Category: VFLW

Port Melbourne earns VFLW licence for 2021 in revamped Victorian structure

PORT Melbourne will field a Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side for the first time next season after the Borough was accepted into the competition following Richmond’s decision to withdraw in 2021. The decision came yesterday with a landmark announcement that VFL Women’s competition will run concurrently with the AFL Women’s competition in February next year. The move allows players from the Victorian AFL Women’s clubs to get match practice under their belts without having to rely on just training sessions when not selected for their club.

South Australia was a trailblazer in that approach, having much success over the past few years allowing Adelaide Crows players to represent their South Australia National Football League (SANFL) Women’s side when not picked to play for the Crows. More recently, Queensland applied a similar approach for the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition with the introduction of Gold Coast Suns coming into the top league.

Port Melbourne previously played in the AFL South Eastern Women’s Division 1 competition, but has strong ties through the state league with its rich history of its VFL Men’s side. The Borough will play at ETU Stadium, also known as North Port Oval, and will be aligned with Richmond. It means that the Tigers’ AFL Women’s players will pull on the Port Melbourne colours in the competition in 2020.

Port Melbourne CEO Paul Malcolm said on the Port Melbourne website that the alignment was a fantastic opportunity for both clubs.

“We are looking forward to working together with Richmond to create a pathway for women looking to live out their football dream,” he said. “Our club and our existing partnerships with Bendigo Women’s Football Club, St Michaels Grammar, Oakleigh Chargers, Port Colts, and the Tommy Lahiff Cup will benefit greatly from the alignment and our entry into the VFLW.”

The VFL Women’s competition will run beyond the AFL Women’s season, from February through to July.

The other announcement was that the 2020 NAB League Girls competition would be brought forward slightly to also run concurrently with the VFL Women’s and AFL Women’s competitions. In 2020, the NAB League Girls started on February 29, but that will be brought forward four weeks to allow it to run over the same time as the AFL Women’s competition.

It also means the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships will be brought forward to April, 2021 from its usual July date. More information about the competitions will be announced in the future.

Picture: Port Melbourne website

2020 AFLW Draft review: St Kilda Saints

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with St Kilda, a team that showed promising signs in its inaugural season and will be on the rise in 2021 after being one of the most impressive performers through the draft.

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Tahlia Meyer (South Adelaide)

Every club is a winner post-draft, but St Kilda’s draft hand is one to celebrate and leave the red, white and black supporters really excited. Three young guns who were steals in the draft, followed by a couple of mature-agers including one already in the Saints’ program and another underrated talent in the SANFL Women’s, this is a side to watch in 2021.

Tyanna Smith was one of only a few who could challenge as the best player in the AFL Women’s Draft crop, so to see the Dandenong Stingrays star land at pick six and join former Stingrays’ teammates Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon at Moorabbin is a coup in itself. She is arguably the most complete player from the Under 18s, with elite athleticism, great skills, terrific decision making and a big-game player. She will complement Georgia Patrikios in there and the two will almost be uncatchable.

Alice Burke is one the fans would have been tracking for a little while given the men’s team has not had too many father-sons over the years. The daughter of club legend and now Western Bulldogs’ coach Nathan, Burke is a tenacious midfielder who has also spent time at half-back. Coming from a soccer background, Burke would have been a top 15 pick in an open draft, so again like Smith, represents value. With her defensive pressure and dual-sidedness, Burke is a massive inclusion to the Saints’ outfit.

Renee Saulitis was the premier pure small forward in the draft, and while she showed over the last 18 months she could play in defence or midfield, she is most at home in a forward pocket. Oozing X-factor and goal sense, she is another who could come straight in and cause all sorts of damage at the feet of Caitlin Greiser, and is one to watch as a quick developer. She provides a niche little role in there, and cannot be left alone inside 50.

Jacqueline Vogt comes out of the Southern Saints program where she performed as a versatile forward. Strong and not afraid of the contest, the mature-age Vogt could slot into the side straight away if required following her consistent 2019 VFL Women’s season.

