Tag: abby favell

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.

2020 AFL Women’s Draft preview: The next crop of young stars to find homes tonight

TONIGHT up to 61 players will live out their AFL Women’s dreams when the 14 clubs select the players to fill out the 2021 lists at the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Like most years, the AFL Women’s Draft still has state-based selections with Adelaide (South Australia) and GWS GIANTS (New South Wales) having sole priority to players that nominate that state. In Queensland (Brisbane and Gold Coast) and Western Australia (Fremantle and West Coast) the teams will split the players, whilst the remaining 10 teams will fight over the Victorian pool. The one major change is that there is only a Victorian pool, not split into Metropolitan and Geelong, so the Cats do not have priority on those from the region.

Richmond holds the all-important first pick in the draft which is expected to kick off from 7pm. There are a number of players the Tigers could select, but the frontrunner is Northern Knights’ star Ellie McKenzie, an inside midfielder who can play just about anywhere on the field and has been a proven talent for a number of years now.

[ … Ellie McKenzie feature … ]

Western Bulldogs traded up from Pick 3 to Pick 2 to ensure they could nab the second best player in the draft, with Tyanna Smith high up there in contention. The Dandenong Stingrays’ star has very few flaws in her game and has elite acceleration and a match-winning ability. The other one in contention if the Dogs opt to go tall could be another Northern Knights’ star in Alyssa Bannan as another forward option, as she can play tall or small and even push up into the midfield.

[ … Tyanna Smith feature … ] | [ … Alyssa Bannan feature … ]

Also in the mix for the top Victorian picks are Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, a rebounding defender who could fill the need at Melbourne with Pick 5. Whichever player is left of the trio, expect the Saints to pounce on with Pick 6 in what showcases the elite top-end talent of this year’s group. Another possibility for the pick could be Northern Knights’ Jess Fitzgerald if the Saints choose to add extra midfield class to their side.

[ … Sarah Hartwig feature … ] | [ … Jess Fitzgerald One to Watch  … ]

West Coast and Adelaide also have top five picks coming in at picks three and four, with the Eagles having a decision to make whether they go high-flying Shanae Davison from their own aligned-Academy or if they look at someone like Sarah Verrier, a Peel Thunder talent with a great blend of inside-outside traits or Bella Lewis a hardened midfielder who has been sensational this year. The Crows are expected to be a little more predictable, with Teah Charlton the standout prospect, though given they have a monopoly on the South Australian nominees, they can select anyone in any order.

[ … Shanae Davison feature … ] | [ … Sarah Verrier feature … ] | [… Bella Lewis … ] | [ … Teah Charlton feature … ]

Gold Coast becomes the first Queensland team into the draft at Pick 7, and with players still able to nominate the Gold Coast and Brisbane zones, a Suns Academy member such as Annise Bradfield, Daisy D’Arcy, Maddison Levi or Beth Pinchin could be among those in consideration. For the Lions a pick later, Zimmorlei Farquharson looms as the standout youngster in the group.

[ … Annise Bradfield … ] | [ … Daisy D’Arcy feature … ] | [ … Maddison Levi feature … ] | [ … Zimmorlei Farquharson feature … ]

The final pick inside the top 10 is Geelong and they have the most interesting selection with the top group likely off the board, it is an even balance of players they could choose from. If they opt to go local – knowing they do not have priority – then perhaps the skill and class of Falcons’ Darcy Moloney could be an option. If they want to go a little taller, then Isabelle Pritchard could head down the highway from the Western Jets and provide a strong inside presence, or they could look to a proven big-game performer in Northern Knights’ Fitzgerald.

[ … Darcy Moloney feature … ] | [ … Isabelle Pritchard feature … ]

Western Bulldogs become the first team to make their second selection at Pick 11, which is effectively Pick 6 from the Victorian draft. If they went Smith in the first selection, they could look to go taller here and look to someone like Bulldogs’ supporter Pritchard or perhaps consider Murray Bushrangers’ key forward Olivia Barber. If they went for Bannan with their second selection, perhaps Fitzgerald is one to join the ranks as yet another Knight, whilst the likes of classy forward Bella Eddey or outside mover Mimi Hill could come into consideration through the first round.

[ … Olivia Barber feature … ] | [ … Bella Eddey feature … ] | [ … Mimi Hill feature … ]

Carlton enter the draft at Pick 12, and the names already raised in Fitzgerald, Hill and Eddey could be around the mark, though if they want to add an inside midfielder, then perhaps Falcons’ Laura Gardiner could be a suggestion. North Melbourne are next up and will also be keen to add another midfielder to the ranks, and try and predict what Melbourne (Picks 15 and 17) and Western Bulldogs (Pick 16) are going to do. If the Dees did not end up with Hartwig, then they could look at Dandenong Stingrays’ Zoe Hill with a selection, or if Pritchard has somehow slid, she is another defensive option.

[ … Laura Gardiner feature … ] | [ … Zoe Hill feature … ]

The West Australian teams squeeze in between the Victorian ones, with Fremantle likely to grab one of Verrier or Bella Lewis at the pick. Both are Fremantle-aligned and the Dockers know they can have an immediate impact in last year’s unbeaten side. The Eagles could look to Davison – if not already taken – or the classy Mikayla Morrison with this selection, or go for the ready-made Nyra Anderson at Pick 18.

[ … Bella Lewis feature … ] | [ … Mikayla Morrison feature … ] | [ … Nyra Anderson feature … ]

The last team to enter the draft is Collingwood with Pick 19 the Magpies’ first selection. Expect that to be Tarni Brown because on talent alone she is a top 10 pick, so the black and white army will gladly use their first pick on the Eastern Ranges’ jet. They will look to add some more midfield options, and she adds some extra speed and class to the team. Expect Alice Burke to be read out at the Saints’ Pick 24 – again great value – otherwise anything else is a bargain.

