Tag: AFL Women’s Academy

Exciting Schirmer strives for consistency in 2021

SOUTH Adelaide high-flyer Gypsy Schirmer is striving to become a more consistent player in 2021, with the exciting prospect now firmly on the draft radar after a breakthrough 2020 campaign. Schirmer’s X-factor and versatility helped her crack South’s senior lineup and her state’s Under 18 All-Star fixture last year, with inclusion in this year’s AFL Women’s Academy a richly deserved honour based on great potential.

The soon-to-be 18-year-old is known for her ability to play just about anywhere, but is looking to nail down a spot up forward while rotating through midfield. With outstanding athletic traits such as a sizeable vertical leap and swift closing speed, it was no surprise to hear Schirmer say she wants to “play more like” a certain iconic Carlton spearhead.

“It’s kind of a generic one but I think what Tayla Harris has, we share similarities,” Schirmer said. “We’re both tall players, but we both work really hard up and down the ground, and we’re quite dangerous wherever we play. “I want to play more like her.”

“I don’t really know (where my best position is), I’ve been thrown around a little bit. “I love the forward line, I really love the craft there and feel like I could really develop as a player but I’m also looking forward to developing my midfield abilities. “I got introduced to the wing last year which was a bit different but I really enjoyed it there too, so probably up forward and in the midfield is my best position.”

Perhaps much like Harris, Schirmer is also looking to more consistently showcase her talent having moved past interruptions and shaken off some injury concerns. Currently known as more of an impact player who takes full toll with each possession, the South Adelaide product also has eyes on a more grand end prize.

“I think (my goal) is just to play some consistent footy,” she said. “I have had some injury interruptions so getting some consistency, playing my role and getting to do what they want me to do at South. “Then progressing into this (AFLW Academy), playing some state footy and travelling if we’re allowed to, kind of progressing from there and if all goes to plan hopefully the draft at the end of the year.”

It has been a steep rise for Schirmer, who has only been playing football for four years. Having started out being coached by her father at Christies Beach Football Club, the youngster quickly made her way into representative squads and is now thriving under South Adelaide’s tutelage – with plenty more to come.

“I started footy four years ago,” she said. “I wasn’t really interested in playing with the boys so I waited until my local club got a women’s team, which was 2017 I think. “I was lucky enough to have my dad as my coach which was really cool as it made it easy to get driven to things.

“I started at Christies Beach Football Club down south and then got into the Under 15 state All Schools League. “I enjoyed that a lot, that was my second year of footy.

“From there started making more sides and play for South Adelaide women’s now, I’m really excited – we’ve got a good squad there. “I’ve had a few injury blows with my ankles that have kind of been screwing me up a bit but I’ve really enjoyed programs like this and hopefully I’m fit for a whole year and see what’s to come.”

With commitment to the game and pathway opportunities now at an all-time high, juggling football with studies amidst a pandemic has been admittedly “challenging” for Schirmer. With the transition to university in her sights, she says regaining a manageable balance will be an interesting prospect.

“I finished Year 12 last year so going in and out of school all the time depending on what the situation was, but also having to balance training and stuff like that, I feel like I did get quite a good training-school balance by the end of it,” she said. “But definitely with uni I’ll be interested to see how it goes.”

If preseason testing is anything to go by, Schirmer is ready to hit even greater heights in 2021 as one of South Australia’s most promising female draft prospects. Her next point of call will be in South’s hoops as they take on North Adelaide at Coopers Stadium, opening the season on February 26 in a grand final rematch.

Image Credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 1

A NEW NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 1 produced plenty of highlights as players returned to competitive action for the first time in 11 months. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting opening set of fixtures.

EASTERN RANGES vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Michael Alvaro

STANDOUTS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

In a game which was tense and tight for the best part of three quarters, Busch was a reliable outlet for Eastern in the back half. The bottom-ager notched eight rebound 50s – an equal round-high – among her 14 kicks and 16 disposals overall, providing a cool head amid the arm-wrestle that ensued. In what was her NAB League debut, the bottom-ager proved she is up to the level and built on outstanding preseason testing results in the agility and endurance categories.

