Tag: 2021

Q&A: Jason Horne (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH Adelaide prospect Jason Horne is the current consensus for top pick out of the 2021 draft crop, credit to an outstanding season last year which saw him crack the Panther’s League lineup. Now part of the AFL and South Australia Under 19 academies, Horne is looking to cement such status with another big season. The combative midfielder has very few weaknesses and can also hit the scoreboard, making him a threatening option in the engine room. Fittingly, he is a Fremantle supporter who moulds his game on Nat Fyfe.

Draft Central correspondent Tom Cheesman chatted to Horne at the recent South Australia preseason testing event for a question and answer (Q&A) special.

Q&A:

Q: How did you go at testing?

A: “Not too bad. The yo-yo was a bit disappointing, I think I got pulled out a bit early but I’m alright with that, I thought the day went pretty well.”

 

Can you tell us a bit about your footballing journey?

“I started playing footy in Under 7s for Salisbury North, I played there for a season then moved down here and played for (Christies Beach) since Under 8s I think. Then I played my whole junior career through there and came to South to play 13s, 14s, 15s and now 16s, 18s and seniors. So a pretty easy journey straight through all the development squads, it’s been good.”

 

How’d you find the experience of being promoted to League level in 2020?

“I thought it was a challenging step up but I really enjoyed it, took it onboard and thought it was a really good experience coming into this year.”

 

Did you enjoy competing against the bigger bodies?

“It was a bit difficult but I enjoyed the challenge and found ways to work around it I guess.”

 

What would you say your biggest strengths on the field are?

“I think my competitiveness and my contested footy, that’s the one big one that I think stands out a lot. My kicking and marking are two of my big (strengths) as well.”

 

What are you looking to improve on?

“I think I really need to improve on my leadership. Also, me and Boofa (Jarrad Wright) the League coach talked about my field kicking going inside 50, I just think that could improve a bit from last year. Then also my goalkicking, from my point of view I think it needs a bit of improvement.”

 

Do you anticipate some more midfield minutes this year having spent plenty of time up forward in 2020?

“Yeah, me and Boofa had a talk not long ago and we said we’ll have a bit more flexibility this year with our League team, getting ‘Gibba’ (Bryce Gibbs) and a couple of young fellas from the AFL clubs, so we think hopefully this year I’ll have a bit more midfield time as well as a bit up forward.”

 

Have any senior players in particular taken you under their wing at South Adelaide?

“I think Gibba’s the main one. He’s working with us young fellas and the 18s just to work on our development so he’s been a good mentor for us young boys and especially me, I’ve been spending a bit of time with him.”

 

How would you describe yourself off-field?

“I just think I’m a nice, respectful bloke. Good to have a laugh with and chat with.”

 

How do you go with balancing footy with other commitments?

“I’m working now five days a week so it’s a challenge but it’s helped me improve my time management.”

 

Is there anyone you mould you game on?

“Nat Fyfe. I like Nat Fyfe and I’ve been watching him for a long time so he’s the big one I model myself on.”

Image Credit: Deb Curtis/SANFL

2021 NAB League Girls: 5 Memorable Moments – Round 2a/5

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition continued with a five-day string of fixtures, playing out Round 5 and making up for some of the postponed Round 2 matchups. In continuing our new weekly series, we take a look at the most memorable moments from each match; whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There has been plenty of eye-catching action over the last few days, as the best Victorian girls churned out another batch of impressive feats.

Calder Cannons vs. Northern Knights

Mooney opens on the money

By: Declan Reeve

In what was always expected to be a close and physical contest, either attrition or individual moments of brilliance would help break the game open as Northern met Calder. It was the latter to start off, as Knights bottom-ager Simone Mooney got her side on the board. She got on the end of an Ella Smallacombe kick in the first quarter, about 30 metres from goal, before pushing off a Calder defender and slotting the first major of the game. Way to set the tone.

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Amber gives Dandy the green light

By: Michael Alvaro

There were plenty of players afield capable of winning the game off their own boot as Oakleigh and Dandenong went head-to-head, and while it ended up being Charlie Rowbottom for the Chargers, Amber Clarke was very nearly the Stingrays’ hero. Having set up a two-goal buffer, the Chargers were pegged back by Clarke in the second and third terms. She was most impactful when stationed deep inside 50 during the third quarter, putting her side ahead in a flash with consecutive goals to dramatically turn the tables. Finishing with three of Dandenong’s four goals, Clarke’s efforts were far from fruitless in the loss.

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Tasmania Devils

Di Donato’s siren-beating goal

By: Peter Williams

It might not have been their day, but Octavia Di Donato‘s siren-beater from long range was an effort difficult to forget. With Bendigo having a lot of the play in the opening term and leading by just seven points, Di Donato grabbed the ball and threw it on her boot. The favourable bounce and help from the wind saw it get through right at the final moment for the Pioneers in what was a high moment for the home team prior to the Devils hitting back.

Gippsland Power vs. Sandringham Dragons

The Murphy and Angelopoulos show

By: Peter Williams

Sandringham Dragons forwards Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos had days out in front of goal against Gippsland Power, slotting eight of their team’s 12 goals in the big win. It was the first half that really set them up with Murphy booting three of her five, and Angelopoulos slotting two of her three, which at that stage was combined for five of the Dragons’ seven majors to half time. They all but ended the contest in that opening half with their strength and body positioning in the marking contest, and helped the Dragons secure their first win of the year.

Western vs. Tasmania

Tassie teamwork makes the dream work

By: Declan Reeve

A quick turnaround did little to wilt Tasmania’s energy and creativity against Western, and this small snippet of excellence proved as much. The Devils’ Amy Edmand tapped down cleverly to an oncoming Amy Bissett, who crumbed the play perfectly before sending a deep kick inside 50 that eventually led to Tasmania’s second goal. The synergy is there for the Devils in 2021.

Q&A: Matty Roberts (South Adelaide/South Australia)

SOUTH Adelaide’s Matty Roberts is one of his state’s best draft prospects for 2021, and is ready to crack the Panthers’ League lineup having trained with the senior side during preseason. The AFL Academy member has been a key part of South’s Under 18 setup for a couple of years now and is also set to skipper the St Peter’s First XVIII. On-field, Roberts is a midfielder-forward who runs hard and makes good decisions with ball in hand, finds plenty of it, and can also hit the scoreboard.

Draft Central correspondent Tom Wyman chatted to Roberts at the recent South Australia preseason testing event for a question and answer (Q&A) special.

Q&A:

Q: How do you think you tested?

A: “I thought I tested not too bad. Obviously I could do better in some things but I thought it was pretty good.”

 

Tell us a bit about yourself off-field

“I grew up in the town of Strathalbyn. I have a younger brother, Tyson and my parents Brenton and Sally. I grew up on a farm just out of Strathalbyn, went to school in ‘Strath’ up until Year 9 and now I’m boarding at St Peter’s in Adelaide and going into Year 12 this year.”

 

What has your footy journey been like so far?

“I started at Langhorne Creek in the Under 10s when I was about five and then progressed through the Under 10s, 12s, and 15s and then through South Adelaide’s pathway. Now I’m in the 18s program and have started training with the League team this season.”

