Category: Womens

2020 AFL Women’s season review: West Coast

FRESH off it’s inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, West Coast is the next team under the microscope in our club-by-club reviews.

The Eagles may have landed a couple of handy players at the nest in their maiden recruiting effort, but were one of the expansion sides which struggled to find their feet in faring only better than the winless Richmond with one win for the season. Scoring was real trouble spot for the newcomers, with a competition-low 85 points scored overall, which was far from enough to stay competitive since they would also concede 265 points up the other end.

Despite some hefty losses and a harsh initiation to the elite level, the Eagles’ opening win was a pure footballing highlight, and should give fans and players alike something to look back on fondly. Without further ado, we look back on the highs and lows of West Coasts’ first year in the AFLW, with a focus on the Eagles’ key performers and players to watch for in the future.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Collingwood by 27 points
R2: lost to Fremantle by 45 points
R3: lost to GWS by 28 points
R4: 
defeated Western Bulldogs by 4 points
R5:
lost to Melbourne by 59 points
R6:
lost to Gold Coast by 25 points

A solitary win perhaps puts some shine on what was an otherwise lacklustre set of results, with the fact that each loss came by 25 points or more not reading well in any capacity. The first AFLW Western Derby ended in a 45-point defeat just a week after Collingwood dismantled the newcomers first-up, but the Eagles’ lowest point arguably came via a 59-point thumping at the hands of Melbourne in Round 5. Barring that sensational Round 4 win over the Bulldogs, West Coast managed to score multiple goals just twice, while also conceding two totals over 60. Those numbers are hard to put a positive spin on, but the win would have given the Eagles a glimpse of hope.

SEASON HIGH: A thrilling maiden win on home turf

Enough of the dower talk – seeing West Coast hold on for its maiden win in the competition was nothing short of heartwarming. After losses of a combined 100 points in their first three outings, the Eagles somehow pulled one out of the hat against the Dogs, clawing their way back from a half time deficit to get ahead and stay there on home turf. West Coast’s 4.6 was double its next-best total for the season and its only venture past two goals in a game, with stars Emma Swanson and Dana Hooker leading the way. The Bulldogs may only have also managed one win for the season, but you would take the four points on any day ending with ‘y’.

SEASON LOW: Posting the (then) lowest-ever AFL Women’s score

Just eight days after West Coast’s spirit-lifting win came its most crushing loss upon a second trip to Victoria, going down to Melbourne by 59 points. It also marked a record no team wants to hold, with the Eagles managing what was then the lowest-ever total in any AFLW game – 1.1 (7). While that unfortunate feat was later taken by Richmond’s goalless effort, it was a fairly sour note to come just over a week after that incredible win. Hooker and Swanson were again the main ball winners, with Maddy Collier chiming in for her side’s only goal for the day.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Dana Hooker (19.7 disposals, 2.7 marks, 6.8 tackles, 3 rebound 50s, 2.8 inside 50s)

An out-and-out star of the competition, Hooker proved her worth as the club’s most high profile signing across another stellar year. The durable former-Fremantle midfielder made history by booting West Coast’s first-ever goal, and carried herself with pride in a team which suffered some heavy defeats. Hooker led the club for disposals, contested possessions, marks, and tackles to end the year as the only Eagle to be named in the All Australian squad.

Emma Swanson (17 disposals, 2.2 marks, 4.5 tackles, 2 rebound 50s, 3.3 inside 50s)

Hooker’s partner in crime through midfield, Swanson had arguably her best season since debuting for GWS in 2017 as another ever-present in the Eagles’ best half-dozen. The 25-year-old provided the perfect midfield partnership with Hooker, working hard to push the Eagles forward from the contest. She would end the year leading her club for clearances, inside 50s, and metres gained, perfectly encapsulating her role in the engine room.

Imahra Cameron (13.8 disposals, 2.5 marks, 3.5 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 1.3 inside 50s)

One of West Coast’s best mature-age finds was Cameron, with the 23-year-old growing strongly into her debut AFLW campaign. Often partnering Swanson and Hooker in midfield while also drifting forward, the zippy 163cm recruit was one of the Eagles’ more consistent contributors despite her more flashy style. Her season total of 1.4 in front of goal could have taken her season to the next level if it were for better accuracy, but Cameron was influential nonetheless.

Parris Laurie (9 disposals, 2 marks, 2.7 tackles, 18 hitouts)

Completing the typical centre bounce quartet is Laurie, who fared well in her second AFLW season through the ruck. Another of West Coast’s recruits from rivals, Fremantle, Laurie upped her aerial impact this year with greater numbers in both the marking and hitout department. While she may have liked to find the goals more when drifting forward, 178cm ruck’s tap craft was solid for a someone slightly undersized in the position.

Belinda Smith (11 disposals, 1.7 marks, 2.8 tackles, 3 rebound 50s)

Plying her trade this year at a third AFLW club, Smith was certainly kept busy as one of the mainstays in West Coast’s defence. Across all six games, Smith was reliable at her best with leading numbers in the intercept possession and rebound 50 stakes, while also boasting a respectable disposal efficiency of 68 per cent. It was a solid year for the 24-year-old in a vital role among an under siege back five, and she will only get better as the Eagles work on possession retention.

YOUNG GUN:

Mikayla Bowen (10.3 disposals, 5.2 tackles, 1 rebound 50)

One of the first Eagles signed was Bowen, who lived up to the bill as a pre-listed player in her debut year after claiming WA’s MVP award at last year’s Under 18 national championships. In a tough side to start out in, Bowen steadily found her feet and performed consistently with a particular liking for the tough stuff. The young gun was only second to Hooker in tackles for West Coast this season, and has a bright future.

