Tag: abbie ballard

Westies youth ready to soar after promising 2020

WEST Adelaide is gearing up for a bumper 2021 South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) season, boasting an abundance of talented young prospects, and a side that showed it could match it with the best teams in the competition. Taking down experienced finals campaigner Norwood in the elimination final before bowing out at the hands of reigning back-to-back premier South Adelaide in the preliminary final, there was plenty to like about the Bloods’ season.

Ball magnet Rachelle Martin shared the SANFLW League Best and Fairest Award with North Adelaide’s Anne Hatchard, showing she was just too good to be at state league level. The Adelaide Crows agreed, and drafted Martin onto their senior list after being a train-on player and getting a game when injuries struck the Crows 12 months ago. It means Martin’s availability for West Adelaide will be dependent on AFL Women’s selection, but she, like her sister Hannah Button, are natural footballers with high work rates.

The Bloods will also be without the likes of Madison Newman and Chelsea Biddell when the Crows are playing, with the two continuing to impress at the elite level. Newman formed a deadly combination with bottom-ager and 2022 draft prospect Keeley Kustermann off half-back, with the pair both making the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year there. Kustermann was able to gain plenty of experience against senior bodies in 2020, and she will be one to watch not only in the SANFL Women’s competition, but at the AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships in April. Her balance, composure and skill by foot is impressive, and expect her to play an important role for West Adelaide.

Kustermann is not the only young talent on West Adelaide’s list, with Zoe Venning one of the highly touted draft-eligible players on the list. A hard nut who shows great courage around the ball, Venning can play as a lead-up forward, a high-forward or predominantly as an inside midfielder where she can crack in, win the ball and exit the stoppage with fair athleticism to match her contested ball-winning abilities. Speaking to Draft Central in the pre-season, Venning said she was hoping to improve her skills to take her game to the next level.

Unfortunately some of West’s talented teenagers have also been sidelined during the pre-season, with Abby Hardwick (quad) and Abbie Ballard (ankle) both looking at time out of football. Hardwick is eyeing off a return sooner rather than later being a strain, while Ballard will miss a large chunk of the season – unfortunately including the championships – but will no doubt be a vital inclusion later in the season. Other members in the South Australian State Academy squad are Tamika May – a developing football talent – and Scarlett Griffiths – an athletic marking forward – who are also looking to impress in 2021.

Fast forward to a couple of years down the track and 15-year-old Lauren Young is a player whose name will no doubt keep popping up, with the teenager set to play a big role in her debut season this year as a versatile key position option. Speaking of key position options, Carlton’s Sharni Whiting has crossed to the SANFLW to be a contested marking replacement for retired duo Lauren Rodato and Helen Maidment. Whiting has great experience and will be one of the more notable key position players in the competition.

Louella McCarthy has also crossed from the Southern Saints, with former Woodville-West Torrens Eagles young gun Teagan Usher a perfect replacement for Newman whilst she is out with AFL Women’s commitments. Norwood duo, Taylor Glover and Chloe Meyers, South Adelaide’s Natalie Gibbs and Sturt’s Paxton Davis-Mattner are among the other inclusions to the Bloods side with state league experience.

West Adelaide kicks off its 2021 SANFL Women’s season tomorrow night at Coopers Stadium against Norwood from 7.45pm. The Bloods are an exciting team with plenty of youth, so expect there to be eye-catching moments galore.

Picture credit: SANFL

SANFLW Academy Ones to Watch: West Adelaide and WWT Eagles

IN the final of four SANFL Women’s Ones to Watch, we take a look at those West Adelaide and Woodville-West Torrens Eagles players inside the South Australian Under-19 State Academy, and what they could offer to their club.

WEST ADELAIDE:

Abbie Ballard
Midfielder | Over-ager

The over-age talent has a potent left foot that can impact a game when she is able to find time and space. She attacks the contest hard and is a natural ball-winner, racking up big numbers week-in, week-out. Unfortunately Ballard has missed the final cut of 30 for the Academy due to an ankle injury which required surgery lately, and is racing the clock to impact later on this season.

Scarlett Griffiths
Forward | Top-ager

A talented forward with some nice upside, Griffiths uses the ball well and can take good grabs overhead. Possessing some athleticism, she is one who could really step up in 2021 as a top-ager and have an even greater influence on the contest after some promising performances last season.

Abby Hardwick
Forward | Top-ager

Much like Ballard, Hardwick is racing the clock to be fit sooner rather than later. Having strained her quad in the preseason, Hardwick is expected to be back much sooner, and as another forward with good athleticism and strong overhead, is a crucial player to the West Adelaide setup.

Keeley Kustermann
Defender | Bottom-ager

One of the most talented teenagers in the competition, Kustermann earned SANFLW Team of the Year honours in her first season last year, and has such a well-balanced game. She is equally impressive in the air or at ground level and is able to read the ball off half-back and drive it forward. As a 2022 draft prospect, Kustermann stands as one of the top ones to watch for next year, with an ability to hit targets under pressure.

Tamika May
Defender | Top-ager

A raw talent compared to some of her other teammates, May is coming into her second season having had experience at League level last year. Still developing her fundamentals, May is another Bloods defender who could step up with the absence of Madison Newman and other AFL Women’s teammates.

Zoe Venning
Midfielder/Forward | Top-ager

A tenacious midfielder/forward, Venning attacks the contest hard and is not afraid to take on much bigger opponents. Speaking to Draft Central in the preseason, Venning said her goal was to improve her skill to round out her intensity and work rate, also being one of the better athletes across the competition. She had a huge impact for the Bloods last season, and now as a top-ager could take the next step up in her development.

WWT EAGLES:

Charlotte Dolan
Utility | Top-ager

Entering what will be only her second season at SANFL Women’s level, the Eagles utility has shown great progression throughout 2020 and will look to build on that in 2021. Having played as a running defender, wing and also on the inside, Dolan has the traits to be a versatile player with a high-level endurance base from her surf lifesaving and soccer.

Jamie Parish
Defender | Top-ager

Parish had a solid season in 2020 with a strong finish to the year, stepping up in the back 50 for the Eagles. Not a huge ball-winner, but Parish makes the most of her chances and is strong overhead and not afraid to play both offensive and defensive roles out of defence.

Jaida Tabb
Midfielder | Top-ager

The younger sister of former Adelaide talent Jaimi, Tabb is one who got a taste of SANFL Women’s action last season and will be looking to build on that in 2021. Much like her sister, Tabb possesses a mix of power and speed that will help her attack the contest with vigour. She is expected to play an increased role in 2021 after a couple of strong seasons at local level for SMOSH West Lakes.

Picture credit: Karley J Photography

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

Ballard ready to take next step

BETWEEN her football commitments and working on her family farm, Abbie Ballard does not have much time to relax. However, while on the cusp of achieving her AFL Women’s dream, we offered Ballard the opportunity to reflect on her football journey so far.

“I started playing at the Peake District Football Club when I was 10,” Ballard said. “I mainly played with the boys in the Auskick at half time of the A Grade, but every now and again the boys needed me to fill in for the Under 13s. I did that for a year, then played full-time for the boys until I was 15.”

Unlike female footballers who competed in the boys’ competitions because it was their only option, Ballard actually preferred playing against the boys.

“I loved it, it was a much cleaner game to play and just so much more fun,” she said. “The boys weren’t afraid to tackle me and I wasn’t afraid to tackle them, it was the best.”

Ballard moved to West Adelaide to play against the girls when she was 15. Although the competition was not originally played at a great standard, Ballard says the league has made significant progress.

“[SANFLW footy] has definitely been improving, everyone’s getting better and the competition’s becoming great,” she said. “It’s a really good quality of football now, the speed of the game is quicker and the skills are much better than they used to be.”