Finally, the Saints picked up slick ball user Tahlia Meyer with the extra pick they opted to pass on draft night. The South Adelaide prospect was one of the most underrated players in the SANFL Women’s competition, but hardly put a foot wrong with her disposal and vision going inside 50 a treat to watch. It seems to be a running theme with the Saints – good ball use and decision making – and Meyer fits the bill and is also readymade to have an impact at senior level.

Overall the Saints included some serious X-factor and talent to their line-up with fans likely to see them continue to rise up the ladder and worry some more experienced teams next season.

Picture: St Kilda Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Richmond Tigers

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Richmond, a side that struggled in its debut season, going winless and chose to bring in more experience to bolster its stocks in 2021.

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

Boasting the top selection in the AFL Women’s Draft before a couple of later picks, Richmond had plenty of time to prepare for the draft. They ended up bringing in the standout choice of the 2020 season with Pick 1, before plucking a basketballer out of obscurity, and an over-ager talent who missed out on selection last year.

With Pick 1, there was not much doubt who the Tigers were going to select, picking up Northern Knights’ Ellie McKenzie. The second consecutive Northern Knights’ player at the selection after Gabby Newton last year. McKenzie is a readymade talent who will instantly step up and be one of the better players in the AFL Women’s competition. McKenzie has shades of Madison Prespakis in terms of her preparedness to tackle the league, but is taller and more athletic which makes her such a damaging prospect. She will play from Round 1 and be a crucial cog in the Tigers’ midfield or she can go forward and beat her opponents one-on-one there.

The second pick was completely out of the blue when the Tigers selected WNBL basketballer, Tessa Lavey. The Bendigo Spirit player will miss a portion of the preseason due to the Queensland hub for the WNBL 2020/21 season, but the condensed season has meant she will be fully available for the AFL Women’s one. A national representative, Lavey is raw potential and will be one to watch to see how she performs but no doubt will be fully utilised for her power and athleticism.

Finally the Tigers picked up Luka Lesosky-Hay, an overager who was a member of the premiership-winning Geelong Falcons outfit in 2018 and then again in the finals side last year. She was due to represent Richmond VFL Women’s this year after a stint with Geelong VFL Women’s, but the season was cut short. A hardworking midfielder who can win the ball on the inside then find space on the outside, she earns her chance after missing out last year.

Richmond had the most and least surprising picks of the draft with their first two selections, and have now brought in some athletes with power and strength to help try and turn the Tigers’ team around.

2020 AFLW Draft review: North Melbourne Kangaroos

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with North Melbourne, one of the title contenders who finished top of their Conference in 2020 and will look to be among the premiership favourites again in 2021.

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

North Melbourne has beefed up its forward half with the 2020 draft, including a mix of talls, mediums and smalls with its selections. The Roos have also added mature-agers to their list including a basketballer and the daughter of a high-flyer.

The selection known prior to the draft was Aberfeldie’s Amy Smith who would have played with Williamstown in the VFL Women’s this year had the year not been cancelled. As a versatile player who can play through the midfield or out of defence, Smith has some great upside and is able to provide some great depth to that part of the field.

Another mature-age VFL Women’s player was Georgia Hammond who has strong hands and can be a leading target inside 50. As someone who could play in other positions around the ground, Hammond is someone who knows the club well, as a train-on player in 2020. A Darebin Falcons talent, Hammond is a popular player and one who has certainly earned her spot on an AFL Women’s list.

The Roos’ top selection in the draft was talented forward-mid Bella Eddey who is class personified. With silky skills and an ability to create something out of nothing, Eddey does not need a lot of touches to do a lot of damage. She will likely play inside 50 roving to the tall targets, but can play further up the ground and use her speed and run to work off opponents on a wing.

Alice O’Loughlin does not have the experience that some others have had, playing just the two games of NAB League football over three years due to rowing commitments and an ankle injury. She does however have serious talent, being an impressive player in Round 1 this year kicking three goals in a big win, and just stands out on the field for Oakleigh Chargers.

The final selection and second last on the night by the Roos was Brooke Brown who comes in from Tasmania having played NBL1 with Launceston Tornadoes. Still only 23-years-old, Brown has shown quick development in her transition playing with Launceston in the football, where the 184cm talent could slot in anywhere as a key position player. With her potential upside, Brown could be one to watch come through the program.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Club-by-club picks

THE dust has settled on the exciting 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Over the next week we will be delving into each club’s selections and detailing more information about those players who earned places at the elite level. Below we have listed each club’s selections from last night’s draft if you are waking up to check out who your newest stars are.