SURPRISE PACKET:

Niamh Kelly (9.7 disposals, 1.5 marks, 2.3 tackles, 1 rebound 50)

A surprise packet in the sense of her unknown ability coming into the season, Kelly became a key member in West Coast’s side with her daring run on the outside and ability to sneak forward. She was hard to stop when on song, and should benefit from more time in the game after transitioning from her native sport in Ireland with sister, Grace.

Others who stood out: Ashlee Atkins, Hayley Bullas, Chantella Perera

Three pretty different players round out the list here for West Coast, with a key defender and two forwards playing their part. Atkins was one of the few Eagles to find the big sticks while also setting up others, and Bullas was the only one to find them twice as her side’s inaugural leading goalkicker. Up the other end, mature-age draftee Perera was a rock at the back across five games, playing her role as a dour defender well upon getting a chance at the elite level.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Northern Knights

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Northern Knights, who have made an unblemished start to their premiership defence with wins over Calder, Geelong, and Dandenong on home turf.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Calder Cannons by 6 points
R2: defeated Geelong Falcons by 25 points
R3: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 23 points

The 3-0 record may look ominous along with the average winning margin of 18 points, but the Knights were made to earn each of their first three victories. First up was a grand final rematch against the Calder, who looked the most direct threat to Northern’s flag defence. After holding the Cannons at bay, long-time closest rival Geelong was up next, but the Falcons hardly got close with just one goal on the board. Arguably the biggest test of Northern’s character came against another finals threat, Dandenong, where the Knights fought back from two goals down to win with a five-goal second half.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Jess Fitzgerald (18.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 3.7 tackles, 2 rebound 50s, 2.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)

Coach Marcus Abney-Hastings described Fitzgerald as his side’s most important player after last year’s grand final, and she is proving as much in her top-age season as one of the competition’s most well-rounded prospects. The Knights co-captain has stood up at critical times across all three testing games thus far, showcasing the ability to generate run while also digging in hard at the contest. Fitzgerald’s standout game came against Dandenong, where she collected 28 disposals and booted two goals.

Ellie McKenzie (19 disposals, 5 marks, 2.3 tackles, 4.7 inside 50s, 1 goal)

Arguably the front-runner to be taken first off the board come draft time at this early stage, McKenzie has lived up to the hype generated by her under-age seasons. Leading the Knights for disposals and inside 50s as it stands, the dynamic left footer showcased her ability to tear games apart when she combined with co-captain Fitzgerald to drag Northern over the line against Dandenong. As a more permanent midfield fixture, her goals from further afield have become all the more valuable. She currently leads the Draft Central Medal standings alongside Tyanna Smith.

Alyssa Bannan (14.3 disposals, 5.7 marks, 3.3 tackles, 2.3 inside 50s, 9 goals)

Another out-and-out gun along the spine of this Northern side is Bannan, who has thrived as the primary key forward in her top-age season. Leading the competition for goals (nine) and marks (17), Bannan is equally damaging at ground level with her searing pace as she is in the air with her height. A five-goal effort against Calder in Round 1 got the ball rolling, with the 177cm prospect bagging consecutive hauls of two over the next fortnight. Could well be the new key forward prototype.

Maeve Chaplin (11.7 disposals, 1 mark, 2.3 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 1.3 inside 50s)

After impressing as an effective two-way defender in her middle-age year, Chaplin has transitioned into a midfield ace this season credit to her ability to find the ball and use it cleanly. Discounting her three disposals against Dandenong, Chaplin had consecutive 16-touch efforts to open the campaign, showing virtually identical numbers in a typical mark to her consistency. With game winners around her in midfield, Chaplin has proven to be the reliable rock who can perform an important role each week.

Ashleigh Snow (15.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 3.3 inside 50s)

Another who has featured prominently in the Northern lineup over the past couple of seasons is Snow, who has stepped up her ball winning numbers in 2020. Averaging over 15 disposals per game, the nuggety utility continues to go hard at the ball an inspire her side in transition, pushing further afield to penetrate the forward 50 arc after being used in more defensive roles previously. Despite her 158cm standing, Snow is not one to be overlooked and holds her own in the contest.

Others who have stood out: Georgia Kitchell, Tarrah Delgado, Abigail Bennett, Maykaylah Appleby

There are a number of players who can stake their claim here, starting with dominant ruck Kitchell, who has handily won the hitout battle in each of Northern’s three games. Able to follow up at ground level, the middle-ager’s tackle average of five is impressive given her 180cm frame. Another middle-age tall, Delgado has also impressed with her calm work down back, while hard-edged outside movers Bennett and Appleby continue to provide that bit of spark. Bennett, an experienced top-ager, also leads the competition for tackles with 24 over her three games.

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Richmond

A BAPTISM of fire awaited Richmond in its highly-anticipated inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, going winless in the shortened six-round season despite having made one of the more eye-catching expansion team recruiting drives. Skippered by veteran former-Bulldog marquee Katie Brennan, the Tigers began life in the elite competition with a 34-point thumping at the hands of Carlton, and never quite recovered.