#11 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)

One of the more unlucky players not to be drafted as a top-ager last year, Meagher has returned to the Ranges’ program again looking to become a real leader through midfield. She was a steady ball winner on the day, collecting 16 touches and pumping the ball inside 50 four times. Perhaps the most pleasing part of Meagher’s game was her defensive acumen though, highlighted by a monster 10 tackles.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s leading disposal winner on the day, Deed was another to put up some impressive numbers in a winning effort. Like Meagher, her 21 touches were complimented well by two-way efforts in the form of an equal competition-high 11 tackles. She was able to penetrate either arc and popped up in just the right areas to allow the Ranges to push onto the front foot after absorbing some pressure.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

In just her second NAB League outing, Schmidli showed marked improvement from her debut last season to finish as one of the round’s most valuable defenders. Armed with a handy vertical leap and good height, she was able to clunk three marks and set Eastern going the other way with three rebound 50s among her 10 kicks for the day. Her efforts were enough to feature in the Draft Central team of the week.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Despite ending up on the losing side, Baskaran was able to showcase all her class in a performance fitting of the Draft Central player of the week mantle. Still just 16 years old, the bottom-ager’s potential is scary and she looks to have gone to yet another level in 2021. The versatile midfielder finished with 28 disposals (23 kicks), five marks, 11 tackles, and eight inside 50s as the best player afield and one to watch for next year’s draft. Her skill on either side combined with a strong ball winning capacity make her a damaging prospect.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The ever-impactful bottom-ager was near her explosive best in Round 1, utilising her frame to dig in and win the ball at ground level, while also showcasing terrific aerial prowess. She was one of the better Jets in the first half and finished with 15 disposals, taking four marks and penetrating either arc a combined five times. Along with Baskaran, Ham is a standout bottom-ager in the Western region.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Another NAB League debutant and one who really impressed in her ruck duties, Russell was a real standout for the Jets. Her competitiveness both in the ruck contest and otherwise was conveyed in her stat-line which included 11 disposals, three tackles, six inside 50s, and 23 hitouts. The bottom-ager has good scope for improvement and a strong base to build upon after her promising performance against multiple Eastern rucks.

OTHERS:

Among the players who earned plaudits from the Eastern staff, Keeley Sherar (10 disposals, four tackles) played a role, while the game’s sole multiple goalkicker in Scarlett Potter was key to ensuring the Ranges compiled a winning score. Midfielder Jorja Livingstone also achieved solid numbers with 16 disposals, 15 of which were kicks. For the Jets, Trinity Skenderis (13 disposals, six tackles) got her hands dirty in midfield alongside Paige Ryan (11 and eight), while Caitlin Sargent also showed good signs.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The talented ruck was among the Bushrangers best on the day, racking up10 disposals, three marks, two tackles and 13 hitouts. As a versatile player, Morphett is someone who can have an impact up forward and she slotted a goal, but also had the five inside 50, driving the ball there when she could. At 188cm, she looms a problem for most opponents and is incredibly tough to beat overhead.

#27 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Playing in the forward half compared to her usual defensive role, Slender was still among the best on the day. She might have missed a couple of chances on goal with two behinds, but she was able to have an impact and push up the ground and rack up 16 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s. Impressively, she also laid six tackles to show off her natural defensive capabilities, and it will be interesting to see if she remains forward in Round 2 or goes head-to-head with fellow AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend up the other end.

STANDOUTS:

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

Returning as the new top-ager, Snell needed to make an impact and she certainly did that, slotting two goals from 18 touches. Those two goals really built the momentum for her side, both coming in the second quarter to give the Pioneers a buffer at half-time. She is no stranger to goals, having kicked a bag as a bottom-ager a couple of years ago against Gippsland Power, but it was not only her offensive work, but her defensive work that was noticed with 10 tackles as well.

#26 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

While Snell started the momentum, Richardson built on it, effectively closing out the contest in the opening few minutes of the second half. Richardson slotted back-to-back goals, and in the blink of an eye the game was all but over. She finished with nine disposals and six tackles, as well as racking up nine hitouts which was mighty impressive for a 174cm player against taller opponents.

#2 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Coming into a new season, there are always bottom-agers who come into the team with a lot of unknowns, but from the start Keck has proven she can compete against much older opponents. The 15-year-old racked up 14 disposals, but possibly the most eye-catching aspect was her tackling – laying 11 tackles – which considering not only her age, but standing at 160cm is something to prove she is not afraid to crack in and have a go.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having played a couple of games last year, Smith stepped up in her first game of 2021 to be the Bushrangers’ top player on the day. As a draft-eligible talent, she roamed around the ground to finish with 16 disposals, two marks, five tackles and seven inside 50s. Her ability to drive the ball forward ranked second overall across the league from Round 1.