 

Do you think you have what it takes to match it at League level?

“I think I can, I played in an A-Grade premiership for Langhorne Creek when I was 14, just going on 15. So I have memories from that year to be able to hopefully step up into the League this year.”

 

Is making your League debut one of your goals this year?

“That’s my main goal this year, to be able to play as many League games as I can.”

 

Describe yourself as a player

“I feel like I’m smart with the ball, I’m pretty composed with ball in hand and use it well most of the time. And I can impact the scoreboard when I go forward.”

 

Do you see yourself as more of a midfielder or forward?

“Sort of a mixture between both I think. I have pretty strong scoreboard impact when I go forward but obviously I like to play through the mid.”

 

Are there any players you can compare your game to?

“I like to look at Marcus Bontempelli. He’s a left-footer, a good ball user through the mid and can also go forward and impact there.”

 

How has it been juggling school and SANFL commitments?

“School’s been pretty accommodating with my South Adelaide training this year and I’ve been trying to stay on top of school work. I’m captaining the St Peter’s First XVIII this year so they’ve been really good, just making sure that I’m showing face and then obviously going on with my South Adelaide commitments at the moment. But they’ve been really good, helping me juggle both.

Image Credit: Nick Hook/SANFL

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 3

A NEW NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 3 produced plenty of highlights as players returned to competitive action after an unexpected week’s break. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting opening set of fixtures.

Calder Cannons vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

The Oakleigh midfield bull may not have been as outwardly productive on the stat sheet as her Round 1 performance, but contributed a mountain of work against stiff opposition. Matched up against Georgie Prespakis at the opening bounce, Rowbottom warmed to the contest and provided her patented physicality as the stakes heightened. Her lift in intensity during the second half gave Oakleigh a real boost at the coalface, with the midfielder’s grunt work to break away from each contest a damaging feature throughout. Armed with good game sense, she looked to take ground quickly and pump the Chargers inside 50 with decent depth. 18 disposals, five inside 50s and 11 tackles show a strong two-way performance.

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Prespakis has set the bar so high, it is difficult for her to outdo herself each week. That was hardly the case on Saturday as the Calder standout lifted when her side needed her, against very strong opposition. Her clean hands and ability to stand up in tackles were key features early on, when the pressure was at its peak among a raft of rolling scrums. Prespakis had a couple of uncharacteristic lapses in that facet as the game wore on, but again, has set the bar very high. Her work to impact going forward was noticeable in this outing, especially with more time resting inside 50. On a couple of occasions, she danced away from congestion and bombed long into the forward arc, with one kick rolling over the back and into the goal post. Her inside/outside balance was also on show; able to dig in for a round-high 18 tackles and flick out releasing handballs on the inside, while using her penetrating peg once on the outer to snatch vital meterage. Another top performance.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Having shown promising glimpses throughout her time at Calder, Gillard is beginning to put the pieces together with greater frequency. Rotating deep forward from the ruck, she used her height advantage to dominate the hitouts while also providing a marking threat in the front half. Gillard stationed nicely ahead of the ball when taking up the centre half forward role and looked even more ominous when occupying space closer to goal. A big clunk in the fourth term was one of her highlights for the day, but she could not quite bend the ball around to convert the resultant shot. She has all the tools to excel, with a sound aerial game and promising athleticism.

STANDOUTS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Once again a staple of Calder’s midfield, Yassir worked beautifully in tandem with Prespakis to drive the Cannons forward. Her ground level game is what stands out most, with the ability to cleanly extract and put on a five-step burst to escape the clutches of would-be tacklers. Busy would be a fitting way to describe Yassir’s game on Saturday, as she constantly looked to put Calder on the front foot and link through the middle with handball chains. She managed five inside 50s among her 20 disposals, a good return from the diminutive midfielder.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

The talented tall defender faced some tough work as Oakleigh turned up the heat after half time, but stood tall under pressure. Trusted with the kick-in duties, all nine of Lennox’s disposals came via foot and many of them were long kicks from deep in defence. At times, it made for repetitive work and the ball did come back quickly when a mark was not found, but the 17-year-old is typically assured on the ball and can gain decent ground. One facet which was outstanding throughout the game was Lennox’s defensive work, showing great closing speed and athleticism to spoil at the ideal time when others would just about concede the mark. She is hardly beaten one-on-one and only really lost out on one key occasion, but was otherwise reliable as ever.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Another key cog in the Calder engine room, Friswell provides a touch of class in everything she does. One particular moment of brilliance was her set shot conversion in the second term, which showcased enormous skill to utilise the wind and help the ball home from deep on the boundary line. Friswell often proved difficult to catch with her bursts of speed and agility, and was even credited by her opponents for just that post-match. 15 disposals, seven tackles and a goal makes for good reading – she may be one to watch as the season unfolds.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Vickers is another player with great class on the ball and her 14 disposals from half-back proved exactly that on Saturday. She was constantly positioned in just the right place to intercept and then incite her typical rebound, even moving up the ground aggressively to be that quarterback-style kicker on the attack. It meant that whether she was taking the kick-ins or booting long forward 50, Vickers was able to impact via foot. Her running goal from range in the third term was an outstanding bit of play, and one which went close to being Draft Central’s memorable moment of the match.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid has had a blinding start to the season and was arguably one of the best two player afield for a second week running. The winger has a happy knack of roaming into all the right areas forward of centre, proving near-impossible to keep track of. She again hit the scoreboard and did so early, which was crucial to Oakleigh’s chances of staying in the game. Her left foot has good range and accuracy and is a weapon when utilised in time and space. As the game wore on, Reid was forced to bomb long a touch more than she would have perhaps liked, but most of her decisions were made well and with great class. Her clean hands also bode well for more time spent pushing hard off the line at centre bounces, as well as increased time up forward. 24 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and two goals – Reid could soon be a player of the week candidate with such form.

#12 Jemma Rigoni (Oakleigh Chargers)

The daughter of former Melbourne player, Guy Rigoni, Jemma is a raw and athletic centre half forward with enormous potential. The bottom-ager showed lively pace off the mark and presented brilliantly high up on the attacking arc. Whether competing in the air or mopping up ground balls, Rigoni looked like making something happen when the play entered her area and while she did not find the goals, was still impactful as Oakleigh charged home in the final term.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

James put in another strong shift from midfield and only added to the grunt that Rowbottom provided at each contest. Much of her work was done at the coalface, but James also made an impact when stationed up forward in the final term. Stationed deep in a one-on-one, she managed to latch onto a long kick over the top as her opponent fell and kicked a crucial goal to help seal the deal for Oakleigh. Earlier, her best moments in midfield came through explosive runs with ball-in-hand, though her disposal was a touch raw at times. Still, there are some great tools to work and James has proven a strong competitor.