Brennan missed the last month of the season, leaving much of the on-field leadership down to Monique Conti‘s brilliance through midfield, while a relatively inexperienced list exterior needed time to settle in. Starting from the bottom, relive the highs and lows of Richmond’s maiden AFLW run in our first of 14 club-by-club reviews, with key players highlighted throughout.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Carlton by 34 points
R2: lost to Gold Coast by 11 points
R3: lost to North Melbourne by 56 points
R4:
lost to Geelong by 22 points
R5:
lost to GWS by 45 points
R6:
lost to St Kilda by 39 points

Five losses by over 22 points tell the story of Richmond’s efforts this season, which were capped off by a record breaking effort in Round 6 – for the wrong reasons – in becoming the first AFLW side to be held goalless for an entire match. There were a total of 17 goalless terms for the Tigers in a season where they clearly struggled for territory and thus, goals. The closest the Tigers came to victory was in Round 2 against fellow expansion team, Gold Coast on the road, but they kicked themselves out of the contest with 0.8 after quarter time. It was tough going from that point with a 56-point loss to North Melbourne coming next, but an entertaining game against Geelong was a relative high point, as the Tigers booted a season-best 7.3 (45).

SEASON HIGH: The four-goal third term against Geelong

While it may not sound like much of a high, Richmond’s big third term effort against Geelong gave fans a taste of what may be to come once the Tigers can jell. In a game where Richmond eclipsed its goal effort from the entire first three rounds, over half of them came in that third quarter and gave the Tigers a sniff of victory. While it was not to be, the four majors across a scintillating 10 minutes contributed to the side’s greatest AFLW score in what was Brennan’s final game for the year.

SEASON LOW: Posting the first ever goalless game against St Kilda

Becoming the competition’s first side to go through a game without a goal is disappointing enough, but to do it against a fellow expansion side would have compounded the hurt following Richmond’s Round 6 fixture. The Tigers were also held scoreless for half the match, with their three points scored over the second and fourth terms at Moorabbin. Credit must go to the fantastic Saints, who were simply on fire on home turf against the lacklustre Tigers.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Katie Brennan (12.3 disposals, 1.5 marks, 4 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 1.8 inside 50s, 0.25 goals)

A transition to midfield beckoned for Brennan as her fresh start began, with the experienced former-forward looking to lead from the engine room. While her leadership and invaluable experience put the Tigers in good stead, Brennan unfortunately struggled to get her own game going at times with a season-high disposal haul of 14. Brennan’s season was unfortunately cut short in Round 4 due to concussion, with her best form evading her.

Monique Conti (19.8 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.8 tackles, 2.7 rebound 50s, 3.2 inside 50s)

Far and away Richmond’s best performer across the whole season, Conti was simply phenomenal as the Tigers’ prime ball winner. In just her third AFLW season, the former prize draft pick became an out-and-out star in returning her greatest disposal average across the six games, while also showing her tenacity on the defensive side. An ever-present for the Tigers, Conti can hold her head up – particularly for her form in the final three weeks when her side struggled most in Brennan’s absence.

Akec Makur Chuot (9.5 disposals, 1.3 marks, 2 tackles, 3.7 rebound 50s, 0.8 inside 50s)

One of the great finds for Richmond this season was 27-year-old Makur Chuot, who worked to provide a cool head among Richmond’s back six in her maiden AFLW season. The 178cm defender impressed on debut in Round 1 against Carlton with her positioning and ability to impact a number of contests, while her rebound 50 numbers across the entire season serve as a reminder of her willingness to turn defence into attack. Full credit for playing a difficult role well.

Phoebe Monahan (17.2 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2.8 tackles, 6.8 rebound 50s, 1.8 inside 50s)

Perhaps one of the less-heralded recruits for Richmond among a raft of big names was Monahan, who played arguably the most important and difficult role in the struggling Tigers side. After two seasons with GWS, the 26-year-old upped her numbers massively in shouldering the brunt of her side’s defensive duties. Monahan mopped up as well as any defender this year and was aggressive on the rebound with much of the ball spent in her own half. A fantastic pick-up, who is now a pivotal leader in the side.

Courtney Wakefield (6.4 disposals, 3.8 marks, 2.6 tackles, 4 goals)

One of the great success stories out of this season is that of Wakefield, who flourished upon being involved in the Richmond set-up as early as in its VFLW campaign. The 180cm key forward combined well with marquee recruit Sabrina Frederick close to goal, providing a target but with limited opportunity. She finished as the Tiger’s leading goalkicker (four) in their inaugural season, with her personal best of three majors coming against Geelong in Round 4.

YOUNG GUN:

Kodi Jacques (8.2 disposals, 1.2 marks, 5.3 tackles, 1.2 rebound 50s, 1.2 inside 50s)

Another to be picked up out of Richmond’s VFLW list, Jacques took her opportunity at the elite level with both hands after being overlooked in her draft year. The tenacious midfielder may not have won bucketloads of the ball, but contributed around the contest with her fierce defensive work to keep the Tigers in the hunt. The 19-year-old led her side for tackles (32), and looked comfortable in her debut top flight season with a good base to now improve upon.

SURPRISE PACKET:

Grace Campbell (12.4 disposals, 5.6 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 2 inside 50s)

Yes, another who represented the Tigers at VFLW level. Campbell more than justified her berth in the AFLW squad and captured fans’ attention with a spirited Round 2 debut against Gold Coast. Thrust straight into the midfield, Campbell’s speed and courage at stoppages made her an instant hit and while she may still possess very raw skills, has plenty of time to improve upon a promising first year at just 24 years of age. Another who can work both ways, and works hard.

