Category: Sydney Swans Academy

Young Guns: 2021 VFL Round 3 – Debutants continue to roll through

WITH the NAB League in the midst of a month-long break after three full rounds of action, some of Victoria’s most promising Under 19 talent has begun filtering into the Victorian Football League (VFL). A raft of top-age draft prospects have already made their state league debuts, with more to come, while members of all four Northern Academies also got some run in their legs. We take a look at how the prominent 19th-year players performed as they hit the senior football levels.

>> INSIGHT | Which 19-year-olds have improved their stocks?

Debuts have been synonymous with Collingwood of late, and the Magpies continued the theme by fielding another fresh face through the state league system. Mid-season draft fancy Ned Moyle came into the side and looked comfortable in his usual ruck post, winning 11 hitouts and taking four marks among his eight disposals. The 19-year-old Oakleigh product was joined by Chargers teammate Youseph Dib in the Magpies’ three-point win over Gold Coast. Dib, a Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect, booted two goals as he played mostly forward of centre once again.

Leaning on their Academy stocks, the Suns also continue to blood a good amount of youngsters. Leading draft prospect Austin Harris returned after his AFL Academy commitments, notching eight disposals and four marks as he rotated further afield from the forwardline. Bigman Will Bella, the brother of Suns AFLW ruck Lauren, clunked seven marks and booted a goal, while Bodhi Uwland also took seven marks among his 12 touches. 2002-born players including Bailey Reeves, Jack Johnston, and Thomas Hofert also ran out for the Suns in their narrow loss.

The Western Bulldogs were too strong for a gallant Preston Bullants outfit on Saturday afternoon, as both sides gave berths to promising NAB League products. Cody Raak suited up for his second game in red, white, and blue, with the defender bringing his marking game to the fore. He took seven grabs and delivered nine of his 10 disposals by foot. Developing Calder Cannons tall Liam Podhajski was another to make his VFL debut in Round 3, battling against AFL-listed opposition for Preston to finish with four disposals and 10 hitouts.

A relatively young Brisbane outfit went down to Coburg on Sunday afternoon, with a raft of Academy graduates and members filling the squad at present. 18-year-old small Daniel Lanthois booted a goal in his maiden VFL appearance, as the youngest player afield. A bunch of 2002-born players also ran out for the Lions; Will Tasker had 19 disposals and five marks, Saxon Crozier and Toby Triffett both claimed 16 touches, while Tahj Abberley had it 14 times (11 kicks), Charlie Bowes kicked a couple of behinds, and Jack Briskey took three marks from 11 disposals in the defeat.

Essendon is another club which has turned to youth to good effect and despite going down to Carlton on Sunday, yielded good results from their NAB League talents. In their second outings, nippy Bendigo Pioneers pair Sam Conforti (23 disposals, one goal) and Jack Hickman (17 disposals, four marks) both impressed, working hard for their keep. Pios’ skipper Jack Evans made his debut in the sash and ended with five marks from 10 touches, while fellow debutant Billy Cootee (Western Jets) also found it 10 times and booted a goal.

Elsewhere, Sandringham Dragons co-captain Darby Hipwell enjoyed a second outing for the Zebras, despite their loss to Box Hill. He worked hard for 18 disposals and eight marks, which included a couple of nice moments. Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Academy standout Josh Green, the brother of Tom, again turned out for the Giants, ticking up to 17 disposals in his side’s win over Southport.

Image Credit: Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Allies

IN the fifth of our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview, we take a look at the Allies, a team that has accommodated Northern Territory to join the Eastern Allies duo of NSW/ACT and Tasmania. Always a challenge to combine the best players across multiple states, there are a number of experienced NAB League players in the team, as well as four AFL Women’s Academy members making the squad.

2021 ALLIES AFLW U19 CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD:

NSW/ACT:

GIANTS Academy:
Eleanor Bishop
Teagan Germich
Cynthia Hamilton
Jayde Hamilton
Hayley Macdonald
Ally Morphett
Brodee Mowbray
Jessica Whelan

Sydney Swans Academy:
April Devine
Jessica Doyle
Ella Heads
Maddy Hendrie
Isadora McLeay
Ruby Sargent-Wilson

Northern Territory:
J’Noemi Anderson
Ashanti Bush
Kasey Marsden
Grace Mulvahil

Tasmania:
Jemma Blair
Meghan Gaffney
Perri King
Ella Maurer
Amy Bissett
Claire Ransom

QUICK SUMMARY:

The Allies head into the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships as the natural underdogs having the most difficult task of combining talented players from different states into a cohesive unit, but on sheer talent the side has plenty of depth around the ground, and with Northern Territory joining the Eastern Allies duo, there is an extra pathway feeding into the side. The four AFL Women’s Academy members will lead the way, but there are also a mix of 19-year-olds such as Charlie Vandenberg who received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite last year, and bottom-age talent Claire Ransom who is shaping as one of the most talented players for next year.

FIXTURES:

R2 vs. Western Australia (April 12 @ Avalon Airport Oval)
R3 vs. South Australia (April 15 @ Trevor Barker Oval)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Tasmania)

The smooth-moving King has been a standout for the Devils in the NAB League Girls this season and will be a prime mover in the Allies’ midfield at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. King is a tackling machine, and despite being able to win the ball plenty herself, she does all the team things with her defensive pressure, blocks and shepherds to help her teammates move the ball in transition. As well as play onball, King can play an outside role and use her burst to advantage, as well as up forward as a pressure forward with some speed and knack for finding the goals, as she did last year when she became Tasmania’s first ever NAB League Girls goalkicker.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/GIANTS Academy/NSW-ACT)

A strong ruck who can also play forward, Morphett will provide the experience and strength around the contest for her lighter-built teammates. Able to pull down contested marks or provide a contest enough to bring the ball to ground, Morphett is a member of the GIANTS Academy who has represented both the GIANTS and Murray Bushrangers this season. She works hard at ground level with some fierce tackles and covers the ground well, but her ability to be that target down the line or leading out from goal is what makes her a player to watch at the championships.

Jess Doyle (Manly-Warringah/Sydney Swans Academy/NSW-ACT)

Impressing during the Sydney Swans Academy’s win over Geelong Falcons, Doyle is a talented midfielder-forward who has the athleticism to worry opposition sides, but also the goal sense to make it count when inside 50. She was able to kick a couple of goals in a low-scoring win over the Falcons in wet conditions, so on a dry deck, Doyle has the potential to light up a game. She can take a strong grab overhead, and whilst still raw, has plenty of upside having come to the sport later than others, but has well and truly showed why she has caught the eye of the AFL Women’s Academy.

Ashanti Bush (Darwin Buffettes/Northern Territory)

Running out for the Thunder in the win against the GWV Rebels, Bush is a dangerous forward who has deceptive athleticism and a neat sidestep with power that can shrug off would-be tacklers. She was able to effectively drive the nail into the Rebels’ coffin in that game with a couple of goals in a minute, and is often too strong for quicker opponents or too quick for bigger opponents. A real nightmare to try and match up on, Bush is the sole NT AFL Women’s Academy member, and will add to a versatile and damaging forward line.

Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils/Tasmania)

One of the in-form small forwards of the Devils this season, Bissett is a crucial player inside 50 with her clean, balanced play and high footy IQ. She helped win the game against Northern Knights with a couple of late goals in the NAB League Girls competition, and has been a consistent source of scoring in 2021. If she is not kicking them, she is setting them up and will relish being inside 50 when the ball comes in given the amount of talls around the goals that she can crumb off, or run onto a loose ball.

OTHERS:

Jayde Hamilton already has VFL Women’s experience and is a hardnut on the inside, having played at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. She will look to win the contested ball with Eleanor Bishop, J’Noemi Anderson, Ella Maurer and Cynthia Hamilton all able to roll through there. Jemma Blair will provide the run out of defence with Ella Heads and Ruby Sargent-Wilson both impressing in the back half during their matches at NAB League Girls level. Grace Mulvahil has some exciting speed around the ground to move the ball in transition with Meghan Gaffney, while Hayley Macdonald and April Devine could be targets, rotating with Morphett through the ruck.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Contested marking
  • Speed
  • Forward X-factor
  • Unpredictability

The Allies have a real mix of talents in all three thirds, and it will be how they all mix as to how the style will form. They have some speedy players at both ends and through the middle, with their abundance of contested markers likely to pose a problem for opposition sides. Once the ball hit the deck though, the Allies will be just as damaging with their forward X-factor to create something out of nothing and bring up scoring opportunities.

In terms of areas of improvement, the difficulty of gelling will always be the number one hurdle to overcome, with only portions of the various Academies having played before. It will be up to the leaders in order to help the more inexperienced players gel, and ensure they can enjoy a good carnival.

LAST WORD:

The Allies have a real mixed bag when it comes to talent. With their AFL Women’s Academy members all likely to be in the forward half – with a couple of them rotating through the middle at least – they should be able to try and take control of the stoppages and get the ball forward. In defence they have some strong rebounding types, and players who are happy to run with ball-in-hand. They will be ones to begin the movement in transition and really get the ball from the back half to the forward 50.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 6. 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 AFL 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.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A quiet game compared to her usual lofty standards, Rowbottom’s influence on the game still can’t be understated as she demanded a run with player around the ground throughout the game. Despite this, she still found ways to impact, especially up forward where she was played as the main target, able to hit the scoreboard for her troubles. Still had moments of brilliance where she’d get away from her player and win the clearance, leaving everyone in her dust. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Just finds ways to outdo herself throughout the game as it goes on. It felt like she was adding a new string to her bow each quarter with her ball winning early impressive, then adding her speed the next quarter, then adding her overhead marking the next and finally adding her composure in the final quarter, not that any of those were weaknesses earlier on, but became more apparent as the game went on. Really reads the play well and puts herself in great spaces all the time, highlighted by a patch in the third quarter where she got an intercept mark, kicked it back forward and then got another one intercept mark when Sandringham worked it back out. Worked hard throughout the game, with her two-way running being a desirable trait. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has some really eye catching moments, especially around stoppages, where her in-and-under, unrelenting hunt of the ball, mixed with her burst of speed and equally quick use of the ball by hand, is a real strength. This game she had a presence as a forward as well, taking a few good grabs and setting up some good inside 50 opportunities with her kicks.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a solid game splitting her time through the midfield and up forward as a deeper target. Did some good things in the first three quarters around stoppages in particular, where her acceleration was hard for Sandringham to deal with, but it was in the final quarter when the pressure started mounting that she really stepped up and shined, getting involved all around the ground with her in close pressure work, and taking a particularly crucial contested mark to slow down play and run down the clock in the final two minutes, showing a deep understanding of the game and how to deal with those situations. 