Ballard has achieved extraordinary continuity and consistency during her time in SANFLW, having played 31 out of 32 games over the past three years. She missed her first game this year due to an unfortunate concussion.

“I’ve been really lucky with injuries and have never really had one until this year, and I’ve always played consistent football so I’ve been picked every week,” Ballard said.

At just age 17 in 2019, Ballard won West Adelaide’s SANFLW Best and Fairest and finished sixth in the SANFLW League medal count. Very few AFLW prospects have attained this level of success prior to their draft year.

“These were huge achievements,” she said. “I was so proud that, at such a young age, I was playing such good football in the women’s league. “I’ve worked so hard to get where I am and it really just made everything worth it. “The Best and Fairest is definitely the best accolade in my career so far.”

This season, Ballard finished fifth in the SANFLW medal count and led the Bloods to their first SANFLW Finals appearance. In a convincing semi-final victory over Norwood, Ballard collected 12 disposals, laid eight tackles and kicked a goal. Their season ended the following week with a 30-point Preliminary Final loss to South Adelaide.

“Everyone was so proud of how well we did this season,” Ballard said. “We worked so hard to get there and we wanted to go out and put everything we had left on the field, which is definitely what happened.”

Ballard has learnt plenty from teammates that have already made the leap from SANFLW to AFLW. She is delighted that they continue to play at West Adelaide when they are available.

“Some Westies girls who are now at the Crows like Maddi Newman, Chelsea Biddell and Rachelle Martin have been major inspirations for me,” she said. “It’s been amazing to watch what they’ve been able to do and see them improve so much. I want to follow their pathway.”

Ballard highlights Martin, the joint 2020 SANFLW League Best and Fairest, as the player that has helped her the most.

“Rachelle has taught me a lot about how to become a better midfielder, how to tackle better, how to body people and how to get into the right positions at stoppages,” she said.

As Ballard has stated, her career goal is to follow in these girls’ footsteps.

“I’d love to get into AFLW, that is my aim,” she said. “Hopefully that will be achievable this year, but we will see what happens. “I’ve put my name down for this year’s draft.”

Although Ballard is primarily an inside midfielder, her booming left-foot kick makes her a weapon on the outside as well.

“I take a lot of pride in my kicking,” she said. “My kicking accuracy and ability to get in the contest and hit the ball hard are my biggest strengths, probably my handball accuracy as well. I work hard to improve my skills every year.”

In order to elevate her game to the next level, Ballard has a specific focus over the next few months.

“I need to improve my fitness and speed to be able to dominate games more often,” she said.

Since finishing school at the end of 2019, Ballard has juggled full-time work with her football commitments. She is based on her family’s farm in Coomandook.

“It’s full-time so I’m working every day with mum, dad and grandpa,” she said. “We’ve got pigs and sheep, and we do a bit of cropping.”

Ballard says her family has been incredibly supportive of her football over the journey.

“Mum and dad would always spend hours taking me to football and watching me train,” Ballard said. “They’ve been a huge support and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

As much as Ballard loves the farm, she would have no problems moving away to make her AFLW aspirations come true.

“It would be great to stay in SA but if I could go anywhere I would take the opportunity,” she said. “Moving away to play football would be worth it.”

Picture: SANFL

 

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SANFL Women’s season review: West Adelaide

WEST ADELAIDE is the next team up in our South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season review series as we look at the eight sides in reverse ladder order and how their 2020 seasons went down.

Position: 3rd
Wins: 6
Losses: 5
Draws: 1

2020 IN A NUTSHELL

West Adelaide enjoyed a successful season in 2020, going all the way to a Preliminary Final. The Bloods had no played in a finals series previously, but saved their best game for the elimination final when they piled on the highest score in their club’s history. They went down to South Adelaide the next week, but can be proud with how they played this year, and certainly showed huge signs of improvement and will be a serious contender in 2021.

AFL WOMEN’S ALL-STARS GAME REPRESENTATIVES:

Emma Smith

Is a clever outside player who generally uses the ball well between midfield and attack. She is often seen running down the wing and creating things going inside 50, and uses good vision to spot up free targets and short kicks to open up space.

Zoe Venning

Strong overhead and a fierce attack on the ball, the mid-forward had a really good season in 2020, becoming one of West Adelaide’s top players despite still being a middle-age prospect. She can find her own footy easily, and as she showed in the All-Stars game, is quick on the lead and strong overhead.

Abbie Ballard

Possessing a lethal left foot, Ballard loves the contested side of things and just attacks the ball and the ball carrier. She can play inside or down forward, and has such superb defensive pressure, but also capable of playing an outside role too. Despite not being tall, she is not afraid to take on players much bigger than herself in a tackle.

Rachael Martin

The league’s top player this season, Martin earned a train-on invitation with the Crows and even got a game early in the year given Adelaide’s injury list. More than capable of playing at the top level, Martin is just a natural ball winner with elite defensive pressure and a knack around goals or creating goals for other players. A deserving equal league best and fairest in 2020. Unfortunately she was unavailable for the All-Stars game but showed enough this season to show clubs what she can do.

OTHERS WHO STOOD OUT:

  • Madison Newman
  • Stevie-Lee Thompson
  • Keeley Kustermann
  • Chelsea Biddell
  • Lauren Rodato
  • Kate Walsh
  • Zoe Greer

There was no shortage of talent across the Bloods list in 2020, with defender, Madison Newman and Keeley Kustermann providing great run and balance, and elite skills coming out of the back 50. They flanked captain Lauren Rodato who was reliable as ever there, making it difficult for most opposition attacks. Looking through the midfield, Stevie-Lee Thompson and Zoe Greer were superb, while Kate Walsh had a breakout season in the ruck, and Chelsea Biddell provided a presence when in attack.

Summary

West Adelaide won a maiden final and showed how exciting the Bloods can be with some great attacking football. They had plenty of youth mixed with their AFL Women’s experience, and it made for a really strong season and something to build on for 2021.

Picture: SANFL

Player notes: SANFLW All-Stars

LAST week’s South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s All-Star display between Team Marinoff and Team Hatchard was a brilliant spectacle as plenty of players stood up and had an impact. We have taken a look at every player from the sides.

Team Marinoff:

Alex Ballard

Playing out of full-back, Ballard was one of the smoothest movers on the ground, but balanced equally in her attacking and defensive efforts. Donning the bright white boots which stood out under lights, Ballard’s use by foot and decision making was impressive, as was her positioning in marking contests. At one stage in the second term, Ballard handballed to herself to sidestep an opponent and continue at full speed to kick long down the line. In the third term, she sold candy to Charlotte Dolan and worked her way out of the back pocket, and tried to play on out of full-back on every occasion. Her second and fourth quarters were particularly influential and reminded people of the talent she has.

Nicole Campbell

Had the type of game you would expect from the South Adelaide midfielder, constantly winning the ball in close and giving her teammates the best chance of running free. She was often under a pack or feeding the contested ball out, and did it throughout four quarters in a real team performance. She showed her experience in that onball group and remained vital in the team’s success, doing her job around the clearances and when it counted with the game on the line.

Kate Case

As one of the youngest players out there, Case was busy inside 50, and continued to present throughout the night. Unfortunately she had a few unlucky moments, including a pass towards her hitting the ground just before she could grab it last in the third term, and then gave away a free in the final term. She was always active inside 50 however.