#6 Lily Sharp (Murray Bushrangers)

Touted as one to watch this season by the Bushrangers coaching staff, Sharp is one who managed to find the ball through the midfield and also have chances when forward. Whilst she finished with two behinds, she picked up 15 touches, three marks and two inside 50s in the process, and will be a crucial cog in Murray’s onball brigade this season.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

A player not eligible until next year’s draft, Hay is also an incredibly talented netballer. On the football field, she thrives in defence, and picked up 15 disposals – 12 kicks, whilst recording four rebounds and four marks. Murray has a lot of talented players for next year’s draft, and Hay fits the bill as she continues to improve and should have more continuity in season 2021.

OTHERS:

Bendigo had a wide range of contributors across the board, with Nalin Moore (16 disposals, six inside 50s), Bryde O’Rourke (14 disposals, one goal) and Drew Ryan (14 disposals, three marks and four rebounds) among the top disposal winners. For the Bushrangers, Mikayla Jones had the equal most touches on the ground with 18, while Kristy Whitehead (15 disposals, three marks), Chloe Locke (15 disposals, three marks, five tackles and five rebounds) and Keely Skepper (12 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds) were also busy.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

The speedy midfielder rotated between the middle and up forward and played an impressive game. Many of the midfielders at the stoppages were inside ball winners, but King provided that touch of class, reading the taps well and sprinting away to gain separation on her opponent. There were a couple of times where she might have done a touch too much and got herself into trouble, but was lucky not to be pinged. Her aerial work was as impressive as her ground work, taking a great mark up forward and later setting up a goal in the final term with a quick burst out of a stoppage to open space, allowing Ella Maurer to run into an open goal.

STANDOUTS:

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

It was hard to look past Prokopiec for best afield honours in an even day. She started the game on fire with two first quarter goals and could have had a third. Whilst renowned for her marking and powerful kick, she actually conjured up her first major off the ground, beating her opponent to the ball and kicking it through off a slight angle. Her second came from a marking contest and slotting the set shot, before finishing the game with four. The best of the lot was her last one, which came from a snap around the body under pressure as it curled home brilliantly. Having played as a defender in the NAB League 12 months ago, her work up forward was more eye-catching and she was not afraid to crash packs. Had she managed to nail all her shots, she could have easily had half a dozen goals.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

Ransom is one of those eye-catching players who just shows enough to remember the impact she has had on the game. Early on she got front position in a marking contest and then quickly moved the ball on to get it over the back and goalside for her teammate. She showed equal amounts of offensive and defensive pressure, with a running goal from inside 50 off the back of hard work in the first half indicative of her effort. One passage of play that might not be on the highlight reel but was crucial, was applying enough pressure when Gippsland was running it out of defence as she ran over to lock the ball up and force a stoppage against two opponents. It showed she stayed active even when the team was well in control.

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

Finished the day with a couple of majors and looked dangerous in the forward half. Her first goal came in the second term and she quickly had a flying shot on the run not long after that missed to the right. A third term “fresh-airey” in the goalsquare was able to be viewed with a laugh in hindsight as Kara Hennessy finished off the work there, and then Bissett made up for it with a remarkable running goal in the fourth term. Taking off from the forward side of the wing, Bissett ran through the middle of four Gippsland Power players, and with the help of teammates shepherding, ran all the way to the goalsquare to slam it home and put the nail in the coffin of the game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Felt she provided some spark through the midfield and added extra speed, particularly when Perri King was playing forward. She would create separation from her opponent, and her quick hands and decision making helped her through midfield. Occasionally she would kick to space more so than directly to a teammate, but her ability to still put it to the right spots, especially at pace was impressive. Her second efforts were similarly noticeable.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

The standout four-quarter player from the losing side, she just never gave in and willed herself to contest after contest. McRae had a clean pickup early in the game, and went about suffering leather poisoning as she won the ball in each third of the ground. Winning a free kick for a great tackle in the first quarter, she slotted what would be Gippsland’s only goal from the set shot. Despite Tasmania gaining control around the ground, McRae continued to battle hard and had a number of crucial possessions with a low and sharp kick inside 50 to a lead, and then showed great strength to fend off Perri King and boot the ball forward in the third term.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Having to play as an undersized ruck after Grace Matser suffered an injury in the first half, Van Berkel proved to be a strong target around the ground. She clunked a number of big grabs, and would even steal it out of the ruck contest to bomb it forward. Had a snap on goal after moving out of traffic inside 50 but it just missed early in the game. Overall she provided strength around the contest and up forward and was hard to beat one-on-one.