[ … Tarni Brown feature … ] | [ … Alice Burke feature … ]

The draft crop becomes so even outside of that top 20, with so many talented players fighting for spots on AFL Women’s lists. Ash Woodland and Georgia Nanscawen are readymade prospects who can impact immediately at AFL Women’s level, whilst Alana Barba, Shanara Notman, Nikia Webber, Amber Ward and Mattea Breed are all talls who have an extra year of experience as over-agers. Not holding a Draft Combine invite per say, South Australian duo Rachelle Martin and Matilda Zander would be a couple of others on clubs radars as ones who can make an immediate impact.

Some former basketballers who have crossed to football in the last 12-18 months are Amelia Velardo, Annabel Strahan and Carly Remmos, whilst Jess Matin (cricket) and Charlie Vandenberg (hockey) are among others who have forced high-level careers in other sports. Queenslanders, Christine Okesene, Brooke Spence, Laura Blue and Lucy Single are others who have transferred from various codes over the years.

From a Victorian perspective, among other names in various midfield positions are outside midfielder, Abbey Jordan and Joanna Lin, inside midfielders, Brooke Hards, Olivia Meagher and Winnie Laing, balanced midfielders Eliza McNamara, Megan Fitzsimon and Maeve Chaplin. Meanwhile the standout ruck is Maggie Caris.

Up forward, Renee Saulitis is the most dangerous small forward, whilst Isabella Simmons is a taller option, and Abbi Moloney a rapidly improving player. In defence, Ash Snow has great speed, while the likes of Jemma Finning, Mietta Kendall and Amber Micallef have all produced great seasons. As some raw talents, Alice O’Loughlin and Alice Astbury have had glimpses in the few games they have played, whilst Grace McRae and Daisy Walker have been valuable across multiple positions though predominantly in the middle.

From South Australia, Indy Tahau is the other star top-ager who is likely to join her South Adelaide teammate Charlton at the Crows, whilst for NSW/ACT,  Murray Bushrangers’ Abby Favell, midfielder-defender Emily Pease and surprise packet Kiara Beesley were among the Draft Combine invites. From the Northern Territory, top-ager Stephanie Williams leads the charge and has nominated Victoria, while Freda Puruntatameri – who played some games for Calder Cannons – and mature-ager Janet Baird have all caught the eye.

Out west, mature-agers Sarah Wielstra (25 years-old) and 20-year-olds, Ella Smith, Rosie Walsh and Jess Low all earned combine invites. Meanwhile from the top-age group, twins Brianna and Mikayla Hyde have impressed moving into the midfield this season, while leading forward Maggie MacLachlan is another player in contention to be drafted.

[ … FOR FULL FEATURES ON MORE THAN 80 PLAYERS HEAD TO OUR AFLW FEATURES PAGE … ]

TEAM-BY-TEAM PICKS:

Adelaide: 4, 45, 47
Brisbane: 8, 37, 38
Carlton: 12, 28, 36
Collingwood: 19, 25, 26, 31, 33
Fremantle: 14, 30, 46
Geelong: 10, 20, 21, 27, 39
Gold Coast: 7, 23, 50, 54, 57, 58, 60, 61
GWS: 9, 29, 42
Melbourne: 5, 15, 17, 35, 41, 48
North Melbourne: 13, 22, 44, 49, 55
Richmond: 1, 43, 52
St Kilda: 6, 24, 34, 40, 51
West Coast: 3, 18, 32, 53, 56, 59
Western Bulldogs: 2, 11, 16

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Adelaide Crows & GWS GIANTS

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Kick-starting our series are the two sides who have a monopoly on their states in Adelaide Crows and GWS GIANTS.

Adelaide Crows – South Australian pool

Draft selections: 4, 45, 48

Off-season summary:

Adelaide is in the box seat next season and should be another contender for the 2021 flag. After a 2020 season interrupted by multiple injuries, the Crows will regain two of the best players in the competition in Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall, whilst saying goodbye to retirees, Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey, Courtney Gum and Sophie Li. Maisie Nankivell also retired to focus on her netball with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, while Nicole Campbell and Jaimi Tabb were two delistings after one season.

In return, the Crows welcomed back a trio of South Australian players with Jess Sedunary (St Kilda), Lisa Whiteley (GWS GIANTS) and Hannah Munyard (Western Bulldogs) all completing trades home. The movements left three available spots on the Crows’ list, and conveniently those picks are 4, 45 and 48.

A draft look:

When it comes to South Australia, it is hard to look past South Adelaide’s Teah Charlton as the standout player from an under-age perspective. She has a bag of tricks and is as dangerous overhead as she is at ground level, knows where the goals are and can play through the midfield or forward line, and even been tested in defence at times. Put simply, in an open draft – ignoring the zoning – she would be taken in the top 10, so expect her to be the likely first selection for the Crows.

With the two remaining picks, Charlton’s Panthers’ teammate Indy Tahau would be the next one to look at, likely to follow her teammate – and last year’s first selection and fellow Panther Montana McKinnon – into the AFL Women’s. Outside the two clear under-age standouts, over-ager defender Amber Ward is a rock in defence and could be called up for a chance at the elite level, whilst South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s leading goalkicker, Ashleigh Woodland has also earned a Draft Combine invite.

Woodland has already tasted the AFL Women’s, after the 22-year-old played four games for Melbourne in 2019 after being a free agent selection in 2018. Putting together a superb season in front of goal for the Roosters, expect Woodland to not only be on the Crows’ radar, but other clubs as well if they have not already looked into the dangerous talent. More mature-age talent that continues to shine at SANFL Women’s level includes Campbell, and train-on players Rachelle Martin and Czenya Cavouras who showed they were in the Crows’ considerations as next best post-draft.

