hunter-Price was solid in defence, taking a couple of important overhead grabs.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 8.5 (53) def. by WEST ADELAIDE 8.6 (54)

By: Tom Cheesman

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#10 Isaac Birt

Birt was one of South Adelaide’s best players on Saturday with 27 disposals, six inside 50s, four clearances, four marks and a goal. His second half was particularly outstanding, as he provided some important run-and-carry down the wing and used his pace to break the game open. Despite the slippery conditions, Birt always picked up the ball cleanly and found targets by hand and foot with ease. He also used the corridor well and followed up his possessions to ensure that the ball kept moving forward. Midway through the final term, Birt kicked a brilliant goal from 40 metres out off a couple of steps to give his side the lead. Unfortunately for Panthers fans, their side could not hold on and went down by one point.

#33 Arlo Draper

Draper continued his impressive start to 2021 with another good performance for South. He was very active at clearances, as he worked hard to win the contested ball and applied some strong pressure on the opposition. Draper had 24 kicks and just three handballs, showing that he played to the slippery conditions well. Gaining ground (especially from clearances) is an important part of wet weather footy, so Draper got the ball on the boot as often as possible to move it into his side’s forward half. With that said, Draper also showed more composure with ball in hand than most other players on the field. Most players were just bombing the ball down the line, whereas Draper took that extra second to look inside and find a target in the corridor on several occasions. Draper finished with 27 touches, nine clearances, five tackles, three inside 50s and an important goal that levelled the scores going into the final break.

#37 Kyle Marshall

Marshall was impressive for the Panthers on Saturday, providing a strong marking target for them when they exited their defensive 50. He continually led up hard at the footy, made a contest and (at least) brought the ball to ground for his teammates. He tried to be too cute with his possessions at times in the slippery conditions, but his decision making with ball in hand improved as the game wore on. Marshall finished with 12 disposals, four hitouts, three tackles, two marks, two clearances and two inside 50s for the day.

#39 Will Verrall

Verrall was South’s best performer on Saturday. He toiled away in the ruck all day, winning the majority of the hitouts and giving his midfielders first use at the stoppages. Verrall has good chemistry with Draper and Luke Mitton, and these three combined for 24 clearances between them. This was a major reason why their side won the clearance battle 41 to 29. Verrall used his huge frame to position himself well in ruck contests, and he often provided a good marking target for his teammates kicking down the line. A strong intercept mark in the last quarter when scores were tied was another individual highlight. He finished with 21 disposals, 37 hitouts, six marks (two contested), five tackles and five clearances.

Others:

Nathan Hicks (15 disposals, six tackles, one goal) was good for the Panthers up forward, as he applied consistent frontal pressure and used the ball well going inside 50. Luke Mitton (23 disposals, 10 clearances, six tackles) was crafty at the stoppages, while Dylan Brown (20 disposals, seven inside 50s, six tackles) initiated some important passages of play in the forward half.

WEST ADELAIDE:

#3 Charlie Pridham

Pridham did some good things in the defensive half for the Bloods. He was a ball magnet, earning 35 disposals to go with seven rebound 50s, five tackles and four marks for the day. His ball use was great most of the time, he never fumbled and he linked up well with teammates when bringing the ball out of defence. Pridham’s ability to choose the right option was important too, as he helped his side control possession with some short passes in defence whenever the Panthers appeared to be gaining the momentum. He also attacked the ball hard throughout the match, particularly loose balls that he sprinted to in defensive 50. One negative was that he gave away some unnecessary free kicks in the defensive half, which he can work on going forward.

#7 Ben Burbridge

Burbridge was West’s most prominent midfielder in this clash. He was tough at the contest, always in and under, found plenty of the ball around the ground and used it well whenever he got it. His quick hands to release his teammates into open space were outstanding, and this is undoubtedly a feature of his game. Burbridge took some important marks too, both when receiving from teammates and when intercepting the opposition’s kicks. His pressure was relentless, highlighted when he applied a great tackle on Draper in second term to cause a turnover. He finished with 25 disposals, six tackles, five marks and four inside 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

Kennedy is a bull for the Bloods and he thrived in the slippery conditions on Saturday. He works harder around the ground than most at Under 18s level, and as much was evident in this match through the amount of contests he was able to get to despite spending much of his time in a half-forward role. Kennedy does the little things well, such as blocks and smothers to help his teammates out around the ball. Although he missed a shot on goal that he should have nailed in the opening term, he made up for it in second quarter with a crisp snap to put his side 20 points up. Kennedy finished with 16 disposals, seven tackles and five inside 50s.

#13 Hugh Desira

Desira was fantastic for the Bloods in the first half of this match. He kicked West’s first goal of the game early, using the wet conditions well to skid the ball through with a nice kick around his body. After that, Desira frequently used his electric pace and ability to kick on both feet to break the game open and get the ball moving forward with speed. The wingman always competes in the air despite lacking in size, and he has quick hands that he uses to release teammates into space on the outside of contests. Although he drifted out of the game a bit in the second half, Desira still finished with 17 disposals (15 kicks), five marks, five tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s and a goal.

#53 David Midwinter

Key defender, Midwinter was a brick wall in defence, frequently using his size and strength to spoil his opponents and repel South’s persistent attacks going forward. He has clean hands, is agile for his size and uses the ball quite well by foot. With five minutes remaining and scores level, Midwinter won a huge one-on-one contest deep inside West’s defensive 50 by out-bodying his opponent, taking the ball cleanly off the ground and finding a teammate with a quick handball. Many defenders would panic in this situation, but Midwinter stayed composed under the high ball, did not give away a free kick and was able to release the pressure by winning the contest and without conceding a behind. This was one of many instances where Midwinter’s composure was important for the Bloods.

Others:

Jesse Thackeray (20 disposals, six marks, five clearances) worked hard in the midfield, Kade Harkins (16 disposals, six rebound 50s) was reliable down back and Jaeden Watts (two goals, five tackles) was dynamic up forward. Dylan McCormick (nine disposals, three marks) applied some outstanding pressure throughout the day and finished with a whopping 16 tackles.

NORWOOD 7.2 (44) def. by CENTRAL DISTRICT 11.16 (82)

By: Tom Cheesman

NORWOOD:

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

While it has been a tough few weeks for Norwood in the Under 18s, Dnistriansky has maintained consistency and been a shining light in defence. His defensive work is reliable, his composure under pressure is outstanding and his kicks rarely miss a target. Some of his kicking in this contest was exceptional, including one bullet pass from full back (in the wet) that found Corey Jones-Bobridge inside the centre square in the third term. As usual, he facilitated many switches of play and created plenty of run and link up out of defence. Dnistriansky had a nice moment in the second quarter when, after biding his time, he ran past a teammate that was lining up for a set shot, received the handball and booted an important goal from outside 50. As poor as the defending was from the Bulldogs in this instance, it was great awareness from Dnistriansky to see the opening and take full advantage with his booming right foot kick. Although Dnistriansky made a couple of uncharacteristic errors by hand, overall it was another strong performance from the defender.

Others:

Given Centrals won the inside 50 count 58 to 25, it was a very tough day to be a Redlegs defender. Despite this, Oliver Stenchlik (21 disposals, four rebound 50s, two tackles), Riley Verrall (21 disposals, seven rebound 50s, five tackles) and Taj Rahui (12 disposals, six tackles, two clearances, one goal) fought hard and did well to help keep the margin to under 40 points. Connor Kent (29 disposals, nine tackles, seven marks) worked hard as well.

CENTRAL DISTRICT:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

Rotating between midfield and forward, Dudley was one of the Bulldogs’ best contributors. The Adelaide Crows NGA prospect was brilliant whenever he went near the ball, providing a major spark and using his skills to open up the play for his side. He is so clean below his knees, very creative and a fantastic decision maker. His high football IQ was on display in several instances, including a moment in the first quarter when he twist and turned around multiple Redlegs players before executing a beautiful long handball inside to find Finn Reed. Dudley used his pace to his advantage in this match by applying constant pressure all over the ground and using his low centre of gravity to gather the ball without fumbling. Although he is probably going to be a small forward in the long-term as he moves up the grades, he was more prolific in the midfield throughout this contest. His tackling pressure in the centre square was relentless, as demonstrated when he caught two Norwood players holding the ball at seperate contests within a one-minute period in the second term. Dudley kicked a well-deserved goal in the closing minutes from a set shot after crumbing a marking contest at pace and earning a free kick for a high tackle. He finished with 27 disposals, nine tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s to go with his goal.

#15 Finn Reed

Read was another fantastic midfielder for the Bulldogs in their first Under 18 victory of the season. He showed good pace, tackled strongly and provided plenty of link up play through the middle of the ground. A powerful intercept mark he took in defensive 50 at the 12-minute mark of the opening term helped set the tone for his side. Although he missed a couple of shots at goal, he launched the ball inside 50 on eight occasions and had multiple other score involvements. He finished with 24 touches, eight tackles, eight inside 50s, five marks and two clearances.

#34 Darcy McDonald

McDonald was a standout for Centrals. Playing predominantly as an inside midfielder, he collected 20 disposals to go with a tremendous 12 tackles, four inside 50s and three clearances. As his statline suggests, his tackling pressure and willingness to hunt down opposition players was outstanding, but this was not the only feature of his game. McDonald is a good size, silky mover and won plenty of contested ball. He had arguably the moment of the match in the third term when, in the wet, he scooped the ball up one-handed, sold some candy to get past an oncoming tackler and then delivered the ball inside 50. There were many times in this match where McDonald won his own ball and used his agility to escape a stoppage with ease before releasing a teammate on the outside. The challenge for McDonald now is to produce this level of play on a consistent basis.

Others:

Saxon Evans (37 hitouts, 12 disposals, one goal) and Brodie Tuck (13 hitouts, 15 disposals, two goals) dominated in the ruck and gave their inside midfielders first use. Tomas Hahn (22 disposals, 11 tackles, eight clearances) was another prominent Bulldog midfielder and kicked a glorious goal on the outside of his boot in the third term.

Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography

Scouting Notes: 2021 Victorian Under 23 Young Guns

THE Victorian Under 23 Young Guns showcase returned on Saturday, with the Country and Metro squads locking horns at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee. Metro ran out convincing 61-point victors, as players staked their claims for mid-season draft selection. The teams, which featured 48 NAB League products and no player over the age of 20, were essentially hand-picked by recruiters and provide an insight into just who may be on the draft radar. We take you through the top performers in our Scouting Notes, which are the opinion of the individual.

