Category: State Leagues

NTFL Women’s preview: Round 3 – Bottom two face off for first victory

ROUND 3 of Northern Territory Football League Women’s (NTFLW) is coming up this weekend, with a number of big matches set to make or break sides even at this early stage of the season.

Waratah v. Nightcliff
Round 3 – 19/10/19
11:00
TIO Oval 2

The opening match of Round 3 will be an interesting one, with Waratah and Nightcliff completely swapping positions on the table in comparison to their respective 2018/19 season form. While Waratah only lost two matches last season and sit on one win from two matches this season, Nightcliff have already equalled their 2018/19 season wins with two. This match will really see whether Nightcliff have had the improvement they look to have had or whether they have come out with the luck of the draw in the opening rounds. Nightcliff have a smattering of high-impact players, with Shantel Miskin-Ripia the leading goalkicker for the side so far while Kate Morris has also been pivotal to the side’s early victories. for Waratah, Lisa Roberts and Madeline Gault have impressed early despite the side’s form.

Southern Districts v. Pint
Round 3 – 19/10/19
2:00
Norbuilt Oval

This will be a big match, with the two sides only separated by percentage at this early stage of the season but sitting with three other sides in between them. Pint have had a solid start to the season, only going down by two points in the opening round before rendering their opposition scoreless in Round 2, meaning Southern Districts could be in for a tough one despite beating last year’s premiers in Round 1, with a scoreless performance against the Wanderers last week potentially a big thorn in their side. For Pint, expect another solid performance from Jessie Baumer and Erin Hetherington while Crocs’ Charles Deegan, Lateesha Jeffrey and Mattea Breed are sure to speed head-first into the contest.

Palmerston Magpies v. Darwin Buffettes
Round 3 – 19/10/19
3:00
TIO Oval 2

The Magpies have a huge task ahead of them this round, taking on the thus far undefeated Buffettes – who have only conceded one behind for the season so far and are sitting pretty at the top of the ladder. Palmerston are in sixth from two rounds, going down last round to the reigning premiers but proving they have the ability to hold out for a win after a two point victory in Round 1, piling on the defensive pressure. If the Magpies can draw on that pressure again this week and hold off the Buffettes’ plethora of forward options, they could have a real chance of stopping Darwin in their tracks. That being said, the Buffettes have confidence and consistency on their side, making this an interesting contest especially with the likes of Tikesa Docherty-Cole and Machaelia Roberts impressive targets forward with plenty of grunt to get the job done. For Palmerston, expect another solid performance from Natasha Medbury while Arthurina Moreen has plenty to offer.

Wanderers v. St Mary’s
Round 3 – 19/10/19
5:00
TIO Oval 2

Wanderers have had a varied start to the season, unable to put a goal on the board in the opening round before unleashing in Round 2 with a 60-point victory against last year’s grand finalists, Southern Districts. Meanwhile, St Mary’s have had a similar few weeks, dominating against the league’s newest side in Round 1 but defeated by last season’s wooden spooners last week. Aaliyah Bailey is one who has burst onto the scene with St Mary’s, aided up forward by Danielle Ponter creating a real exciting young duo. For Wanderers, Sophia Mauboy put in a solid performance last week while Chonntel Vea Vea can have a real impact with ball in hand.

Tracy Village v. Big River Hawks
Round 3 – 20/10/19
2:30
Tracy Village

In a battle between early strugglers, this match will be very telling of which team could make their way up the ladder after a slow start and which side will continue to be a cellar dweller. While both sides have plenty to bring to the table, neither have really had an opportunity to prove themselves yet so will be raring to go. This will be the real test for both sides as they look to improve on their respective early season struggles, especially as both sides went completely scoreless in Round 2. For the Razorbacks, look to Alexandra Biggs, Grabrielle Young and Tara Everett after stellar performances to start the season while Jayde De La Coeur and Keomi Ross made an impact on the scoreboard in Round 1 for the Hawks, marking themselves as solid options inside 50.

Newcomer Viney grows in short space of time

EIGHTEEN months ago, Rebecca Viney was running around for North Beach Football Club in Western Australia. While the Tigers are considered Western Australia’s most successful amateur team, it was a far cry from the AFL Women’s competition which at that stage was in its second season. It is hard to believe just two years later, Viney could be running around in just that – the elite level competition – after producing a remarkable rise to represent her state at the Under-18 Championships.

“I started footy last year in an amateur league,” Viney said. “So I played for North Beach Football Club and I just did it because I wanted to have a go at footy and I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun and I managed to at the end of the season win the best player of the whole comp which was really surprising, but that’s what lead me on to go further and take the State Academy and come here.”