Lauren Clifton

The middle-age talent played forward and had an impact, kicking a second quarter goal to put her team within a kick at the main break. She had a chance on the end of quick ball movement earlier in the term, but got a poor bounce and ended up having to be the tackler on Zoe Prowse. Her 1-2 work with Laitiah Huynh led to her running into an open goalsquare and putting it home from 40m. In the third term, she had a set shot from a similar distance, but looked for a short option in Kate Case, only for the ball to just fall short and the opposition wrap it up for a stoppage. Moments later, Clifton had a quick snap but just went wide.

Leah Cutting

The ruck competed well around the ground against the athletic Prowse. Whilst Prowse was better in the centre square bounces, Cutting used her strength wherever possible, and was able to get back and help an under-siege defence in the first term. She intercepted with a strong mark in the goalsquare to save a certain goal, and worked hard throughout the four quarters to use her long kick to penetrate through the defence.

Jorja Eldridge

The talented medium utility played forward and took a great mark in the third term to get front position and kick the goal to put Team Marinoff in front for the first time.

Lauren Gauci

Was solid throughout the game, but her third quarter in particularly early, was a key reason Team Marinoff won the game. Time and time again she would intercept mark or lay a great tackle that stopped Hatchard in its tracks. One-on-one, Gauci positioned herself well and then would search for a difficult target inboard for the 45-degree kick. In one instance in the third term, Gauci intercepted, kicked forward, then immediately got back in position to mark one-on-one against Zoe Venning and do it all again.

Jade Halfpenny

Showed in glimpses what she is capable of playing as a forward and taking some really strong marks. She used the ball well such as in the first term where she hit up Emma Smith going inside 50. Another long bomb in the second term put the opposition under pressure in defence but unfortunately Clifton got a poor bounce. Halfpenny had another nice kick inside 50, hitting up Clifton well and showed quick hands at ground level in the fourth term gathering the ball inside 50 before being immediately tackled.

Kristi Harvey

The experienced full-back was a rock in defence and one of the standouts, particularly at the bookends of the game where the back 50 saw plenty of action. She took a number of contested marks, and then spread to offer an option to kick long with her raking kick an advantage to get out of trouble. She started the game on Katelyn Rosenzweig and was terrific one-on-one, but her ability to read the ball in flight and then take off when required was great. At one stage, she was beaten for speed against Alana Lishmund, but had the smarts to keep going and apply a tackle and win it back.

Laitiah Huynh

Huynh got better as the game went on and became a real factor in the second half of the match. Her quick hands in close were a standout with her ability to fire off a quick handball to a teammate under pressure, with a score assist via Tessa Kohn for a Jorja Eldridge goal in the third term. She set up another scoring chance to Lauren Clifton later in the term, and then was lively along the win in the final term. While she gave away a free kick for a tackle in the last quarter, she often teamed up with Central District teammate, Madison Lane and used her speed to advantage.

Jess Kirk

Did what you would expect South’s leading goalkicker to do and got front position early with a mark at the top of the square in the second term. She took the grab and protecting the ball drop, sent it home with four minutes remaining in the half to kick her side’s second goal of the contest. Kirk had another involvement in the third term when she scooped the ball off the deck for a quick snap but was marked on the goalline by Tahlia Meyer.

Tessa Kohn

The Glenelg midfielder had her moments, playing predominantly up forward and having a few chances on goal. A quick snap midway through the second term was bungled after a strong tackle from the opposition, but then a neat kick to the square set up Jess Kirk for a drought-breaking goal. She also locked the ball up inside 50 with a good tackle against two opponents to nullify the situation. Kohn had a direct goal assist in the third quarter with her kick going straight to Eldridge for a goal at the top of the square. Kohn switched into defence in the final term and was used on a number of occasions to kick outside 50, but was often sold into trouble against multiple opponents. Midway through the term, Kohn rushed through a behind for safety.

Brooklyn Kraft

The developing 182cm ruck/forward played permanently forward with Cutting taking the the ruck duties around the ground. Her first kick was intercepted going inside 50, but her next was the first goal for her side after a free kick inside 50. She converted from 20m out to draw within two points at that stage of the first term. Kraft bobbed up again with a second goal in the third term, winning a fortunate free kick because she tried to take the tackler on, slipped and the tackler fell in her back. Once again her perfect set shot routine won out and she kicked a second goal. She took a good mark on the wing in the final term, but rushed kicking and it was smothered by Tahlia Meyer, but showed off her long kick drifting to half-back later in the quarter.

Madison Lane

The Central District middle-age talent hit up Kraft with her first kick of the game in the first term, but became more lively later in the game. She was often looking for her Bulldogs teammates in Shelby Smith and Huynh, coming off half-back to spot them free on the wing. In the third term she was one of Marinoff’s best, mopping up in the back 50 and kicking long on multiple occasions. She was mowed down in a tackle by Grace Duffy after great work in a marking contest later in the quarter, then took a huge intercept mark on the wing in the dying moment to kick inside 50 and lead to the last goal of the game. Lane was just as prominent in the final term, and while on one occasion she was overzealous with a tackle to fall in her opponent’s back, she won it back with another tackle moments later. Her short kicking and work with Huynh down the outside was a feature of her game.

Kiana Lee

After a quieter first half, she won a fair few touches in the second half, particularly in the last term when she was handed a number of kick outs from defence. She won a free kick in defence and hit up Kraft, and then kicked long to safety from full-back, though Marinoff had plenty of numbers at the drop zone. She showed her strength in the air and her quick disposal with a handball out of a stoppage earlier in the game in the third term.

Jess Macolino

A superb performance by the inside midfielder and would have been among those considered for best on ground if they had awarded it. She put together a four quarter performance and used her hands in close and strength around the stoppages to have an impact. Time and time again she would be tackled, but remained upright and handballed off to a teammate to clear the ball out of congestion, which was vital for her side. She was a clear best-on in the second term, racking up the ball with ease and showed off her work rate to get to multiple contests in a passage of play. She set up a scoring chain by fending off an opponent inside 50 and handball to Huynh which eventually led to an Eldridge goal. Finally Macolino’s hard work had extra reward, getting on the end of a movement forward to win a free kick just before the final break, kicking a set shot goal from 35m out, which would end up being Marinoff and the game’s final goal.

Tesharna Maher

One of Marinoff’s best in the first quarter, she stood tall in the first term when her side was under-siege and played the percentages long towards the boundary line. She was often the first kick out of defence, and used her speed to take the game on. Whilst she missed the odd target, she showed what she can offer in spurts and certainly showed in in the first term.

Katelyn Pope

Her night ended early with a broken wrist in the fourth term, but showed her trademark speed and desire around the contest prior to that. Running hard down the wings and providing an option, Pope was used in transition as Marinoff got back on top in the match. In one instance she won a free kick on the wing, darted around Grace Duffy and went for a run to kick forward, having a number of inside 50s on the night.

Gypsy Schirmer

A highlight-reel player, the middle-age talent’s best moment came midway through the second term when she produced a massive run-down tackle in the middle of the ground, showing off her closing speed. Whilst she did not hit the scoreboard as she regularly can for South, Schirmer showed she will be one to watch next year having that defensive mindset to accompany her offensive prowess.

Bella Smith

A rock in defence, particularly early when Team Marinoff was under pressure. She touched what would have been a certain goal on the goal line to rush a behind, then took a strong contested mark at half-back and rebound well. She continued to have an impact throughout the game, and rolled forward in the third term to put the hands out to gather, but was immediately tackled. She had another goal-saving effort in the final term with a relieving kick out of the danger zone to Lane.

Emma Smith

Really prominent early as one of the few who was moving the ball in transition. While others took over as the game went on, Smith remained vigilant in her attack between the wing and half-forward. Her first instance in play was a great one-on-one contest to outbody her opponent and have a shot on goal with probably the weirdest run up. She stopped midway through the run up only metres from her opponent, then started again but her kick fell short and bounced on the line to remain in. Her work overhead was great, taking a number of strong marks, and then showed off her speed in the final term with a nice run, through it was intercepted going inside 50.