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Much like McRae, Brisbane just gave it a real red hot crack for four quarters against the odds. Despite being smaller than her opponents, she was not afraid to lay a number of big tackles and put her body on the line when required. Brisbane provided dash out of the backline and through midfield, and took a good intercept mark at half-forward. At times when under pressure she could rush a bit, but had extremely quick hands at ground level.

OTHERS:

Holly Booth worked tirelessly on the last line to provide some rebound and run in a difficult match for defenders, Shanara Notman was busy around the ground, Lily-Rose Williamson showed fierce intent with her tackling and fend-offs, while Taylah Bourne also stood out for the Power. Olivia Smith was great early in the game for the Devils through midfield, while Charlie Vandenberg was clean around the stoppages with her ruck craft, in what was a really even team effort. Ella Maurer, Jemma Webster and Aprille Crooks were among others who found plenty of the footy for the visitors.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

A marking machine to put it lightly. Friend is one of the best marks going around, and not only when she finds the space. So clever at creating separation on her opponent and timing her leads to perfection, she also managed to pull down some huge grabs, including one against three opponents. She showed a nice vertical leap when going for her marks, and her decision making was good. A couple of times her set shots just fell a touch short which caused the defence to have numbers back and clear, but in terms of her ability to win the ball, once the hands went up it was a done deal.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Having seen her progress over the last few years, you can see the fundamentals of Dojiok’s game have really improved. Her kicking in particular was quite good, including one low pass at top speed along the wing. She still has areas to work on such as one-grab marks and decision making at times, but on a number of occasions she backed herself in and took charge to burn off opponents and fend them away to break down opposition defensive zones. A really exciting player.

STANDOUTS:

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The best on ground in my opinion, Craven was on from the first bounce until the final siren. She just kept finding the pill and did a bit of everything in the front half. Craven showed courage in going back with the flight in the second term to almost mark 15 metres out from goal, and then was used in a distributor role going inside 50 to hit up a number of targets such as Renee Tierney and Ingrid Houtsma. A late shot on goal that was almost the game-winner just hit the post on its way through but showed her quick instincts to put boot to ball.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee is a defender who had a nice balance between aerial and ground ball work. She has clean hands to beat her opponent in the air, but is happy to get those hands dirty with run-down tackles likes she did on Lilli Condon when the pressure was up in the final term. She just finds space and plays that interceptor role perfectly, knowing when to push up the ground and when to stay back. She has a fantastic tackling technique and can hit targets over short and long distances. Overall a consistent effort back there.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

One-on-ones are Tierney’s speciality and it showed when isolated inside 50. She was able to swing the momentum back in the Falcons’ favour during that third term by kicking back-to-back goals through marks and set shots. Her kicking is reliable, and she could have had another one or two from snaps, but her marking is on point. Tierney also showed good defensive pressure which is what you want to see from your key forward and it will be exciting to see her push up the ground and impact the midfield with her strength at ground level.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

A natural ball winner who just keeps on finding the ball wherever she goes. Working overtime around the ground, she reads it at stoppages and finds it in close where she distributes out to her teammates. The big moment came in the final term, where after missing a flying shot on goal earlier in the quarter, she had a quick snap which sat up perfectly with a nice bounce against two Rebels defenders to get home and seal the match.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

The Rebels’ best four-quarter performer and she never stopped trying. At times she was under pressure and could rush her kicks, but when she had the time and space, particularly trying to move the ball on quickly from the kick-out, she was able to grab some metres and drive her team forward. Always courageous and gets straight back up from a bump, she produced a lovely pass into Tahlia Meier to set up a goal. Her inside 50s in particular stood out and she was able to create some scoring opportunities.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

A debutant who really stood out, the 2004-born Walton was a player who excelled in her one-on-ones. Her work rate and second efforts were also good, which was exemplified when she intercepted a ball in defensive 50, unfortunately turned it over, but then worked hard to slide in and retake the grab again. Once Leonard pushed up the ground, Walton was tasked with the kickouts and gained some serious meterage. Her one-on-one duel deep with Tierney to stop a goal just metres from the line was a huge step in her first game.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The small midfielder just kept battling on across the four quarters and she always brings a consistent effort. Condon is able to keep the ball in front of her, and then gain separation from her opponent and kick long inside 50. She won the ball in each third of the ground, and had great second efforts. One time later in the match she was caught before she could dispose of it, and had a flying shot on the goal that missed, but for the most part, she kept finding it and pumping it forward to aide her team’s scoring opportunities.