Others who have stood out: Christina Bernardi, Sabrina Frederick, Sophie Molan

An odd combination of players among the others to have stood out, with big-name recruits Bernardi and Frederick showing glimpses of their outstanding best, while prize draftee Molan had a solid debut campaign. Frederick could arguably have been in the top five performers group on the back of a three-goal season where she led the club for contested marks, but perhaps did not deliver on lofty standards set. Bernardi was a touch unlucky throughout the season in front of goal and had limited opportunities as a permanent forward, but definitely had more expected of her – especially after the first two rounds. Molan, as diligent a worker as any draftee, worked into her first taste of elite senior football well, applying good work at the contest to round out the group.

Q&A: Jorja Guyatt (Aspley/Queensland)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last week, we head back to the preseason a few weeks earlier where we chatted to a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Taylah Melki chatted with Queensland’s Jorja Guyatt at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

TM: How did you get into footy?

JG: I got into footy in high school. these Auskick coaches came to my school and watched me train and they were like ‘yeah you should come down and play’ so I was like ‘why not?’. So I did and I just loved it, so I kept playing.

What is it you love about footy?

“Probably just meeting new people. “The amount of new people that you meet, we have the same interests so we get along so well.”

Is there a particular area that you think you’re really strong at when it comes to footy?

“I think the running aspect, I just like running.”

Did you do athletics when you were younger?

“Yeah I did triathlons actually. “So the endurance, got used to it easy.”

How have you found that transition from triathlons to footy now?

“It’s pretty good. “Because I didn’t realise how much running you do in AFL so I got there and … because on TV the oval looks so much smaller and you get there and you’re like oh my God it’s actually massive. “I found that pretty easy, so that was good.”

Is there a particular spot you like on the field more than others?

“I love the wing the most.”

Is there a particular area you’re hoping to improve on this year?

“Just my defense. “My tackling and stuff because I’m not the best at it.”

How’s the preseason going for you?

“Yeah preseason’s good. “I’ve got shin splints. “I just got back from shin splints so I haven’t been able to run for a while, but hopefully get back into it.”

How’s that recovery process been?

“It’s annoying watching people train and I can’t. “Because I can’t do anything, but being on the bike so getting back into it is pretty good.”

What are you hoping to get out of this year?

“Maybe getting to the draft, but not sure yet. “Dream big.”

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Murray Bushrangers

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Murray Bushrangers, who despite losing the first round match to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points, bounced back to weather a huge number of inside 50s and draw with Western Jets.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points
R2: drew with Western Jets
R3: Bye.

They came away from the first two rounds with a couple of points, but the improvement from the first week to the second was noticeable, and the Bushrangers would have liked to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season. They put together an even team effort and we have highlighted a number of players who stood out throughout the matches.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Mikayla Jones (12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, 2.5 tackles, 4.5 inside 50s)

The top ball winner across the matches, Jones was impressive in the midfield, averaging the 12.5 disposals and 4.5 inside 50s to ensure her team could get service in the forward line. She worked hard across the ground to win the ball and feed it forward, and while many of her teammates were on the defensive end getting it to midfield, Jones was the leading player getting it inside 50.

Grace Hay (11.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 4.5 rebounds)

Had a best on ground performance in Round 2 against Western Jets with a remarkable defensive effort deep in defence. In just her second game with the Bushrangers, Hay had 19 disposals, seven marks and eight rebounds in a huge effort to defend the continual forward thrusts by the Jets. She is still a bottom-ager with two years left in the pathway, but that did not stop her influence so far, recording 11.5 disposals, 4.0 marks and 4.5 rebounds from her two games.

Kate Adams (12.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

The clever forward showed she can play just about anywhere on the ground, winning the ball through midfield and also playing in defence at times to assist her teammates. She managed to get on the scoreboard herself with a major, but it was her work up the ground, and particularly her defensive running that stood out across the games as her versatility was a real highlight in season 2020.

Ally Morphett (7.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 13.5 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

In the absence of Olivia Barber in Round 2, Morphett became the leading tall on the ground as the other key position AFL Women’s National Academy member for the Bushrangers. Playing predominantly through the ruck, Morphett had the 15 hitouts on the day, and averaged 13.5 for the season thus far, using her strength and size to get it down to her midfielders. Still a middle-ager, Morphett has another season to perfect her ruck craft and spend more time forward as well.

Zali Spencer (11.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 1.5 hitouts, 3.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

A really consistent player across the two games and deserving of a spot in the five. While there could have been a number of players to slot in here, her performance, particularly in the second game, was quite impressive and she finished with an average of 11 disposals, three tackles and two rebounds. Able to play through the midfield or drift around the ground, Spencer certainly contributed in the shorter season and was a great team player.

Others who have stood out: Keeley Skepper, Mindy Quade, Lily Sharp, Olivia Barber

As one of the most impressive bottom-agers in the crop, Skepper followed on from her strong performance at the Under 16 Championships match against Vic Metro last season with a strong start to the season. She still has two more years in the system and will be one to watch over that time, while defender, Quade was relentless in the back 50 picking up eight rebounds in Round 1, while Sharp was fierce at the contest and in close. Barber only played the one game but was worth mentioning because of her impact, booting a goal and making the most of her starved opportunities with seven touches and three marks.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: GWV Rebels

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to remain undefeated in 2020, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, who had a bye in Round 2 but beat otherwise undefeated sides, Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets in the other rounds.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Sandringham Dragons by 5 points
R2: Bye
R3: defeated Western Jets by 25 points

It was a promising start to the season for the Rebels who looked like one of the big improvers for season 2020. While it has been postponed without certainty of any further action, there were plenty of highlights for the Ballarat-based side with a number of impressive players already standing up and making their presence felt.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Maggie Caris (11.5 disposals, 0.5 marks, 29.0 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s)

The competition’s leading ruck prospect lived up to expectations in the opening two rounds, dominating against two of the smaller ruck groups in the NAB League Girls. She was impressive around the stoppages against the Dragons in Round 1, then was a huge influence in the victory against the Jets in Round 2. So far this season she averages 11.5 disposals, 29 hitouts and three inside 50s per game. Also a talented netballer, Caris is one who hoped to join sister, Geelong’s Rene in the AFL Women’s.

