Tag: abbie ballard

2021 Academy Watch: SANFL Women’s Round 10

IN the penultimate round of action, there were injuries, standout performances and even tags dealt with for the South Australian State Women’s Academy members, as we look at those talented state representatives who ran out for their respective South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s sides in Round 10. All notes are the opinion of the individual writer.

NORWOOD vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT

Norwood:

#15 Alana Lishmund

Got better as the night went on after a slower start, applying good tackling pressure across half-back and pushing up the ground. She was not needed a great deal in the opening term with the ball up the other end and whilst she could have been cleaner at ground level, did draw some free kicks because of her attack at the contest. She had an impressive final term with some nice foot skills, and laid a great tackle on Katelyn Rosenzweig midway through the final term to force a shot on goal to be off target.

#22 Jade Halfpenny

Had a really strong defensive game, laying plenty of tackles and charging at the football. On a number of occasions she took some strong grabs, including a courageous clunk back with the flight mark midway through the third term. Her disposal was hit and miss at times with some rushed passes but then absolute pinpoint darts, and a hardball spin out of trouble to give it to Najwa Allen to set up a goal in the first term was fantastic. She also kicked one of her own from straight in front after good positioning in a marking contest to have a solid night out.

Central:

#28 Lauren Breguet

The pick of the State Academy players in this game, Breguet was really lively in the front half, leading out hard and pushing up the ground. Her decision making was good, able to hit those short, sharp kicks to open up angels going inside 50, and nailed a set shot goal three minutes into the third term. She drew a number of free kicks for going in hard, and had another shot with the banana in the third term, but that went out on the full. Breguet showed good footy smarts throughout the contest to keep the ball in play and her eye on the prize to be one of the better Central players on the night.

#40 Madison Lane

Had a really fast start with the Central defence under siege picking up most of her touches early. She used her booming kick to clear the area and rebound from danger then lay some fierce tackles and putting on defensive pressure through the middle quarters. In the end she did not win as much of it as he has tended to, but never gave in, though she was injured in a contest six minutes into the final term and had to be stretchered off.

#41 Laitiah Huynh

Might not have hit the scoreboard, but used her lightning hands and ability to create separation from her opponents well. Once she had ball-in-hand, her ability to flick it off to teammates at speed was really impressive. Naturally her pressure was still high, and she contested well in the air and at ground level. Once she adapted to the conditions, she was able to play like it was a dry ball. Huynh was unlucky not to win a free kick for in the back late in the final term, with the talented small forward certainly up and about in the pressure moments.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS vs. GLENELG

WWT Eagles:

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Might not have won a heap of the ball, but her intent was consistent throughout the four quarters. Dolan copped plenty of knocks and kept bouncing up, taking a strong mark late in the second term to kick deep in attack and then provide an option a minute later for another inside 50. She pushed hard throughout the game to provide pressure at half-back and even spent some time on-ball late in the game.

#25 Jamie Parish

Had a tough job with the defence seeing plenty of action in this one, but Parish provided some good repeat efforts and defensive pressure. She could not always cleanly grab the ball, but when she won it in close she was quick to dispose of it, and tried to create some attacking movement despite the mounting scoreboard discrepancy.

Glenelg:

#7 Brooke Tonon

The clear standout of the State Academy members, Tonon played at the level she has built this season, coming off half-back and pushing up to the wing. She laid some fierce tackles and worked hard around the ground, quick to get boot to ball. She just kept plugging away and was one of a number of defenders who kept the Eagles from kicking a goal in the contest, providing good run and spread from defence out in transition.

#12 Tamsyn Morriss

Had a solid performance with some nice moments as you have come to expect. Morriss did not win a ton of the ball, but it was seldom in her region, attacking it hard when she needed to and winning a good one-on-one early in the match, then laid a tackle at the next stoppage to force a turnover. She was run-down trying to move the ball through the middle in the third term, but kept providing an option for her teammates, working hard both ways.

STURT vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE

Sturt:

#3 Georgia Swan

Worked really hard throughout the game and used the ball well when having the opportunity. Her statistics of six touches and no tackles do not reflect the intensity at which she played, with her one-percenters and ability to be an option in transition quite noticeable. She showed good footy smarts to get to the right positions and provided a second tackling option at the contest, often winning the hard ball and being wrapped up as well.

#19 Alex Ballard

A huge first term and arguably the pick of the State Academy players in this game, Ballard worked really hard on the lead up and down the ground to take some strong grabs. Her body positioning in one-on-one contests was also eye-catching, and she slotted a goal from 30m out on a slight angle from the set shot. Ballard seemed to be everywhere early on, and whilst she was a little quieter after that as South Adelaide ran rampant, she still lead out to take a mark and use the ball with a lovely inboard kick in the third term, then tried a snap off the outside of the boot from 15m out under pressure, which bounced through for a behind.