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has been a consistent contributor in the Chargers defense and this game was no different, with her tendency to leave her opponent and making contests 2-on-1 in her teams favour, and her confidence to attack incoming balls at ground level and in the air, she’s a very well rounded attacking defender, that doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities. She stood up in the big moments, especially in the final quarter as Sandringham were clawing themselves back into the game.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up again in the Oakleigh backline, where her willingness to back herself was on show, flying for marks in packs and taking on opponents when tucking the ball under her arm and running with it. Her reliability throughout the game allowed other Oakleigh defenders such as Brooke Vickers to run off their opponents to impact further up the ground, which made her a very valuable part of the win.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Had some really good moments, especially with ball in hand, where she’d use her agility to get around multiple opponents and then getting the ball to a teammate. Not overly crash and bash with her ball winning, but she’s very capable of winning a contested ground ball with her poise around contests, which means that more often than not she’s in a good position to handball off to a teammate effectively 

# 18 Mia Zielinski (Sandringham Dragons)

It’s hard to believe this was just her second game at this level, just plays in such a confident and assured manner, confident to take on opponents in a foot race, on the ground or in the air. Her aerial work is superb, rarely dropping a mark and not wasting a single disposal, she became Sandringham’s main target inside 50, flying for everything, very much one to watch for the 2023 draft. 

#11 Tayla Jones (Sandringham Dragons)

Despite playing as a winger, she got involved quite a bit down deep in defence, where she was winning herself a few free kicks through getting to the ball first. Followed up her kicks if they went wayward which obviously made her teammates much more assured. Further up the ground she was punishing Oakleigh for missed kicks when she was in the area, sweeping up loose balls and delivering accurately to teammates.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Followed up her brilliant game against Gippsland with another big performance against a physically stronger midfield, where her athleticism and footy IQ held her in good stead for the game, often selling candy or side stepping opponents with ease then delivering a long accurate kick forward or handballing off to a teammate on the outside, it really looks like her confidence is growing game by game. Was one of the main dragons to take that step up in the final quarter to get them within a kick.

OTHERS:

In such a well rounded performance there’s plenty of others worthy of a mention. From the victors, Erin Woodford and Lily Hart played a big role in pushing their side through for a win. Jemma Rigoni was also good around the ground, getting a goal in her usual forward spot but pushing up and impacting in the midfield, with talented bottom-ager Ameille Smith also having an impact up forward and in the ruck. Sandringham’s winger Charlotte Ryan won plenty of it and did some damage with her signature speed, Pia Staltari was again thrown around in all 3 sections of the ground, but used it well wherever she was. Abby Thompson was a solid aerial presence in defense with captain Kiana Lynch creating plenty going forward.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#36 Ally Morphett (GWS GIANTS Academy – but also Murray Bushrangers)

It must have been weird for Morphett lining up against her NAB League teammates, but she certainly had no qualms making an impact in the game. The opening bounce saw the ruck punch a thumping ball forward into the path of her teammates, and then had a number of shots on goal in the opening term. Her set shot from 50m shanked to the right and was intercepted, then her quick snap on goal was good, but went to to the left and stayed in. She kept putting her body on the line and winning her fair share of the ball, thumping it forward. She took a really strong overhead mark, clunking the ball and her ball movement inside 50 led to a goal.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Cynthia Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A standout throughout the match for the GIANTS Academy providing run all over the ground. She played between the wing, forward and even dropping back into defence, finding plenty of the ball and keeping it moving in transition. Her work rate was a feature of her game, and she stepped up to kick two goals in the match; the first when she went to full-forward midway through the term thanks to a quick kick running back to it, and then booted a second goal in the third term with a snap out of nothing. Hamilton had a courageous marking attempt in the forward 50 and would continue to run hard throughout the match to be one of the GIANTS’ standout players.

#11 Jayde Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Just cracked in for four quarters, and having been one of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees from last season, and someone who has already debuted at VFL Women’s level, Hamilton showed her experience and ball-winning abilities. She can tend to throw the ball on the boot at times, but her vision and timing of handballs is quite good, able to release at the right point. She reads the stoppage work well and can get forward for some shots on goal.

#30 Jessica Whelan (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A lovely kick of the ball, Whelan has great technique and and played between midfield and forward, with a few eye-catching highlights. She laid a fierce tackle in the middle of the ground in the opening term, took a great intercept mark on the wing and hit a low dart of a pass inside 50 in the third term which led to a goal, then earned a 50m penalty to have a set shot from the goalsquare and made no mistake.

#31 Hayley Macdonald (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Booted two goals in the game and looked lively inside 50. She arguably could have finished with more majors, given her first set shot from 20m out straight in front missed to the right. She kicked her first early in the third term with a great snap around her body, and continued to present throughout the second half. Early in the fourth quarter Macdonald kicked her second, able to get her boot to the ball in the goalsquare to double her output.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having some sort of season is the outside talent, with her speed and ball-winning capacity on show. At times she just needs that extra touch of composure or awareness to know she has more time than she thinks she does, but when she is up and going it is impressive. She is strong overhead and is not afraid to take on the opposition, at one stage evading two players, but then getting caught by the third. With her athletic traits and aggressive play with ball-in-hand, Smith is perennially an eye-catching player and has some attractive traits to her wing role.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

An important player in the Bushrangers’ defensive setup, Hay generally uses the ball well aside from the odd kick, and is always mopping up deep in defence. She is a strong interceptor and takes the game on with running meterage, and then puts her body on the line such as a great smother to save a goal in the third term. She was clean off the deck and able to quickly transition from the pickup to a smooth handball in the final quarter, having put together and impressive overall performance.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Another strong performance from the bottom-age talent with a penetrating left boot. She showed clean hands at ground level and her usual defensive pressure, with her sidestepping ability to get on her left side and then wind up with a powerful pass always something to enjoy. Skepper is able to take some strong overhead marks and cover the ground well, laying tackles in each of the thirds of the ground, and it is about refining the left boot to match the execution with the technique. Whilst she courageously went up for a mark late in the game, she landed a little awkwardly and was rested.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Working with tandem with Smith as the prime ball mover in transition, Hamilton played an impressive game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Often she would apply pressure to the opposition to force a turnover such as a dropped mark inside defensive 50, and when she had the ball used it fairly well. Not afraid to use some athleticism to sidestep and opponent and kick long, Hamilton set up a goal to Olivia Cicolini who made no mistake from a free kick in the third term.

OTHERS:

Sophie Trewartha was impressive for the GIANTS, while Eleanor Bishop won plenty of the footy, and the likes of Georgie Jaques and Anita Manning were also solid. For the Bushrangers, Kristy Whitehead, Mindy Quade, Bonny McKean and Chloe Locke worked well in defence, and Mikayla Jones was also among the better players on the day for the losing side.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#7 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)

Whilst Doyle might be lightly built, she certainly packs a punch and plenty of talent with her work in the forward half. Working between midfield and forward as one of those taller mids who can provide a marking target inside 50, Doyle has that X-factor about her that catches the eye. She got the ball rolling for her side against the momentum in the first term with an important goal, then stepped up with her side’s third major of the contest, to finish with the two goals from an equal team-high 19 disposals. Moving well around the ground, Doyle was a key playmaker, driving the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#20 Ella Heads (Sydney Swans Academy)

An absolute rock in defence, Heads was a terrific one-on-one opponent, and took a number of strong intercept marks. She would then take the game on and either go for a run or use her composure to go back and search out a target. As the defence was under siege early, Heads did well to hold the fort up and team up well with the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson, and think through the defensive transition into attack.

#10 Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)

Did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact, with five rebound 50s from 10 touches. She popped up from time to time during crucial moments, and was one of the Swans’ best on the day. She used the ball well by foot and was composed when she won it, often weaving away from an opponent to provide teammates with something to run onto.

#19 Maddy Hendrie (Sydney Swans Academy)

Hendrie was someone who caught the eye due to her movement in transition, putting the ball into dangerous spots going inside 50. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty with a number of tackles, and even had a chance on goal but missed. Winning the majority of her touches at ground level, Hendrie was a key playmaker in the front half for the Swans throughout the day.

#13 Danika Spamer (Sydney Swans Academy)

A tough competitor who won her fair share of the ball, Spamer laid the equal most tackles for the Swans and really dug deep at the clinches. She was able to extract the ball from the stoppage and keep it moving, and whilst still developing some areas of her game, she showed she could win the ball and cover the field really well, winning possessions in each third of the ground.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was absolutely sensational with a competition season-high 31 disposals on the day. She was everywhere, even kicking a goal off a step from just inside 50 to keep the Falcons in the contest, and popped up constantly around the ground. On a number of occasions she just could not quite hold onto a few marks so could have had even more of the pill, but her complete work rate saw her pick up five or more marks, tackles, inside 50s and rebounds just to give a bit of an indication of just how impressive she was in the match. On the most in-form players in the 2021 season.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Another consistent performer with clean skills and balance, Schaap worked in tandem with Craven throughout the match to ensure the game was controlled out of the midfield. Whilst the Falcons ultimately fell short of victory, Schaap was someone who would put her body on the line, then create her own space and use it well in transition. She was often the player cracking in under multiple opponents to win the contested ball, and then applying her own defensive pressure.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Continuing what has been a consistent season, Simpson is the third player in the trio of ball-winning midfielders, and used her strength to advantage in the contest. She was able to win the loose and hard balls, and thump the pill forward to give teammates best chance. At times she can rush with her disposal, but knows how to win the ball and how to protect the ball at ground level, as well as aide with defensive support.

