Category: Womens

WAFLW wrap – Semi-finals: Peel Thunder books automatic WAFLW Grand Final spot, as Subiaco tames Tigers

REIGNING premiers Peel Thunder are one win away from back-to-back flags, defeating minor premiers Swan Districts for the second time in three weeks to book an automatic spot in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s Grand Final. The Thunder earned themselves a week off with a hard-fought win in the torrential rain, defeating an inaccurate Swans outfit, 2.4 (16) to 0.11 (11).

Despite the Swans having far more chances on goal reflected by their 11 straight behinds, they could not seem to split the big sticks, through a combination of inaccuracy from set shots, and some desperate defending on the last line by the Peel backline. Three Swans players kicked multiple behinds on their way to the narrow defeat, though they were always in with a shot, only going down by a kick in the end.

Demi Liddle was absolutely sensational on the last line for Peel, saving numerous scoring chances, starting with a big tackle on Taylah Edwards in the opening 90 seconds of the match to force a behind. As the rain poured down, Peel started to have a few repeat forward entries, and whilst Ella Roberts‘ flying shot was off target, the teenager was able to weight a handball perfectly to Katie-Jayne Grieve in the final minute of the term to put through the first goal of the game.

Moments later Grieve had a chance, but strong defender Lauren Osborne was up to the task to put enough pressure on her opponent to force a missed kick and only a behind. Peel dominated the majority of the opening term, but only had a seven-point lead to show for it, with the rain causing all sorts of havoc. Ebony Bilcich and Kira Phillips were both looking dangerous in the forward half of the ground, but the likes of Osborne and Swans captain Emily McGuire were holding up the fort well.

Young defender Mel Hardy almost had a moment to forget early in the second term with the usually reliable ball user opting to kick across goal but mis-hitting the pass and landing in the goalsquare with the dangerous Phillips. Not realising she had more time, Phillips tried to quickly soccer off the ground but missed, much to the relief of the home team. Peel was doing all the attacking early, but the likes of Jaime Henry were standing up under pressure, as the teenager took a great mark in the defensive goalsquare.

Swans then took control of the momentum with repeat forward thrusts, kicking three behinds for the game, with a number of chances – such as Nyra Anderson‘s set shot and Kloe Taylor‘s running attempt – falling short with Phillips working hard to be up the other end with a strong, safe grab on the last line. At half-time, the sole goal to Grieve had the Thunder up by just five points, 1.3 (9) to 0.4 (4).

The third term saw chance after chance go begging for the top of the table side, as they slotted six behinds in some atrocious conditions. The Swans picked the worst quarter to have all the momentum, with the rain pouring down and making any sort of clean chances hard to come by. Sarah Wielstra had a couple of shots on goal early but could not find the big sticks, with the usually-reliable Dana East on the run also missing, and even McGuire, who is one of the safest kicks in the competition, drifted her set shot to the left.

As the rain bucketed down, Aisha Wright had a chance but missed to the left and was rushed through, to give Peel an important two-point buffer. Swans continued to have repeat entries, with the Thunder almost taking full advantage of a rare inside 50, but Aimee Ralph was able to save the day with a vital mark in front of Phillips with two and a half minutes on the clock. Stribley had the final shot of the day, running into goal and was tackled in the back right on the siren, allowing the bottom-ager to have a shot after the siren. Her set shot – like so many of her teammates – drifted for a behind, but the Swans had somehow levelled the scores at the final break despite not kicking a goal.

If anyone was wondering if the Swans could win the game off not kicking a goal, then the curiosity kicked up a notch early in the final term. Liddle was unbelievable on the last line, clearing it from danger, but then required to dive with desperation. East had a flying shot, Mikayla Hyde kicked off the ground, but a terrific defensive effort from Liddle to touch the ball saw it rushed through. Regardless, the unthinkable had happened, Swan Districts lead early in the last without kicking a goal, 0.11 (11) to 1.4 (10).

The final term was mostly an arm wrestle, with Kate Bartlett almost hitting a low bullet to a couple of free teammates inside the goalsquare, but a desperate Henry managed to get in the way and stop a certain goal. Steph Cain had a flying shot towards goal up the other end, but another terrific defensive effort – this time from Greta McKinley – saved the day. McKinley not only got a fist on a bouncing ball towards goal, but put it out of bounds to avoid the deficit going to two points.

Then the moment came. Peel had been bravely defending for the majority of the final term, and the quick ball movement from one end to the other saw a clash of bodies inside 50. Bartlett was on the deck, copped a high whack and made sure the umpire saw it, awarding the competition’s leading goalkicker with a set shot in front of goal. Becoming the first person in the match to split the big sticks from a set shot, Bartlett’s attempt made everyone else look silly as she popped it through and kicked what would be the match-winner for her side with six minutes left on the clock.

The Swans desperately tried getting it forward in the final few minutes, with Stribley trying to run inside 50 but was mowed down by fellow State Academy member Jaide Britton, then a quick passage of play forward by the Swans was intercepted by Cassie Davidson in defence. She along with Liddle had been outstanding, and despite the ball being in the Swans forward half when the siren sounded, Peel had done enough to secure the narrow five-point win and book a spot in the grand final, 2.4 (16) to 0.11 (11).

Eliza Gelmi had done well with Osborne and McGuire in defence, with Bianca Webb, Cain and Stribley all named amongst the best. For the Thunder, Liddle and Davidson were outstanding, with Sabreena Duffy and Chloe Wrigley winning plenty of it through the middle, and Bilcich having some terrific plays in the match. Now the Thunder get a well-earned break before playing at home against the winner of Swan Districts and Subiaco.

SWAN DISTRICTS 0.1 | 0.4 | 0.10 | 0.11 (11)
PEEL THUNDER 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Swan Districts: Nil.
Peel Thunder: K. Grieve, K. Bartlett.

DC BEST:

Swan Districts: L. Osborne, E. Gelmi, S. Cain, T. Stribley, B. Webb
Peel Thunder: D. Liddle, C. Wrigley, S. Duffy, C. Davidson, E. Bilcich

In the do-or-die semi-final, Subiaco held off a determined Claremont by three points in equally wet conditions to remain in contention for the 2021 WAFL Women’s title. The Lions had all the momentum in the first term but could only slot five behinds, as Claremont kicked two of the next three goals to lead by four points at the final break. A late major via a free kick for front-on contact to Amy Hunt handed the Lions the goal they needed, to ensure they won 2.6 (18) to 2.3 (15).

The first quarter was really scrappy but dominated by Subiaco, who did not let it inside the Claremont forward 50 for the majority of the term. There were various shots on goal, but Hayley Miller and Lara Filocamo had the best chances, with the latter after the siren hitting the post to make it five straight behinds for the visitors.

AFL Women’s Academy young gun Amy Franklin kicked the first goal of the game in a stunning against-the-momentum play with a rare inside 50 for the Tigers and beating her opponent one-on-one to win the ball and run into the open goalsquare just two and a half minutes into the game. The sun was back out shining making life a little easier for the players, but Subiaco could still not find the range with Hunt winning a free kick, giving it off to the usually deadly McKenzie Dowrick but her flying shot went out on the full.

Jess Low and Maggie MacLachlan were dominating for their respective sides, and it took a quick kick where luck’s a fortune for Kate Pocsidio to hit-up a sliding Miller. She finally converted her side’s first goal of the contest, and the Lions took a four-point lead into the main break. Both sides had chances late in the term, but the scores stood at 1.5 (11) to 1.1 (7) in favour of the visitors.

Early in the third it was clear the tables had turned in Claremont’s favour, as Low was having a brilliant day alongside midfield partner-in-crime Andie Payne. Tessa Doumanis had a chance from a snap but just skewed it under pressure, before Brooke Whyte and Mikayla Western had opportunities but could not convert. Finally it took some kicks forward in the wet for Amber Goodwin-Wissink to put one through the big sticks, not phased by being brought down, nailing the goal on the run and handing her side the lead midway through the term.