#20 Hannah Prenzler

Worked hard in the back half to counter a number of South Adelaide attacks and pushed up to the wing when required to keep the defensive line high. Her kicking was a little rushed compared to her usual precision, but her intercept work and mopping up was still reliable. She stood up when being tackled and spread well to provide an option and switch when required, finding plenty of the ball.

#30 Zoe Prowse

Unfortunately the exciting utility’s day ended early after a ruck stoppage in the first term, copping a knock and not being sighted again, after showing good intent early in the match with a big tackle at half-forward, though gave away a free kick for her troubles.

South:

#1 Tahlita Buethke

After a quieter start to the game, Buethke came alive after quarter time and started buzzing around the stoppages. At times she could not quite take it cleanly or would be knocked off it trying to run at speed, but her ability to create separation and then give-and-go was noticeable. She was quick with her hands or feet, and even took some good marks in space, looking to be an option in transition or intercepting a kick behind play. She used her speed to advantage and had several passages where she won a chain of possessions, and while it was not her best game, it was certainly a solid effort.

#36 Gypsy Schirmer

Had a mixed day where the talented AFL Women’s Academy member produced some nice moments, but ultimately it was more her defensive work, rather than her offensive stuff, that stood out. She was still clean with the ball off the deck, but did make some errors by hand or foot and was penalised on a couple of occasions. When it came to her intent and defensive pressure it was hard to fault Schirmer, who racked up a ton of tackles and really applied fierce pressure to the opposition. Her best play from an offensive standpoint came in the first term where she hit a lovely kick out in front of Jordann Hickey leading out.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. WEST ADELAIDE

North:

#33 Julia Clark

It was not a good weekend for State Academy members and injuries, with Clark another one to go down in Round 10. She started promisingly with her attack on the ball earning her two free kicks in the opening term, but then a tackle from Abbie Ballard three minutes into the second quarter unfortunately resulted in her hitting the turf pretty hard and having to be helped off. The positive was the stretcher was not required and she was able to walk off with the trainers.

#43 Amelie Borg

Played a more defensive role on her opponents trying to limit their impact, and she certainly did that. Only having the six touches, Borg was more prominent for her work in adapting to multiple opponents, from key forwards to smaller types rolling through the back 50. She played quite deep and was able to just lockdown on an opponent to allow the likes of Kristi Harvey and Amber Ward to play more attacking roles out of the back 50.

West:

#3 Abbie Ballard

Building nicely in her return from a long-term injury, Ballard is hitting her straps at the right time of year. Given the strength of the West Adelaide midfield, Ballard is able to play as that pure forward with rotations through the middle, and use her left foot to advantage when searching for targets inside 50. She is clean in-close, and great off the deck, able to use the ball well in transition. She almost kicked a goal in the second term but it bounced the wrong way and through for a behind. She provided her regular amount of tackling pressure throughout the contest.

#7 Scarlett Griffiths

For the second week in a row, Griffiths had the one disposal you want to have if that is all you are going to get – kicking a goal. After her set shot last week, Griffiths kicked a clever goal on the run, dribbling it home from 30m to seal the deal for the Bloods 11 minutes into the term. She only had the one touch, but had a few almost-moments with a dropped mark one-on-one against Kristi Harvey, and then a handball that was deemed a throw.

#9 Zoe Venning

An underrated game from the fierce midfielder/forward, who exclusively was able to play at half-forward and use her high work rate to roam up and down the ground. Venning won the ball in each of the thirds and spread really well to contribute to the team’s cause. She took some good marks leading out at half-forward in the first half, then pushing back into defence in the second, she showed clean hands out of the stoppage and was able to find her fair share of the ball on the day. She had some impactful disposals and made some mistakes by foot, but overall had a pretty impressive game.

#30 Lauren Young

You know you are travelling pretty well when the opposition sends a tagger to you at half-time to try and quell your influence, and the 15-year-old had no issues whatsoever dealing with it. Not only showing talent, but maturity to just get on with it, Young still was lively in the second half despite having at least one player sticking to her, and often multiple players around her in marking contests. She won free kicks for being held, and finished with two goals – could have been three if the free kick she won was not taken advantage – but she kicked a set sot goal from 20m out straight in front in the second term for the first goal of the match, then the last goal thanks to a sidestep, spin and shot on the run which sailed home in the final few minutes of the match. Had another outstanding performance, and the fact she had to deal with tagging and still stepped up was impressive.

2021 SANFL Women’s preview: Round 10 – Ladder-defining round of action

IT might not be finals time just yet, but if the top four sides can topple the bottom four sides this weekend in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s action, then it will seal up the finals spots ahead of the last round.