#15 Ameile Smith (Oakleigh Chargers)

Having made a splash on debut last week, Smith showed a few different strings to her bow with a solid game rotating forward through the ruck. Slightly undersized against pretty stiff opposition, the bottom-ager competed well both in the air and at ground level with a springy leap and clean hands. She reverted to a forward role more frequently in the second half and very nearly made an immediate impact, showing her smarts to win a clutch one-on-one but narrowly missing her running shot on goal. Smith would later be gifted such reward, converting from a 50-metre penalty to give Oakleigh the lead early in term four.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps an unheralded member of the Chargers’ midfield brigade, Ling played an important role in setting the tone early for her side. Her ground level work was terrific and perhaps even more pleasing were her defensive efforts with unrelenting tackles and brave smothers. She saw plenty of the ball with 23 disposals, 17 of which were handballs to release her running teammates. A strong player for her size and hard worker to boot, Ling deserves plenty of credit for helping Oakleigh compete in the early proceedings.

OTHERS:

Oakleigh’s Charlotte Van der Vlies and Calder’s Tahlia Read enjoyed a tough battle on the wing for much of the game, both cracking in hard and looking to move their side forward. Neve Crowley showcased a wonderful intercept game, particularly in the first half, while Olivia Manfre was another strong contributor for the Cannons. Alexandra McCulloch absorbed plenty of pressure in the Chargers’ defence, while Taylah Morton looked to play her role as a small forward up the other end.

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Peter Williams

STANDOUTS:

#41 Tegan Williams (Bendigo Pioneers)

The young key defender was steadfast on the last line and stood out far beyond what the stats might suggest. Still yet to turn 17 until next month, Williams held down the fort and took a strong intercept mark to then hit-up a teammate at half-back. Some of the traits that caught the eye included her composure, clean hands and positioning, especially when under pressure.

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

The versatile tall had a go at both key forward and ruck, but also found herself in defence early in the game when the Pioneers’ defence was under siege. She has a strong set of hands and is difficult to beat in the air. Her fierce attack on the ball is admirable as well, with a vertical leap which troubles a lot of taller opponents. Towards the end of the game she gave away back-to-back free kicks from a block and late contact, but never stopped giving her all.

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

The midfielder/forward showed clean hands and a clean set of heels with high-level agility around the stoppages. She rushed some of her kicks under pressure at times, but she put together yet another four quarter performance. Snell is one of those players who once she can find an exit, is hard to stop due to her speed/agility combination. Just continued to crack in and do what she could on the inside for her team.

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

The 2005-born Keck is projecting as a promising talent for a few years, with natural footy IQ and athleticism. Couple that with the fact she can kick on either foot and the signs are promising. Some of her highlights include a terrific run down tackle on the strong Elizabeth Dowling in the third term, and then was able to spin one way, then the other and snaps off her foot in traffic to hit a target. She has the confidence to take the opposition on, and while she was brought down by Mia Van Dyke on the wing, she backed herself to fend off a couple.

#11 Lily Den Houting (Bendigo Pioneers)

The top-ager was quite busy early in the match, cracking in and winning the contested ball, also taking a good intercept mark at half-back. She pushed up to the wing at times and then provided an option for the switch, and while was quieter in the second half, still featured on some plays out of defence.

#37 Madeline Marks (Bendigo Pioneers)

For a ruck prospect, Marks shines when the ball is in transition and her work rate is something of a strength. She was able to compete well in the ruck, and then receive the ball on the run in a 1-2 in the second term, willing to present as a transition option. Whilst she has clean hands with her taps, the next step is clunking a few more marks inside 50 to become a dangerous target.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

A huge contender to be the leading goalkicker this year, Tierney is just a reliable source of scoring. With the capacity to push up the ground and impact the midfield, Tierney is good one-on-one and gets to the right position more often than not. The forward not only slotted four majors on the day, but set up at least a couple more as well, and hit the behind post later in the game.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Arguably the in-form defender of the competition, Lee is the composed player every defence needs. Possessing a variety of traits from strength in the air and on the ground, to skill and decision making, Lee is one of the few players that ticks a lot of boxes across the board. She might come in at sub-170cm (169cm) but she plays like a key position defender, and her athleticism coupled with her strength makes her hard to beat on any given day. One to watch this year.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

A player who is consistent as they come, Schaap just keeps attacking the ball and driving it forward when required. Her in-and-under work is always there, but it was her perfect hitup to Renee Tierney for the first goal of the second term that caught the eye. Defensively she stacks up against anyone, producing a great smother early in the third term and took a contested one-grab mark later in the quarter.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Another strong outing for the midfielder who just finds ways of being involved in the play. She was continually busy. across the ground and kicked an important goal on the half-time siren after receiving a free kick for a Pioneers density violation. She read the play well in defence to take a terrific one-on-one grab, and covered ground sensationally.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Always threatening to kick a bag, Featherston has the contested marking ability, fierce attack on the ball and penetrating kick to make her a danger for any defender. Time and time again she put her body on the line, and was able to finish off with a powerful set shot goal early in the third term. At times she could be a little more composed when taking shots on goal, but when she has time and space, she just makes things happen.

OTHERS:

Charlotte Simpson had another strong outing across the board, working hard to win plenty of the ball and cover the ground well, whilst Zoe Garth‘s two goals back-to-back early in the match really put her team in a commanding position. Elizabeth Dowling and Ingrid Houtsma were other Falcons who provided size at opposite ends. For the Pioneers, Octavia Di Donato used her run to advantage, while Scarlett Orritt was also among the Pioneers’ best.

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

By: Michael Alvaro

STANDOUTS:

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

A deserving Draft Central Player of the Week nominee, Pisano returned a breakout performance in just her second NAB League outing. The 15-year-old is not draft eligible until 2023, but proved more than up to speed with her elder counterparts with four terrific goals. She set the tone after five minutes of play by slotting the game’s first major, but came to life in the third term with two goals within the opening 90 seconds. She added another later in the same stanza to further compile Gippsland’s misery, more significantly putting her name on the radar as one to watch for the future.

#11 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)

One of the leaders among Eastern’s side and a player gunning to prove her worth as an elite level prospect, Meagher continued her strong start to the season with 22 disposals (17 kicks) and seven inside 50s. While capable of doing the tough stuff through midfield, the top-ager was able to find a bit of freedom in moving the ball forward to good effect. She is the kind of player who will prove a barometer for this Ranges outfit, which is currently in very good form.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

After a strong showing in Round 1, Deed again took her game to another level with her impactful performance from midfield. She did just about everything in this game; racking up 22 disposals, laying five tackles, notching three inside 50s, and booting two goals as her side ran riot. Much of Eastern’s ability to apply scoreboard damage came down to its better spread across the ground, but also the work of players like Deed who set the Ranges on the right foot from where it matters most.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

A promising top-age ruck, Campbell put up great numbers for a player of her position. She made her mark in terms of hitouts with 25 – building on her effort of 20 in Round 1 – but also got her hands dirty with three tackles and impacted the Ranges’ forward momentum with two inside 50s from her nine touches. The cherry on top, and perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Campbell’s game was her ability to hit the scoreboard, notching a hat-trick of goals spread across three different quarters.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Stationed in the under-siege Gippsland defence, Van Berkel was her side’s standout player and a pillar of the Power’s resistance. All 14 of the top-ager’s disposals came via foot, showcasing an urgency to help ease pressure on the Power’s backline. Seven of those kicks registered as rebound 50s too, with meterage key to allowing her side some time to reset. She also used her height to clunk six marks and showed great versatility to hold down such an important role in defence after spending plenty of time rucking in Round 1.