Emily Elkington and Western were getting their hands on the ball to complement Low and Payne, providing good run in forward transition. This time it was Claremont’s turn to have plenty of forward half possession, but make little from it, only kicking the 1.2 in the term. The Tigers did keep Subiaco scoreless in the term, with the respective Ortlepp‘s – Rachel and Claire – toiling hard up opposite ends. By the time the siren sounded, Claremont led by four points, 2.3 (15) to 1.5 (11).

For the most part the final term was a real battle, as Subiaco started strongly with some repeat entries, as the usually reliable Claremont defence was having clanger after clanger coming out of the back 50. They gave the Lions plenty of chances, and eventually the overwhelming pressure was rewarded. A one-on-one between Rachel Ortlepp and Hunt in the forward pocket saw Hunt bump Ortlepp off the ball, win it at ground level and her Claremont opponent desperate to win it back, crashed into her clumsily.

It handed Hunt what seemed like a near-impossible shot in the conditions, about 20m out on the boundary, but the forward made no mistake, popping it through like she was in the goalsquare and the Lions were back in front. Ella Smith was trying to will her side on in the game, with Payne and Low both productive, but Smith’s great tackle inside 50 and attempt to pass to Goodwin-Wissink 15m out was called back. Her shot to the square looked dangerous, but the safe hands of Jayme Harken ensured it did not cause any damage to the visitors.

Tackle after tackle from the Subiaco side really showed their determination late in the contest of what had been a hard slog. Claire Ortlepp mowed down Mhicca Carter, then Taylisha Brown caught Low, accidentally kicking it into the midfielder trying to return it to the field of play. A late intercept mark from Caitlin Walker, then the team defence of Subiaco to gain meterage out of the back 50 in the final minute, followed by a last second tackle by Jamie Rust, ensured the Lions fans went home happy, knowing they had reached a preliminary final.

CLAREMONT 0.0 | 1.1 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)
SUBIACO 0.5 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 2.6 (18)

GOALS:

Claremont: A. Franklin, A. Goodwin-Wissink.
Subiaco: H. Miller, A. Hunt.

BEST:

Claremont: J. Low, R. Ortlepp, M. Western, E. Smith, A. Payne
Subiaco: A. Hunt, H. Miller, J. Rust, J. Harken, M. MacLachlan

 

Picture credit: Total Sports Photography via Peel Thunder

2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Defenders

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. Next up is tall and medium defenders, where the defender position is the more prevalent area for utilities and we have just looked at those above 160cm. Some defenders who are considered utilities will be in other AFLW Draft Positional Analysis. All opinions are of the individual author.

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Forwards

#1 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Kicking, marking, courage, footy IQ

A really smart player who knows the game well and reads the play behind the ball, Anthony was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as a bottom-age talent last year. She showed why through an outstanding yet interrupted season, copping a couple of concussions – including in Vic Country’s win over South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – to still perform at a high level. She won Vic Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and proved through her actions to be an incredibly courageous player. Whilst standing at 166cm, Anthony is not afraid to go up in the marking contest and bring the ball down, and when she does have ball-in-hand, her kicking is outstanding. A talent who teammates can trust with ball-in-hand, and she has spent time up forward as well at times, kicking a goal in the Stingrays’ loss to the Geelong Falcons in finals.

>> Jaide Anthony VFLW Player Focus

#2 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)
12/04/2003 | 170cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Aerial ability, reading the play, kicking, footy IQ

The clever AFL Women’s Academy member is a Brisbane Lions Academy aligned player who has been a reliable talent in defence. Having also showed her wares in the midfield at times, Harmer predominantly is utilised as a rebounding defender who wins her own ball through intercepting opposition forward thrusts. Against Vic Country, Harmer had 15 disposals, five marks and five tackles, one of the shining lights in a big loss for the Sunshine State. Hoping to improve her ground ball work given her ability in the air, Harmer is a talent who knows how to position herself one-on-one in a contest, pull down the ball, then use it well coming out of defence to hit the long kick to an open target. She has the footy smarts to be able to make good decisions under pressure and knows when to go, or when to hold.

>> Maggie Harmer QAFLW Player Focus

#3 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/08/2003 | 169cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Marking, rebounding, consistency, composure

The reliable rebounding defender barely put a foot wrong all season and was a player her teammates could rely upon to use the ball well out of defence. Her strengths were clearly her intercept marking, where she latched onto 5.1 marks per game to go with 16.9 disposals and 4.5 rebound 50s. Already she has managed the two games at VFLW level, and was outstanding for Vic Country in her three games, holding up the fort in defence well and providing some good rebound with almost five rebound 50s per game there. At 169cm she can play against tall or small opponents because she reads the ball well in flight and shows good composure when with it. As a whole, Lee just ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what she is capable of doing.

#4 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
07/01/2003 | 175cm
Tall Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Speed, power, reading the play, intercepting

The running defender has some seriously eye-catching traits with her combination of acceleration and power making her hard to slow down when she is up and about. A traditional half-back, Dojiok can read the ball in flight with ease and float across contests to intercept, or drop into the hole when a high ball comes into defence. She knows where to stand when the play is headed towards her and her metres gained are massive compared to a lot of her contemporaries. She is often a get-and-go player, always looking to move on the ball, and whilst her kicking at times needs sharpening up, her development over the past few years at the Rebels has certainly improved and makes her one of the better intercept defenders going around.

#5 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg/South Australia)
19/09/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Athleticism, kicking, aggression, versatility

Having predominantly settled in at half-back, Tonon is a player who can realistically play anywhere on the field, as she did in her debut SANFL Women’s season last year. The Glenelg premiership players has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 12 months, and has a nice balance of offensive and defensive traits. She can win the ball in the back 50, use her speed and evasion to propel it in transition, and then also win it back from the opposition through fierce tackling. Tonon’s versatility is key to being able to slot into any role, but the way she is able to get into the right spots and be able to hit targets down the field is valuable. One of the South Australian talents who did her chances no harm at SANFL Women’s or AFLW Under 19s level, where she averaged 15.5 disposals, 3.5 tackles and 2.0 rebounds from her two games.

>> Brooke Tonon SANFLW Player Focus

#6 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
06/03/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Skills, composure, versatility, reading the play

A medium defender who runs off half-back, hits up targets and then roams along a wing, Vickers is a player with some great upside, and is another Oakleigh Chargers premiership player. She averaged the 13.5 disposals, 3.3 tackles and a well-balanced two inside 50s and rebound 50s per game, such was her ability to cover the ground. The Chargers did not see as much of it in their defence as other teams, so Vickers had to hold a high line at times and be that kick behind the ball ready to intercept. She is not a renowned marker, but she is one to receive the handball and go, and uses the ball well in transition. Still developing areas of her game, as an overall prospect Vickers has some great talent.

#7 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Medium Defender/Midfielder

Key strengths: Consistency, accumulation, work rate, tackling

As safe a player as you could find, Leonard’s 2021 season was consistency bonafide. She hardly put a foot wrong all year for the GWV Rebels, averaging 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks, 7.1 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s playing between half-back and through the middle. Possessing courage and a hard edge with a high work rate, Leonard kept cracking in for four quarters every game and was amongst her team’s best players regular. A 2002-born talent who missed out last year, Leonard certainly stepped up this season, and has already made her VFLW debut, and looked good out of defence for Vic Country with 4.7 rebound 50s to go with 14.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles.

#8 Elizabeth Dowling
31/07/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Defensive pressure, rebounding, aggression, reading the play

The Geelong Falcons defender has been a player who has progressed through the Falcons’ V/Line Cup program through to the Vic Country team and been a rock solid member in defence for a number of years now. In her Under 16s season, Dowling played nine games and showed plenty of potential, and has hardly missed a game since outside of Vic Country commitments, averaging around 11 disposals, four tackles and two rebounds per game. Not a huge marker, Dowling prefers to spoil and also win the ball one-on-one at ground level, or lay a strong tackle to wrap up the opponent or get it out to a teammate. She is able to use the ball consistently out of the back half, and is one who always puts her body on the line.

