Tag: akayla peterson

2021 VFLW Round 8 preview: Anzac Day rivals lock horns at The Hangar

ANZAC Day matches take centre stage, along with a Friday night blockbuster at Whitten Oval, in what is anticipated to be a fantastic round of Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s action for Round 8 of the competition.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Friday, April 23 @ 7:30pm
Whitten Oval

A mammoth win last Sunday afternoon against Darebin saw Western Bulldogs jump from eleventh to eighth on the VFL Women’s table, and draw to within four points of the top six. They will have plenty of percentage to catch up on after some disappointing losses, but the team that currently holds sixth spot is their opponents on Friday night, the Southern Saints. The Saints have a healthy percentage thanks to a similar belting of the Falcons back in Round 5, which had actually snapped a three-game losing streak. They did go down to the unbeaten Magpies last week, so will be seeking to bounce back against the Dogs in this clash. Tara Bohanna is a key player for the Saints, booting eight goals in seven games to be within reach of top spot on the table. Valerie Moreau and Gabbi De Angelis have both slotted four majors, to give the Saints a pretty potent forward line. Alice Burke ran rampant last week with 35 touches, whilst the dangerous Renee Saulitis is another small who can inject pace and class around goals. By comparison, Mary Sandral leads the Dogs’ goalkicking with the four majors, but was injured during the clash against the Falcons, On debut Western Jets’ Jemima Woods slotted three majors, though it is expected she will return for the NAB League Girls’ final clash. Danielle Marshall hit the scoreboard last week, while the return of Nell Morris-Dalton and Eleanor Brown to complement the side was important. Last time they were under lights the Dogs had a shocker against the Magpies, but expect them to be much better here against the Saints in what should be a thrilling contest.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
ETU Stadium

The top of the table Port Melbourne host Casey Demons in an early Saturday morning clash. The Borough saw off their greatest challenge to-date last week, overcoming Carlton from several goals down to remain undefeated from seven matches. The Demons, led by Imogen Milford who slammed home six majors, were too strong for Hawthorn despite the Hawks’ best efforts at Box Hill. If the Demons can continue that form – with more AFL Women’s players available – expect them to really give the ladder leaders a run for their money. Only Port and Collingwood have scored more than the Demons this season, which makes them a potent attack led by Milford (12 goals), while Niamh McEvoy (five) and Brenna Tarrant (five from Round 1) all damaging. Eliza West is the in-form midfielder, having collected more touches than any other player this season at an average of 22.3 disposals, as well as 4.3 tackles. Being able to hit the scoreboard with four majors makes her a threat forward of centre, and the Borough will need to be aware of that, whether it is the likes of Philippa Peschke or Mel Kuys who might be opposed to her. Sophie Locke is second on the goalkicking charts but has been recovering from injury, whilst Emily Harley (five goals) and Cleo Saxon-Jones (four) have been hitting the scoreboard in less games, while Sabrina Frederick has scored two majors in each of her matches thus far. The Borough should be favourites at home, but the Demons have enough talent to bring in that could worry the ladder leaders.

DAREBIN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Back-to-back home games for Darebin Falcons gives the standalone side a chance to jump off the bottom of the table with a win in this contest. The Falcons knocked off North Melbourne a fortnight ago, but felt the pinch of a Dogs side that recalled a number of AFL Women’s talents in Round 7. They have to find a way to knock off a red-hot Cats outfit that will have similar AFL Women’s numbers to the Dogs last week, with most of those players being able to hit the scoreboard. Geelong has only lost to the top two sides, and has won their past three matches to sit fourth overall, percentage behind Essendon. with Casey Demons not too far behind, the visitors cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly. Olivia Barber is a goal-scoring threat when in the side having kicked six goals in just two games, whilst regulars, Claudia Gunjaca (five), Stephanie Williams (five) and Georgia Clarke (four) can also do damage. Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Carly Remmos will be the future of the AFL Women’s side and are teaming up well through the VFLW midfield, while Tamara Smith leads all-comers with tackles, and Paige Sheppard is one of the most prominent ball-winners in the league. Nicole Callinan is the one to stop for the Falcons, averaging 23 disposals, six marks and 5.5 tackles working hard in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to try and drive her team forward. The Bulldogs premiership player has been a welcome addition to the side, with Sidney Cubasch returning last week and likely to assert herself in the ruck, Samara David impressed around the ground having also kicked the five goals this season, while Stephanie Simpson might not have hit the scoreboard last week against a strong Bulldogs defence, but slotted four the previous week. The Falcons will leapfrog Hawthorn – if the Hawks lose on Sunday – but it will be a very tough ask with Geelong in ripping form and expect the Cats to continue that form in Round 8.

HAWTHORN vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Sunday, April 25 @ 10:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Two of the bottom three clash in what could be one of the closest matches of the round. Hawthorn has been pretty impressive this season and arguably undeserving of eleventh on the ladder. They pushed the Demons last week and can leapfrog the Seagulls here with a win, having averaged more points than their opponents, but also having conceded a lot more as well. Each week Bec Goddard manages to bring in AFL Women’s talent, as Georgia Bevan, Kristy Stratton, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch have all swapped their colours to return to their roots of the brown and gold, or with the ties to Goddard. Whilst not having massive ball-winners, the Hawks have been able to develop some young talent through the list, such as renowned tackler Dominique Carbone, and a plethora of Eastern Ranges players such as Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Eloise Chaston. Jesse Williams is the danger up forward, and with Stratton in for her second game in the brown and gold, expect her to be a second prong of attack up there. Williamstown on the other hand do not have a reliable source of goals, though Aimee Whelan and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster have each snagged three majors. A total of 14 players have hit the scoreboard in the 2021 season, including prominent ball-winners Ruby Tripodi and Megan Williamson, while Erin Meade continues to provide great run out of defence, and will hope the Seagulls can propel themselves to their third win. With the extra experience coming into the brown and gold though, the Hawks should get up at home.

ESSENDON vs. COLLINGWOOD
Sunday, April 25 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

The traditional Anzac Day rivals will clash at The Hangar before fans head south to the MCG for the AFL men’s edition, with the VFL Women’s clash to provide just as much intensity between the clubs. A potential finals preview looms with the second placed Pies still unbeaten from seven games, coming up against the third placed Bombers who are 5-2 from their season, and building some great form in the middle of the season. The Bombers have been without their spiritual leader for the last game and a half with Georgia Nanscawen on the sidelines. She averaged 23 disposals and 10.2 tackles in her six games, to be a barometer in the side. Alana Barba and Courtney Ugle have stepped up in her absence, while Frederica Frew (eight goals) and Natalie MacDonald (five) have been important up forward with Mia-Rae Clifford (eight). With the NAB League Girls returning this week, expect the Bombers to be without a couple of key youngsters in Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, though Elizabeth Snell and soon-to-be Jemma Finning have just the one game remaining in Pioneers colours. The Magpies have been ticking along nicely and now will be able to heavily rotate their AFL Women’s talent if they choose to do so, with the likes of Bella Smith (eight goals in four games), Amelia Velardo in defence and Abbi Moloney (two in three) among those running around in the side. Imogen Barnett has been the standout VFLW-listed Pie with eight goals in six games, while Caitlin Bunker (16.3 disposals, 6.6 tackles) and Matilda Zander (14.3 disposals, 4.1 tackles) are others who have stood out.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 25 @ 12:00pm
Arden Street

The later Anzac Day clash is between another couple of AFLW-aligned clubs in North Melbourne and Carlton. The Roos have enjoyed playing a string of games at Arden Street this season, and whilst they have only won the two games from seven matches, have been steadfast in developing their VFLW-listed talents rather than pouring in AFLW-listed players just for the points. The Blues have been fairly similar, though they were able to bring in some players in recent weeks such as Maddy Guerin, who has been a cut above at the level, averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.3 marks and 7.0 tackles from her three games. Jennifer Lew has been an impressive VFLW-listed Blue with 18.5 disposals, 5.3 marks and 4.3 tackles, whilst Courtney Jones has slotted eight goals in five games, and Akayla Peterson has been utilised at both ends of the field for five goals in seven games. Throw in Serena Gibbs (three in four) who has been supporting Jorja Borg in the ruck, and the form of Winnie Laing this season, and the Blues have a solid team across the board. North Melbourne on the other hand, have had some really consistent ball-winners, but just not enough consistent games to put together wins. Brooke Brown has been sensational up forward with eight goals in four games, while ex-Sun Alexia Hamilton, and Tasmanian Sarah Skinner have both been enjoying outstanding seasons in the blue and white. Meagan Kiely and Molly Eastman both average 20.4 disposals and more than four tackles per game to share the load with Skinner, while Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox are other consistent ball-winning talents. Carlton arguably have the upper hand after pushing Port Melbourne last week, though the development of the Roos will hold them in good stead for the future.