NORWOOD vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT
Friday, May 7 @ 7:00pm
Coopers Stadium

Coming off their first loss in eight weeks, Norwood will be hungry to get back to business against Central District who did pretty well last week against a strong West Adelaide side, but it was not enough to come away with the points. Unlike the other three sides in the bottom four, the Bulldogs do have a superior percentage to those teams just inside the four – and both above have one draw – meaning an upset win, and a loss to either South Adelaide or North Adelaide this week will hand Central District a top four spot heading into the last week. Norwood is looking pretty good to secure top spot on the table, sitting one-and-a-half games clear of Glenelg, with just one win needed to secure the minor premiership. The likes of Alicia Butler and Ella Mickan will return to the Bulldogs outfit on an extended bench, while the Redlegs have brought back vital ruck, Leah Cutting, and in-form Ella Murison. Youngsters Sarah Branford and Lana Schwerdt are amongst the outs for this game, but the Redlegs are looking very strong. Isabelle Starmer has put together some great form through the ruck and will enjoy a battle with Cutting and possibly youngster Jade Halfpenny who has been named there. Bulldogs captain Shelby Smith and Adelaide AFLW midfielder Najwa Allen could go head-to-head in the midfield, whilst the Norwood defence will need to find a way of slowing down key forward duo Katelyn Rosenzweig and Chantel Reynolds. Sophie Armitstead could be the player to try and quell the red-hot Chloe Scheer, whilst State Academy members Alana Lishmund and Madison Lane could go head-to-head in this clash. Norwood should be too strong, but the Bulldogs have the capacity and talent to beat anyone on their day if they take their chances.

WWT EAGLES vs. GLENELG
Saturday, May 8 @ 10:10am
Maughan Thiem Kia Oval

Whilst finals seems a stretch for the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles – the results needed to occur are near impossible – they can still play the role of party pooper to finals-bound sides, whilst trying to jump off the bottom of the table. The Eagles strung three consecutive wins together this season, but with the return of AFL Women’s talents, they have been more inexperienced, but providing games to great future talents. For Round 9, the Eagles have lost Jessica Evans to concussion, but regain Renee Forth to bolster that minimal AFL Women’s talent. Their opponents Glenelg are not mucking around though, with Ebony Marinoff pulling on the black and gold for the first time this season, returning to the Bays’ outfit with Molly Affolter, Lucy Armitage and Caitlyn Swanson among others for an extended bench after multiple players have dropped out due to illness. Marinoff joins an already strong midfield of Ellie Kellock, Jessica Bates, Tessa Kohn and Brooke Tonon who are all in great form, and Caitlin Gould is a crucial player up forward or through the ruck. The Eagles have so much developing talent that will benefit from the experience against AFLW-listed players with Shineah Goody, Jamie Parish and Charlotte Dolan just a few of them. The reliable combination of Anastasia Falkenberg and Jovanka Zecevic will always stand up in big moments, and they will need to be key players in this game if the Eagles are to cause a massive boilover. The Bays also need to win this to keep touch with Norwood at the top of the table, and fend off last year’s grand finalists in North Adelaide and South Adelaide. It is hard to see the Bays losing this given their side on paper, but this has been one heck of a season for upsets.

STURT vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Saturday, May 8 @ 11:00am
Prospect Oval

South Adelaide can go a long way to securing a finals spot with a win over a Sturt team that just refuses to go away in the SANFL Women’s competition. Just when you think the Double Blues are out of the running, they produce a massive performance like they did against the Eagles last week to just remain in contention. A loss here would cut the chord on any finals hopes if North Adelaide get up as well, but a win, and the Double Blues could be in the top four given their percentage is higher than the two sides in there, and they take on the fourth placed Panthers. Captain Maya Rigter will miss with a foot injury, Alysha Healy is out with a shoulder injury and Lane Trenorden suffered a knee injury. They welcome back Tiah Hough, Nicole Baker and Ally Ladas to an extended bench as they try and plot South Adelaide’s downfall. The Panthers are coming off a great win over Norwood, and with their team at full strength, it showed just how good this side could be. Madison Bennett is the sole exclusion from the team, with young key forward Jorja Hooper, and defender Lucy Northcott among the inclusions. Jaslynne Smith will run out for her 50th game this weekend, and will be a key part of that Panthers backline with Lisa Whiteley and Brianna Wedding who have put together strong performances. The Sturt forward line of young talent seems to be ticking over nicely, with Alex Ballard slotting three goals last week, and with Zoe Prowse providing the height, and Chloe Forby and Georgia Swan among the developing talents in there, the Double Blues have enough firepower down there. The Sturt midfield of Alisha Gepp, Jaimee Wittervan and Isobel Kuiper will get its greatest test this weekend with Teah Charlton, Nicole Campbell and Tahlita Buethke all in ripping form and could be the deciding factor. The Panthers should get up based on their lineup, but the Double Blues will not make it easy for them.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. WEST ADELAIDE
Saturday, May 8 @ 12:45pm
Prospect Oval