#9 Emily Bennett (Claremont/Western Australia)
26/12/2002 | 170cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Overhead marking, defensive pressure, rebounding, kicking

The Claremont rebounding defender might be a 2002-born player, but she only scrapes into the 19th year by five days. A traditional footballer who just does everything right, Bennett is strong overhead, good at ground level and provides both the defensive pressure and offensive run required of a half-back. She puts her body on the line, and when having the chance of disposing of it, will generally use it well, with a lovely long kick down the field. By her own admission, endurance was a key improvement for her this season, but her consistency and weight of numbers across the WAFL Women’s and then AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – where she averaged an eye-catching 16.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 5.3 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s – earned her a well-deserved AFLW Draft Combine invite this year.

>> Emily Bennett feature

#10 Grace Mulvahil
18/04/2003 | 172cm
Medium Defender/Utility

Key strengths: Kicking, acceleration, evasion, work rate

The Northern Territory talent has been a junior star in the NTFL Women’s competition, becoming the second youngest player to win the best on ground in the senior grand final last year. She also won the Rising Star award, and has been touted as a talent to watch for many years. Still developing and constantly getting better, Mulvahil’s standout trait is her kicking, able to pinpoint passes around the ground both under pressure and when in space. Her acceleration off the mark, and evasion makes her hard to stop, with a high work rate to boot. Standing at 172cm, Mulvahil is a good size to play as a half-back or even push up to the wing, but knows where the goals are too if thrown forward. She averaged the 10.5 disposals, 2.0 marks and 3.5 tackles at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, holding her own against stronger opponents and providing great run for the Allies.

OTHERS:

There are so many quality defenders it is hard to limit them down, with a plethora of West Australian talent that could easily squeeze into the top 10 such is the evenness of the group. Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, Peel Thunder’s Bella Mann and Beth Schilling and Claremont’s Matilda Dyke all provide various traits and defensive options of all sizes. In the key defensive slots, Northern Knights’ Tarrah Delgado and Eastern Ranges’ Cadhla Schmidli are other Victorian talents, with Queensland duo Christine Okesene and Giselle Davies providing the run and height respectively that could interest the Sunshine State clubs.

2021 VFLW Round 13 wrap: Saints grab sixth spot as Dogs drop to set up final round ultimatum

THE penultimate round of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition saw several sides ruled out of finals contention, and just two sides set to fight it out in separate Round 14 matches to determine the last finals spot.

HAWTHORN 0.0 | 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
GEELONG 1.5 | 3.6 | 4.6 | 4.8 (32)

Geelong Cats threw the gauntlet down to Port Melbourne with a hard-fought win over a plucky Hawthorn to put themselves in best position for a top two spot ahead of a top-of-the-table clash with Collingwood in the final week. The Cats looked to be on top early, but could not split the big sticks, slotting just one goal from six scoring shots in the opening term. They found their range after that to slot 3.1 over the next two quarters, but a three goals to one second half in favour of the home team had the Hawks come within a whisker of victory. It was not to be however as Geelong held on to win by six points, 4.8 (32) to 4.2 (26). The Geelong AFLW midfielders in Laura Gardiner (33 disposals, three marks, four tackles and a goal), Darcy Moloney (29 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) and Renee Garing (20 disposals, three marks and 10 tackles) all had big days out, while Jess Foley was named best-on for 16 touches, seven marks and three tackles. Annabel Johnson, Madeleine Boyd and Olivia Fuller were also named among the Cats best in the victory. For the Hawks, plenty of the young brigade stood up, with Eastern Ranges’ Isabelle Khoury named best-on for her 12 disposals and eight tackles, with Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae (12 disposals, four tackles) also among the best. In her penultimate game, Meg Hutchins led from the front with 20 disposals, four marks and six tackles, while Tamara Luke had 33 hitouts to go with 13 disposals, three marks and five tackles. Sarah Perkins slotted two goals, and Dominique Carbone and Jenna Richardson were also named amongst the best in the loss.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: S. Perkins 2, D. Carbone, E. Chaston.
Geelong: L. Gardiner, D. Moloney, P. Sheppard, J. Woollett.

BEST:

Hawthorn: I. Khoury, T. Luke, D. Carbone, J. Richardson, K. Hay, G. McRae
Geelong: J. Foley, M. Boyd, A. Johnson, O. Fuller, R. Garing, L. Gardiner

COLLINGWOOD 2.1 | 5.3 | 6.3 | 11.6 (72)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2 | 0.2 | 1.2 | 1.2 (8)

Collingwood has put a massive dint in the Western Bulldogs’ finals chances after a dominant 64-point thrashing at the Holden Centre on Saturday. The Bulldogs had patches where they contained the Magpies and even held possession in their forward half for long periods of time, but the ease with which the Magpies scored on transition – particularly after the Bulldogs had all the momentum – drove a dagger into red, white and blue hearts. Collingwood slotted five final quarter goals which ultimately saw them run out more than 10-goal winners, but the result was done and dusted by the final break, answering every challenge thrown at them, and then storming to a big win. Imogen Barnett did her AFLW Draft chances no harm with three first half goals to go with eight touches, five marks and passing off a couple of chances too. She teamed up well with Joanna Lin who won it all over the ground but slotted two goals from 12 touches and five marks. The Magpies had eight individual goalkicker in the big win, as Mikayla Cann (25 disposals, three marks and four tackles), Ebony O’Dea (18 disposals, two marks, four tackles and a goal) and Alana Porter (14 disposals) showed their AFLW experience. Matilda Zander was terrific in the black and white with 17 touches, four marks, four tackles and a goal, whilst Stella Reid made a promising VFLW debut with 13 disposals and two marks rotating between defence and midfield. For the Bulldogs, Sarah Hartwig (17 disposals, five marks) and Danielle Marshall (13 disposals, six marks and three tackles) did well out of defence, while Britney Gutknecht (13 disposals, two marks and seven tackles), Jess Fitzgerald (12 disposals, three tackles) and Isabelle Pritchard (13 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and one goal) found their fair share of the pill in the loss.

GOALS:

Collingwood: I. Barnett 3, J. Lin 2, C. Bunker, A. Newman, E. O’Dea, G. Ricardo, A. Velardo, M. Zanker.
Western Bulldogs: I. Pritchard.

BEST:

Collingwood: I. Barnett, A. Newman, E. O”Dea, M. Cann, M. Zander, S. Reid
Western Bulldogs: B. Gutknecht, J. Fitzgerald, A. Strahan, I. Pritchard, D. Marshall, S. Hartwig

WILLIAMSTOWN 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.2 (14)
ESSENDON 1.3 | 2.6 | 3.9 | 4.11 (35)

Essendon has booked its finals spot with a strong second half performance to see off a determined Williamstown. The Bombers only led by two points at quarter time and five points at the main break, but then had seven scoring shots (2.5) to one (0.1) to run out 4.11 (35) to 2.2 (14). Mia-Rae Clifford was the only multiple goal scorer in the match with a couple of majors, as Zali Friswell and Ruby Svarc both slotted one apiece. Georgia Nanscawen (20 disposals, 14 tackles) lead the way, with Courtney Ugle (18 disposals, two marks and four tackles) and Alana Barba (17 disposals, two marks and 11 tackles) both lively. Emelia Yassir impressed from the teenage talents with 13 disposals and seven tackles, while Tara Slender had six disposals, two marks and three tackles on debut. Eloise-Ashley Cooper, Cecilia McIntosh and Jessie Davies were also among the Bombers’ best in the win. Paige Naish was best-on for the Seagulls, booting a goal from 12 touches and two marks, while Ashlea Melnikas (14 disposals) and Lana King (12 disposals, two marks and 14 hitouts) were also amongst the best for the losers. In terms of top ball-winners, Erin Meade and Ruby Tripodi both finished with the 22 touches, while Aimee Whelan (19 touches, eight tackles) was also impressive.