Viney said she loves running around with her teammates and experiencing the camaraderie that comes with Australian rules football. While she has the ultimate goal of getting drafted, she is not getting too far ahead of herself given her limited experience in the code.

“I’d love to go as far as AFLW but right now I just want to keep improving my skills and getting the best out of what I can,” she said. “My strengths are mainly are on the ground picking up ball and using my speed. “I want to keep improving my skills, my handballs, getting that efficiency.”

Viney said she was lucky in the sense she did not have as much travelling to do as some of her West Australian teammates, hailing from the city. But when she did cross the country for the Under-18 Championships, she loved it.

“(It’s a) whole new experience and I’m loving it,” Viney said. “Especially being exposed to the Victorian girls and their game and see how we compare to them. “I just want to keep improving my game like I said and each game keep improving on what I’m doing and learning from the coaches and implementing that in a game.”

As for an inspiration to follow, she has looked at her local West Australian Women’s Football Leagu club, Subiaco.

“Personally I think I look up to some of the AFLW girls,” Viney said. “At the moment playing at Subi, there’s Dana Hooker down there sometimes and she’s a really good player and I love watching her and it’s really cool.”

Late bloomer O’Driscoll eyes elite level

ONLY still new to footy Emma O’Driscoll is taking each moment as it comes and enjoying the ride despite being an overager. O’Driscoll was a late bloomer to the sport and has not put a foot wrong since her inception into the game, steadily developing and posing a dominant threat credit to her skill.

“So I only started playing footy last year, so in Year 12 – which was in 2017 – I went to school country week,” O’Driscoll said. Just a week of football at the school country week and then one of the ‘Deggers’ – Clint Degebrodt came up to me and gave me a state invitation and I thought I’ll go and try out for the state 18s and that summer I did their academy and then made it to the state 18s team last year, and then I made it again this year as an overager so that was really exciting.

The talented footballer is hoping to remain in her home state with the Eagles and Dockers both viable options considering her breakout season and connection to both clubs with the youngster receiving text messages and calls from the rival clubs throughout the WAFL season.

“I think it’s great, I think it just shows that the game is developing so much and obviously it gives us girls in WA a lot more opportunity having two teams to be able to go to,” she said. “I was part of the West Coast Eagles Academy so I was training with those girls and signed girls every Tuesday throughout the season which was great, got feedback from the coaches constantly. “Freo have been the exact same, ringing me, checking up on me if I did get injured and they were always making sure everything was all good and I was looked after which has been amazing. Both clubs were very supportive.”

Despite going for the Eagles her whole life, O’Driscoll is open to the chance of either Western Australia side to pick her up and has been inspired by a host of AFLW players along the journey.

“AFLW is a bit different, I literally support everyone, Tayla Harris is probably my favourite player so there’s a bit of Carlton there but I love the Dockers in the AFLW,” she said. “Kara ‘Juddy’ [Donnellan], she’s the captain of the Dockers, she was my Swan Districts coach at my WAFL club, she’s just been amazing, calls me ‘champ’, will message me all the time. “Checks up on me and we just have that good kind of communication going so I’ll message her if I can’t come to training and things like that, yeah she’s been a really really great help.”

Having spent a large portion of her life playing netball the switch to footy was slightly challenging for the Western Australian with the sport posing a heap of new challenges physically and mentally.

“Most importantly my kicking, was the main thing I got told to work on, fitness-wise it would be the 2km, I haven’t been used to running that long distance you know, I’ve had a 30m court that I’ve had to run on instead of a big oval so they were the main things and feedback that I got back from the coaches,” she said.

Aware of her areas of improvement O’Driscoll has toiled away to address the issues in her game play to further develop her skills and become a commanding figure on the footy field.

“I definitely think I have been working harder this year, I think because last year was my first season I was kind of settling in and getting to know everyone whereas this year I know the game a lot better so being able to implement those things at training was a lot easier for me to do and I was more familiar with the coaches,” she said. “I think I am fitter, in terms of my 2km I’ve cut my time down which was one of my major goals, not comparing myself to other people and just trying to work on my own 2km time trial so that was good. In terms of kicking I’m getting there, slowly, but I think by having more exposure to the game I’ll be able to improve that a lot more.”

Gifted with the opportunity to play for and represent Western Australia, O’Driscoll has loved every moment taking on a leadership role of sorts and injecting herself into the footy culture.