#33 Taiya Morrow (Geelong Falcons)

Really stepped up in defence with the absence of Annie Lee to team up with Elizabeth Dowling back there. She was someone often mopping up on the last line of defence, and then clearing the ball through a long kick to half-back. She put together a four-quarter performance and really came into her own during the match, and is an underrated player in the Falcons’ back six, completing their array of consistent defenders.

OTHERS:

For the Swans, it really was an even team performance, with rucks, Eloise Morgan and April Devine catching the eye, while Kahli Gilchrist and Isadora McLeay also stood out. For the Falcons, Dowling was her reliable self in defence, while Gabbi Featherston and Mia Van Dyke were impressive, as was Analea McKee who played her best game of the season, and Ash Van Loon was fierce before coming off with an injury.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King finished off her third game in eight days among the best players on the ground once again. Her poise, speed and timing were impressive in the tough conditions, but she still managed to match it around the contest with her 16 disposals and six tackles. One thing that stands out in King’s game is her intent to keep the ball alive and move it forward. While it doesn’t always come off and can result in the occasional mistake, her attacking mindset would have North Melbourne (the AFLW club with her draft rights) excited.

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Gaffney’s enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign this year, but Saturday’s game was her finest performance to date. Her gut-running and agility were a luxury for the Devils, as they could distribute the ball to her on the outside and get it away from the contest, where it lived for large parts of the day. She played a typical wingers game, covering the whole ground and racking up plenty of possessions with her line-breaking speed, ultimately finishing with 20 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Starred at ground level and on the inside, making an impact at every stoppage she attended. Her contested game style was perfectly suited to the congested conditions at Dial Park, with Webster often distributing the ball from the bottom of the pack with her 11 handballs. She racked up 20 disposals in total and kicked a goal, continuing the excellent form that has seen her named in Draft Central’s Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

It was another great game for Maurer through the midfield, but it was the impact she made up forward that will turn some heads. She was the only multiple goalkicker for the game; her first was a set-shot after being hit-up on a lead, and the second was a classy running goal out of the contest. If Maurer can keep adding this element to her game, it will serve her well going forward. She was also tough as usual around stoppages with her 18 disposals and six tackles, constantly absorbing tackles to hand the ball off one of her teammates.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

Was the most dominant ruck on the ground, easily winning the ruck battle with her game-high 17 hit outs. Dandenong rotated several different players against her, but Vandenberg didn’t lower her standards or tire out, asserting her physicality at each contest. What was equally impressive was her follow-up and second efforts at ground level, her six tackles represent her want to impact the game even after the ball’s been bounced.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

She worked tirelessly all game for the Stingrays, finishing as their leading possession getter with 19 disposals, despite playing out of the forward line. She pushed hard up the ground and used her speed to provide an option for her side, as evidenced by her game-high nine inside 50s. She had three scoring shots on goal, before finally getting some reward for effort with the last goal of the game.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was arguably Dandenong’s best midfielder in defeat on the weekend. She looked comfortable around stoppages in the wet conditions, constantly pushing past players and forcing her way through packs. While Emily Shepherd being out due to injury was a blow, it gave Crank a chance to step up in her absence, an opportunity she fully embraced with her 18 disposals.

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

Another key contributor through the middle, Richards impressed with her toughness and competitiveness around the ball. She featured at most stoppages and made an impact with her 12 disposals and three tackles. She didn’t seem to push forward as much as she has done in the past, possibly signalling a more midfield centric role moving forward.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill continued her excellent form marshalling the Stingrays down back, reading the ball beautifully, despite the wet conditions, and keeping Tasmania’s forward line in check. She kept the likes of Amy Prokopiec accountable after Prokopiec kicked the first goal of the game, while impacting the contest in her own right with her 13 disposals, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

She didn’t gather as much of the ball as some other players, but Ryan made an impact whenever she had it in her hands. Every one of her nine disposals was effective and laced with class, which stood in the tough conditions on Saturday. She drove her side’s attacks up forward with six inside 50s and wasn’t afraid to work defensively with her six tackles.

OTHERS:

Aprille Crooks (18 disposals and three rebound 50s) and Priscilla Odwogo (15 disposals, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were Tasmania’s two main movers out of the backline, constantly cutting off the ball and sending it back out. Amy Bissett was an important link-up forward, gathering 14 disposals and three inside 50s in a strong performance. While her fellow winger, Meghan Gaffney, took most of the attention, Madison Brazendale (15 disposals and five tackles) was good in her own right on the opposing wing. Abbey Jordan (17 disposals and two inside 50s) was strong through the middle for Dandenong, matching it with some of the Devils’ best onballers around stoppages. Jemma Radford (nine disposals, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Mackenzie Eardley (13 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) held up down back and constantly rebounded the ball. Olivia Robinson (13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s) was influential at half-forward, working up the field to impact the contest and applying constant pressure.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Positioned on the wing for the day, she really showed off her workrate and game reading ability, drifting into the backline to provide assistance down there, getting herself in the best spots to take intercept marks, but also pushing forward to provide pressure and scoring opportunities. It’s particularly impressive how aerially, even if she doesn’t hold the mark she’s never beaten with the follow up at ground level, where she’s composed and measured with her ball use as well.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Really impressive work creating drive from the backline and setting up outside of forward 50 to get the ball straight back in, making it difficult for the Jets to set themselves up defensively again. She showed she understands the game at a high level as well, always doing all she can with the ball in hand, like going for runs, but never pushing it and overestimating what she can do, that mixed with the distance and penetration of her kick can be really damaging.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Coming into the midfield from her usual back flank role, it was a seamless transition for Leonard who topped the disposal charts for the day. All the same attributes that make her such a danger off of half back; her speed, kicking and game sense, were well on show throughout the day as she was often standing beside the Jets Montana Ham around stoppages, and looked to do well in nullifying her whilst getting a lot of it herself. Her tackling around stoppages was really good as well, making it hard for Jets to break free at any stage 

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Had an amazing game playing mostly as the main target for the Rebels inside deep 50, showing her potential to be one of those midfielders that can effectively rest forward. Standing at just the 166 cm, you would’ve thought she was 10 cm taller the way she was flying for every mark and getting a couple of them. It was her work at ground level and in congestion that was most impressive, able to dance around opponents to set up teammates going forward, or handball to an oncoming runner.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

The top ball winner for the Jets, Baskaran was her usual composed and classy self throughout the game, with her ball use highly effective and damaging, which played a big part in the Jets second half surge. I really liked that she very rarely just kicks it down the line, she’s always looking to move the ball inside or across for a switch, making it easier for her forwards to get effective shots if they mark it.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

There’s something very entertaining about watching Ham run straight through stoppages to get the ball moving forward with a long bomb, and she’s just so hard for opponents to stop from doing it. Particularly impressed with how she set up behind the ball for the game, taking on a more defensive focus than we usually see from her, she really effective in creating contests rather than letting the rebels just go end-to-end

#6 Stella Bridgewater (GWV Rebels)

Lined up at centre half-forward to start with, but played one of those games where she could very well have been a midfielder as well, was just everywhere and involved in every area of the ground. Has some really good athletic traits which make her a difficult matchup, either faster or stronger than the opponents rotating on her throughout the game.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Improves more and more every game which is really good to see, and against the Rebels she started putting really direction and distance on her taps, putting it a few meters out in front of teammates already on the move, with her teammates rarely having to slow down for the ball. Her follow up work is good when it’s called upon as well.

OTHERS:

Lili Condon battled hard in the midfield all day for the Rebels, winning plenty of ball, with defensive duo Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover also putting in a good shift in the defensive half for the Rebels, while Kalani Scoullar won the most hitouts across the round. For the Jets, it was some regular contributors in Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak that battled hard all day in different areas of the ground, with all doing a lot of their work in the midfield.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It’s kind of ridiculous that she can play half of the game away from the rover roles but still have such a high disposal count and impact everywhere around the ground. It’s obvious she’s been playing more forward and defense in the last couple of weeks, and her output hasn’t dropped at all which is a really great thing to see. Was really impressive especially when playing in the backline, with her willingness to attack the footy and move up the ground playing a big part in Calder’s constant pressure and ball movement forward. Throw in some of her usual side steps and composure under pressure and it was a top level performance where she made essentially no mistakes.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Had a good game in the ruck where she was tested against one of the best in the comp. What you’re getting with Gillard is a ruck that, even if she doesn’t win the tap her follow up work is unmatchable, with work below her knees being a major strength for someone as tall as she is. Throw on top of this her ability to impact up forward or around the ground as a really good aerially presence and user of the footy and she’s such a valuable player, which was on show against Power.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#25 Lily Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Her run-and-carry is a delight to watch, she’s got a good mix of power/strength as well as composure to understand what her limits are, so it was rare to see her get herself into trouble despite her tendency for that run-and carry. She’s really accountable in defense, even on the occasion her opponent does win the ball they won’t get an easy disposal afterwards with her tackling and relentless pressure. With more time in the midfield, I have no doubt she’ll become one of the stronger stoppage players in the competition.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

She has such a high impact with her disposal that even without racking up big numbers she’s one of the most damaging players during any given game, and her switch to the forwardline after spending the last few games as a defender proves that with her game high 3 goal haul. A really impressive part of her game was how much she worked up the ground as well, then worked harder than her opponent in transition to impact the play. Another impressive part of her game was her marking, taking a good contested mark in the first quarter.

#10 Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)

She’s been on the verge of having a breakout game for a couple of weeks and all it took was a game where she got a really good run in the midfield to do it. A lot of what she’s displayed up forward with her leading patterns, disposal skills and footy IQ shined in the midfield as well, making really good runs around stoppages to get in the best positions, and could then get the ball to outside runners or kick it forward.. She still had her stints up forward as well, getting a goal for her efforts, showing that she’s got that capability of a midfield/forward split going forward.