>> SCROLL for final scores and goalkickers

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers)
15/03/2002 | 173cm | 74kg

One who looks to have gained a great deal of confidence through recent VFL exposure with Essendon, Conforti had the ball on a string during the early stages. Part of a relatively small Country midfield, the Bendigo Pioneers product was as busy as anyone around the ball and went about accumulating plenty of disposals during the first half. He proved difficult to catch as a slippery kind of mover who was constantly in motion, using his work rate to zip up and down the ground and get involved in chains of possession. Conforti nearly troubled the scorers with a flying shot from long range during term three, and having that kind of impact with his many uses of the ball will be another step in his development. He was also co-captain on the day, and has held multiple leadership roles though the pathways.

#2 Charlie Ham (Geelong Falcons)
11/11/2002 | 180cm | 74kg

Ham was part of Country’s under-siege defensive unit during the first half, but arguably did his best work when rotating into midfield after the main break. He looked to generate a bit of run on the rebound from half-back, but was met with heavy pressure which only cramped his style. When thrown into the centre bounces, Ham was able to compete at ground level and mopped up well with his clean hands. On one occasion, he dropped a mark in the back half but remained composed enough to sweep up quickly before dishing off to a runner. He made up for the previous missed mark in term four when the ball was wet, juggling an overhead attempt nicely.

#3 Kobi George (Dandenong Stingrays)
19/04/2002 | 182cm | 74kg

Having been overlooked as a Melbourne Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect last year, George has been able to showcase glimpses of his best traits in 2021. They all came to the fore in this outing, as the Dandenong Stingrays speedster provided great spark with his run-and-gun style. Even in precarious positions, George constantly looked to take the game and his opponents on with exciting dash from the back half, gaining good meterage before delivering by foot. Some of his disposals came off a touch wobbly at full tilt, though the 19-year-old was able to correct as the conditions got tougher. He is not always a huge accumulator of possessions, but had enough on this occasion to make a real impact and catch the eye. Unfortunately, George was helped off the ground in the final term, appearing quite proppy.

#5 Patrick Parnell (Murray Bushrangers)
4/03/2002 | 178cm | 60kg

There may not be much of the diminutive Murray Bushrangers defender, but it hardly mattered as Parnell went about his business with typical assuredness from defence. His turn of speed and willingness to move the ball on quickly from defensive 50 was an early feature, capped by terrific decision making. With most things happening at speed, Parnell was able to execute his skills with aplomb, including one particularly memorable inboard kick across his body to hit a target at half-back during term one. The 19-year-old is a very neat kind of player who is reliable in tough situations and seems to understand the game well. He impressed with his spurts of possession, but has plenty of size to put on.

#7 Will Bravo (Dandenong Stingrays)
6/05/2002 | 181cm | 77kg

The worsened conditions after half time suited a player of Bravo’s style more than most, as he worked to compete for ground level possession and drive the ball forward in strong bursts. As one of Country’s starting midfielders, Bravo was up against it given Metro’s size and strength in the engine room, though he was not afraid to get stuck in at the coalface and got first hands to the ball a few times. He also showed a bit when afforded more space, using his pace to generate momentum moving forward and chaining possessions in those thrusts. The 19-year-old also applied solid defensive pressure and got his hands dirty in a tackling sense, but can look to add polish with his disposal.

#11 Will Papley (Gippsland Power)
26/11/2002 | 178cm | 78kg

Constantly compared to his elder brother, Tom given their uncanny resemblance in style and mannerisms, Papley remains an exciting player in his own right. Starting in his familiar forward post, the 178cm prospect presented nicely on the lead and showed handy forward craft when looking to work his opponents under the ball. He had three set shots on goal during the first half but could not quite make up the 40-plus metre distance from relatively tough angles. On two occasions, those attempts led to scoring shots nonetheless. The 18-year-old would later transfer his defensive pressure to the midfield as he was shifted after half time, but arguably looked most at home inside forward 50. With good smarts and the competitiveness his pedigree would suggest, Papley can certainly make things happen.

#12 Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
8/07/2002 | 180cm | 79kg

The Country co-captain accumulated possessions in a manner which we have now come to expect, working hard both ways from his usual wing position. On a deck which he would be familiar with having trained with Werribee’s VFL side, Gribble read the flow of play nicely and got on his bike to get to position wherever the ball was about to be. He was also a viable option off the centre bounces, able to receive just outside the contest and attempt to continue the chain for his side. The Geelong Falcons top-ager also found the goals in term two thanks to a very generous Caleb Ernst handball, finishing easily from about 25 metres out. Gribble would continue to rack up possessions and while he could be more damaging in his disposal or neater under pressure, he showed nice composure in one instance to weave and hit a short kick at half-back in the final quarter.

#22 Caleb Ernst (Bendigo Pioneers)
12/10/2002 | 194cm | 91kg

Ernst consistently looked like the most dangerous key position player for Country, presenting beautifully up forward and finishing as his side’s sole multiple goalkicker. He took advantage of the dry ball early on with a couple of terrific overhead marks; one coming from the back of a two-on-two contest on the wing, and the other a strong pack grab in the goalsquare, which resulted his first goal. Ernst would continue to present nicely and gained good separation with his combination of strength and athleticism. His finishing was the only issue at times, and a hand-off to Noah Gribble in the second term may have highlighted his wavering confidence in that area. Nonetheless, the Bendigo Pioneers tall went on to showcase his versatility by pinch-hitting in the ruck and even attending centre bounces during term four, in which he added his second major from close to the big sticks.

#23 Mutaz El Nour (Northern Bullants VFL)
14/08/2001 | 192cm | 83kg

Somewhat a surprise packet on the day, El Nour was ultra impressive in Country’s backline. The Western Bulldogs NGA graduate proved as consistent and reliable as anyone afield in his role, constantly getting into good positions to intercept before using the ball with wonderful composure on the rebound. His short kicking game was sound, as was his decision making by hand when working out of tight spots. The VFL-listed talent also made smart runs to receive and relieve others of pressure, working the percentages well as his side became increasingly besieged. El Nour was also able to use his height to compete aerially when needed, mostly bring the ball to ground or spoiling, but also taking a couple of nice intercept marks. Overall, he could well have been the player who looked most comfortable at the level, putting his name on the radar from seemingly nowhere.

Others:

Richmond VFL-listed prospect Sam Durham had his moments for Country, building nicely into the game from the wing. Dandenong Stingrays tall Bryce Milford started in defence but was later swung up forward, competing well at both ends. Murray’s Daniel Turner also played a key role down back with some super work and decision making under immense pressure. Jai Neal was another to show signs up forward, as did Aaron Gundry rotating there from the ruck. The likes of Jack Hickman and Charlie Byrne got their opportunities through midfield, as did Isaac Wareham having started in defence, but the going was tough for all.

VIC METRO:

By: Declan Reeve

#6 Corey Preston (Eastern Ranges)
18/12/2002 | 181cm | 77kg

Usually stationed as a small forward, Preston got to show his capabilities as a winger for essentially the entire contest. He took his time to work into the game as he was on the opposite side of the play or just couldn’t get a clean possession. When he started getting into it, it felt like he was impacting every time he was near it; causing turn overs with his pressure work, pushing down into defence to win it and get it forward, or handballing to central teammates. He did all he could to get the Metro side moving dangerously. 

#7 Darby Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)
15/08/2002 | 182cm | 82kg

One of the few who was consistent across the four quarters having run through midfield all game, Hipwell looked comfortable throughout even with the constant physicality – looking to have gained confidence from his games at VFL level with Sandringham Zebras. He was regularly the first possession winner around stoppages, where he’d so often look to handball out the back to a player in space, copping contact when required and standing strong in the tackles. He was a real lead by example sort, often looking for targets in the corridor and weighting his disposals well by foot.

#9 Joel Trudgeon (Northern Knights)
13/08/2002 | 186cm | 86kg

Spent the first half working into the game, spending time in the forwardline where his hard work at ground level and aggression on opponents got him opportunities to set up goals, where he’d put the ball in the right spot for a teammate to run onto. It was the second half when he was given more midfield time that he came to life and showed his skill at ground level. Even with oncoming pressure, he’d hold his composure and win the contested ball, following up with a handball to a teammate and then running hard to get it back or apply a shepherd to allow them to run through without pressure. 

#10 Charlie McKay (Sandringham Dragons)
9/08/2002 | 186cm | 83kg

The Carlton father-son prospect spent the first half of the game as a defender, where he positioned well in marking contests to take quite a few intercept marks, either waiting for the ball out the back of a contest or even taking contested grabs further up the ground. The second half saw him move to the midfield for an extended period, where he looked extremely comfortable in and under the contest, and his prowess as a clearance winner came to the fore.

#15 Sam Clohesy (Calder Cannons)
12/12/2002 | 189cm | 72kg

Got more and more of the ball as the game went on, seemingly building in confidence with each successful disposal. Played well when he was in the high half-forward sort of role, providing an option as a link up player in transition where his long and penetrating kick would open up the Metro forward 50 and result in a shot on goal. Showed some good pace at times as well, mixed with a little bit of agility to get around opponents and then release the ball.

#17 Luke Cleary (Sandringham Dragons)
5/03/2002 | 189cm | 80kg

Far from the best day to be showing off your skillset as a defender for Metro, Cleary still managed to pop up and have his nice moments throughout the game. Positioned well behind the play in a similar fashion to the other Metro defenders, Cleary was not afraid to push up the ground when the ball was inside his teams’s forward 50 to jump on any long rebounding kick. This positioning got him a few intercept marks, one in particular impressed in the third quarter, where he ran back with the flight of the ball and took it on the chest in front of a pack in the goal square. He took some riskier kicks in the defensive 50, most of which paid off, where he’d look to move it out quickly straight through the corridor.

#19 Marc Massarotti (Eastern Ranges)
29/09/2002 | 191cm | 91kg

Despite being an undersized target up forward, Massarotti managed to impact all around the ground as he worked hard to win the ball or provide an option in the forward half. Had a really good moment early in the first quarter where he ran onto the ball that had been kicked over his head, cleanly picked it up, took a bounce and slotted Metro’s second goal, all while out-running three opponents. He also showed that despite his height he has some classic small forward traits, able to rove and crumb balls well in the second half in particular, to end the day with two goals.