Adelaide:

#4 – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#45 – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)
#47 – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

Brisbane:

#8 – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)
#37 – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#38 – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Pass

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Geelong:

#10 – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#20 – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#21 – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
#27 – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)
#39 – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Gold Coast:

#7 – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)
#23 – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)
#50 – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)
#54 – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)
#57 – Lucy Single (Bond University)
#58 – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)
#60 – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)
#61 – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

GWS GIANTS:

#9 – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)
#29 – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies)
#42 – Libby Graham (Manly Warringah Wolves)

Melbourne:

#5 – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#15 – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#17 – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#35 – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#41 – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#48 – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

North Melbourne:

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Pass

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)
#56 – Pass
#59 – Pass

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Shaw eyes positives after disappointing 2020 season

IT has been disappointing year for most Victorian footballers, with few getting a chance to really test themselves competitively. In most cases for the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites they have been able to get out on the field and stake their case to be drafted in tomorrow’s 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Unfortunately for players such as former Gippsland Power and Hawthorn VFL Women’s talent Maddi Shaw, she has not been able to get on the park due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Shaw is an over-age prospect who missed out on being picked up in last year’s draft, admitting she was “not ready” to make the next step up to the elite level. But with a big preseason behind her she hoped to be prepared to tackle 2020 in a huge way.

“My plan was to do really, really well in preseason,” Shaw said. “So I really worked quite hard in preseason, really wanted to better myself because I knew last year I was not ready at all. “I was like ‘this year I need to get myself ready’ and become one of those better footballers and make sure I was training really hard, and then coming into the season at my peak. “Making sure I was fitter than I’ve ever been, stronger than I’ve ever been. “But also physically and mentally ready as I’d already had that season to prepare myself and I knew what I was looking forward to.”

It was her first proper full uninterrupted preseasons and her hope to kick-start the year off in style was positive. Despite missing out on being drafted, Shaw said she did not want to look too far ahead other than to have it as a long-term goal, and rather focus on the here and now.

“(I wanted to) just make sure I had a really good preseason, as the last few preseasons I had interruptions and I went to Cambodia, not that that’s an excuse to not be fit, but just making sure I was really prepared and then going into it knowing I was playing for Hawthorn and not aiming for anything other than where I was now and doing my best on each weekend and then looking to the future as it came closer, so trying to work in the moment,” she said.

Her transition from the Power at NAB League Girls level to the VFL Women’s has been a great learning curve, with Shaw getting the opportunity to move through the pathway at local level, through interleague, as well as the elite junior competition and then state-level program.

“It was a bit intimidating at first,” Shaw said. “Walking in as a 17-year-old it was a bit scary, but I had a lot of support around me. “I feel like it was a lot easier than I anticipated. “My experience at Hawthorn’s been awesome, has been really helpful and taught me a lot. “Fitness wise and as an athlete, learning how to take care of my body and also as a footballer. “I’ve learnt so much from not only coaches, but players as well.” 

She said learning off experienced players such as Talia Radan, as well as AFL Women’s premiership coach Bec Goddard and highly respected operator and VFL Women’s premiership coach Paddy Hill, was a great experience for her development.

“You feel really at home in a way so they really help you develop and you have this relationship with them where you can trust everything that they’re saying,” Shaw said. “There’s no second guessing, I like the fact I can walk into training, get my feedback and then go to training, fix what I need to fix, come back and play as a better person. “I don’t have to chase up feedback, they’re always with you and supporting you.”

Picture: Supplied

Like many people, Shaw figured when the season was first postponed, that it would come back in some capacity, but then the disappointment set in and she was resigned to the fact that she would not be able to test herself at the level.

“When it first got postponed I assumed we would only have a few weeks off and we’d be back on track sooner or later,” Shaw said. “But that was definitely not the case, so I was very disappointed when I got there and they told us at training, because I felt like I’d done pretty well throughout preseason and I’d worked hard. “It was kind of hard, you think that that time was wasted, like it definitely wasn’t, but it was very disheartening that we weren’t able to showcase what we’d done throughout preseason. It was really disappointing, but I’m sure we’ll get another chance next year.”