#2 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

In a similar sense to Manfre she’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a couple of weeks, and with increased midfield time she took it with both hands, her footy IQ on display around stoppages where she does well to put herself where the ball is going to be. Her kicking is a real delight, finding the better options more often than not with well weighted kicks.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Super impressive through the midfield all day, with her burst of speed in particular looking good coming out of stoppages or contests, always followed by a quality kick forward or handball to an outside team mate. Once again was impressed by her two-way running, where she’d be involved in the forwardline, and then pop up in the backline a minute later when Gippsland got a turn over.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Looking at her play a game, and she just understands it at a really high level. Despite not racking up huge numbers she has really good moments throughout the game where her game sense and footy IQ are on display with her positioning or runs she’s making, especially when reading the ball off of the rucks hands. Her disposal skills under pressure were also really impressive, and contributed to some really good passages for Gippsland

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Really crafty midfielder, who despite her size isn’t afraid to get involved  in the contested side of the game, and that relentless attack on the ball is really advantageous for Gippsland, especially with her handballing being at a good level, even with Calder tightening up on her later on.

OTHERS:

Gippsland had a few admirable performers despite the loss, with Courtney Fletcher winning quite a bit of ball around the ground. Tall duo Matilda Van Berkel and Grace Matser were solid in defense and the Ruck respectively and Grace McRae still impacted well despite having a quieter game than usual. The Cannons had plenty of others that performed their role well, Zali Friswell again being a good ball winner and contributor in other areas around the ground, bottom-ager Abbey McDonald continues to work into her role as rebounding defender really well, and winger Mia Briedis was winning it plenty.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby was again promising in patches for the Knights, with her speed and running ability evident but not dominant over the course of a highly contested game. She could have been the perfect player to break the contest open on the outside and threatened to do so with ball in hand. Her class shone through with clean takes and use in possession, especially during the third and fourth quarters as Northern began to arrest momentum and mount its extraordinary comeback.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

The best player afield and at 15 years of age, one who has already set the bar high with many seasons left to prosper in the underage pathways. Jordan was a constant figure at the stoppages, using her zippy turn of speed to burst away with ball in hand and thrust Northern onto the front foot. She dug in hard despite her diminutive stature and was the standout performer across four quarters, while also standing up in the clutch moments. Her third term goal gave Northern a sniff, and her second put the Knights within striking distance during term four, capping off what was an outstanding individual performance which inspired her team to victory.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s most outstanding performer on the day, Sherar worked furiously hard to ensure her side would boss the midfield battle early on. All bar one of her 16 disposals were kicks, highlighting Sherar’s ability to gain meterage from the coalface and make an impact where it matters most. Her marking prowess was also on show and the Ranges coaches would have been pleased by her work-rate to not only win possession in all areas of the ground, but to also tackle hard when required. After kicking the second goal of the game, Sherar was set up for a big day and followed through.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

With everything to gain late in the contest, Northern pulled the trigger and sent Delgado into the centre bounces – a move which ultimately played a massive part in the final result. Previously, the reliable top-ager was seen intercepting and rebounding in her usual defensive post, which proved key to Northern remaining a chance to turn around and win. At 173cm, her presence was then felt through midfield where she willed the ball forward and booted a crucial goal at the start of term four to spark Northern’s game-winning charge.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Another of the 2005-birth brigade, Pisano continues to find the goals for Eastern and impact games up forward. An impressive 14 of her 15 disposals came via foot, and five of them were inside 50 entries, showcasing the creative threat that Pisano presents. Her two goals came with a touch of class and were taken in quick succession during the first term, helping Eastern skip out to what should have been a defining lead. The 15-year-old has plenty of time to develop further and potentially try her hand up the field, but looks so comfortable at the level as a forward.

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

One of Northern’s key factors up forward, Smallacombe, or ‘Big Brush’ as she is referred to by teammates notched a career-high 17 disposals as she worked hard up the ground to provide a viable target and help link the Knights into their attacking 50. She may not have found the big sticks in this outing, but moreso played to a role which allowed Northern to keep its forward momentum going and have someone who could skilfully deliver the ball into dangerous areas.

#44 Grace Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

One of the competition’s most exciting ruck prospects, Campbell was able to showcase her athleticism and raw ability on the ball in this outing. At over 180cm, her aerial nous is an obvious strength and she brought it to the fore with a game-high 19 hitouts to go with three eye-catching marks. She is one of the few players who can take the ball at its highest point, but not one to admire her work for long, Campbell also showed a knack for playing on straight away and moving through traffic like a much smaller player. She missed the chance to cap off a promising outing with scoreboard impact, with one guilt-edge chance to put Eastern back ahead during the fourth term drifting into the post.

OTHERS:

Both sides had a raft of handy contributors during the day, with plenty of hard workers placed on each line. Eastern had the likes of Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury return from VFLW duties with aplomb, while Grace Walsh was strong in defence alongside Cadhla Schmidli, and Bridget Deed was reliable in midfield. Northern leader Teleah Smart was also busy in the engine room, aided by the combativeness of stand-in ruck Monique Ramsay. Lulu Beatty was another to impress, while Rylie Wilcox was lively inside 50 and Trinity Mills popped up for a couple of clutch goals.

2021 Draft Central NAB League TOTW: Round 6

CALDER Cannons, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Northern Knights have all earned thee players in our Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week for Round 6 after impressive wins over the weekend. There were 12 of the 13 sides in action, with this week’s team still only containing the full-time sides (rather than including Northern Academy representatives) for consistency’s sake throughout each week. Outside the top three featured teams, six sides all had two players in the team this week, with winners Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils, and losers Dandenong Stingrays Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons and Western Jets also recording two players this time. Gippsland Power, Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons had even performances across the board, but earned a single standout player to make the Team of the Week for Round 6. The team also features six Draft Central Team of the Week debutants who were yet to feature in a team this season.

Northern Knights had the comeback win of the season, almost down and out to run over the top of Eastern Ranges in the final term. The Knights had three players in the side this week, with Player of the Week runner-up Ava Jordan named vice-captain and on-ball for her match-winning efforts with two goals. At full-back is Tarrah Delgado whose move into the middle also swayed the game in the Knights’ favour, while Ella Smallacombe was a terrific leading target up forward. In such a close game on the day, Eastern Ranges also had two players making the side, with lively left-footer Alyssia Pisano in a pocket, and the classy Keeley Sherar making it onto the bench due to the strength of the midfield this week. Georgia Campbell was another player close to forcing her way into the side again.

GWV Rebels had plenty of names that could have made the side this week, but Kalani Scoullar picked up the most hitouts of any player this round and took it up to a quality opponent, to earn the starting ruck spot in the team. In defence, Nyakoat Dojiok and Chloe Leonard return to the side to provide plenty of run out of the back half which helped the Rebels put a win on the board. Goalsneak Paige Scott was one of the three emergencies, while Lilli Condon was again agonisingly close to making it after an impressive effort. They knocked off the Western Jets at MARS Stadium, and Charlotte Baskaran assumed her usual role on the wing, while Jemima Woods‘ efforts see her land on the bench and provide back-up ruck support to Scoullar in this hypothetical team.

Calder Cannons’ regular Team of the Week nominee Georgie Prespakis is back again, but this time she is joined by a couple of new faces in Olivia Manfre and Neve Crowley. Manfre played her best game of the season in the midfield, while Crowley slotted three goals as a target up forward. Their opponents Gippsland Power had the one nominee in Lily-Rose Williamson, though Grace Matser and Sunday Brisbane were both very close to making it into the side. Also close to making it into the side was emergency Grace Hay, with the Murray Bushrangers’ defender putting in a strong effort, but the depth of defence this week remarkable, and instead was named as an emergency. Bushrangers’ winger Aurora Smith did make it into the team after another eye-catching performance running around against the GIANTS Academy.

Down on the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils duo Meghan Gaffney (wing) and Jemma Webster (interchange) were the representatives from the winning Devils side. Webster recorded back-to-back Team of the Week nominations, with Ella Maurer again close to squeezing in, named as an emergency again after a strong effort. They were too strong for Dandenong Stingrays who still had a couple of standouts in the lightning quick Amber Clarke, and reliable defender Zoe Hill who booked their places in the team. While that match was happening, Geelong Falcons had just got down to Sydney Swans Academy, though Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap were outstanding in the loss. Craven earned our Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week for Round 6, and will captain the side for this week, while Schaap will start at half-forward to provide some pressure in attack.

Rounding out the side was the Thursday night blockbuster between Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons, with a total of three representatives in the team following an even split across the board. Stella Reid will return to half-back after another huge effort, while fellow rebounder Brooke Vickers also made the side, named on the bench. For the Dragons, Sofia Hurley earned a spot in the team, could not quite squeeze into the midfield but has been named at half-forward given her deserving starting status. Tayla Jones was another Dragon who came close to making the team this round.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 6

B: Lily-Rose Williamson (GP) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Zoe Hill (DS)
HB: Stella Reid (OC) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV) – Chloe Leonard (GWV)
C: Meghan Gaffney (TD) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
HF: Poppy Schaap (GF) – Ella Smallacombe (NK) – Sofia Hurley (SD)
F: Amber Clarke (DS) – Neve Crowley (CC) – Alyssia Pisano (ER)
R: Kalani Scoullar (GWV) –  Tess Craven (GF) (c) – Ava Jordan (NK) (vc)
INT: Olivia Manfre (CC) – Keeley Sherar (ER) – Aurora Smith (MB) – Brooke Vickers (OC) – Jemma Webster (TD) – Jemima Woods (WJ)

EMG: Grace Hay (MB) – Ella Maurer (TD) – Paige Scott (GWV)

 

While we had to remain consistent with only naming the NAB League Girls full-time sides to ensure each week had 24 players from those teams for our end of year Team of the Year, it is worth mentioning the Northern Academy members who would have found a way into the team. Up forward, GIANTS duo Hayley Macdonald and the versatile Cynthia Hamilton were lively with a couple of goals each, while Jayde Hamilton was one of the biggest ball winners for the round. For the Swans, Jessica Doyle would have easily made it into the front six after her two goals, while Ella Heads, Danika Spamer and Ruby Sargent-Wilson were the other Swans players who really stood out in an even team spread.