OTHERS:

There were plenty of terrific contributors for Eastern in its record-breaking win. Matilda Hardy, Isabelle Khoury, Keeley Sherar, and Jorja Livingstone all earned their fair share of possessions while also hitting the scoreboard with a goal each, making for a damaging team effort. Courtney Fletcher was a fighting member of Gippsland’s defence with six rebound from her 10 disposals, while the likes of Sunday Brisbane, Yasmin Duursma, and Grace McRae were up against it among the engine room.

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Western Jets

By: Declan Reeve

STANDOUTS:

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Often playing as a down the line midfield option or a kick behind the play, her read of the ball was on full display as she was going for grabs and impacting contests anytime she was around. Her work in close was superb, and with ball in hand there were few that used it better, often placing her kicks in front of teammates in dangerous positions

#11 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)

Dangerous in the first quarter kicking the Stingrays only goal, but having two very good shots resulting in behinds as well, just looks dangerous in the midfield especially when unchecked, getting first or second possession from the ruck fairly easily. Also presented as a main target up forward at times, showing her versatility and threat in multiple areas of the ground

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked electric up forward, the type of player you genuinely feel like can kick a goal from anywhere or make anything happen. Her speed and leap are obviously a class above, often running past 2-3 Jets players to give herself space for a kick. Often looks to bring team mates into the game when going forward as well, instead of blazing away. Her speed is an asset in the midfield, with a burst of acceleration not many can match

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Playing through the midfield she was able to showcase her composure and skill with the footy, finding time in every situation she was in to get the footy out to the advantage of her teammates. This was highlighted in the 3rd quarter when she found herself with the ball after a centre bounce and side stepped a Western player to deliver a lace out kick to a teammate waiting on the wing

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Her work wrapping up loose balls in the backline went a long way to keeping the Jets on a short leash in the first half,  the ball really well and works hard to ensure all her teammates are backed up in the backline. Her foot skills were an obvious strength through out the game

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Whilst not racking up the numbers she did against Eastern, Bakaran’s class with the footy was on show on the day when she had her chances, with her fantastic ball use, especially via foot, still a highlight of the game. She often holds the footy in and draws the opposition player in before releasing to a teammate, giving them more time than they otherwise would have.    

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

Was a presence everywhere on the ground throughout the game, with her foot skills, aerial strength and tackling on full display as she was best on for the Jets. Her tackling pressure around the contest is exceptional for a girl of her height, and her athleticism is a big strength,she backs herself to beat most opponents and rarely makes a poor decision in those judgements. When she moved up forward in the 4th as a main target she showed her versatility, handling it well and often found herself winning 2 on 1 situations inside forward 50

#24 Laura Elliott (Western Jets)

Knows where to be when positioning herself behind the ball, took some very good grabs throughout the game to stop fast coming Dandenong attacks, showing off her knack for transition work as well her skills on the rebound are also good, often hitting inside 45 kicks to get Western moving Kick ins were all effective

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Good at closing down space between her and opponents, making her an extremely efficient and dangerous tackling threat, often got herself free kicks for holding the ball around the midfield leading to inside 50’s

OTHERS:

19-year-old tall defender Zoe Hill (15 disposals, 4 inside 50’s) had a good performance, with her efforts in the air and follow up work at ground level impressive for a tall. Defender Brooke Smith (12 disposals, 4 rebound 50’s) was also influential in the Dandenong’s defensive half. Ashleigh Richards (13 disposals) was a strong ball winner on the inside as well. For Western, Caitlin Sargent (7 disposals, 3 marks) showed her aerial work with some nice grabs, and a goal over the top of the pack showing her forward craft, whilst 2022 eligible ruck Krystal Russell (6 disposals, 28 hitouts) had another dominant display in the ruck

GWV Rebels vs. Murray Bushrangers

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

The contested marking talent stepped up from her first game to be more of a threat in the forward half and up the ground, though most of her good work was done at ground level. She still took her fair share of marks, but her work to spin out of trouble or keep the ball moving in transition was a highlight. She kicked a goal snapping off the left foot in the second term.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Playing predominantly on the inside but still enjoying run on the outside, Dojiok had a big three quarters after a quieter first term. Her power and acceleration out of the stoppage was yet again a problem for the opposition, and while she occasionally bombed it forward, she was gaining important metres for her side, and in the second half particularly she was having the ball on a string.

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The ruck stepped up from Round 1 to provide a target inside 50 when she drifted down, a strong presence around the ground at stoppages. She had a couple of early shots on goal which missed, before earning a set shot and making no mistake in the first term. Her ruckwork was clean and she just competes in the air or at ground level, battling hard against some quicker opponents at times.

STANDOUTS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

A match-winner with three important goals, Scott enjoyed herself on the weekend feasting on a range of intercepts and loose checking by the defence, she looked dangerous every time she went near the ball. The bottom-ager is progressing nicely and has a fierce attack on the ball with a passion for tacking and then benefiting off defensive work, to play that mid/forward role well.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The tough mid really started getting going from the second term on and then brought her own ball with her after that. She kept popping up in all thirds of the ground and showed a cleanliness at ground level which was important. Condon is constantly looking at ways to tuck the ball under the arm and take off, catching the opposition on the hop from a stoppage.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Unassumingly just does her job in the defensive half of the ground, racking up the ball with ease and driving it out of defence and down the ground in transition. Leonard has that natural leadership trait and is able to find space, and always has a crack not worried about copping contact.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

There are penetrating left foot kicks, and then there is Skepper’s left foot. Playing on the inside and then looking to get to the outside, Skepper enjoys getting on the move and putting in a powerful bullet inside 50 to teammates. She starred on the weekend and just drills passes in, with opponents trying to knock her off balance or put her under pressure. She has some great defensive attributes as well to match her athleticism, but her lightning quick hands and penetrating boot are what make her so damaging.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

The speedy winger backed up her strong Round 1 game with another impressive performance on the outside. She wins the ball and backs herself with some unbelievable speed and ability to release by hand. At times she does not realise she has more time than she thinks and can rush with her disposal or pass it off prematurely, but when she gets going, she is hard to stop. Smith even laid a great run-down tackle late in the game to force her opponent to rush a handball.

#32 Mindy Quade (Murray Bushrangers)

Rock solid in the back 50, it was clearly noticeable the Bushrangers defence is much more settled with Quade in there. She is strong overhead, competes and can hit targets, but it is her ability to intercept and then drive the ball out of the back 50 that catches the eye. Quade has great courage and does not panic under pressure, always giving 100 per cent.

OTHERS:

GWV Rebels’ Crystal Summers found plenty of the ball through midfield and created some run through the middle, Tahlia Meier was busy early with two goals and then provided immense defensive pressure, while Jorja Jones, Rosie Pickles and Ally Trigg were also strong across the board. Olivia Cicolini created two goals up forward for the Bushrangers, while Molly Kennedy was strong in the air with her spoiling, Lily Sharp pushed hard in the forward half and Chloe Locke picked up in the second half with a number of good defensive efforts.

Sandringham Dragons vs. Northern Knights

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby

Once again her strength in the run and carry was on show utilising the space she got on the wing to take space with a couple of bounces and damaging kicks. IN the second quarter she managed a run from the mid win to half way inside the forward 50, out running two Sandringham players on the way. She played a big part in the last quarter as well, at times controlling the tempo and steadying the play for Northern on the way out of defence.