“Oh it’s been amazing, probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “I think the first year it was a lot different to obviously netball, so coming over and just the footy culture is fantastic and I’ve enjoyed every minute of playing in the State 18s with the girls and I think this year being older in that team has kind of allowed me to have a leadership role which I’ve really enjoyed so yeah it’s been great,” she said.

With the league expanding and the possibility of two clubs vying for her services the 19-year-old’s main aim is to get drafted and put her best foot forward highlighting her hard work and skill across the oval.

“I think I really just want to push myself and show that I have a really good work ethic and I’m willing to work as hard as I can and kind of step up to the level of AFLW,” she said.

Jolliffe bouncing back from injury

FOR Bendigo Pioneers’ Jordyn Jolliffe, it has been a rocky road to success with plenty of bumps along the way. Halted in her Aussie rules tracks as an 11-year-old, Jolliffe made the switch to netball before finding her way back to the sport.

“I started in Auskick, wasn’t really a fan of netball and most of my friends were boys,” Jolliffe said. So I started there, played until Under 11s and then I wasn’t allowed to play anymore so I went over to netball,” “Then I found out that there was a girl’s league in Swan Hill starting up close to home so jumped on board with that and started playing again. Then I got picked into the Bendigo Pioneers and it sort of escalated from there.”

While being told she could not play was a big blow, nothing could prepare Jolliffe for injury in 2018, forcing her to sit on the sidelines for the entire season.

“I had a stress fracture in my lower-back so I missed last year unfortunately,” Jolliffe said. “I wasn’t allowed to do anything, because with a stress fracture you’ve got to let it mend itself. “So I sat out for the year and missed pre-season and then at the start of the year I had to just do my own programs to try and build my fitness back before the (NAB League) season started and I got to go into the Bendigo Pioneers as an over-ager.”

With fitness something Jolliffe wanted to work on coming into 2019, she said her strengths were “probably overhead marking and my kick”.

Injury may have thrown a spanner in the works, but Jolliffe did everything in her power to bounce back despite missing pre-season. She certainly reaped the reward, earning a call-up to the Eastern Allies for the 2019 AFL Women’s Championships.

“It was very hard because obviously all the others did pre-season and to get back into it behind a bit, but that’s then just more work you have to do behind the scenes,” she said. “After the first two games it was a lot better, like game fitness, you probably can’t really train for game fitness. So the first game I struggled a little bit and then after that it was good to be back.”

“It is an awesome opportunity. I never thought I would actually get to play this carnival again after the injury but yeah, just overwhelmed with (getting) picked back into it.”

The New South Wales native from Balranald played NAB League in her junior years with Bendigo Pioneers but nominated NSW/ACT in the women’s national draft.

“(It was) a lot of travelling for me,” Jolliffe said. When I played for Bendigo that was three hours away from home and if you played in Melbourne that’s another four and a half, so always travelling, training and everything, it’s always a long distance.”

Like many, Jolliffe hopes to make it to the big stage of AFL Women’s, citing Erin Phillips as one of her influences.

“I’ve always loved Joel Selwood or Gary Ablett,” she said. But for the women, Erin Phillips. I just think I would love to be like her. “Yeah, try and make the AFL Women’s, that’d be a dream come true.”

Tarrant taking GIANT strides ahead of draft

BRENNA Tarrant is no stranger to the limelight, earning herself a spot in the AFL Women’s Under-18 All-Australian side credit to her impressive season and ball winning ability – but she did not start off playing Australian rules football. Despite encouragement from her father, Tarrant did not follow in her father’s rugby footsteps, instead initially opting for netball and dancing.

“My dad used to play Union, he played first grade Union, and he sort of thought ‘oh, she can go play Union’,” Tarrant said. “I ended up playing netball and dancing and then sort of got into AFL and a lot of kids are going to AFL too because it’s sort of a safe option over the Union and League.”

Hailing from western Sydney, Tarrant was immersed in a heavy NRL (National Rugby League) and rugby union culture with only a handful of girls opting to pick up the footy. But that tune is slowly changing with more girls making the switch to Aussie rules.

“A lot of parents are cautious about ‘oh, I don’t want my child to get hurt, don’t want them to be injured’,” Tarrant said. “I think we still cop a lot of it, especially living in that Penrith area because that’s a really big Union/League area with the Penrith Panthers being so close, so I cop it a bit at school, so there is a bit of it around – a lot of that NRL sort of competitiveness. But it is coming through a lot, it’s been really good to see that rise in AFL,” she said.

Tarrant’s love for footy runs deep with this year marking her fifth season in the system after starting her journey with her local side Penrith-Emu Plaines at the bottom of the Blue Mountains.