NAB League Girls Round 6 preview: Academy teams arrive for bumper clashes

ALL four Northern Academy teams will arrive in the NAB League Girls competition, with the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns playing in Victoria, while GWS GIANTS meet the Murray Bushrangers in Lavington, New South Wales.

In a huge boost for the NAB League Girls, the clash between Geelong Falcons and Sydney Swans Academy, and the double-header featuring the Queensland Academy teams and Northern Knights and Eastern Ranges, will not only be streamed via the NAB League app, but also feature live commentary. We preview all the Round 6 games below.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 10am
Lavington Sports Ground

The first NAB League Girls game of the year to be played in New South Wales takes place between Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. It also marks the first game of what will be four across the weekend, introducing the Northern Academy sides to some Victorian opposition. Murray Bushrangers are yet to win a game in the NAB League Girls, and their AFL Women’s Academy player Ally Morphett will suit up in the orange and charcoal against the Bushrangers’ other towering ruck in Lily Kozuharoff. After making her debut for North Melbourne VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton will be back at Under 19s level, roving the taps and going head-to-head with bottom-age jet Keeley Skepper onball.

Grace Hay is a critical inclusion in defence for the Bushrangers, teaming up with the likes of Mindy Quade, Chloe Locke and Kristy Whitehead forming a strong half-back line. They will need to contain teammate Lily Sharp who also switches jumpers for this clash, while Hayley Macdonald slotted three goals in the big 49-point win over Sydney Swans Academy a fortnight ago. She was named best on ground in that victory, with Sophie Trewartha another impressive forward on the day, Eleano Bishop and wing Brodie Mowbray others named amongst the best. India Lehman will take to the field for the GIANTS against her Bushrangers teammates, while Murray will look to in-form wing Aurora Smith to go head-to-head with Jessica Whelan in a matchup to watch. Zara Hamilton, Sophia McCarthy and Olivia Cicolini are others who can create scoring opportunities for the home side.

Murray has the experience at this level, but the real contest will be the interesting factor watching the GIANTS Academy making their debut at NAB League level with a number of Bushrangers to face off against their NAB League teammates.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 11am
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Heading much further south, another Academy team arrives in Victoria for a clash against the red-hot Geelong Falcons. The Falcons are 3-0 so far this season and have taken care of all their opponents thus far. Sydney has played two matches against the GIANTS Academy, splitting the results with a 20-point win, before a 49-point loss. Given Geelong could take out the entire title, this will be a great challenge for the Swans to partake in as they hit the field for the first time at NAB League Girls level. The Falcons head in without the in-form Annie Lee in defence, or leading goalkicker Renee Tierney up forward as they look to continue their stints at VFL Women’s level. Otherwise the Falcons will be relatively stable across the field and look to continue their form against the Swans.

The Falcons midfield of Tess Craven, Ash Van Loon, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been rock solid this year, and will be hard to beat. It will be a fantastic test for the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Hannah Cerezo who both stood out in the Academy matches recently. Up forward, Jessica Doyle slotted four as the sole AFL Women’s Academy for her state, but also the only one in the match. She will be the crucial player to watch up forward, though Willow Smith, Kyla Tracey and Jade Jarrett have all proven to be scoring options for the red and white side. Elizabeth Dowling will be the player her teammates look to with distribution outside the defensive 50, while Analea McKee and Ava McKeegan will look to drive the ball down the field from half-back. Ingrid Houtsma provides some X-factor on the win, and Mia Van Dyke has been thrown forward for this game, with reliable targets, Lucy Were and Gabbi Featherston making life difficult for the opposition. Other Swans who impressed in the Academy games include Kiara Beesley – who received a Draft Combine invitation last year – Maddy Hendrie, Ella Morris, Kahli Gilchrist and Ella Heads who will hope to make a good impression in this encounter.

Geelong is one of the teams to beat this season, but the Swans will get a great hitout ahead of next month’s AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 13 @ 12.30pm
Penguin Reserve

Playing in the third state for the day’s action, Tasmania Devils host Dandenong Stingrays at Penguin Reserve. The Devils are coming off back-to-back wins in Victoria after their narrow defeat at the hands of Oakleigh Chargers a fortnight ago. If there is one team that can sympathise with them about losing to the Chargers in a nail-biter it is the Stingrays, who went down to the Chargers by a solitary point a week ago. Tasmania sits at 3-1 for the season, while the Stingrays have one less game under their belts for a 2-1 start, but could draw level with a win here. The Devils really ran out the final term against Bendigo Pioneers last Saturday, then managed to restrict Western Jets to just one point, meaning in their last seven quarters, the Devils’ defence has conceded just one behind. That will be important against a dangerous Stingrays’ forward line that contains Amber Clarke (three goals against Oakleigh) and the rotating Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley who can be thrown there too.

Much like the Devils, the Stingrays have a really strong defensive outfit, with Eardley and Zoe Hill the twin towers in the key positions and the likes of Jaide Anthony and Jemma Radford providing the run. Amy Prokopiec has looked lively up forward this season, with her season-best four goals coming in Round 1, while Amy Bissett and Amy Edmand have also proven to kick multiple goals in a game through tight contests. The Devils midfield has been firing on all cylinders, withe speed of Perri King, class of Claire Ransom and hardness of Ella Maurer providing a nice balance on the inside. Given the Stingrays will be without the injured Emily Shepherd, it will be up to Richards and Felicity Crank to step up with Abbey Jordan in that onball group. Aprille Crooks, Priscilla Odwogo and Jemma Blair can provide the run out of defence for the Devils, while Meghan Gaffney never stops running.

This has all the hallmarks of being a thriller and being at home, Tasmania Devils might have the slight edge, but it is hard to look past the Stingrays who are just as well balanced as any side, but it shapes as the match to watch this weekend.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11am
MARS Stadium

Taking to the field for their second game in four days, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will host the Western Jets – who only have a six-day break themselves – at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning. The Rebels trialled key forward Ella Friend on a wing and she has been named there again in what could be an absolute blockbuster of a matchup against Jets’ talent Charlotte Baskaran. The one-on-ones across the ground are superb, with Lilli Condon set to go up against Montana Ham, and though the height difference might be substantial, neither player will take a backwards step. Paige Scott booted three goals against the Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday, her second three-goal haul of the year, and will be the danger player inside 50. The smaller defenders in Paige Ryan, Laura Elliott and Kate Maxwell have done well in moving the ball in transition, and will need to stem the flow of inside 50s from the Rebels midfielders.

Up the other end, Nyakoat Dojiok is a brick wall with her ability to read the ball in flight and intercept mark a treat, and Molly Walton is one of the more consistent bottom-age talents running around back there, already tasked with the kick-in duties. Chloe Leonard could slot back onto half-back, but will start onball against Trinity Skenderis, while Ally Trigg and Tahlia Meier both have the capacity to roll from the midfield forward. Kensley Ward has brought the defensive intensity up forward in her two games thus far, while Caitlin Sargent and Jemima Woods are the key forward targets inside 50. Krystal Russell has enjoyed a strong debut season as well through the ruck, and will go head-to-head against Kalani Scoullar.

If the Rebels get up, they move to 3-2 for the season, while the Jets sit at 1-3 currently and would join the Rebels with a 2-3 record if they can topple the home team up in Ballarat.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Over east, Gippsland Power host Calder Cannons with the home team searching for its first win of the season, while the Calder Cannons are hoping to go back-to-back after a strong win over Northern Knights 10 days earlier under lights at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Power have become comfortable at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East, with this fixture being their third consecutive match at the venue having played Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons there in recent weeks. The Power put in their best effort last week against the Dragons, with their lowest losing margin of 58 points, but also slotting three goals in the process. The battle to watch will be in the midfield where Grace McRae could go head-to-head with fellow hard nut Emelia Yassir, while Yasmin Duursma and Macie Gilmour go up against Olivia Manfre and Reese Sutton onball. Georgie Prespakis has been thrown forward in a huge one-on-one contest with Lily-Rose Williamson which will be a great test for the bottom-ager given she possesses similar powerful traits.

Shanara Notman returns to the Power side to provide that tall intercepting target in defence, but could also be thrown forward, with Matilda Van Berkel and Holly Booth named in the key position forward spots though both have become reliable defenders in past years. Indiana Makai has been in good form of late, with Sunday Brisbane and Calder’s Mali McLeod also capable of taking grass with ball-in-hand a long a wing. Neve Crowley will be a crucial key tall for the Cannons up forward, with Alisa Magri (three goals against Northern) and Jessica Zakkour both damaging options inside 50. Up the other end, Kasey Lennox is rock solid at full-back, while Zali Friswell and Tahlia Gillard have both been named on the bench but can roll on and play in multiple positions, quite usually relieving the midfield.

Calder Cannons will be looking for a big win here, but Gippsland will be up for the fight, it will just be about keeping possession and getting the ball forward to their keys, then trying to capitalise on the transition.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 12.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the first of a double-header at La Trobe University, Northern Knights will host Brisbane Lions Academy in what is poised to be a fantastic contest. The Lions Academy might be underrated, but they have three AFL Women’s Academy members out on the park, with Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith all running out for the Lions in their first NAB League Girls game. Harmer and Pauga will start through the midfield, though the latter could go forward and join Smith in the front six, while Harmer is more than capable of dropping back and being a reliable rebounding defender as well. The Lions have plenty of versatile players in their outfit, with Chelsea Chesterfield and Lucia Liessi both able to front up in the forward line, but will start in defence for this match.

The Knights have been able to create plenty of marking targets inside 50, with Megan Girolami enjoying a fantastic season this year, and the likes of Ella Smallacombe and Simone Mooney being the key talls in there. Trinity Mills has been a tough player to contain, while wings Maykaylah Appleby – Northern’s AFL Women’s Academy member – and Brooke Plummer have created driving runs and pumping the ball inside 50. Grace Wake returns from injury for the Knights for her first game of the season, teaming up with Tarrah Delgado in the back 50, while Ava Jordan has been a sensational find as an 05-born talent this season. An injury to Maeve Chaplin last week means she will miss out, but the Knights have plenty of depth through the side. Other Lions youngsters who have impressed in the Queensland colours or at QAFL Women’s level before include Macie Brown, Tiarna Jericho and Izzy Kotatis, while Phoebe Baird battling with Appleby as two smooth movers will be a matchup to watch.