#20 Cody Raak (Western Jets)
8/10/2002 | 192cm | 80kg

Coming into the game as one a well known name, the Western Bulldogs NGA prospect looked to be one of the more confident and comfortable players throughout the game. Started in his usual role in the defensive half as a safe pair of hands to chop off incoming Country bombs, where more often than not he’d look to switch the play or hit a central option after marking in an effort to get Metro moving in transition quickly. When Metro started to comfortably get on top in the second quarter, Raak pushed up to ground to do the same sorts of things, giving the Country defence no rest. Not content with a solid defensive display, Raak moved forward in the second half, where the aforementioned marking skill came out again, paired with some really good leading patterns that resulted in him finishing with two goals for the day

#21 Dominic Akuei (Northern Knights)
12/05/2002 | 192cm | 78kg

The Carlton NGA prospect was impressive in his first game not being a number one ruck. With Smith in the side, Akuei was given the freedom to ply his trade down in defence, where his elite leap and marking ability led to two particularly memorable moments. Both times, he got up on the shoulders of opponents to take the ball above his head. Perhaps seen as risky given he was in defensive 50 for both of these, it was an eye-catching display of confidence and skill. He moved the footy well by foot, delivering darting kicks to inside 45 options every time the opportunity presented itself. He then played mostly on a wing in the second half, where he looked comfortable with his positioning and ability to hold space, again utilising that marking a few times to hand Metro possession and move quickly. 

#22 Samuel Paea (Calder Cannons)
14/07/2002 | 194cm | 94kg

Whilst not prolific in a ball winning sense, the tall forward impressed with his leap, burst of speed and leading patterns throughout the game. As Metro’s main target up forward, he constantly provided as an option and worked hard up the ground in an effort to work over his opponents. There was one particular mark inside 50 in the second quarter, where he wasn’t expecting his teammate to pass it off, but he reacted to the kick splendidly, hitting top speed after only a few steps and then leaping to take the ball at the highest point he could. Ended the day with two goals despite the second half providing poor conditions for a tall marking player.

#25 Riley Smith (Eastern Ranges)
31/07/2000 | 200cm | 104kg

The captain of the Metro side, and convincingly one of the better players of the game, Smith added his hat into the ring as another ruck option for the upcoming mid-season draft. In the absence of Ned Moyle (Collingwood VFL), Liam Podjashki (Preston Bullants VFL), Jacob Edwards and Max Heath (not selected), Smith took the opportunity as the main ruck to prove that he is one of the most physically ready rucks in Victoria outside of the AFL. He used his strength to get front position in the ruck contest, pushing his opponent aside as he tapped the ball well for his midfielders. Also showed some neat skills in the game, with one particular kick, where he moved it from the wing to the middle of the forward 50 mark, evading an opponent in the process, proving this well. 

Others:

Small forwards Eren Soylemez and Harrison White were good at ground level all game, showing some nice bits of speed and agility on their way to two goals each. Lachlan Riley was particularly prolific early on in the midfield, before moving into the backline and looking solid the few times it came down to him. Logan Young wasn’t necessarily a major ball winner, but was clean with his hands and foot skills when called upon and looked comfortable playing in defence.

FINAL SCORES:

COUNTRY 2.0 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 5.6 (36)
METRO 4.1 | 10.4 | 13.9 | 14.13 (97)

GOALS:

Country: C. Ernst 2, X. Mitchell, N. Gribble, I. Wareham
Metro: E. Soylemez 2, M. Massarotti 2, H. White 2, S. Paea 2, C. Raak 2, J. Arundell, L. Riley, R. Smith, D. Hipwell

DC BEST:

Country: D. Hipwell, R. Smith, S. Clohesy, C. McKay, C. Preston
Metro: C. Ernst, M. El Nour, K. George, W. Papley, N. Gribble

2021 WAFL Colts MOTR: Round 5 – East Perth vs. Swan Districts

AFTER an unforeseen week away due to West Australian lockdown, the WAFL Colts returned on the weekend for Round 5. The latest featured game saw East Perth take on Swan Districts at Leederville Oval on Saturday morning, with the Royals running away 34-point victors to remain top of the table.

A fast start saw the hosts look like beating their opponents black and blue, booting four goals to nil in the opening term. But Swans wrestled back some momentum and territory during the second and third quarters, answering each Royal run to remain just within striking distance at both of those breaks.

But a powerhouse final period saw East Perth pick up its third victory of the 2021 season, bookending the game nicely with a further five goals to put some meat onto the bones of its winning margin. Boasting a terrific conversion rate, the Royals won out 13.5 (83) to Swans’ 7.7 (49), with both sides now losing players to the Public Schools Association (PSA) competition.

SCOUTING NOTES

East Perth:

#4 Ethan Regan

The West Coast Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect showcased some exciting traits in the forward half, starting brightly and capping off his game with a couple of nice moments. Regan got amongst it early through sheer work rate, impacting ground level contests and applying good defensive pressure. He cut across to take a nice intercept mark inside forward 50 in term one, which saw him kick his sole goal of the game. Regan’s speed and skill would later come to the fore as he combined well with Jye Amiss, streaming forward and hitting targets by foot. Late in the piece, he popped up with a pair of eye-catching overhead marks on the move, reaching the ball at its highest point.

#7 Jye Amiss

Another who started brightly for the Royals, Amiss snared three of his four goals by 4:30 into the second quarter. Stationed almost exclusively inside attacking 50, the promising key forward had two goals on the board in a flash through terrific forward craft, quick reactions and innate goal sense. He is said to have improved his ground level work this year, and it showed in those moments. An in-the-back free kick during term two gifted Amiss his third major, while number four came in the final quarter after a mark on the lead. Goalkicking exploits aside, Amiss also had a nice moment in the third term as he desperately ran down an opponent, holding the ball.

#9 Kade Dittmar

While he was a force for most of the game, Dittmar really came to prominence during a powerhouse final quarter. His explosive ability from the centre bounces was evident, as well as his power running through the middle of the ground. Dittmar would be seen getting first hands on the ball, breaking away to bomb inside 50, and following up his kicks all in the same chain. His ability to stand up under opposition heat, fend off, and dish out was also noticeable in the earlier stages, before Swan Districts’ midfield got on top in term two. Still, Dittmar was able to impact through the middle and was very clean with his shorter-range disposal by foot – especially for such a bullocking inside type. Considering his primary role, he seems quite well balanced.

#26 Kaden Harbour

Harbour is a handy small forward who also rotates through midfield, providing a good amount of spark wherever he goes. He arguably looked most comfortable inside attacking 50 during this outing, where he was able to snap up a couple of goals and take eye-catching aerial marks. After an indifferent opening half, Harbour began to better impact as the contest wore on, helping East Perth break clear at the start of the third quarter with two goals in quick succession. The first came from a big contested mark close to goal, where Harbour rose from the back, while the second was a quick snap just as deep as he arrived first to the spillage. Known for his high flying, he’s difficult to miss in full flight.

Others:

Jake Littleton was in plenty early on for East Perth, operating on a wing and catching the eye under his helmet. Through midfield, James Tunstill found plenty of the ball, as Jayden Peak provided a bit of spark moving forward. The raw talent of Sokaa Soka, another West Coast NGA talent, became more prominent as the game wore on, while Luke Lombardi did some nice things exiting out of defence.

Swan Districts:

#2 Max Chipper

A permanent fixture in Swan Districts’ midfield, Chipper ended as his side’s most prolific ball winner and did so with plenty of quick-minded plays. Reasonably clean at ground level, the diminutive mover is not the most quick or agile out of congestion, but makes up for it with good vision and decision making on the ball. He tended to air his kicks a touch but generally hit targets and backed himself to do so heading into potentially risky areas. After a slow start, he worked into the game well during the second term and nearly nabbed a goal on the run from long range. After a solid outing in the black and white, Chipper appeared to limp off late in the final quarter after miscuing a kick.

#23 Luke Taylor

Potentially the most impressive player afield, Taylor proved his pedigree with a three-goal haul full of promise. The brother of GWS defender Sam, Taylor is a raw key forward with equally good potential in the air. While it was not always rewarded, Taylor’s work up the ground and ability to provide a contest allowed the Swans a chance to chain up play forward of centre. He brought the ball to ground on multiple occasions and had a few almost-marks, which he should begin to hold as he grows. Taylor kicked his first goal in the second quarter, using his reach to pluck a high ball in the goalsquare before duly converting. His clever leading patterns saw him gain separation and become an inside 50 target during the third term, which led to goal number two. Capping off his day, Taylor was gifted a third major via a 50-metre penalty, proving a handy reward for effort.

Others:

19-year-old Ty Sears had some nice moments running off half-back and the wing, without always possessing the finished product he would desire. Ben Hewett and Noah Hannan were both productive in midfield, while West Coast NGA talent Lawson Humphries stood up in defence. Up the other end of the ground, Bryce Watson popped up for a couple of handy goals, as Darcy Jones showed good promise and zip at ground level and Tyrell Metcalf got busy.

AROUND THE GROUNDS:

Headlining the news around Western Australia’s latest draft crop this week was the League debut of Matthew Johnson. Fresh off a solid showing for the AFL Academy, the tall Subiaco midfielder notched 11 disposals and five tackles as the Lions went down to South Fremantle. Elsewhere, star key forward Jacob Van Rooyen is being rested by Claremont after his glandular fever diagnosis, as reported by the West Australian’s Jordan McArdle. The start of the PSA season has also seen a raft of players become unavailable for WAFL Colts selection.

Back in the Colts competition, East Fremantle found a way to edge Perth in their clash on Saturday morning. Key forward Jack Williams again played a starring role with four goals, as Josh Browne (35 disposals) had the ball on a string in midfield and Melbourne father-son prospect Taj Woewodin (27 disposals) continued his good form. Jack Avery was a Goliath-like in Perth’s defence with 41 touches and 13 marks, as Zak Meloncelli proved his class having dropped back down to Colts level from the Reserves grade.

West Perth notched its first win of the season with a 23-point triumph over Claremont, with gun midfielder Lochlan Paton again finding plenty of the ball. He racked up 27 disposals and nine marks after managing 28 touches last round, while Zac Fleiner (26 disposals), Jordan Berry (10 marks), and Zarne Robis (four goals) all contributed in different ways for the victors. Talon Delacey delivered 20 of his 27 disposals by foot for Claremont, as Kendyll Blurton showed plenty more promise for 24 touches and six inside 50s.

South Fremantle became the third team to land on three wins as the Bulldogs beat Subiaco by eight points, with Liam Brandis and Jacob Plunkett combining for seven goals. Caleb Stephens (29 disposals, nine marks) was also fantastic in the win, as Fremantle NGA talent Ashwin Malik more than held his own in defence. Fellow NGA prospect Jesse Motlop kicked a goal from his 10 touches. Meanwhile, Jacob Evitt (18 disposals, two goals) and Blake Morris (13 disposals, seven marks) were solid for Subiaco.