2021 VFLW Round 7 preview: Dogs and Darebin eye off second win in bottom two clash

A BOTTOM two clash between Western Bulldogs and Darebin Falcons will see the winner escape the bottom of the table, whilst the Southern Saints and Collingwood clash for a second time and are set to have a beauty of a contest.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, April 17 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval

Despite Collingwood joining the rest of the Victorian-based AFL Women’s teams in being eliminated from the finals series, the Magpies have resisted massive changes to the state league side, with Bella Smith and Joanna Lin among those included in the forward half, with other existing AFL Women’s players including Maddie Shevlin, Abbey Green, Amelia Velardo, Imogen Purcell and Abbi Moloney in the team. They currently sit undefeated at the top of the table, with a tough clash down at Trevor Barker Beach Oval against the Southern Saints. Dandenong Stingrays tall Zoe Hill is set to make her debut for the side, alongside the likes of other teenagers in Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis who have established themselves in the side. Molly McDonald is a huge inclusion for the Saints at half-back to create some run, and with Tara Bohanna and Gabriella De Angelis up forward, the home team certainly has the capacity to inflict the Magpies’ first loss of the season. Eastern Ranges youngster Olivia Meagher is among the ones to watch in the black and white, as the Magpies eye off making it seven straight wins.

ESSENDON vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

One of the teams looking to keep in touch with the top two sides is Essendon, after the Bombers came from behind to defeat Hawthorn last week at Box Hill. They managed to do it without star midfielder Georgia Nanscawen who succumbed to injury early in the match, and they will need to do it again without her, relying on the likes of Alana Barba, Courtney Ugle and Eloise Ashley-Cooper in the midfield. Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell returns to the red and black in a five-day turnaround from a successful outing for Vic Country, with Calder Cannons duo Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell remaining in the side. Williamstown stand between Essendon and the Bombers’ fifth win, with the Seagulls not far off the top six despite having just the two wins from six games. The midfield trio of Ashlea Melnikas, Megan Williamson and Aimee Whelan will be hard to beat, with Scarlett Dunnell up forward and Erin Meade in defence among the others to keep an eye out for in the blue and gold. Even without Nanscawen, Essendon will be favoured to get up here at home, but the Seagulls will give them a run for their money.

HAWTHORN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Speaking of Hawthorn at Box Hill, the brown and gold are back again, this time hosting a Casey Demons side looking to bounce back having lost their past two games to the Magpies and Cats. The home team was able to include some AFL Women’s talent last week with the entire half-back line having that experience in Georgia Bevan, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch. However perhaps the most interesting inclusion is former Magpie Kristy Stratton who has been named on the bench after playing for the undefeated Pies throughout the season. Much like Luke and von Bertouch, she has moved to the Bec Goddard-coached Hawks. Up the other end, Meg Hutchins has been a terrific leader with some youngsters inside 50, such as Eastern Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston who kicked the only goal for her side last week. Matilda Hardy is back into the team with Isabelle Khoury and Ruby O’Dwyer some Ranges to hold their places, while Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone is another one to watch for the home team. For the Demons, Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons are among the future of the red and blue having been picked up in last year’s draft, whilst Emma Humphries‘ experience is crucial, much like defender Alison Brown in the back 50. Casey should be too strong, but the Hawks will give it a red hot crack at home.

GEELONG vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, April 18 @ 11:30am
Queens Park

Some Vic Country youngsters will return for the Cats as they field their strongest side to-date in the Round 7 encounter against North Melbourne. The Cats will be keen to keep in touch with the top two, and should do so against a Kangaroos side that is 2-4 and coming off a loss to the previously winless Darebin Falcons. Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the Cats’ VFL Women’s side after playing on Monday, with the side well stacked with AFL Women’s talent. Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel in the midfield is the future AFL Women’s midfield, whilst Georgia Clarke, Olivia Barber and Stephanie Williams in attack makes the Cats a potent team when in transition. The Kangaroos remain without a great deal of AFL Women’s talent, instead focusing on the development aspect of the side with Amy Smith and Brooke Brown a couple of listed players in attack, while Sarah Skinner is always a threat inside 50. Molly Eastman and Tarni Nestor will try and contain the Cats’ forward line, while Katelyn Cox will have a great battle with Moloney and Gardiner throughout the day. Geelong should take the match fairly comfortably being at home with a pretty impressive outfit.

DAREBIN vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, April 18 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A potential match of the round at the other end of the ladder is the one between Darebin Falcons and Western Bulldogs, with both sides sitting at 1-5 for the season. A loss here will really hurt finals hopes, whilst a win keeps the victor in the hunt if they can build momentum in the second half of the season. Coming off a four-goal haul to help her side over the line, Stephanie Simpson will be looking for much of the same for the Falcons. It will be a tough ask against the strongest looking Bulldogs defence all year, with AFL Women’s talents, Eleanor Brown and Isabella Grant, the consistent rock in Simone Ruedin, speedy teenager Brooke Hards and natural ball-winner Katelyn Betts, both of the latter whom have moved into new roles of late. Up the other end, Nell Morris-Dalton has returned to the fold, with Gemma Lagioia and Amelia van Oosterwijck also there, and Isabelle Pritchard rounding out the AFL Women’s contingent. For the Falcons, ex-Bulldog Nicole Callinan was impressive in her first game back and will be a key player in the defence alongside consistent defender Gena Lawson-Tavan. Up the other end, Alyssa Mifsud kicked three goals a couple of rounds back, so between her and Simpson, they have the potential to put some high scores on the board, while Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is another youngster in the side. The Western Bulldogs side is arguably the strongest of the year and should take care of Darebin, but the Dogs cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 18 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Port Melbourne will look to continue its winning streak up against Carlton at ETU Stadium, with Cleo Saxon-Jones named at full-back this week. Up the opposite end is Sabrina Frederick who slotted two goals on debut against Western Bulldogs last week, and will look to provide the smalls of NAB League-listed talents Kate Adams and Taylah Morton in there, whilst Mel Kuys through the midfield is a crucial player. Ex-Carlton talent Bridie Kennedy is back into the side to take on her former team, while Pip Peschke and Courteney Bromage are other key midfielders to watch. Carlton has got a solid contingent of AFL Women’s talent in the team, with Serena Gibbs, Courtney Jones and Winnie Laing all named inside 50, while Charlotte Hammans and Maddy Guerin are up the other end. Akayla Peterson has been named in the back pocket in the opposite side to Ally Bild in a strong last line, while over-age talent Amber Micallef and ex-Northern Knights speedster Marnie Jarvis are also in the side, named on the bench. Port Melbourne should have too much about them at home, but the Borough will be wary of a Blues outfit wanting to lift their efforts from last round when they went goalless against the Magpies at Victoria Park.

2021 VFLW Round 6 wrap: Falcons break winless drought

ALL teams in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition have now recorded a victory in season 2021, after Darebin Falcons defeated North Melbourne at Arden Street by 12 points on Saturday. The victory meant the Falcons joined both Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs on one win, as as other bottom six sides Williamstown and the Kangaroos also suffered defeats.

At the other end of the ladder, Collingwood had a huge defensive effort in the wet against Carlton to knock the Blues out of the top six, whilst Port Melbourne, Essendon and Geelong all celebrated wins, the latter in a tight victory holding on against Casey Demons at Casey fields to leap frog the Demons into fourth spot.

HAWTHORN 0.4 | 1.5 | 1.8 | 1.10 (16)
ESSENDON 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 4.5 (29)

Picking themselves off the canvas after skipper Georgia Nanscawen‘s injury left them without a star midfielder, Essendon ground out a win at Box Hill City Oval against Hawthorn by 13 points. The Bombers started the stronger of the two sides thanks to a goal from Mia-Rae Clifford, but it was Hawthorn who managed to put all the scores on the board over the next two terms. The home team could not capitalise through the big sticks, with only Eloise Chaston‘s second quarter major the sole six-pointer. It meant the Hawks led by five points at the final break, but a flurry of three goals in the final term saw the Bombers overrun the Hawks and sit pretty in third spot.