GWS GIANTS – NSW/ACT pool

Draft selections: 9, 29, 42, 53

Off-season summary:

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) GIANTS had a relatively quiet off-season, with just three players retiring in Ellie Brush, Ingrid Nielsen and Maggie Gorham last month. The sole trade the GIANTS made welcomes Katherine Smith to the club, replacing the experience lost by Whiteley heading to the Crows. Smith had been an important player for Melbourne, and the GIANTS also picked up picks 29 and 42, whilst parting with picks 25 and 39 in the process.

With a massive 25 players re-signed to the club and only three departures, it leaves three spots for the GIANTS to select players, holding selections nine, 29 and 42 in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, with Pick 53 also belonging to them. Much like the Crows, the pick selections matter little given they can handpick the players who have nominated for their NSW/ACT zone.

A draft look:

The GIANTS had a fairly unpredictable draft last year with a number of surprises, including the rapidly developing Gorham from Canberra with their first pick. This year they have some more young guns through the AFL Women’s National Academy who have put their hand up and earned Draft Combine invites, but as we saw with Brenna Tarrant, players can end up in other states.

Looking at those AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites, there are five who have stood up, four of whom have been Academy members this year. Three of those Academy members have risen through the pathways together in Tarni Evans, Emily Pease and Jayde Hamilton who could all be among the consideration for the top 10 pick. Evans is a contested marking player and one who has been touted as a future star since her Under 18s days, while Pease is a running half-back-cum-midfielder, and Hamilton a contested ball-winning talent.

All three have different skillsets and then you can factor in the other two players to receive AFL Women’s National Draft Combine invites – Abby Favell and Kiara Beesley. Favell is an elite runner with strong decision making skills and a high work rate, while Beesley is a former acrobat who is running around with Southern Power and who has a great blend of strength and speed, and more than capable overhead.

Like last year, the GIANTS could end up picking a handful of local players they have been watching through the AFL Sydney and AFL Canberra competitions, but there is enough talented youth there to put their hands up to go to the next level.

Picture: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Favell’s sacrifices worth it for chance at AFL Women’s

WHEN talking about sacrifices made to play Aussie rules football, there is not much that Murray Bushrangers and Eastern Allies’ Abby Favell has not done to pursue her dream of playing AFL Women’s. 

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Abby Favell

“I started playing AFL in a primary school competition called ‘Paul Kelly Cup’ in year 5 and 6,” Favell said. “There was no outside of school competitions for girls in my area and there still isn’t today! “Once I got to high school I played in my school team, filled with girls that just wanted to give the sport a go or get out of school for a couple of days. In year 8 I was asked to go trial for CCC and was lucky enough to be selected.”

With significant road trips to and from not only games but also training, there is no denying that Favell is committed to making her dream a reality and has had a huge football journey that has led her to where she is today.

“During the pre-season and in-season, my parents drive me three hours (one-way) once or twice a week just to get to training in Wangaratta,” she said. “Playing in Melbourne meant a six-hour drive and an overnight stay which was taking a lot of time out of their lives just so that they could let me play the game that I love. “The travel for me isn’t so bad as I’m not the one driving and now with a few more girls from the Leeton area playing with the Bushies, the road trips are very eventful with weekly competitions on who could provide the best snacks. “The commitment wasn’t easy but many amazing people made it possible.”

“Football for me is just something different. “It is a game that allows me to run around with very few restrictions which is what I enjoy most. “With a lot of experience in other sports and other pathways, football has been the one that has made me look forward to going to camps and the one that has given me the best experience. I also love the bit of contact that you don’t really get in other sports.”

Like many, Favell has had her setbacks – missing out on selection and making tough decisions about other sports – but says that she has come out of it stronger, credit to her drive to continue to build her game but also fulfil her commitment to the sport.

“At the next level, trialling for NSW, everyone from my school that trialled was selected, except for my friend and I,” Favell said. “It was a setback in my football journey but it just made me stronger as I went away and trained harder to be selected in the team the next year. “After playing for NSW at the school nationals in Perth, I was certain that I wanted to play AFL.

“In 2018, I was selected through the Southern Sports Academy to play for NSW against VIC in under 16s. “The Bushrangers also asked me to play a few games for them at the end of the season. “In 2019, the Bushrangers asked me to join them for a full pre-season and I was honoured to be selected which resulted in the tough decision to give up the many other sports I was playing. “But luckily it was the right decision as this led to my selection in the NSW team and the Eastern Allies under 18 teams as a bottom-age player.”

When it comes to her footy journey, Favell’s consistency in the Murray Bushrangers saw her get a bottom-age berth at the AFL Women’s Under 18s National Championships, recording an average of 11.0 disposals, 2.7 marks and 2.7 tackles for the Eastern Allies and finding her footing against many familiar Murray faces who took the field for Vic Country. 

“Playing in the Eastern Allies team was an experience that I didn’t really know what to expect and it was one like no other,” Favell said. “The girls on my team were absolutely amazing and made the on field and off-field time fun. Playing against my Bushies team mates was actually really fun but very different.”

Playing against strong opposition from across the country, Favell proved that she could handle the pressure and used her clean hands and high work rate to impact both on and off the ball. Her efforts across both the NAB League competition and Under 18s Championships saw Favell entered into the AFL Women’s Academy, participating in training camps with the Academy squad.

“I remember the phone call and feeling very shocked,” she said. “I definitely thought that Ash (Moeller, AFL NSW/ACT Female Talent Manager) was just telling me he put my name in but nothing was certain. “The academy camp in Darwin was definitely not easy but overall it was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot that has and will help me along my football journey. “We had spent a week training with the GIANTS beforehand and that was certainly something that I am never going to forget as I was privileged to meet so many amazing players and people.”

Speaking of players Favell felt privileged to meet, GIANTS midfielder Alyce Parker has had a profound impact on the youngster, and is someone that Favell says she admires both on and off the field.