Lilli Condon (14.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 6.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 1 goal)

The tenacious midfielder just seemed to be everywhere in the opening two rounds and would have been the Rebels’ best small accumulative across the contests. She averaged almost 15 touches a game, but racked up six inside 50s and four tackles per match, as well as getting on the scoreboard for her troubles with a major too. The middle-ager packs plenty of punch and has a year left having already played seven games as a bottom-ager last year. Despite standing at 154cm, she is not afraid to match it with taller opponents.

Renee Saulitis (12.0 disposals, 2.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 2 goals)

The AFL Women’s National Academy member won the opening round’s match off her own boot with an inspired last term, getting to the right positions and slotting two majors, while still having influence around the ground. With an ability to play anywhere on the ground, Saulitis has lovely skills and is most damaging close to goal. If the wind-swept Mars Stadium had been a little kinder to forwards, she could have been right up there with the leading goalkickers despite playing one less game, finishing with four behinds.

Nyakoat Dojiok (11.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

The daring speedster does not need many possessions to have an impact, and she certainly did that in the opening two rounds. She often starts at half-back but can burst away and not only get the ball clear from the defensive 50, but also get it inside 50 as well. She is hard to stop when running at full stride, and picking up 11 disposals per game and an even balance of inside 50s and rebounds shows how she has a capacity to play on the wing and use her outside gifts to hurt the opposition.

Crystal Summers (9.0 disposals, 3.0 marks, 2.0 tackles, 3.0 rebounds)

Having an impressive opening round match where she was named best on ground for her efforts, Summers was tireless out of the back half and continually drove the ball from the danger zone. With more structure in the Round 3 game, Summers might have had less to do, but still had plenty of influence on the contest from defence, and she finished the two games averaging nine touches, three marks, two tackles and three rebounds. One of the Rebels’ top-agers who led by example.

Others who have stood out: Alice Astbury, Ella Friend, Paige Scott, Chloe Leonard

Astbury and Friend could well have been in the top group after their amazing second game teaming up and dominating in the forward half. Given the season only included the two games, only those who played both made it in, but make no mistake these two were ultra-impressive. They combined for 34 disposals, seven marks, 12 inside 50s and three goals in a good day out. The likes of Scott and Leonard were just ever-consistent through that midfield and half-back respectively, and there were far from alone with half a dozen more players who were fairly even across the start of the season for the Rebels.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Gippsland Power

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, having been competitive in patches, but still losing both matches, Gippsland Power.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Geelong Falcons by 33 points
R2: Bye
R3: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 52 points

While the season has been cut short for the Power players, their first round loss to Geelong Falcons was brave outside the scoreboard. There were times where the Power was able to sustain the forward thrusts by the 2018 premiers, and have control themselves. A slow start against Sandringham cost the Power, but full credit to them winning the second half of that contest.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Matilda Van Berkel (16.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 27.5 hitouts, 4.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 2.5 rebounds)

The talented tall was the best Power player across the two games, thrust into the ruck duties due to injuries to other players, and not only did the key position player tick the required boxes, but she thrived. Van Berkel dominated the hitouts with 27.5 per game, and worked hard around the ground to provide a target for her teammates to finish with 16.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 4.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s and 2.5 rebounds. She was often the link in the chain between defence and offence and the fact the season ended early would be frustrating as she looked like one of the biggest improvers for her top-age season.

Megan Fitzsimon (19.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.0 tackles, 4.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 2 goals)

The sole Gippsland Power AFL Women’s National Academy member, Fitzsimon continued where she left off last season, and was okay in the first round before really taking control in Round 3. She was best afield for the Power in their loss to the Dragons, and in 2020 showed off her defensive pressure (six tackles per game) to go with his ball-winning abilities (19.5 disposals). Fitzsimon has also been able to get the ball forward with four inside 50s per game, as well as get on the end of a couple of majors with two goals to her name.

Grace McRae (15.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.5 tackles, 4.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

The tough inside midfielder thrives on the contested side of the game and showed signs in her middle-age last year before taking on a bigger role again in 2020. She averaged the 15.5 disposals and 6.5 tackles per game to kick off the season, and most importantly she works hard defensively to help out her teammates. In two games she averaged four rebounds a game, but also got forward to kick an important goal back in Round 1, which helped keep her team in the game.

Shanara Notman (12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, 1.0 hitouts, 2.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 3.5 rebounds)

After missing out on being drafted last year, Notman returned to the side as an overager and did not miss a beat, impressing in the opening round and being a terrific interceptor in the defensive 50. Injury curtailed her 2019 season, but did not stop her having a late impact and making the Vic Country squad where she played up the other end as a key forward, who could also float through the ruck. The talented tall was back inside defensive 50 to start the NAB League Girls season this year, where she averaged the 12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks and 3.5 rebounds, starring in the opening round of the season.