Shelby Smith

Did not look out of place roaming through the Marinoff midfield, and contributed with her attack on the ball and desire to win the footy. Often combining with her Central District teammates in Huynh and Lane, Smith found space on the wing and maintained a high work rate throughout the match.

Teagan Usher

Had a busy middle two quarters coming out of defence for Team Marinoff, and continually tried hard to move the ball quickly. Made a few mistakes and was caught early in the second term trying to take on Hannah Prenzler, but did well deep in defence late in the second term and then early in the third. She managed to hit up Jess Macolino at half-forward and kept the ball moving. Once she adapted to the speed – having missed a fair bit of footy this year – she played short and sharp passes which proved effective.

Andie Zbierski

Unlucky to give up a free kick in the second term for going in hard, Zbierski was able to gain plenty of experience out of the match having come from Whyalla in North Adelaide’s country zone. With plenty of development left, she will be one to watch for the future.

Team Hatchard:

Abbie Ballard

Worked hard throughout the game for not a great deal of reward, but was ever present cracking in and giving it her all. Her best quarter came in the final term when she had a number of inside 50s in an attempt to haul her team back into the contest. Spending time around the ground, once she went into the middle she had more of an impact and had a great kick inside 50 to hit up Rosenzweig leading out 20m late in the quarter.

Tahlita Buethke

Had some impressive moments throughout the game, being involved in one of her side’s first quarter goals, winning it at half-forward, then combining with Cristie Castle to get it to Brooke Tonon to run on and kick her second of the quarter. She had some great moments through the third term and was one of the best for her side in the quarter, often used as a link in the chain going forward. Copped a knock in the final term from a tackle but got up and was able to take her kick inside 50.

Rhiannon Busch

Reliable as ever, Busch did not need to rack up a heap of the ball to just play her role. She often nullified an opposition forward when the ball went in there, and showed some great defensive pressure. She laid a huge tackle in the back 50 in the final term, and her team won the ball as a result of her pressure. Then she showed her aggressive side with possession by intercepting it further up the ground in the last quarter and bombing deep, but the shot was rushed across the line by Tessa Kohn.

Cristie Castle

Might not have got on the board herself, but seemed to always be in the periphery whenever the ball went forward. The North Adelaide forward came out to attack the ball and whilst she was sold into trouble in the first term, managed to get the ball to Tonon who kicked the second goal of the game. Moments later, she beat two opponents and gave off quick hands to Lishmund who also finished off. Involved in those two early goals, the Hatchard forwards had a tougher day after quarter time, with Castle again bobbing up in the final term, copping a knock and ending up a bit sore, but bouncing up and continuing to compete.

Czenya Cavouras

Much like Campbell, had a game that you would expect of someone with her experience. A train-on player at the Crows, Cavouras is one of those players you know will play a four-quarter game and she did just that. There was not much flashiness about it, but her hardness and attack on the contest around the stoppage was rarely matched. She had a couple of strong moments where she just kept the ball moving forward and trying to crash through opponents to keep it live in the forward half, and then had a great shrug from a tackle and kick to Rosenzweig inside 50 in the third term. A fourth term intercept mark against a much taller Cutting showed how well she reads the play and is able to position herself so effectively in one-on-one contests. Her set shot from the intercept mark 45m out just fell short.

Julia Clark

Had some moments throughout the game and won a free kick on the wing for last-touch and kicked forward. Was able to utilise her speed on a number of occasions despite not winning a heap of the ball. Uses the ball well when she does have it.

Charlotte Dolan

The lively player did not have the usual time and space that she is afforded at SANFL Women’s level, but still had a number of highlights. In the second term she got down and won the ball out of a pack by hand to get it to Izzy Kuiper for a kick downfield. She then gave by hand to Grace Duffy not long after to go inside 50, and whilst in the third term she was sold candy by Alex Ballard at half-back, she mopped up the ball in defence late in the game, with a number of clever plays at ground level, and a free kick in a marking contest with five minutes remaining on the clock.

Grace Duffy

Played a good four quarter game and was lively early in the match, with the opening clearance of the game. She would drop back into defence to mop up and look to run down the field, winning plenty of it through the first half to be quite prolific. Often she would receive it in space and kick inside 50, then did well one-on-one against the dangerous Katelyn Pope to use her strength and tap it away from Pope to a teammate in space. She laid a huge tackle on Lane in the third term, and whilst she was sidestepped by Pope not long after, she did well to back up and create a contest. Duffy won a free kick in the final term when she was tackled and looked to create an extra number at each contest she attended.

Madisyn Freeman

The over-ager first appeared early in the second term with a free kick and 25m penalty inside 50 to try and give her side their fourth goal of the contest. Unfortunately the kick horribly skewed off the boot and went wide for a behind. She remained lively through the early stages of the term, winning a free kick, turning it over, but then pressuring the opposition at the next stoppage to win a free kick.

Izzy Kuiper

Her notes from the game were almost identical each time, went in hard and won the contested ball. The Sturt teenager did it time and time again and refused to back down from a challenge. Using her taller frame around the stoppages, she can win the ball with ease and showed during the second term, create scoring opportunities by kicking inside 50. Her intent and tackling pressure never waivers.

Alana Lishmund

The middle-age talent was one of the more prominent for Hatchard, kicking an opening term goal after great work by Castle against two opponents to get it free by quick hands to Lishmund who finished off with a great goal 15 minutes into the term to extend the lead to 14. Lishmund remained prominent after quarter time, beginning with a huge run-down tackle in defence in the second quarter. She laid another big tackle, this time inside forward 50. Managing to pick up touches around the ground, Lishmund was able to kick towards Rosenzweig midway through the third term, and then had a clean pick-up off the deck who kicked forward but was intercepted by Lane. A final term set shot resulted in one behind, whilst doing well later in the final stanza to keep the ball inside the lane in forward 50.

Tahlia Meyer

Able to stand out wearing the long socks, Meyer found plenty of the ball and was predominantly stationed in defence. She pushed up the ground when he side had more ascendancy, but was involved in a lot of attacking plays. Meyer played well to win the ball in dangerous positions for the opposition and safely exit the back 50 by foot. She was among the best on the field in the second term, as she did her best to restrict the damage done by Team Marinoff. Meyer worried the opposition early in the third term with a quick kick along the ground inside 50, but Rosenzweig could not quite get a proper shot on goal. Meyer pulled in a strong goal-saving mark on the goal-line after a quick snap by Kirk in the third term, and then smothered a ball on the wing off Kraft’s kick. She was so clean at half-forward in the final term, spotting up the loose Lishmund to hand her younger teammate a set shot on goal.

Tamsyn Morriss

Named among Team Hatchard’s best by the coaches, Morriss played her team role well. Possessing a terrific kick and an ability to run hard, she was involved in plays in transition and did what was asked of her on the night. She might not win as much of the ball as others, but she uses it well and can play just about anywhere on the field.

Jamie Parish

Took a strong mark in defensive 50 in the second term, and whilst she did not win a heap of it, gained a great deal of experience playing in a back 50 with a lot more experienced players. She played her role and rotated around despite having a quieter night.

Hannah Prenzler

Made her impact early with a charge through the middle and a willingness to take the game on. She kicked long down the guts and her work set up a vital goal to Brooke Tonon on the end of some handballs which had put the defence under pressure. When Teagan Usher tried to take her on at half-back, the Sturt talent was having none of it, laying a superb tackle and winning a free kick to kick deep. One of those players that does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact and she showed that, because she is a natural metres-gained player.