The final game of the round, and the second of a double-header at Prospect Oval sees the Roosters host West Adelaide in a massive clash. The Roosters tentatively sit in third spot, and thanks to their higher percentage compared to South Adelaide, have some sort of a buffer, but they could lose that with West and one of Central District or Sturt getting up. The Westies need to win to keep touch with the top four and frankly their side is too good not to play finals, but the Roosters also have such a consistent lineup it is hard to imagine them not competing at the pointy end. North has just brought in a potential debutant in Monika Ney to an extended bench, with not too much needing changed for the reigning premiers. Despite Marinoff coming back for Glenelg, the Roosters have not unleashed Anne Hatchard yet, with the team having a strong enough team on its own with Leah Tynan, Brianna Arthur and Erica Greet rolling through the midfield. Youngsters Kate Case and Julia Clark are versatile enough to slot in anywhere, whilst the defence of Kristi Harvey, Amber Ward and Talia Radan is just ridiculously strong. Amelie Borg can be utilised as a more athletic tall, whilst Jaimi Tabb has the freedom to play inside or out, add in Lauren Gauci who returned in style to the competition, and Ash Woodland up front, and the Roosters have so much past and present AFLW talent. West Adelaide has plenty of talent itself, as one of the most exciting young sides. Sarah Dargan, Ailish Considine and talented junior Lauren Young form a massive midfield trio, while Chelsea Biddell and Melanie Elsegood are reliable targets to hit up forward. The talls are surrounded by young talent in Zoe Venning, Abbie Ballard and Charlie Scutchings, while Imogen Loftes was one of four players to return, and slots straight onto a wing. Sharni Whiting has been strong overhead in defence for the Westies this season, while Madi Russell and Taylah Jayne have also served as strong interceptors and rebounders. This is a 50/50 game with North Adelaide having an incredibly experienced defence, but there is something about West Adelaide that could see the Bloods grab the win and make the final week interesting.

Picture credit: SANFL

2021 Academy Watch: SANFL Women’s Round 9

THE finals of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition are not far away, and there was plenty to like about the up-and-coming talent in the state over Round 9 of the competition. We cast our eye over the players across the four games, with each note the individual opinion of the writer.

NORWOOD vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE

By: Peter Williams

Norwood:

#15 Alana Lishmund

Had arguably her best game of the year against South Adelaide, finding her fair share of the ball and providing some fierce defensive pressure around the ground. The majority of her touches were found in the back half of the ground as she worked hard behind the ball to spread, and try and create some movement going forward. While sometimes her decision making was inconsistent, she would back up with some repeat efforts at stoppages and remain focused with her intent. She took a good contested mark inside forward 50 in the second half between two defenders and set up a goal assists with a quick, clean, well-timed handball, having finished off the game in the front half of the ground.

#22 Jade Halfpenny

Another really solid four-quarter performance playing primarily up forward and pushing up the ground. She had an early chance in the first term with a nice sidestep but it just missed, though she laid a great tackle shortly after to force a turnover inside 50 and lead to a score. She took a number of good marks in the second term both in front of the ball on the lead, and intercepting on the wing, as well as providing plenty of defensive pressure to force the opposition to rush handballs in close. In the final term, Halfpenny showed great closing speed to force a spill and get the handball to a teammate, but they could not get boot to ball, tried to do it herself but was tackled. Aside from a couple of passes, the majority of Halfpenny’s deliveries by hand or foot were generally on target.

#30 Sarah Branford

Despite only having a handful of touches, Branford still showed plenty of defensive pressure on the ball carrier, winning a free kick in the first term for going in hard then kicked inside 50, whilst quickly kicking it from a stoppage at the top of 50 to go deep. Late in the first term, Branford produced a strong smother to keep the ball at half-forward, and whilst she did not win a heap of it after that, still remained active in the game. Unfortunately overran an attempt to spoil which led to her opponent taking off and nailing a pass inside 50 which led to a goal, but her intent was right, reading the play well.

South:

#1 Tahlita Buethke

The speedster played through the midfield, rotating between onball and the wing, starting right at the first stoppages. She might not have won much of it to start with, but then started to collect the touches later in the first term, with a number of handballs and a kick going inside 50. She positioned herself well at the stoppages to get herself in ball-winning positions. Her third quarter featured a number of touches around the ground, including coming off a wing to scoop a ball up, then intercepting a quick kick out of the opposition’s defensive 50 to send the ball back inside 20m from goal. Laying a number of good tackles throughout the game, she won a free kick for her efforts, and had an eye-catching charge out of the middle going forward.

#5 Sarah Wright

Not a huge game, but still had a few nice moments. She was clean off the deck and applied some great defensive pressure and put her body on the line when required. Her best piece of play came in the second term when she intercepted out of defence and put it deep on the wing to a running teammate, which a few minutes later was followed by a good mark at half-back and delivery to the defensive side of the wing.