GOALS:

Williamstown: P. Nash, E. Fox.
Essendon: M. Clifford 2, Z. Friswell, R. Svarc.

BEST:

Williamstown: P. Nash, A. Melnikas, L. King, S. Dunell, G. Biedenweg-Webster, R. Tripodi.
Essendon: A. Barba, C. Ugle, J. Davies, C. McIntosh, E. Ashley-Cooper, R. Svarc

CASEY DEMONS 3.3 | 4.3 | 7.4 | 9.6 (60)
DAREBIN 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Casey Demons locked up their finals place in emphatic style with a 53-point victory over last placed Darebin Falcons at home. The Demons had control at the main break with a 20-point lead, but a dominant 5.3 to 0.0 second half saw them run out big winners, 9.6 (60) to 1.1 (7). Imogen Milford kicked a couple of goals to keep in touch with Barnett at the top of the goalkicking leaderboard, whilst Jacqueline Parry also snagged a couple of majors as part of seven individual goalkickers. Meg Macdonald was named best afield for her 16 touches, three marks and three tackles for the Demons, as Eliza McNamara (22 disposals, three marks, three tackles and a goal), Eliza West (22 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and a goal) and Megan Fitzsimon (21 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and a goal) all impressed with big numbers and hitting the scoreboard. Kate Gillespie-Jones and Winnie Laing contributed in their first run for the Demons. For the Falcons, Northern Knights duo Trinity Mills (11 disposals, five marks and four tackles) and Mikayla Plunkett (10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were named as the best, whilst the experience of Nicole Callinan (17 disposals, five marks and three tackles) and Alyssa Mifsud (14 disposals, three tackles and five hitouts) shone through. Gena Lawson-Tavan (13 disposals, three marks and five tackles) was also solid in defence, whilst Lucy Schneider topped the match for disposals, with 23 as well as eight marks.

GOALS:

Casey: I. Milford 2, J. Parry 2, E. West, M. Fitzsimon, K. Gillespie-Jones, G. Colvin, E. McNamara.
Darebin: R. Hibbert.

BEST:

Casey: M. Macdonald, E. McNamara, M. Hogg, G. Colvin, A. Brown, K. Gillespie-Jones
Darebin: T. Mills, M. Plunkett, G. Lawson-Tavan, K. McNiece, K. Roe, N. Callinan

CARLTON 1.0 | 1.2 | 6.5 | 6.5 (41)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.0 | 4.3 | 4.3 | 7.5 (47)

Southern Saints have held off a fast-finishing Carlton side to kick away in the last term and give themselves pole position for a finals spot. The Saints needed a win to realistically have the best chance of making finals, and they did just that, pouncing on the Bulldogs’ loss to the Magpies to defeat the Blues by a goal and all but end the Blues’ chances. After the visitors booted four goals to one in the first half, Carlton slotted five goals in the third term to roar to a 14-point lead with a term to play. Just as the points looked to be headed the Blues’ way, the Saints kicked into gear in the final term, booting 3.2 to 0.0 to run over the top of the home team and win, 7.5 (47) to 6.5 (41). The AFL Women’s trio of Tyanna Smith (22 disposals, eight marks, six tackles and two goals), Alice Burke (18 disposals, four marks and eight tackles) and Jess Matin ( eight disposals, three marks, four tackles and two goals) wrecked havoc on the Blues, whilst Deanna Jolliffe (19 disposals, five marks and 12 tackles), Madison Capalis and Gabi De Angelis were also among the better players for the red, white and black. Lucy McEvoy was outstanding for the Blues with a team-high 21 disposals and seven tackles to lead the way for the home team, whilst Bry Gurr (15 disposals, three tackles) and Paige Trudgeon (14 disposals, four marks and seven tackles) were next best, and both Steph Lawrence and Jennifer Lew had 14 disposals, two marks and slotted two goals. Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin also played her best VFLW game with 10 touches and five tackles.

GOALS:

Carlton: J. Lew 2, S. Lawrence 2, M. Wilson, E. Wood.
Southern Saints: J. Matin 2, T. Smith 2, T. Bohanna, A. Peck, K. Ripari

BEST:

Carlton: L. McEvoy, P. Trudgeon, E. Honybun, A. Klingbeil, M. Chaplin, B. Gurr
Southern Saints: A. Burke, T. Smith, M. Capsalis, J. Matin, G. De Angelis, F. Hocking

PORT MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 8.7 (55)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 (12)

In the final match of the round, Port Melbourne snuffed out North Melbourne’s chances of making finals with a dominant 43-point win at ETU Stadium yesterday. At the same time, the Borough kept their hopes alive of finishing inside the top two and getting a double chance to take on Collingwood in the first week of finals, thanks to a five goals to zero final term. It was neck-and-neck for the most part, with the Roos understrength due to border restrictions and therefore missing a host of Tasmanian talents, but North kept the fight up for three quarter to be within 10 points at the final break, before the home team kicked away win the last with 5.1 to 0.0, to win 8.7 (55) to 2.0 (12). Sarah D’Arcy was sensational up forward with two goals from 17 disposals, seven marks and nine tackles, as Alice Edmonds (14 disposals, four marks, two tackles and 33 hitouts) and Claire Dyett (15 disposals, three marks, seven tackles and one goal) also impressed. On VFLW debut, Ellie McKenzie (14 disposals, four marks) and Brooke Vickers (13 disposals, two marks) both stood out, while Amanda Ling kicked a goal from 10 touches, three marks and four tackles, and Ash Richards had 11 disposals, four marks and a goal. For North, Meagan Kiely led from the front yet again with a ridiculous 34 disposals, seven marks and six tackles, matched by Airlie Runnalls who also had 34 touches, as well as eight marks and two tackles, Molly Eastman (27 disposals, seven marks) and Reni Hicks (22 disposals, three marks and 16 tackles) were ball magnets, while Alexia Hamilton (13 disposals, four marks, eight tackles and 12 hitous) and Laura Wright (seven disposals, four marks, two tackles and two goals) did their part for the Roos.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S D’Arcy 2, C. Dyett, A. Edmonds, A. Ling, L. McClelland, A. Richards, E. Wilson.
North Melbourne: L. Wright 2.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: A. Edmonds, C. Dyett, S. D’Arcy, B. Vickers, C. Bromage, O. Barton
North Melbourne: M. Kiely, R. Hicks, A. Hamilton, A. Runnalls, L. Wright, M. Eastman

Webster enjoying teamwork and physicality in footy

TASMANIAN Jemma Webster might be from a different sporting code to her now Australian rules football pathway, but it is not one you would expect – gymnastics. The former gymnast spent her childhood in the sport, then opted to transition into the oblong-shaped ball game and follow in the footsteps of her cousin, St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster.

“I was actually a gymnast for nine years then made the decision to go over to junior football at Claremont,” Webster said. “I played two years at junior level and then I made the transition to the state wide at Glenorchy and have played another two years there and now I’m in the state (team).”

Crossing from an individual sport like gymnastics, it was a change to be one small part of a big team, but something that Webster really enjoyed about football, along with the physicality that came packaged with the sport.

“The physicality is one of my main enjoyments of the game, especially coming from a gymnastics background, everything is different within the two sports but the teamwork as well,” Webster said. “Gymnastics is very individual sport so I love the enjoyment you get around the girls.”

Playing in a variety of roles, Webster said she is happy to slot in any of the three lines, but loves to run through the midfield or up forward. It helps with what she considers to be her strengths, which she named as her ground balls and contested work below the knees, as well as her ability to hit targets. As for her improvements, Webster said she was looking to improve her marking and confidence to be able to win more marks across the field.

Webster is one of a number of Tasmania Devils players who have come through the pathway, experienced the beltings on 2020 in the NAB League Girls, and come through the other side better for those losses. When asked what was the difference between the 2020 season and the incredible 2021 season – where they finished on top of the Vic Country/Tasmania pool, Webster said it was now former coach and Gold Coast Suns AFL Women’s senior coach Cameron Joyce.