“Played there in their inaugural team, played against one other club just for that season and then played with them in the first Western Sydney Under 15s team,” she said. “Then got onto the Under 15s New South Wales school team, came through the Rams team for the past three years now alongside some of the other stronger girls.”

Her development has seen her earn a spot in the Eastern Allies side with Tarrant enjoying the opportunity to play against some of the elite up and coming talent and hone her own craft on the footy field.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Tarrant said. “It’s definitely boosted my skills, playing alongside Tasmania and playing against Tasmania, all the coaching, it’s just been the best learning experience and playing with the best from two different states has definitely improved my skills and the skills of everyone else because we’re so united and we (bonded) really quickly as well.”

Having spent a large chunk of time playing in the defence end for netball, Tarrant has been able to transfer some of her skills onto the footy field, labelling marking as one of her strengths.

“I like to think that I’m a good marking target,” Tarrant said. “I used to do quite a bit of netball as a defensive player, I’ve only just started playing forward lately so I’ve worked a lot on my marking and getting down cleanly off the ground and that’s sort of a few good strengths of mine. “I like to think I’m a good tackler as well, run and carry is still one to work on, marking and (those) clean skills.”

Growing up in New South Wales, the 17-year-old models a lot of her play off the likes of Swans forward Isaac Heeney while also drawing inspiration from Christian Petracca and AFL Women’s player Alyce Parker.

“I played with Alyce for the last two years in Rams and Allies and she’s led the team really well, she’s been strong and her skills are really good too,” Tarrant said. “I just sort of looked up to her leadership and her skills.”

Tarrant seemed unfazed by the travel despite having to journey around the state to get to training and games.

“I have had to travel 45 minutes to get to training and then I’m sort of training on with the Giants’ team – that’s a bit of a trek out to Homebush from where I am. It is a little bit of a drive but it’s definitely not as far as some of the other girls who have to travel three-plus hours to get to training,” she said.

With commitments to the GIANTS, the defender is kept quite busy managing training schedules and is loving the opportunity to be surrounded by AFLW players.

“So a lot of them like Alicia Eva, Parker, Louise Stephenson are all around that training and they really get around all us new girls who have been invited into it. So we get a lot of help, encouragement and support from those girls and they really have helped us improve our skills,” Tarrant said.

Eva has had a huge influence on Tarrant given her coaching role as well as on-field impact, helping to guide her through the stages and further enhance her skills.

“She still takes on that coaching role even when she’s training because she’s the vice-captain, she sort of has to take on that coaching role,” she said.

But like many aspiring footballers the the ultimate goal for Tarrant is to get drafted and play at the elite level whether it be in her home state or elsewhere.

“Getting drafted and playing for the GIANTS or any team would be probably my main goal,” she said.

Postlethwaite thrives with captaincy

AFTER overcoming an ankle injury leading up to her bottom-age championships, Brisbane Lions Academy member, Lily Postlethwaite continues to take her footy to the next level with the 18-year-old loving every moment of her journey so far. Draft Central spoke to her last year regarding how her love for footy blossomed and what she endured to overcome her injury.

Awarded the Queensland captaincy, Postlethwaite was not overawed by the added responsibility standing up to the occasion throughout the Championships and showcasing her elite talent through the midfield with her daring style of play, quick hands and good vision across the ground.

“(Captaining Queensland) is a real honour for me, I’ve loved leading the group this year and it’s been a great experience for me,” she said. “Sometimes you forget about yourself when you’re trying to make sure everyone else is up but it’s all part of the challenge and I’m really enjoying it so far.”

Postlethwaite has enjoyed a continuous ride to the top with the dynamic midfielder rewarded for her efforts on the field making it into the Winter Series team and playing with a host of AFLW stars.

“On the footy side of things my game has improved a lot… I’ve made the Winter Series team which has given me great experience with lots of AFLW players which has been great so just learning off them which has been really good,” she said.

The up-and-coming midfielder has relished the opportunity to play with the experienced girls, absorbing every bit of knowledge and applying it to her own game.

“It’s really good,” she said. “All the girls are so welcoming and you just learn so much off them and it’s just that next step that shows you where you’re at I guess, if you’re up for it or not.”

Despite all the accolades and chances to develop her skills at a higher level, Postlethwaite is still well aware of the improvements needed to make it to the top tier.

“Probably just play consistent footy and don’t drop below, like to always keep improving I guess and to not be set like ‘I’m good now’, you’ve always just got to keep getting better,” she said. “I’ve always got to keep improving.”

Although Postlethwaite does not have a particular inspiration she has a multitude of players that have helped guide and develop her throughout her budding career which she attributes a great deal of her success to.