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 5

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 5, with the latest weekend of action producing some excellent performances from plenty of 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

GLENELG 15.10 (100) def. NORTH ADELAIDE 8.14 (62)

By: Tom Wyman

GLENELG:

#2 Harry Tunkin

Tunkin provided good intensity, speed and pressure up forward as he has all season. Pushing up into the midfield at times, the diminutive Tunkin won a number of clearances through excellent stoppage nous, positioning himself well to get on the end of the taps. He booted two goals, including a terrific rove and snap, but could have had a couple more if not for two half-chance misses. A consistent performer throughout the contest, Tunkin finished with 23 disposals, two goals, four marks and four clearances.

#5 Hugh Stagg

Powerful utility, Stagg was terrific for the Bays in their 38-point victory. Starting at the centre bounce, Stagg split his time between the midfield and the forwardline and made a real impact whenever he was around the ball. A strongly-built teenager, Stagg used his physical advantage to damaging effect, brushing off a number of would-be tacklers in-tight throughout the game. Importantly, Stagg made sure his tackles stuck and also showed his strength overhead to take a strong contested mark early in the match. His snap goal in the third term put the icing on a really strong game from the midfielder/forward, who finished with 22 disposals, six tackles, three clearances and seven inside 50s.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Rayson was everywhere for the Tigers in what was a clear best on ground performance. The speedster started the game in the middle, where scouts will have been impressed by his contested ball winning and fight at ground level. Rayson moved to the backlines at various stages throughout the contest, to damaging effect. His ability to read the play and position himself to take intercept marks put a stop to several Roosters forward thrusts. Although he did turn the ball over a couple of times by foot, Rayson was predominantly clean and effective, particularly when going inside 50. A very dangerous player when allowed to float a kick behind the play, Rayson concluded another strong outing with 31 disposals, 11 marks, four inside 50s and five rebound 50s.

#21 Cooper Beecken

Medium-defender, Beecken played a crucial role down back for Glenelg, particularly when the Roosters were threatening early on. He was strong one-on-one, composed with ball in hand and found himself in the right place at the right time on several occasions to mop up in the defensive 50. Especially busy early in the contest, Beecken finished with 25 disposals and five rebound 50s.

Others:

Forward Corey Brougham was Glenelg’s most damaging player forward of centre. Brougham bagged a game-high four majors, with his contested marking ability proving a real handful for his Roosters opponents. He finished the game with nine disposals and six marks (four of which were contested). Darcy Gluyas was heavily involved for the Tigers. Patrolling the wing, he looked poised and composed with ball in hand and used it to great effect. His snap goal late in the piece was a highlight of his game. Gluyas finished with 23 disposals and six marks. Crows father-son prospect Brodie Edwards (22 disposals, four marks and three clearances) and ruckman Oscar Adams (six disposals, 16 hit-outs and a goal) were also among the Tigers’ best performers.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

#4 Isaac Keeler

The athletic bottom-ager was terrific for the Roosters. After spending time as a permanent forward earlier in the season, Keeler had a greater impact on the game when given the lead ruck role. A classy mover, Keeler fought hard against Glenelg ruck duo Oscar Adams and Sam Thomson, but it was his follow-up work and efforts at ground level which elevated his performance. Keeler was involved in several handball chains, with his natural football smarts and cleanliness holding him in good stead. He was also very clean by foot, with an inside 50 kick to teammate Adam Heath a prime example of his skillset. Certainly one of the Roosters’ best players on the day, Keeler finished with 21 disposals, six marks (two contested), 15 hit-outs and two clearances.

#12 Hugh Jackson

Prolific midfielder, Jackson spent some more time on the defensive side of the ball this week, with star teammate Blayne O’Loughlin elevated to the Reserves. Always assured with ball in hand, the classy left-footer may not have been as dominant on the inside as previous weeks, but his skills helped set up several Roosters attacks. His work rate between the arcs was high, and his distribution by hand was clean. North’s Mr. Consistent finished the game with 26 touches, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#29 Zyton Santillo

Zippy on-baller, Santillo was typically productive for the red and whites. He looked the most threatening Rooster around the contest, winning a game-high nine clearances – four more than any other player on the ground. Santillo was clever with ball in hand, using his quick turn of pace to weave around opponents with ease. He booted an important goal at the 10-minute mark of the third term which triggered a run of four-straight Roosters goals, and finished the game with 24 disposals, three tackles and five inside 50s.

Others: 

Midfielder James Willis found plenty of the ball, gathering 26 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and seven inside 50s. However, his kicking did let him down at times, particularly in front of goal where he booted four behinds. His fellow on-baller Harvey Harrison won 18 disposals, three tackles and two clearances. Although he didn’t accumulate his regular numbers, Harrison’s run-and-carry through the middle of the ground was still evident. Key forward Adam Heath provided a strong target, taking a couple of nice contested grabs to go with 22 disposals and a couple of majors.

WEST ADELAIDE 13.9 (87) def. CENTRAL DISTRICT 13.8 (86)

By: Tom Wyman

WEST ADELAIDE:

#3 Charlie Pridham

Small defender, Pridham was once again productive in West Adelaide’s narrow victory under Saturday night lights. Tasked with setting up the play from the half-back line, Pridham had the ball on a string from the get-go. He has a knack of getting into the right spots in defence, and his teammates clearly recognise his talent with ball in hand, looking to give it to him whenever possible. What he lacks in size, Pridham makes up for in polish and smarts, whilst also applying plenty of pressure on the ball carrier. One of the SANFL Under 18 competition’s most consistent performers across the opening five rounds of action, Pridham finished the game with 29 disposals, eight marks, five tackles and nine rebound 50s.

#10 Cade Kennedy

With gun bottom-aged midfielders Kobe Ryan and Tyson Coe missing the clash due to college football commitments, Kennedy stood up through the middle for the Bloods. The skipper did struggle by foot at times, with a couple of his kicks resulting in turnovers, however he was typically combative in-tight, winning plenty of contested ball at the coalface. Kennedy pushed forward at stages to good effect, with his hands overhead a feature. He worked hard between the arcs, sending the ball inside 50 on eight occasions, and finished with a game-high 30 disposals, six marks (two contested), five tackles and three clearances.

Others:

The smooth-moving Dylan McCormick showed off his speed, run and booming long kick. He kicked the Bloods’ first goal of the game and finished the contest with 17 disposals, four marks, three tackles and three rebounds. In the ruck, Tom Scully and Oscar Steene battled hard against competition hit-out leader Saxon Evans. Scully, whose mobility and cleanliness were again impressive, finished with 12 disposals, 15 hit-outs and two clearances, while Steene managed 15 disposals, five marks (four contested), four tackles, 19 hit-outs and five inside-50s in a strong aerial display. Luke Young stood up in attack, booting three majors and taking a couple of strong grabs, while Hugh Desira (21 disposals, three marks, two tackles, three clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds) produced his best performance of the season, with his speed, foot skills and relentless work rate impressive.

CENTRAL DISTRICT:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

The Adelaide Next Generation Academy prospect provided genuine spark whenever he was around the ball for Central District. In a side which came within a point of claiming its first win of the season, Dudley did just about all he could to get his side over the line. As he has done throughout the opening month of action, Dudley divided his time between the small forward role and midfield, and it was in the middle where he looked most damaging, able to use his terrific blend of fancy footwork, power and contested ball winning to best effect. Dudley’s skills appeared a class above those of his teammates for parts of the night, with his kicking boasting accuracy and penetration. But whilst his fancy side-steps, elite agility and eye-catching skills will fill the highlight reels, Dudley’s relentless pressure and tackling intensity will also have recruiters excited. Against the Bloods he tackled with real intent, never backing down despite being smaller than the majority of his opponents. In another encouraging display, Dudley gathered 23 disposals, nine tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s.

#37 Cody Gilchrist

Gilchrist provided the Bulldogs with a genuine target in attack. He often appeared simply too big for the West Adelaide defenders, positioning himself well to take grab after grab up forward. Gilchrist’s ability to not only use his size to advantage, but read the flight of the ball proved too difficult to contain. He finished the game with five goals, the most of anyone for the round, to compliment his 19 disposals and eight marks (four of which were contested).

Others:

Half-backman Ruben Carreno was excellent for the Bulldogs, winning a team-high 25 disposals and nine rebounds. Bigman Saxon Evans has clearly been the best performed ruckman in the competition’s early stages, however the Bloods talls were able to curb his influence on the game at Hisense Stadium. However, the Willaston product was still able to play a role, finishing with 11 disposals, four tackles, three clearances and 13 hit-outs. When he wasn’t stationed up forward, fellow tall Brodie Tuck provided Evans with a chop-out in the ruck, winning nine hit-outs of his own. He didn’t hit the scoreboard, but managed five disposals, five marks and four inside 50s.

WWT EAGLES 14.13 (97) def. STURT 8.12 (60)

By: Tom Cheesman

EAGLES:

#9 Jase Burgoyne

Port Adelaide fans should get excited (if they aren’t already), as father-son prospect Burgoyne returned to the Eagles’ Under 18 line up this week and delivered a best on ground performance. After an interrupted pre-season due to knee surgery, Burgoyne showed that he has lost none of his agility and deserves to be considered among South Australia’s best AFL Draft prospects in 2021. He was on fire from the opening bounce against Sturt, spreading from a stoppage just minutes into the game and kicking a beautiful goal on the run from 45 metres out. He played predominantly in the midfield but also spent some time at half-back, exhibiting his silky skills in both positions. Burgoyne won plenty of ground balls, rarely fumbled and made great decisions when disposing of the footy. No Double Blues player could go with him when he spread from stoppages, as his turn of speed was too much for them to handle. His skills by foot were magnificent, finding targets all over the ground with ease. Going inside 50, he always kicked it to his forwards’ advantage to enable them to capitalise on one-on-one situations. At half-back, he read the play well and used his height and leaping ability to take some nice intercept marks. He finished with 28 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s, four tackles and two clearances for the day.

#15 Adam D’Aloia

D’Aloia backed up his best on ground performance last weekend with another strong showing on Saturday. Playing mainly has an inside midfielder, the State Talent Hub member read the ball well off the hands of the ruckmen, released his side’s outside midfielders with quick hands, and always followed up to the next contest. His composure with ball in hand was outstanding, as he made smart decisions and consistently chose the right option. The highlight of his match occurred in the second term when he received a short pass from Burgoyne on the 50-metre arc, immediately turned, took three steps and booted a magnificent goal on a tight angle. D’Aloia is already one of the best handballers in traffic in the competition. This was demonstrated on many occasions including when he gave quick hands to set up Mattaes Phillipou’s important goal midway through the third term. His defensive pressure was relentless as well, both at stoppages and around the ground. The bottom-ager finished with 26 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s, four tackles, four clearances and a goal.