Leyla Berry (10.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 6.5 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 2.5 rebounds)

Having not played since her middle-age year back in 2018, another overager who showed her experience in the early stages of the season was Berry who helped out with the ruck duties. She averaged the 6.5 hitouts, but was often stationed off half-back where she can find the ball and run with it down the field. She gets to the right positions and averaged the 10 disposals and 2.5 rebounds per game as she was the fifth Gippsland Power player to find plenty of the ball in the opening rounds.

Others who have stood out: Holly Booth, Sunday Brisbane, Alexei Guy-Toogood, Lily-Rose Williamson

The Power have a lot of talented youngsters that could fit into this group, some of which have played in previous years and others that are coming through the program and are at NAB League Girls level for the first time. Booth had good experience last year playing six games, but has already doubled her ball-winning ability, playing in the back half of the ground and able to run through the midfield. Brisbane and Guy-Toogood are both smalls who never back down and win the ball with the former running along a wing and the latter deep in defence. Given all three are middle-agers, expect to see them again in 2021 if the rest of the season does not commence. The fourth player to raise is bottom-ager Williamson who shone through the V/Line Cup and was only allowed the one game last year, but is one to keep an eye on in the coming years as a high-potential player through that midfield, who will often come off half-back and use her speed and skill to advantage.

Milne keeps focus simple in top-age year

AS part of our special Queensland series, we take a focus on Yeronga South Brisbane player, Kayla Milne. The top-age talent is a member of the Brisbane Lions Academy and tested at the Queensland preseason testing day last month. Speaking with Draft Central’s Taylah Melki, the 17-year-old spoke about her journey and her dreams for the future.

“My little sister, she started playing four years ago,” Milne said of her football beginnings. “I liked the look of it, so I decided to start playing.”

When asked about what it was that kept her in the sport, Milne’s answer was clear.

“Just making new friends and hanging around people, well new people,” she said. “I just love it.”

Milne makes the drive from north of Brisbane down to Yeronga where she represents the Yeronga South Brisbane Devils in the Queensland Australian Football League Women’s (QAFLW) competition. In 2019, Milne played two games for the Development side, named in the best on both occasions, and then stood up in three games for the senior side. Unfortunately a promising start to the 2020 season was ultimately cut short when Milne made just one appearance before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the AFL to suspend all football competitions across the nation.

Milne had initially set herself straightforward goals of getting fit and making the Queensland state team. She did not have a particular area of strength or improvement, but just hoped to keep building her game throughout the year, and making the state team would mean she had achieved plenty in 2020. For her, making the state team would mean “a lot”.

“I’d love it, it would be so good,” Milne said. “That’s just what I’m aiming for.”

Her dedication to her craft is obvious with her commute to train and play for the club she loves. Having to manage training throughout the week, Milne admits it can be difficult at times.

“I play for Yeronga, which is in the city,” she said. “So I travel probably about 50 minutes to get to there, and then from Coorparoo it takes me like 45. “So I train four days a week and I train in the city most of the time. “Yeah it is pretty hard especially with school and work, so I don’t really have much time to myself. “But yeah, it’s worth it.”

Much like every other aspiring elite level footballer, Milne might not be able to get out on the park at this stage, but no doubt once the leagues get the green light, she will be back out there striving to achieve her goals.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Geelong Falcons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, splitting their results with a win and a loss, Geelong Falcons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points
R2: lost to Northern Knights by 25 points
R3: Bye

Much like Eastern Ranges in our most recent team review, Geelong Falcons have only played the two games for one win and one loss. There are plenty of positives to take out of the 2020 season so far and a number of impressive players for the 2018 premiers who had a middle and bottom-age heavy list.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Laura Gardiner (34.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 11.5 tackles, 5.0 inside 50s, 3.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

Far and away the dominant ball winner in the NAB League Girls competition, Gardiner racked up more than 30 disposals twice and averaged 34.5 per game from her two matches. She was strong on the inside with a league-leading 11.5 tackles per game as well, along with five inside 50s and three rebounds in really impressive start to the season. It would have been great to see how far she could have gone this season with a full few months of action.

Darcy Moloney (26.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds)

Forming a damaging duo with Gardiner in the midfield, Moloney had her own impressive numbers to start the year, working hard on the outside for an average of 26.5 disposals per game. She also laid almost four tackles and managed to win the ball in all thirds of the ground. Predominantly she used her clean hands to open up space with teammates, or take the game on and force an opposition player to approach her in order to release a teammate going forward.

Poppy Schaap (18.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

The tenacious small just never gives in and puts out a four quarter performance. Whether or not it’s in-and-under through midfield or locking the ball inside forward 50, her teammates can rely on Schaap to give it her all throughout the match. She averaged 18 touches in her own right and provides that experience to a young list alongside her Vic Country capped teammates. Loves the contest and just a huge work rate.

Annie Lee (12.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 4.5 rebounds)

Speaking of younger prospects, Lee still has another year to perform in the competition and was already showing promising signs of improvement after three games last season. She had a ripping game in the Round 2 loss to Northern Knights, and has averaged 4.5 rebounds from 12.5 disposals – predominantly kicks – playing a key role in Geelong’s defence this season.

Carly Remmos (15.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 5.0 tackles, 1.5 inside 50s, 1 goal)

It is a frustrating time for most, but certainly for the top-ager who came into the program with an elite basketball background. Remmos did not look out of place in a midfield with a lot more experience around her, and she finished the two games averaging 15 touches and five tackles a game. Remmos even got to celebrate a goal prior to the season being cancelled, and no doubt her talent across both sports will see her continue to improve regardless of where she ends up playing.