Despite Nanscawen going down, it was the field tackling of Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper (22 tackles apiece) who provided the grunt work, and Lori Stepnell, Eloise Gardner and Cecilia McIntosh who held up in the overcast conditions. Hawthorn had plenty of chances, with Eastern Ranges duo, Isabel Khoury (22 disposals, seven tackles) and Eloise Chaston (14 disposals, three marks, 1.3) lively, with the pair kicking 1.5 of the Hawks’ 1.10 score between them. Jess Grace shared the ruck work with Kate Dudley and Tamara Luke, while Gold Coast Suns’ Georgia Bevan teamed up with her ex-Crows coach Bec Goddard to have an impact for the team in a losing side.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: E. Chaston.
Essendon: M. Clifford 2, N. MacDonald, F. Frew.

BEST:

Hawthorn: T. Luke, E. Chaston, I. Khoury, N. Garner, N. von Bertouch, G. Bevan
Essendon: L. Stepnell, E. Gardner, C. McIntosh, A. Morcom, E. Ashley-Cooper, S. Nalder

SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.0 | 2.4 | 3.4 | 5.5 (35)
WILLIAMSTOWN 3.0 | 3.0 | 4.1 | 4.1 (25)

Having their work cut out for them early, and forced to come from behind, the Southern Saints also had a strong final term to boot the only two goals of the last term to run over the top of a gallant Williamstown at Trevor Barker Oval. The Seagulls burst out of the blocks in the first half, with three goals kicked in 13 minutes to lead by 12 at the first break, before the home team clawed their way back into it. Tayla Kearns‘ second goal five minutes into the third term put the Saints back up, before Lauren Gooden responded nine minutes later with her own second major to regain the lead at the final break for the Seagulls. Back-to-back goals to the Saints through Tara Bohanna and Gabi De Angelis in the final term saw the home team come from behind and secure the win in front of home fans.

Bohanna was sensation across the forward half with a goal and 13 hitouts from 22 disposals, whilst it was the defensive strength of Jacqui Vogt (11 tackles, 17 disposals), and class in front of goal from De Angelis (14 disposals, five tackles, 2.2) that stood out. Rebecca Neaves and Kearns also stood out, while Ebony Nixon and AFL Women’s Saint, Alice Burke found plenty of it. For the Seagulls, Megan Williamson was again the top-ball winner with 20 touches, whilst it was Ruby Tripodi (16 disposals, three tackles), Scarlett Dunell (19 disposals, four tackles) and Aimee Whelan (19 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) who supported the team strongly.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: T. Kearns 2, G. De Angelis 2, T. Bohanna.
Williamstown: L. Gooden 2, E. Fox, A. Whelan.

BEST:

Southern Saints: J. Vogt, R. Neaves, M. Capsalis, G. De Angelis, T. Kearns, G. McLean
Williamstown: R. Tripodi, E. Straford, L. Gooden, L. Loughnane, P. Nash, A. Whelan

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 4.6 (30)
DAREBIN FALCONS 2.1 | 2.3 | 4.5 | 6.6 (42)

A match between two bottom four sides, including a winless one, is not a match you particularly expect to keep you on the edge of your seat, but that is exactly what North Melbourne and Darebin did at Arden Street on Saturday. The teams were neck-and-neck in the first half, with the Kangaroos taking the one-point lead into half-time of the huge clash, but the Falcons, led by Stephanie Simpson (four goals) up forward, kept pressing to take a 13-point lead into the final break. Each time the Falcons kicked away with a major, the Kangaroos would answer it in the final term, but they could not bridge the gap with the Falcons getting up by 12 points in the end, 6.6 (42) to 4.6 (30).

Simpson’s four goals in a combined 10-goal game was hard to look past for the Falcons in a super effort, whilst Alice Caddy and Samara David also stood out in the win. Nicole Callinan provided the experience coming back into the side, as Victoria Blackwood was also a strong contributor to break the Falcons’ drought in season 2021. Alexia Hamilton slotted two crucial goals for the Roos in defeat, while Molly Eastman, Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox were named the Roos’ best in the win, as the defence did well, but not enough to secure the four points.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. Hamilton 2, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald.
Darebin Falcons: S. Simpson 4, C. Byrne, A. Reibelt.

BEST:

North Melbourne: M. Eastman, A. Runnalls, K. Cox, M. Kiely, M. McDonald, A. Hamilton
Darebin Falcons: A. Caddy, S. David, N. Callinan, S. Simpson, V. Blackwood, M. Huta

PORT MELBOURNE 2.0 | 4.4 | 4.4 | 6.7 (43)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 (8)

Port Melbourne has continued streak to post a comfortable 35-point win over Western Bulldogs at ETU Stadium, moving to 6-0 for the season and handing the Bulldogs a fifth straight loss. The visitors were strong early, and even kept the home team at bay in the third term as the Dogs’ defence starred, but a couple of final term goals just pushed the final margin out to beyond five goals thanks to some strong efforts from Richmond-listed talents in the 6.7 (43) to 1.2 (8) victory.

Sabrina Frederick showed her strength and experience against state-level defenders with two goals from six marks and nine touches, and Emily Harley racked up 16 disposals, three marks and a goal in the win. Holly Bailey also slotted two goals, while Phillipa Peschke had a day of leather poisoning with 25 disposals to accompany her three marks, three tackles and a goal. Courteney Bromage 17 disposals, 11 tackles), Olivia Barton (19 disposals) and Elizabeth Wilson were also strong in the win. Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton had the 14 touches and three tackles on debut. For the Western Bulldogs, the return of Isabella Grant (15 disposals, three marks and five tackles), Isabelle Pritchard (14 disposals, three marks and three tackles) and Gemma Lagioia (11 disposals, four marks) added that extra run and class they were looking for, while Annabel Scott (20 disposals, six tackles) and Molly Denahy Maloney (17 disposals, six marks and 13 hitouts) also found plenty of it. GWV Rebels’ Lilli Condon was outstanding in the first half, and finished with 10 disposals, three marks and five tackles.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S. Frederick 2, H. Bailey 2, P. Peschke, E. Harley.
Western Bulldogs: M. Sandral.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Harley, O. Barton, E. Wilson, H. Bailey, C. Bromage, S. McNamara
Western Bulldogs: M. Denahy Maloney, A. Tessari, I. Pritchard, V. Murphy, I. Grant, L. Condon

CASEY DEMONS 1.1 | 2.2 | 2.5 | 4.6 (30)
GEELONG 1.1 | 3.1 | 5.2 | 5.2 (32)

Geelong managed to hold its nerve against a fast-finishing Casey Demons outfit at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon, getting up by two points in the contest. The returning AFL Women’s listed players hit the scoreboard early, with Carly Remmos, Darcy Moloney, Georgia Clarke and Laura Gardiner booting their first four goals of the contest, leading by 15 points at three quarter time courtesy of Madisen Maguire‘s fifth team goal. Isabella Simmons did her best in the final term to boot two fourth quarter majors, but it would not be enough as the home team fell two points short, 4.6 (30) to 5.2 (32).

Breanna Pratt led the way for the Cats with 22 disposals, nine marks and six tackles, working in tandem with in-form Theresia Meissner 20 disposals, four marks) and Paige Sheppard (19 disposals, 10 tackles). The return of Moloney (16 disposals, nine tackles and a goal), Gardiner (13 disposals, 13 tackles and a goal) and Remmos (13 disposals, five tackles and a goal) was noticeable in the win. Olivia Fuller also dominated the ruck with 28 hitouts to accompany nine disposals and six tackles. For the Demons, ball-winning midfielder Eliza West racked up 23 disposals and four tackles, while Simmons’ two goals from 17 touches and five tackles was an outstanding effort from the youngster. Fellow teenagers, Megan Fitzsimon (16 disposals, nine tackles) and Mietta Kendall (14 disposals, four tackles) also had their fair share of the ball, with Shree Fairchild named best-on for the Demons with 18 disposals and nine tackles, and Meg Macdonald and Emma Humphries also strong.

GOALS:

Casey: I. Simmons 2, H. Thomas, E. Humphries
Geelong: C. Remmos, G. Clarke, D. Moloney, L. Gardiner, M. Maguire

BEST:

Casey: S. Fairchild, M. Fitzsimon, M. Macdonald, E. Humphries, B. Winbanks, E. West
Geelong: T. Meissner, O. Fuller, D. Moloney, B. Pratt, T. Tatlock, C. Remmos

COLLINGWOOD 1.4 | 1.5 | 2.9 | 2.10 (22)
CARLTON 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.4 (4)

Collingwood has taken care of traditional rivals Carlton to remain undefeated from six matches in the VFL Women’s competition, keeping the Blues to just four behinds in wet and windy conditions. The Victoria Park venue gave Pies fans the chance to cheer on their heroes and there was plenty to cheer as they kept Carlton scoreless from three quarters, whilst kicking the only two goals of the match. Conditions made goalkicking difficult, and it showed with a dominant 12 scoring shots to four, but a 2.10 (22) to 0.4 (4) final scoreboard.