Northern will be favourites for this clash, but Brisbane Lions could be the pick of the Academy sides this weekend, so if there is to be an upset, it could be this one.

 

EASTERN RANGES vs. GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 2.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the second game at the revamped La Trobe University, Eastern Ranges will hope to bounce back from their first loss two weeks ago when they take on the other Queensland Academy side in Gold Coast Suns. The Ranges will be without Olivia Meagher who will continue her stint at Collingwood’s VFL Women’s side tonight against Western Bulldogs, which means another midfielder will need to try and contain Queensland’s top draft prospect in Teagan Levi. The sister of Gold Coast’s Maddison, Levi is a terrific inside midfielder who can play in multiple roles, but will bullock the ball out of the stoppage with good burst and power. She is hard to match up on, but Bridget Deed looks to be the one set to go head-to-head with her. The Eastern midfield is a strong one, with in-form ruck Georgia Campbell, and midfielders Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer both in good form ahead of this clash. A trio of Ranges return from VFL Women’s duty with Isabelle Khoury (wing), Matilda Hardy (half-forward) and Jess Grace (interchange) all named for the clash.

The Suns have some great talent across the board, with key forward at QAFL Women’s level Jasmyn Davidson named at full-back for this clash showing off her versatility. Up the other end is Lily Tarlinton, with her and Faith Alchin filling out the key position posts. Keyshia Matenga has speed to burn and expect her to come off the bench to roll onto a wing against either Khoury or Jorja Livingstone, while twins Laquoiya and Litonya Cockatoo-Motlop provide a family bond within the team. Alyssia Pisano is a name to keep in mind for the future as a damaging ball user in side 50, while Caitlin Thorne is another Suns player named at half-forward who could create some havoc inside 50.

Eastern Ranges have shown to have the depth to beat most teams and will be favourites here, but led by Levi, the Suns will hope to win plenty of clearances and get the ball forward for scoring opportunities.

VFL and NEAFL to merge in “year of transition” as NAB League announces changes

STATE league football on the eastern seaboard will look vastly different in 2021 after a landmark announcement by the AFL today has seen the North Eastern Australian Football League (NEAFL) dissolved, with the NEAFL sides invited to join the Victorian Football League (VFL) next season. The choice to merge the two competitions was phrased as a “year of transition”.

Each club will have its own choice whether to form a standalone club, join an exiting club or split their AFL listed players over multiple clubs – like North Melbourne has in the past – including the non-AFL aligned clubs in Aspley Hornets, Canberra Demons, Redland Bombers, Southport Sharks and Sydney University.

The NAB League Boys and Girls will also look vastly different as it is set to become Under-19 and Under-17 competitions over the current Under-18 and Under-16 leagues. While the age groups will change, the AFL Draft eligible age – a hotly talked about topic – will not, as it remains at 18 in the calendar year of the AFL Draft.

With the VFL and NEAFL clubs aligning, it means the Northern Academy teams – Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS GIANTS and Sydney Swans – will be able to compete in the NAB League as they have in past years. The fixturing for the competition and exactly how it will be structured is yet to be determined.

No changes have been made to the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) or West Australian Football League (WAFL) competitions.

Classic Contests: Falcons down Swans to earn first win for 2019

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at another clash between the NAB League rivals to complete our full series, and today’s battle is between the Geelong Falcons and Sydney Swans Academy. In this edition, we wind back the clock just over a year to last season, when the two sides met as part of Swans’ five-game NAB League cameo.

2019 NAB League, Round 6
Sunday May 5, 12:00pm
Trevor Barker Beach Oval

GEELONG FALCONS 2.2 | 6.5 | 8.8 | 12.12 (84)
SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY 1.3 | 3.4 | 6.9 | 7.11 (53)

GOALS:

Geelong: O. Henry 4, W. Batson 2, C. Brauer 2, S. Ham, W. Kilpatrick, C. Seymour, J. Makuey
Sydney:
K. McGrath 2, E. Gulden, L. Swaney, B. Campbell, H. Ellem, S. Gaden

BEST:

Geelong: J. Clark, C. Harris, C. Karpala, L. Smith, S. Bourke, O. Henry
Sydney:
A. Watling, E. Gulden, R. van Huisstede, M. Geddes, L. Parks, B. Campbell

2019/20 AFL Academy members in action:

Geelong: Jesse Clark, Henry Walsh, Noah Gribble, Oliver Henry
Sydney:
Hamish Ellem, Luke Parks, Josh Rayner, Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden, Marco Rossmann

The Sydney Swans Academy had the opportunity to take out the NAB League Academy Series when they took on Geelong in Round 6 of the 2019 season. At a flawless 4-0 in their cameo to that point, the Swans needed only another win or draw to clinch top spot among their northern counterparts. The Falcons were winless at 0-3-1, with their sole points coming in a draw to reigning premier, Dandenong.

Adding to their lack of winning form, the Falcons would also go in without the likes of Cooper Stephens and Tanner Bruhn through their respective long-term injuries. Stephens’ absence left Jesse Clarke with the sole captaincy responsibilities, though the top and over-age representation was high. Sydney came in at relative full strength, only missing Jackson Barling from its AFL Academy group.

On neutral territory in Sandringham, the Swans were able to register the same amount of scoring shots (1.3) to Geelong (2.2) in the opening term, but conceded a quarter time deficit despite going ahead twice. After reclaiming the ascendancy 15 minutes into the first period, the Falcons never looked back. The Victorians had an answer for each test the Swans threw out, most importantly in the final term as they stretched a five-point buffer out to 31 by the final siren. Not only did the result signal Geelong’s first win for the campaign, but it also allowed the Gold Coast SUNS Academy to take out Academy Series gold from under Sydney’s noses.

Skipper, Clark was named best afield for Geelong, accumulating a game-high 25 disposals which included six marks and eight rebound 50s. A bottom-aged Oliver Henry booted four goals in a signal of intention for this year’s draft, while Charlie Brauer and Will Batson also booted multiple majors (two each). Small midfielders Charlie Harris and Chas Karpala were others to be named among the Falcons’ best half-dozen players.

Aidan Watling took out best afield honours for Sydney with his 15-disposal effort, while bottom-aged wombo combo Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell contributed 22 touches and a goal apiece. Max Geddes (17 disposals, nine rebound 50s) was also around the mark for the Swans, while Sam Thorne racked up a team-high 24 touches – his best effort across the five games.

The win didn’t exactly kickstart a Falcons resurgence in 2019, with the country region only managing to add two more victories to its season tally. The Falcons finished the year 15th on the extended ladder at 3-11-1, and lost to Sandringham by 103 points in Wildcard Round. The Swans were beaten out by Gold Coast via percentage as far as the Northern Academies go, finishing with a respectable 4-1 record.

Featured Image: George Salpigtidis/AFL Photos/Getty Images

Swans record GIANT win as Suns hold off Lions

SYDNEY Swans and Gold Coast Suns academies have won back-to-back games against the GWS GIANTS and Brisbane Lions academies in the second round of the Northern Academy Series over the weekend. The Swans had a much easier time than the Suns, always looking in control of their match on their way to a dominant 53-point victory over their state rivals.

Sydney Swans 13.8 (87) defeated GWS GIANTS 5.4 (34)

Hosting arguably the two biggest NSW academy prospects in Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden, the Swans midfield was superb, providing equal measures of grunt and pace in getting the ball from defence to attack in an instant. The pair were running down the ground and creating opportunities for their teammates, with Campbell getting on the end of a brilliant goal, and setting up a teammate for another with a four-bounce run from the wing to inside 50. Gulden started in the unfamiliar half-back position, but his speed and skill allowed him to be a danger coming out of defence.

Sam Thorne was a clear standout for the Swans, continually working hard through the middle, and arguably could have been best on ground for his four quarter effort and tackling pressure on the opposition. Along with Thorne through the middle, it was the attack of Reed van Huisstede (four goals) and Liam Puncher (three goals) who applied all the scoreboard pressure. Other Swans who impressed included overager Sam Gaden, who looked comfortable in defence alongside Max Geddes. The deep Swans midfield of Campbell, Thorne, Nick Brewer and Marc Sheather ultimately powered the Sydney side to a big win.

For the GIANTS, they had just the one multiple goalkicker in Fraser Kelly who kicked two, while Logan Berryman, Liam Delahunty and Maximus Monaghan all snagged one apiece. It was no surprise to see Josh Green – the GIANTS’ top rated Academy prospect – named best-on despite the defeat, once against throwing himself at the contest and doing everything he could to get his side across the line. Among those also named in the GIANTS’ best were Sam Frost, Harrison Grintell, Drew Beavan and Daniel Turner in what was ultimately a day where the younger side was outclassed by a more polished Swans outfit.

GOALS:

Sydney: R.van Huisstede 4, L.Puncher 3, P.Roseby 2, B.Campbell, A.Ball, O.Bird, N.Brewer.
GIANTS: F. Kelly 2, L. Berryman, L. Delahunty, M. Monaghan.

BEST: 

Sydney: S. Thorne, E. Gulden, B. Campbell, R. Huisstede, N. Brewer, S. Gaden, M. Geddes
GIANTS: J. Green, S. Frost, H. Grintell, D. Beavan, D. Turner, F. Kelly

Brisbane Lions 10.8 (68) defeated Gold Coast Suns 9.7 (61)

In a game of two halves, the midfield battle proved crucial in deciding which side would snatch the momentum. Gold Coast dominated the opening stages, booting the first four goals of the game on the back of contested work from the likes of Bailey Reeves and Ethan Hunt at centre bounces. The combination of Reeves’ ability to extract, and Hunt’s drive from the contest worked well to get the SUNS on the front foot.