“She is an amazing player that is always working hard and trying to become better,” Favell said. “As a rural girl, she has shown me that anything is possible and it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s the opportunities that you make. “Not only is she an absolute gun but she is also a wonderful person as she has also taken time out of her day to message me or stay in touch.”

A speedster with the ability to rotate through a number of positions – though ultimately looking most comfortable winning ball through the midfield – Favell also has clean hands to win the ball across the field and has great run and carry in transition credit to her endurance and never say die attitude.

“My strengths I feel would be my running and decision making skills,” she said. “I have been a cross-country runner and I guess a combination of all my other sports has enabled me to love to run and cover a lot of the ground… I’ve been focusing on doing the basics really well like taking the ball cleanly with my ground balls and giving it off on the up, hitting targets by both hand and foot. “I completed the NAB League training program we were all given and continued to work on the basic fundamentals, kicking, clean hands, ground balls etc along with playing netball and training with my local footy team.”

Favell said that while her commitment to her football dream has certainly impacted on her studies and other commitments, she has managed to balance it fairly well with plenty of commitment and strategies in place to ensure her schoolwork did not suffer.

“My strategy was to complete assignments and homework on the road between training or games as it was my only free time,” she said. “It was challenging when we were in the middle of nowhere with no service … but I managed to make it work and hand all my assessments in on time, just. “My family and friends mean a lot to me and they understand just as much as I do the commitment that I’ve made as I have had to miss my best friend’s birthday and my grandparents anniversary, just to name a few, due to playing or training. “I try my best to keep everyone happy but those that mean most to me understand the dedication I have made and usually save me a piece of cake.”

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers/Eastern Allies)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft.

Next under the microscope is Murray Bushrangers’ Abby Favell, a ball-winning midfielder with a high work rate across the ground.

Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers/Eastern Allies)

Height: 166cm
Position: Midfielder
Strengths: Accumulation, clean hands, tackling pressure, contested marking

2019 NAB League Stats: 8 games | 15.8 disposals | 3.9 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.5 inside 50s | 1.5 inside 50s | 1 goal

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 3 games | 11 disposals | 2.7 marks | 2.7 tackles | 2.0 inside 50s

Hailing from Griffith, a rural town in New South Wales, Favell already makes a massive sacrifice to play the game she loves with more than three hours from Griffith to Wangaratta – where the Bushrangers play a number of home games – and more than five hours to Melbourne. While restricted to only two games this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Favell showed enough in her middle-age year to suggest she has the talent to continue to grow in her game.

She burst onto the scene for Murray Bushrangers in the NAB League Girls competition, winning 15.8 disposals, 3.9 marks and 3.3 tackles per game. Watching her on the field, it is clear she has a high work rate because she would continually pop up in different areas of the ground after being up the other end only moments early. In one particular game against Dandenong Stingrays at Shepley Oval, Favell had the ball on a string early as she won plenty of it through midfield. As she rotated into other positions she had less of it, but her work rate and involvement on the game never dropped because she might give off a handball at half-back and then receive the ball at half-forward less than a minute later.

Her efforts saw her called into the Eastern Allies side again where she had been identified as a talent previously. She played the three games and while she spent less time onball and had to play against higher quality opposition, she still maintained a firm double-digit disposal count and impressive tackle effort. In terms of her game style, Favell has no trouble finding the ball when in the middle, and her tackling pressure and clean hands are standout traits. Despite standing at 166cm, Favell is one of the stronger players overhead for her size, not often needing a few bites to clunk grabs.

While Favell’s work rate allows her to often find space on a wing or at half-forward, she can push hard defensively to win the ball at half-back or even deeper in defence. Hard to beat in the air, Favell can outwork her opponents and give her teammates the run in transition needed to set up attacking forays. While it is unknown what football might be on the horizon, if the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships do go ahead, it is hard to look past Favell when talking about the Eastern Allies players to watch.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 2 – Huge clashes book-end Super Saturday

A HUGE Super Saturday takes place in the NAB League Girls competition this weekend with five games across three venues – two double-headers – including a couple of blockbusters book-ending the round and a clash between two winless sides. Tasmania Devils also make their debut in the league and host Oakleigh Chargers, whilst Western Jets could record back-to-back wins and keep in touch with the top couple of sides.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, March 7, 11:30am
RMIT University Bundoora

The opening game of the round pits the 2018 grand finalists against each other, with Northern Knights going one step further last year, whilst the Geelong Falcons fell in the semi-finals stage. In Round 1, the Knights held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit at this venue by a goal, whilst in the game immediate after, Geelong Falcons ran out 33-point victors over Gippsland Power. Both these teams have stars across the park and were forced to play very different gamestyles in Round 1. The Knights were impressive across the board in the way they were able to defend and then move the ball down the field to set up their forwards such as Alyssa Bannan (five goals). Led by co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald in midfield, the Knights were able to use a nice blend of power and speed to get the ball inside 50, whilst the underrated Maeve Chaplin was tipped to have a big game by Fitzgerald in the Final Siren podcast this week. Competing against them in the midfield is an equally damaging midfield, with AFL Women’s National Academy members Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney making the matchups something to behold onball. Gardiner racked up 38 touches and had 14 tackles in Round 1 to be the Draft Central Player of the Week, whilst Moloney (28 disposals, six tackles) and Poppy Schaap (24 disposals, six tackles) also brought the heat. What was most impressive about the way the Falcons went about it was the fact they racked up a whopping 271 disposals, but also laid 94 tackles with their defensive pressure amongst the best in the league. They could have been more effective in front of goal, which is an area to build on, and something they cannot afford to suffer from in this clash against arguably the benchmark team this season. Expect this match to be another close one with both sides missing players from their encounters over the past couple of seasons, but the Knights deserve favouritism at home.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, March 7, 12pm.
RAMS Arena