Tricia Cowan and Mollie Emond were the only players to eventually split the big the sticks for the Magpies, as plenty of players had their chances inside 50. Caitlin Bunker was outstanding for the black and whites in the win, as Maria Neal and Amelia Velardo looked lively, and Nicola Weston was also named in the Magpies’ best on the day. It was a challenging day for any forwards, but particularly Carlton’s forwards in enemy territory, but they had a number of standout players. Akayla Peterson continued her great form in 2021 named Carlton’s best alongside the AFLW-listed Maddy Guerin. Tereza Zampaglione and Stephanie Lawrence were also strong in defeat, as the Blues moved to a 3-2 record and slipped just outside the top six, while Collingwood maintained touch with Port Melbourne at the top of the table.

GOALS:

Collingwood: T. Cowan, M. Emond.
Carlton: Nil.

BEST:

Collingwood: C. Bunker, M. Neal, A. Velardo, T. Cowan, M. Emond, N. Weston
Carlton: A. Peterson, M. Guerin, T. Zampaglione, S. Lawrence, E. Honybun, J. Borg

2021 Draft Central’s VFL Women’s Team of the Year: Round 6

AS the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition prepares to restart after the Easter Weekend break, Draft Central, in conjunction with Women’s Australian Football Radio (WARF) has compiled a Team of the Year to date in Round 6. It is an even spread across the board with eight of the 12 competing teams recording two players, and the remaining three sides having the one representative in a realistic, 16-starter and four-bench side.

Ladder leaders Port Melbourne have two players in the side, with ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke named in the forward pocket, and experienced former AFL Women’s player in Mel Kuys in the centre. The other undefeated side in Collingwood just has the one player in there, with forward Imogen Barnett making the team after booting eight goals in the first five games, one less than leader Locke. In between the pair of forwards is Hawthorn’s Jessie Williams who straightens the team up at full-forward, the sole Hawk in the team.

At half-forward, ex-Cannon Alana Barba earned a place in the side with the inside midfielder booting a goal a game in her first five games to book a starting spot on the flank. She was named in the side with fellow midfielder Georgia Nanscawen with the ex-Roo named ruck rover. The other onballer in the side is ex-Geelong Falcon Paige Sheppard, with the rover’s teammate Tamara Smith – another ex-Bushranger – named on the bench. In the ruck is Western Bulldogs’ Nicole McMahon who has been superb all season, whilst teammate Simone Ruedin has been a rock in defence.

Holding up the fort at full-back is Carlton’s Jennifer Lew, who is in the back six with another Blue in Akayla Peterson, who has spent time at both ends, also kicking three goals this season. Ex-Magpie Grace Buchan is in the back pocket but instead for Casey Demons this season, whilst teammate Eliza West is on the interchange. At half-back, Williamstown’s Erin Meade will provide some run for the hypothetical team, whilst centre half-back Meagan Kiely rounds out the defence. The North Melbourne tall is in the side with talented Tasmanian goalkicker Sarah Skinner, with the reigning TSL Women’s league best and fairest winner making an impact at VFL Women’s level.

The last remaining starting player is centre half-forward Tara Bohanna with the Southern Saint able to chop out in the ruck when forward. She should not need to though, with Darebin Falcons’ sole representative in Sidney Cubasch to provide that rotation with McMahon, whilst Bohanna’s Saints’ teammate Hannah Stuart rounds out the interchange. In terms of emergencies and those unluckiest to miss out, it is a trio of defensive players in Southern Saints’ Rebecca Neaves, North Melbourne’s Molly Eastman and Darebin Falcons’ Gena Lawson-Tavan.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S VFL WOMEN’S TEAM OF THE YEAR: ROUND 6

B: Simone Ruedin (WB) – Jennifer Lew (CAR) – Grace Buchan (CD)
HB: Akayla Peterson (CAR) – Meagan Kiely (NM) – Erin Meade (WILL)
C: Mel Kuys (PM)
HF: Alana Barba (ESS) – Tara Bohanna (SS) – Sarah Skinner (NM)
F: Sophie Locke (PM) – Jessie Williams (HAW) – Imogen Barnett (COLL)
R: Nicole McMahon (WB) – Georgia Nanscawen (ESS) – Paige Sheppard (GEE)
INT: Sidney Cubasch (DF) – Tamara Smith (GEE) – Hannah Stuart (SS) – Eliza West (CD)

EMG: Rebecca Neaves (SS) – Molly Eastman (NM) – Gena Lawson-Tavan (DF)

2021 VFLW Round 5 preview: Two top four clashes highlight round

ROUND 5 of the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) will play host to a number of action packed clashes as Collingwood and Port Melbourne look to maintain their undefeated status. The competition is only getting started with sides still trying to finalise their most potent line-ups and looking to solidify their standings in the competition.

Collingwood vs. Casey Demons
Saturday, March 27 @10:00am

The Magpies and Casey Demons are set to lock horns in what is set to be an enthralling contest between the two top four teams. Collingwood are yet to drop a game while the Demons have only lost the one and that was back in Round 2. Since then, Casey have really ironed out the creases and managed to apply a wealth of scoreboard pressure. Playing a similar style to the Pies expect both sides to attack the coalface hard and look to extract the ball quickly to give their forwards the best chance to score.

Maddy Shevlin has been a star for the Pies but is a key out this week while Amelia Velardo and Matilda Zander have plied their trade for the black and white constantly backing up their efforts across the ground. At their spiritual home ground expect the Pies to come out firing and to have their kicking boots on after an inaccurate showing last round. For the Demons, Tahlia Fellows has proven to be a key cog in the side but will also miss this round, while Chantel Emonson and Bridie Winbanks are key inclusions for the Dees.

Southern Saints vs. Darebin Falcons
Saturday, March 27 @10:00am

It has not been a great start for either side, but a win here could really change their outlook for the remainder of the season. Darebin sit winless from four games while the Saints have mustered up just the one win but sit seventh on the ladder. The tussle between the two sides will be tantalising to say the least as they look to claim some type of ascendancy and build the foundation for a strong middle part of the season. Typically low scoring sides it will come down to which side is able to create enough opportunities to push forward and convert.

The defensive unit for the Falcons will have their work cut out for them up but will be glad they are not going up against the likes of livewire Renee Saulitis who managed a major last round despite the loss. Other key figures for the Saints consistent of Alexandra Hynes and Madi Capsalis who both impressed last week and will be looking to bring that same level of heat and intensity. Unable to hit the scoreboard last round, the Falcons will be hoping that Steph Simpson and Sally Lynch can find their kicking boots while Kathleen Roe has proven to be a key ball winner for Darebin.

Western Bulldogs vs. Geelong
Saturday, March 27 @2:00pm

The Western Bulldogs will host Geelong at Whitten Oval on Saturday in search of their second win of the season. The Cats currently hold higher ladder positioning clinching fifth spot, and a win here could see them jump up the ladder while a loss could add to the ever growing midtable logjam.

Geelong fell short last week despite the best efforts of Michelle Fedele who booted two goals and they will once again be hoping for Fidele to steer the ship in front of goal. Both Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard are likely to cause headaches with the young duo able to win their fair share of ball for the Cats. On the other hand the Dogs have a number of key figures that will be eager to get amongst the action such as the senior-listed Bailey Hunt. Captain Riley Christgoergl is another one to keep an eye out for the Dogs as the ever developing Amelia van Oosterwijck and Annabel Strahan.

Carlton vs. Hawthorn
Saturday, March 27 @2:00pm

The Blues are coming off a narrow eight point win last round, while the Hawks suffered their third loss of the season making for an interesting matchup. Carlton will be playing with a wealth of confidence and looking to use their silky ball movement to put Hawthorn on the back foot in the opening stages of the game. A win here for Carlton could push them into the top six and really help them build some ascendancy.

Veteran Meg Hutchins is a lynchpin for the Hawks no matter where she plays but will miss out this week, meaning the midfiel will need support from the likes of Northern Territory product Dominique Carbone, Lauren Szigeti and Catherine Brown if they are any chance to topple the Blues on Saturday afternoon. For Carlton, youngster Winnie Laing only continues to get better with time, learning off the likes of Serena Gibbs, Maddy Guerin and star recruit Akayla Peterson.