Others:

Brock Thomson (33 disposals, ten marks) found plenty of the ball in defence once again, showing class with both feet coming out of the defensive 50. Will Pearce (19 disposals, five marks, four clearances) was prominent in the midfield and up forward, while Nick Mitzithras (23 disposals, seven marks, two goals) and Liam Ueding (16 disposals, nine marks, four tackles) were important contributors. Ben Schwartz (ten disposals, two contested marks, four goals) closed out the game well, booting three of his four goals in the second half.

STURT:

#5 Jordan Hein

Hein was one of Sturt’s best, finishing with an impressive stat-line of 29 disposals, eight tackles, seven marks, six inside 50s, five clearances and a goal. His hands were good inside, and he used his pace to apply solid pressure on the opposition throughout the match. Hein used his endurance to work to each contest and provide teammate Brad Jefferies with some much-needed assistance in the midfield. His goal came at an important stage late in the third term with a left-foot snap from a forward 50 stoppage, and this brought his side to within 12 points at three-quarter time. While he is a nice kick on most occasions, he did make a couple of costly turnovers by foot, including a misguided short pass late in the second term that should have led to an Eagles goal. Despite this, it was a strong performance from Hein and he will be an important player for the Double Blues this season.

#13 Brad Jefferies

Jefferies was Sturt’s best player again, finding the ball with ease and using it to the best of his ability. He collected a game-high 37 disposals (28 kicks) to go with 12 marks, nine inside 50s, eight clearances, four tackles and two rebound 50s. While his contested ball-winning ability and dominance at stoppages was profound once again, it was his work rate and desire to earn uncontested possessions that took his game to a new level on Saturday. Jefferies pushed into the right spots to gain uncontested marks and help side bring the ball out of defence on numerous occasions. Some of his kicking completely opened up the play, including when he went down the middle to Jake Aish in the final term. He attempted to use the corridor as much as possible, and he found Felix Packer up forward on the lead several times. Jefferies earned free kicks at stoppages because he got to the ball first, held his ground and proved difficult for opposition players to tackle. It will be interesting to see whether Jefferies moves up the grades at Sturt in 2021.

#39 Felix Packer

Packer was Sturt’s most imposing forward in this contest. He provided a powerful presence, pushed hard on the lead and used his reach to take the ball at its highest point. He booted three majors for the match, and they all came in different ways. The first was from a set shot after taking a mark on the lead, the second came from a nice kick on the run (following some good work from teammate Lachie Thomas), and the third came from a set shot after a free kick for a push in the back. Given Packer’s size, reach and ability to hold front position, it is difficult for defenders to spoil his marking attempts without giving away free kicks. Packer had 16 disposals and five marks in a solid outing.

Others:

Charlie Fryer (14 disposals, eight marks, four tackles) and Will Torode (12 disposals, five marks, eight rebound 50s) were great in defence, as they consistently read the ball well and took some nice intercept marks. Patrick Tidemann (16 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s) worked hard throughout the contest, and Jake Aish (24 disposals, three goals) was lively.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 16.10 (106) def. NORWOOD 7.8 (50)

By: Tom Cheesman

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#13 Lachlan Hayes

Hayes was Mr. Reliable for South in defence on Saturday. He was very active from the beginning of the match, using his agility to impact contests and provide an option for teammates on the outside. His brilliant quick hands helped set up an Isaac Birt goal in the second term, one of several occasions where he made good instinctive decisions with ball in hand. He also has a nice sidestep, which is valuable when used in the right situation, and he spread well off half-back to help his side switch the play. He finished with 22 disposals, five marks and three tackles.

#21 Matthew Roberts

Roberts was easily the best player on the ground in this contest. He set the tone at opening bounce, where he laid a strong run-down tackle on Redlegs ruckman Aidan Lake to earn a free kick for holding the ball, and then delivered his kick beautifully inside 50 to a leading Jack Delean to set up the first goalscoring opportunity of the match. Roberts dominated at the stoppages, winning eight clearances to go with 34 disposals, 10 inside 50s, nine tackles and eight marks for the day. Most of his marks were uncontested, as he used his incredible work rate to burn away from opponents and help his side bring the ball out of defence. Roberts delivered several classy forward entries from his 10 inside 50s, including when he kicked a huge goal from inside the centre square (with the wind) off a couple of steps to give his side the lead in the second term. He also spent some time resting at full forward, and he kicked two more goals in the second term while playing this position. He showed great composure to steady when drilling his second on the run at the 16-minute mark, and his third came from the next centre clearance when Luke Mitton hit him beautifully on the lead. Roberts was never in doubt from the set shot, as he has a wonderful kicking technique and is reliable under pressure. He took two contested marks in this game as well, proving that he truly has no weaknesses. Akin to fellow Panther Jason Horne, Roberts is a class above the Under 18 level, so don’t be surprised if he moves up the grades this season.

#33 Arlo Draper

Draper is another of South Adelaide’s promising draft prospects and he churned out another solid performance on Saturday. He was particularly impressive early, finding plenty of the ball and winning clearances with ease. His balance between getting contested and uncontested ball is fantastic, and his versatility enables him to play almost any position. Draper spent some time forward to rest in this contest, and although he provided a strong marking target, he did not get any opportunities to hit the scoreboard. His best moments in this match came at the midfield stoppages, where he and Roberts tore the game apart in the second term. Draper is a reliable kick, good size and very athletic. His composure under pressure is elite, as he regularly gets his arms free when tackled to give handballs that release teammates on the outside. Draper could be another to earn an opportunity to play at higher levels later in the season as well.

#35 Koby Cockshell

Cockshell was South’s most powerful presence up forward in this match, finishing with 15 disposals, six tackles, four marks and three majors. He was a reliable marking target, showed impressive agility and, as evidenced by his tackle numbers, applied relentless pressure on the opposition. Some highlights of his performance included a clever intercept mark and beautiful set shot goal in the second term, and a fantastic contested mark against Norwood’s Matthew Dnistriansky early in the third term. Another exciting moment also came in the third quarter when Cockshell swooped on a loose ball, took a bounce down the wing and found fellow key forward Tom Schirmer with a long kick inside 50 to set up a score. Cockshell’s second and third goals came from the goalsquare in the final term.

Others:

Will Verrall (31 hitouts, six clearances) was a major reason why the Panthers had the ascendancy at the stoppages, and Tom Schirmer (five marks, three tackles, three goals) was good in tandem with Cockshell up forward. Isaac Birt (20 disposals, six inside 50s), Luke Mitton (20 disposals, eight clearances, seven tackles) and Jack Delean (11 disposals, two goals) were also standouts.

NORWOOD:

#10 Taj Rahui

Rahui was fantastic for the Redlegs in defeat. Playing off half-back, the State Talent Hub member provided some exciting run-and-carry, used his body well and produced many significant defensive efforts. His spoiling was solid, his attack on the ball was ferocious and his willingness to commit to the contest was outstanding. A prime example of his commitment occurred when he took a brave contested mark at half-back after standing under the flight of the ball for a lengthy period. Rahui knew the contact was coming from all directions, but he was not afraid to take the hit and did not back out of the contest. This was a great sign from a young player. Rahui was also composed in traffic, reliable by foot and agile in evading oncoming tacklers. He finished with 21 disposals, five marks, three inside 50s, two rebound 50s, two tackles, two clearances and a goal, which came from a nice set shot in the opening term.

#25 Matthew Dnistriansky

Dnistriansky was solid in defence for the visitors, particularly in the first half. He used his booming right foot kick to switch the play, open up the centre of the ground and clear the defensive 50. He was not afraid to take the game on by foot, as demonstrated when he hit teammate Joseph Cristancig with a beautiful pass down the corridor in the opening term. Dnistriansky intercepted South’s forward thrusts on many occasions and provided some nice run and link up with teammates coming out of defence. He is a good size for his position and can hold his own in one-on-one contests. Besides one uncharacteristic turnover in the second term that handed Cockshell a goal, Dnistriansky’s ball use was very effective. He finished with 25 disposals, 10 rebound 50s, six tackles and five marks.

Others:

Oliver Stenchlik (13 disposals, two marks) and Riley Verrall (19 disposals, six marks, five tackles) were solid in defence, while Corey Jones-Bobridge (16 disposals, four tackles, three clearances) did some good things in the midfield.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 9

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition returned for its ultimate home-and-away round ahead of finals, with seven games filling out a bumper weekend. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis 

There comes a point when watching a prospect where they genuinely do everything, and Prespakis has well and truly reached that point in her junior career. After putting in two very good performances for Vic Metro in the past couple of weeks, Prespakis came back to NAB League level without missing a beat, continuing to just dominate in the middle. She could be forgiven for taking it easy at times defensively, but it’s constantly a highlight of her game, with her tackling pressure in close top notch. Playing a team orientated game, there were multiple times where Prespakis gave it off to teammates in an attempt to get them more involved, even throwing up a few full wingspan shepherds for her teammates to run past unpressured. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

Calder Cannons:

#3 Emelia Yassir

Has time and time again proven her work rate is at the highest standard, with this game being no exception. One instance in the second quarter highlighted this well, where she impacted the ball off the rucks hands, unable to grab it, but then followed up with three/four efforts, including a bump on an opponent to then win the ball and boot it inside forward 50. She also again impressed with her aerial strength, taking clean marks consistently even when under direct pressure, then following up with good ball use by foot to hit up forwards leading at her. 

#34 Tahlia Read 

Worked hard as a forward, streaming out to meet the ball and impact centre stoppages, where her speed was on show, often getting plenty of separation on her opponent. Moved well in the forward 50, getting to some hacked kicks forward to mark or make them work out. Almost got a goal in the first quarter after taking what appeared to be a good grab just before the siren, but it was called touched play on. Around the ground she used it well, being one that would look to move into the centre of the ground to open up the options going forward. 

#39 Abbey McDonald 

Put in two really impressive shifts for the Metro U17’s through all thirds of the ground, with that ‘utility’ role continuing into the NAB League return. Started the game in the midfield where she moved well around the stoppages, getting herself some early clearances where her hands in close were really impressive, often finding Yassir who was already moving at speed to break away. She moved up forward at times where her composure got her a couple of nice marks, where she would control the tempo and look for a properly leading teammate.

Geelong Falcons:

#4 Poppy Schaap 

Finishing the game with two goals and plenty of touches in the forward half, Schapp continues to put her name up as one of the premiere pressure forwards in the competition, playing mostly in the forward line and having some really opportune moments, as well as managing to create her own opportunities through hard work and determination, with that tackling pressure forcing turnovers inside their forward 50. Pushed up the ground at times when Calder had the momentum to impact contests, trying to pull the Falcons back into it.