Shaw has always kept a positive mindset when it comes to her football career, never losing sight of being drafted, but also keeping an eye on her present situation to try and produce the best football she can for her side.

“I’d love to get drafted, that’s definitely something I’d really, really want to do,” Shaw said. “I’d also really want to do well in the VFL. “I want to provide and be a high-level player in my team so I can always be trusted to do my job and play my role at Hawthorn and as much as individually I want to get drafted, but as a team at Hawthorn I really just want us to do well and get back to that premiership that we got in 2017, not that I was involved.”

Shaw said her greatest strength was to take on feedback and adapt to whatever role her coaches needed. In terms of on-field traits, Shaw has good athleticism and can provide run out of defence and has been particularly focused on improving her offensive side and developing from a defensive player into a utility.

The Hawks’ teenager said she had been working diligently on her fitness over the break in preparation for the 2021 VFL Women’s season, with help from Hawthorn as well as her university.

“I’ve just been trying to maintain my fitness, so obviously not trying to push myself too hard, we’re going to go into preseason and I don’t want to overwork myself, but really working on my running, keeping my legs ticking over and pushing my body in a way to maintain my readiness coming into preseason,” Shaw said. “Hopefully not get too much of a shock.”

She described 2020 as a “learning curve” and said there was always an opportunity to get drafted regardless of age. Shaw herself sets short-term goals to accompany her long-term aim of being drafted, and said whether it was being selected in the Hawks’ side, having a statistical goal or providing a particular effort for her team, she was always ticking off short-term goals.

As for evolving her game, Shaw still has plenty of belief she has what it takes to make the AFL Women’s in the future.

“I just want to become better, I just want to get drafted,” Shaw said. “That’s going to be my target and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to get there. “I’m willing to put in extra hours of training, learn new skills, I really just want to make it because I know that I can because I have the right support around me.”

Shaw is not alone when it comes to disappointment of not having a season to try and improve her form, and she said while some might be tempted to question their future in the sport, she was confident the pendulum would swing back and opportunities would arise in the future.

“I don’t think a lot of people have really turned their back on footy because we’ve missed a whole season,” Shaw said. “I’ve heard a lot of girls who have commented on like ‘maybe this isn’t for me, I’ve missed a whole year, maybe I’m not ready’. “I think a lot of people just think to try and click that reset button and try and push again and try again because there’s always going to be an opportunity that is going to come out of hard work I reckon, so making sure everyone keeps going this year as much as it’s been really hard.”

Footy’s back – but when and how? State by state information

THERE is plenty of information coming out left, right and centre about the return of the Aussie rules state leagues and when they kick off. Draft Central has compiled the details from each state and listed the starting dates, season details and finals dates where applicable for each of the major states that have made announcements.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The first state to return of the main state leagues across the country, the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) and SANFL Women’s leagues – including Reserves and Under 18s – all commence from Saturday, June 27. The season will of course be without either of the AFL-aligned clubs in Adelaide or Port Adelaide in the League competition. The first two rounds of the League season were released by the SANFL website, with the remainder of the fixture, and other competition fixtures to be announced soon. The SANFL Women’s season will kick off from where it left off with the remaining six rounds to be completed and the grand final scheduled for the weekend of August 22/23. The SANFL will hold a 14-round regular season with the finals to begin in the first weekend of October and the grand final to take place on the weekend of October 17/18.

QUEENSLAND

Following South Australia, the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) and QAFL Women’s competitions are preparing to kick off again from July 11. The QAFL had not commenced its season prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, so Round 1 will begin on July 11, the first of a nine-round season for the nine sides. Finals begin on the weekend of September 12/13 with a grand final announced for Saturday, September 26. With the first three rounds of the QAFL Women’s in the books, the competition will kick off from where it left off, with Round 4 the first round of matches in that second weekend of July. Like the QAFL, the competition will run simultaneously with another nine rounds (12 all up) with finals to take place on the same dates as the men’s competition.