Speaking of, the outside run of Aiden Fyfe and Northern Territory prospect Brandon Rusca also worked well in transition, with the kicking prowess of Josh Fahey and Rhys Nicholls from defence also helping set up some seriously potent Suns transitions. While Fahey looked to penetrate with his long left boot from the kick-ins and deeper in defence, Nicholls more-so utilised strong intercept marking and the nous to run off for handball receives to have an impact.

Skipper for the day, Jack Johnston was a rock at centre half-back, faring well aerially while also contributing to the Suns’ kick-heavy game in the back half at times. He combined well with Joel Jeffrey before the swingman was sent forward, with their reading of the ball in flight ensuring Brisbane had little avenues to go forward quickly. Jeffrey, another prospect tied to Gold Coast through the Darwin zone, showed great class and athleticism in his time up forward. He managed to snare a set shot conversion in the fourth term.

Max Pescud was arguably best afield for the victors though, making a menace of himself at half-forward. While he is still quite light-on, Pescud showed he was not afraid to hit the ball and his opponents hard, and collected plenty of both throughout the day. The forward’s conversion was well off in the first half, but his reward for effort came in the form of two goals, with his first a ripping effort on the run having just burned an opponent.

That opponent was Tahj Abberley, who still proved to be one of Brisbane’s better players across the day. The small utility was as reliable as any Lion afield, constantly looking a class above with his use by foot. He was employed through midfield and rotated out to defence, where his reading of the play and rebound abilities came to the fore.

Another Lions Academy regular, Saxon Crozier was also terrific in a range of roles. Starting through midfield, the Lions captain got his hands on the ball early, but looked most dangerous in the closing stages as he used his long kicking to take the game on. Another usually reliable kick is Carter Michael, who also found plenty of the ball. His radar was a touch off as he looked to initiate some forward movement from defence, but the meterage was there and he fared well with a move into the midfield later on.

Part of Brisbane’s ability to turn the game on its head in the second half came through the likes of Blake Coleman and Bruce Reville. Both players rotated forward through midfield, and looked so dangerous whenever the ball entered their area. Coleman was a particular threat in transition with his clean hands, while over-ager Reville had a massive impact in the third term to give the Lions a sniff.

The pressure of Will Tasker, who booted two goals, and Lochlan Harrop also ensured the Lions took the game down to the wire, with their presence around the ball putting a classy Suns defence under the pump. Brisbane was forced to fight from too far back though, and came up just a goal short despite creating good chances in the last five minutes.

GOALS:

Gold Coast: S. Walsh 2, M. Pescud 2, A. Fyfe, J. Jeffrey, B. Reeves, N. Stevens, B. Uwland, W. Bella.
Brisbane:
W. Tasker 2, B. Reville 2, C. Bowes 2, C. Michael, S. Crozier, L. Harrop.

ADC BEST:

Gold Coast: M. Pescud, J. Fahey, E. Hunt, R. Nicholls, J. Jeffrey, J. Johnston, B. Reeves
Brisbane: T. Abberley, B. Reville, B. Coleman, S. Crozier, C. Michael, L. Harrop

 

Northern Academy Series preview: Round 2

GOLD Coast Suns and Sydney Swans Academies will be keen to double-up with victories over their respective cross-state rivals, Brisbane Lions and GWS GIANTS Academies when the Northern Academy series continues this weekend. Originally scheduled to face off against Academies from opposing states, the border restrictions between Queensland and New South Wales have made life difficult, but luckily for the two state’s most talented AFL Draft hopefuls, they will still get to run around.

In a similar structure to last week, the NSW teams will do battle on Saturday at North Dalton Park, Wollongong in conditions that will hopefully be better than the slog fest that greeted the players last week. On Sunday, the Queensland sides will battle it out at Labrador in a change of venue from the first round, which the Lions will be hoping can change their fortunes in the Round 2 clash. All of the teams will have players to watch when talking about both the 2020 and 2021 AFL Drafts, which makes it entertaining viewing.

For Sydney, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden are the players that Swans fans know plenty about given their role with the Allies last season. The pair use the ball well and can be damaging in the forward half of the ground, with Campbell touted as a top 10 pick and Gulden as a highly rated prospect. But outside the duo, the Swans have a number of others to watch that make them quite a damaging unit, with Marco Rossman up forward likely to build on a quieter first-up appearance, while over-agers Jackson Barling and Sam Thorne are consistent performers for the red and white. Sam Gaden was hitting his straps at the Under 18 Championships last year before injury cut his short, and is worth a look when it comes to key position talents.

Their opponents the GIANTS might not have the standout prospect they had last year in Tom Green, but they do have a number of talents that will excite GIANTS fans, as shown by their capability to push the Swans in the wet last weekend. Josh Green – Tom’s brother – is one of their top talents, with the taller more key position option a player that could follow his brother into the elite program. One of the more unlucky players not to end up on a list is over-ager Liam Delahunty who has plenty of tricks playing as that third-tall utility who can play just about anywhere on the ground. He is one who would love to stake his case, and while he was set to represent Northern Knights in NAB League, the Academy prospect will be thrilled he has a second chance at playing here. Bottom-age talent Kai Watts, and top-age inclusion for Round 2, Charlie Byrne are others to watch, with the latter having some incredible skill coming off half-back that he showed for the Murray Bushrangers last year.

Turning the attention to the Q-Clash, and the Lions will be keen to turnaround their fortunes after a slow start saw them 37 points down before they put a score on the board. The Suns jumped them and utilised the breeze well, but it is easy to see why Lions fans are excited about this year’s crop of Academy talents. Carter Michael and Tahj Abberley are two players who have speed and skill to use coming off half-back, not afraid to take the game on or provide a contest in the air or at ground level. Along with fellow AFL Academy members Saxon Crozier – who often plays off a wing – and Blake Coleman – who worries opposition defenders every time he is in the vicinity of the goals – the Lions have a number of players who really stand out. Shatna Cashen-Harris and Kuot Thok both showed glimpses in the Round 1 loss, while Daniel Lanthois was strong in midfield. Jack Briskey is a key defender who has shown promising signs for Brisbane as well.

The Suns will look to have a similar first quarter start when they take on the Lions at Labrador after their Round 1 blitz basically ended the game in an impressive opening stanza. Bottom-ager Josh Fahey was the top player on the ground in the win while Max Pescud and Josh Gore showed plenty of signs in the forward half of the ground, causing issues for opponents in the air or at ground level. Aiden Fyfe impressed off a wing, while captain Jack Johnston was a rock in defence as he showed last season. The Suns have plenty to like about their side, because the Academy is quite even, shown by the inclusion of over-age forward, Nathan Colenso who kicked a couple of goals. Most of the players have run around in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) this season, with a number of them – such as Colenso and Coleman – transforming from teammates to opponents, or in the case of Michael and Abberley for example – opponents to teammates.

Saturday, August 15

Sydney Swans vs GWS GIANTS, North Dalton Park Wollongong

Sunday 16 August

Brisbane Lions vs Gold Coast Suns, Labrador Park

Scouting notes: Northern Academy Series – Round 1

THE 2020 Northern Academy Series got underway over the weekend, with prospects from the Brisbane Lions, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, and Sydney Swans talent programs all looking to impress. State derbies kicked off proceedings, and made for a couple of hard-fought battles.

In a willing contest under sunny conditions, the Gold Coast Suns Academy won by 53 points over their Sunshine State rivals. The Suns booted the first six goals of the game – five came with the breeze in the opening term – to run out comfortable winners.

The Sydney Swans Academy also ran out winners in their clash with the GWS Giants prospects, setting up the victory with a string of five unanswered goals which extended from the second term, onwards. Soggy conditions ensured hard work would be made for the 15-point triumph, with a good bit of niggle to go with the contested slog.

We took a look at some of the Academy members and how they performed, as well as a bunch of other names who impressed on the day.

Brisbane Lions vs. Gold Coast Suns

Brisbane:

By: Peter Williams

#12 Saxon Crozier

Played a mixture between the wing and getting back to help the defence, Crozier was neat with his ball use and always looking to create run for the Lions. After a quieter first term – though he had a good handball out of defence – he had an number of impressive plays in the second term. He sidestepped an opponent and got it quickly onto the right, and presented to his teammates around the field. His handballing release to teammates streaming down the ground opened up the play for Brisbane to begin to cut the deficit back.

#13 Blake Coleman

Not a high possession player, Coleman has high level footy smarts and clean hands that make him so difficult to stop. He is one of those players who might not get a touch for a half, then can win the game for his side with a couple of impactful plays. After a few silky moves in the first term, he combined well with Tahj Abberley down the ground to win it on the wing and keep paddling the ball in front of him. Somehow he managed to gain distance, shake off his pursuers and launch a goal from 50m having beaten three opponents in the clear goal of the day. His second major in the third term was more straightforward, floating in from the side to then hold his ground and clunk the grab 35m out. He nailed the set shot six and a half minutes into the term, and almost had another good mark in the final quarter but could not quite hold it. As he booted two of the Lions’ four goals, he did well to play his role in the forward half with great pressure.

#14 Carter Michael

Michael showed a great balance of offensive and defensive traits throughout the contest, playing off half-back and then pushing up the ground when required. His first foray in the match was a good early spoil, getting the body contact out of the way. Throughout the match, Michael ran hard to be an option through the middle, and often ran up to the kicker at a stop in play to receive the get and go, to add an extra number to the play and try and use his speed to drive the ball down the ground. He pumped the ball inside 50 on occasions, and was working hard to look for one-two opportunities for his teammates. He copped a knock in the defensive 50 back pocket, but bounced straight back up and was solid throughout the entire game. Showing nice hands out of congestion, Michael ran down the ground and teamed up with Abberley well in keeping the ball moving. He had a snap on goal of his own late in the final term, but the wind did not help him out and it went out on the full. His reaction in one passage of play saw him bolt down the middle and leave his opponents in his wake. He was a treat to watch on the day and a real highlight for the Lions.