#11 Tess Craven 

Just involved in everything once again, despite playing a bit more of  a defensive role in the midfield often starting on Prespakis around stoppages. Positioned well around contests and worked hard to regain possession for the Falcons when it came out of forward 50. Again looked to spread across the ground getting free and making herself a switch or inside 45 option, used it well, looking to keep it central.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling 

Dowling continues to impress with her work in and coming out of the backline, meeting loose balls with speed and aggression, meaning she wins the ball herself or she seriously wraps up whoever does. With her aggression and speed, she does not just use brute force with the ball, she moves smoothly through traffic, able to standup against anyone trying to tackle her, keeping her hands free and getting it off to a teammate. She is a clear leader in the defensive half as well, telling her teammates where to be. It was really impressive to see her have an impact on most of the contests in the defensive half for the Falcons, either laying a tackling, carrelling an opponent, put up a shepherd, taking a mark or getting the ball off the deck and moving it herself, she truly did everything she could to ensure a Falcons victory.

#26 Ingrid Houtsma

Whilst she had quite a few good moments through the game, it was her rising to the occasion in the third quarter, when the game was in real contention, that ultimately got the Falcons rolling again to go on to victory. Started with some nice plays around the forward 50 mark that led to a goal against the tide of play, where not long after she managed to get the ball in a contest, find her way out and hit up a leading Renee Tierney who kicked their second of the quarter. That ability to go through contests and come out clean, whilst traditionally a winger, was impressive and showed a versatility to her game that has not come out too often.

OTHERS:

Both sides had some lesser contributors that are deserving of a mention, two more dual goal kickers in Renee Tierney and Jessica Zakkour, both in their 19th year, hit the scoreboard when the opportunity presented itself. Annie Lee and Taiya Morrow were consistent aerial threats in defence, with Lee’s ball use especially good. Gabbi Featherston showed off her athleticism as a forward and ruck as well. Neve Crowley was a strong mark in the forward line, using it well when she had the ball, as did Zali Friswell in the midfield.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Dandenong Stingrays:

#10 Abbey Jordan

Very few players going around would be able to match the work rate of Jordan who covers the ground with ease from midfield to defence and pushing forward. She looks to run and carry any chance she gets, and if she does make mistakes by hand or foot, she will get across to help out her teammates. Her hands on the inside are impressive and her footy smarts are right up there with clever knocks at ground level into the path of her teammates. Whilst at times she could rush her kicking, she intercepted a number of passes by reading the play off the opposition’s boot, marking and then taking the game on.

#11 Emily Shepherd

Had a tale of two halves in the sense that her first half she was racking up the ball with will and was hitting targets left, right and centre, whilst in the second half she remained involved and her hands in close were still good, but a number of her kicks were intercepted. She loves to snap around her body to get out of trouble, and is at her most dangerous when having space to size up options and kick long inside 50. Some of her passes in the opening half were superbly weighted, and combined with her clean hands at round level and pressure acts, Shepherd was certainly a busy bee around the ground. Still finding her fair share of it in the second half, it was more her execution that was not as consistent, though she was still pressuring the opposition.

#12 Alisha Liddle

A strong one-on-one player, Liddle took a number of great grabs both contested and uncontested around the ground. Liddle showed off some good speed on the lead and had a number of chances including kicking two goals for the match, with one coming from a 30m set shot on a 45-degree angle after plucking the mark over the top of her opponent, and her second coming from point blank after a 50m penalty, though she had taken another strong grab prior to that. She had a chance earlier in the game from 40m but the set shot just fell short. Liddle is one who competes time and time again in the air and is generally clean above her head.

#34 Ash Richards

The Stingrays co-captain almost had four goals on the board in five minutes with a really fast start. She slotted two goals in the opening three minutes, with a set shot on goal from a tackle 30m out, then an uncontested mark 20m out both going through the big sticks. She had a running shot and then another set shot on goal that followed, though both missed. She rolled through the midfield at times through the game, laying some strong tackles, and took a great intercept mark against two opponents in the second term. Strong above her head and looking dangerous inside 50, she clunked grabs with ease and had a couple of late chances in the fourth term with one from 50m opting to pass off to the danger zone, then ran around 35m out but just fell short with five mins left.

#38 Felicity Crank

Rotating between midfield and defence, Crank was able to get boot to ball quickly, and whilst she could occasionally rush her kicks, she was able to position herself well around the field to get into ball-winning positions. A highlight was a strong intercept mark in the third term with pressure coming from behind, then she had a clearance out of the middle in the final term, also had an intercept mark, and worked back into defence to win the ball at ground level and shovel it out.

Northern Knights:

#1 Phoebe Nelson

Showed strength throughout the game to stand up in tackles and spread across the ground well, often positioning herself a kick behind play or anchoring herself at the back of the stoppages where she could run. What was impressive was her spread and willingness to move the ball on, laying some good tackles and looking to switch where possible. She did rush some of her disposals, but got in the right positions to intercept and then keep moving in transition.

#7 Teleah Smart

Had a touch of class in the first half by hitting the scoreboard twice, albeit from a total of 20m out. She had a nice passage of play in the first term where she marked on the wing, her kick was short so she went and mopped up the ball, won a free kick and then was given a 50m penalty where she converted the goal. In the second term, her great defensive work in the goalsquare earned her a free kick and nailed the goal from point blank. She took a few good marks in defence and was able to hit her targets later in the game, and seemed composed with ball-in-hand.

#9 Maeve Chaplin

A standout for the Knights and just kept pushing throughout four quarters whether it be at the stoppages or roaming in the back half to assist her defence. She mopped up loose balls and charged through stoppages with intent, using her quick hands in close to advantage. While at times her kicks might not go directly to teammates, they would be put to space, and she would work hard to add an extra number to the contest. Her strength whilst being tackled was another feature in the game, getting her hands free to give the ball over, and then able to cleanly pick up at ground level on multiple occasions.

#36 Ava Jordan

The pocket rocket 05er was lively around the stoppages and just borrowed in time and time again. Whilst she has had bigger games, Jordan was constantly cracking in, winning the ball and firing out handballs to teammates, with a fantastic gather spin and delivery to the forward side of the centre to Ella Smallacombe. She spread well and was able to win a fair share of uncontested possessions as well as contested ones, and often chipped around with short passes and ran hard to try and win the ball back.

#37 Rylie Wilcox

A lightly-bodied player who kicked a goal from a great contested mark, clunking a grab and nailing the set shot from 30m out, then roaming around the ground to gather the ball in all thirds of the ground. A couple of times Wilcox’s spatial awareness could have improved given she was run down before she could dispose of it cleanly, or she had to rush, but her gathering at ground level and third term in particular was a highlight. She looked to play on when she could and open up the angles, then ran-down an opponent in the fourth quarter to force a spill and ran to the next contest.

#40 Tannah Hurst

The defender put together a really solid performance in the back 50, positioning herself in the right places to win the ball and take it out of defence. She won the ball under pressure on a number of occasions and had to give the ball off quickly, but also provided the defensive aspects such as shepherds or locks. Hurst burst through a stoppage late in the first term to be a standout on the field at that stage, and laid a massive front-on tackle to stop a potential goal. Whilst not as busy after that, Hurst did have a number of highlight plays, mopping up at half-back off opposition plays, and laying some strong tackles. A clean gather in defence to run out and kick to the wing was good, though it did get turned over. Overall one of the better Knights throughout the match.

OTHERS:

Dandenong Stingrays had an even spread across the board with Charley Ryan, Sarah Hosking, Olivia Robinson and Zoe Hill all winning their fair share of the ball, while Bianca Lyne kicked a goal rolling through the ruck. For the Knights, Molly McErlain was impressive for a 14-year-old, while Lulu Beatty, Megan Barnes and Brooke Plummer stood out, and Trinity Mills slotted two goals.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Showed true versatility throughout the game as someone that played on the wing, through the middle and down back at times, able to impact in all three positions consistently. Her usual strengths such as ball use and marking were well utilised by her throughout the game, taking good marks above head, especially in defence, to steady the ship at times and get the Rebels some time to compose themselves. What was most impressive, and possibly a new string to her bow, was how well she played her role through the middle of the ground, consistently clean below her knees even when under immediate pressure from an opponent. This theme was also present when she was stationed on the wing, able to hold her space and time her runs well to try and receive a handball from a pack.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Coming off two really strong U19’s Country performances, Dojiok played like a player with the confidence to take on the world, and that is what she did at times streaming out of the defensive 50 to attack the ball and provide as an option laterally for teammates. One particular instance of this came in the third quarter where she got onto the end of a kick into the middle of the ground, and already being at full pace, went straight through a Tasmanian opponent to deliver inside 50. Along with this, she showed her usual strength in the air, taking a few quality intercept marks in the defensive 50 above her head, where she would usually look to get running with it immediately to quickly get GWV transitioning. 

#11 Perri King (Tasmania)

Had a really well rounded game through the midfield, being the main Tasmanian midfielder looking to nullify the ruck dominance of Kalani Scoullar with her positioning and runs through the stoppages. She has a really eye-catching game style, playing as an inside mid with genuine outside mid speed, as well as an impressive leap that makes her such a dangerous marking target around the ground, even taking a contested mark against the previously mentioned Scoullar in the defensive 50. With these athletic traits and position it is no surprise she finds herself consistently winning the ball, where she tends to favour kicking it long forward out of the pack, or handball if there is a clear option there

TOP PERFORMERS:

GWV Rebels:

#1 Lili Condon 

Coming back with some more VFLW experience, Condon looked much better for the experience at that level, just looking too good in the midfield at times seemingly having an unlimited amount of time with the ball through contests. Seemed more assured of herself as well, often backing her speed and agility rather than rushing a disposal, even finding space from that additional run to find a few bounces, with the extra time she took seeing her ball use at its best for the season.

#2 Tahlia Meier

Looked so clean with the ball and just a step above with her speed through the midfield, looking particularly damaging around stoppages where she would out run opponents and weave around the contest to get a clean disposal going forward. Also was not afraid to smack away the hands of attempted tacklers and then got it moving, often by hand, to teammates that were in less contested situations. Not letting her lack of height impact her aerial game, she flew for quite a few marks throughout the game. Another impressive part of her game was how willing she was to initiate contact throughout, often pushing opponents around stoppages to try and get an extra meter or so of separation.

#27 Molly Walton 

You can just tell that she has a massive impact to the Rebels defensive structure, and how much Tasmania actively looked to nullify that by putting a player on her when Walton was pushed up as a higher defender, and then very happy to put stronger opponents on her one on one down deep. She finds ways to impact, whether it is providing a shepherd for a teammate to take a mark uncontested, taking an intercept mark herself or drifting across to spoil, then following up with good ball use to teammates, usually ones about 20 meters away that aren’t under pressure.