STANDOUTS:

#2 Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing a range of roles from, half forward, rover and winger, she again won plenty of the footy, throughout the day. She started off playing as the link up player in the first half for Sandringham, then moved into the midfield and did well around the stoppages. Her skills were clean, with her decision making and handballing hurting Northern often. She also showed composure when under immediate pressure, willing to take contact to ensure a high quality disposal

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Moving into the rover spot after spending round 1 on the wing, Hurley showed her game sense around stoppages, getting herself into dangerous areas in close and getting distance behind her kicks when she won the ball. She was clean with the ball when in space, but also showed composure under pressure

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Was versatile in her playstyle up forward all day, making hard leads when the space was in front of her and she was required to but also showing off her natural crumbing sense with her read of the ball off hands of the taller players, highlighted by her getting herself a goal out the back of a contest in the 3rd

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing off the half back her ball use, especially by foot, was once again exceptional, getting plenty of penetration and distance which got Sandringham some quick rebound opportunities. She moved into the forwardline in the first quarter and managed to create some scoring opportunities, showing she’s capable of playing either end of the ground.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was a standout contested ball winner through the midfield and a danger around the stoppages because of it. Sandringham didn’t have an answer for her ball winning which allowed her to have it on a string all day, damaging in the midfield, but also working hard in the backline and getting herself on the scoreboard in the 3rd quarter, it was complete performance from Chaplin, looking untouchable at times.

#20 Georgia Kitchell (Northern Knights)

Took advantage of the relative lack of height in the Sandringham ruck division and won most ruck contests with ease. Her ability to out body the opposition ruck in stoppages around the ground went a long way to making the contests a sure thing, giving her midfielders prime position for winning clearances

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

A gifted natural forward, her instinct with ball in hand is impressive, often taking on multiple opponents and getting past them inside 50 means she’s a constant threat to the opposition. Kicked two goals in the first quarter to put early pressure on Sandringham

#4 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Stationed on the wing, Plummers work around the ground was exceptional, playing as essentially another rover she was a danger as a back release option around stoppages, but also as a switch option in open play. She also showed a high work rate, getting involved in play deep in Northern’s defensive 50

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

A 2023 draft eligible player, Jordan’s composure and skill for her age and size is an asset that’ll hold her in good stead going forward. Fitting in seamlessly into the Northern midfield she was a key cog in moving the ball forward efficiently, taking on players much taller than her in ground and aerial duels.

#10 Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)

Playing as Northern’s main target up forward for the majority of the game, her contested marking and ball use damaged Sandingham every time she got near it. Took a contested pack mark in the 3rd quarter to kick a goal on the siren. She ended the day with a game high 3 goals for efforts, where she was a danger in the air and ground level

OTHERS:

Sandringham captain Kiana Lynch (20 disposals) and Charlotte Ryan (15) were the major ball winners for the Dragons, playing through the midfield and on the wing for the day, whilst 19-year-old Chloe Saultry was again an obstacle for her opponents with 8 tackles. Teleah Smart (14 disposals, 5 tackles) was influential for Northern through the midfield, finding separation from stoppages with ease, Trinity Mills (13 disposals, 1 goal) enjoyed a good day for a forward.

2021 VFLW season preview: Geelong

GEELONG is not overcomplicating things when it comes to attacking the 2021 VFLW season, according to new head coach, Andrew Bruce. Taking the reigns after being appointed as assistant in 2020, Bruce says his side has worked hard to keep in shape and will try to bring an attacking brand of football to the upcoming campaign.

“We’ve had a really good preseason,” Bruce said. “Obviously most of the girls had most of the year off last year but came back in really good shape and they’ve worked really hard through the preseason. Our skill level has certainly jumped up from the start to where we are now, so we’re really comfortable with where they are.”

“We want to be nice and hard at the football and use it as best we can. It’s very much an attacking style of play where we give ourselves the best opportunity to score. We’re not overcomplicating it at all, we want the players to continue to develop in what they’re doing but also to attack the game as much as they can and try and get some good pressure on the opposition.”

“It’s a good brand of footy where the girls are really confident in what they’re doing and we’re defending really well, so we’ve kind of got both aspects of the game going okay at the moment.”

Having effectively lost a year of competitive football in 2020, the Cats are no different to many other teams in that they will enter this season with a fresh-looking list, “significantly” so in the words of Bruce. He says Geelong will field a group of mixed ages and experience levels throughout the season, with aligned AFLW and NAB League players also set to roll through the squad.

“There’s been a significant change in personnel in the playing list,” he said. “There’s still probably half-a-dozen players who have been around for a bit of time and are quite experienced.”

“Michelle Fedele, who has been with the VFLW group pretty much since it started at Geelong, she’s missed a couple of years with an ankle injury but she’s come back fully fit and is going really well, so it’s exciting to see her play.

“Jamie Woollett has also stayed around and with her experience will be really important for us – Rebecca Pearce is the same. Then we’ve got some newer players; Claudia Gunjaca, who’s originally from Geelong but the last few years has been studying up in New South Wales and played in their state league. She’s come back this year and has been absolutely fantastic for the group – can play at both ends of the ground, is a really strong mark and her leadership is fantastic.”

“We’ve got a couple of younger girls as well. Tamara Smith, who was originally out of the Murray Bushrangers and Paige Sheppard, who was going to have the year off last year anyway, but has come back to footy and has done really well. We’ve got a player who’s crossed from Germany, she was playing in the AFLW Europe League. She’s come across to try her luck here, has settled in really well with the girls and is a very good player.”

“We’ve had a few (NAB League) girls come train with us through preseason. Renee Tierney and Ava McKeegan from Geelong, Chloe Leonard from Greater Western Victoria (GWV), she’s their captain this year. We expect them to play with us at various times through the year and probably a couple of other girls as well like Tess Craven or Annie Lee from Geelong.”

“It’s really exciting for those girls, obviously playing at that high standard in their age group through the NAB League and then also getting the opportunity at different times to play in the VFLW will be fantastic for their development.”

Along with the perks of strong talent pathways, the Cats will also benefit from a green AFLW side in the same region. Brimming with young talent, five to six players from the Geelong AFLW squad will play in the state league each week should they miss out on senior selection. Bruce says the alignment has been “great” for both parties.

“Obviously with COVID restrictions there were restrictions on how many train-on players they could have from the VFLW into AFLW, however a few of the girls did get to do that for a few weeks and they came back saying how great it was, the inclusiveness of it,” he said.

“Without doubt, their training standards picked up from that point, obviously being around some more experienced players and seeing how they go about their business has really had a positive impact on the way our players do that. With the alignment, we have five to six AFLW players (depending on injuries) come back to our games.”

“Again, it’s fantastic for those players to play footy rather than having to sit out when they’re not selected, but also just to assist with the development of our players throughout the matches with direction and different advice that they can give. Both groups are a fantastic bunch of girls and they all get along really well.”