“Probably some of the girls that were in this (Queensland) team last year like Jade Ellenger and Nat Grider, they’ve been great,” she said. They just welcome you so much, make you feel comfortable and everything like that. And then I’m probably learning off players like Emily Bates, she’s just a great player.”

Not only have they inspired her on-field with their courageous actions, clever game play and skill but so too off field with their training regime and dedication.

“For sure, the off-field side like the professionalism, your (rehabilitation), your recovery and everything like that – you just watch them and it’s really important,” she said.

When looking closer to home, it is her parents that have played a major role in her success and development with Postlethwaite noting their influence and commitment to fulfilling her footy dreams.

“Mum and Dad are really good, they’re always there for me which is really good and keeps me going,” she said.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 3 – Wanderers face Nightcliff in lone top five clash

ONLY one game in Round 3 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League will be played between teams in finals spots, with Wanderers facing reigning premier Nightcliff on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, both Southern Districts and Palmerston have the chance to grab their first win of the season, and St Mary’s will look to stay undefeated.

TIWI BOMBERS (8th, 0-2) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 2-0)
Saturday October 19, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Teams with polar opposite formlines meet to kick off Round 3 as Tiwi plays host to St Mary’s at TIO Stadium. The topped-up Saints have been excellent so far in toppling Waratah and Palmerston, but will face a tricky task in upholding their form against an underperforming Bombers unit. Both teams had a good amount of build-up coming into the season, but Tiwi’s production has been levels off that of its weekend opponent. To be fair to the Bombers, fixtures against Darwin and reigning premier Nightcliff to start the year arguably poised them with the toughest early draw, but their best started to come to the fore in the second and third terms against Nightcliff after the Tigers got the jump on them. Slow starts seem to be a theme for the bottom-placed side, which had to dig itself out of a similar rut in the opening stages of last season. St Mary’s ended up being the side to claim the dreaded wooden spoon, but all signs point toward a more positive outcome this time around.

The talent on either side is undeniable, stacked with famous NT names throughout. Saints leader Raphael Clarke has made a starring start to the year alongside smaller types in Nicholas Yarran, Nathaniel Paredes, and the returning Jackson Geary. Ex-AFL midfielder Will Hams has also been a welcome addition to what is a re-energised Saints line-up looking to crack back into its rightful top-end spot. Former-Saint Michael Dunn has bagged multiple goals in both of his games thus far and will provide good opposition alongside Adam Tipungwuti and Jason Puruntatameri. They will look to new recruit Michael Mummery, Round 2 rising star nominee Jeffrey Simon, and Harley Puruntatameri to provide some added spark, with the Bombers’ x-factor something that sets them apart. That unpredictability against some of St Mary’s proven quantities will be key to this contest, and we could well get a belter.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (5th, 0-1-1) vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES (7th, 0-2)
Saturday October 19, 4:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

One team’s zero is set to go, as the winless Southern Districts and Palmerston do battle at Norbuilt Oval in the weekend’s only game away from TIO Stadium. Given the 0-2 Magpies sit without any points altogether, the Crocs would be smelling blood in the water at the opportunity continue their trend of going one-better in each passing game. A draw against Wanderers last time out was less than ideal though, with the Crocs unable to truly click into gear for four quarters despite showing some promising signs in their Round 1 grand final rematch. Another less-than-ideal situation is that they will be without William Farrer for at least this fixture after he became the first NTFL player to be charged under the Auditory Offences matrix for umpire abuse. It serves as another blow to the Crocs’ firepower, which is already missing ex-AFL star Leroy Jetta and now-Bomber Michael Mummery from last year’s campaign. They will have to turn to Josiah Farrer, Beau Schwarze and Brodie Lake, as well as the experience of 100-gamer Charlie McAdam for inspiration in this clash, with Palmerston boasting a few tricky customers.

The Magpies were competitive despite falling short of Darwin by almost four goals in Round 2, slowly building on a disappointing opening round showing. State combine invitee Nigel Lockyer Jnr has been the standout with three goals in both games so far, while Bundoora stalwart Matthew Dennis has transferred last year’s form to this season. All three Davey boys were absent last time out for the Magpies in what was a blow to their creativity forward of centre, so a combination of them back in the side would do a world of good. Kyle Emery and Misha Perry Jnr will look to up their output to match the Crocs too, with the inability to kick a winning score one of the things holding Palmerston back from the better teams as it stands. If Southern Districts can find its groove and get on top early, watch out, otherwise expect to see the Magpies compete again for four quarters.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (1st, 2-0) vs. WARATAH (6th, 0-2)
Saturday October 19, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

Another clash of opposing form is set to go down in Saturday’s evening game between Darwin and Waratah, with the former looking to remain atop the NTFL ladder. The Buffs have made an inspired start to the season for a second campaign running, sparked by big bags of goals from Adam Sambono (12 goals) and Brayden Culhane (six) in either game. While Sambono was absent in Round 2, his return would spell serious trouble for the struggling Warriors as it would free the likes of Joe Anderson and Patrick Boles to wreak havoc further afield. Lee Mununggurr and Antonio James are others who can excite, making Darwin a real handful for any side in the competition with their star-power across the board.