From two sides looking to extend their strong starts to the season, we head to Craigieburn where two teams go head-to-head in a bid to get off the mark in season 2020. Sandringham Dragons will be ruing missed opportunities against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels where they arguably had plenty more chances to kick a big score, but were let down close to goal. Their defensive pressure was a highlight however and is something that will be a trademark of this game. Both sides are renowned tacklers, and whilst Sandringham can play a possession style of game as well, the Dragons are more than happy to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a win. The Pioneers are not a high possession style team but look to be efficient with ball-in-hand, running the ball down in transition and getting it inside 50 as effective as possible. An area the Pioneers can get on top in this clash is in the ruck, with the Dragons having just two hitouts last week against the number one ruck in the competition, Maggie Caris. They still won their fair share of clearances though, and led by Eliza McNamara (20 disposals, eight tackles and six inside 50s) and Winnie Laing (18 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s), were able to pump the ball inside 50 enough to suggest that if they do that consistently enough and improve their finishing ability then the results will come. The Pioneers had co-captain Brooke Hards waste no time influencing the contest off the back of her middle-age best and fairest year, winning 18 disposals and laying seven tackles. With Elizabeth Snell out of the side, the Pioneers will look to other experience around the ground, with co-captain Annabel Strahan and Jemma Finning‘s work out of the back 50 as a way of getting control of the ball. The two centre-half backs in Sarah Hartwig and Tara Slender are some of the best in their age groups and the teams cannot afford to put it down their throat too often or the ball will come straight back out. Sandringham should be favourites in this game given the amount of chances they can generate, but the Dragons must be clean around goal.

TASMANIA DEVILS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 7, 12.30pm
North Hobart Oval

Crossing the Bass Strait to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils enter the NAB League competition for the first time, taking on a red-hot Oakleigh Chargers. Whilst the Devils sat out Round 1 watching on, they would have been impressed by what they witnessed at Wangaratta when the Chargers ran wild in a 50-point win over Murray Bushrangers. The Chargers have no problem possessing the ball, and they had a massive 40 inside 50s, giving their forwards a multitude of chances inside 50. For Round 2 the Chargers have lost some of their Round 1 firepower, with Amelia James and Alice O’Loughlin both out of the side after combining for five goals between themselves. The captain Mimi Hill led from the front during the Chargers’ win, racking up 29 disposals and five inside 50s, while vice-captain Joanna Lin had 17 disposals and six inside 50s. Eliza James showed plenty of talent during the match with an impressive 18 disposals, four marks, five tackles and match-high seven inside 50s. For the Devils, it is hard to judge just where they sit in terms of the competition just yet, with plenty of developing youngsters coming through the ranks. Amy Prokopiec is the one to keep an eye out for with the middle-age defender already having experience in the NAB League Girls after playing in the Devils’ few games last season. Overager, Camilla Taylor provides height at 180cm and will look to dominate the ruck battle with her extra experience, whilst drifting forward to provide a target inside 50 for the Devils midfielders to aim at. Another overager sure to provide that added experience is Tahlia Bortignon with the 19-year-old named on a wing for this match. You would be a brave person to tip against Oakleigh given the Chargers’ Round 1 match, but this game will be more about seeing a host of new young stars living out their dreams of playing in an elite youth competition by the Devils making their debut in the competition.

WESTERN JETS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 7, 1.15pm
RMIT University Bundoora

Following on from the Knights-Falcons clash at Bundoora is the battle between Western Jets and Murray Bushrangers. In Round 1, the Jets triumphed for the first time in their history when they toppled Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval by 22 points. The next day, Murray succumbed to a rampaging Oakleigh side by 50 points. Though one positive that could come out of that game from a scoreboard perspective was the fact that after conceding seven consecutive goals, the home team booted the last three goals of the match to avoid it being a potentially worse scoreline. Heading into this match minus their top key forward in Olivia Barber (concussion), the Bushrangers will need to utilise their smalls to hit the scoreboard and cause havoc for a Western defence that is well drilled based on the first round. The Jets were able to balance their ball use from the back 50 to the attacking 50 with some nice running ability, and did well around the stoppages despite conceding height in the ruck and thus the hitouts. Both teams favour a kick-first gamestyle which means we could potentially witness plenty of end-to-end football in this game. Leading the way last week for the Jets were bottom-agers, Montana Ham (19 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Charlotte Baskaran (19 disposals, seven tackles, four inside 50s and five rebounds), while new top-ager Amelia Velardo looked impressive with her athletic ability on her way to 16 disposals and three inside 50s, as well as four hitouts going up against taller opponents. With Isabelle Pritchard playing across all thirds of the ground, she is the star prospect for the 2020 group at Western and will be hard to combat in the middle. The Bushrangers also have some AFL Women’s Academy members with top-ager Abby Favell working through the midfield and Ally Morphett switching between ruck and forward. Mindy Quade will play an important role down in defence, whilst Mikayla Jones and Zali Spencer were another couple of players who stood up in defeat last round. Western brings winning form into this match and would be a good chance to go 2-0, though the Bushrangers always find something special.