Another area which has gone relatively smoothly thus far is the injury front. Pearce (hip) and a couple of players rehabbing ACL tears are just about the only injury concerns for Geelong ahead of Round 1, with the fitness of the players also up to scratch. The Cats will face off against Collingwood on Saturday afternoon and while Bruce expects stiff opposition, he says it will be difficult to gauge how each side stacks up until competition commences.

The Cats will announce their leadership group at tomorrow night’s jumper presentation, and promise to be raring to go after showing marked improvement in their second practice game, against Hawthorn. Bruce says his troops are simply “excited to have footy back.”

“Everyone’s missed out on so much over the past 12 months,” he said. “To get some positivity through sport is fantastic for everyone; whether it be the players, staff or their supporters. It’s all really good and we’re all just very excited to get back amongst it.”

Image Credit: Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens

2021 NAB League Girls: 6 Memorable Moments – Round 1

THE NAB League Girls competition returned in a big way on the weekend, with six games throwing up a mixed bag of results and plenty of memorable moments. In a new weekly series as part of Draft Central’s ever-expanding pathways coverage, we take a look at the top moments from each match – whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There was plenty of eye-catching action in Round 1, as the best Victorian girls hit the ground running after 11 months away from competitive football.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets

Baskaran kicks off the season in style

Perhaps not a single moment, but a collection of them to start off. While her Western Jets may not have achieved the desired result, Charlotte Baskaran was in fine form in the season’s opening fixture. The 16-year-old accumulated a round-high 28 disposals, but the more remarkable feat was that 23 of them were kicks. A typically classy user of the ball on both sides, Baskaran penetrated the forward 50 eight times and rebounded thrice. Given the damage she can do with more modest numbers, it made for an impactful outing in a team which was held goalless for three quarters and went down by 21 points.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers

Damaging duo snags four majors in 12 minutes

It only took 12 minutes either side of half-time for Bendigo Pioneers to secure their first win of the season, defeating Murray Bushrangers by 26 points. The just-over-four-goal margin was helped by six consecutive Pioneers goals after Murray kicked the opening major of the game. Leading by six points midway through the second term, Elizabeth Snell kicked back-to-back goals to give the visiting team separation at half-time, and in a 152-second blitz, Jayda Richardson booted back-to-back goals early in the third term. The 13-7 quarter time difference had blown out to 38-10 just two and a half minutes into the third term, and it was always going to be difficult for the Bushrangers to play catchup after that.

Tasmania Devils vs. Gippsland Power

Prokopiec’s first quarter

Having only kicked one goal in their two games last year, it was vital that Tasmania got off to a perfect start against Gippsland Power in Round 1 of the NAB League Girls season. By quarter time, Amy Prokopiec had stood up booting two goals – and would finish with four for the match – which set the tone for the rest of the match. If it was not the entire first term for Prokopiec, then it was her remarkable final term goal, taking a step from tight on the boundary to snap around her body and put the final nail in the coffin during Tasmania’s win.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels

Schaap’s match-winner

It was a tough decision to not pick Renee Tierney‘s back-to-back third quarter goals for the Falcons to turn the tide back in her team’s favour which was deserving of the spot, but Poppy Schaap‘s match-winning goal gets the nod. With the pressure sky-high and less than a kick between the teams, it felt like a next-goal-wins scenario. Both teams had their chances, with a number of misses for the Falcons, before Schapp managed to grab a loose ball off the deck and snap it quickly under pressure. A favourable bounce later and she had sealed the win for her team.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons

Prespakis shimmy helps get Calder on the board

Reigning league best and fairest, Georgie Prespakis put on a sparkling performance in Round 1, featuring just about everywhere with 21 disposals and 11 tackles as Calder stormed to a 16-point victory. One particular highlight came in the second term after Sandringham had scored the first goal of the game. The Cannons managed to get the ball inside 50, but Sandringham had done well to get it to a pocket near the boundary, almost putting it out of play. Cue Prespakis, who came in, picked it up and managed to evade two Sandringham defenders before centring the ball to teammate Mali McLeod, who kicked Calder’s first goal for the game. It was just the spark her side needed.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Reid’s stellar shrug and finish

There was a bunch memorable moments as Oakleigh snapped Northern’s long-standing undefeated run on Sunday, many of which were produced by player of the week candidate, Charlie Rowbottom. But Stella Reid gets the nod here for one of her two final term goals, which put the cherry on top of a stellar performance. The classy winger/half-back was a menace on the rebound and had broken forward once again, latching onto the ball out the back with opponents on her hammer. Having initially been caught, Reid shrugged off a would-be tackler and did not break stride before finishing with aplomb on her left side. One for the highlight reel, and her teammates adored it.

Familiar faces set to lead versatile Falcons

VERSATILITY is set to be a key feature of the Geelong Falcons girls squad in 2021, according to new coach Paul Corrigan. He leads somewhat of a homecoming among the Falcons’ staffing ranks, returning to the region alongside incoming talent operations lead, Tom Lonergan – formerly of the Calder Cannons.

Corrigan is also set to coach the Vic Country squad and oversee the Falcons’ boys program as part of his new full-time role, one which he is “thoroughly enjoying”. He says returning home to Geelong has suited him, and having familiar faces has made for a great working relationship thus far.

“Obviously I knew Tommy beforehand so when I found out that he was going for that role and obviously he was really keen to get back to Geelong as well, it fitted nicely,” Corrigan said.

“We work really well together, we have a great relationship and I think it just helps too with being back in the region with the people we’ve known over a number of years and the relationships that we’ve got just makes it a little bit easier from that perspective too. “We’ve got a good grasp on the region and the leagues within (it) as well across both boys and girls, so we’re just really looking forward to it.”

The former Geelong Cats player and Essendon development coach says the Falcons girls have really “impressed” him since returning from an extended break, with their fitness base and skill level seeing them “firing and ready to go” ahead of Round 1 this weekend.

“I was really impressed with the amount of talent through the group,” he said. “When they first came back pre-Christmas I was really impressed with how good their skills were, how clean they were with ball in hand as well. “It almost suggested they had done a little bit (of work) through that Covid period when we had the break from footy.

“They’ve prepared themselves really well. “They came back looking like they hadn’t missed a beat and I think they’re just really eager and energised to play a game of footy this weekend which will be great.”

Corrigan’s assessment of the Falcons’ age profile suggests there remains a strong core of draft eligible leaders, along with some exciting younger talent which will continue to supply the elite level for years to come. The coach’s philosophies also came to the fore when discussing Geelong’s squad; with versatility, a team mentality, and strength-based coaching at the fore.

“I think we’ve been pretty blessed with the way our list has panned out,” he said. “We’ve got a good bracket of girls that are the ’04 births, then we’ve got another good bracket of the ’03s and then we’ve got girls who’ll be turning 19 this year, so we’ve got a really good mix of really good youth within the side with that core group in the middle. “There’s some real experience so from that blend I think it’ll work really well across the ground.

“My philosophy with the girls has been that I’m really keen to make them quite versatile in the way they play, and not just one-positional players. “We’ve had some good conversations around being a bit multi-functional with where they play and not just pigeonholing one position, but generating a couple of positions for these girls because if they are fortunate enough to go onto the next level… they can get selected on the basis that they can play numerous positions as well.