Others who have stood out: Mia Van Dyke, Keeley Hardingham, Ashleigh Van Loon, Elizabeth Dowling

The Falcons always have good depth and 2020 is no exception with a lot of young stars coming through the group. Hardingham held up well in the ruck, averaging 13 touches, 10 hitouts and five tackles, while Van Dyke is a highly rated prospect who excelled in the V/Line Cup and remarkably only turned 15 on the third-last day of 2019. Throw in Dowling who is a strong mark leading out of the forward 50 and can rotate through midfield, and Van Loon who along with Dowling combined for 14.5 tackles, while running hard between the arcs.

2020 AFL Women’s season review

UNPRECEDENTED is what the fourth edition of AFL Women’s was in every sense, with the skill level and fanfare growing, but uncharted circumstances cutting the season short – twice. While we may only have been graced with six of the scheduled eight regular season rounds and one exhilarating week of finals, there is plenty to unpack from what was a truly special chapter in the women’s footy story. We bring you all the key stats and winners, the highs and lows of each teams’ season, and the leading candidates for the premiership, MVP and Rising Star awards in our 2020 season recap.

CONFERENCE LADDERS

Conference A

1st – North Melbourne (5-1, 227%)
2nd – GWS GIANTS (4-2, 123%)
3rd – Brisbane (3-2-1, 107%)
4th – Gold Coast SUNS (2-3-1, 101%)
5th – Geelong (2-4, 81%)
6th – Adelaide (2-4, 80%)
7th – Richmond (0-6, 36%)

Conference B

1st – Fremantle (6-0, 155%)
2nd – Carlton (5-1, 152%)
3rd – Melbourne (4-2, 165%)
4th – Collingwood (4-2, 154%)
5th – St Kilda (2-4, 91%)
6th – Western Bulldogs (1-5, 73%)
7th – West Coast (1-5, 32%)

Combined

1st – Fremantle
2nd – North Melbourne
3rd – Carlton
4th – Melbourne
5th – Collingwood
6th – GWS GIANTS
7th – Brisbane
8th – Gold Coast SUNS
9th – St Kilda
10th – Geelong
11th – Adelaide
12th – Western Bulldogs
13th – West Coast
14th – Richmond

FINALS RESULTS

North Melbourne 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.4 (34)
def.
Collingwood 1.0 | 4.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 (32)

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
def. by
Melbourne 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

Fremantle 2.3 | 5.5 | 8.6 | 12.8 (80)
def.
Gold Coast 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10)

Carlton 1.0 | 2.2 | 4.6 | 6.8 (44)
def.
Brisbane 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)

STATS LEADERS

Disposals:

Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 156
Anne Hatchard (Adelaide) 152
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 149
Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 149
Madison Prespakis (Carlton) 149

Marks:

Chloe Molloy (Collingwood) 32
Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) 32
Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) 31
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 31
Kerryn Harrington (Carlton) 31

Tackles:

Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 99
Katie-Jayne Grieve (Fremantle) 51
Jacqui Yorston (Gold Coast) 48
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 47
Brittany Tully (GWS) 46

Goals:

Sabreena Duffy (Fremantle) 12
Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda) 10
Jesse Wardlaw (Brisbane) 9
Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne) 9
Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast) 9

Inside 50s:

Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 32
Emma Kearney (North Melbourne) 29
Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) 29
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 27
Hayley Miller & Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 25

Rebound 50s:

Phoebe Monahan (Richmond) 41
Stacey Livingstone (Collingwood) 29
Lauren Aherns (Gold Coast) 24
Jade Pregelj (Gold Coast) 24
Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) 23

Clearances:

Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 39
Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 32
Emma Swanson (West Coast) 30
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 30
Olivia Purcell (Geelong) 30
Madison Prespakis (Carlton) 30

Hitouts:

Lauren Bella (Gold Coast) 130
Sharni Layton (Collingwood) 120
Breann Moody (Carlton) 117
Mim Strom (Fremantle) 114
Jessy Keeffe (Brisbane) 114

ROUND-BY-ROUND HIGHLIGHTS

Round 1: Dees take out the premiership fancy

Round 2: SUNS shine for historic opening win

Round 3: First-ever Q-clash delivers a thriller

Round 4: Carlton’s vengeance in grand final rematch

Round 5: Dockers take out Lions to remain undefeated

Round 6: Bulldogs bring it to Freo in instant classic

Semi Finals: Mithen’s maiden goals save Dees from finals hell

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

Adelaide: The successful return of Erin Phillips

Brisbane: Going nowhere – knocking off the Crows in Round 1

Carlton: Delivering a baptism of fire for Richmond

Collingwood: Nabbing its first-ever win over Carlton after four tries

Fremantle: The barnstorming Round 6 win over the Western Bulldogs

Geelong: Pipping Richmond in a shootout for its opening win

Gold Coast: Picking up its first set of AFLW premiership points at home, Round 2

GWS: Knocking off the reigning premiers away from home

Melbourne: A spirited finals victory against all odds, off the boot of Lily Mithen

North Melbourne: Holding on for its maiden finals victory against the Magpies

Richmond: Marquee recruit Sabrina Frederick boots the club’s first goal

St Kilda: Beating-out the more experienced Melbourne for its maiden AFLW win

West Coast: Kicking its highest total to knock over the Dogs in a thriller

Western Bulldogs: The emergence of their young stars

TEAM LOWLIGHTS

Adelaide: Injuries plaguing a rather lacklustre premiership defence, never got going

Brisbane: Running out of legs – finishing with four-straight losses

Carlton: Losing to the old enemy for the first time in history

Collingwood: The heartbreaking knee injury to Ash Brazill

Fremantle: Being stripped of the chance to go undefeated throughout a whole season