OTHERS:

It was a really even team performance across the board for both sides, with the likes of Gabbi Featherston, Lucy Were and Ingrid Houtsma all impressing for the Falcons in the forward half, and defence in the second half for Houtsma. The Rebels had a balanced load with the likes of Paige Scott and Ally Trigg consistent throughout the contest.

CALDER CANNONS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It was a typically high-level performance from the reigning NAB League Girls best and fairest winner, involved in everything for the game while showcasing her athleticism and superb skills on both sides of the body – it was a complete game. Outside of her well executed kicks, handballs and tackles, Prespakis did a lot of the small things really well; standing up in tackles, enacting second efforts, evading opponents and applying tackling pressure were noticeable parts of her game as she troubled the Sandringham midfield all match. Her work around stoppages was very high level, punishing Sandringham every time she was left unattended.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

The AFL Academy member looked dangerous all game, regularly rotating through the ruck and as a deep forward. Her best work was done when playing ruck, having no trouble winning taps, but also posing a marking threat around the ground. She set herself up well outside of the forward 50, ensuring every Sandringham exit had to be perfectly executed to get past. Her performance was wrapped up with a nice contested grab in the goal square leading to a goal in the last quarter.

STANDOUTS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Was a dangerous midfielder for the Cannons all day, utilising her speed well to win clearances and get the ball moving forward quickly. Her kicking and decision making were well on display all day, often switching the ball across the ground or taking riskier inside kicks to get the Cannons moving forward. Her work in transition was a particular highlight, showing off her two-way running and concentration during games.

#19 Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons)

Rotating through the ruck and forward line with teammate Tahlia Gillard, Poultney’s dominance in the ruck went a long way in securing the Cannons’ win for the day, getting good direction and placement on her taps to the advantage of her midfielders.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Her work on the outside and on the wing made her a threat to Sandringham throughout the day, reading the play well to get herself in the best possible positions around stoppages and contests. Her game awareness was on show in the second quarter, when she made a brilliant lead to get a shot right in front of goal.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Stationed at full back for the day, Lennox held strong against various opponents and did a lot of work to keep opposition forward Charli Murphy from getting any easy possessions. She’d often drift off her opponent and assist teammates in marking contests, especially during the second quarter when they were most under siege.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons) 

2022 draft eligible Hipwell was impactful throughout the day, showcasing her athleticism by often taking the game on with her speed and getting out of traffic with her agility. Boasting a long and accurate right-foot kick, she was a vital part of many Sandringham attacks from the midfield. She set up Sandringham’s first goal with a run from the half-back line and a long kick inside 50. She was unfortunately injured in a tackle early in the third quarter and stretchered off, sitting out the remainder of the game.

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Was a workhorse in the midfield for Sandringham all day, ensuring Cannons players weren’t winning any easy ball at stoppages or around the ground. She also got herself involved in attacking plays, utilising her long kicking to get the ball forward quickly. A free kick and 50-meter penalty in the fourth quarter saw Saultry get herself on the scoreboard as well.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing mostly at half-back, her work with ball in hand was brilliant, showing off her long and accurate kicking which tested the Cannons structures all day. She moved into the midfield for a bit of the last quarter and won herself plenty of the ball, proving that if needed, she can fill a whole in there with ease. Was classy throughout the day, particularly with her composure down back.

#2 Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

The leading ball getter for the Dragons did a lot of work to be an option around the ground. Playing a high half-forward role, she’d often be on the outside of contests and stoppages waiting for quick handball out, or offering an option as a switch kick for her teammates.

OTHERS:

Charli Murphy worked hard in the forwardline all day, presenting strong leads but ultimately being beaten by more athletic opponents or being crowded in two-on-one marking contests. Kitty Smyth battled in the ruck all day against a taller and more experienced duo. Ebony Angelopoulos had her opportunities in front of goal, kicking one but missing two others while still being a danger to the Calder defence. Isabella Rowland was hard at it in defence with her fierce tackling. 2022 draft eligible talent, Tahlia Read got herself on the scoreboard with a goal, as well as being a strong tackling presence around the forwardline.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby had a solid game for Northern. Starting on the wing, she found herself getting plenty of opportunities to run, carry, and use her long kick to set up team mates. One particular highlight came in the second quarter, where she managed to get a run through the middle, taking three bounces and having a shot on goal that unfortunately fell short. She was vital during the third quarter in the Knights’ attempts to transition from defence to offence, commanding teammates to shepherd for her as she attempted to continue her run and carry.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