#36 Gypsy Schirmer

The AFL Women’s Academy member played out of defence again to try and create some run from the back half, and she certainly did that from time to time. Her first half was more productive than her second, first getting involved with a mark at half-back, taking the player on and giving it off by hand to move it quickly. Her hands at ground level were really good, and she pushed up the ground when required, also laying a couple of strong tackles on fellow State Academy members. Not as prolific as she has been in the front half of the ground, Schirmer certainly showcased her versatility behind the ball.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS vs. STURT

By: Liam Badkin

Eagles:

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Spent time forward of the ball as opposed to onball, and used her talents to affect the game in other ways. Had only five kicks, but rarely wasted them and her pressure in the forward half proved crucial in the Eagles attacking plays, highlighted by her three tackles. A quiet day statistically but still had her moments.

#25 Jamie Parish

Spending more time in defence than previous weeks with Amie Blanden shouldering the ruck duties, Parish was the key rebounding weapon in the Eagles’ arsenal. Finished with a game-high five rebound 50’s as she generated run out of a backline that was constantly under the pump. Not all of the kicks hit the target, but she did not have much to kick to up the field. Finishing with 10 disposals with all of them being kicks, Parish did not waste time over-handballing, and got the ball on her boot straight away, a move that got the backline out of a tight spot on multiple occasions. Already known as a player who can play in all three lines, her defensive stocks just went through the roof after solid play in this match.

Sturt:

#3 Georgia Swan

A typically solid game from Swan, who finished with seven disposals but influenced the play greatly whenever she was near it. Missed a shot on goal in the third quarter that would have added to her day, but continued to find herself around the play and was damaging when she got her hands on the ball.

#19 Alex Ballard

Had a day out as she slotted three nice goals to prove key in her side’s strong victory. Her hands were as strong as ever as she brought down six marks, on a day where defenders simply had no answer for her. Kicked two goals in the second quarter when Sturt really started to take over the game, and proved reliable at finishing the hard work of her teammates with straight kicking. Easily her best game of the year and will be looking to take her form into next week.

#20 Hannah Prenzler

Continued last week’s form of moving further up the ground to impact the play, and reaped the rewards as she kicked her first goal of the year in the final quarter where she floated forward and found space. The Academy prospect has been adaptable this season, and will be pleased with her game as she continues to adjust to the new role.

#30 Zoe Prowse

Another fantastic performance from the talented utility who continues to adapt to wherever the team needs her. Sharing ruck duties with Jess Good, Prowse was excellent whenever she was required to take hit outs, finishing with 14 for the day as a back-up. She also displayed her excellent ability to find the ball and use it with class. She ended the day with 14 disposals and a whopping seven inside 50’s. Her five tackles demonstrated her willingness to do the dirty work in the contest and finished the day as one of her side’s best.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. GLENELG

By: Liam Badkin

North:

#38 Kate Case

A quiet day statistically, finishing with just the one touch, but had more of an influence on the play than that. Constantly harassing Glenelg players whenever she was around the ball, her effort is more accurately represented by those who watch her do the little things.

#33 Julia Clark

Despite having less of the ball than last week, her effort remained the same as she used her eye catching aerobic capabilities to push hard up and down the wing to provide an option for her teammates. Her six disposals were hard earned and she often deserves more of the ball than she gets, but continues to fulfil her role for her side.

#43 Amelie Borg

Once again popping up in the backline, Borg worked tirelessly all day to make sure her opponent found no easy path to the ball, as she nullified the impact of whoever she was opposed to. She consistently pressured the ball carrier and harassed opponents all day. Finding the ball six times herself was just the cherry on top. A nice game.

Glenelg:

#7 Brooke Tonon

Found plenty of the ball along the wing, finishing with 11 disposals in yet another game where her hard running nature was fully on display. She worked tirelessly along the wing as she left opponents in her dust on multiple occasions. North Adelaide’s players struggled to keep up with Tonon’s remarkable work rate, which has consistently delivered for her and her teammates so far this season.

#12 Tamsyn Morriss

The defender once again did the majority of her work deep in the backline as she thwarted plenty of North Adelaide attacks with her ability to read the play and put herself in clever positions. Her work when the ball was on the deck in Glenelg’s defensive 50 was great, as she worked her way to five disposals and a pair of crucial rebound 50’s to clear the backline.

WEST ADELAIDE vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT

By: Peter Williams

West:

#3 Abbie Ballard

Her second game back from a long-term injury, Ballard played at half-forward and did what you would expect of her – apply fierce defensive pressure and use her potent left foot to advantage – throughout the game. She won a free kick early and kept attacking it hard at the contest, producing a perfectly waited kick in the second term after leading out and marking at the top of 50. She won the ball as far back as half-back midway through the term and whilst she had a quieter second half, had shown enough to be productive in the match.