“Our girls are very connected this season,” she said. “It’s hard because we’re in different states, but ‘Joycey’ really brought the team together and we had those Campbelltown sessions where we got to meet up and the connections I’ve built with the girls through this year have been amazing and something I’ll take along with me for the rest of my career.”

It is no surprise that Webster named her cousin Jimmy as her inspiration, and said he worked hard to reach the elite level, something she hopes to do long-term if it’s possible, but if not, then she just wants to develop into the best possible footballer she can and enjoy the ride that comes with it.

“I always wanted to play at the highest level I can, but just really enjoying the footy while I can,” Webster said.

Mann part of the Peel “family”

PEEL Thunder prospect Bella Mann is a talented multi-sport athlete. A former basketballer and netballer, the 17-year-old has taken to the Australian football code quickly after getting her introduction as a “fill in”.

“I started playing basketball and netball since I was little,” Mann said. “When I moved to Baldivis, my friends had a local footy team and they needed me to fill in, they were just one player short. So I went and filled in and I loved it.

“Especially coming from basketball and netball, I loved getting more aggression into it and stuff like that. “I played at Baldivis for a bit and then got picked up by Peel at the end of it.”

Now part of the Peel Thunder “family, Mann has taken quickly to senior football with aplomb. She has been a mainstay for the finals-bound Thunder, with her form enough to earn selection in Western Australia’s Under 19 squad. Within the two squads, she has been able to thrive in multiple roles and showcase a development of key traits.

“I’ve been thrown around a bit this year,” she said. “I played back, mid, forward. I was a mid at Baldivis but I think I’m starting to go down back a bit more now.

“One of my strengths would be my contested marking and tackling. I’m working on my fitness, that’s probably the major [improvement] for me.”

As the type who can play both tall and small in terms of roles, Mann proved a reliable interceptor across WA’s Under 19 defence. She looks towards an elite midfielder for inspiration though.

“Monique Conti from [Richmond],” she said. “She [played] basketball, she does it all as well. And she’s not just such a good player, she does so much for her club as well… she’s just a good person.”

With a terrific trail to follow, Mann is looking to simply be “the best footballer” she can, with landing at an AFLW club the ultimate goal.

WAFLW preview – Semi-Finals: Lions and Tigers battle to remain alive as Thunder and Swans face off for grand final spot

IT is finals time in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, with the final four teams remaining in the title race, and only three will be there by Sunday night. We preview the two huge clashes.

CLAREMONT vs. SUBIACO
Sunday, June 20 @1:30pm
Revo Fitness Stadium

It is do or die time for Claremont and Subiaco as the Tigers are back in the finals series after missing out in 2020. This year Claremont replaces East Fremantle in the final four, whilst Subiaco will hope to extinguish its recent finals history by bouncing back and going all the way in season 2021. They will have to do it the hard way however as the lowest placed side coming into finals, whilst the Tigers are fresh off wins against not only Subiaco a fortnight ago, but Peel Thunder last week, giving them confidence they can match it with anyone on their day, and give themselves a huge chance to go deep in the WAFL Women’s finals series.

The Claremont defence is strong with West Coast key defender Sophie McDonald and West Australian State Academy member Matilda Dyke along with the likes of the reliable Rachel Ortlepp and experienced Amy Fortescue. They will look to find a way to restrict former Eagles and Lions AFLW talent McKenzie Dowrick who can create plenty of scoring opportunities in the forward half, as well as Jamie Rust, Madi Wilkins and Amy Hunt. Up the other end, Tessa Doumanis and Amy Franklin have been on fire for the Tigers and will both want to put their best foot forward ahead of the AFLW Draft Combine, whilst Brooke Whyte, Mhicca Carter and Amber Goodwin-Wissink are all capable of kicking multiple goals in a match.

Claire Ortlepp will hope to have the family bragging rights running out for Subiaco, and she has experience in the back 50 with Tayla Thorogood and Jayme Harken among those back there. Through the middle, the ruck battle between Matilda Husband and Jess Ritchie will be fascinating as Hayley Miller, Tarnica Golisano and Maggie MacLachlan going up against Ella Smith, Kate Orme and Jess Low make it some tantalising battles. Throw in the likes of Sarah Garstone and the exciting Mikayla Western off the bench for Claremont, and Lara Filocamo and youngster Kia Buckley for Subiaco, and the teams are well balanced.

It is anticipated to be a close game, and their last outing saw just one point separating them, but Claremont have the runs on the board of late, and are at home, so the Tigers in a tight one

SWAN DISTRICTS vs. PEEL THUNDER
Sunday, June 20 @ 2:30pm
Steel Blue Oval

The top two teams do battle at Steel Blue Oval on Sunday in what is a blockbuster clash between the sides. The reigning premiers Peel Thunder come in as the lower ranked team this year, but they can bring the positivity that they were the only team to knock over Swan Districts in the regular season, and it only happened a fortnight ago. The Thunder stumbled against Claremont last week with a couple of injuries to young talents Courtney Rowley and Jade Briggs, but will be hoping to bounce back and book their spot in a second straight grand final. For Swan Districts, the minor premiers will be keen to reward their terrific home and away season and advance through to the final match of the season by turning the tables on the team that defeated them recently.

Peel’s firepower up front is what makes it so damaging. Lead by leading goalkicker Kate Bartlett who shares the goals around with Western Australia’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, Ella Roberts, and former WAFLW best and fairest winner Kira Phillips, the Thunder have plenty of targets inside 50. Swan Districts’ defence is rock solid with Emily McGuire and Eliza Gelmi providing great lessons to their younger teammates, Under 19s state representatives Nyra Anderson and Mel Hardy, and Under 17s representative Jaime Henry forming a young but talented defence. Up the other end, Bella Edgley and Dana East are some young guns in the black and white to look out for, with Bianca Webb and Aimee Ralph providing more experience to the side. Peel’s defence of Ebony Dowson, Demi Liddle, Cassie Davidson and Tanisha Anderson is unbelievable, and always hard to score against.

Looking to the midfield, Sarah Wielstra will have first crack in the ruck against Lauren Quaife, with Sarah Lakay on the bench ready to rotate through there. Mikayla Hyde, Jess Cox and Imahra Cameron onball, and Steph Cain and Tara Stribley on the wings, and the Swans have plenty of hardened talents and running players as well. They will lock horns with an equally impressive five of Gracie Fenton and Chloe Wrigley who both shone last week for the Thunder, as well as AFLW experienced talents in Sarah Verrier, Sabreena Duffy and Katie Jayne Grieve. Also on the bench are state representatives Brianna Hyde and Kloe Taylor who are sure to provide a spark for the Swans, while the state Under 19s captain Jaide Britton, defender Bella Mann and fellow youngster Emily Gunton shows the ridiculous depth the Thunder have at their disposal

It is near impossible to split the lineups here with AFLW players and future AFLW players galore, but Swan Districts finished on top of the table and will be keen to make that count for something after the loss a fortnight ago, though the depth at Peel is remarkable.

 

Picture credit: WAFL

2021 VFLW Round 13 preview: Future stars return as teams limited by border restrictions

THERE might not be crowds this weekend, but the stakes are as high as ever for the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s teams, as the penultimate Round 13 finally gets underway after a three-week hiatus due to the Victorian lockdown. Three teams cannot be moved out of the finals race – Collingwood, Geelong and Port Melbourne – though only one of the latter two can secure a double-chance.

The other three spots are up for grabs, though Casey Demons and Essendon effectively need one win to book their spots – with the Demons even needing to just not be smashed in their final two matches to make it given their ridiculously high percentage. Western Bulldogs currently holds sixth spot and is the most in danger of missing out, taking on the Magpies and Demons, needing at least one win – but potentially two – to grab a finals place with Southern Saints, Carlton and North Melbourne all knocking down the door.