Zoe Prowse

Had a great battle with the more experienced Cutting around the ground. Cutting had more influence early in the game, but Prowse won more after quarter time, laying some strong tackles and getting her hands dirty at ground level. She thrived in the air with her athletic leap. Prowse had a number of forward half possessions and was able to lock up a ball in the second term when Clifton was about to run into an open goal. With another year of development, the talented young ruck will be one to watch in 2021.

Katelyn Rosenzweig

The Central Districts forward was well held by Kristi Harvey early on when her side was on top, though the duel was entertaining between the two contested marking players. She did manage to get free and give the handball off to Zoe Venning in the opening term, but unfortunately her kick was marked on the line. Early in the third when she had more space, she gathered the ball and gave it to Buethke, but whenever the ball came in her direction, the defenders were often aware of her ability to hit the scoreboard and were quick to lay the tackle.

Rayne Rivalland

Played in defence and had a couple of noticeable moments. In the first term, Rivalland played a great passage of play by intercepting the ball under pressure and used it well by foot midway through the quarter. In the second term when under pressure, she had the sense to rush through a behind and help her team reset to kick out of defence. Lastly, she laid a great tackle in the back 50 to lock the ball up and force a stoppage for her side when Marinoff was attacking.

Erin Sundstrom

Really productive, particularly in the second half coming out of defence when Hatchard was under pressure. On a number of occasions she charged out of defence, and kicked long down the wing to safety. Showing her ability to pressure opponents with her closing speed, Sundstrom laid a great tackle on Kate Case who could not take the sliding mark, and it forced a ball-up inside the defensive 50.

Brooke Tonon

Finishing with two goals, Tonon was really lively in the opening term, with both her majors coming from running goals. The fast transition from Team Hatchard helped the middle-ager on this occasion, being on the end of a play and using her speed to create some distance between her and her opponent goalside. That resulted in her putting through the first major of the game in the third minute, and then made it two when Castle got the ball to her and she ran into another open goal in the last five minutes of the quarter. She almost set up a third goal with a nice kick inside 50 to a leading Zoe Venning, but unfortunately Venning missed the set shot. Tonon attacked the contest hard when inside 50, and whilst she did not get a great look at it after the first term – due to Marinoff’s dominance, she featured in the final term with a set shot from 35m that just fell short and was marked on the line.

Zoe Venning

One of Hatchard’s best even if it was an almost-game in the sense that she just fell short of kicking multiple goals. Nonetheless, Venning was lively, quick on the lead and strong in the air, just needed the extra touch of confidence when kicking for goal. She had an early touch off the first play going forward, and then had a couple of marks inside the fist five minutes. Her first set shot was touched on the line and then a quick snap with her second was marked on the line. A third shot on goal in the last minute again just fell short from 25m, but she was getting amongst it. Venning won an early free in the second term for her pressure, and remained busy rotating through the Hatchard midfield. She was beaten a couple of times one-on-one against more experienced opponents, but showed her class with a terrific kick inside 50 late in the game to hit-up Tonon leading out.

Amber Ward

The over-ager had a strong performance in the back half, and even went forward throughout the game to be a target, but it was her booming kick from half-back in the first term that set up an end-to-end goal for Tonon. Her tackling pressure was impressive, laying multiple tackles on opponents early in the second and kicking long inside 50. She had a minor slip in the final term but otherwise had a really solid game with her penetrating kicking and intercepting when needed.

Ashleigh Woodland

The midfielder-forward spent a fair chunk of time in defence in the match, trying to use her skill and run to impact the contest off half-back. She was not afraid to break the lines and use her booming kick to advantage, having a real impact in the first term as one of Hatchard’s best players. Whilst she was not able to ply her known scoreboard impact in the game due to her role, she certainly showed her versatility by spending minutes behind the ball. Unfortunately a head knock in the opening minute of the final term ended her night.

Matilda Zander

It was no surprise to see Zander covering a heap of ground and being one of the more prominent ball winners on the ground. Even in a losing team, the Norwood talent remained among the better players on the ground. She spent a great deal of time on-ball and combined well with Cavouras and Isobel Kuiper on the inside, then would also go forward and try and keep it moving. She had a flying shot at the goal in the final term but just missed to the right, her second behind of the contest after a first quarter miss. She was involved in the transition play going inside 50, setting up Venning with an early set shot, then had a neat kick to Ward early in the second term. Overall, she remained pivotal in Hatchard’s game plan and was always busy across the field.

Picture: AFL Media

Marinoff overruns Hatchard in impressive display of skills

BOOTING five of the final seven goals of the game, Team Marinoff enjoyed a come-from-behind victory over Team Hatchard in the 2020 South Australian AFL Women’s All-Stars match on Friday night. Under lights at Thebarton Oval, both teams put on a high quality game which featured the top AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls from across the state. Whilst Hatchard flew out of the blocks with three of the first four goals to lead by 14 points at quarter time, the yellow side kicked just six behinds for the rest of the game, as Marinoff piled on 5.1 in that time to run out 6.1 (37) to 3.8 (26) winners.

Whilst the result itself was clearly arbitrary fo the showcase of skills from South Australia’s best non-listed AFL Women’s talents, it did not stop players going in for a real crack across four quarters. In what was an even team performance, some of the standouts from Marinoff included Sturt’s Alex Ballard and North Adelaide’s Kristi Harvey who both controlled the defence. Central District’s Madison Lane worked into the game to being among the best, as was Norwood’s Jess Macolino through the midfield. For Hatchard, Alana Lishmund was a standout and remarkable for her age – having turned 17 last month – while Glenelg’s Grace Duffy, and other middle-age draft talents Zoe Venning and Brooke Tonon were also strong up forward.

The game started all on Hatchard’s terms with the booming kick of Amber Ward setting the yellow side up with an end-to-end play for Tonon to run onto it. About eight minutes later, Marinoff responded with its only goal of the first term through Brooklyn Kraft with the top-age ruck-forward winning a free kick and popping through her first of the night. Not to be outdone, Tonon got clear again after a long kick from Hannah Prenzler, and a 1-2 from Tahlita Buethke and Cristie Castle got it to the teenager to run on and nail the goal. Two minutes later, another talented teenager in Lishmund received the handball from Castle and did not let her down with the quick kick and goal. Whilst Venning had a number of chances in the first term, they kept falling short.

Despite the best efforts of Emma Smith, Marinoff could not get the ball moving deep enough, though the likes of Harvey and Bella Smith were holding up the defence. Tesharna Maher was getting her running game going, whilst Leah Cutting was doing well around the ground outside the stoppages. The experience of Ash Woodland was helping Hatchard, while Matilda Zander and Czenya Cavouras were winning plenty of the ball through midfield. At quarter time, the margin was 14 points in favour of Hatchard.

The second term was a reversal of the first as Marinoff kicked the only two goals of the quarter, and both came late. For the majority of the term, it looked as if Hatchard would remain in front off the back of some great work from Prenzler and Tahlia Meyer, with Isobel Kuiper getting involved through the middle. Alex Ballard remained a thorn in the side for team Marinoff, as she and Bella Smith were vigilant in defence, and the likes of Shelby Smith, Lauren Gauci and Tessa Kohn were all having an impact.

It was Gauci and Kohn who combined to get the ball to Jess Kirk, with the South Adelaide leading goalkicking positioning herself well at the top of the goalsquare to protect the ball drop then kick the regulation set shot 13 and a half minutes into the quarter. Not long after, Shelby Smith did well to stand up in a tackle, and with youngsters Huynh and Laura Clifton combining, gifted the latter a running goal from 40m to draw within two points at the main break.