#7 Scarlett Griffiths

If you are going to have a one-kick game, then Griffiths certainly made the most of it, with her sole kick in the second term coming via a free kick in the forward pocket after running onto the ground. She converted the set shot from 25m out and handed her side a vital six points.

#9 Zoe Venning

Won her fair share of the ball and cracked in hard as you would come to expect, predominantly playing off a half-forward flank. Whilst she did not hit the scoreboard, she worked hard up the ground, took a good mark early in the game, and won a couple of free kicks for her intent. She did get pinged for holding the ball early in the third term, but her ability to stand up in tackles and apply defensive pressure was terrific.

#30 Lauren Young

Once again got to the right positions and found plenty of it whether it was in defence, midfield or attack, predominantly rolling through the midfield. She showcased her thumping kick to clear the danger zone on a number of occasions, and took some strong intercept marks, as well as ones on long leads. She showed great courage in the third term by taking a huge grab going back with the flight and copping contact from behind, and then was able to get forward and have a couple of chances inside 50. Her set shots in the second and third term respectively just drifted or were rushed across the line, but she set up a great chance to Melanie Elsegood on the lead with a nice deep kick.

Central:

#28 Lauren Breguet

Spending time in the middle as well as up forward, Breguet provided some great running out of midfield early in the match to kick inside 50, then got on the end of one late in the first term with a set shot from 20m out and a perfectly weighted kick for a goal from a tight angle. She had a quiet second term before stepping it up in the third, with plenty of involvements around the footy, including some fierce tackling in midfield, and a good handball under pressure at ground level earning er a free kick. She used the ball well by foot from the free kick, and earned another free kick for a high tackle at half-forward.

#40 Madison Lane

Had a particularly lively middle two quarters, but still remained involved throughout, Lane took some good intercept marks and drove the ball out of defence. Often trying to settle the team down, her kicks were generally high-impact with the exception of one turnover at the top of defensive 50 in the second term. She had a clean pickup off the deck midway through the third term, and whilst her kick was smothered, she won it back at half-back and kicked safely to the wing.

#41 Laitiah Huynh

Had some lively moments in the game with a some quiet patches, but some eye-catching efforts. She had a massive effort in the second term bursting out of the middle to run forward and kick to Katelyn Rosenzweig’s advantage for a goal 15 seconds into the second term. Midway through the quarter she intercepted a would-be handball with a clever tap mid-air to keep the ball tracking forward. In the fourth term, she took a good mark on the wing, played on and kicked to half-forward well to showcase her aggressive ball movement, then tried to have a shot on goal by sidestepping an opponent six minutes into the quarter but was unluckily dragged down.

Picture credit: Peter Swan / SANFL

2021 SANFL Women’s Round 9 preview: Panthers load up for clash with red-hot Redlegs

TWO late morning games and two evening games mark a huge Round 9 of action in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS vs. STURT
Saturday, May 1 @ 11:30am
Maughan Thiem Kia Oval

Opening the round is unfairly a bottom two clash, with both Woodville-West Torrens and Sturt both playing pretty well this season. The Eagles’ percentage is quite low as the lowest scoring team, though they are just a win outside the eight. A victory here and results going the right way, and the Eagles would be fifth, but the same could be said for the Double Blues, who a fortnight ago showed they could score, and have been their reliable selves defensively to boast the best percentage in the bottom four, but are a point behind the two teams above them. From a State Academy perspective, Charlotte Dolan has proven to be able to play in multiple positions, having started at half-back, spent time on the wing, even gone inside and then played forward at the AFLW Under 19 Championships. Having been named on a forward flank again, the Eagles will be looking for her fierce intent to be a factor, particularly against Double Blues’ captain Maya Rigter. The other State Academy member to watch is Jamie Parish, with the versatile tall named on a wing for the second week in a row, but is more than capable of slotting in up forward or in defence. For future years, Shineah Goody is shaping as a classy prospect with plenty of versatility and an ability to create something out of nothing. For the Double Blues, the forward line is swarming with State Academy members, as Zoe Prowse has been named at full-forward with defenders-cum-forwards Hannah Prenzler and Alex Ballard either side of her, and Georgia Swan on a flank. It means a very exciting front 50 for the Double Blues, and the game could genuinely go either way.