Essendon vs. Port Melbourne
Sunday, March 28 @10:30am

Claiming their third straight win last round the Bombers will be riding a wave of momentum but that could quickly come to an end with their clash on Sunday against the undefeated Port Melbourne side. The Borough are full steam ahead, playing with class and conviction meaning Essendon will have their work cut out for them if they are to upset the apple cart and continue their winning ways.

The Bombers have a strong contingent of youngsters across the ground with Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore proving to be a consistent pair able to burrow in and commit to the hard yards. Georgia Nanscawen is a real game changer for Essendon and will be looking to be at her damaging best coming off a stellar Round 4 performance while Mia-Rae Clifford is also an excitement machine for the red and black. The Borough have no shortage of playmakers with Sophie Locke quickly making a name for herself alongside Cleo Saxon-Jones, though will need to make do without Locke this round. Other contributors that the Bombers will have to be wary of are Phoebe Monahan, Emily Harley and Sarah McNamara who has proven handy in front of the big sticks in recent weeks.

North Melbourne vs. Williamstown
Sunday, March 28 @12:00pm

The final game of the round sees North Melbourne take on Williamstown with the latter looking for their third win of the season. It has been a trying campaign for North Melbourne who have only secured the one win so far but will be chomping at the bit to alter that outcome with a victory over their higher placed opponents. Williamstown come into the clash off a solid win against the Doggies, so expect them to use that momentum to apply some early scoreboard pressure.

The Seagulls have a good spread of players capable of stepping up to the plate and plying their trade with Ruby Tripodi one of those key figures. Erin Meade is another consistent figure for Williamstown while Sofi Georgas is coming in off a strong performance last round. For the Kangaroos Brooke Brown is a real livewire able to navigate her way around the goals and most importantly convert those opportunities while Alexia Hamilton and Ciara Fitzgerald are also viable options.

2021 VFLW Round 4 wrap: Bombers claim monster win on tight weekend

ROUND 4 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) season saw Essendon and the Southern Saints come away big winners, with the remaining four fixtures split by under three goals each. Competition frontrunners Collingwood and Port Melbourne kept their perfect records intact, while at the other end of the table Darebin is still searching for its first points in 2021. All that, and more in our weekend wrap.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.0 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)
WILLIAMSTOWN 1.2 | 2.5 | 4.6 | 5.8 (38)

Williamstown pulled off one of the upsets of the round on Saturday, claiming a 16-point victory over the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval. The Seagulls led from the first goal and built on a handy buffer throughout the contest, with their scoreboard pressure just enough to keep the Bulldogs at bay. Having lacked bite for much of the season, the home side could not find a way back in the 5.8 (38) to 3.4 (22) result.

Debutant Sofi Georgas was terrific for the victors, finding the goals and being named among her side’s best players. Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster achieved the same feat, as usual suspects Aimee Whelan, Ruby Tripodi and Erin Meade also went to work. Bulldogs skipper Riley Christgoergl claimed full votes in the red, white and blue, with Eliza Vale performing well and senior-listed Bulldog Bailey Hunt also in the thick of things.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: E. Vale, A. Scott, N. Wright
Williamstown: G. Biedenweg-Webster, S. Georgas, A. Dickie, E. Straford, A. Casley

BEST:

Bulldogs: R. Christgoergl, B. Hunt, V. Murphy, S. Ruedin, E. Vale, E. Huggard
Williamstown: A. Whelan, R. Tripodi, S. Georgas, E. Baxter, G. Biedenweg-Webster, E. Meade

GEELONG 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 3.5 (23)
PORT MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.3 | 4.3 | 6.3 (39)

Port Melbourne claimed a huge scalp on Saturday in what was arguably the biggest test of its inaugural season to date, defeating Geelong by 16 points at Deakin University. The Borough led at every break and managed to answer each late query the Cats posed, having held them to just one goal across the first three terms. To sweeten the 6.3 (39) to 3.5 (23) result even further, it sees Port extend its run atop the VFLW ladder.

Exciting youngster Sophie Locke continued her impressive transition forward with another bag of three goals to spearhead the Borough, while injury returnee Cleo Saxon-Jones was among a trio of Richmond-listed players to also hit the scoreboard. Michelle Fedele was Geelong’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, as Claire Dyett and Annabel Johnson were named best-on for their respective teams ahead of hosts of AFLW talent.

GOALS:

Geelong: M. Fedele 2, S. Williams
Port: S. Locke 3, C. Saxon-Jones, P. Monahan, A. Edmonds

BEST:

Geelong: A. Johnson, M. Boyd, T. Meissner, M. Fedele, G. Clarke, B. Pratt
Port: C. Dyett, S. Sansonetti, S. Locke, H. McLaren, C. Bromage, P. Peschke

CASEY DEMONS 0.0 | 2.1 | 5.4 | 6.6 (42)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.0 | 2.2 | 2.3 | 2.5 (17)

Casey Demons overcame deficits at the opening two breaks to trump the Southern Saints by 25 points on Sunday, solidifying their status in the top four. Having trailed by the narrowest of margins at half time, the Dees piled on three goals to nil in the third term, and prettied up the scoreboard with another in the fourth to run out comfortable 6.6 (42) to 2.5 (17) winners. Ultimately, the Saints had little answer for the onslaught in a goalless second half.

Niamh McEvoy continued her push for a senior recall as she booted two goals for Casey, joined in gaining plaudits by fellow dual goalkicker Tahlia Fellows. Skipper Samantha Johnson and Eliza West were also again among the Demons’ best. Saints youngster Renee Saulitis bagged one of her side’s two majors, as Alexandra Hynes backed up a strong outing last week and Madi Capsalis joined Deanna Jolliffe in the votes.

GOALS:

Casey: N. McEvoy 2, T. Fellows 2, E. West, I. Simmons
Saints: T. Bohanna, R. Saulitis

BEST:

Casey: N. McEvoy, E. Humphries, T. Fellows, E. West, C. Conroy, S. Johnson
Saints: A. Hynes, E. Nixon, M. Capsalis, R. Neaves, D. Jolliffe, L. Burke

CARLTON 3.1 | 4.2 | 5.4 | 8.4 (52)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 6.8 (44)

Carlton produced arguably its best performance of the season on Sunday, holding off North Melbourne to claim its second win on the trot, by eight points. With solid senior representation afield, the Blues put previous scoring woes behind them to come out strongly in that department, eventually notching their highest total to date and keeping the fast-finishing Roos at bay to come away 8.4 (52) to 6.8 (44) victors.

Boom recruit Akayla Peterson again found the big sticks and was among Carlton’s finest performers, as AFLW-listed players Serena Gibbs, Maddy Guerin, and Winnie Laing all featured in the votes. Courtney Jones and Stephanie Lawrence were also important with two goals apiece. Meanwhile, Brooke Brown booted four majors for North as she pushes her case for a senior call-up, while tall recruit Alexia Hamilton was also amongst it alongside Sarah Skinner, Katelyn Cox, and Ciara Fitzgerald.

GOALS:

Carlton: S. Lawrence 2, C. Jones 2, A. Peterson, S. Gibbs, M. Wilson, P. Trudgeon
North: B. Brown 4, A. Hamilton, J. Hamilton

BEST:

Carlton: A. Peterson, S. Gibbs, C. Jones, S. Lawrence, M. Guerin, W. Laing
North: B. Brown, S. Skinner, K. Cox, A. Hamilton, N. Wallace, C. Fitzgerald

ESSENDON 3.3 | 7.5 | 8.6 | 10.10 (70)
DAREBIN 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.3 | 0.3 (3)

Essendon inflicted this season’s biggest winning margin to date, notching a monster 67-point victory over Darebin at The Hangar on Sunday. A seven-goal first half set the Bombers’ ominous tone, as their scoring power proved much too strong for the Falcons, who now hold the unfortunate record of this season’s first goalless game. Darebin did get on the scoreboard, but hardly cut into the margin as it went down 10.10 (70) to 0.3 (3).

Bombers skipper Georgia Nanscawen and Alexandra Morcom kept their good runs of form going in the win, while Alana Barba was among a trio of multiple goalkickers and Grace Dicker proved promising in her return to VFLW action. Victoria Blackwood claimed full votes for Darebin ahead of leader, Steph Simpson as Vanja Smiljanic returned well and Gena Lawson-Tavan was also serviceable in the loss.