On the other hand, Waratah has struggled to exit second gear after an outstanding 2018/19 campaign and had its depth tested far more with the absence of Abe Ankers last week. He remains the key man for them with his scoreboard impact from midfield, despite some of the scoring load eased by VFL-listed small forward Steve Stroobants. Scoreboard assistance is sure to come in the form of Henry Kerinaiua and Kim Kantilla, with Cam Barrett, Sam Godden and ex-Bendigo Pioneer Laine Fitzgerald looking to make an impact further afield. The Warriors have been unlucky to come up against three in-form teams to start the season, but will be sure to give it a red-hot crack if their consistency last season is anything to go by. The memory of their 2018/19 thrashings of Darwin late in the season would also be fresh and serve as apt motivation, with the Buffs looking like a true premiership contender at this point. Expect their class to shine through, but to be tested depending on who is available.

WANDERERS (4th 1-0-1) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (3rd, 2-0)
Saturday October 19, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

The game of the round will be the last for the weekend, as Wanderers and Nightcliff battle it out to remain undefeated. It serves as the only fixture this week between two teams in finals spots, with the Tigers one of three 2-0 sides while Wanderers suffered the first blemish to its record with a draw to Southern Districts last time out. If football math ever worked, this would be a time to use it given both sides have already faced the Crocs, with the Tigers managing to get the better of them in Round 1’s grand final rematch. But that kind of analysis is hardly useful this early in the piece, and does not take into account the x-factor that Wanderers can bring. Under-17 star utility Joel Jeffrey leads the way in that department, followed closely by Round 1 Rising Star nominee Ronald Fejo Jnr. Both have been impactful thus far, particularly up forward, with consistency of Shane Thorne and spark of Davin Ferreira set to come into play too in the absence of experienced star Marlon Motlop from last campaign. There is still a raft of players of the same name making a difference this time around, and the Muk Muks will need all of their talent to continue Wanderers’ promising start.

Nightcliff remains the biggest test in the competition though, starting with a perfect record against good opposition despite not yet clinching that top spot. The Tigers’ scoring power is scary and comes from a raft of players, including the likes of NT legend Cam Ilett, with others like Trent Melville, Matthew Bricknell and Wade Derksen still due to claim a big bag. Ex-Port forward John Butcher is another who can come back into the side and slot through multiple goals, making Nightcliff’s forward threats every bit as deep as any other side. It could be a case of the ultra-consistent and high-scoring Tigers bringing Wanderers back down to earth, but do not be surprised to see the Eagles give the reigning premier a good run on the back of some confidence gained over the first two rounds.

King emerges from Apple Isle

FOR 18-year-old Tasmanian Mia King, it has not been a traditional route to this level, but it has certainly found her well with plenty of opportunity once she opted to follow the Australian rules football pathway in high school.

“I started (when) one of the PE (physical education) teachers at school came up to me – and it was like a school team – he asked if I wanted to get involved and I said yes,” King said. “So it started off as a bit of fun for like a school club, East Launceston, and then I went away on the Kickstart program, started getting selected for (representative teams) and that’s when it really took off. “Then I obviously got selected for the Allies three years ago and yeah, it’s just been getting bigger each year I guess.”

The talented midfielder shared Eastern Allies captaincy in 2019, her third year with the side. King credits the privilege of working with her teammates as something that spurs her on, with her confidence growing from every match.

“This (was) my third Allies trip,” she said. “On the first one I was so young, so nervous and now I feel completely relaxed and comfortable around everyone and definitely it’s really helped me grow as a person being on the trips. “Obviously I was always the one looking up to the bigger girls and now vice-captaining the Allies this year has been a massive privilege and it’s just really great to be able to talk to the girls like that.”