NORWOOD vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Saturday, May 1 @ 11:30am
Coopers Stadium

Norwood has been dealt a blow ahead of its massive clash with South Adelaide, losing 50-gamer Leah Cutting to injury, whilst in-form Ella Murison is also out of the side. The Panthers have lost Lauren Clifton and Lucy Northcott among five changes, but have stacked their side with Jordann Hickey and Indy Tahau returning from Queensland, Teah Charlton and Hannah Munyard from AFL Women’s seasons completing, and Jess Kirk back in the side. Norwood has proven to accept any challenge thrown at the Redlegs, but without Cutting, Montana McKinnon and Soriah Moon will have the run of the mill around the ground. Jade Halfpenny is enjoying a terrific season for the Redlegs, playing through the midfield and rotating forward, while Sarah Branford had one of her best games of the season last week. Lana Schwerdt has been impressing as another young talent coming through, whilst Jess Macolino, Sophie Armitstead and Morgan Johnston have been consistently amongst the best. Even outside the changes, the Panthers have a lineup that is ready to shoot up the ladder, as AFL Women’s Academy talent Gypsy Schirmer has been named at half-back, and Tahlita Buethke in the middle coming off her best game last round. Nicole Campbell and Cheyenne Hammond are completing a star-studded midfield, whilst future key forward talent Jorja Hooper is in great form as well. The Panthers have bulked up and would be favourites to break the Redlegs seven-game winning streak, but if Norwood can beat this Panthers outfit without Cutting, then they are the clear premiership favourites.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. GLENELG
Saturday, May 1 @ 4:10pm
Prospect Oval

North Adelaide and Glenelg are both starting to filter their AFL Womens’ talent back, with Amber Ward and Ash Woodland (North) and Caitlin Gould (Glenelg) all returning. The teams have opted not to unleash midfield guns Anne Hatchard (North) and Ebony Marinoff (Glenelg) just yet, though up-and-comer Piper Window has returned for the Bays with Lucy Armitage a key out for the visitors at Prospect Park. North Adelaide got back on the winners list last week to sit third, tantalisingly just behind the second placed Bays. With Ward back to provide support for Kristi Harvey, the Roosters defence is starting to look impenetrable again. Last year’s leading goalkicker Woodland will only be better for the AFLW experience, as Katelyn Pope has already been back in the side. Young guns Kate Case, Julia Clark and bottom-ager Amelie Borg have all been named in the side, with interest around where Borg will play based on the return of Ward to the key defensive post. Kelly Barltrop, Kathryn Reynolds and Tayla Thorn are a damaging trio up front, with Brianna Arthur also in form rolling through the midfield. For the Bays, Brooke Tonon has put together a fantastic season in multiple positions, but came off half-back last week, with Tessa Kohn, Ellie Kellock and Jessica Bates all having racked up the ball and taken control of the midfield. It will be a tough ask against a strong Roosters outfit, though with Gould named at full-forward, the Bays midfield will have a tall target to kick to. Tamsyn Morriss is the other State Academy member who has been named on the bench, but expect her to rotate through the defence in what should be a cracking contest.

WEST ADELAIDE vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT
Saturday, May 1 @ 5:10pm
Hisense Stadium

The final game of the round pits two exciting young teams up against each other, with the fourth placed Central District taking on the sixth placed West Adelaide at Hisense Stadium, Both teams have State Academy members returning, with Scarlett Griffiths at West Adelaide, and Laitiah Huynh at Centrals coming back into their respective lineups. Louella McCarthy (West) and Alicia Butler (Central) are another couple of key inclusions for the respective sides, with AFLW talent and youngsters across the park. From a young gun perspective, West Adelaide’s Lauren Young will continue her outstanding debut season, teaming up with AFL Women’s talents Sarah Dargan and Ailish Considine in the midfield. Chelsea Biddell and Melanie Elsegood are named as the key forwards, with State Academy members, Zoe Venning and Abbie Ballard inside 50. Venning will have the freedom to roll through the midfield but also be a leading target up forward, whilst Ballard is in her second game back from long-term injury. For the Bulldogs, Huynh slots straight back into half-forward, joining forces with fellow State Academy member Lauren Breguet inside 50, while up the other end, Madison Lane has been named off a half-back flank. Nicole Mark has had an impact since crossing from South Adelaide, and the key forward pairing of Katelyn Rosenzweig and Chantel Reynolds has proven to be effective, while Caitlen Teague, Shelby Smith and Lauren Smith have worked well with in-form ruck Isabelle Starmer. Chloe Scheer returning to the side last week proved a masterstroke, with the AFL Women’s talent starring in a best on ground performance. This has all the hallmarks of being a cracking contest.

Picture credit: On The Ball Media

2021 SANFL Women’s Round 8 preview: State Academy, AFLW talents return in massive round of action

SOME huge ins at the selection table across all eight teams means the intensity and quality of matches will lift from Round 8 onwards, as the State Academy members and some AFL Women’s players return to their state league clubs.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. WWT EAGLES
Saturday, April 24 @ 11:30am
Prospect Oval

North Adelaide will celebrate Leah Tynan‘s 50th game in the competition against Woodville-West Torrens, welcoming back State Academy members Amelie Borg, Kate Case and Julia Clark, as well as Lauren Gauci among six inclusions, whilst Talia Radan is the crucial loss, out with a back injury. The Eagles have a number of forced changes, with Audrey Holt, Lili Gambranis, Marlie Fiegert and Samantha Hoogeveen-Hill all unavailable. Coming back into the side are the likes of State Academy duo, Jamie Parish and Charlotte Dolan, as well as AFL Women’s talent Renee Forth. Both sides inclusions are huge, and plenty on the line with the Roosters sitting a point inside the eight thanks to their draw, but also a win off the bottom of the table. Lose to the Eagles, and the reigning premiers will slip outside the finals spots. Brianna Arthur had an outstanding game in the midfield last week, and with Leah Tynan and Jamie Tabb taking on the likes of Forth, Shineah Goody and Anastasia Falkenberg, the clearance battle will be an important one to win for both sides.