In a standout performance the AFL Academy member, Rowbottom showed why she’s one of the top prospects for this year’s AFLW Draft. Splitting time between the forwardline and midfield, she managed to have an impact everywhere she went. She was dominant around stoppages, often running through multiple opponents with the footy and getting the ball long to set up an Oakleigh opportunity. Rowbottom’s ability to stand up and break free of tackles was particularly impressive, often outplaying or out muscling two opponents at a time. When forward, she looked consistently dangerous as the main target for Oakleigh down deep, getting herself two goals on the day. One was when she out-marked Knights defender Tarrah Delgado right on the goal line, once again showing how strong she is in so many areas of the game. In the third quarter she was playing as a deep forward and was the target of a lot of Oakleigh’s attacks. One particular instance saw her in a two-against-one situation, where she managed to get the ball to ground and tap it to the advantage of teammate Ameille Smith, who ran into an open goal and scored.

STANDOUTS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was one of the Knights most prolific midfielders on the day, playing a complete game with plenty of defensive work around the contest as well as winning plenty of ball for herself. Her long kicks away from stoppages caused some trouble for Oakleigh in the third quarter. She moved into the backline in the final quarter and did well to help both in the air and at ground level.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

Her read of the ball and the game was excellent all day, often out-positioning opponents in contests to win them, or putting herself in the perfect spot to stop a goal or incoming attack. Her work rate also shone through, often playing higher up the ground as an interceptor and doubling back to be the last line of defence if the ball was going towards the Knights’ defensive 50, away on the other side of the ground from her.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

Spending most of the day in the midfield, Smart was a headache for the Chargers – utilising her burst of speed and accurate kick where possible, while also constantly applying tackling pressure when the Chargers were in possession. Her final stat line may not be kind, but the co-captain was lively when called upon.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

The left-footer split her time between defence and the wing in a well-rounded performance. She was a threat heading forward, getting involved in plenty of strings of play during the last quarter around the ground, getting herself two goals for her efforts. She was a headache for Northern in the third quarter as well, proving a threat around Oakleigh’s backline and ensuring any spilt ball was heading back out. Her play of the day came in the final term, when she latched onto a ball over the back, shrugged off a would-be tackler and slotted the goal with great class.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

James split her time up forward and through midfield for the game, showcasing her versatility by playing both inside and outside. She was a strong ball winner and threat around stoppages for Oakleigh, particularly in the second half where her link-up play with Charlie Rowbottom led to plenty of Oakleigh inside 50’s. Her speed and carry out of congestion was a particular highlight.

#15 Ameille Smith (Oakleigh Chargers)

Smith enjoyed a superb forwardline performance, leading the game with three goals. Her leading was strong, going straight towards the ball carrier and when she wasn’t the target, her work rate was just as good at ground level. Having made the most of her opportunities inside 50, Smith was one of Oakleigh’s more impactful players.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a great day out and got involved every time the ball entered her defensive 50. Her evasiveness and willingness to take opponents on lead to her showing good run and carry ability, as well as her kicking which is a strong-suit of her game. Her positioning behind the ball meant she won plenty of intercept possessions and made it hard for any Northern attack to properly eventuate. Her understanding of the game was well represented, pushing high up the ground when the ball was inside forward 50 and being an obstacle for Northern when trying to rebound

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers) 

Played in a similar style to teammate Brooke Vickers with a strong understanding of the game, pushing herself up the ground and causing Northern difficulty when they were on the rebound. She also played well deep down in defence when Northern got forward quickly and breached the 50-metre arc.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Positioned on the wing, Clift showed a strong understanding of the outside role, being an option for team mates when they came out of defence and providing deep and quick inside 50’s for her forwards. She possesses a good initial burst of speed which gave her plenty of time to work with when moving forward.

#11 Ruby Vanden Boom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Dominant in the ruck all day, her tap work was vital to Oakleigh’s midfield dominance and constant pressure towards forward 50. Her follow up work was also noticeable when Northern got possession from the taps, as she applied plenty of pressure on their midfielders.

OTHERS:

Amanda Ling fared well as an inside midfielder for the Chargers with her burst of speed being a big strength. Erin Woodford was lively up forward, getting a few smothers and tackles with her persistent pressure. Taylah Morton did well when she had the ball and was another in a long list of strong contributors for the Chargers. Brooke Plummer worked hard along the wing and in the guts for Northern, and Tallia Pulcino’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed, with her defensive work helping Northern throughout.