GOALS:

Essendon: N. MacDonald 2, A. Barba 2, F. Theodore 2, G. Dicker, M. Clifford, J. Davies, M. Anthony
Darebin: Nil

BEST:

Essendon: G. Nanscawen, M. Anthony, G. Dicker, A. Morcom, A. Barba, C. McIntosh
Darebin: V. Blackwood, S. Simpson, G. Lawson-Tavan, E. Buckley, A. Caddy, V. Smiljanic

COLLINGWOOD 2.2 | 2.2 | 3.5 | 3.10 (28)
HAWTHORN 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 (13)

Collingwood kept its perfect record in tact on Sunday, but was made to earn a 15-point victory over Hawthorn at its spiritual home of Victoria Park. The Magpies booted as many goals as the Hawks had scoring shots, but were otherwise inaccurate and kept the travelling team’s hopes alive. Hawthorn could not quite take advantage and cut into the margin though, as the Magpies finished 3.10 (28) to 2.1 (13) winners in the round’s final fixture.

Senior-listed Collingwood players Maddie Shevlin and Amelia Velardo showed their worth at the level once again, as did Abbi Moloney with her major score. Hawthorn veteran Meg Hutchins was promised a wide variety of roles this season and found herself kicking a goal in her latest outing, before being named in the votes alongside the likes of Chloe O’Malley and Nicole Cormack.

GOALS:

Collingwood: D. Hallett, A. Moloney, C. Haslam
Hawthorn: K. Angelis, M. Hutchins

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Shevlin, M. Neal, J. Ferguson, A. Velardo, C. Bunker, A. Moloney
Hawthorn: C. O’Malley, M. Shaw, C. Brown, M. Hutchins, N. Cormack, J. Richardson

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) @essendonfcw via Twitter

2021 VFLW Round 3 wrap: Blues get on the board, Pies & Borough stay unbeaten

ROUND 3 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) season saw Carlton get on the board at the third time of asking, while league frontrunners Collingwood and Port Melbourne kept their perfect records in tact. Elsewhere, Casey, Essendon, and Geelong added wins to their now-positive tallies as the 12-team ladder begins to take shape and upcoming fixtures trickle through. All that, and more in our weekend wrap.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 (18)
COLLINGWOOD 2.4 | 4.4 | 5.9 | 10.10 (70)

Collingwood thrived under the Whitten Oval lights on Friday night with a runaway 52-point win over the Western Bulldogs to go 3-0 in 2021. The Magpies should arguably have been further ahead at half time and while some inaccuracy lingered in the third term, they doubled their goal tally in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs went scoreless in the second half, amplifying the 10.10 (70) to 3.0 (18) final scoreline.

Senior-listed tall Bella Smith snared her season-best goal tally of three in the black and white, finishing as one of the Magpies’ seven individual goalkickers. State league standout Matilda Zander also found the goals alongside NAB League jet Olivia Meagher, while Sarah Rowe made a successful return from injury and Imogen Barnett continued her good form. Kristy Stratton was another to do so, named best afield for the winners.

Bulldogs fans will be buoyed to see Bailey Hunt return unscathed from her calf injury, as fellow senior-listed players Annabel Strahan and Amelia Van Oosterwijck pushed their cases for senior berths. Vanessa Murphy earned full votes in red, white and blue, while skipper Riley Christgoergl played an important role in defence alongside Louise Bibby.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: M. Purcell, I. Grant, M. Denahy Maloney.
Collingwood: B. Smith 3, M. Zander, K. Colborne-Veel, O. Meagher, K. Stratton, I. Barnett, S. Rowe, E. Jackson.

BEST:

Bulldogs: V. Murphy, N. McMahon, R. Christgoergl, A. Strahan, L. Bibby, K. Neumann Stone
Collingwood: K. Stratton, S. King, B. Smith, I. Barnett, M. Neal, C. Bunker

ESSENDON 2.3 | 6.5 | 7.6 | 8.7 (55)
HAWTHORN 1.1 | 1.4 | 1.7 | 3.9 (27)

A six-goal to one first half was enough to see Essendon home against Hawthorn on Saturday, in an exciting clash between standalone sides. The Hawks finished strongly after finding themselves 35 points down heading into the last break, booting a couple of consolation goals and showing plenty of fighting spirit as they went down 8.7 (55) to 3.9 (27) at The Hangar.

Two of the Bombers’ three multiple goalkickers also featured among the votes, with Mia-Rae Clifford (three goals) and Natalie MacDonald (two) the pair in question. Skipper Georgia Nanscawen found plenty of the ball, while NAB League graduates Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper were also promising in the famous sash. Debutant Elizabeth Snell was another in that category, fresh off her Under 19 exploits.

Catherine Brown won plaudits as Hawthorn’s best player afield, while fellow goalkicker Olivia Flanagan also impressed for the yellow and gold. Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone was a handy inclusion for the Hawks as another youngster to show her quality, among her side’s best players with the likes of Meg Hutchins, Lauren Szigeti, and Nicole Cormack, who featured for consecutive weeks.

GOALS:

Essendon: M. Clifford 3, N. MacDonald 2, F. Frew 2, F. Theodore.
Hawthorn: C. Bain, O. Flanagan, C. Brown.

BEST:

Essendon: N. MacDonald, E. Ashley-Cooper, E. Snell, A. Morcom, M. Clifford, A. Barba
Hawthorn: C. Brown, N. Cormack, M. Hutchins, K. Dudley, L. Szigeti, D. Carbone

CASEY DEMONS 3.2 | 3.5 | 8.8 | 9.11 (65)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 | 0.5 | 0.5 | 1.6 (12)

Casey came away comprehensive victors over North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, making better use of its home conditions to put the game to bed by three quarter time. A five-goal blitz after the main break ensured the Demons would return to the winners list, with North having to wait until term four to register a major score, eventually going down 9.11 (65) to 1.6 (12).

Competition for spots among Melbourne’s senior camp will be hot ahead of finals, with AFLW-listed players Niamh McEvoy (three goals) and Chantel Emonson (two) making an impact as they search for recalls. Casey skipper Samantha Johnson was named best afield, while Eliza West again snared a goal to go with some handy votes.

Former Richmond-listed youngster Ciara Fitzgerald continued her scoring form with North Melbourne’s sole major of the game, seeing the Roos mercifully escape going goalless. Meagan Kiely was adjudged her side’s best player for the second week running, with Tasmania Sarah Skinner another to continue her eye-catching form at state league level.

GOALS:

Casey: N. McEvoy 3, C. Emonson 2, I. Milford, H. Thomas, E. West, A. Kirkwood.
North: C. Fitzgerald,

BEST:

Casey: S. Johnson, C. Emonson, N. McEvoy, E. West, C. Conroy, S. Fairchild
North: M. Kiely, K. Greenacre, M. Lawrence, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald, K. Price

GEELONG 1.3 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 2.4 (16)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 (8)

A low-scoring slog amid wet and windy conditions in Geelong saw the home side claim its second win on the trot, as the Cats defeated Southern Saints by eight points at Deakin University. Only three goals were kicked across the four quarters, with the Cats booting theirs in the first and fourth terms, while Southern Saints remained in touch, but were ultimately outdone 2.4 (16) to 1.2 (8) in the scrappy affair.

The constant rotation of Geelong AFLW and NAB League talent did little to disrupt the Cats, with senior-listed youngster Laura Gardiner finding plenty of the ball, as did the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Goalkickers Claudia Gunjaca and Michelle Fedele were also influential, as was NAB Leaguer Annie Lee on debut.

Valerie Moreau was the Saints’ sole goalkicker for the day, as the likes of Nadia von Bertouch and Jess Matin put their hands up for senior selection by picking up a good amount of the pill. VFLW-listed players Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart were among Southern’s best players for the third week running, while Alison Brown also earned votes in her first outing.

GOALS:

Geelong: M. Fedele, C. Gunjaca.
Saints: V. Moreau.

BEST:

Geelong: M. Maguire, T. Smith, O. Fuller, C. Gunjaca, M. Fedele, A. Lee
Saints: N. von Bertouch, A. Hynes, T. Bohanna, H. Stuart, A. Brown, K. Ripari

PORT MELBOURNE 2.3 | 5.6 | 6.9 | 6.9 (45)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 | 3.1 (19)

Port Melbourne and Williamstown met for a historic clash of traditional Victorian rivals, with the Borough proving too strong and saluting to the tune of 26 points at ETU Stadium. Having led from the first goal, the home side was able to maintain its ascendancy throughout and held firm in a scoreless final term to run out 6.9 (45) to 3.1 (19) victors.