CALDER CANNONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 7, 1.45pm
RAMS Arena

The final game of the round is another huge clash between two sides with good form. Calder Cannons fell a goal short of victory against Northern in the first round of action, and return to their homeground, RAMS Arena to take on a Dandenong Stingrays side that was the surprise packet of Round 1. It was not necessarily the fact that the Stingrays won that was the surprise, but the fact that they did it so convincingly in the end – 50 points – against an Eastern Ranges side with plenty of talent. Stingrays coach, Dave Carden said post-game that it was important the club looked to improve from the Round 1 performance in terms of their stoppage position, but he was impressed with their clean hands and ball movement – something that will be crucial if they are to cause an upset against last year’s grand finalists. The Cannons midfield is well established, with middle-ager Georgie Prespakis and fellow 2003-born Emelia Yessir assisting captain, Laura Cocomello in the middle. Jessica Zakkour was the Cannons’ best last round with two goals from 18 touches and eight tackles, whilst the key defensive combination of Tamsin Crook and Kasey Lennox one of the best in the competition. It will also be important to combat the Stingrays’ talls with Georgia Grimmer out of this match, but Serene Vudiniabola (two goals in Round 1) able to crunch packs and bring the ball to ground for the likes of Ashleigh Richards (two goals) and Jaide Anthony (one). Tyanna Smith is the midfielder to watch on the Stingrays’ side, dominating last week and along with Abbey Jordan, provides some incredible running power out of that onball group. The Cannons have some targets inside 50 themselves with Charlotte Clayton (three goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (one) both looking dangerous last week. These teams are very evenly matched based on the first round statistics with no more than six differential between any of the major stats heading into the Round 2 clash. This is a buckle-up and get ready game because both these teams will take it right up to the other making it a real spectacle for the onlookers.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Bushrangers buoyant on improved depth and internal growth

MURRAY Bushrangers have been able to reduce the player-to-coach ratio ahead of the 2020 season thanks to the determination of their NAB League Girls playing group, and additional development coaches. Ahead of the 2020 season, Female Talent Manager Briana Cossar said she was excited about a number of players coming through the program – not just for top-age talent, but middle-age and bottom-age talent as well.

The girls’ enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to the program has resulted in a solid pre-season,” Cossar said. “They’ve really come together as one unit which is a testament to their characters and with a revamped coaching group, which has included additional staff, the player-to-coach ratio has been reduced, playing a pivotal role in increased rate of development compared to last season which we see as vital for continued development and growth of the program. “We’ve got a lot more depth and some really good 14, 15 and 16-year-old players coming through which will be exciting to see their development over the next few years. 

The Bushrangers have three players in the 2020 AFL Women’s National Academy, with top-age talents Abby Favell and Olivia Barber, as well as bottom-age tall, Ally Morphett. Favell starred as a natural ball winner for the Bushrangers, NSW-ACT Rams and the Eastern Allies last season, looking sharp as an outside runner who stands up in big moments.

“Abby has the ability to break the lines and her run and carry are elite,” Cossar said. “Her leadership qualities are second to none.”

Barber had a breakout National AFL Women’s Under-18 carnival after a solid season in the NAB League Girls as a key forward who could also play ruck. The then middle-ager was able to create all sorts of headaches for defenders, not just with her ability to clunk grabs overhead, but her ground work and recovery were also impressive on the Gold Coast.

“Olivia is a tall target up forward and a strong overhead mark,” Cossar said. “She’s got a great attack on the football and has an ability to create separation using her strength.”

Morphett is still a year away from being draft-eligible, with the 186cm player likely to predominantly play ruck, though she could also rotate forward and provide a marking presence.

“Ally plays mainly ruck, but can play key position forward,” Cossar said. “She has a great kicking technique and is very good overhead.”

Other players to watch from a top-age perspective include Sam Pritchard – who according to Cossar is “training the house down” – and smart small, Kate Adams. Pritchard recorded an impressive sub-eight minute 2km time trial and plays as a small forward who has a nice blend of pace and endurance. Among her other strengths are her elite kicking ability and clean hands. Adams has been a player who has impressed over the past couple of seasons coming through the Bushrangers’ program, playing in a number of roles, but similarly is a silky small who has natural footballing ability. Cossar said Adams’ reading of the play, awareness and decision making are engrained, while she is a great on and off-field leader.

Anyone who watched the Under 16s all-Victorian clash last year would have remembered Keely Skepper who starred in that match and while she is a bottom-age talent, the rebounding defender is one to keep in mind for the future. “She is a natural footballer in every aspect of the game,” Cossar said, describing her left foot as “elite” and has a great ability to find the ball and rebound it out of the back half. Other middle and bottom-age talents to watch for in 2020 include Aurora Smith – who has the ability to break the game open with her run and carry, credit her speed – India Lehman who Cossar describes as a natural footballer who is also a great on-field leader, bringing others into the game, and Mindy Quade who has great positioning in one-on-one contests and takes the game on at every opportunity.

While the core base of talent is there, Murray also has a couple of players who have been building nicely over the off-season and have been touted by Cossar as ones to watch.

Lily Sharp and Mikayla Jones are both looking to take their games to the next level,” she said. “Their fitness and fundamental skill efficiency have improved, and both have a good game sense.”

Murray takes on both the Bendigo Pioneers (Saturday, February 8) and Calder Cannons (Saturday, February 15) at JC Lowe Oval in Yarrawonga. Cossar said in 2020, the team just want to play as naturally as they could.

“We want to be instinctive, creative and take the game on at every opportunity, and be competitive for four quarters,” she said.

The Bushrangers host Oakleigh Chargers in the opening round of the season on March 1 at 1pm, before travelling to Bundoora for a clash against Western Jets as part of a NAB League Girls double header on March 7 at 1.15pm.

2020 AFL Women’s Academy Announced

THE 2020 AFL Women’s Academy was announced yesterday, with Victoria metropolitan regions continuing their dominance in contributing to the nation’s high-end talent pool in the biggest intake yet. As is the standard, the Academy is split into Level 1 (Under-17) and Level 2 (Under-18) squads, with each state and territory having at least one representative across the 52 players chosen.

NSW/ACT, Queensland, and Western Australia each have four members in the top-age Level 2 Academy, headlined by the likes of Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers/NSW/ACT), Zimmorlei Farquharson (Calamvale/Yeronga/QLD), and Mikayla Morrison (East Perth Royals/WA), while South Adelaide pair Teah Charlton and Indy Tahau are South Australia’s representatives, and Stephanie Williams (Darwin Buffaloes) is the lone Northern Territory selection.