“I’m not a big one on individualising the standouts. “I’ve said to the girls, there’s no point in coming into a program like this and just looking at your room for improvements all the time. “You’ve got to this level because your strengths have shown in your football at local or school level. “Obviously we’ll set a template on how we want to play, but I’ve just encouraged the girls to showcase those strengths when they play and I think we’ve seen that across the board.

“We’ll probably get a gauge on who are the ones who’ll play good consistent football once we get into the season. It’s really hard to predict at the moment because we’ve missed so much footy, but I think Rounds 1, 2, and 3 we’ll start to see where our strengths lie and who’ll become the really consistent performers in our side.”

Another key trait of the side is leadership quality, which extends beyond the captain, Lucy Were, and vice-captain, Poppy Schapp. Corrigan says the side is “blessed” with leaders throughout, with the pair in charge driving key values of the region.

“The players voted on their leaders, so we’ve just named a captain and vice-captain and they just did that based on our values at the Falcons,” he said.

“Our captains are going to be Lucy Were this year and our vice-captain’s going to be Poppy Schapp. “They’re two fantastic leaders who have shown great leadership amongst the group throughout preseason, and also just driving the values within training.

“Even outside of training as well, I’ve been really impressed with how tight-knit the group is through preseason and I see a number of leaders within that side, I don’t just see them two as the main two, “I think we’re pretty blessed with the type and quality of girls in our side that possess leadership qualities.”

With no significant injuries throughout preseason and just about a full squad to choose from in Round 1, the Falcons are in good shape to swoop on the 2021 season. They take on the Greater Western Victoria Rebels on home turf this Sunday, hoping to once again start their campaign on a winning note.

Grateful Knights focussed on building connection

AFTER a difficult year for all, the Northern Knights are putting things into perspective heading into the 2021 NAB League Girls season. Former female talent coordinator, Natalie Grindal has stepped into the new, extended talent operations lead role which oversees both the boys and girls programs, along with incoming coach Leigh Clarke.

Grindal says she sometimes has to “pinch (herself)” though at her latest opportunity, with that perspective extending throughout the Northern talent program. While the wealth of changes and a condensed preseason schedule could be perceived as challenges for some, Grindal insists her Knights are grateful just to have football back.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to work in footy and to be able to do it now full-time and work across our girls program and now with our 17s and 19s boys, it’s amazing,” Grindal said.

“I think everyone is in the same boat with regards to what’s gone on in the last 12 months. “Obviously in terms of the staffing we’ve had a pretty significant change in personnel from a coaching perspective… so for us pre-Christmas and even post-Christmas the real focus was just on building that connection and building those rapports – whether it be player-to-player or player-to-staff – that’s been a real focus for us.”

“To be honest, we’re just really grateful to have footy back in any capacity. “Firstly it was training and now we’re just grateful and excited for the return of games, that’s the attitude that we’re taking at the moment.”

The success of the region, particularly over the last two years, in developing AFLW talent has been outstanding. In 2019 and 2020, number one AFLW draft picks in Gabby Newton and Ellie McKenzie graduated from the Northern program, along with a whole generation of elite-level prospects. Grindal says such honours were a “fantastic” result for the region.

“It was fantastic for the club to have Gabby and Ellie both go number one,” she said. “It’s a huge credit to the work that Marcus (Abney-Hastings), our coaching and support staff put into our program and our players’ development.”

“We’re really blessed in the northern region to have some fantastic local football clubs produce great footballers that come through and we’re just the beneficiary of those two girls, they’re outstanding. “It was fantastic to see Ellie debut on the weekend and Gabby still doing a fantastic job at the Bulldogs as well.”

This year, despite another turnover of top-age talent, the Knights are in good stead to again supply the top level of women’s football. Getting back to training in large unrestricted groups has helped players thrive as season proper approaches, and Grindal says players were “glowing” at the prospect of match simulation during the most recent preseason training stint.

“The girls were split into groups of about 10 (pre-Christmas), so when we returned post-Christmas, which was only two and a bit weeks ago, we were allowed to train in a full squad and you could tell that was what the girls were craving,” she said.

“Even from a preparation perspective, being able to do some match simulation – Leigh and I were talking and you could tell their faces were glowing, they had massive smiles after the first time we did some match simulation. “They obviously haven’t played for close to 11 months now of actual competitive football so for them to be able to get back, play with their friends and do what they love was really exciting.”

An “even split” across the age groups is set to make for a unique squad dynamic, as the competition moves towards Under 19 status in 2021. Grindal says the Knights will potentially have players stretched across four ages at any given time, with a number of standouts already emerging in the draft eligible categories.

“It’s an interesting one,” she said. “We’ll have some 19-year-olds returning, then we’ve probably got a pretty even split between 18 and 17-year-olds and we’ll also have a couple of 16-year-olds that will be on our list as well.”

Maeve Chaplin is going to return this year and play for us which is fantastic. “We’re excited for her to have another opportunity to show her skillset at the NAB League level, she was probably one of the really unlucky ones with the season cutting short – she didn’t get a full season to put her best foot forward and to prove herself to recruiters and AFLW clubs.”

Maykayla Appleby‘s in the AFLW national academy; she’s an 18-year-old, a really smart ball user who had played previously outside mid. “Obviously with Ellie and Fitzy (Jess Fitzgerald) in particular in the midfield last year, we’re looking at different players this year to step up and take that opportunity to take their game to the next level.”

Teleah Smart, who’s an 18-year-old as well, played in our 2019 premiership side as a bottom-ager, so she was 16-years-old then. “Unfortunately she was injured at the start of 2020 and was due to play in Round 4 as the competition was suspended so she’s well and truly itching to get back out there. “She’s an inside mid, an absolute contested ball winner, hard at it and I’m really excited to see her back out there again.”

Tarrah Delgado, probably at the start of the 2020 had a breakout year for us. “She played a couple of games with us in 2019 and then played all three in 2020 and really found her spot in defence. “She’s a really solid intercept marking defender, with an incredible read on the game and a pretty impressive kick on her, so she’s another one that I’m really looking forward to seeing how the year pans out for her.”

The Knights’ leadership group was announced at the club’s jumper presentation event on Wednesday, with Smart and Mikayla Plunkett set to co-captain as Georgia Kitchell takes up vice-captaincy. With no major injuries throughout preseason and a near-full squad to choose from, Northern faces a tough test in facing up to the Oakleigh Chargers for their Round 1 outing on Sunday afternoon.

2021 AFLW Stat Leaders: Round 1 – Houghton, Parker dominate the stats sheet

THE AFL Women’s season bounced down on Thursday night and produced plenty of eye-catching moments across its opening round, no less on the stats sheet. We take a look at some of the interesting statistical quirks and broken records to come out of the weekend’s action, while also giving a nod to the individual stat leaders across each category.

>> SCROLL for the Round 1 stat leaders

Outstanding individual performances from Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton and GWS’ Alyce Parker put them atop multiple categories this week, with both arguably their respective teams’ best player at Fremantle Oval on Sunday. Houghton became the first woman to achieve a game of over 20 disposals, 10 running bounces, and three goals – a feat the likes of Dale Thomas, Brent Harvey, and David King all managed in the men’s league. She topped four key stat lines, while Parker lead in three areas as two clear player of the week candidates.