HAWTHORN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Box Hill City Oval

A battle between traditional rivals, Hawthorn and Geelong takes place at Box Hill City Oval from midday tomorrow. The Hawks unfortunately not only need to win their games and have results go their way in other matches, but realistically need a draw in one of the Southern Saints games and the other three teams around them – Western Bulldogs, Carlton and North Melbourne – to lose in the game that isn’t a draw. Geelong on the other hand need to keep winning in order to book a double chance, with third placed Port Melbourne just percentage behind and ready to earn a spot against Collingwood in the qualifying final if the Cats do slip up.

Both teams have past and present AFLW talent, with Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner forming a huge midfield for the Cats. The Hawks have some experience tall timber with Meg Hutchins, Tamara Luke and Sarah Perkins among the names in the side. In terms of AFLW Draft hopefuls, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another game in the brown and gold, joining Eastern Ranges’ Bridget Deed, Keeley Sherar, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and debutants, Cadhla Schmidli and Sarah Humm in the side. For the Cats, Chloe Leonard returns to the blue and white hoops again, named on the bench for this match, whilst Jess Foley, Madelyn Keryk and Madisen Maguire are among the other Cats experienced talents.

COLLINGWOOD vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Olympic Park Oval

It might have been a long time for football to return, but luckily for the Magpies, they sewed up top spot and their third consecutive minor premiership last round. They can now play the role of managing players leading into finals, with Chloe Molloy, Jaimee Lambert, Sophie Livingstone and Sophie Casey among the outs for Round 13. In come the younger group in Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Alana Porter to face a hungry Western Bulldogs side needing a win. The Bulldogs can put themselves in pole position for a finals spot with an upset win, and have not held make in doing so with their team selection.

The Bulldogs have a mix of AFLW and NAB League Girls talents, with the midfield of Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabelle Pritchard, as well as Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia and Sarah Hartwig around the ground, there is plenty of top-end talent that could cause a boil-over to the top of the table Magpies. From an AFLW Draft perspective, potential Top 10 pick Ella Friend is back in the side with Rebels’ teammates Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier, whilst Brooke Hards and Simone Ruedin remain the only players to not miss a game for the red, white and blue. The Magpies have a couple of top talents making their debuts too, with Stella Reid and Eliza James – both out of the Oakleigh Chargers’ program – coming into the black and white stripes whilst another AFLW Draft Combine invitee in Olivia Meagher is also in the team. With six players in Draft Central’s recent AFLW Draft Power Rankings playing in the game, it is a must-listen via WARF Radio.

The Magpies deserve to be favourites as an unbeaten side, but the Western Bulldogs could arguably have the stronger team on paper for this clash, so it should be a really big contest.

>> AFLW Draft Power Rankings

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, June 19 @ 1:00pm
Downer Oval

Across at Downer Oval, Williamstown and Essendon will look to control the elements and the game, when the Bombers hit the road for a must-win clash. They take on the bottom two sides in the last two rounds and need just one win, so have the easiest draw in the final fortnight. They still need to get it done though, and the Seagulls still have plenty about them coming up against a Bombers side with a lot of talent. Another potential Top 10 selection in Tara Slender will make her debut in this game for the Bombers, with the Bendigo Pioneers’ utility named at centre half-forward.

Slender will join Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell in the starting team, with the experience of Georgia Nanscawen, Cecilia McIntosh and Mia-Rae Clifford across the three lines. Williamstown have had some consistent performers over the time, but the current border restrictions between Victoria and NSW/ACT has limited the GWS GIANTS AFLW players from taking part. The likes of Erin Meade, Scarlett Dunnell, Aimee Whelan and Megan Williamson have all enjoyed solid seasons and will be looked upon to step up in what is ultimately a tough game for them. Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper are recent NAB League Girls graduates and will be keen top put their best foot forward to impress, while the Bombers as a whole just have to win. Williamstown can play the role of party pooper in this game, and have the advantage of knowing the ground well.

CASEY DEMONS vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, June 19 @ 2:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey Demons are a win away from booking a spot in the VFL Women’s finals series, and providing the last placed Darebin do not roll them by a considerable amount, the Cranbourne-based team can potentially secure a home final in the process. They have a mix of past and present AFLW talents – including some recent delistings hoping to earn a second chance – whilst the Falcons will rely on some youngsters and their VFL Women’s players to try and cause an upset at windy Casey Fields.

Former Carlton player Winnie Laing and ex-Roo Kate Gillespie-Jones are lining up for Casey this weekend following their recent delistings from the Blues and North Melbourne respectively, alongside Mietta Kendall who is hoping for another chance in the red and blue, and then the most recent addition to the Demons’ rookie list in midfielder Eliza West. The latter has been a prominent ball winner for the VFL Women’s side and earned a promotion, whilst Imogen Milford is one player with plenty to prove after receiving an AFLW Draft Combine invite. Shelley Heath, Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon are also in the side, though there is an abundance of VFL Women’s talent in the team for the clash with the Falcons. Darebin have the experience of Nicole Callinan and Alyssia Mifsud who have played at the top level, but otherwise have the NAB League Girls talents of Trinity Mills and Peppa Poultney, as well as another former NAB League Girls player in Katelyn Hazlett. Samara David and Stephanie Simpson have enjoyed impressive seasons up forward, whilst Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan are reliable players with Callinan in the back 50. Expect Casey to be too strong, but Darebin will be keen to cause an upset.

CARLTON vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Sunday, June 20 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

A virtual elimination final in many ways, the loser of Carlton and Southern Saints will need to rely on other results in order to make finals, with the Blues in particular having a line put through their name given the percentage difference. If the Saints lose, they will need the Bulldogs to also lose to the Magpies in order to make the finals, or if they win and the Bulldogs win, it will come down to the final round. The Blues cannot overtake the Bulldogs unless they win big and the Bulldogs lose, but it will keep them in the finals hunt with a clash against Williamstown in the final round.

Carlton know the stakes by winning the match, with Lucy McEvoy named once again alongside some AFLW talent in Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans. They do have a lot of VFLW talent in the side still, with Amber Micallef, Ally Bild, Jennifer Lew and Jorja Borg among those who have had some impressive moments this season. Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin and Tara Delgado are in the side again to try and stake their claims ahead of the AFLW Draft, while ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Teagan Brett returns to the Navy Blues. The Saints have not fully confirmed their side at the time of publishing, but they were favoured to take it up to the Blues, with Alice Burke, Tyanna Smith, Jess Matin and Alice Burke all named in the side that narrowly went down to Western Bulldogs last round. Dandenong Stingrays’ Jemma Radford has really held her own in the side, with Sandringham Dragons’ Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber among those on the extended list for the Saints.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 20 @ 1:00pm
ETU Stadium

Completing Round 13 of action is a game with plenty on the line for both teams in different ways. Port Melbourne is gunning for a second chance if the Borough can get up and hope Geelong loses, whilst North Melbourne can keep their hopes of finals alive with an upset win on the road at ETU Stadium. Much like Williamstown with the GIANTS, the Roos have been impacted by not being able to utilise their Tasmanian contingent, which has meant plenty of changes for the blue and white stripes. Port Melbourne on the other hand have not held back in their selection, with experience and young guns galore in what will be an exciting contest.

Roos captain Meagan Kiely is based in Victoria and the Tasmanian talent will look to continue her ripping form this season teaming up with Brooke Slaney and Reni Hicks in midfield. They have a tough job with Ellie McKenzie making her VFLW debut for the Borough, and Courteney Bromage and Mel Kuys rounding out a strong midfield. The Port Melbourne bench is as exciting as one could be, with Dandenong Stingrays duo Jaide Anthony and Ashleigh Richards, and Oakleigh Chargers duo Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers – all who received AFLW Draft Combine invites – playing in the match. Sarah D’Arcy also makes her debut up forward for the Borough, alongside Emily Harley and Sophie Locke. The Roos will have Alexia Hamilton through the ruck and Jayde Hamilton and Elisha King up forward, whilst Molly Eastman and Beth Lynch are among those likely to create some run out of defence for the visitors in the Sunday afternoon clash. The Borough have the advantage at home and can snuff out the Roos’ finals chances with a win, but North have proven to put up a fight most weeks so should give the game a shake.