Northern Knights’ undefeated premiership season has translated to contributing four of the 12 Vic Metro members, with early first pick contender Ellie McKenzie leading the pack. Sandringham had two products picked, while Eastern and Oakleigh had two each and Isabelle Pritchard was the lone Western Jet to get a nod. Eight Vic Country representatives also made the squad, with a trio of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels leading the line from a Geelong Falcons pairing and single selections from Dandenong, Murray and Gippsland.

The Level 1 squad features four representatives each from Queensland, Vic Metro, and Vic Country, with 2019 NAB League best and fairest winner Georgie Prespakis (Calder) headlining the list from the likes of Cannons teammate Tahlia Gillard and Tara Slender. Queenslander Tegan Levi (Broadbeach) joins sister Maddison (Level 2) in the academy, while Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh) – sister of Sydney’s James – also makes the list. Promising Tasmanian Amy Prokopiec (Clarence) is her state’s sole selection, with Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers) the same for NSW/ACT, and Zoe Prowse (Sturt) for South Australia, while Western Australia has two representatives.

Academy members will all have the chance to train with AFLW clubs across December and January, while also attending high performance training camps in January, April, and August.

Level 2 Squad:

Tarni Evans Queanbeyan Tigers NSW/ACT
Abby Favell Murray Bushrangers NSW/ACT
Emily Pease Belconnen Magpies NSW/ACT
Jayde Hamilton Queanbeyan Tigers NSW/ACT
Stephanie Williams Darwin Buffaloes NT
Annise Bradfield Southport QLD
Zimmorlei Farquharson Calamvale/Yeronga QLD
Daisy D’Arcy Hermit Park QLD
Maddison Levi Bond University QLD
Teah Charlton South Adelaide SA
Indy Tahau South Adelaide SA
Tyanna Smith Dandenong Stingrays Vic Country
Darcy Moloney Geelong Falcons Vic Country
Laura Gardiner Geelong Falcons Vic Country
Maggie Caris GWV Rebels Vic Country
Isabella Simmons GWV Rebels Vic Country
Renee Saulitis GWV Rebels Vic Country
Olivia Barber Murray Bushrangers Vic Country
Megan Fitzsimon Gippsland Power Vic Country
Alyssa Bannan Northern Knights Vic Metro
Tarni Brown Eastern Ranges Vic Metro
Alice Burke Sandringham Dragons Vic Metro
Jessica Fitzgerald Northern Knights Vic Metro
Sarah Hartwig Sandringham Dragons Vic Metro
Mimi Hill Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro
Ellie McKenzie Northern Knights Vic Metro
Olivia Meagher Eastern Ranges Vic Metro
Isabelle Pritchard Western Jets Vic Metro
Joanna Lin Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro
Isabella Eddey Sandringham Dragons Vic Metro
Maeve Chaplin Northern Knights Vic Metro
Sarah Verrier Peel Thunder WA
Shanae Davison Swan Districts WA
Isabella Lewis Claremont Tigers WA
Mikayla Morrison East Perth Royals WA

Level 1 Squad:

Amy Prokopiec Clarence TAS
Ally Morphett Murray Bushrangers NSWACT
Teagan Levi Broadbeach QLD
Bella Smith Maroochydore QLD
Maggie Harmer Maroochydore QLD
Mikayla Pauga Maroochydore QLD
Zoe Prowse Sturt SA
Tara Slender Bendigo Pioneers Vic Country
Nyakoat Dojiok GWV Rebels Vic Country
Ella Friend GWV Rebels Vic Country
Jaide Anthony Dandenong Stingrays Vic Country
Tahlia Gillard Calder Cannons Vic Metro
Georgie Prespakis Calder Cannons Vic Metro
Charlie Rowbottom Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro
Maykaylah Appleby Northern Knights Vic Metro
Charlotte Thomas Subiaco Lions WA
Courtney Rowley Peel Thunder WA

AFLW U18 National Championships wrap

VIC Metro had an undefeated run in the championships, dominating across the board after coming into the Queensland series with a win over Vic Country. Every other team fought hard at each contest in what was a mostly even carnival played in a variety of conditions. We recap how each side fared and shed light on some of the better performers throughout the competition.

Central Allies (2-1)

Results:
Eastern Allies 4.8 (32) def. by Central Allies 5.6 (36)
Western Australia 5.2 (32) def. Central Allies 1.4 (10)
Queensland 4.5 (29) def. by Central Allies 5.0 (30)

MVP: Montana McKinnon

The Central Allies put up a solid performance at the championships, coming away with close wins over Eastern Allies and Queensland. The only chink in the armour came from Western Australia on the Wednesday, where they struggled to find connections across the field to go down by 22 points. The players who stood up time and time again were the likes of Teah Charlton and Jaimi Tabb who both imposed themselves throughout the Championships with good marking and strong tackling. Montana McKinnon was awarded the MVP for her work across the field, defensive presence and clever use of the footy while Tayla Hart-Aluni provided plenty of excitement with her dash across the ground. Tegan Usher showcased their strength taking some strong grabs throughout the series while using the ball well by foot. There was plenty to like about the Allies who grew as the competition went on finding stronger connections and creating good space to hit each other on the lead.

Eastern Allies (0-3)

Results:
Eastern Allies 4.8 (32) def. by Central Allies 5.6 (36)
Vic Country 6.6 (42) def. Eastern Allies 2.0 (12)
Vic Metro 11.9 (75) def. Eastern Allies 0.3 (3)

MVP: Mia King

Eastern Allies lost each of their three games only kicked six goals, but were competitive in both of their first two matches. Their closest match was their opener against the Central Allies, going down by four points but putting on a solid performance in a game they could well have won given they dominated the last quarter for forward 50 entries, and clearances for the game. The likes of Abby Favell, Mia King and Georgia Garnett were exceptional for Eastern Allies across the week. Favell was solid throughout the Championships going in hard at each and every contest, laying strong tackles and winning her fair share of the ball. Meanwhile King was awarded MVP honours for her efforts across the competition credit to her get in and go mentality and clean hands around the stoppages. Jayde Hamilton worked tirelessly across the matches, while Jordyn Jolliffe also played an imposing role when on the field. Brenna Tarrant was another player who stood out across the tournament.