A pair of Borough players accounted for two thirds of their side’s major scores, with Sarah McNamara and Sophie Locke the players in question. Locke’s exploits come after last week’s three-goal effort. Ellie McDonald and Melissa Kuys were again among Port’s best, along with Richmond-listed talents Phoebe Monahan, Emily Harley, and Luka Lesosky-Hay.

Gabby Biedenweg-Webster was Williamstown’s sole multiple goalkicker with a pair of her own, named in the Seagulls’ best behind Aimee Whelan. Young forward Tahlia Merrett also hit the scoreboard and made her mark, while Ruby Tripodi was impactful at the coalface and Erin Meade again led well for the standalone unit.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S. McNamara 2, S. Locke 2, C. Saxon-Jones, H. Bailey.
Williamstown: G. Biedenweg-Webster 2, T. Merrett.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Macdonald, M. Kuys, P. Peschke, P. Monahan, L. Lesosky-Hay, E. Harley
Williamstown: A. Whelan, G. Biedenweg-Webster, E. Meade, A. Melnikas, T. Merrett, M. Williamson

CARLTON 2.3 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 3.9 (27)
DAREBIN 0.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.2 (20)

Carlton came out on top in Saturday’s bottom of the table clash, overcoming Darebin by seven points to pick up its first win of the season. The Blues caught an early break but were pegged back well, before again advancing and being forced to defend their lead late. Inaccuracy did not prove costly for the home side at Princes Park, as they held on to win 3.9 (27) to 3.2 (20) in a low-scoring affair.

Jen Lew was again one to lead the way for Carlton as she worked hard all day, while Jorja Borg and goalkicker Akayla Peterson earned votes for their efforts. Speedy midfielder Teresa Zampaglione was again lively, while AFLW-listed youngster Winnie Laing was productive upon her return along with Jess Edwards and Charlotte Hammans.

For the Falcons, the ever-reliable Kathleen Roe stood up in her side’s third loss for the year, but it was Lucy Schneider who claimed full credit in the form of votes ahead of goalkickers Steph Simpson and Sally Lynch. Darebin’s search for win number one will continue next week as it takes on Essendon at The Hangar.

GOALS:

Carlton: P. Trudgeon, A. Peterson, C. Jones.
Darebin: S. Lynch, S. David, S. Simpson.

BEST:

Carlton: J. Borg, A. Peterson, B. Gurr, M. Wilson, T. Zampaglione, J. Lew
Darebin: L. Schneider, V. Blackwood, L. Camilleri, S. Simpson, S. Lynch, S. Cubasch

2021 VFLW Round 2 wrap: Borough, Magpies go 2-0

ROUND 2 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season saw Port Melbourne and Collingwood move to 2-0, while four teams registered their first wins of the new campaign. Six fixtures were again stretched evenly across two days, with a double-header at La Trobe University rounding out what was an entertaining weekend of state league football. We recap all the action in our weekly wrap.

GEELONG 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.6 | 7.10 (52)
WILLIAMSTOWN 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.0 (12)

Geelong picked up its first win of the 2021 season via a 40-point thumping of Williamstown at Deakin University on Saturday afternoon, spelling a resounding start to Round 2. The Cats led at every break and kept the Seagulls scoreless in terms two and three, all while pouring on a handy score of their own. In then end, it was a 7.10 (52) to 2.0 (12) scoreline which put Geelong into third spot on the ladder.

Senior-listed Cats Stephanie Williams (two goals) and Georgia Clarke (one) both found the big sticks, but it was Claudia Gunjaca who earned plaudits as the victors’ best player afield. The likes of Breanna Pratt, Paige Sheppard, and Theresia Meissner were also productive for the second week running.

It was no surprise to see Erin Meade again feature among Williamstown’s most impactful performers, joined in the votes again by Aimee Whelan and Lana King while young forward Tahlia Merrett showed promise in her first outing for the year. Ashlea Melnikas and Sasha Long finished as the Seagulls’ lone goalkickers.

GOALS:

Geelong: S. Williams 2, J. Woollett, S. Elsworthy, G. Clarke, M. Fedele, C. Gunjaca
Williamstown: A. Melnikas, S. Long

BEST:

Geelong: C. Gunjaca, G. Clarke, B. Pratt, P. Sheppard, T. Meissner, T. Smith
Williamstown: E. Meade, A. Whelan, T. Merrett, L. King, C. Leighton

COLLINGWOOD 1.2 | 2.3 | 6.3 | 7.4 (46)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.3 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 3.6 (24)

Collingwood collected its second win of the season on Saturday, this time in much more convincing fashion with a 22-point triumph over the Southern Saints at Victoria Park. The Magpies piled on the first six goals of the game across three terms, all while keeping the Saints goalless in that time. Consolation goals did little to meaningfully cut into the margin, as Collingwood saluted 7.4 (46) to 3.6 (24) on home turf.

The Magpies had seven individual goalkickers in a terrific team performance, with the likes of Matilda Zander and Caitlin Bunker notching goals and votes for the winners. Mollie Edmond and Jasmine Ferguson were among those to lead Collingwood’s charge, while AFLW-listed youngster Amelia Velardo thrived in a role off half-back.

Hannah Stuart earned plaudits for her role in the Southern Saints’ effort, finishing as one of just three Saints goalkickers. Tara Bohanna also found the big sticks and play her part, with Melanie Bertuna another to impress in a Southern side which was missing some key elite level talent from last week’s winning lineup.

GOALS:

Collingwood: M. Zander, K. Colborne-Veel, K. Stratton, B. Smith, I. Barnett, C. Bunker, S. King
Southern Saints: T. Bohanna, R. Saulitis, H. Stuart

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Emond, J. Ferguson, M. Zander, M. Neal, A. Velardo, C. Bunker
Southern Saints: H. Stuart, M. Bertuna, A. Curley, G. De Angelis, T. Bohanna, K. Ripari

CASEY DEMONS 0.0 | 1.4 | 2.4 | 3.4 (22)
ESSENDON 1.3 | 2.4 | 3.7 | 4.7 (31)

Essendon led at every break but was made to earn its nine-point victory over Casey Demons on Saturday afternoon, coming out on top for its first win in 2021. The Bombers bossed the opening term with four scoring shots as the Demons remained scoreless, before steadily adding just enough to their total thereafter to keep Casey at bay. Ultimately, the Casey Fields scoreboard read 4.7 (31) to 3.4 (22) in favour of Essendon, an important win for the standalone side.

Alexandra Morcom and Cecilia McIntosh backed up strong opening round performances with important contributions for Essendon, who had four individual goalkickers. Mia-Rae Clifford was among them, as well as former Calder Cannons pair Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore.

Casey was led by the efforts of Emma Horne in the defeat, while Melbourne-listed ruck Maggie Caris continues to push her case for senior selection. Fellow AFLW youngster Megan Fitzsimon found the goals for Casey as she rotated forward, while Eliza West also snared a major.

GOALS:

Casey: M. Fitzsimon, E. West, I. Milford
Essendon: M. Clifford, F. Frew, A. Barba, F. Theodore

BEST:

Casey: E. Horne, M. Caris, E. West, T. Fellows, H. Thomas, C. Conroy
Essendon: A. Morcom, J. Davies, L. Stepnell, E. Mackay, T. Crook, C. McIntosh

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.7 (37)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)

North Melbourne lifted after half time to overcome the Western Bulldogs at Arden Street Oval on Sunday morning, coming from behind to win by 21 points. The Bulldogs led narrowly at the first two breaks before North clicked into gear, keeping the visitors scoreless after the main break while adding three goals of their own to run away 5.7 (37) to 2.4 (16) victors.

First year AFLW Kangaroo Alice O’Loughlin pushed her case for a senior recall with three goals, accounting for nearly half of North’s score. She was joined by Sarah Skinner and former Richmond player Ciara Fitzgerald in the goals, as Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch also played large parts in the win.