GLENELG vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Saturday, April 24 @ 4:40pm
ACH Group Stadium

Coming off a hard-fought win over Central District last week to secure their place in second spot, the Bays now host a South Adelaide team that will load up on talent – but also lose a number of top players at the same time – in what is a top three clash. The home team will bring back State Academy members Brooke Tonon and Tamsyn Morriss, as well as ruck, Molly Affolter, with only Tess Morcom out with injury. Whilst Glenelg has minimal changes, the Panthers have made eight selection moves, with the likes of Czenya Cavouras and Tahlia Meyer out of the side for this round, but plenty of star power coming back in. AFL Women’s-listed players Lisa Whiteley and Montana McKinnon, and State Academy members Gypsy Schirmer, Tahlita Buethke and Lauren Clifton all come back into the side in what is a crucial game for the Panthers. A win will see them grab second as they head for home with their talents filtering back in, and the likes of Jaslynne Smith and Nicole Campbell in terrific form. Jorja Hooper is developing nicely up forward, while Brianna Wedding has been a rock in defence. For the Bays, Ellie Kellock, Jess Bates and Tessa Kohn remain consistent each week, while Sam Franson and Madisyn Freeman are others who can turn a game.

WEST ADELAIDE vs. NORWOOD
Saturday, April 24 @ 3:40pm
Hisense Stadium

An absolute blockbuster game between the top of the table Norwood and arguably the strongest West Adelaide side of the season presents the Hisense Stadium clash as the game of the round. The Redlegs have exchanged State Academy members with Jade Halfpenny returning to the side for Jess Williams in what will be Leah Cutting‘s 50th game. The ruck has been in sensational form this year, and she has been named forward to share the role with Elizabeth Drake. West Adelaide on the other hand have brought in some of the elite talents in State MVP from the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Lauren Young, as well as fellow Academy members Zoe Venning and Scarlett Griffiths, and Abbie Ballard who returns for her first game of the season off a long-term injury layoff. Add in AFL Women’s talents in Ailish Considine and Chelsea Biddell, and tall target Melanie Elsegood, and the Bloods have stocked up this week. Louella McCarthy and Gretel Ramsey are among the outs for the match, but with Sarah Dargan joining Young and Considine in the middle, the Bloods have a stacked side. The Redlegs still have talent across the board that has led them to the top of the table, The midfield featuring Sophie Armitstead, Jess Macolino and Elisha Gallagher, as well as Morgan Johnston and Lana Schwerdt, will be a tough one to beat, with Sarah Branford another talented teenager ready to impact in this huge match.

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. STURT
Saturday, April 24 @ 7:30pm
Tanunda Oval

The final match of the round in a prime time Saturday night fixture is Central District up against Sturt, with the sides in the bottom four, but one win – and favourable results – will see the winner leap into the top four such is the evenness of the competition. The Bulldogs in particular have a massive chance given their percentage is the second highest in the league. Sturt has a lower percentage, but a win would certainly see them jump past at least one – if not two or three sides. Central District has kept the cards close to the chest, including four players on an extended bench with the trio of State Academy members – Laitiah Huynh, Lauren Breguet and Madison Lane all returning, as well as AFL Women’s representative Chloe Scheer. The Double Blues lose Lucy Griffith to concussion and Amy Brooks-Birve to a knee injury, but have added four players to the side, including a trio of State Academy members themselves in Zoe Prowse, Hannah Prenzler and Alex Ballard. This matchup is all about offence taking on defence, with the Double Blues defensive set up, often featuring Prenzler and Ballard – though both have been named up forward on this occasion – as well as captain Maya Rigter, whilst the Central attack is the most exciting in the competition, with Huynh, Breguet and Scheer roaming to leading goalkicking talents Chantel Reynolds and Katelyn Rosenzweig. Lane and Demi Sonneman up the other end provide the run, with Shelby Smith, Lauren Smith and Caitlen Teague roving to Isabelle Starmer forming a strong midfield core. The battle of the midfields will be fascinating, with Jess Good in ripping form in the ruck, alongside Alisha Gepp, Isobel Kuiper and Jaimee Wittervan onball, while Nicole Baker and Chloe Forby flank Prowse on the forward line.

Picture credit: SANFL / Cory Sutton

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