The third term is often referred to as the premiership quarter, and it was certainly where Marinoff got the job done. They booted three goals – in fact the last three goals of the game – to not only take the lead, but race away to a 15-point advantage themselves. Jorja Eldridge had her moment by keeping front position at the top of the square, and the fend off from Macolino, handball to Huynh who fired it to Kohn for the quick snap landed in Eldridge’s arms. She went back and converted the set shot for Marinoff to hit the front for the first time. They never gave up the lead from there.

Eleven minutes into the quarter and Kraft won a fortunate free kick after trying to take on the tackler, slipped and the tackler fell in her back for a free kick 20m out straight in front. She popped through her second with such fluency, and the red team had some breathing space. When Macolino won a free kick in the last minute and then nailed the set shot from 35m, Marinoff was out to a 15-point advantage and looking incredibly good. It was off the back of Macolino’s stoppage work, and the run of Lane, Gauci and Katelyn Pope who were all influential in the term. For Hatchard, Buethke had really had an impact, while Erin Sundstrom, Duffy and Lishmund were again prominent.

The final term was an arm-wrestle predominantly in Hatchard’s forward half. With a number of injury stoppages and a few casualties from the game, the quarter went into the 23rd minute – six more than the intended no time-on 17-minute terms. Despite Hatchard kicking the only four behinds of the term – and realistically they should have edged a lot closer – Marinoff’s defence, once again led by Ballard and Harvey stood tall. Lane continued her form, working hard with Huynh on a number of occasions as the Central District teammates, along with Kohn were prominent.

For Hatchard, Lishmund finished off a terrific game, with Abbie Ballard, Duffy, Venning and Tonon all amongst the best again in the last term. The last kick of the game was a poster and fitting that Hatchard had got so close to kicking a major in the term, but fell agonisingly short. Overall, the showcase was a success with plenty to take away from the contest.

MARINOFF 1.0 | 3.1 | 6.1 | 6.1 (37)
HATCHARD 3.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 | 3.8 (26)

GOALS:

Marinoff: B. Kraft 2, J. Kirk, L. Clifton, J. Eldridge, J. Macolino.
Hatchard: B. Tonon 2, A. Lishmund.

ADC BEST:

Marinoff: A. Ballard, J. Macolino, K. Harvey, M. Lane, E. Smith, B. Kraft
Hatchard: A. Lishmund, G. Duffy, A. Ward, M. Zander, C. Cavouras Z. Venning

Picture: AFL Media

South Australian AFLW All-Stars to battle it out in blockbuster clash of talent

SOUTH Australia’s best young talents will have a chance to strut their stuff via the SANFL site tonight when 48 of the top talents from the state run around in an AFL Women’s All-Stars match. The teams are named after Adelaide stars, Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff, with no AFL Women’s players, and those in their 16th year or younger playing in an under 16s showcase prior to this game.

For those Adelaide fans keen to get a glimpse as some of the players who received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitations, unfortunately two of the brightest stars will no be out there. Teah Charlton will miss the game due to injury, while Indy Tahau is unavailable due to other commitments. The others two players who received Draft Combine invitations – Amber Ward and Ashleigh Woodland will both front up for Team Hatchard, coached by North Adelaide premiership coach, Krissie Steen. We take a look at our potential line-ups, though it is anticipated players will be heavily rotated all across the field.

TEAM HATCHARD:

B: Rhiannon Busch – Erin Sundstrom – Julia Clark
HB: Charlotte Dolan – Amber Ward – Madisyn Freeman
C: Matilda Zander – Isobel Kuiper – Tahlia Meyer
HF: Tamsyn Morriss – Ashleigh Woodland – Hannah Prenzler
F: Cristie Castle – Katelyn Rosenzweig – Tahlita Buethke
R: Zoe Prowse – Czenya Cavouras – Abbie Ballard
INT: Alana Lishmund – Brooke Tonon – Jamie Parish – Rayne Rivalland – Zoe Venning – Grace Duffy

With players being so versatile, it is hard to pinpoint a number of players and where they will slot in. For the purpose of our hypothetical 24, any middle-agers (2003-born or later) are automatically on the bench, giving preference to those who are eligible to be picked up this year. The exception to the rule is Zoe Prowse who is the standout ruck not only on the team, but on the field as a whole. She is still only 17, but stands at 180cm and is the obvious choice to be starting ruck.

Ward is a reliable centre half-back with terrific intercepting capabilities. She was one of the more unlucky players not to be picked up in her draft year last year, but she is strong, positions herself well and is extremely good by foot. At the other end, Woodland has already tasted AFL Women’s experience with Melbourne, and, while it did not work out, it is no surprise to see the now 22-year-old as of Wednesday, being considered after winning the competition’s leading goalkicker award.

Another former AFL Women’s player in Katelyn Rosenzweig will play at full-forward, and the forward half as a whole is something to watch, with Tamsyn Morriss and Hannah Prenzler all able to play further up the ground. Prenzler and Morriss are both top-agers who can switch to the opposite end if need be, with Prenzler’s work off half-back and Morriss’ kicking among their eye-catching traits. Abbie Ballard onball is the other top-ager to keep an eye on with her hardness and precision left foot winning plaudits.

Charlotte Dolan running off half-back and along the wing provides great speed and determination to any side, while Julia Clark has become a reliable defender who uses the ball well and makes the right decisions. Tahlita Buethke is another top-age player who cracked into the strong South Adelaide team this year and would have been one to watch – as a dominant goalkicker at local level – at the championships had they occurred.

In terms of mature-agers, Erin Sundstrom often plays off half-back but due to her height – 174cm – she is one of the few likely to play in a key position role. Given her work with Ward back there in the SANFL Womens and with Steen coaching, the pair will make a strong duo. Matilda Zander is a small, tough midfielder who attacks the contest hard and runs all day. She was in line to play for Collingwood in the VFL, and with her former coach Steve Symonds at the helm for the Magpies, expect him to be watching this game carefully.

Some others who have caught the eye this season include Crows’ train-on player Czenya Cavouras who racks up the ball and is hard around the contest, over-ager Isobel Kuiper who will provide good height in midfield, and then the run of another over-ager in Madisyn Freeman. Tahlia Meyer‘s decision making through midfield going forward is superb, winning the preliminary final off her own boot such was her skill. Cristie Castle is a reliable mark and source of goals up front, with Rhiannon Busch as steady as they come down back – though she has the versatility to play at either end – much like Grace Duffy.

Of the 2003 group outside of Prowse, Venning is the top one to watch, regularly dominating through the midfield and half-forward, using her speed and strength to cause headaches for the opposition. Alana Lishmund will provide some rotation up forward, with Brooke Tonon also spending time there, and Jamie Parish showing great signs in the second half of the season for the Eagles. Rayne Rivalland rounds out the prospects as the youngest player on the team – not turning 17 until late November – which shows the depth of talent within South Australia.

TEAM MARINOFF:

B: Tesharna Maher – Kristi Harvey – Teagan Usher
HB: Lauren Gauci – Bella Smith – Tessa Kohn
C: Katelyn Pope – Shelby Smith – Emma Smith
HF: Laitiah Huynh – Kiana Lee – Alex Ballard
F: Jess Kirk – Brooklyn Kraft – Jade Halfpenny
R: Leah Cutting – Nicole Campbell – Jess Macolino
INT: Andie Zbierski – Jorja Eldridge – Kate Case – Lauren Clifton – Madison Lane – Gypsy Schirmer

Turning our attention to Team Marinoff, coached by former international cricketer and North Adelaide footballer Emma Sampson, there are plenty of strong marking key position players in the line-up. Like with Team Hatchard, the 2003-born players automatically got named on the bench as they still have another year to show off their remarkable talents. While none of the players in this team got a Draft Combine invitation, there are some that have certainly showcased their ability at past AFL Women’s Under-18 National Championships.