Queensland (0-3)

Results:
Vic Country 9.7 (61) def. Queensland 3.1 (19)
Queensland 1.5 (11) def. by Vic Metro 4.5 (29)
Queensland 4.5 (29) def. by Central Allies 5.0 (30)

MVP: Ellie Hampson

Similar to Eastern Allies, Queensland failed to put a win on the board from their three matches but were in each of their matches. An inaccurate one point loss to Central Allies was likely the most painful for the side, which had plenty of opportunities to get in front but could not capitalise, whilst they were in the game for three quarters against the undefeated Vic Metro. The Maroons had plenty of talent with the likes of Zimmorlei Farquharson providing an exciting prospect in the forward line with her athleticism, football nous and speed. Every time she went near the ball something electric happened sparking plenty of enthusiasm from the crowd. Meanwhile the likes of Lily Postlethwaite and Isabel Dawes were equally as impressive throughout the Championships. Their class and skill in and around the contest was second to none extracting the ball and using it effectively. Charlotte Hammans also displayed her ball winning abilities throughout the series to have an impact for her side along with Serene Watson who proved to be crucial for Queensland at times. Another key player for Queensland and the MVP was Ellie Hampson who imposed herself at each and every contest using her body well to win the ball and bomb it out of congestion but unfortunately it was not enough to register a win for Queensland.

Vic Country (3-0)

Results:
Vic Country 9.7 (61) def. Queensland 3.1 (19)
Vic Country 6.6 (42) def. Eastern Allies 2.0 (12)
Western Australia 3.5 (23) def. By Vic Country 3.7 (25)

MVP: Lucy McEvoy

Vic Country came away a solid contender in the Championships, notching up three wins with their best, a come-from-behind win on Friday against Western Australia while they racked up a 42-point win against Queensland earlier in the week. Country stood up when challenged backing themselves in the contest and fighting their way out of trouble thanks to the likes of MVP winner Lucy McEvoy who took the game on at every opportunity. The highly skilled player showed her versatility playing in each area of the ground and having a profound impact while the likes of Tyanna Smith and Sophie Molan also worked hard to win the ball. Middle-ager Olivia Barber was exciting for Country who valued her height and versatility throughout the Championships hitting the scoreboard more than once and constantly providing an option inside 50 with her marking strength. Renee Saulitis provided a spark up forward with her dynamic movement and goal sense while Millie Brown was also impressive across the series providing good run and carry off the back half. Shanara Notman had a number of highlights, hitting the scoreboard while Darcy Moloney also worked tirelessly for Vic Country winning the ball and creating forward forays.

Vic Metro (3-0)

Results:
Vic Metro 8.3 (51) def. Western Australia 5.4 (34)
Queensland 1.5 (11) def. by Vic Metro 4.5 (29)
Vic Metro 11.9 (75) def. Eastern Allies 0.3 (3)

MVP: Georgia Patrikios

Vic Metro were by large the most dominant of all the teams in the series, winning their first two matches by solid three-goal margins before posting a dominant 72-point victory over the Eastern Allies on Friday to close out their tournament. They oozed strength and skill across the field making them tough opponents throughout the Championship. Metro have no shortage of ball winners with the likes of Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios both able to burrow down and extract the hard ball credit to their clean hands, slick movement and footy awareness. Ellie McKenzie offered plenty of spark with her brute strength and speed to evade would be tacklers and move the ball down the field with ease while the likes of Nell Morris-Dalton and Cleo Saxon-Jones relished the good ball movement from the strong midfield. Morris-Dalton and Saxon-Jones hit the scoreboard more then once throughout Championships thanks to their accuracy in front of goal while Emily Harley also made her presence felt in the forward half. Laura McClelland showed her versatility throughout the series while Felicity Theodore used her speed to create good space for Metro. Alana Barba played her role for Vic Metro while the likes of Gemma Lagioia and Elisabeth Georgostathis bobbed up for patches throughout the Championships to impact the play.

Western Australia (1-2)

Results:
Vic Metro 8.3 (51) def. Western Australia 5.4 (34)
Western Australia 5.2 (32) def. Central Allies 1.4 (10)
Western Australia 3.5 (23) def. By Vic Country 3.7 (25)

MVP: Mikayla Bowen

Western Australia were one of the most exciting sides all week, producing some impressive performances but unfortunately only getting the one win on the board against the Central Allies on Wednesday. Though they put both Vic Metro and Vic Country through their paces, they lacked consistency at times which was ultimately the catalyst for their defeat. WA showed glimpses of brilliance moving the ball with pace and precision down the field but lapses such as the start of their clash with Vic Metro, and the second half against Vic Country cost them from going undefeated this year. In saying that there were plenty of star players for the Black Ducks who proved that they have what it takes to match it with the best and cause headaches for opposition teams. Roxanne Roux left her mark on the Championships taking some huge grabs and putting her body on the line time and time again to win the hard ball. Roux showed great elevation throughout the Championships to contest the ball in the air but also following up her work at ground level. Mim Strom was crucial for WA with her impressive taps and strength in the ruck providing her side with first access to the ball with the likes of MVP winner Mikayla Bowen reaping the rewards of her work. Bowen had an impressive Championship showcasing her clean hands in close while Nyra Anderson dazzled with her pace and tackling intent. Taylor Pescud, Rebecca Viney and Mikayla Morrison all had their moments for Western Australia going in hard when necessary to extract the ball.