Midfield transition makes for fitter and faster Halfpenny

A MIDFIELD transition has made Norwood’s Jade Halfpenny get “fitter” and work “faster” in 2021. The versatile prospect had previously cut her teeth as a forward, but at 175cm, staked her claim as a tall on-baller in the Redlegs’ most recent SANFL Women’s campaign.

“It’s definitely a lot faster,” Halfpenny said. “I’ve had to get a lot fitter, that’s what preseason was for obviously. “But it’s been really good because I feel like I’ve been able to show a different side of myself and work a bit harder in games.

“I do like forward because I like kicking goals – who doesn’t like kicking goals? “But I like midfield as well because you do get to be involved a bit more.”

As a top-ager who was overlooked at last year’s draft, the move has allowed Halfpenny to showcase improvement and added strings to her bow. While her strengths have come to the fore in the new role, Halfpenny also outlined some fundamental areas for improvement.

“Being a bigger player, definitely my speed [is a strength],” she said. “A lot of taller players aren’t able to move as quickly. My strength as well, being a bigger body has definitely helped out a lot.

“[I’m working on] the basics like kicking, one-percenters, handballing. Just fine-tuning.”

Halfpenny was a mainstay in Norwood’s minor premiership-winning SANFLW season this year, averaging 10.6 disposals, 2.5 marks and 3.1 tackles across 11 games. The Redlegs fell short of the flag, but Halfpenny said it was “really good to be winning” and “seeing some results for all the hard work” the team had put in.

Her outstanding individual form was also enough to see her represent her state at the AFLW Under 19 National Championships. Having played in the senior grade for multiple seasons now, the 19-year-old was pleased to play and train alongside a new bunch of teammates.

“It’s been really good because obviously it’s been a couple of years since I’ve solely been with a group of people who are similar in age,” she said. “It’s good to be exposed to that and also train alongside people that I generally play against, and get to know them personally.”

Halfpenny lauded the influence of of coaches along the journey, from those who “saw a lot of potential” in her as a junior, to the Norwood and state program staff who have helped accelerate her development. She has come a long way since starting out at local club, Golden Grove.

“I started playing local footy when I was 15 at Golden Grove,” she said. “From there I did the Under 17 development squads with Norwood for three years, and at the end of my last year they invited me to come out and train with the senior side and it just went (on) from there.

“My coaches from junior level saw a lot of potential in me from younger ages and helped me get to where I am now. The coaches at Norwood and even here in the state program have all been really helpful.”

WAFLW Player Focus: Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)

PEEL Thunder prospect Ella Roberts is already a well known quantity, establishing herself at senior level in the Thunder’s 2020 premiership side, and earning her state’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at this year’s Under 19 National Championships. The 16-year-old is already a good size at 175cm and boasts rare talent, able to excel as a forward target or on-ball with her athleticism and clean hands.

Roberts has again proven a key figure at WAFLW level for Peel in 2021, with her side on the eve of a finals campaign as the second-ranked side. She turned it on early and battled through a knock to claim 25 disposals and a goal in the Thunder’s most recent outing, a loss against Claremont. We put her impressive Round 15 performance under the Player Focus microscope.

POCKET PROFILE

Ella Roberts
Peel Thunder/Western Australia

DOB: 17/12/2004
Height: 175cm
Position: Forward/Midfielder

Source: WAFL

2021 WAFLW, Round 15 | Claremont 6.5 (41) def. Peel Thunder 4.8 (32)

Player Focus: #8 Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Starting in the near-permanent forward post she dominated throughout the day, Roberts was in ominous form during the opening quarter. She pressed high up the ground to present as Peel’s centre half-forward, making the best of whatever service she received with wickedly clean hands at ground level and combative intent.

The 16-year-old’s ability to swoop on the ball at speed, especially off the deck, and grab it cleanly was outstanding early on. She tried to manufacture space upon gathering but when opponents were on her hammer, she released quick handballs to keep Peel moving forward via outsider runners.

Her kicking at speed was outstanding, booting numerous passes inside 50 to the advantage of her forwards, who could not quite snaffle up a series of marks. In the air, she judged the ball beautifully and recovered best to be first to the loose pill.

Roberts capped her wonderful individual quarter with a highlight-reel goal, chasing up her own pass inside 50 to mop up off the ground, side-step a defender and blast the ball home from 40m for her side’s opening major.

It was no coincidence that Roberts’ most productive term also saw the Thunder sneak ahead at the first break, though the lead proved only momentary. The youngster finished with 12 disposals (six kicks, six handballs), a bunch of inside 50s and a brilliant goal.

Q2:

While she did not quite hit the heights of the previous quarter as Claremont began to get on top, Roberts still managed to move into all the right spots and compete with a magnificent air of confidence.

One of her best moments came at half-forward, where she sharked the ball from between a couple of less-assured Claremont defenders, before backing her pace and burning towards forward 50.

She was not afforded the same volume of opportunities in the front half, but still looked to link into attack and took her first mark of the day on the 50m arc, proving strong in the air despite heat from two opponents.

Roberts’ second term yielded four disposals (three kicks, one handball), one mark and two inside 50s.

Q3:

It is fair to say that Roberts was in the wars during the third quarter, battling a knock to her wrist in the closing stages.

She sustained it on the leap up to a marking contest on the wing, going down innocuously but looking in quite some pain and going off. Almost comically, she gave away an unlucky last touch free kick, bumped into an opponent, and smothered with the same hand shortly after.

In a show of her toughness, Roberts rose for a nice overhead mark late in the term having introduced that part of her game to the contest earlier on.

While indifferent delivery, heavy pressure and perhaps fatigue hindered Roberts clean handling, she did produce one outstanding passage with a swift gather and precise pass at full tilt, hitting a teammate inside 50.

Roberts finished with three disposals (all kicks), including two marks and two inside 50s, proving she can be productive with limited looks.

Q4:

Roberts battled on to run out the game strongly, even earning a late run through midfield. With the result still up for grabs, she looked to make things happen but was caught for a rare holding the ball free kick against, in the early stages.

Still, she carried great intent until the final siren, with her desperate run-down tackle on a breaking Mhicca Carter showing just that.

From that moment, Roberts became more prominent around the contest as she moved into the on-ball division, trying to use the ball positively and get creative with her movement.

Her lone centre bounce attendance came in the second-last minute, and Roberts rounded out a trying performance by adding six disposals (four kicks, two handballs) and a couple of tackles.

Closing thoughts…

It is crazy to think that Roberts is still a year away from being draft eligible, and that she still has so much development left in her as a December birth. The 16-year-old can produce truly special moments and did so in this match, with her first term feats making for must-watch football. Her one-grab ability bodes well for more midfield time, though she is also so effective as a forward target who can not only crash packs and clunk marks, but be the first to recover the ground ball. From there, her smooth coverage of the ground and unbelievably slick use by foot at full tilt is elite. With so many plaudits already and unbelievable confidence at senior level, Roberts is a class above her peers at the moment as the best prospect in next year’s draft pool.

2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Forwards

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. Next up is tall and medium forwards, where the forward position is the more prevalent area for utilities (ie Ella Friend is a forward/wing, whereas Charlie Rowbottom is a midfielder/forward) and we have just looked at those above 160cm. Some forwards who are considered utilities will be in other AFLW Draft Positional Analysis such as Sophie Locke. All opinions are of the individual author.

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

#1 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
30/12/2003 | 175cm
Tall Forward/Wing

Key strengths: Contested marking, mobility, upside, penetrating kick

The top contested marking player in the draft crop, Friend will be a highly sought after talent for her ability to not only clunk the big grabs, but use her penetrating left boot in both the midfield and forward lines. Transitioning from centre half-forward to a wing in the second half of the season, Friend showcased her mobility and her knack for for winning the ball in multiple areas of the field. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, expect Friend to have plenty of upside left in her and would be a great target for a team needing a key target up forward who can also work hard up the ground. She averaged the 16.0 disposals, 4.3 marks and 2.9 tackles per game in the 2021 season, and slotted two goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side. A good size at 175cm to play anywhere on the ground.