Simone Ruedin, Amanda Tessari, and Nicole McMahon were among the VFLW-listed Bulldogs to be credited for their efforts. Britney Gutknecht was again terrific through midfield alongside a couple of her side’s leaders, and Nell Morris-Dalton again goaled to be one of just two major scorers in the red, white, and blue.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. O’Loughlin 3, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald
Western Bulldogs: N. Morris-Dalton, M. Chadwick

BEST:

North Melbourne: M. Kiely, B. Lynch, A. O’Loughlin, J. Mourney, K. Cox, M. Eastman
Western Bulldogs: S. Ruedin, A. Tessari, N. McMahon, B. Gutknecht, K. Betts, R. Christgoergl

DAREBIN 2.3 | 2.3 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
HAWTHORN 2.0 | 5.3 | 6.5 | 7.7 (49)

The weekend’s sole battle between two standalone sides saw Hawthorn come up trumps over Darebin, reigning victorious to the tune of 23 points at La Trobe University, Bundoora. Both sides brought the heat early as Darebin led at the first break, but the Falcons’ ascendancy proved short-lived as Hawthorn shifted up the gears to post five goals to one thereafter. In the end, it resulted in Bec Goddard‘s first win as Hawthorn head coach, reading 7.7 (49) to 3.8 (26) on the scoreboard.

Jessie Williams set the game alight with four goals in the brown and gold, proving too hot to handle inside 50 as she snapped up multiple opportunities. Veteran defender Meg Hutchins was typically assured down back alongside Lauren Szigeti, who also rotated through midfield. Among the other Hawks to impress, Jemma Owen again found the goals and showed promise.

For Darebin, Gena Lawson-Tavan played an important role down back, while skipper Steph Simpson did her best to spark her side from midfield before rotating inside attacking 50. Kathleen Roe also swung forward and found a goal, with Alyssa Mifsud the Falcons’ only other goalkicker on the day and Sidney Cubasch again impressive.

GOALS:

Darebin: K. Roe, A. Mifsud, S. David
Hawthorn: J. Williams 4, A. Vine, L. Szigeti, J. Owen

BEST:

Darebin: S. Simpson, S. Cubasch, S. Lynch, A. Reibelt, V. Smiljanic, P. Kearney
Hawthorn: J. Williams, M. Hutchins, N. Cormack, E. Gilder, J. Owen, L. Szigeti

CARLTON 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.3 | 2.3 (15)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.0 | 3.3 | 5.5 | 9.5 (59)

Port Melbourne made it two wins from two games in its inaugural VFLW campaign, thumping Carlton by 44 points at La Trobe University on Sunday to round out the weekend’s proceedings. The Borough built a steady 14-point buffer at half time as Carlton struggled to transition out of its own half, before piling on six goals to one after the main break and running out 9.5 (59) to 2.3 (15) winners.

Young Port forward Sophie Locke was excellent inside 50 and snared three goals in a lively outing, while Emily Harley bagged two and provided great physicality. Holly Bailey was named her side’s best player in the win, in front of the likes of Pip Peschke and Ellie Macdonald as the Borough set up well and locked the ball in their half for much of the contest.

Naturally, many of Carlton’s most prolific performers were stationed in defence, with Jessie Coletti recognised for her outstanding outing alongside leaders Ally Bild and Jen Lew. Senior-listed Blue Jess Edwards was also important back there, while fresh import Akayla Peterson was also impressive and finished as one of two Carlton goalkickers.

GOALS:

Carlton: M. Wilson, A. Peterson
Port Melbourne: S. Locke 3, E. Harley 2, L. Lesosky-Hay, S. Sansonetti, C. Dyett, P. Peschke

BEST:

Carlton: J. Coletti, J. Lew, J. Edwards, A. Peterson, M. Wilson, A. Bild
Port Melbourne: H. Bailey, P. Peschke, S. Locke, E. Macdonald, L. McClelland, A. Tanner

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW season preview: Carlton

CARLTON has hit “the reset button” on its VFLW program and is looking towards long-term development in 2021 and beyond, according to new head coach Luke O’Shannessy. With vast experience in the talent pathways system, most notably at the Oakleigh Chargers, O’Shannessy says he is excited to see how the group progresses across his first season at the helm.

“It’s been a really interesting preseason for us,” O’Shannessy said. “We’ve had a significant list turnover for the last two years, so there’s a lot of new faces. “During summer and preseason there has been a big focus on squad bonding and that real connection between the playing group, and we’re starting to see that come to fruition. It’s great to see a group gel so quickly over a short preseason.

“I was really pleased with how the group came back after having 2020 put on pause from a structured and formal training sense, requiring players to drive their own training – whether that’s from a fitness or skills perspective. “When I came on board in late-October/early-November our first month was still online and I was really nervous I suppose, but I was very pleased that clearly they’d been putting in the hard yards over the Covid break and came back in really good shape.”

The long-term approach Carlton has adopted towards its VFLW program as a potential feeder to its AFLW squad has also pleased O’Shannessy. As an aligned club, the Blues will have access to AFLW-listed players who miss out on senior selection throughout the top flight season. O’Shannessy said the perks running concurrent competitions makes for a “win-win” for both programs.

“It can only benefit the program, he said. “We had nearly seven players go up and spend two weeks training with the AFLW program (during preseason). “It was invaluable for their development, the chance to go up and see how the AFLW program works, mingle and work with no-doubt their role models in the AFLW program and work under ‘Harf’ (Daniel Harford) and his crew.

“When they came back they were able to share some of their learnings, both positive and maybe some areas they needed to lift moving forward – whether it was their running capacity, the speed and intensity of training and match sim, the physicality – all those sorts of things that they learned.

“From the other side of things, over the last couple of practice matches, we’ve had the luxury of having between five and six AFLW-listed players spend a game with us and five of the six have been the same in both game, so we got a chance to get to know them from a staff point of view and the players have gotten to know them as well.

“They really slotted in seamlessly and we acknowledge that they’ve got aspirations to crack the senior side and we want to get them there through being able to perform with us, but at the same time we want to learn from them. “It’s only going to make us stronger and role model the sorts of match play and professional behaviours that we know they bring from an AFLW point of view.”

At the core of a fresh and young-looking squad are a couple of returning leaders who will head Carlton’s cause in 2021. Ally Bild was voted in as captain and will be supported by vice-captain Jen Lew, along with three others in a five-player leadership group. O’Shannessy identified his two official leaders as benchmark players for the side, while some promising recruits are also primed to make a splash.

“(Bild and Lew) are really setting the tone for the playing group and becoming real benchmarks for levels of professionalism on and off the field,” he said, “They’re ticking all the boxes and really role-modelling the sorts of behaviours that you’d like to see at VFLW level and beyond… there’s a reason they’ve been voted in as captain and vice-captain.

“We’ve got some players who have relocated down from Cairns in Jasmine Ware and Akayla Peterson. “Jasmine Ware is a small-medium defender, has really slotted in nicely and had her best showing in the weekend’s practice match. Akayla is a running outside player who can play tall but also run end-to-end. We see her being able to feature on the wing at times or as a half-forward hit-up target.

“Then we’ve got a lot of good young talent coming through as well… we’ve got Amber Micallef who’s a 19-year-old straight out of the NAB League, she’s going to feature strongly in the midfield. “They’re just a few names to keep an eye out for… I’m really keen to see each and every player in the squad because it’s my first year working with each of them, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they go this year.”

Carlton will also have access to 18 and 19-year-old NAB League-listed prospects, most significantly through its alignment to the Northern Knights talent region. AFLW Academy member Maykaylah Appleby has already spent some time training with the Blues, while 19-year-old Maeve Chaplin has had experience on the track with their AFLW program. Teleah Smart is also poised to join the squad, and was coached by O’Shannessy in the 2019 Vic Metro Under 16 squad alongside Appleby.

The Blues enjoyed two practice matches against the Western Bulldogs, going 1-1 in the games held at Princes Park and Whitten Oval. O’Shannessy said the repeat fixture ended up being “a blessing in disguise”, providing some valuable insight as his side prepares for season proper.

“We were able to benchmark ourselves against the same club twice to see what was the same, to compare and contrast our performance and that of the opposition,” he said. “From our point of view results ultimately don’t really matter, it’s all about what you see from game one to game two over a two-week period… we were really pleased to see that the girls put a really strong showing in game two.

“We liked a lot of game one, we saw some glimpses, but then we saw a really rounded performance in game two. “You could argue it was a real good three and a half quarters of really strong football that fills us as a squad with great confidence going into Round 1.

“We saw increased scoring from our point of view and an increased hunger for the contest, which is something we’re trying to build into the squad as two key pillars. “High-scoring and stronger around the contest with some good run-and-carry on the outside.”

Looking towards Round 1, the Blues are booked to take on Casey Demons at Princes Park on Saturday afternoon. O’Shannessy said the squad is about “90 per cent” good to go, with some returning players set to make team selection a difficult one come Thursday.

“We’re ready to rock and roll and I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot at this time of the year,” he said.

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) @carltonfc_w via Twitter