TASMANIA

Last week, AFL Tasmania announced that the Tasmanian State League (TSL) and TSL Women’s would commence their seasons next month on July 18 pending government approval. All seven clubs in both leagues will take place in a relatively normalised season with neither having started prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. The fixture is yet to be determined, but the aim is for the teams to play each other twice before a two-week finals series with October 18 anticipated to be the latest possible date for a grand final.

VICTORIA

In the most recent update yesterday, AFL Victoria announced a modified Victorian Football League (VFL) season would go ahead. Eight VFL clubs will take part in the seven-round season to commence on August 1: Box Hill, Casey Demons, Coburg, Frankston, Port Melbourne, Sandringham, Werribee and Williamstown. The VFL Women’s competition was however cancelled, with the regular competition to be replaced by a Super Series. The concept involves four teams of 30 players taking part in a round-robin competition with three matches for each team, followed by an All-Stars match of the best talents. The idea behind it is to allow Victorian draft prospects to play competitive matches ahead of the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft later in the year.

The NAB League Girls and NAB League Boys competitions will go ahead with both completing a total six-week season with five regular season rounds and one round of finals. These start on August 22 (boys) and September 5 (girls) with the NAB League Girls results from March counting towards the first three weeks of the six-week season.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The West Australian Football League (WAFL) and WAFL Women’s will both commence on August 1, with a nine-round season announced for the WAFL. It means each of the teams will face off once, and the Colts competition will also start on the same weekend, pending an announcement regarding dates for an AFL Under 18s Championships, which earlier in the year had been earmarked for September (usually held in July). Keeping in line with a regular season, the WAFL Grand Final will take place a week before the AFL Grand Final, some time in mid-October such as the SANFL’s weekend of October 17/18.

The other major winter state league – the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) announced it would not go ahead in season 2020 with only five teams remaining after the Northern Academy sides were forced out due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Gavalas completes “whirlwind” draft day bolt

DRAFT day shocks are ironically commonplace nowadays, and you can add Ellie Gavalas‘ rise to become a top 10 selection to the list.

The 23-year-old had her name called by North Melbourne in the first round of Tuesday’s draft having only taken up the Aussie rules code two years ago. Speaking minutes after the fact, Gavalas was still stuck in the “whirlwind” of her shock early selection with little inkling of it happening beforehand.

“Whirlwind’s a pretty good word,” she said. “I’m feeling pretty excited and shocked at the moment… it’s been a massive year and to top it off to become a Kangaroo is pretty exciting.”

“We’d had a couple of interviews, well one interview but I’d seen (North Melbourne AFLW list manager Rhys Harwood) a couple of times. “But no, I wasn’t expecting anything. I was hoping but not expecting anything so I’m pretty shocked.”

The new Roo’s history in sport runs deep, having moved on from a promising soccer career to pursue a different footballing code. Gavalas grew up in Tasmania but also had family in Melbourne, with her move to the mainland originally inspired by that round-ball potential. Her first meaningful experience with the oblong ball came as she joined the Marcellin Old Collegians in Melbourne’s north-east, sparking a rapid rise to the elite level.

“Coming from just playing footy for two years… mainly this year and last year at Marcellin,” Gavalas said. “It has been a massive whirlwind and I’m pretty excited.”

After her initial experience at Marcellin, Gavalas became a wildcard entrant to Western Bulldogs’ VFLW squad in 2019, making her debut in Round 2 and never looking back to average 16.4 disposals and 4.1 tackles across 16 games – becoming a lock in the grand finalists’ starting 23.

Her move from the Bulldogs into the Kangaroos’ system is akin to that of AFLW superstar Emma Kearney – minus the fanfare – who will undoubtedly form a hardened midfield partnership with Gavalas.

“Absolutely I’m looking forward to playing alongside (Kearney),” she said. “To be playing with someone like Emma is awesome so I’m super excited to get started.”

The switch also marks somewhat of a homecoming for the Apple Isle product, who joins Launceston exports Mia King and Abbey Green at the Tasmanian Roos. The Roos’ home games across Bass Strait and academy connection to the region also bring Gavalas full-circle, and even the best script writers would struggle to match the sentimentality of that journey.

With only her everyday job as a physiotherapist to compete with celebrations and her emerging career, the mature-ager is sure to make an immediate impact among the raft of slightly younger draftees who shared the same honour on Tuesday.