At either end are the contested marking Bella Smith and Kiana Lee, with ruck Brooklyn Kraft likely to spend time forward given Leah Cutting – Norwood’s star ruck – has been named in the team. Kraft provides extra height to the team at 182cm and will stretch the smaller Hatchard backline. Also coming off championships last year, Alex Ballard often plays at half-forward but can play just about anywhere, the same can be said for Emma Smith who we have named on the wing. Teagan Usher and Tesharna Maher are great runners out of defence, and Maher particularly has got a set of wheels that make her hard to catch.

Of the top-agers, Latiah Huynh is a raw prospect with terrific speed, great defensive pressure and a strong hardness at the contest. She can rotate between half-forward and wing, and often be the link in the transition between midfield and forward. Also in their top-age year is Jade Halfpenny who can play in all thirds of the ground, but given she can take a grab and knows where the goals are, she has been named forward. Jorja Eldridge and Andie Zbierski are the other top-agers named, with Eldridge coming from a basketball background but did not manage to crack into the strong North Adelaide senior outfit, while Zbierski has played predominantly country footy and not playing this year in the SANFL Women’s but did play four games last year.

From the mature-age perspective, Kristi Harvey lines up at her usual full-back spot and she has plenty of experience having played for Carlton’s VFL Women’s side as well as the successful North Adelaide line-up. Another strong contested mark and rebounder, Harvey will be hard to pass in the defensive end. Also back there is Lauren Gauci who will team up well with Roosters teammate Harvey, providing good dash out of defence, while Tessa Kohn is a natural inside midfielder, but has been trialed elsewhere including in defence, and expect her to get a bit of a taste everywhere. On the wing, Katelyn Pope is one of the quickest going around and the Roosters’ speedster will be hard to catch where she gets going.

A couple of the big improvers in 2020, Norwood’s Jess Macolino returned for her second season, and Shelby Smith made her debut and was one of Central District’s most consistent players all year. They will not take a backwards step and match the Hatchard midfield in hardness for the ball. Up forward, Jess Kirk had led the goalkicking up until injury cost her, but she is good overhead and usually a reliable set shot.

Of the middle-agers on the bench, Gypsy Schirmer provided some nice highlights as an athletic tall up forward for the Panthers this year, while Madison Lane continued her good work after captaining South Australia’s Under 16s side last year, and been a strong contributor for the Bulldogs. Lauren Clifton can provide some depth anywhere on the field, playing defence, forward or even on a wing, while Kate Case is another midfielder who could be one to watch in 2020 after some strong performances through midfield.

Along with Charlton and Tahau, others who would have earned spots but were either injured on unavailable for the clash include: inside midfielders, dual league best and fairest winner Rachelle Martin and talented teenager Maya Rigter; the versatile Jaimi Tabb and athletic utility Mattea Breed.

Picture: SANFL

SANFL Women’s weekly wrap: Preliminary Final – South salutes to setup North rematch

SOUTH Adelaide has given itself the chance to record a remarkable three-peat after downing a determined yet unlucky West Adelaide in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Preliminary Final. The Panthers weathered the early pressure and then got away in the third term, holding off a Bloods outfit in their first ever finals series to record a comfortable 30-point win at Thebarton Oval.

Given the early stages of the game, spectators were not to know which side had the finals experience as West Adelaide brought all the heat to really control play early in the contest. Unfortunately despite forward pressure, the Bloods could not seemingly put one through the big sticks. Abbie Ballard and Rachelle Martin were controlling play at half-forward as the ball did not go past the half-back line for the Panthers as West continually drove the ball inside. Stevie-Lee Thompson looked dangerous in the early stages with a few early chances, while Emma Smith and Chelsea Biddell pumped the ball in deep. Amber James had a chance from straight in front, but her kick skewed to the right.

For all of the Bloods great work, the worst possible scenario happened as the Panthers – with their first inside 50 of the contest – got the ball long and deep, and off a chaos ball inside 50 from Indy Tahau, Hannah Munyard read the ball perfectly off the contest and boot a major against the run of flow at the 10-minute mark of the term. West Adelaide had dominated play but failed to land a meaningful blow, and the reining champions, stunned but not knocked out, showed just what they were capable of. The work of Czenya Cavouras in the back half with her tackling pressure, and Nikki Gore and Munyard through the middle was proving the difference. Tahau almost had a chance herself on the siren, but the ball just slipped from her grasp in the dying seconds.

Tahlia Meyer was arguably one of the most influential on the ground with a terrific pass straight to Jess Kirk in the last 90 seconds though the usually reliable Kirk missed from straight in front, giving the Bloods a let off and only a three-point deficit. After one quarter of play, the Bloods were plus seven on the inside 50s count, but could not put through a major. Then, like a wounded champion that was ready for the counter attack, South Adelaide struck three times in the second term to instead turn the tables on their young opponent and head into the main break with a 21-point lead.

Again it was Meyer who was hitting targets left, right and centre, and when she combined with Kirk for a second time three minutes into the term, the Panthers leading goalkicker made no mistake. An unlucky in-the-back call against Emma Smith deep in defence handed the talented Teah Charlton an easy set shot from 25m out on a slight angle, and she would make it two before the half-time siren. Alexandra Mason had a chance up the other end for the Bloods but her shot from 35m came off hands and rushed through, with work from Munyard a couple of minutes later off the back of a density free kick got it to Charlton who controlled it, kept it in front of her and she kicked the easiest of goals.

South had regained control of the contest with tackling cameos from Gypsy Schirmer and Madison Bennett following the lead of Gore and Munyard through the middle, while Nicole Campbell locked down the dangerous Thompson, limiting her influence. While Martin and Ballard were a couple of standouts, the Bloods could not quite match the Panthers in the second term. Just when the game looked like the sting was out of it in the third term – with West struggling to get it deep and South happy to play controlled football – Biddell worked some of her magic with a monster goal from 50m to sail past the charging back Munyard’s hand on the line, giving her team a small sniff. There was only about 23 minutes left in the match at that stage, but the vital goal drew the Westies to within 15 points.

Munyard was continually getting busy, and while Thompson had a chance to make it two for the Westies, the shot close to goal went a mile in the air and stayed in. The Bloods were getting frustrated by the lack of scoreboard pressure, and Madison Newman and Biddell both gave away 25m penalties, with the last kick of the term going to Charlton for her third. From 35m out she fancied her chances as she came in and began the celebration of icing the game on the siren, only for her shot to cannon into the post as she tried to disguise the premature celebration. Nonetheless, South had a handy lead of 16 points, even with West chewing back a little thanks to the sole goal in the term.

West threw everything they had at South early in the term, but the Bloods were still rushing their kicks inside 50s, and could only muster a couple of behinds. The tackling pressure of South remained, and the likes of Gore, Munyard and Meyer were superb. A forward stoppage six minutes in had the Panthers set up perfectly with the ball falling to Elyse Haylock who slammed it on the boot and sent her team into the grand final with 11 minutes remaining on the clock. Six minutes later, Kirk kicked her second and put the icing on a delicious cake for the second placed side, recording an impressive 6.6 (42) to 1.6 (12) victory to butter up and prepare for the undefeated North Adelaide next week.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 1.1 | 4.2 | 4.4 | 6.6 (42)
WEST ADELAIDE 0.4 | 0.5 | 1.5 | 1.6 (12)

GOALS:

South: T. Charlton 2, J. Kirk 2, H. Munyard, E. Haylock.
West: C. Biddell.