#2 Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)
04/02/2003 | 177cm
Tall Forward/Tall Defender

The AFL Women’s Academy member is in contention for West Coast’s top selection given her versatility and ability as the standout tall in her state. Franklin is capable of playing at both ends, but is more dominant as a forward, and has some traits that point to serious upside. With athleticism – in particular speed – that is rare in a player of her size, Franklin is also someone who can clunk contested marks and move well around the ground. She does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact in the game, often kicking a couple of goals in a quarter as she did a couple of weeks ago for Claremont against Subiaco in the WAFL Women’s. At the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Franklin predominantly played back for 10.5 disposals, 2.0 marks and 3.0 rebound 50s, though did kick a goal when swung forward.

#3 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University/Brisbane Lions Academy/Queensland)
10/04/2003 | 161cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, footy IQ, forward craft, disposal

It might be considered a stretch at 161cm to call Pauga a medium forward, but her traits – such as her strength in the air and ability to be a focal point in transition – allow her to play taller than she is. Capable of going into the midfield and having an impact, Pauga is most damaging as a high half-forward, used as a link-up player to get the ball inside 50. Now at Bond University having come from Maroochydore, the Brisbane Lions Academy member has enjoyed a great QAFL Women’s season, and is a classy ball user. The work she does off the ball is just as impressive, but her clean hands – and ability to dish off in a split second – are what can create plays and scoring opportunities and why she is a member of the AFLW Academy.

#4 Jess Doyle (Manly/Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)
15/09/2003 | 170cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Overhead marking, speed, one-on-ones, X-factor

One of the more exciting talents in the AFLW Draft pool, Doyle captained the Sydney Swans Academy this year and showed why she is a member of the AFLW Academy. Whilst a raw talent, Doyle looked natural up forward with her speed off the mark, leap, overhead mark and goal sense making her a damaging player when inside 50. She also pinch-hit in the midfield and used her one-on-one ability at both ground level and in the air, to match it with more experienced players and win her fair share of the ball. The talented medium-tall is the top prospect out of NSW/ACT and whilst the Swans might not have a team at this stage, Doyle is sure to make an impact at the top level and be exciting for years to come.

#5 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/11/2003 | 169cm
Medium Forward/Ruck

Key strengths: Vertical leap, penetrating kick, aggression, upside

Standing at 169cm you would not expect someone to be listed as a ruck, but such is Featherston’s leaping ability that she has indeed become a secondary ruck at NAB League Girls level. Pinch-hitting in there to average 4.3 hitouts per game, Featherston is at her most dominant around the half-forward line where she can lead out, clunk grabs and show great courage in the air or at ground level. Whilst she could improve her composure around goal – she had plenty of chances that were opportunities which went begging – her ability to have so many chances and create opportunities is impressive. She is a raw talent with plenty of upside, and with a long, penetrating kick and strong hands, she is a valuable addition to any forward line.

#6 Lauren Breguet (Central District/South Australia)
14/02/2003 | 164cm
Medium Forward

Key strengths: Explosiveness, speed, overhead marking, forward craft

An exciting forward with plenty of eye-catching traits, Breguet has showcased her numerous athletic capabilities in the SANFL Women’s competition this year. Able to clunk some strong marks, then burn off opponents to create goal-scoring opportunities, Breguet has plenty of upside for the future. In her seven games at SANFL Women’s level this year, Breguet averaged the 10 disposals, 2.4 marks, 3.0 tackles and slotted four goals. Whilst it might not sound like a lot, her impact with ball-in-hand is what stands out, such as her 14-disposals, four-mark, four-tackle, one-goal game against North Adelaide in Round 6. At the AFLW Under 19 Championships, she averaged a similar 10.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles, slotting a goal and showing glimpses of her talent.

#7 Ashanti Bush (NT Thunder/Allies)
18/08/2002 | 162cm
Medium Forward

Key traits: Forward craft, evasion, footy smarts, goal sense

The sole Northern Territory member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Bush has a lot of potential as a deep forward, causing all sorts of headaches to opponents one-on-one. She is smart with her positioning and recovery, either able to take the mark, or bring the ball to ground, then apply scoreboard pressure. She knows where the goals are, and showed that during the Thunder’s clash with GWV Rebels in the NAB League Girls, kicking two goals in as many minutes to win the game for her side. Not a huge ball-winner, Bush is able to hit the scoreboard consistently, already booting three goals in two games for Hawthorn VFL Women’s side in her two games, whilst kicking a goal in her sole match against Western Australia at the AFLW Under 19s Championships.

#8 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
22/10/2003 | 167cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Goal sense, defensive pressure, footy smarts, competitiveness

A nice versatile talent, Richards is capable of playing deep forward, high forward or even through the midfield which can be a point of difference for many goal-scoring types. Earning a place with Vic Country, Richards slotted a goal and averaged 11.5 disposals from her two games, backing up a really solid NAB League Girls season. In six games, she averaged the 12.2 disposals, 2.3 tackles and booted seven goals – 1.2 per game – which showed her ability to regularly hit the scoreboard. That form carried into the VFL Women’s where, playing forward, Richards has already booted three goals in three games, averaging 83 disposals and 2.0 marks, able to find space inside 50 against bigger bodies.

#9 Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
12/10/2003 | 163cm
Medium Forward/Medium Defender

Key strengths: Versatility, overhead marking, powerful kick, one-on-ones

When you watch Reilly for the first time, you do a double-take at the listed 163cm height, because whilst she might be smaller than her opponents, quite often she is able to either leap higher than them, read the ball better than them, or clunk grabs better than them. Her one-on-one ability is quite impressive as is her overhead strength. Couple these traits with her powerful kicking, and Reilly has enough about her to suggest she could play at either end, which she has done this season at WAFL Women’s level for East Fremantle. Primarily a forward though, Reilly has great aggression at the ball and does not take a backwards step, almost having the chance to win the game for Western Australia against Vic Metro after the siren, and whilst that did not work out, Reilly still had a solid carnival, booting two goals and averaging 11.3 disposals, 2.0 marks, 1.7 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50s and kicking a couple of majors in an all-round effort.

#10 Jemima Woods (Western Jets/Western Bulldogs VFLW)
28/05/2003 | 174cm
Tall Forward/UTILITY

Key strengths: Forward craft, athleticism, clean hands, upside

The talented tall forward has come on in leaps and bounds this season, developing her game to play further up the ground in season 2021, and even pinch-hitting in the ruck. At 174cm she is able to compete well one-on-one with a high work rate and clever leading patterns to find the ball inside 50 thanks to her athleticism. More often than not though, Woods has found herself being the first target in the forward half, then looking for options inside 50, with more than three inside 50s per game to go with her four goals from eight matches. Averaging almost 12 touches per game at NAB League Girls level, Woods burst onto the VFLW scene with three goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs, and whilst the going has been tougher since, still has some great upside for the future.

OTHERS:

The three other tall or medium forward talents identified to fit under the category with AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites are Oakleigh Chargers’ Eliza James, Casey Demons’ Imogen Milford and Claremont’s Tessa Doumanis. James is an exciting type who creates plenty of opportunities inside 50, Milford is the tallest on this list at 179cm and a huge chance to take out the leading goalkicker award in the VFLW, while Doumanis is a clever forward with a potent left foot. A couple of other talents without Draft Combine invites include Collingwood’s Imogen Barnett and Tasmania Devils’ Amy Prokopiec who have both found the big sticks plenty in the VFLW and NAB League Girls respectively this year. From a non-Victorian perspective, South Australia’s Jade Halfpenny and Queensland’s Lily Tarlinton are both capable as tall options.