AFL Tasmania has a direct affiliation with North Melbourne in the AFL Women’s, something King said is a massive step in the right direction for juniors aspiring to AFLW greatness.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “There wasn’t a pathway for any kids and now we’ve got an affiliation with North Melbourne, we’re getting home games down at UTAS and North Melbourne and it’s really exciting to see for the younger girls in Tasmania that there is an opportunity for AFLW at an elite level. “We actually got to train with North Melbourne in our pre-season. We trained with them once a week, so I’ve been training with Daria (Bannister) and the Haines’ (twins Chloe and Libby) which is really good because you’re seeing them at that elite level and being in that environment is really good for development for the younger girls coming through.”

Tasmania had another massive opportunity in 2019, playing three matches in the NAB League Girls as the Tasmania Devils. King averaged 19.7 touches, 4.7 tackles and three inside 50s across the three games.

“I like to just attack the ball, get the footy, I’m a hunter I guess,” she said. “Obviously with NAB League this was the first year they had the Tasmania Devils for the girls so it was really exciting. “We got to (fly) over to Melbourne and play a few games in the NAB League. “I think it was really good for our skill development because I think it really helped us in Blacktown when we came to New South Wales.”

“So it was just really good and I think next year they’re planning to have even more games – like eight or nine – this year we only had like two or three, and trying to get some home games down there,” King said. “Vic’s got a lot of talent and we’ve just got to try and look at their play, learn their strengths but also just focus on our strengths as well.”

With plenty of strong talent across Australia, King said improvement is key with skill development in the works.

“I reckon my skill development still needs improving and I’m trying to keep working on my kicking,” she said. “So I reckon just working on the skills and obviously I was a bit sick at the start of the year so my fitness isn’t really where I want it to be, but I’m just working on that to get it up. “It’s really exciting, I’ve just got to keep working on my skills, fitness and just see what happens.”

Roux ready for the next step

WITH a decorated highlight reel for her young age, it is no wonder Roxy Roux will be a key name in Western Australia heading into the 2019 AFL Women’s Draft. She spoke with Draft Central last year to tell of her remarkable journey, and what she had given up to get to where she is today.

The speedy 18-year-old has plenty to offer on the field, starting out as a junior and displaying a raw talent that has only blossomed with selection to AFLW Academies and AFLW Championships in recent years.

“From the first year I started in under 18s to where I am now, there’s a big improvement, I’ve really worked hard and everyone has supported me through my journey through here,” Roux said. “From there it all just kind of started looking up and linking together, so being able to train with the Dockers and West Coast Academy and then got straight into our under 18s, the WAFLW season and whatnot, it’s all just coming together at the moment and I’m really excited for what’s in the future.”

Like many young up-and-comers, Roux has had plenty of communication with clubs in her nominated zone of home state Western Australia, with both West Coast and Fremantle showing interest in the versatile speedster ahead of the 2019 Draft.

“I have nominated for WA, so super excited for that, that we have two teams this year,” she said. “Look, I’m happy for anyone that picks me and I really just want to play football. “Being in the West Coast Academy there was a lot of communication there, talking through training and whatnot, and being a part of Freo’s training, being able to get around the club, not so much the communication about draft but being able to experience what it’s like to be in a club and the club culture there is amazing. “The girls are so encouraging and just really kind and helped us out a lot, so I’m really, really excited to see where the draft takes me.”

The forward utility provides a spark on field, able to rotate through as an undersize ruck when required credit to her vertical leap and ability to find the ball. Roux says that while she has a key physical strength in her aerial ability, she wants to work on her endurance on the field to go longer distances when required.

“Preferred I guess is ruck but you know, being an undersize ruckman in a competition where you’re going up against girls about 20cm taller than you, probably not gonna happen! “Being forward or being in that kind of ruck situation in the forward that’s gotta be my favourite, being able to get up in the air,” she said. “I love just being able to get up into the air and help my team out, it’s better than kicking a goal, being able to tap that ball straight down, I’m happy running off the wing and straight into our forward 50.”

While Roux said she does not have one singular inspiration for her desire to go far in the sport, she has the support of her family and competitiveness of her siblings to thank for where she has gotten on her journey so far.

“I haven’t put much thought to that (inspiration) because my family help me a lot, I haven’t really looked at anyone in AFL, AFLW and gone ‘wow like you’ve really inspired me’ and don’t get me wrong a lot of people have but it’s kind of just been a journey at the moment, not so much focusing on myself but focusing on getting to where I am today, its been just years in the making,” Roux said. “I remember my mother looking at me after I was told that I couldn’t play boys footy anymore and she just said ‘well if you want to play footy at the highest level we’ll get you there, if you have to play for the men then we’re gonna get you there’ and then about a year after that comment was made the women’s league came in.”