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.”

Competitive Hamilton focused on success

FOR a relative newcomer to the game, Jayde Hamilton has certainly made impressive strides over the past few years. The Queanbeyan Tigers football talent has already risen through the AFL NSW/ACT pathway to earn state representative honours and run out for Eastern Allies at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. Now back in action for the Tigers in the AFL Canberra League, Hamilton is enjoying her football since taking up the sport from basketball, judo and OzTag.

I have five sisters and one brother and my one brother was playing before us all and we’d go watch him and everyone was like ‘come play and stuff’ and we just started training and then playing,” Hamilton said. “I’ve only played for four years, so by the time I was playing everything was a bit more developed so I didn’t really have to go through where there wasn’t much going on.”

Hamilton said the culture and friendships was unlike any sport she had been apart of, which was a key ingredient for her to remain in the code and reach the highest junior level at last year’s championships. The tough inside midfielder said her teammates became “like sisters” and enjoyed the challenge of developing new skills throughout her journey.

It was so fun playing the top of Australia,” Hamilton said of the championships. “It was hard, you don’t expect it. “You play club football and then you go there and it’s so much faster and different. It was good time.”

Describing the whirlwind of representing the Eastern Allies, Hamilton said when she first headed to the Gold Coast, she was unaware of what to expect. It seemed like a field trip, but she soon realised just how competitive the opposition would be compared to her local football.

Everyone is good, everyone has the major skills and everyone is really competitive,” Hamilton said. “When you play at home, it’s not like as competitive, but when you go there it is, which is good.”

She said her kicking and running are two areas she has worked hard on over the past few years to remain strong across the levels, and she is still fine tuning her kicking with speed. Hamilton described her contested work – such as her hardball gets – and her use of her hands in traffic among her greatest strengths on a football field.

While it is a rare feat to make the AFL Women’s National Academy, Hamilton not only achieved that, but did it with a Queanbeyan teammate in Tarni Evans. The duo have been inseparable since they joined forces in the yellow and black, rising through the NSW/ACT Rams and then Eastern Allies together.

We’ve become so close, we play club football together and always together so it’s become so good,” Hamilton said. “We know each other, on the field, it’s good to have someone you can play with.”

Last year, the reality of the AFL Women’s Draft hit close to home with not only an AFL Canberra opponent in Maggie Gorham getting drafted, but her sister, Lexi Hamilton. Hamilton described it as “just crazy when you see a girl from Canberra actually getting the chance now”. Post-season, Hamilton realised the intensity difference once her sister returned home.

I think at the start she came back from her season, she’s like it was so crazy and she was so motivated and she was like ‘let’s go for a run’ and it was like she’d changed, she was a different person, it was scary, she was a monster,” Hamilton joked.

Her family have always been a driving factor in her success, with her father and sisters being her biggest inspiration over the journey.

My dad has always taken us out for a kick and cheering us on,” Hamilton said. “He’s like the dad that gives you tips, but there’s like my four sisters I haven’t played with, but it’s just good to have them.”

While COVID-19 put a major delay on the football competitions, Hamilton has not wasted the time, using Academy running programs to keep fit, and maintaining her skills with her family like she always has growing up. It is that family connection which has helped her maintain her focus for what is ultimately her biggest footballing year.

While the ultimate dream might be to get drafted, the plumbing apprentice said she was focused on achieving success in AFL Canberra. Her goal? To help assist Queanbeyan to a flag in 2020.

“Just play out the season and win the Canberra region and just keep developing my skills and see how we go.”

As for what has driven her to success, Hamilton said she has no issues whatsoever with her natural competitive nature coming to the fore.

I’m very competitive, so I always want to win which is probably bad and good,” she said. “But it’s having fun, I think that’s still the main part of enjoying it and every moment on the field.”

Hanks excited about her next football chapter

NEW Melbourne midfielder, Tyla Hanks has experienced it all coming into her first AFL Women’s season.

After enduring a winless 2017 season with the Gippsland Power, her side improved to a 3-5 season this year. Hanks also represented Vic Country and spent some time with Carlton’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side, leading the way in disposals in her first match. The 18 year-old admits she knew going to Melbourne was something that could happen, but nonetheless is thrilled to be able to pull on the Demons jumper in 2019.

“I didn’t really know what was going to happen before that pick but yeah, I’m really excited to be there and definitely think it’s a place that’s going to be really good for me,” Hanks said.