Tasmania Devils:

#7 Meghan Gaffney

The winger showcased her trademark speed through the game, attacking spilled balls out of contests or stoppages no matter who was in her way, or even heading directly towards her, showing immense courage. Was smart with her use by foot going forward as well, never really delivering bullet kicks but placing them just in front of teammates to run into.

#9 Claire Ransom

Finding herself in the forward line a bit more often than usual, Ransom more than held her own in a newer position, able to provide as a genuine option when Tasmania were going forward and she was there. When in her usual midfield role, Ransom brought a level of composure not many others could, finding some impressive options in close with her quick hands, or delivering well forward by foot, she just manages to find those options not many others can under the pressure she usually is under. 

#13 Olivia Smith

Lining up on the wing for majority of the game, Smith played a fantastic game where she filled the role of a traditional winger perfectly with her positioning, making herself a switch option when the ball was on the other side of the ground, and sitting just behind when it was on her side. Her positioning outside of the forward 50 as well led to consistent pressure on the Rebels defence, able to make a contest and usually get the ball back inside 50 either herself or by getting it to a teammate.

#15 Jemma Webster 

Found herself involved in some of Tasmania’s best pieces of transitional play for the day, usually being the central option and passing off to a running teammate she played her role really well, positioning well outside forward 50 as well to create contests and keep the threat of another inside 50 entry going.

#33 Shania Saward 

Playing up both ends throughout the contest, Saward utilised her strength to win essentially every marking contest she was involved in, taking them strongly without much trouble. Looked very comfortable as a defender, not afraid to run off her opponent and set up outside the forward 50 to take some intercept grabs up there and bomb the ball straight back in

OTHERS:

Tasmania were not without their solid role players in the win, Ella Maurer being one of them that continued her form from the U19’s Championships to have a good game through the middle. Amy Prokopiec kicked two goals when the game was tight early on to give Tasmania the early advantage. Briana Oates did well to nullify her direct opponents as a defender as well. For the Rebels, Chloe Leonard and Kalani Scoullar were involved through the midfield and ruck respectively, with Scoullar having the clear win in the ruck duals. Jenna Burke also looked strong throughout the game, marking herself as another to watch for the 2022 draft from the Rebels

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Eastern Ranges:

#4 Keeley Sherar

A standout across the game, Sherar showed a touch of class through the midfield and was strong in standing up when tackled to still get her handball away. A highlight was the first centre bounce of the second term when she read the Grace Campbell tap, charged away and kicked inside 50 well. Her defensive pressure on opponents was admirable, battling hard at ground level, whilst her ability to move through heavy traffic was a great trait. She occasionally fumbled a little bit at ground level, but once she was able to get ball-in-hand she was clean with her hands. She took a number of good marks around the ground showing off her work rate.

#5 Jorja Livingstone

The wing had some eye-catching moments, and found enough of the ball to pose a problem for the opposition. She won a free kick for in the back in the third term and take off and use her trusty left to put it to a dangerous spot close to goal. She was clean at ground level, and whilst at times she rushed, she was generally one player who could utilise the ball in transition.

#9 Mia Busch

A standout player off half-back and one of the best on the ground, she was terrific intercepting the play and moving it forward. Even if she dropped a mark, her second efforts would help her win the ball for her teammates and stay upright in a tackle to give it off to a free teammate. She laid a great tackle in the goalsquare to save a certain goal, and then was an anchor at half-back with her marking. Once in the third term she was a bit too ambitious by playing on and was rushed after stepping off her line in between two opponents, but otherwise was fairly composed throughout the match.

#16 Isabelle Khoury

Lively throughout the match, Khoury never stopped trying to run with the ball and break the lines. Sometimes she would get caught, but when it paid off, she was able to open up the angles and get it forward. She showed clean and quick hands off the deck, and was able to get boot to ball quickly in order to get it forward.

#18 Bridget Deed

Put together a consistent four-quarter performance and her hard running and work rate ensured she won a truckload of the ball. Finishing with easily the most disposals on the ground, Deed was often held at stoppages or carefully guarded because of her ability to read the ball off hands. She was strong under pressure and was able to just bomb the ball forward to provide her teammates with scoring opportunities, whilst having quick hands in close.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer

Similar to Deed, O’Dwyer worked hard across the ground and looked to spread when she could, able to get boot to ball whilst under pressure, including in the third term when she was being tackled. She won a free kick for going in hard and drove the ball forward then gave quick hands from a stoppage to a teammate on the outside in the fourth term.

#44 Georgia Campbell

An absolutely dominant performance from Campbell in terms of her ruck work, and whilst she did not have as much impact across the ground as usual – dropping a few marks she would usually clunk early – she was able to really take control at the stoppages. Sharing the work load with Jess Grace, Campbell opened up angles and space for her midfielders to run onto.

Northern Territory:

#2 Djimila Totham

One of the most productive players in the match, Totham did a good job from defence, often opposed one-on-one with the talented Alyssia Pisano. She held her own in that contest and restricted Pisano to just the one goal, whilst being a prolific interceptor. She was clean at ground level and had a slick sidestep through traffic in the third term to pick the exit and kick away, and whilst she sometimes was rushed with her kick, she was able to hold up under pressure in the back 50 during the second half.

#11 Grace Mulvahil

The smooth-moving player was able to roll off half-back and down the wing, breaking away with her speed from stoppages. In the third term, she shrugged off a tackle in the midfield to get hands free to a teammate, then would get her own hands dirty not long after with a good tackle at ground level.

#25 Bella Clarke

Showed her experience in the game by accumulating the ball regularly, particularly in the first half. Clarke was quick to get boot to ball and won a free kick for a great tackle on Deed in the middle. She then got to the next contest after kicking it to assist her teammates, whilst had another good play in the third term running out of a stoppage.

#28 Kasey Marsden

One of the better Northern Territory players, Marsden stood out with her persistence in tackling opponents, even if sometimes they gave away free kicks. She mopped up at half-back worked up and down the ground, and was able to win it on the inside or outside. She even had a crack undersized in the ruck in the second term, and continued to stockpile possessions around the ground. In the final term, she rebounded well out of the back 50, and then won the ball on the wing as well to send it inside 50.

OTHERS:

Youngster Ava Campbell and co-captain Eloise Chaston both found double-figure disposals, Cadhla Schmidli worked hard on the last line, and Jess Grace shared the ruck load with Georgia Campbell for the Ranges. For the Thunder, Shanoah Leedie, Georgia Johnson and Matisse Hunter were others who worked hard throughout the game.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

On what was an indifferent day for the star AFLW Academy member and her Pioneers, you could not put it down to a lack of effort. Fresh off a National Championships campaign where she spearheaded Vic Country’s attack, Slender reverted back to her defensive duties early in this match. She broke hard off the line at the first centre bounce to try and set the tone, but was unlucky to be caught holding the ball. Slender’s marking came to prominence with a trademark intercept grab in the opening term, though it was her intent and tackling efforts throughout the game which stood out most. The versatile talent also cracked into the midfield for a blockbuster matchup against Montana Ham, and while she was not overly prolific, still had her moments of strength at the contest.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Western Jets:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

The hard-working bottom-ager returned another performance to remember, collecting a round-high 31 disposals as a constant in the Jets’ midfield. A tenacious ground level player, Baskaran was in the thick of the action and again enforced her accumulative effect with terrific spread from the contest and repeat efforts to help thrust Western forward. She often won or received the ball in ideal positions to deliver inside attacking 50, where she had potential to inflict plenty of damage. Baskaran also showcased her speed in open spaces, particularly with a four-bounce run through the corridor during term three which saw her side go from centre half-back to centre half-forward in a flash. Overall, a top game from the top 10 2022 prospect.

#27 Caitlin Sargent

Sargent was the dominant forward on the ground and looked ominous during a three-goal first half showing. She got on the board almost immediately with the opening goal of the game, finishing quickly after receiving by hand close to goal. A holding the ball free kick saw Sargent add another in the same quarter, before a terrific overhead mark allowed her to convert a third in term two. Sargent would go on to compete well and even scrounge some more shots on goal, before showing good confidence to mark strongly once again and convert a fourth major in the third quarter.

#38 Montana Ham

In what was an imposing performance, Ham was able to highlight some of the traits which have her pegged as a top five prospect among the 2022 crop. She was able to get first hands on the ball in midfield, where she started the game, while also using her power to burst onto the outer and gain good penetration by foot. Ham’s aerial marking was another real feature, rising time and time again to intercept Bendigo’s rebounding kicks as a formidable wall across the front half. Going forward, Ham also mixed it up by actively lowering her eyes more than usual and hitting targets in front of her, rather than constantly blazing away long. Scarily enough, she already looks a class above the competition.

#41 Ciara Singleton

In her final game for the Western Jets, Singleton swung forward to good effect and was a large part of her side’s hot start to the game. Her marking and reading of the ball in flight are among her strengths, and they both came to the fore as Singleton set up well across the 50-metre arc and enjoyed a productive first half. She also booted her first Under 18s (now 19s) goal for Western, coming in the opening quarter and now bows out as one of the rare 2001-births to have remained in the NAB League this year.

#42 Jemima Woods

Woods was part of the Jets’ dynamic forwardline which boasted plenty of height and marking power, but was able to remain busy when the ball hit the deck. The 18th-year prospect hit the scoreboard early with a set shot conversion, before adding a second goal in the third term via the same method. She presented well on the lead and proved mobile when taking on ruck duties, looking to have gained a good amount of confidence from her three-goal VFLW debut. With some nice athletic tools and a good work rate, Woods has plenty to work with.

Bendigo Pioneers:

#15 Drew Ryan

Ryan was one who played an important role in an under-siege area of the ground for Bendigo, able to intercept and repel from her defensive post. She started off with a solid pack mark inside defensive 50 during term one, an act which would be repeated again in the second and third terms. Ryan showed good strength to be able to stand up in tackles and despite enormous scoreboard pressure, was not afraid to take on the game with attacking intent. Once she marked or mopped up, Ryan would look to move quickly on most occasions and generated a massive seven rebound 50s. While others rotated heavily, she was a constant down back and proved steady in tough positions.

#18 Jemma Finning

Starting in midfield, Finning brought a good amount of physicality to the ground level contests and managed to set her game up with an early centre clearance. She hunted the ball well and was able to apply defensive pressure when necessary, including in the second half when she shifted to defence and earned a holding the ball decision inside the back 50. Finning set up nicely behind the ball to sweep up and provide some composure on the rebound, with her use by foot a solid feature on the day. The top-ager will likely now move on to Essendon’s VFLW side having gone close to a debut earlier this year.