#15 Tahj Abberley

One of the Lions’ best throughout the day, he just kept trying to create off half-back and push up the ground. He set up a goal to Coleman in the second term with his pace off half-back, and then teamed up well with Michael in the final term with the one-two handballs down the ground. He stayed involved in all four quarters, and even drifted forward at times to kick it deeper inside 50, having a clever snap from long range, but it drifted for a behind. He won plenty of the ball in all thirds of the ground, and when the heat was on early in the game, Abberley was one of the few who stood up and continued to try hard against the flow. He used the ball well and showed good hands in traffic throughout the contest, and definitely showed plenty of potential in the defeat.

Others:

In terms of others who caught the eye, Shatna Cashen-Harris was lively up forward, with clean hands and a silky side-step, always looking dangerous. In midfield, the combination of Sam Winterbottom and Daniel Lanthois tried hard with the latter kicking a clever goal in the second term, whilst Ben Thomas kicked the other major for the Lions. Over-ager Max McDonald was dominant in the ruck, whilst Noah McFadyen provided a contest up forward, and Kuot Thok was not afraid to crash and bash the packs in defence.

>> Lions Academy Content

Gold Coast:

By: Ed Pascoe

#13 Rhys Nicholls 

Nicholls did not have the most productive game but he was still able to show his skill and talent with some nice spin moves and classy movement from the back half. The clever left-footer looked very smooth whenever he got possession and like many of his teammates, always took the opportunity to move the ball forward as quickly and cleanly as possible. 

#14 Max Pescud 

Maybe the most unlucky Suns player not to be included in the AFL based academy, he has been a regular goal scorer in the QAFL and backed that up again. He kicked multiple goals while also unselfishly passing off more opportunities as he could have easily ended up with about five goals himself. A quick player who takes the game on, tackles, and marks with intent despite his light frame, he came undone a few times with his run but when he was up-and-running and taking bounces, he looked very sharp and even got some time through the midfield late in the game, winning a few clearances. 

#19 Josh Fahey 

Fahey played for NSW/ACT in last year’s Under 16 championships and now finds himself with the Gold Coast Suns, although he wont be tied to any academies for next year’s draft. That’ll come as a sigh of relief for all AFL clubs, as he put on a best on ground performance down back. Fahey wasn’t hard to miss with his blonde locks but he also wasn’t hard to miss for the Lions going inside 50 as they kicked it down his throat multiple times. Fahey cut off plenty of attacks, attacking the contest hard and cleanly. His left-foot kicking from defence was a real feature, both long and damaging, and he had a major influence on the result. Fahey looks to be a very promising prospect for the 2021 draft.  

#20 Aiden Fyfe 

Fyfe had the ball on a string on his favoured wing position, and would had to have been the leading possession winner on the ground as he was involved in every quarter as one of the most consistent players afield. Fyfe found the ball all over the ground, working hard defensively and offensively. He was one of many to kick a goal in the first quarter with a nice snap and he would set up countless others with his clean hands and composure when in possession. Fyfe rarely wasted his touches and often hit teammates in a better position than himself. Despite not being the quickest player out there, he was certainly one of the sharpest in both skill and mind with ball in hand. 

#22 Jack Johnston 

The captain of the side, Johnston was a rock in defence at centre half-back. He took some nice strong marks and was cool and composed across the back half. Johnston is a strong player already standing at 195cm and 95kg, using his frame well both overhead anover the ball, and his disposals were often very clean for a big man. 

Others:

A couple of over-agers who impressed were forwards, Josh Gore and Nathan Colenso. Both were able to hit the scoreboard multiple times and look damaging, with Colenso on the lead, and Gore mixing between the lead and in play. Both have been prominent goalkickers at QAFL level, and brought that same form into the game, with Gore’s clean hands and Colenso’s strength and tackling ability amongst the attributes that stood out for the respective forwards.

>> Suns Academy Content

GWS Giants vs. Sydney Swans

By: Michael Alvaro

GWS:

#1 Harry Grant

The diminutive over-ager was thrown right into the cut and thrust of midfield and hardly looked out of place. Grant hunted the ball from the first bounce, with his pace and tenacity at ground level making for a solid two-way contribution. If he wasn’t digging in to win his own ball at the stoppages, Grant was applying smothering defensive pressure to make life hard for opposition midfielders. It seemed the conditions suited his game well, and he would later move forward where he very nearly added a goal to his game with a sharp snap.

#26 Liam Delahunty

Another 19-year-old prospect to show promising glimpses of form, Delahunty was primed to make is mark on the NAB League and VFL in 2020. Instead, he took the opportunity this weekend to show his worth back with the Giants Academy, and had his moments throughout the game. Starting in defence, Delahunty took a nice contested mark to intercept a deep Sydney entry, while also looking to rebound aggressively by running his full measure and delivering by foot. He is somewhat of an in-between size at 192cm and 87kg, allowing him to compete both aerially and at ground level. He continued to take the game on from defensive 50, but was caught holding the ball as he looked to fend off an opponent in the third term. A move forward followed, and Delahunty capped off his performance with a tidy, quick finish for the final goal of the game.

#27 Josh Green

Green cuts a similar figure to his brother, Tom – albeit a touch taller and leaner – and was tried in an inside midfield role for the Giants early on. His 192cm frame allowed him to compete at the stoppages, while his ability to get up either end of the ground made him an influential player throughout the game. While he was a touch slow to truly build into the contest, Green began to show his best form after half time with some terrific overhead marking in tricky conditions. His clearance work built as well with the added confidence, and a later move behind the ball allowed Green to showcase his strong hands and intercept quality.

#42 Maximus Monaghan

One of a number of Giants to have rotated through midfield, Monaghan also showed some good signs while stationed both in defence and attack. The top-ager is strongly built and applied himself at the contest, showing good aggression and strength to break free and dispose of the ball via foot. He accumulated well through the engine room and was later sighted up either end of the ground where he was able to find his way to the ball.

Others:

On a day where the conditions made it tough to take a lot out of the game, there were a number of players to have provided little flashes of form. Bottom-age forward Sam Stening presented well up the ground early and was later rewarded with a goal for his run-down tackle on Max Geddes. The likes of Coopa Steele and Joel Dunstall dug in to find plenty of the ball, while Harrison Grintell looked lively up forward, and Sam Frost was among a few solid defenders. Under 16 NSW/ACT MVP Kai Watts booted a goal from his permenent forward position, while Jack Driscoll rotated back through the ruck.

>> Giants Academy Content

Sydney:

#2 Sam Gaden

Gaden proved a strong a flexible key position option for the Swans, starting forward and eventually plying his trade down back. The over-ager worked up the ground well in the early stages, presenting as a link into Sydney’s forward 50. He provided a goal assist to Jackson Barling in the second term with a hacked kick into the arc, and doubled his impact with some forward 50 ruck work. Having been moved down back in the second half, Gaden showcased his ability to intercept, sweeping well both in the air and at ground level.

#3 Kye Pfrengle

A player who needs only a few touches or moments to catch the eye is Pfrengle, who looked particularly lively in the first term with some incredible marking attempts. The top-age AFL Academy hub member certainly has a spring in his step, leaping high for the ball to intercept GWS’ long defensive rebounds. While he failed to hold onto most of his speckie attempts, Pfrengle was positioned well behind the ball to begin with, allowing him enact that intercept game. He would later be seen a touch deeper in defence, locking the ball in and taking the kick-outs, making handy contributions just when it seemed he was drifting out of the contest.

#7 Braeden Campbell

The leading Swans Academy prospect looked like tearing the game apart as he dominated the opening stages, showing terrific signs through midfield. While his speed and damaging kicking on the outside often garner the most praise, it was Campbell’s toughness and ability to adapt to the conditions which stood out most on this occasion. His clearance work was sound throughout the match, and despite coughing up a rare turnover by foot in the second term, he was able to find his range consistently. With some opposition attention incoming, Campbell was moved to half-back and also rotated off the wing, while pushing forward to slot a goal in the third term. He looked most dangerous with his burst away from the stoppages though, and hunted the ball well when on the inside.

>> Academy Series Player Focus

#15 Sam Thorne

Another over-ager to have made his mark on the game was Thorne, a small midfielder who thrived in the soggy conditions. He was a regular at the centre bounces and stoppages, accumulating the ball with ease at ground level and releasing well to his teammates on the move. Thorne’s ability to shark the ball off hands and get his legs pumping to burst away was noticeable, and it helped set the tone for Sydney from where it mattered most. He finished as one of the most prolific ball winners on the day, and kept his name in the hat as far as the Swans are concerned.

#22 Errol Gulden

Campbell’s partner-in-crime, Gulden was a consistent threat for Sydney and managed to find the ball at will while rotating from the wing, through the middle, and up forward. The 176cm mover relies more on agility and smarts rather than pure pace, so initially found it hard in the wet conditions to have his usual impact on the game despite constantly getting his hands on the ball.

Still, Gulden snared the opening goal after being tackled high inside 50, and used it as a catalyst to work more effectively at ground level. His work-rate forward of centre was outstanding, and he could be seen pushing inside 50 from the wing to snare his second major, hardly breaking stride as he gobbled up the loose ball and slotted it home on the fly. Gulden was arguably best afield in the second half, and is just so difficult to stop at full flight. It was good to see him get busy up forward too, as that high half-forward role looks most like being his starting position at the elite level.

#25 Jackson Barling

Barling is another Academy talent to have missed out last year, but seems to have taken it in his stride after an impressive performance. He was first sighted using the ball cleanly in the back half, staying composed to provide a refreshing point of difference in the largely-contested game. His biggest impact came upon his move to the forwardline though, where Barling would kick three goals. His first came on the back of a juggled mark inside 50, which was quickly followed by another strong grab and set shot conversion in the second term. Yet another big clunk helped deliver a third major in the final quarter, though he selfishly burned Thorne as he looked for a fourth. Still, Barling’s scoreboard impact helped turn the game significantly in Sydney’s favour, and his hardness at 183cm and 85kg was impressive as it should be for an over-ager.

Others:

The talent in the Swans Academy runs deep, and there were plenty of others to have pitched in across the day. Marc Sheather was hard at the ball through midfield, while fellow AFL Academy member Marco Rossmann showed some promising signs early in his role up forward. Oscar Bird was another solid contributor who got involved in Sydney’s forward surges.

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