Parker and GWS teammate, Rebecca Beeson may have led all comers in Round 1 with 28 disposals apiece, but Melbourne midfielder Karen Paxman was on track to easily trump those numbers at half time of her outing against Gold Coast. The 32-year-old amassed 13 disposals in the second term to take her first half tally to 19, putting her well on track to beat Anne Hatchard‘s AFLW record of 34. She finished with 25, but the damage was done as Melbourne ran out 21-point victors.

North Melbourne nearly toppled multiple other records in its 62-point destruction of Geelong at Kardinia Park on Sunday. The Roos’ romp made for the third-highest winning margin in AFLW history, and was their second-highest total across three seasons in the competition. One thing the Kangaroos did achieve was the highest-ever opening round percentage (788.9) in AFL/AFLW history, which inevitably aided the competition as a whole in managing the highest-scoring AFLW opening round.

ROUND 1 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Alyce Parker (GWS) – 28
Rebecca Beeson (GWS) – 28

Marks:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 9

Contested Marks:
Isabel Huntington (WB) – 5

Inside 50s:
Kirsty Lamb (WB) – 6

Rebound 50s:
Kiara Bowers (FRE) – 6

Disposal Efficiency (10+ disposals):
Ellie McKenzie (RIC) – 100%

Contested Possessions:
Alyce Parker (GWS) – 18

Intercept Possessions:
Janelle Cuthbertson – 17

Goals:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 3
Sabreena Duffy (FRE) – 3
Emma King (NM) – 3
Ellie Gavalas (NM) – 3

Clearances:
Jasmine Garner (NM) – 7
Isabel Dawes (BRI) – 7
Jaimee Lambert (COL) – 7
Alyce Parker (GWS) – 7

Tackles:
Hannah Button (ADE) – 13

Metres Gained:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 484.3

Hitouts:
Emma King (NM) – 30

Score Involvements:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 10

Featured Image: Docker Gemma Houghton was the dominant stat leader in Round 1 | Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

Dragons starting to fire ahead of NAB League Girls season

THE SANDRINGHAM Dragons are gaining confidence out on the track as their preseason hots up, less than a week out from the beginning of season proper. New talent pathways coach Jackson Kornberg is now overseeing both the boys and girls program having been a long-time assistant, and says his troops are in a “good position” in terms of fitness, skill, and cohesion ahead of Round 1.

“We’ve had our two intraclub games and we’ve settled on a final list,” Kornberg said. “I think off the back of our intraclub last (Wednesday) night, it gives me great confidence that the girls are in a good position fitness-wise. “I think that’ll come throughout the year, you get fitter every time you play and every NAB League club’s been in the same boat.

“I’ve been quite impressed from a skill point of view and from a team cohesion point of view as well. “I think it comes back to what the (coaching) team did last year in getting the group together and buying into Dragons footy.

“The great thing with this group is that we brought back essentially the list that we had last year and we and we brought in a couple of girls from outside who we identified through a relationship with local clubs and schools as well… (former coach) Tam Hyett and the coaching staff did a tremendous job with the girls last year from a coaching and development point of view.”

A gradual build-up during preseason sees the Dragons now ready to face true opposition for the first time in almost a year. While a short schedule ahead of the 2021 season meant no practice matches were played, match simulation and intraclub hitouts eventually took over from pure craft development.

Kornberg says there is still more learning to do throughout the year, but players and staff alike are just looking forward to getting back into competitive games.

“Pre-Christmas we primarily did a lot more individual base-craft stuff and a lot more skill development work,” he said. “As a new coaching staff we had to get to know the girls and know where they’re at. “I think it’s important as a NAB League (club) anyway to push that development, which we do a heap of.

“We’ve ramped into intraclubs over the last two training sessions and then into some match-sim next week, but we’ve gradually built it up so that throughout the season, we can just drip feed and add things as opposed to loading them all up before Round 1 and hoping for the best. “I think it’s really important with such a small amount of time to prioritize and then add value-add throughout the year.”

“We’re all just looking forward to getting a game in, the girls got the three games in (last year) but it’s still been nearly 12 months since they played a competitive game. “The coaches mentioned after training other day, when we have a look at the team we’re just really excited to see how we go because I think it’s an unknown at this point.”

An even spread across the age groups is a facet of Sandringham’s squad that has Kornberg pleased about the potential for progress in years to come. The incoming senior coach was also glowing in his detailing of the girls’ willingness to learn and implement what they are being coached at training. With the strength of the squad lying in its skill and ability to transition the ball, Kornberg says his troops have been playing to those assets thus far.

“For me (our strengths) fall back on the skill component,” he said. “We’re not going to be overly tall side, which I don’t mind – if you’re a well skilled team and you can run the ball, I don’t think it really matters when you’ve got a versatility across all lines.

“When we translate to games, our ability to move the ball from back 50 to forward 50… from that we’ll hopefully see a lot more ball on the outside to try and use that use that skill, use that speed, use that endurance a lot of our girls have, and then their foot skills to the move the ball.”

“I think the beauty about us is that we’ve got a real split across the ages. “We’re not heavily concentrated in one certain area, whether it be age 19, 18, or 17.  “We’ve currently got three 19-year-olds on our list and then we’ve got that core group of 18 and 17-year-olds which will be fantastic moving into 2021, but then also into 2022.”

A few standouts have already emerged too, with 2020 form and preseason shape ultimately the two factors to go off. Kornberg ran through a core of names who will put their hands up for draft contention this year and in 2022.

Kiana Lynch, her training throughout the preseason has been really solid as that draft age player,” he said. “It’s likely we’ll see her sort of playing those running midfield/winger sort of positions throughout the year. “She’s got a lovely kick, her running is really solid and I think she’ll really impact in that front half.”

Charlotte Ryan is someone who’s really sort of jumped out this year. “Going into the intraclubs we liked her speed and she’s able to get the ball and take ground. “She she really challenges the tackler and challenges the defence to chase her.”

“Another one who has really excited us in the intraclubs as well is Pia Staltari. “She’s played a number of different positions, but I think her role we’ve settled on is that that high half-back. “She reads the ball well and is probably one of the better sort of anticipators in our team, she’s got a really long nice penetrating kick as well.

“As far as from a from a draft age position they’re they the girls I’ve been really impressed with over preseason. A number of other girls I suppose as well are going to jump out throughout the year, but from the preseason we’re really happy with them.

“Then from a 17-year-old point of view, we’ve got some we’ve got some girls who have really been exciting through our preseason too. “Bridie Hipwell is one who, from a training point of view, her professionalism is terrific. We’re lucky enough to have Bridie in our girls program and then Darby, her older brother who’s in the boys program as well… but mostly playing through the midfield, she’s got a lovely kick, her speed and agility really are strong too.

Sophia Hurley will be another one as well as a 17-year-old. Her pace and her ability to keep the ball as one of the better kicks in our team is impressive. She has that ability to brake lines and really move, she’s probably one of pur better runners as well.”

The Dragons are set to take on Calder Cannons at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Sunday February 7, making for a tough opening fixture. The nine-round NAB League Girls season is set to bounce down a day earlier, with three of the six first-round fixtures taking place from 12pm, onwards.