Roux has been compared to AFL Women’s star Tayla Harris in recent years, proving the hype around her even in the Under-18s competition is well-deserved.

“My family keeps me pretty grounded, I don’t really like to compare myself to Tayla Harris because I know I have been – I definitely can’t do that fantastic scissor kick so that’s one of the reasons I don’t compare myself to her,” she said. “I’d like to rather compare myself to my eldest two brothers, Ross Roux and Dylan Roux. “If you’ve got tapes of them and myself, put us all together and the kicking style is the same even though Dylan’s a left-booter, you know, kicking style, running style, everything – we do everything almost the same.”

With a good head on her shoulders and plenty of family support despite making the move to Perth to be closer to the football action, Roux said there is still plenty of competition in the Roux household.

“There was I think one argument we all got into where my brothers were like ‘well I’m the greatest footballer in the house’ and then mum just goes ‘look at your sister, she’s in states!’, so that kind of shut them up real quickly,” Roux said. “But no, they’ve really helped me develop my skills, so I credit my brother Dylan for my jumping skills, I mean we used to play games literally just based around rucking, and he was a few years older than me so he had that height and he was going through growth spurts so having about four foot on me going up against my brother,” Roux said. “Both of them have really helped me, Ross with my skills and my younger brother he likes to try keep me humble, it’s really just a family effort that helps me deal with the pressure.”

Strom forces her way into draft contention

FROM Exmouth, a small country town in Western Australia (WA), Mim Strom has become one of WA’s biggest prospects ahead of the draft. With limited opportunities to pursue her footy dreams in Exmouth, Strom was forced to the sidelines but that did not stop her returning to the game bigger and stronger given her commanding height and ruck craft.

“I played a little bit in the junior league but I had to stop after Year 7 because they said girls aren’t allowed to play in the older one, so I stopped for about two or three years,” Strom said. “I wanted to train with the boys because I missed it so much and then my dad stormed down and said ‘my daughter is going to play’ and then I ended up playing a year before I came down here. “Then came down to Perth for more sporting opportunities and yeah it’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I’m very excited to see what happens.”

Strom made the decision to move down to Perth in hope to enable her footy dreams while also nominating WA as her place of choice for the upcoming draft.

“I’ve actually moved down to Perth now to be closer, but yeah I do miss home a bit because that’s a bit of a trek,” she said.

Despite missing home, Strom has been able to focus on her craft and although she was not always been this tall and able to play ruck, her rapid growth spirt gifted her with the opportunity to switch it up from her usual position.

“My height I guess, really my ability to follow up around the ground I think I pride myself on, I didn’t used to be this tall so I used to be a rover,” she said. “So now that I’m tall enough to be a ruck I feel like once I’ve tapped that ball I’m going after that ball like anyone else and playing that role.”

Given her height, Strom has noted a few areas she wants to improve on such as her marking and ability to impact the contest going forward.

“Probably my pack marking, just getting a bit stronger crashing those packs and being that tall option, obviously I’m pretty young but I think that will come with experience hopefully,” she said.

Getting the opportunity to play for Western Australia meant a lot for Strom who valued the chance to represent her state and develop strong connections with her teammates.

“It was amazing to represent WA, it’s such a great team and just the values that we had really brought the team together and I think we did well,” Strom said. “Would’ve liked to do a bit better, but it was just about the experience and the culture was really great.”

Playing with the Swan Districts in the West Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL), Strom has been subjected to some highly talented footballers and exciting occasions such as the grand final.

“Favourite memory – probably playing – well, for Swan Districts we made the grand final, unfortunately we lost but just playing in front of so many people we had a great crowd that day so the finals were pretty cool,” she said.

Swan Districts coach and captain, Kara Donnellan has proven to be a huge inspiration for the aspiring footballer with her off field leadership just as influential as her on field guidance.

“I’d have to say my coach at Swan Districts, Kara Donnellan, she’s been amazing,” Strom said. “She’s the captain of the Dockers team and just her experience and her wisdom and obviously she’s coaching at Swan Districts and won an award recently, it just shows how good of a coach she is and I’ve learnt so much from her. “She’s not only an amazing player but her leadership on and off the field is inspirational.”

Strom has had a busy 2019 well and truly announced herself ahead of the upcoming draft with the 18-year-old showcasing her development throughout the year and willingness to take up the challenge regardless of the level or situation.

“Yeah I was obviously playing youth at the start of the year and then we were a bit worried about going into league (WAWFL) but I feel like I’ve learnt so much, and at the start of the year I didn’t think being drafted could be a possibility but now it’s really becoming a reality and now it’s my goal,” she said.