Barba tackles any challenge thrown her way

DEFENSIVE pressure has been the barometer that Calder Cannons’ Alana Barba sets every week, with the ferocious midfielder striking fear into the hearts of opposition players when they have the ball in her area. The tenacious talent from Roxburgh Park averaged 7.1 tackles per game for the Cannons in the NAB League Girls competition, and considering what her improvement was at the start of the season, it is a remarkable feat.

“Just getting to every single contest (is an improvement I want to make),” Barba said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day in the pre-season. “I’ve had a hard time doing that so I just want to improve on that, that’s my main focus.”

For Barba, she has always been involved in and around the code, having risen through the pathways to land at the Cannons, and admitted it was quite an eye-opener compared to local football with the elite pathway getting the recognition it deserved.

“I’ve been playing since I was little, but only came to Calder Cannons three years ago and from there, it’s just built up,” Barba said. “It’s (playing with Calder) a great experience. “It’s a new experience, it’s at a higher standard so you really have to push yourself to get in line with all the girls as well.”

Like many AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, Barba said it was the social element that kept her in the sport, while she was always determined for her and which club she played for, to continue to improve throughout the season.

“I think just the connection we have with all the girls is just, our friendship is something out of this world, that’s the best part about it,” Barba said. “I think just to be successful and to develop as a whole.”

Along with her tackling feast in the NAB League Girls, Barba earned a place in Vic Metro’s squad for the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, where she averaged 3.3 tackles from 6.7 disposals. Then, if anyone questioned whether she could apply the same defensive pressure against senior bodies for Essendon’s Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) side, then she answered that emphatically. In three games for the club, Barba laid 4.3 tackles per game from 6.8 disposals, making her total across all three competitions and impressive 5.8 tackles from 10.1 disposals.

Now Barba is ready for the next step-up with her focus set on the AFL Women’s, which could become a reality at next week’s AFL Women’s Draft.

Theodore hoping to emulate Prespakis’ journey to AFLW

CALDER Cannons product, Felicity Theodore proved to be a lynchpin in defence using her nimbleness and speed to evade players and burst away from the pack time and time again. Signed with Essendon VFLW, Theodore aspires to follow the same path of those before her in particular, NAB Rising Star Maddy Prespakis who introduced her to the sport.

“I got into footy through Maddy Prespakis who plays for Carlton. She actually pulled me over one training session and was like ‘come to training’ so that’s how I started,” she said.

Prespakis had a continued influence on Theodore, captaining her last season and leading from the front both on the footy field and off the park.

“I hope to follow Maddy’s footsteps and get drafted but I’m just at the moment hoping to have a really good season and enjoy myself,” she said.

The Rising Star proved to be an inspiration for Theodore who credited her effort on the field and sheer class while also highlighting her importance at the Cannons throughout their time together.

“It was amazing, every game she just gave 120 per cent and it was so inspiring to see,” she said.

The nippy defender worked tirelessly throughout the year securing a spot in the National Championships with Vic Metro credit to her gut running, versatility and ability to break lines and while she has a spot with Essendon’s VFLW side is aware of elements she must improve.

“Definitely my quick kicks so like just getting kicks and really trying to hit up a target,” she said.

She relished the new opportunities throughout the 2019 season, taking the younger players under her wing and capitalising on her chances to impact across the ground.

“I’m just looking forward to this season as a whole and being able to play with my teammates, the coaching staff that are amazing and just to improve my game,” she said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day earlier this year.

Theodore’s move from the attacking 50 to defence paid dividends with the talented small making the Vic Metro side. In the NAB League Girls competition, Theodore averaged 8.3 disposals, 2.0 tackles and more than a rebound per game, but it is her speed and dare to create options up the field that set her apart. She played a similar role for Vic Metro, running hard for almost identical statistics, and holding her own against the nation’s most talented players.

Then returning to Victoria, Theodore tasted Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) experience with Essendon, where she averaged 8.3 disposals and 3.3 tackles, not afraid to throw herself into the contest against stronger bodies. Now with some good form behind her throughout the season across three different levels, Theodore is hoping to join Prespakis in the AFL Women’s.