#30 Octavia Di Donato

An exciting prospect for next year’s draft class, Di Donato was tried in a couple of roles but started in defence. She showed some good toe breaking into open space and looked to be productive with ball in hand, seen directing traffic ahead of her before delivering by foot. She would eventually rotate further afield and continued to look to chain her possessions or move the ball forward quickly, hoping to provide her side with a creative spark.

OTHERS:

Both sides finished with a number of strong contributors despite the scoreline discrepancy. 2005-born prospect Kiera Whiley again showed nice traits on the outer for Western, while Trinity Skenderis was productive in midfield and Laura Elliott also impacted. For Bendigo, Lila Keck and Lucia Painter proved they will be ones to watch for years to come, while Scarlett Orritt cracked in around the ground and Tegan Williams was a key pillar at either end of the ground.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

There is not many superlatives that have not been used when describing Rowbottom, she just constantly impresses with what she does around the ground. Found herself up forward a lot more than usual and proved that she can fill in as a key forward to great effect, finishing with three goals. Her athleticism and strength above her head made her an extremely difficult match up, with Gippsland unable to find a proper answer for her as a deep target, with some being able to match her in the air but not on the ground, and others able to match her on the ground but not in the air. Unsurprisingly won a heap of it when she did move into the middle, with her burst around stoppages leading to plenty of clearances and long kicks forward.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Oakleigh Chargers:

#9 Brooke Vickers 

Stationed on the wing after her impressive Vic Metro performances, Vickers used it well all through the game even when the rain started pelting down in the final quarter, with that reliability of disposal helping Oakleigh going forward or across the ground. Positioned well on the outside of the forward 50, taking a few intercept marks when Gippsland attempted to bomb the ball out, even making contests with much taller opponents to then win it at ground level. 

#14 Eliza James

Involved in a lot going forward, seemingly being the main target up forward for the chargers, with her marking prowess being impressive during the day, being able to get separation on the lead to take it comfortably on the chest or out in front, if it had not been for her unselfish ways she could have very well ended up with six or seven goals, however the constant effort to share the ball around and get other teammates on the scoresheet was impressive. She had a few gettable shots float off to the side or drop short, showing that once her goalkicking is more polished she’s very capable of being a consistent scoring threat.

#15 Ameile Smith

Returning for her first game since breaking her collarbone earlier in the year against Sandringham, Smith impacted in the forward half, with her marking and use by foot especially impressive, often looking to give the ball off to a teammate, working hard to help them if they did not take clean possession. Was another one that very well could have had a few more goals if she was a little more selfish, but decided to do the team thing and share it around. Filling in as ruck in the forward 50, she held up well against the experienced and much taller Matser, getting front position a few times to even the contest.

#23 Caitlin Matthews 

Spent her time between the ruck and backline, playing more and more in the ruck as the game went, really taking it up to Matser and began to get on top late in the piece. Where she clearly won though was her impact around the ground, able to win it at ground level without much trouble and get it out well. Especially in the backline she played a massive part in keeping Gippsland goalless, looking to switch the play often and run it further up to get extra distance behind the kicks. 

#29 Amanda Ling 

Similar to Rowbottom, Ling found herself spending a lot more time forward in an effort to give Oakleigh’s youngsters more of a go in the midfield, where she proved that she can impact as a forward, using her speed, strength and agility to get herself on the scoreboard three times, as well as setting up some pretty good scoring opportunities as she got around opponents and kicked to the advantage of her teammates. She looked good when she played that link up role, pushing up the ground to get possession from a teammate moving it out of defence, then running and delivering long.

#33 Jasmine Fleming 

In for her debut game, which has been delayed due to cricket commitments and injuries, the bottom-ager was dominant throughout the contest, spending her time between the midfield and the forward line, she managed to impact wherever she was. Possesses a really good burst of speed which made her particularly dangerous around the stoppages, where she got two or three really clean centre clearances purely from that burst of speed, with no one able to match those first five or six steps. Going forward, she was particularly dangerous in the air, taking grabs comfortably and converting one in the second quarter. In a game where Oakleigh’s bottom-agers were given every chance to shine, she took the opportunity and marked herself as one to watch for next year.

#34 Lily Hart

Not often that a bottom-ager is the most experienced player in her teams midfield group, but Hart stepped up to lead well through the rover group. She showed some really high level positioning around stoppages, not taking long to realise where the opposing ruck, Grace Matser, was favouring with her tap placement, and just sitting there to win some easy clearances and really nullifying the ruck dominance Matser showed at times. Getting those clearances was not the end of it, as the usually classy Hart continued to use it well throughout the day, often running and kicking to the same spots going forward but having it pay off every time.

Gippsland Power:

#9 Taylah Bourne

Consistently involved throughout the day in the Gippsland defence, pushing up to impact at the top of the defensive 50 and attempting to stop Oakleigh getting inside forward 50. When it got deep she was one that was always competing at ground level, constantly applying pressure to the ball carrier and forcing opponents to the boundary. 

#26 Grace McRae

As she has done all season McRae battled hard on the inside all day, cracking in and winning the ball well, usually just to be met by a swarm of Oakleigh players attempting to rip the ball from her hands or cut off an attempted handball or kick. She never dropped off her effort though, battling right to the end. 

OTHERS:

Despite not coming away with the win, Gippsland saw a fairly even contribution across the board, with bottom-agers Leesa Guastella and Yasmin Duursma particularly impressive in defence and midfield respectively, along with Tyla Angwin, Alexei Guy-Toogood and Chloe Bailey. Oakleigh naturally saw quite a few players involved, with Stella Reid, Charlotte Van Der Vlies and Charlotte Taylor in that group that contributed at times. 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The dominant tall afield, Morphett was simply too big, tall and strong in the ruck. She racked up a whopping 28 hitouts, soaring above and through each opponent at the centre bounces and out-bodying them around the ground. What was most pleasing about Morphett’s play was her ability to follow up, imposing herself at ground level to tackle and bomb forward a few clearances. The GWS Academy member was also a marking force around the ground, while resting forward to good effect despite not hitting the scoreboard. The next step in her development will be to more consistently direct her taps, rather than purely win them and thump into space.

Murray Bushrangers:

#1 Olivia Cicolini

One of the most dangerous forwards on the day, Cicolini was lively inside forward 50 for the Bushrangers. She set the tone with good defensive pressure from the get-go, while also clicking into gear via an early opportunist’s goal. The bottom-ager was a real pest for Sandringham’s defence, able to somehow get snaps away towards goal and make them think about her presence when nearing the big sticks. Cicolini booted her second goal after a strong pack mark in the second term, before making it three in the following quarter from a tripping free kick.

#2 Aurora Smith

Utilised in a slightly different role to her usual wing posting, Smith was afforded some good time in the middle and ended as one of her team’s top ball winners. The 2021 Murray best and fairest was busy at ground level, doing her best to win the ball at each contest and burst away with a nippy turn of speed. Smith looked a touch more comfortable on the outside, where she started the game, but added a handy string to her bow in this outing.

#17 Keeley Skepper

Arguably the best player afield, Skepper racked up a game-high 24 disposals – including 23 kicks and 13 inside 50s. The bottom-ager was unrelenting in her pursuit to push Murray forward, seen marking across half back or in the corridor before wasting no time to get on the move and pump the ball down the line with her punchy left foot. Those repeat acts proved the story of Skepper’s game, with her intent and willingness to take the game on proving key to the Bushrangers’ highest score for the season. She capped off a day out fittingly, streaming into goal and slotting home the game’s final major during the last minute of play after yet another good read to intercept.

#25 Sophia McCarthy

McCarthy was another to cause Sandringham some headaches aerially, with her contested marking a real highlight inside attacking 50. The 18-year-old started brightly with a first term goal, before bringing that aerial marking into effect during term two, when she kicked her second. She repeated the act in the following quarter, stamping her case as one of the more ominous talls afield. McCarthy also rotated through the ruck and while she was caught on the ball a couple of times, did well to stay involved. Her growing confidence to leap and clunk big marks was clearly the best feature, though.

Sandringham Dragons:

#10 Bridie Hipwell

Sandringham’s prime ball winner on the day, Hipwell showed a developing dimension to her midfield craft with strong burst away from congestion. She has the tendency to be caught at times, but did well to break the packs open and do so with confidence, before delivering long by foot or keeping the ball rolling onto the outside by hand. Hipwell’s kicking is another area of improvement, but she was able to get good purchase at times and saw more ball on the outer, which allowed for more time to deliver. On top of strong contested ball winning, the bottom-ager also rose to take a couple of solid marks, which she has great potential to do at 174cm.

#17 J’Noemi Anderson

Fresh off her National Championships campaign with the Allies, Anderson translated the confidence gained there to impact in Sandringham’s forwardline. The sister of former Carlton player Joe, she worked up the ground with authority and presented as a viable leading target. When the ball hit the deck or came to her in open play, Anderson looked to burst into attack with powerful movement through traffic and long kicks inside forward 50. On the defensive end, she tackled typically hard to provide a dual threat for the Dragons.

#19 Ella Sciberras

Another 2004-born player to impact in Round 9, Sciberras was an absolute rock in Sandringham’s defence. Her attack on the ball was fearless, allowing for some eye-catching intercepts when others would be more concerned with their direct opponent. She was proactive in her attempts to cut off Murray’s attacks, hitting the ball at speed to mark and mop up the ground balls, before pumping long kicks away from danger. Her run out of those zone and sound decision making on the ball were both terrific attributes she showcased, proving attack is sometimes the best form of defence.

#30 Pia Staltari

Having been tried in a range of positions for Sandringham and Vic Metro, Staltari was a permanent midfield fixture on Sunday and showed her class at times. She had little trouble getting first hands to the ball at stoppages, but still looks a touch more comfortable on the outer where she can better utilise her classy disposal. Staltari had a good moment in the final term, running down Sophia McCarthy in the corridor for a holding the ball free kick, ending her game on a high.

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos

With a bit of luck to go with her undeniable forward nous, Angelopoulos ended up with three goals as Sandringham’s main source of inspiration inside attacking 50. She was able to gain good separation on the lead and constantly looked to wheel and go when in possession, allowing the Dragons to go deeper into attack. She found scoring form after half time, with two snaps bouncing home over the back during term three, before she converted a free kick in the final quarter to cap off a promising game. Add a couple more shots on goal to the equation, and she was unlucky not to finish with more.

OTHERS:

Tasked with the kick-ins for Sandringham, Emma Stuber registered 15 disposals from defence, while the likes of Keely Coyne and Kiana Lynch battled hard in midfield. Zara Hamilton was her productive self for the Bushrangers, as bottom-ager Cassidy Mailer made her return from injury with a goal, showing some promise in the front half.