ADC BEST:

South: T. Meyer, H. Munyard, T. Charlton, N. Gore, C. Cavouras
West: R. Martin, A. Ballard, S. Thompson, C. Biddell, E. Smith

SANFL Women’s Finals preview: Preliminary Final – South Adelaide vs. West Adelaide

TWO teams with contrasting finals records face off in the 2020 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s preliminary final tomorrow, as reigning back-to-back premiers South Adelaide take on finals newbies, West Adelaide. The Panthers have a decorated finals history, coming from second last season to win their second consecutive title, knocking off minor premiers Norwood, and third placed North Adelaide along the way. West Adelaide is in unchartered territory. Having never made a SANFL Women’s finals series prior to 2020, the Bloods are here to make waves and they certainly did that in the semi-final with a stunning victory over Norwood to turn around a run of form that included back-to-back losses.

Interestingly enough, West Adelaide lost to Norwood in Round 9 of the season, and then beat them in the first week of finals, just two weeks later. In an eerily similar coincidental matchup, the Bloods lost to South Adelaide in Round 10 of the season, and tomorrow’s match is two weeks since then. Could the Bloods cause an upset and send the Panthers out in straight sets like South Adelaide did to the Redlegs 12 months earlier? It is possible, but the Panthers are a side that are hard to beat. Even against North Adelaide, it genuinely took four quarter to shake off the Panthers, and the Roosters have had their opponents on ice by half-time more often than not. The defence of South Adelaide is elite, and nearly all the midfielders can play forward and hit the scoreboard, which is something the West Adelaide defence must be wary of. Up the other end, West Adelaide is more than capable of kicking a big score, but inaccuracy has hurt the Bloods in the second half of the season, so they will need to back up from last week and continue that run of goalkicking form against South here if they are to win.

YOUNG TALENT:

Anyone interested in the future stars of the AFL Womens – both current young guns on lists and future ones – then this game is perfect. South Adelaide’s Teah Charlton and Indy Tahau are the two top-age members of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and they are not hard to spot because they often have the footy in their hands. Charlton is a ball-winner who can play anywhere on the field, but when she has space in front of her, or an ability to jump, then she is as damaging as they come. Tahau is similar, she has some additional height, but incredible athleticism for her size, and she is not afraid to take the game on. A strong contested mark, Tahau can set plays up or be on the end of it, and quite often the two find each other in passages down the field. Speaking of close bonds, you do not need to look much further than recent draftees, Nikki Gore and Hannah Munyard taken in the past two drafts. Munyard will now join Gore at West Lakes after a season at the Bulldogs, and the pair have a habit of linking up, with similar speed and hardness around the ball and on the outside. Gore will tend to play more inside, while Munyard is let loose on a wing or inside 50, and her form of the past few weeks has been as good as anyone’s.

Looking at the youth of West Adelaide, and current Crow Madison Newman is one of the elite players of the competition. Her penetrating kick can carry 50m with ease and it is not far-fetched to say she is the best long-range kick in the competition. Still only a teenager and only one season into her AFL Women’s career, she has a bright future ahead of her. The potential for her to lineup on fellow South Australian representative, Munyard could be exciting in many ways with both competitive beasts on the field despite being friends off it. On the other half-back flank is a player who still has a couple of years left in the system, but Keeley Kustermann would be one of the brightest stars for the 2022 draft when looking ahead. Having a nice balance of offensive and defensive traits, as well as footy smarts and composure, she is already shaping up to be a terrific player in years to come. West Adelaide also have in-and-under midfielder Abbie Ballard, and future star Zoe Venning who both roll through the midfield or up forward. They are often amongst their best players and along with Emma Smith who was impressive last week, do well across that half-forward line.

AFL WOMENS STARS

Anyone tuning in for the first time to the competition will know a few familiar faces from AFL Women’s, with Stevie-Lee Thompson the most known of the Crows players having won the AFLW leading goalkicker in 2019. She will line-up for West Adelaide and spends a lot of time through the midfield, but as she showed last week, went forward and kicked 3.2 to be the match winner. Newman and versatile utility Chelsea Biddell are also in the red and black, with the latter playing forward as the team’s leading goalkicker in 2020. A couple of players who have thrown on a Crows jumper before are 2017 AFLW premiership player Rachael Killian, and train-on player Rachelle Martin. The Two Westies are important players, with Martin tipped to win the club best and fairest such is her consistency throughout the year. To give you a taste, she racked up 25 touches, three marks, 10 tackles, six clearances and booted a goal last week. Killian was quieter, but still provided a contest and has been known to hit cleanly between the big sticks. South Adelaide has even more AFLW listed players, with Gore and Munyard already mentioned, but GIANT-cum-Crow Lisa Whiteley playing a superb role in defence, while Nicole Campbell is another Crows midfielder who stands out at SANFL Women’s level. Cheyenne Hammond is crucial player adding extra class and runs around for Gold Coast in the AFL Women’s, while Czenya Cavouras was in the same boat as Martin in 2020, signed as a train-on player for the Crows. Meanwhile young ruck and last year’s first round selection Montana McKinnon stands tall through the middle for the Panthers.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Turning the clock back to the two meetings between the sides this season, South Adelaide has got up in both, with the Round 7 match ending up a forgettable one when it came to goalkicking as the Panthers kicked 3.11 (29) to win against the Bloods’ 1.8 (14), as Charlton booted two goals to be the difference between the sides, while Thompson and Kustermann were impressive for the losers. Three weeks later and only a fortnight ago, the Panthers goy up again, but only narrowly as they held on to win 4.5 (29) to 1.6 (12). The defence was key for the Panthers as Jaslynne Smith, Lauren Buchanan and Samantha Pratt were all amongst the best, while Helen Maidment stepped up for the Bloods, and Venning was good through the forward half as well.

WHAT DOES EACH SIDE DO WELL?

Both sides are very strong defensively despite being able to score freely. The Panthers are well structured enough to get numbers back in defence and help out teammates, even if that means running off an opponent, or a midfielder dropping back into the hole to provide extra assistance. They are a side that plays as a team and are really confident of their own ability to get the job done each and every week. Even when down you can never count the Panthers out, and teams cannot afford to just bomb and hope, or muck around with the ball inside 50 for too long. West Adelaide might have to push forwards higher up to open up space inside 50 and reduce congestion, then find the short targets when on the counter attack to limit the effectiveness of the Panthers back six.

West Adelaide’s half-back line is right up there with the best, and the Bloods look to get it into the hands of Kustermann, and in particular Newman. Once Newman can get her boot to it, the ball is long gone and the Westies are on the attack, so the Panthers need to find a way to quell Newman – they tended to put her under more pressure in Round 10 – to avoid easy exit out of their forward 50. The Bloods need to be able to free her up, and also keep structured, because when they have lost in the past, it is either because they tended to lose a bit of shape with their formation, or just could not kick straight. Both areas are within their control, so aside from keeping a firm formation, the Bloods have to make their chances count. Their midfield gives the forwards plenty of goalscoring opportunities, so they cannot afford to squander them.

WHO WINS?

It would be very dangerous to tip against South Adelaide given what the Panthers have achieved. On paper, the Panthers have won twice against their opponents, they are the back-to-back reigning champions and love this time of year. West Adelaide has nothing to lose as the underdogs, but when watching them, the Bloods can go one of two ways. They tend to either look like a team that could score heavily and quickly to roll over any team on their day, but then they can also tend to miss gettable opportunities and proverbially shoot themselves in the foot. If West Adelaide plays to its potential, this is going to be an absolute ripping contest. The Bloods often start fairly well, where the Panthers come home strong, but if the Westies are to cause an upset, they have to kick more than one goal on the board as they did the last couple of matches against this opposition. This match is not to be missed.