Hanks was one of the first names to be called out on draft day, walking up on stage as a pick six selection for the Demons. When she realised she had got drafted, a mixture of emotions overwhelmed her.

“It’s a really amazing feeling but it’s pretty raw sometimes,” Hanks said. “It’s a lot of relief once you’re up there so really looking forward to it.”

This milestone also brings an element of sadness though, as Hanks will leave her beloved Gippsland Power to pursue an AFL Women’s career. Gippsland experienced a nice form turnaround this year, getting a couple of wins along the way. Despite being busy with the Demons, the Power midfielder hopes to come back to the club and help out its next generation.

“It was a pretty big turnaround for us but yeah I’m really excited for what they can do in the coming years,” Hanks said. “I was really happy to be a part of that and I’ll still try and keep contact with Gippsland Power and keep helping the development out there.”

Hanks also reflects on her time at Carlton and the AFL Women’s Academy, citing both as memorable and helpful experiences.

“I think playing against Geelong (in the VFLW) really helped me,” she said. “So did the AFL Academy, I think learning about the whole environment really held us in good stead.”

Now a Demon, Hanks of course admires the work of Daisy Pearce. But she also has another player in mind that she is looking forward to playing alongside.

“I think Lily Mithen’s someone that’s a really good character in the group,” Hanks said. “Even though Daisy Pearce will be out, hopefully she’ll still be around and I’ll learn a little bit off her.”

Ankle injury a blessing in disguise for Postlethwaite

DEVASTATION hit Queensland representative, Lily Postlethwaite last year when an ankle injury sidelined her from playing in her maiden AFL Women’s Under 18s tournament.

But being the positive person that she is, Postlethwaite used the injury as an opportunity to watch on and learn from the best young footballers in the country.

“I didn’t think I was really going to make Queensland last year so I was kind of surprised when Starce (Craig Starcevich, Brisbane AFLW coach and Queensland Under 18 Girls coach) picked me for that. “When I had my ankle (injury), I was just watching everything and seeing what the girls do. “We go from school girls straight into 18s. “It’s a big step-up in terms of professionalism and stuff.”

But coming into this year, the 17 year-old feels like this experience has put her ahead, as she has been able to turn the watching into doing. The star midfielder was named Queensland’s best-on-ground in all three of its games on the Gold Coast, showing her capability to tear a game apart. Perhaps the most memorable game was against Vic Metro, where her side recorded its first win of the tournament against a fancied opponent.

“It was amazing (winning),” Postlethwaite said. “First win in a Queensland jumper for myself and a fair few of the other girls. “We just came together and it was a great win. “Altogether we played really well so I was out there playing my role but altogether we did the team job.”

Postlethwaite has not been playing football for long, but has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top, as she is currently a member of the AFL Women’s Academy and the Brisbane Lions Academy. But before all this, the Queenslander used football as a means of bonding with her father.

“I didn’t start (football) that long ago,” Postlethwaite said. “I think this is my fourth club season. “I used to train with my dad at the masters club [a football club for people over 35 years old] to play just for a muck around. “Then they had a girls team there and dad’s like you should give it a go so I was like yeah why not. “From there, I didn’t look back.”

Fast forward to 2018 and the 17 year-old is enjoying being a member of two prestigious Australian Rules academies.

“That’s great, that’s been really good,” she said about the Brisbane Lions Academy. “Also we have the high performance academy for that as well on a Tuesday and sometimes a Thursday so that really helps with gym and stuff.”

The AFL Women’s Academy in particular has been a highlight for Postlethwaite, who has enjoyed developing her skills alongside the best Under-18 footballers in the country.

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever done, I love that,” she said. “All the girls from there and coming out here and playing against them has been a great experience. “Those Darwin and Melbourne trips, I’ll never forget them.”

Before she played football, Postlethwaite used to play Oztag, but gave up the sport due to its limited future options.

“I played Oztag for a fair few years for Queensland and stuff like that,” she said. “It was alright but it kind of wasn’t the sport to be in. “There wasn’t really any future for it. “I kind of wanted to change it up a bit.”

Since Postlethwaite has swapped the tag for the Sherrin, she has been able to witness the growth of female football in Australia, and now has her sights set on AFL Women’s.

“Once the AFLW opened up, watching all those girls perform well at that level, it’s something we can all aspire to for the future I guess,” she said. “It just gives us something to look forward to, we can give it our all now that we have something to aim for. “I’m just focusing on every step at the moment and working hard to get there. “Anything can happen, there’s still a long way to go.”