Geelong: Nina Morrison’s second ACL injury in as many seasons

Gold Coast: A dismal finals showing

GWS: Getting pipped at the post on home turf come finals time

Melbourne: Going down to an expansion team in Round 3, and a spate of injuries

North Melbourne: The Round 1 hiccup, could have been disastrous

Richmond: Six losses by over 20 points, take your pick

St Kilda: Throwing away what would have been a huge win over Fremantle

West Coast: Setting the record for the lowest-ever AFLW score (later beaten)

Western Bulldogs: Being beaten by West Coast in a streak of five losses

MVP CANDIDATES

Seldom do midfielders miss out on this kind of award, and the candidates for season 2020 prove no different. With that being the case, midfielders with a difference have garnered the centre of attention in this debate of late – those who can find the goals, have big tackle numbers, penetrate each arc, or dominate the clearances. Each of the six names put forward have extra strings to their bow, making them the standouts for season 2020.

Kiara Bowers – At the heart of Fremantle’s success this year was Bowers, a seasoned ball winner who is as tough as they come. The Dockers midfielder was impactful going both ways; getting her hands on the ball for a club-high 123 disposals (17.6 average), as well as a record-breaking 99 tackles (14.1 average) to show her dominance on the defensive end. Given her impact around the ball and Fremantle’s unbeaten run, it is hard to see her not featuring in the votes for most games.

Jasmine Garner – This was a true breakout year for Garner, who took her game to the next level on the back of an improved running game. Moving further afield into midfield, Garner was able to rip games apart with her knack of finding the ball, combined with shrewd timing in her forward movement to also find the goals. She was second in the league for score involvements (32) and first in marks (32), showing her impact around the ground.

Jaimee Lambert – Has a case for being the best player in the competition right now, and is again a player who just keeps on getting better. Lambert was dominant in every sense of the word, possessing an unmatched ability to find the ball at the contest (league-high 156 disposals, 84 contested), while also providing a source of inspiration going forward with a club-high 29 score involvements and 32 inside 50s. Lambert stood up when it mattered this season, and was near-unstoppable in full flight.

Karen Paxman – Having taken over as Melbourne’s prime ball winner in the absence of Daisy Pearce last year, Paxman continued to stake her claim as the competition’s premier clearance player in this campaign. In proving as much, Paxman collected a league-high 39 clearances, and was equal-third for disposals (149, 21.3 average) as the fuel for the Dee’s engine room. Her prominance in Melbourne’s four wins makes her a strong candidate, without the fanfare of others.

Madison Prespakis – The 2019 Rising Star winner is an out-and-out superstar in just her second season, and continued to build on her already impressive resume. Prespakis continually put her side on her back at the important moments, stamping her status as the Blues’ prime ball winner despite resisting heavy tags most weeks. The nuggety midfielder led her club in a range of key stats, and also found the goals on three occasions.

Others to consider – Alyce Parker, Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, Emily Bates, Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell

RISING STAR CANDIDATES

Grace Egan – Richmond would be kicking themselves for not matching the Blues’ bid for Egan at last year’s draft, with the physical midfielder going on to have a stellar debut season. Egan instantly became a key part of Carlton’s midfield, winning the ball with ease and going hard at it. Earned her nomination in Round 4 with 18 disposals, six marks and four tackles in Carlton’s big win over Adelaide.

Caitlin Greiser – The ‘G-Train’ lit up Moorabbin in the Saints’ inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, comfortably leading their goalkicking with 10 majors across all six games. After a goalless debut, Greiser found the big sticks in every other outing, and earned her nomination on the back of two goals in St Kilda’s first-ever win – including an absolute boomer from around the 50m arc.

Isabel Huntington – In a surprise to many, Huntington had not yet earned a Rising Star nomination in her three years as a Bulldog, with the former number one pick still eligible for the award given the fact and her age. A reliable figure in the Dogs’ back five, Huntington returned a consistent campaign and earned her nomination in Round 6 with 15 disposals and six marks as the Dogs almost knocked off Fremantle.

THE PREMIERSHIP GOES TO…?

Could’ve – Despite Fremantle being the only undefeated side, Carlton and North Melbourne could have argued a strong case for taking out the premiership, and were due to clash in the preliminary finals. Both holding 5-1 regular season records, the Blues and Roos overcame early-season hiccups to prove themselves as contenders. And let’s not forget Melbourne, who snuck into the second week of finals and could have produced anything after a daring escape against GWS. But given Carlton’s form, adaptability, finals experience, and dominance around the ball, they are this year’s ‘could’ve’.

Should’ve – Fremantle is the obvious candidate here given it was the only undefeated side left and topped the overall ladder. In trumping all-comers, the Dockers proved they were the competition’s benchmark, and were capable of knocking off the best the league had to offer. Case-in-point – beating the Lions in a top-of-the-conferences clash. If there was to be a winner, it should’ve been Fremantle.

Would’ve – Again, it is easy to go with Fremantle as the ‘would’ve’ been winner given its unmatched record, but how the teams would’ve matched up is something we will never know. Fremantle did not play against Melbourne, North Melbourne, or Carlton during the regular season, leaving it as an unknown. North Melbourne’s status as premiership fancy coming into the year would’ve put it in good stead, while Carlton’s defensive counter to Fremantle’s attack would have been interesting to see. Another preliminary final loss to Melbourne could also have been on the cards for the Dockers, too, so it is anyone’s guess as to which team would’ve won. May we find out next year.